Cruising On The Norwegian Bliss

By Stuart J. Faber

Just this past month, the newly constructed 168,000-ton Norwegian Bliss became the largest vessel ever to pass through the recently expanded Panama Canal. It launched from the German shipyards where it was constructed, and set sail for Seattle. En route, the captain decided to pull into San Pedro, California to pick me up along with 2,000 of my intimate friends for its inaugural passenger voyage. For a few days, we cruised along the California-Mexican coast. So let’s call this article “Cruising with Faber.” 

Photo by Andrea SugranesThis magnificent vessel is a monster of a ship. It’s 994 feet long – I’ve landed my airplane on runways this size. Across the 126-foot wide superstructure, 20 decks are stacked with 2,000 staterooms and just about everything else you could imagine at a mega-resort. The staff of 1,700 computes to almost one staff person for every two of the 4,000 guests this ship can accommodate. 

Whatever your cruise plans are for the western hemisphere, the Bliss should be your choice. There are seven-day trips to Alaska from Seattle, seven-day Eastern Caribbean trips from Miami, seven-day trips from Los Angeles to the Mexican Rivera, five-day trips to Vancouver, plus trips from the Panama Canal, Los Angeles or Miami and seven-day Bahamas and Florida trips from New York. 

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Flying With Faber: Healthy, Delicious Cuisine Prepared with Waterfall, Alaska Fish

By Stuart J. Faber

Now that the holidays have passed, it’s time to activate those New Year’s resolutions.  It’s safe to say that most of us have resolved to shed the extra pounds we put on over the holidays.  Not only are weight losses generally considered a contribution to better health and a longer life, the less you weigh, the more stuff you can pack into your airplane without being over-grossed.

Most physicians and dietitians agree that eating fish can extend your life. I make frequent trips to the supermarket in search of fresh fish. I’m often disappointed. Much of the product carries a label, “previously frozen.”  Fresh or frozen, the prices are usually high. I prefer to catch my own. That way, I’m sure of what I’m getting. Plus, I can think of fewer pastimes more fun than fishing.

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Flying With Faber: Flagstaff, Arizona – An Alpine Desert Oasis

By Stuart J. Faber

Sunset on the desert. (Stuart J. Faber)I grew up in the midst of rolling prairies, thick forests, and cool, deep blue lakes. Of course, I feel most comfortable and at home in these environments. That being said, many of my desert excursions have been memorable. For example, the Atacama Desert in Chile is a magical place. The solitude and lunar-like terrain lends a feeling of being in space. In contrast, the dramatic hues of the red-rock desert in Sedona, Arizona are electrifying. No artist could duplicate the colors of these rocks. The desert surrounding Dubai, UAE, with its waves of sand, reminds me of the Arabian knights movies of my childhood. We spent a thrill-packed afternoon surfing up and down the sand dunes in all-wheel drive vehicles – as the SUVs banked almost 90 degrees, we were terrified that we would flip upside-down.

The high terrain surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona has become one of my favorite desert destinations. At 7,000 feet above sea level, millions of ponderosa pine forests spring from the desert floor. Conifers are not the region’s only anomaly. For example, the desert around Flagstaff receives approximately 100 feet of snowfall annually. Additionally, the terrain is composed primarily of volcanic soil – not a sand dune in sight. Summer temperatures rarely rise above 80 degrees F. Winter temperatures can plummet below zero. Within an hour from Flagstaff is the Grand Canyon. This real estate resembles no desert I’ve ever seen.

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Flying with Faber: Chicago: Cherished Memories & New Adventures 

By Stuart J. Faber

It was called the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad. The short name was the North Shore Line. Every few hours, a train departed from Milwaukee to Chicago. It clickity-clacked south from Milwaukee toward Racine and Kenosha, then through Zion Illinois, Waukegan Great Lakes Naval Station, Highland Park, Evanston, Lake Bluff, North Chicago and into the city. On arrival, the train twisted its way through the Loop (Chicago’s downtown), along the elevated tracks (called The L). There were other stops, the names of which I can’t recall. But I can still hear the conductor announcing each stop with a raucous, song like cry, such as, “WAAL-KEY-GUN, SKOOO-KEY, KEE-NOSH-A, RAAAAY-CINE!

A North Shore Railroad Car. This inter-urban line hummed along from 1916 until the early 1960s when oil executives decided that the U.S. rail system was cannibalizing the gasoline industry. However, the Chicago L continues to operate over 100 miles of tracks from the Loop to points north and south.

From the late 1930s through the mid-1950s, our family took countless trips from Racine, Wisconsin to Chicago. The train was not our only means of transportation. We used airplanes, automobiles, and one time, friends and I skippered a sailboat along Lake Michigan’s waterfront.

Before the advent of the Interstate system, the driving routes were 2-lane highways dotted with numerous villages. We would depart Racine along Highway 32, head south past Kenosha after which we would cross the state line where roadstands popped up selling margarine-a product embargoed in Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland.

After about an hour along Sheridan Road, the highway widened, the traffic increased and the buildings grew taller. Sheridan Road merged into Lake Shore Drive-an expansive boulevard with Lake Michigan to the east and majestic, mid-century buildings to the west. Within moments, a huge, bright red neon sign appeared: DRAKE HOTEL.

The Electroliner, a later version.To this day, that iconic sign is the town crier to travelers: “You are approaching the Magnificent Mile!” The “Mag” Mile is a strip of Michigan Avenue that originates near the Drake Hotel and runs south to the Chicago River. Along its route are the Wrigley Building, The Water Tower, Tribune Tower, the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons and the 100-story John Hancock Center.

Throughout the day and night, the neighborhood bustles with locals and tourists.

To me, The Drake was, and still is, the gateway to the Magnificent Mile. This street, about one mile long, holds bundles of memories for our family. Before WWII, as little kids, my sister and I would accompany our parents on sojourns to Chicago. Often we would stay at the Drake, dine at the Cape Cod Room (it’s still there), or thePump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel.

These places were too fancy for me. I always begged to go to the Ontra Cafeteria, a 1200-seat restaurant built in 1919. Right after the war, as a teenager, my buddies and I would gather the 60-cent fare and mount the North Shore Line for a day in Chicago.

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Flying With Faber: Ritz-Carlton Tahoe Offers Unparalleled Splendor

By Stuart J. Faber

Lake Tahoe Winter (Courtesy Ritz-Carlton Tahoe)Every time I take off from Lake Tahoe Airport (KTVL), I do so with some apprehension. Have I accurately calculated my weight and balance? What is the density altitude today? In the past few decades, several pilots, more experienced than I, apparently did not take these precautions. Tahoe Airport is a beautiful field. On final approach over the clear blue lake, gorgeous vistas pass by. Taking off, you will generally face rapidly rising terrain and an unforgiving stand of mountains. At an elevation of 6,262 feet above sea level, Runway 18/38 is 5,541 feet long. GPS and LDA-DME approaches are recommended only during the day. The FBO is Mountain West Aviation, 530/542-2110.

I heartily recommend a trip to the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe. You’ll be closer to the resort if you land your plane at Truckee-Tahoe Airport (KTRK). Some years back, the name “Tahoe” was added, perhaps to let you know that they are only a 15-minute drive to the Ritz-Carlton. The airport is 5,901 feet above sea level. Runway 11/29 is 7,000 feet long and Runway 2/20 is 4,650 long. GPS approaches are available. The Truckee-Tahoe Airport, 530/587-4119, can give you flight planning information. Sierra Aero is a full service FBO located at the Truckee Tahoe Airport and provides aircraft maintenance, inspections, flight training and aircraft rentals. Visit online at or call (530) 359-8751. Enterprise, (530) 550-1550, and Hertz, (530) 550-9191, rental car facilities are located on the field.

If you are contemplating a commercial flight, Reno-Tahoe Airport (KRNO) is about a 45-minute drive from the resort.

A Resort of Unparalleled Splendor

The Ritz-Carlton Tahoe (Courtesy Ritz-Carlton Tahoe)The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, situated mid-mountain in the Northstar California Ski Resort Area, features ski-in, ski-out access, ski valet services and an inter-mountain gondola connecting guests between the nearby Village at Northstar and the slope-side hotel. Within a 15-minute drive of Lake Tahoe and the historic town of Truckee or a 45-minute drive from the Reno/Tahoe International Airport, this year-round destination resort includes 170 stunning guest rooms and suites, 23 private Ritz-Carlton Residences and 11 Ritz-Carlton Club fractional ownership units.

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