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. Justyne provided two further updates on their travels which were featured in Issue 661 and Issue 665.
This week, the story behind the sailing adventure of a lifetime continues with an update provided on Apr. 15 and again on Apr. 27. We pick up their story as the Viking Star arrived in Saudi Arabia, stopping at two different ports, Jeddah and Yanbu Al-Bahr where the couple took part in some intriguing excursions.
“For the first time this country accepted tourists,” said Justyne. “It is the strictest of the Islamic countries. We visited Jeddah, a Saudi Arabian port city on the Red Sea; it acts as a gateway for pilgrimages to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.”
While there the couple took part in a desert safari at sunset, took a camel ride and experienced Bedouin hospitality.
After Saudi Arabia the Viking Star sailed to Jordan with a stop in the port city of Aqaba.
“From Aqaba we were able to go to visit the magnificent ancient city of Petra,” said Justyne. “We were lucky that it was not too hot for this two-hour walking tour. Next we went again through the Suez Canal to get to Egypt.”
Visiting Egypt from the Port of Sharm el-Sheikh, they went snorkeling, viewing vibrant corals, rock formations and underwater cliffs. The following day from the Port of Safag they travelled to Luxor. Their tour drove along irrigation canals created from the Nile River making farming possible. Justyne noted that crops grown include: sugar cane, bananas, olives, mango, watermelon and garlic. When they arrived In Luxor they were able to visit the Valley of the Kings and the tombs of Egypt’s great pharaohs.
And then they were off to Port Said in Cairo where they witnessed the Great Pyramids and the enigmatic Sphinx.
On Apr. 27 the couple provided another update sharing their experiences in Israel – the ship stayed two days in Jerusalem (Haifa). This time allowed them to visit Palestinian territory, Nazareth and Bethlehem following Jesus’ steps to his crucifixion, visiting other biblical sites and experiencing floating in the Dead Sea.
“We had a chance to cry at the ‘Wailing Wall” with women and men using a separate part of the wall,” said Justyne.
They also learned about a desalination and purification plant that Israel built in 1980 to use 80 per cent of their waste water for irrigation.
“It enriched the land, many trees were planted and we saw miles of vineyards and olives trees,” she said.
Justine noted they were very fortunate to take part in the excursions as the day after they were there another Palestinian-Israeli clash erupted.
Departing Israel, they cruised the Mediterranean Sea and then on to stops in Greece and Turkey.
“In Athens, Greece we climbed the Acropolis with a wonderful view of the Parthenon and at our stop on Crete we saw the uncovered Knossos,” she said.
They explored the ancient city of Ephesus, Turkey where they saw the Great Theatre, a massive amphitheatre that once sat 25,000 spectators.
“It is in Ephesus that St. John is said to have preached and Mary is said to have lived her final days in a tiny stone house,” shared Justine.
The Viking Star spent two nights in Istanbul, Turkey. The couple learned that it is in this city Eastern and Western cultures meet as it literally straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosporus Strait.
While in Istanbul they toured the Hagia Sophia that was founded as a basilica, converted to a mosque and now is a spectacular museum. They also visited the Grand Bazaar, the world’s largest covered market with 3,000 shops offering a vast selection of carpets, spices and local sweets.
From there the ship sailed for Italy with stops in Messina, Naples and Rome. And as the calendar turned to May the cruisers visited Barcelona and Cartgena in Spain and Lisbon, Portugal.
Earlier this week the Viking Star made its way across the Atlantic Ocean and along the English Channel until it reached the Port of Tilbury in the United Kingdom where Justyne and Wally disembarked the ship after 135 nights of sailing the globe and prepared for their flight home to Canada.
As they came to the end of their sailing Justyne reflected that it had been a great trip and as of today (May 11th) the couple should be back home in Bayfield resting up after their long holiday.
Justyne also shared that she is willing to provide more details regarding their remarkable Viking Cruise with anyone who may be interested. She may be reached at 519 565-5427.
** 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.
Wally Racicot and Justyne Chojnacka in Egypt.