December 2020:
The Sky is No Limit

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By Corey Sandler

We have arrived at the final month of this awful year.

Here’s an indisputable, nonpartisan hope for 2021: health and safety, serenity and comity, science above silliness…and at some point a return to travel.

In my still-abundant spare time, I have been harvesting skies from the many thousands of photos I have taken around the world in the past few decades. And I’ve been adding new ones from here in New England; socially distanced through the lenses of my camera.

When it comes to photography, I am at heart a traditionalist. I search for great scenes, incorporate a strong composition, and always hunt for dramatic lighting.

But these days, my travels are essentially confined to early morning expeditions into the near-deserted city or observations of the harbor and the ocean from our aerie high above Boston’s Seaport.

And so I have taken to creating images that are a composite: a scene from one place with a sky from another. Here are some of the fantastical results: travel to two places at once without leaving my home.

Barcelona meets a Boston Sunset. Photo art by Corey Sandler
Devil’s Island, French Guiana posing against an equatorial Pacific sky. Photo art by Corey Sandler
A sunny summer afternoon in Buenos Aires, Argentina with a cloudy wintry sky from Boston. Photo art by Corey Sandler
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain with a Kailua, Hawaii sunset. Photo art by Corey Sandler
Lanzarote, Canary Islands…with the sky over Mount Etna in Sicily. Photo art by Corey Sandler.
Vineyard in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and sunset at Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Photo art by Corey Sandler

All photos copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. Contact me to obtain rights to use any image.

November 2020:
Waiting to Inhale

By Corey Sandler

We are still adrift in the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness, the epoch of belief and the epoch of incredulity.

As we move from a dismal spring and summer into a winter of foreboding, we can hope that relief lies before us.

My words derive from the famous opening lines of Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities”, published in 1859.

About the same time, in 1853, Unitarian minister Theodore Parker declared, “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. rephrased those words poetically: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Last night, the arc of the moral universe bent toward justice, and that is a transcendent good.

That other arc, the awful accounting of sickness and death in this dreadful year, is bending as well, and still not in a good way.

It will be a while before we can inhale freely. And it will be a while before we can resume something close to our way of life as it existed in January 2020, before the worst of times took hold.

I generally take my constitutionals in the early morning, and today I found myself drawn east to the Black Falcon Terminal, the cruise port of Boston.

Not a single cruise ship has made a scheduled call at the port in all of 2020.

Sunrise at Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, November 8, 2020. Photo by Corey Sandler

Here in my office, I bide my time doing some writing and revisiting my collection of tens of thousands of travel photos I have taken on our various journeys. I continue to uncover hidden gems, and I also have shifted my focus slightly in the direction of artistic reinterpretations of reality.

Bending another arc, you might say.

Here are a few recent works.

Bryggen in Bergen, Norway. March 2019. Photo Art by Corey Sandler
Antwerp, Belgium. June 2013. Photo Art by Corey Sandler
Bilbao, Spain. September 2015. Photo Art by Corey Sandler
Sunrise over Boston Harbor. October 2020. Photo by Corey Sandler
Baobob at Sunset. Photo Art by Corey Sandler

All photos copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. Contact me to obtain rights to use any image.

October 2020:
When Fall Comes to New England

By Corey Sandler

Singer-songwriter Cheryl Wheeler’s beautiful song, “When Fall Comes to New England” says of this season:

The nights are sharp with starlight
And the days are cool and clean

And in the blue sky overhead
The northern geese fly south instead

And leaves are Irish Setter red

The nights and the days and the skies are indeed sharp and cool and blue.

And her description of the leaves is poetry of the highest form.

Of course, there’s a “but” coming; you knew that. But in this annus horribulus, this horrible year, everything is socially distant.

We’re hoping for fresh air and a return to something close to normalcy in coming months. Each night we raise a toast to health, happiness, sensibility, and hope. We can hope.

My terrace garden, 200 feet in the air above Boston harbor, felt the first nip of frost the other night.

There is no official place called New England, but it is usually meant to include the northeast American states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Some of us are willing to grant admission to the eastern part of what was once British North America in Canada including Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador.

In my office, I have spent much of the viral confinement harvesting previously unripened photos of autumns in New England, from New York east and north to Atlantic Canada.

The Hudson River near Bear Mountain in New York State. Photo by Corey Sandler.
Portland, Maine. Photo by Corey Sandler, 2010.
Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Photo by Corey Sandler, 2010.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Photo by Corey Sandler, 2010.
Bar Harbor, Maine. Photo by Corey Sandler, 2010.
Stanhope Beach, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo by Corey Sandler, 2010.
St. John, New Brunswick. Photo by Corey Sandler, 2010.
Lady Liberty’s Original Torch, from within the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Photo art by Corey Sandler
Somes Harbor near Bar Harbor, Maine. Photo art by Corey Sandler. 2003
Afternoon sun in Casco Bay, Maine. Photo by Corey Sandler, 2010.
Midnight in Moose Factory, Ontario on James Bay. Photo by Corey Sandler

All photos copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. Contact me to obtain rights to use any image.

September 2020:
Imagination Out of Focus

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By Corey Sandler

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. So said Nikos Kazantzakis, author of Zorba the Greek.

We’re working (some of us, to be precise) to change our present reality to something close to our past reality. I am hopeful we will eventually get beyond the know-nothings and the do-nothings.

But as of the moment, we’re not yet out of the woods.

Or to be more precise, in our case, seven or so months into this pandemic we’re not yet into the city or out on the open ocean.

We live along the water and Boston is still something close to a ghost town; the morning after a zombie apocalypse with just a handful of (mostly) masked people scurrying about. On my early-morning power walks there are days when I am the only one crossing the street in Downtown Crossing and Boston Common is rarely shared.

The Black Falcon cruise terminal in Boston has not had a cruise ship make a call since late in 2019 and probably will go this entire year without a visit. Across the harbor Logan International Airport is open but nearly empty, with a nearly total stoppage to international flights and a minimal amount of domestic traffic.

I am sure there are still places worthy of a photograph and I am always ready, but I have mostly been working on developing my editing skills and thinking about new ways to see old places.

One more quote, from the visionary cynic Mark Twain: You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

In that spirit, here are some photos from my collection that I have revisited with new eyes and a refocused imagination.

A Martian Sky over Valencia, Spain. Photo art by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved.
Old South Meeting House, Boston. Photo art by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved.
A Wall to the Sky. Alanya, Turkey. Photo art by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved.
Painting with Light. Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, U.S. Photo art by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved.
Pepper Shack. Avery Island, Louisiana, U.S. Photo art by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved.
Vamping. Acapulco, Mexico. Photo art by Corey Sandler. Copyright 2009, all rights reserved.

August 2020:
It’s Getting Sketchy Out There

By Corey Sandler

The great Bard Jimmy Buffett wrote, “Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes. Nothing remains quite the same.”

This past December we flew to Valparaiso, Chile at 33⁰ South Latitude, about 2,285 miles below the Equator, to begin a cruise.

When we stepped off the ship in Los Angeles, California in January we had no idea our aqueous journeys were headed for suspension.

We spent mid-January to mid-February on an extended winter holiday in glorious Montreal, 5,435 miles away at 45⁰ North Latitude.

For the past two decades or so, we have been spending about six months of each year aboard ship. By this time–as I write these words in August–we had been scheduled to sail the west coast of South America, then from Iceland over to circle the United Kingdom and on to Norway and next the Baltic Sea. The fall was going to take us to the Greek Isles and Israel.

Instead, 2020 has become The Year on Dry Land, with no certain change in sight.

Cruising will resume, in some form, sometime and we intend to be on board, somewhere.


Seeing Old Things with New Eyes

As an author, I can write anywhere. As a photographer, I see the world through my lenses.

But without changes in in latitude, I’ve been making some changes in creative attitude.

Firmly ensconced on the penultimate floor of a condo tower in Boston’s Seaport, I’ve embarked on a project documenting the changing light of the big city and the harbor.

With my travel circumscribed by the invisible fence of the microscopic virus, I’m exploring artistic enhancements to photos: drawing with light, which is the literal meaning of the word photograph.

All of the images in today’s post are photographs I have taken. When I first took up a camera, we would retreat to the darkroom to dodge, burn, filter, and perform other techniques to find new ways to view the image. Today, digital photography gives us amazing tools to make new versions.

Someone out there is sure to be thinking, “These images are not real.” That is correct.

But I would point out that no photograph is real. The photographer chooses what to include and exclude before the shutter button is pressed. Settings on a lens select short or deep fields of sharpness. The shutter speed determines whether a dancer’s foot is frozen as if not moving, or blurred in action. And today’s advanced digital cameras can literally see in the dark, capturing details not discernible to the human eye.

Here are some of my interpretations of recent photos and a few older images from my back pages.

Impressions of Sunset in Boston, July 2020. Photo art by Corey Sandler, 2020. All rights reserved
A View of Our Perch in the Sky in Boston’s Seaport. Photo art by Corey Sandler, 2020. All rights reserved
An enhanced view of International Place along the water in Boston. Photo art by Corey Sandler, 2020. All rights reserved.
A Photo Turned Magazine-cover Water Color: Boston from the Seaport. Photo art by Corey Sandler, 2020. All rights reserved.
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Bermuda 2015. Photo art by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.
Boi Bumba Dancer, Parintins, Brazil 2015. Photo art by Corey Sandler

All photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to obtain a print or otherwise make use of an image, please contact me.

July 2020:
The Summer of Our Discontent

By Corey Sandler

When Shakespeare wrote of the “winter of our discontent” in Richard III, he was alluding to a hope for the end of unhappiness.

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke with less sanguinity in 1963 referencing a “summer of legitimate discontent.”

Shakespeare lived through two outbreaks of the plague. And Dr. King dreamed hewing out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

Does it sound like I have been spending too much time in quarantine?

Without a doubt.

By this time in 2020 we had been scheduled to be in South America, then Iceland and a circle of the British Isles, and then off to the Baltic.

Instead, we make early morning masked forays into nearly deserted Boston, and I conduct late-night photo sessions from our veranda–not on a ship but 200 feet up in the air in a waterfront tower.

We’re waiting for the best of times to return.

Here are some recent photos:

Fort Point Pop Art. Photo art by Corey Sandler, 2020. All rights reserved
Starry Night. Photo art by Corey Sandler, 2020. All rights reserved

May 2020:
Out to Sea, On Dry Land

By Corey Sandler

I am on dry land, but feeling so very much out to sea.

We are now—all of us—strangers in a strange land. An invisible enemy has invaded our world and changed just about everything.

Some among us have been truly heroic, including most medical and health professionals and the essential workers who supply us with food and shelter.

For the past 12 years or so, my wife and I have spent about six months of the year traveling aboard luxurious cruise ships in nearly every part of the world.

We have been to iconic and well-visited places like London and Athens and Barcelona and Lisbon and St. Peterburg and Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro and Valparaiso and Montreal and New York and everywhere in between.

And we have come to port in less-visited but always fascinating places like Reykjavik, Narsarsuak, Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Les Îles des Saintes, Devil’s Island, the Falkland Islands, Dakar, Tunis, Bejaia, Monemvasia, and so many more.

There’s an expression that exists in many countries, many languages, and many cultures. One version: “Man Plans and God Laughs.”

It’s not a funny matter, but here we are with lots of plans—most of them canceled and others wobbly at best.

We were supposed to be in South America in February and March, and beginning to pack soon for an extended cruise from Iceland to the United Kingdom and on to the Baltic. Oh, and Greece and Israel and Italy in the fall. And next year’s schedule was equally exciting.

But, as I said, here we are on dry land. I can see the Atlantic Ocean from my office window. There are no cruise ships in sight and the skies above are eerily devoid of almost all jet contrails.

Someday we shall resume our explorations. The new normal will be, I am certain, quite different from what we have all become used to.

In the meantime, take care of each other and hold the politicians and the profiteers and dishonest conspiratorialists accountable for the damage they have wrought.

This shall, we hope, someday pass. We look forward to better times.


In my unexpectedly expansive free time, I have been revisiting my files of hundreds of thousands of photos. Here are some newly rediscovered delights.

Jour de l’Action de grâce. Thanksgiving in Quebec City. Photo by Corey Sandler
Dancin’. Santiago-de-Compostela, Spain. Photo by Corey Sandler
Watching, waiting. Batumi, Republic of Georgia. Photo by Corey Sandler
Tulips of a Sort. Amsterdam. Photo by Corey Sandler
Frozen. Riga, Latvia. Photo by Corey Sandler
More Umbrellas. Cartagena, Colombia. Photo by Corey Sandler
Lookout. Macchu Picchu, Peru. Photo by Corey Sandler
Sky and Ice. Tromso, Norway. Photo by Corey Sandler
Days of Black and White. Photo by Corey Sandler

All photos Copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, All Rights Reserved. Contact me if you would like to purchase an image for personal or commercial use.

January-February 2020:
Les Vacances, à la Montréalaise:
Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

By Corey Sandler

So a travel writer and speaker goes on vacation…

It sounds like the setup for a joke, but no, it was time for a vacation and we chose to spend a full month à la Montréalaise. Montréal, Quebec. In the dead of winter. On purpose.

We are both of the sort who do not really mind cold weather when we are properly equipped. And we enjoy a good snowfall, especially when we do not have to drive or shovel. And so here we are in a lovely condo in Ville Marie, in the heart of the city.

An art installation in the Reso, part of the underground passageways that link much of downtown Montréal, affording a bit of shelter from the cold

So, about the snow. It was snowing when we arrived in mid-January and then after a brief surcease we had a two-day storm that dropped about half a meter or 20 inches of fluffy powder. Then an overnight half-foot that caught the weather forecasters and the city planners by surprise. Oh, and a few lesser storms not worth considering–or clearing from streets and sidewalks.

Not that it seems to matter all that much to the locals. Clearing roads and sidewalks is apparently not a very high priority around here. You just put on your boots and zip up your parka and get on with life.

It took more than a week before the residential street in front of our apartment was finally cleared. It was an impressive sight, though: road graders and fleets of trucks hauling away les neiges.

Temperatures have been mostly in the teens for those who count in Fahrenheit, or about -9 Celsius. The cold medal arrived a few days ago when morning arrived at -7 Fahrenheit, or -22 Celsius. Bonne journee, have a good day, we told each other as we pressed on to hot lunch.

Huddling against the cold?

Les Habs, the Montréal Canadiens, are not having the best of seasons–actually they’re in a multi-year drought–but their arena fills for nearly every game. We snagged tickets and enjoyed a raucous few hours, and a win.

Too many men on the ice? The warmup just before the hockey game began

In my lectures about Montréal, I have talked about eating your way up The Main, the nickname for Blvd St-Laurent which more-or-less divides the city into west (mostly Anglophone) and east (mostly Francophone) sections. We put that to the test, going out every day–snow or not–to try many of the city’s wonderful international offerings.

You can’t–or at least you shouldn’t–visit Montréal and not dine on smoked meat and a dill pickle at Chez Schwartz, Schwartz’s Deli n the former Jewish area. Across the street from the famous deli is a museum dedicated to the local culture, and there they offer a gefilte fish club sandwich. And, of course, Montréal’s bagels: honey sweet and worth the trip.

In and around Chinatown are restaurants that provide glimpses into some of the lesser-known regions of China. Put aside Cantonese and Szechuan fare: we fell in love with Nouilles de Lan Zhou, noodles from Lan Zhou in Gansu Province in northwest China.

Lan Zhou Noodles in the making
And ready for the eating

But let us not forget fresh dumplings from Harbin or Dalian at Qing Hua. There is an art to eating them that involves lifting them from the dish with chopsticks, biting into them, and then sucking out the soup and filling within.

Make way for dumplings
Vietnamese Pho, a great cure for a snowy day

As it happened, we were here for Chinese New Year, and watched some of the celebrations that spread through the district.

But wait, Chinatown could more accurately be called Little Asia. We also dined on Japanese shabu-shabu at Kagayaki, cooking our own fresh vegetables and meat in a boiling pot at our table. We dined several times at two wonderful Vietnamese restaurants for hot Pho, which goes well with cold snow.

Oh, and some wonderful North Indian fare including tandoori chicken and fresh naan bread at the very unprepossessing but fine Thali.

We enjoyed fresh arepas, stuffed grilled or fried cornmeal sandwiches at Bocadillo, a Venezuelan restaurant.

We visited a lovely Polish cafe called Stash near the St. Lawrence, a few blocks up from where cruise ships usually dock in the summer; my wife celebrated with pierogies and galumpkis.

Down by the river, ice has filled most of the piers and shorelines. Shipping–aided by ice breakers–still continues for much of the winter. And in late January, the frigid waterfront was home to a two-week-long heavy metal concert series that quite rightly billed itself as the coldest rock festival in the world.

A ferry fills one of the slips where large cruise ships dock in the summer
Brave souls could ride on the Wheel for a frigid view of the Saint Lawrence River and the old town

We enjoyed the theatre scene in Montreal as well. At the National Monument we saw a student production of “Street Scenes”, an operetta by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Langston Hughes.

And then on a crisp Saturday afternoon we walked up to McGill University to enjoy a spirited production of “The Gondoliers”, a worthy Gilbert and Sullivan chestnut.

The main campus at McGill University, Montreal’s premier anglophone colleges.

One day we walked far up to the plateau on The Main to Pucapuca, a dark and somewhat scary storefront offering Peruvian fare. A one-man operation, the chef seated you, presented you with the day’s offering (no menu–just what he felt like cooking that day) and since we were still there a bit late and we somehow seemed of interest, the chef sat down with us at the table to discuss food, culture, history, and politics in a melange of English, Spanish, and French. This is why we travel.

All content and photos copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

3-4 January 2020:
Los Angeles, California USA:
Heading Home

By Corey Sandler

We have arrived at the Port of Los Angeles; San Pedro, to be specific, about 20 miles away from L.A. but most importantly on an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.

It’s been a grand voyage, a 28-day segment of the record-setting World Cruise of the Viking Sun.

The tour began in London, crossed the pond to Atlantic Canada, headed south into the Caribbean and then down and around the bottom of South America and then up the West Coast of South America, Central America, and on to California.

We joined the ship in Valparaiso, Chile and we leave her now as she and her guests prepare to sail to Asia and then Europe and eventually back to London.

On a beautiful southern California day we crossed over the bridge from San Pedro to Long Beach and spent the morning at the spectacular Aquarium of the Pacific in the company of sharks, jellyfish, clownfish, sea turtles, penguins, and so much more.

For the past four weeks we have sailed along with the denizens of the deep. Today we got up close. Here are some photos from our visit.

Aquarium of the Pacific

Up in the Air

Upcoming is our least favorite part of the trip: airports and airplanes and lugging luggage. But we won’t put our suitcases too far from reach: more journeys await.

To new friends we met aboard, we wish safe travels until we meet again. I hope to meet you again aboard ship or in these pages.

The American part of the World Cruise of Viking Sun. We joined the ship 28 days ago in Valparaiso, and head for home now from the Port of Los Angeles.

All content by Corey Sandler, copyright 2020. All rights reserved. To contact me, please use the links on this blog.

2 January 2020:
San Diego, California USA:
The Deep South of the Far West

By Corey Sandler

San Diego is a beautiful setting, a great year-round climate, a natural deepwater harbor, great beaches, and an economy based to a great extent on the U.S. Navy and tourism.

But San Diego has a bit of a second-city complex. It is, in fact, the second most populous city in California after Los Angeles. In my opinion, L-A gets all the attention but San Diego—and San Francisco—deserve some more of the praise.

Today was bright and sunny. Not much of a surprise there; San Diego is almost always thus. But it was–by local standards–a wintry day, barely reaching into the low 60s.

When this cruise ends in two days, my wife and I are headed for a northeast winter which generally is much, much different.

Here are some photos from today:

A streetscape in the Gaslamp District, developed about 1888
The retired aircraft carrier Midway, now a museum and moored nearby to Viking Sun

One of my favorite things about one of my favorite cities is the wonderful mix between old Spanish style structures and new buildings. Although San Diego certainly is booming, at least thus far they have not destroyed their past.

The lovely Santa Fe railway station, between the docks and the heart of the modern city

The exposition was held in San Diego’s large urban Balboa Park. At a time when many architects (including at a simultaneous fair in San Francisco) embraced the over-the-top Beaux-Arts style, in San Diego they chose Spanish Baroque, which includes some Moorish Revival elements, and a bit of Spanish Colonial design.

The fair was decorated with more than two million plants of 1,200 different types. Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell made a three-day appearance in November 1915.

Some of the Exposition’s buildings are still standing, including the Botanical Building, with a changing display of rare and notable plants, the 200-foot-tall California Bell Tower, shaped like a Spanish ship, the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, and the Fine Arts Building , now part of the Museum of Man.

And the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. In 2015, the organ was expanded to 80 ranks and 5,017 pipes, once again making it the world’s largest pipe organ in a fully outdoor venue.

All content Copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at


Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)


SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

30 December 2019:
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico:
Life is a Beach…and a Bar…and a Golf Course

By Corey Sandler

We are back in Cabo San Lucas, the Cape of Saint Luke, at the bottom of the peninsula of Baja California, lower California in Mexico. Twice in one year: at the start of 2019 and now on the penultimate day of the year. Life is a beach.

We arrived this morning and put down our anchor just offshore of the famous arches, Los Arcos. It is a beautiful place…even with three other much larger cruise ships floating into our line of sight.

Cabo San Lucas was a relatively prosperous fishing and agricultural port, with a few interludes of piracy, for the first few centuries of its existence.

And then in 1973, the Transpeninsular Highway (Mexico Route 1) was completed, linking Cabo to Tijuana and from there to that big country to the north, the United States.

With the road and an airport, Cabo became an accessible destination.

It is now home to about 81,000 people, most of whom work in the tourism industry: hotels, restaurants, shops, tour guides.

It is a beautiful bay, with lovely beaches and lots and lots of tourists…and fishermen angling to catch dollars and euros and pounds from the pockets of visitors.

Los Arcos, the arches at the outside of the harbor at Cabo San Lucas

In a Reflective Mood

As this cruise comes near its end, I found myself in a reflective mood. It helped to have calm seas and a bright sun. Here are some photos from this morning in Cabo:

After today, we have ahead of us entrance into the United States at the glorious city of San Diego in California, and a last call at Los Angeles (San Pedro, to be precise.)

The end is near:

Sunset Interrupted

At day’s end, we hauled anchor just as the sun set behind Los Arcos, the arches at the outside of town. It was a beautiful sight, even with those other–much larger–cruise ships between us and the final rays.

All photos copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at


SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS


Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)


SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

26 December 2019:
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala:
Very Old, Very New, Ever Hopeful for a Rebirth

By Corey Sandler

Guatemala is a place of resplendent beauty, terrible poverty, great history, tragic bloodshed, vibrant culture, and a rebirth with a still uncertain future.

It has balanced on a knife’s edge for centuries.

Viking Sun at the dock in Puerto Quetzal this morning
Nearby, a banana boat loads its cargo. Until the 20th century, bananas were a rare and mysterious commodity known only to adventurers and explorers

Inland from the port of Puerto Quetzal lies the huge metropolis of Guatemala City, which would not qualify as one of the more attractive places on this planet. It is a place of grinding poverty, made worse by growling volcanoes all around.

But beyond The City, up in the hills, is the ancient city of Antigua Guatemala, which is a mostly intact Spanish Colonial city bookended by a pair of active volcanoes.

In fact, the Spanish governed most of Central America from Mexico to Peru from here.

Up in the central highlands is the impressive former Spanish colonial headquarters of Antigua Guatemala, since replaced by the less-impressive Guatemala City. Antigua has been damaged over the centuries by earthquakes and volcanoes. But somehow it has managed to maintain an air of dignity and quiet.

Here are some photos I have taken over the years on various visits to Antigua:

All content by Corey Sandler, copyright 2019. ll rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo or one of my books, please contact me.

24 December 2019:
Puntarenas, Costa Rica:
Up Into the Cloud Forest

By Corey Sandler

Costa Rica is one of the most amazing places on the planet, a green nation with one-quarter-of-a-percent of Earth’s landmass and 5 percent of its biodiversity of species of flora and fauna.

And it also extends from sea to shining sea, with the port of Puntarenas on the Pacific where Viking Sun docked this morning and the port of Limón over on the Atlantic side. In between is the cordillera, the mountain range that is an extension of the Canadian and American Rockies to the North and the Andes to the South.

I went with guests up into that spine in the middle, to the Los Angeles Cloud Forest Reserve. We left hot and sunny Puntarenas and spent the day in a cool and drizzly rainforest.

Here is some of what we saw:

The beach at Puntarenas in the morning
The fog and mist descending on a garden in the hills above
Butterflies in the cloud forest
And hummingbirds at a sugar trough

Costa Rica, like Panama–and Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, the United States, and Canada–has ports on both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

There is only one canal, though.

The other countries have done the best they can with roads and railways to transfer products from one ocean to another.

Puntarenas here in Costa Rica was once the country’s principal port, but it was on the wrong side when it came to trade with the east coast of the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe. Over the past century, a railroad and then highways were built to climb up and over the Continental Divide to bring bananas, other agriculture, minerals, and more from one side to the other.

Modern Costa Rica has devoted much of its economy to sustainable and green industries and ecotourism. And the country–not quite perfect in its government and social services, but far ahead of nearly all of its neighbors–is doing well,

In fact, they have their own all-purpose expression of contentment: Pura Vida. Think of it as “all is well” or hakuna matata. It is impossible to use it wrong: Pura Vida!


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Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

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Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

22 December 2019:
Fuerte Amador, Panama:
From the Pacific to the Atlantic and Back

By Corey Sandler

The skyline of Panama City, a clear sign of the riches that flow into the country from the Panama Canal

We came to Panama–to the resort port of Fuerte Amador on the Pacific–but our eventual goal is California, not the Gulf of Mexico. And so Viking Sun put down anchors and we tendered into shore.

I have been through the Panama Canal more times than I can remember, and love the experience each and every time.

But on this visit I did something different: along with guests I journeyed across the isthmus, about 50 miles, from the Pacific to the Atlantic and then back. Our goal was to visit the Panama Canal from the land side, not from aboard ship.

Still spectacular, and literally an entirely different perspective on the amazing Path Between the Seas.

The large (but not huge) Emerald Princess was passing through the Agua Clara locks near the Atlantic when we arrived. Agua Clara is one of the new set of locks that opened in 2016, built to handle wider and longer vessels. In the new locks, ships are guided through by tugs at the bow and stern instead of the electric locomotives used in the old locks for the same purpose.
The new locks employ rolling gates that pull back into pockets in the wall; you can see the double set behind and to the right of the tugboat at the stern here. Also seen are parts of the three basins above the locks that recycle about 40 percent of the 52 million gallons of fresh water that is used for each transit of the locks.
Later in the day we visited the original locks at Miraflores. Here a large car carrier is making its way up the flight of locks from the Pacific. Here you can see the electric locomotives or mules.
From the land side, the difference in water level is apparent. Ships go up 85 or so feet in three locks from sea level to Lake Gatun to make the transit across the continent, and then 85 feet down at the other side.

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase any photos or books, please contact me.

To read more about the Panama Canal, click on the Panama tag below.

20 December 2019:
Manta, Ecuador:
On the Line and in the Net

By Corey Sandler

After two days at sea in the pacific Pacific, we arrived early today in the bustling port of Manta, Ecuador.

Ecuador…as in Equator.

Manta is at 00 degrees and 57 minutes south of the Equator, which puts it roughly 67 miles or 107 kilometers away from the line that marks the planet’s middle. We’ll cross from the Southern to the Northern Hemisphere sometime around 10 pm tonight as we head for Panama and beyond.

Ecuador, the equator, in many languages, shown in a mural at the port in Manta

The presence of this port brought it a brief moment on the world stage in March of 1736 when some of Europe’s greatest geographers and cartographers gathered here to embark on an expedition to determine the shape of the Earth at the Equator.

The survey included French and Spanish scientists, including Charles Marie de la Condamine, who sought to confirm Isaac Newton’s hypothesis that the earth is a not a perfect sphere but rather has a bulge at the equator because of the effect of centrifugal force on the spinning planet.

We found a monument commemorating that expedition tucked away in a corner of the port as we walked from the ship into steamy Manta, a few miles away.

Just as an aside, it was just a few months ago–July of this year–that I stood on a hillock in Hammerfest in far northern Norway to see a marker from the Struve Geodetic Arcs, a chain of survey triangulations stretching from the far north to the Black Sea, through ten countries and over 2,820 kilometers or 1,752 miles, a 39-year-effort by German-born Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve; his goal was to measure the exact size and shape of the earth by measuring a meridian–a line of longitude running from pole to pole, the opposite line from the equator which is the zero line of latitude.

One of the Struve Geodetic Arcs in Hammerfest, Norway

Back here in Manta, the waters are still thick with fish and the tuna catch remains a major element of the economy. The harbor was filled with vessels disgorging their bunkers with tuna, although the size of the creatures and their number has grown smaller over the years as humans overfish and otherwise damage our planet.

Tuna arriving in Manta this morning

And finally, it needs be mentioned that Ecuador–and in particular the town of Montecristi–holds on to its historical place as the origin of the Panama Hat. I know that sounds like a mix of countries, and it is, but many of the workers and visitors to the construction site of the Panama Canal in the late 19th and early 20th century wore straw hats of the type made here and the name of the Ecuadorian product was applied to the north in Panama. Today, some of the hats come from China and elsewhere with no relation to Ecuador or Panama.

A Panama Hat maker at work in Ecuador

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. To purchase a print or book, please contact me.

17 December 2019:
Lima, Peru:
Ancient Peru’s Back Closet

By Corey Sandler

We arrived early this morning at the port of Callao, Peru’s principal outlet to the sea, about ten miles from the capital city of Lima.

Lima is the third-largest city of the Americas: São Paulo in Brazil has about 12 million inhabitants, and then Mexico City just barely edges into second place with about 9 million residents. Lima counts 8.9 million in its sprawling city, and millions more in the surrounding urban sprawl.

I’ve been to Lima a number of times and have enjoyed strolling its Plaza de Armas with a handsome collection of Spanish Colonial structures.

Today, though, I went with a group of guests for an unusual inside view of one of the most impressive private museum collections in the world: the Larco Herrera Museum.

Rafael Larco Herrera, from a wealthy family with sugar cane holdings, devoted much of his life to collecting artifacts from the rich prehistory of Peru. By some estimates, there are about 87 different known tribes and peoples who inhabited the west coast of South America in and around what is now Peru.

Larco’s collection, amassed between about 1925 and 1966, is astounding, with thousands of objects on display. But the real thrill for me was to get a glimpse of the museum’s storage closet, home to perhaps another 50,000 more pieces of pottery, jewelry and other adornment, and textiles. We were led through the collection by one of the curators.

I performed no looting, taking home only memories and photos. Here are a few:

A funerary wrapping for a Huari mummy, dated sometime between AD 800 and AD 1300. Museum experts x-rayed the piece and say it contains the body of an infant of about four to five years of age. The funerary bundles were intended to shepherd the deceased into the afterlife where they would become an honored ancestor of the living. In fact, one of the gravest threats an attacker could pose to the living was to destroy a gravesite and thus deprive them of ancestors…and their connection to the land.
Next week I am due to give a lecture about the hidden meanings and sources of some of the greatest songs by The Beatles. I couldn’t help but think of the Blue Meanies of Sergeant Pepper Land when I saw this ancient piece.

The Garden of Earthly Delights and Monsters

The museum’s lush garden included Cereus peruvianus monstrosus, a truly creepy Peruvian cactus known locally as Monstrito.
Monstrito in flower

Larco’s Closet

Almost every piece on the shelves of the storage area of the Larco Herrera would be a treasure at another museum.

I was reminded of two other great museum visits I have made as a traveler: to the storage room of the Uffizi in Florence, full of fabulous but not-quite-famous Roman and Italian busts and statues, and the basement overflow room of the British Museum in London.

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved 2019. If you would like a print of any photo, please contact me using the links on this blog.

16 December 2019:
General San Martin, Paracas and Pisco, Peru:
Pelicans and Hidden Necropolises in the Sand

By Corey Sandler

When I was a child, one of my paternal grandmother’s favorite bits of poetry–and she had many–was this:

A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.

I thought of her today, as we strolled along small resort town of Paracas, midway between the port of General San Martin where our ship was docked and the city of Pisco.

A Pelican in Paracas

We’ve been here before, but it still is amazing to see the sprawling desert that comes right down to the sea in this part of Peru and in Chile to the south. There is not much fresh water to be had, but the ocean is full of fish and the pelicans are well-fed.

Viking Sun at the pier in the port of General San Martin. The port is named after the man considered the liberator of Peru from the Spanish; San Martin was a compatriot of Simon Bolivar
Pierside loading claws at the port

Paracas is a Quechua word that refers to the hurricane-like winds that carry sand. The desert near Paracas is stark beauty, mostly shades of red colored by iron deposits. In 1925 several major archeological sites were found in Cerro Colorado, the Red Hill.

Two sets of tombs were found on either side of the road, one holding about 40 sets of remains and the other hundreds. The larger site is considered much older, but the pair indicate this was a special place for the Paracas people. The older Paracas Cavernas is believed to date from about 800 to 200 BCE, and the nearby Paracas Necropolis from about 200 BCE to 150 of the Common Era.

In both places bodies are wrapped in textiles, many in a sitting position. Peru has done some basic excavation and research, but most of the artifacts are preserved as they were beneath the ground in this dry, remote place.

Cerro Colorado
A modern hotel’s garden in Paracas, lit by the strong morning sun
At the market in Paracas

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

14 December 2019:
Matarani, Peru:
Gateway to the White City of Arequipa

By Corey Sandler

Matarani is the place we parked, but it was not the destination for most of the guests aboard ship. From the gritty mining and export piers here, a fleet of buses departed in the morning for the two-hour-plus drive up into the altiplano to Arequipa.

Matarani, home to about one million, is the deep south of Peru, a thin strip of desert with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the spine of the Andes to the east. In Peru, only Lima is larger–much larger–with nearly nine million inhabitants. We’ll visit that coastal port in a few days.

We’ve been to Arequipa a few times, and so we’re declaring a vacation day aboard ship. We have been on the move almost continuously since March.

Arequipa, about 75 miles or 121 kilometers from Matarani, is up in the foothills of the Andes,  at altitude 2,350 meters or 7,710 feet.

The trip follows a two-lane highway thick with trucks and buses and thin with asphalt and guardrails.

It’s a dramatic setting, and also about as close as many cruise passengers are likely to get to landlocked Bolivia.

And it’s not Mount Fuji in Japan, either, but it probably could pass for it in a movie background. Looming over the city is the El Misti Volcano, rising to 19,098 feet or 5,821 meters above sea level.

It is a stratovolcano, the type that is somewhat like a pressure cooker. It lets off a bit of steam every once in a while but mostly sits around in seeming quietude until it explodes violently.

And yes, it is still active, it last major eruption in 1985.

Here are some notes and photos from a previous visit.



All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.



Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

13 December 2019:
Iquique, Chile:
From Sea Level to See Level

By Corey Sandler

It’s hard to have more contrast in one day than we did today, and that’s an extraordinary thing. 

After a day at sea sailing north, we arrived early this morning at the port of Iquique in Chile, an uncommon sight in this place. They receive only about eight cruise ships a year here. 

And then I went with a group of guests from sea level– because that is where oceangoing ships generally sail– up into the altiplano, the high desert. About two hours drive brought us into the Atacama Desert and the spectacular Huasco Salt Flats.

The flats are at about 3,830 meters above the sea,  or about 12,565 feet.

We had a bright sun and tolerable temperatures and pink flamingoes and llamas and alpaca. Oh, and I took some pictures….

The altiplano is home to some of Chile’s abundant mineral wealth. It all began with saltpeter a century ago, used at first for gunpowder and then as a fertilizer. 

Today,  copper is king,  along with valuable metals and minerals including molybdenum and lithium. That last substance is an essential component of batteries for things like cellphones and tablets.

Our trip back to the port in the afternoon was delayed because of a convoy of some of the largest machines on land: mining excavators, gigantic dump trucks, and support equipment. 

They would make great beach toys. 

Here’s some of what we saw today:

The Cerro Dragón sand dune reaches to the edge of the growing city of Iquique, a reminder of how tenuous many of the coastal ports of South America are
The little town of Pozo Almonte sits at the foot of the altiplano, its history bound up in mining in the hills. The small place draws its name from the Battle of Pozo Almonte of the Chilean Civil War of 1891 between Liberal (Balmacedist) and Congressional forces. The Congressional victory eventually led the junta gaining control of all of northern Chile.
A monument to the men of Pozo Almonte who went to the mines…
and the women…

The Huasco Salt Flats (Salar del Huasco)

The Huasco Salt Flats, at 3,800 meters or 12,500 feet above sea level. The surrounding mountains reach thousands of feet higher, some capped with snow
The rumble of thunder in a place that receives very little rain

Rules of the Road

The copper mines built the roads into the hills, and regularly shut them down to move equipment

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo seen here, please contact me.

11 December 2019:
Coquimbo, Chile:
Well Off the Beaten Track

By Corey Sandler

As is typical for coastal towns in this part of the world, dawn arrived gray and cool. By midday, it brightened just a bit, and then–almost as if controlled by a clock–the sun broke through at 2pm. By 6 tonight, we can expect warmth and a rising wind.

Except for the occasional semi-tropical storm, local weathermen don’t have an awful lot more to talk about.

Viking Sun at the dock in Coquimbo, Chile

I went with guests on a trip up the coast to the market town of La Serena, perusing unusual fruit the locals call tuna, known elsewhere as prickly pear.

The region’s climate is somewhat close to that of the Mediterranean. Chilean wine is better known than their olives, but both grow up in the hills. A local favorite is aceitunas sin amargo, large black olives said to be without amargo or bitterness.

A vendor at the market in La Serena
The hilltop Cruz del Tercer Milenio (The Cross of the Third Millennium), with an observation platform up high, reflects the predominantly Roman Catholic background of Chileans. It stands 83 meters or 273 feet tall, which allows the Chileans to claim the highest cross of South America. (In case you were wondering, Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Hill in Rio de Janeiro stands only 30 meters or 99 feet tall. And in any case, it’s a statue, not a cross.)
At the other side of the bay, seen to the right in this photo, is a handsome mosque constructed by the Kingdom of Morocco as a cultural offering; there is only a very small Islamic population here. The minaret is modeled on the famed Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco
The afternoon sun fills the Explorers Lounge aboard ship in Coquimbo

All content copyright 2019-2020, Corey Sandler. To obtain a copy of any photo, please contact me.

The content of this blog is entirely mine, and is not endorsed or approved by any cruise line or other entity.

Cruise Photos and Stories by Corey Sandler