It’s been a crazy busy two months of travel for me, and while it was an exciting bit of travel, it reinforces for me the preference to have a home base rather than to be nomadic. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to travel. But I LOVE coming home just as much.

There will be stories, reviews, and more details to come out of these travels, of course, but for now here’s a look at it all through Instagram. And you are following me on Instagram, right?!

Mid-September took me to Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando. You’ve missed it for this year, but if you’re a fan of the genre, put it on your calendar for next year.

Time for a scary good time.

A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on

While at Universal Orlando, I also had a chance to check out many of the other rides and attractions, and, of course the two Harry Potter areas – Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley.

The dragon guarding Gringott’s Bank in Diagonal Alley. It’s a rainy day but so much fun to explore. A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on

In late September, it was off to Portugal for a Viking River cruise on the Duoro River. I’ve wanted to return to Portugal for some time, and the opportunity to do so with a bunch of friends was the perfect way to do it. I’m a fan of Viking – their ships, itinerary, and customer service – and if you’re wondering if a river cruise is right for you, I’d recommend checking them out.

Like lace in stone. Amazing craftsmanship telling part of the history of Lisbon.

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The cruise started in Porto, about a 3-ish hour drive from Lisbon. It’s a fun city in its own right, with a dynamic food scene, and it’s beautiful at night. This is also home to Port, another good reason to put it on your list of stops.

A last look at Porto at night. #vikingsocial A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on

River cruising is a relaxing way to see many of the small towns and regions that you’d miss if you contained your travels to major cities. The scenery along the Duoro was beautiful.

A beautiful day for cruising the Duoro River.

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I liked being on deck when it was time to transit the many locks on the Duoro. It’s a fascinating process of raising and lowering the water level to get through. And most often, there were only a few inches of clearance on each side between the ship and the walls of the locks.

Its worthwhile to spend time on deck as the ship goes through the locks. A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on  

One thing I love about river cruising is the opportunity to visit towns that I otherwise wouldn’t make it to. One of the stops was Salamanca, Spain, a university town that would be worth a return visit.

As I walked out on the streets of Lamego.

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I was home from the Portugal for less than 48 hours – barely enough time to unpack, do laundry, and repack – before heading off to Bangkok. I always enjoy my time in Southeast Asia, in large part because of the delicious street food.

Street food in Bangkok. A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on

After Thailand, I had a few days at home before heading across country to Fort Lauderdale. Not much free time there, but I did have time to enjoy beach and sunset views. From a hotel. Sigh. Perhaps the next visit will offer me time to actually see those beaches.

Interesting cloud formations over the Atlantic Ocean

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Then it was time to head to the cruise port and the embarkation of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. The megaship is like a floating city and carries over 8,000 people, a combined total of passengers and crew. It wasn’t as overwhelming as it sounds, and I found some favorite parts of the ship that I became very familiar with, but it’s definitely a different pace from river crusing.

The mighty #oasisoftheseas

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While I loved the time in port, especially when it involved relaxing on the beach. . .

Playing in the surf at Orient Beach, Sint Martin #tbex

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. . . I also loved finding a spot on the ship to relax and enjoy the view.

Even on a 6,000 passenger cruise ship, you can find space to sit quietly and enjoy the view.

A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on