PHOTOS COURTESY JUSTYNE CHOJNACKA AND STORY BY MELODY FALCONER-POUNDER
In early January of 2020, Bayfield residents Justyne Chojnacka, travelling with her partner, Wally Racicot, embarked on a 119-night World Wonders Cruise, departing Los Angeles aboard the magnificent Viking Sun. This once-in-a-lifetime cruise was meant to visit over 50 ports in New Zealand, Australia, SE Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe.
However, the rise of a global pandemic ensured that this magnificent holiday did not go according to plan but evolved into a rather interesting adventure that Justyne herself shared with readers back in April of 2020. This story was first published in Issue 561** of the Bayfield Breeze with a follow-up on how the Canadians did finally make their way back home in Issue 562*
On Feb. 1st, 2022, the Bayfield Breeze received an email from Justyne. She wanted to share with readers that the couple is now once again sailing the world on their return trip that was interrupted by COVID in 2020. (Visit Issue 657 for more details.) At that point, they had been on the ship for about six weeks and were Omicron free as both crew and passengers were taking daily COVID tests. Their original itinerary was updated in order to allow the passengers to be allowed off of the ship taking them along South America to Cape Horn instead of French Polynesia; Australia and New Zealand. About a month later, Justyne provided an update of their travels as featured in Issue 661.
This week, the story behind the sailing adventure of a lifetime continues…
On March 9, the ship docked overnight in Valletta, Malta where it would spend a couple of days providing ample opportunity to tour this UNESCO World Heritage Site. A highlight for the pair occurred on March 11 when the couple attended a concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the old fort city of Mdina.
This was the first occasion that they noticed NATO jets flying overhead patrolling the Mediterranean Sea, no doubt a reaction to the war in Ukraine. Justyne shared that their ship would continue to sail as long as it was deemed safe.
“We have ten Ukrainian crew members and the ship’s passengers raised some extra funds to help them to bring their children to a safe country. We have learned that some churches are trying to sponsor children or find families willing to take the children,” she said.
Prior to arriving in Malta, the Viking Star took the travellers to the 10 volcanic islands that comprise the archipelago of Cape Verde, with a stop in Mindelo. And then it was off to Madeira, Portugal, known as the Garden Island for its rich fertile volcanic soil and good year-round climate. It was there that they learned about the island’s hydraulic watering system known as levadas, which date back to the 15th century and are still used for irrigation today. Dug into the steep hillsides the 2,170 km (1,350 miles) of levadas provide water from the mountainous areas to the more fertile yet dryer land below. On this island tour, they also stopped at the Cabo Girao Skywalk, a glass platform that offers incredible views from the world’s second highest sea cliff. Justyne feels that Madeira would be the perfect place for a winter getaway.
The Viking Star also made a stop in Seville, Cádiz in Spain, where they toured the Andalusian countryside and its rich history including the lighthouse at Cape Trafalgar which marks the location of the 1805 naval Battle of Trafalgar.
“On March 3rd, we were in Gibraltar where our 2019 cruise ended due to COVID-19 almost to the day! Now we had a chance to see it,” said Justyne. “A British territory since 1713 it has a long history. Within the Rock are a series of tunnels that were dug by defending British troops during the Great Siege 1779-1783 and later by Allied troops during World War Two. The tunnels are used today for the military. For me it was good to see the General Wladyslaw Sikorski Memorial.”
The Sikorski Memorial in Gibraltar commemorates the 1943 Gibraltar B-24 crash that occurred on July 4, 1943 which caused the death of the General who was at the time the commander-in-chief of the Polish Army and Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile.
They also had the pleasure of visiting St. Michael’s Cave marvelling at its colorfully lit stalactites and stalagmites. They learned that the largest chamber, the Cathedral Cave, hosts music events due to its superior acoustic qualities. Before departing Gibraltar, they also took a six-minute cable car ride, 412 m above sea level to see the playful Barbary Apes roaming freely.
March 4 found them visiting the cities of Granada and Malaga in Spain.
“Malaga is one of the oldest cities, full of Moorish architecture and Christian details. It is the city of Pablo Picasso. It was here we got to see a performance of Flamenco dancing – what an exuberant show it was!” she said.
The Viking Star then cruised along the Mediterranean Sea for a day prior to stopping in Palma De Mallorca on March 6.
“It rained here, only a half day, but we found it to be a very beautiful island. Remnants of past civilizations are plentiful.” she said. “I found a monument to Frédéric Chopin as this is where he died.”
Other highlights of Palma included seeing the massive La Seu Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Almudaina.
On March 8, the Viking Star arrived in Sardinia, Italy where the farmland has lush vineyards blanketing its hillsides.
“Cork oak trees are prevalent too. Cork is used for bottling wine and olive oil as well as for bags, shoes and belts,” said Justyne.
Around March 12, they visited the Greek islands of Corfu and Crete and then stopped in Katakolo, Greece to see Olympia – the classical birthplace of the modern Olympic Games.
Two days were spent in Venice, Italy where they got to see St. Mark Square and as is the custom for tourists they also enjoyed a gondola ride along the Grand Canal.
And then it was off to see four of the independent countries that once were part of the former Yugoslavia.
“They were all beautiful and interesting,” said Justyne. “Croatia reminded us of today’s Ukraine, now at war, since they suffered a similar conflict in 1991 and although they have rebuilt since the evidence of the war is still there. We hope the war will stop before more innocent lives are lost.”
As of March 27, the couple has been on their cruise for about three months, and so far, their itinerary has stayed the course. In Justyne’s most recent email, they were on their way to Saudi Arabia via the Suez Canal.
So, where in the world are Justyne and Wally now, some of our readers may be wondering? Well, a quick search of the internet shows that as of Apr. 5th, they are now cruising the Red Sea at eight knots with sunshine and a gentle breeze and temperatures reaching 35C. May they have nothing but smooth sailing as their adventures continue – we will share more missives should they send us future electronic postcards in the coming days…
** To access these Issues click on the Archives button at the top of this page and type “561” or “562” into the Search and press enter. The Issues should appear for your access.