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  #321  
Old April 14th, 2012, 11:56 AM
Johnny B Johnny B is offline
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April 14 – Day 99
Ajaccio, Corsica, France

Remember Napoleon – the little guy with his hand in his jacket? The one who caused so much trouble in Europe at one time? Well, we’ve spent today in the town where he was born. He was often called, derogatorily, “The Little Corsican,” because the French (and the English) thought nothing good could come from this small island in the Mediterranean.

We were quite pleased to visit a French island, being the Francophiles we are. John’s French is pretty darned good, and I can read a menu and street signs with the best of them. We also know that we can get a good meal anywhere French (as well as Italy, of course). We began the day with our 10:00 AM arrival here, right in the middle of the city – always a huge plus. We were almost right across the street from the daily market in the Place Foch, so together with Sky, we began there, walking up one side and down the other, enjoying the sights, sounds, and especially the smells of a daily French market. We appreciated the cheeses, the preserved meats, the flowers, fruits, vegetables, and oh, the breads! We tried some offered samples, and just really enjoyed mingling.

The market square is the departure point for the 90-minute tour by little white train around the city and out to the rocky islets next to the mainland. The rocky hills that come down to the sea put us in mind of the coast at Santa Barbara, about 90-minutes from our home. We saw the statue of Napoleon and his brothers, the statue of Napoleon dressed as Caesar, Napoleon in his emperor’s outfit – you pretty much get the picture here. However, there are also Roman ruins and artifacts from early Christian settlements. Ajaccio is really a charming city, the largest on Corsica, and seems to be a combination of Italian and French influences, which is appropriate because it was owned by Genoa until they sold it to France in the late 1700’s.

After we finished our tour at 12:30, the restaurant hunt began. We wanted something identifiably French (not a big challenge here), but also something warm, since it was pretty clouded over and windy. The three of us settled on a little (tiny, really) restaurant whose tables were outside, but with plastic walls and roof – and a heater! John had a chicken sandwich on a baguette, Sky ordered a ham and cheese panini, and I had a croque monsieur, the French version of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. They were all very good, and the guys decided to cut theirs in two and trade halves. I was the only one whose lunch came with fries, so I shared those, too. Lunch was really very good.

Since we were on the Napoleon trail, we headed to the Maison Bonaparte, the home in which little Napoleon and his seven brothers and sisters were born. It turns out that Madame Bonaparte was an extremely strong woman, and she had to be, since she was left a widow when her 39-year-old husband died, leaving her with eight children to raise Fortunately, she was a very wealthy widow, but it still couldn’t have been easy. The house has four stories and was the largest in Ajaccio at the time. Now it’s down a little alleyway, but the insides have been restored beautifully, with much of the original furniture. I always think it’s interesting to get a picture of another era by going through a home from the past. It’s what’s NOT there that’s interesting: no bathrooms, no kitchen – although there had to be facilities for those things somewhere at the time. Each room had a fireplace and the furniture, although beautiful, didn’t look very comfortable. I think to be middle class now is far more comfortable than to be rich 200 years ago.

By the time we finished our tour, which had included a hand-held mechanical narration device for more information, it was time to head to the Monoprix, far and away one of our favorite French stores. On one floor they carry clothing, toiletries, household goods, and so forth, but either upstairs or downstairs, there’s a great grocery store. We actually didn’t buy anything, but we had a good time wandering up and down the aisles. I’m one of those people who loves grocery shopping, and although John doesn’t like to go with me at home, he enjoys stores in foreign cities.

I’ve been fighting a cold, so I was all toured out, and headed back to the ship. John wanted to see a little more, so he wandered on for awhile. I wanted to get in a nap, since we’ll be spending the next two days with our Belgian exchange student Francoise and her sister Laura and I don’t want to let this silly cold get me down. We really enjoyed our day on Corsica and our visit with Napoleon.

The captain just came on over the PA system and told us that there is stormy weather throughout the Mediterranean which will cause four or five hours of very rough seas tonight. It should be exciting.
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  #322  
Old April 16th, 2012, 05:41 AM
MMDown Under MMDown Under is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny B View Post
April 14 – Day 99
Ajaccio, Corsica, France

I’ve been fighting a cold, so I was all toured out, and headed back to the ship. John wanted to see a little more, so he wandered on for awhile. I wanted to get in a nap, since we’ll be spending the next two days with our Belgian exchange student Francoise and her sister Laura and I don’t want to let this silly cold get me down. We really enjoyed our day on Corsica and our visit with Napoleon.

The captain just came on over the PA system and told us that there is stormy weather throughout the Mediterranean which will cause four or five hours of very rough seas tonight. It should be exciting.
I hope the seas weren't too rough and your cold didn't develop, so you can enjoy your two days in Barcelona with your Belgian exchange student. Port intensive Mediterranean cruising can be exhausting!
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  #323  
Old April 16th, 2012, 03:32 PM
Johnny B Johnny B is offline
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April 15, 16 Days 100, 101
Barcelona, Spain

What a wonderful two days we had in Barcelona! We met Francoise, our exchange daughter and her sister Laura, we toured the city, we ate tapas and paella and drank a pitcher of sangria – what more could we want? We arrived at the port of Barcelona at 12:00 noon on Sunday, were almost the first people off the ship and onto the shuttle in our excitement, and when we exited the bus at the Mirador de Colom statue, there they were! It’s been almost a year, but as with Giorgia, nothing has changed. We hugged and kissed cheeks and told each other how good we all looked; in their case it was true!

Since we were near the Hop On, Hop Off bus, we decided that it was a good way to begin our time in Barcelona. It was sunny out, so the uncovered top of the bus was our choice of seating area. The tour took us throughout the center of the city, including some Gaudi buildings, port Olympia, the largest soccer stadium in Europe, Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s amazingly unique church which will not be completed in our lifetimes, and many other things that make this city so wonderful.

About 2:00 we decided it was “hop off” time, so we headed to a tapas restaurant we had a wonderful repast with tapas made from potatoes, shrimp, thinly sliced meet and other yummy things. Afterwards, we continued the tour, but then the clouds came over and the rain began, so the canvas roof over the top floor was extended, but it was still too cold for Laura and me, so we went downstairs and huddled together to stay warm. We finished the tour at Catalunya Square, at the top of La Rambla, the wonderful strolling street in central Barcelona with cafes, restaurants, and shops seemingly without end. Of course, there is the occasional pickpocket, so caution is always recommended.

Because the cold and the rain continued, the girls decided that the place to stop would be the huge Starbucks on La Rambla, one of many in Barcelona. We had no sooner picked up our drinks than an energetic group of about 50 Italian students entered the shop en masse. It reminded us just too much of our own student groups over the years to make us do more than smile.

It was now time to stop by the girls’ hotel, make sure we had chosen it well, and then head out to the ship for the evening. Fan and Laura surprised us with gifts from Belgium: chocolates and beer. They know us well! We took the shuttle back to the Amsterdam and, after heading to our cabin to give them their gifts, we had a tour of the ship. After Laura got over her fear that the ship, although at dock, would sink during her visit, she thoroughly enjoyed her time on board, as did Fan.

We were very pleased to have the girls join us at our table for dinner, and our tablemates were glad to finally meet them, after having heard about them ad nauseum for three months. Our tablemates were even happier when we broke out the largest box of chocolates after dinner and passed it around the table two or three times until Andy, our assistant table steward, took the box and hid it, pretending that he was going to steal it.
Dinner was followed by some time in the piano bar listening to Debby Bacon play old favorites, until it was time for them to take a late shuttle back to the city center and their hotel.

This morning we began earlier, having agreed to meet at their hotel at 10:00. Since John believes that if you’re not early you’re late, we left on the 9:00 shuttle, but we also wanted to locate a restaurant that Greg and Heo had recommended for lunch. It was called Restaurante Ferran, and since it was on a street of the same name, it was easy to find and fairly near to the girls’ hotel. Along the way, we discovered a beautiful square called Placa Reial, lined with charming cafes and centered with a flower-decorated fountain.

Before it was time to meet, we headed to La Boqueria, the wonderful covered market just off La Rambla. If you have a trip to Barcelona planned, DO NOT miss this market. It is huge and has everything you could want to eat: fruit, vegetables, meat, fresh (caught this morning) fish, bread, candy, and things I’m sure I left out. Several of the separate markets have bars where customers can pull up a bar stool and order whatever the specialty may be. I could spend hours here, but instead spent just about 20 minutes before it was time to head over to the girls’ hotel.

After we picked them up for a walking tour of the Ciutat Vella, or Old City, we wandered among the narrow winding streets, looking into little shops and reading menus, stopping into the cathedral and doing a lot of people watching. Because Laura was flying home today and had to leave her hotel at 1:30, we opted for an early lunch, almost unheard of in any Spanish town. When we went into our pre-selected restaurant at 12:00, the hostess looked at us with surprise but agreed that we could sit at a table in the window. The girls ordered tapas and John and I ordered paella, accompanied by sangria. Had we known how big a pan of paella would be brought out for two people, we would have ordered for one and just shared. It was wonderful, with a base of saffron rice, and topped with calamari rings, huge shrimp, pieces of chicken, mussels, and what seemed to be a small lobster tail.

After waving goodbye at the airport shuttle stop, the three of us spent more time in La Boqueria, with Fan choosing a gift for her dad (Serrano ham) and a baguette sandwich for her dinner. I bought a lovely little box of bright red strawberries, part of which I left for Fan’s dinner, and after heartfelt goodbyes, we headed back to the ship for our 6:00 sailaway. The special drink for sailaway was more sangria to say “adios” to Barcelona.

We had a wonderful visit with Francoise and Laura and enjoyed Barcelona perhaps even more than on previous trips. We are already anxious to both see Francoise and Giorgia again and to return to Barcelona.
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  #324  
Old April 16th, 2012, 06:29 PM
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Diane and John,

Another wonderful read. So glad you had such a great visit with Fran and Laura. Barcelona is a fantastic city with so much to see and of course eat!

Thanks again for sharing.

Jennie
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  #325  
Old April 17th, 2012, 09:03 AM
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Your writing is so wonderful I feel like I've been to many of these places with you.
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  #326  
Old April 17th, 2012, 09:24 AM
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Such wonderful reports! I'm so glad you had a wonderful two days with your exchange daughter and her sister!
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  #327  
Old April 17th, 2012, 01:06 PM
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April 17 – Day 102
At Sea! (at last)

Seeing the world on a cruise ship really is a lovely thing to do, but there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to the arrangement. It really is difficult to see a destination in depth unless one takes an extended overland, but many people won’t do that because they don’t see the point in paying for a room on the ship and then paying again on land. On the plus side of a cruise, of course, almost everything is provided and you only have to unpack once.

However, one serious drawback, as far as we’re concerned, is that the lack of time in any given port requires us to “give it our all” in seeing as much as possible and doing as much as possible. We usually get off the ship as early as possible and keep going until it’s time to reboard. In addition, I’ve been fighting a pain-in-the-neck cold for several days. I hate colds; you don’t get any sympathy for them but you feel miserable.

The bottom line is, after eight straight days of ports (Athens –2, Katakolon, Messina, Naples, Corsica, and Barcelona – 2), having wonderful visits with our exchange daughters, and fighting a cold, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a sea day more than today. My watch alarm is set for 7:45 AM, a bit of a joke because we almost always awake by 7:00, if not earlier. Well today the alarm woke me, and then 15 minutes later, John awoke and we struggled up to the gym. I’ve skipped it for the last several days due to my cold, but decided that today it would be a good day to gradually work my way back into it. I chose the recumbent bicycle for two reasons: I could sit down while exercising and I could hold my book (The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb) in my lap.

Right now I’m sitting in the library, watching a very calm sea and trying to ignore the people talking stocks next to me. It’s just the kind of day that I love – lazy and sunny. It’s not sunny enough to “go to the beach” as John calls it, but it’s nice to look out and see some blue sky.

I know that there are people who get off only in a few ports, and I’ve heard that there are always at least a few who never set foot off the ship, but we’re not two of them. That’s why sea days are so delightful. There’s nothing that has to be done and plenty of time in which to do it. There are always places on the ship where it’s quiet and one can be alone if that’s the goal. John occasionally likes to sit in one of the lounges on Deck 3, the Lower Promenade. When it’s a little chilly and people sit out there wrapped up in blankets, it always reminds me of old movies like An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, in which they fall in love on an ocean liner. In those days, everyone booked a specific deck chair and it was theirs for the duration. Of course, since most of those movies dealt with transatlantic crossings, the plaid blankets were a necessity.

The first day in Barcelona, our favorite entertainers, “Black Tie” came onboard to do two shows in five days. If you haven’t seen them, you’ve really missed out. The group consists of two brothers, Yuri and Constantine (Con) and their wives, Valerie and Sue. The brother sing and banter, Valerie plays the piano, and Sue plays the cello, and they are extremely funny. Over our three world cruises, we’ve become friends (as much as possible when you only see someone every two years), and we had hugs and kisses in greeting. Ordinarily they would have boarded in Sydney, where they live, but HAL, in its wisdom, decided to fly them from Sydney to Barcelona and then from Funchal, Madeira back to Sydney, and then to a cruise in Hawaii two weeks later. Logic? I don’t think so. Anyway, they’re performing tonight, having dinner with us tomorrow night, and then performing once more the night before Madeira. We’re really looking forward to it.

I guess it’s just about time to hie myself over to Trivia – also for the first time in eight days. This afternoon I have to make a crucial decision: will it be the movie or a nap? Only time will tell.

P. S. Nap won out.
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Old April 17th, 2012, 06:22 PM
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Diane and John,

We too enjoy the "Black Tie" quartet. We first saw them on the Prinsendam a few years ago and also had a good chat to them as they come from our sister city, Sydney. We think they are the best act we have ever seen on a ship.

We too love sea days especially after a lot of days in port. Enjoy.

Jennie
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2011 Royal Princess - Tahiti to Ft. Lauderdale via Sth America - Farewell Cruise - 26 days
2010 Ocean Princess - Capetown to Dover - via West Africa - 30 days
2009 Prinsendam - Athens to Ft. Lauderdale - Transatlantic - 24 days
2009 Azamara's Quest - Hong Kong to Beijing - Far East Asia - 14 days
2008 Tahitian Princess - Vancouver - Vancouver - Alaska in depth - 14 days
2008 Oceania's Nautica - Hong Kong to Athens - the Pirate run! - 35 days
2007 Tahitian Princess - Tahiti to Hawaii - 12 days
2007 Pacific Princess - Sydney - Sydney - the Pacific Islands - 10 days
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2006 Galapagos Explorer ll - Galapagos Islands - 5 days
2006 Regal Princess - Rio de Janeiro to Valpariso via Antarctica - 21 days
2005 Maasdam - Boston to Rotterdam via Greenland, Iceland & Norway - 17 days
2004 Prinsendam - Athens to Venice via the Black Sea - 12 days
2004 Tahitian Princess - Tahiti & the Cook Islands -10 days
2003 Noordam - Copenhagen to Rome - 14 days
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  #329  
Old April 19th, 2012, 03:43 AM
Johnny B Johnny B is offline
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April 18 – Day 103
Cadiz/Seville, Spain

When we called before at Cadiz, we enjoyed this historical port, but we really wanted to go to Seville. In the fall, we remembered this and decided to book ourselves an independent tour. As soon as we learned that the cost went down 30 euros with a group of ten, we began emailing all our friends. We ended up with a group of ten that grew to twelve when we got on the bus this morning.

The 90-minute drive from Cadiz to Seville went past windmills (new ones – not like those of Don Quixote), some olive trees and a lot of grapevines growing the grapes used for sherry made in Jerez de la Frontera. When we arrived in Seville I was surprised to see how beautiful it was, with classical buildings, orange trees lining the streets, and lovely gardens.

Our first stop was at The Garden of the Princess, where the several acre garden was overflowing with spring flowers, a beautiful pond and fountain, and hundreds of doves, a gift from The Philippines many decades ago. The number of doves at that time was much smaller, but it’s the kind of “gift that keeps on giving,” and now they are all over the place, complete with stands that sell food for them. The garden itself was originally part of the palace of a princess who decided to make it into a public park.

Next we drove to the Plaza de Espana. It’s one of those places that, from the back look pretty ordinary, but when you walk through the gate or door you say, “Wow!” The plaza itself is a mosaic of black and white paving stones, much like the ones in Portugal or Brazil, but it’s the rest of the area that is so spectacular. This whole structure was built for the 1929 Exposition of America, which celebrated the relationship between Spain and both North and South America. Buildings were put up by many of the countries in the Americas, and this plaza was built to “welcome” them. The building surrounding the paved area is a huge semi-circle which is supposed to represent open arms to the visiting countries. In front of the building is a semi-circular lake which represents the river running through Seville and is crossed by four beautifully tiled bridges representing the four main areas of Spain. If you’re ever in Seville, you really must visit it.

We reboarded our bus for the last part of our walking tour, the old city of Seville. The first part of our walk was through the labyrinth of streets that made up the old Jewish quarter. The outside wall of the quarter was the ancient Roman aqueduct, but the streets themselves were extremely narrow, only wide enough for two people walking in two different directions. They wound around and if you didn’t know where you were going, you were out of luck. We walked the little streets and then would come unexpectedly upon a bright sunny square with cafes and shops. In the largest of these squares, our young guide, Francisco, began speaking with a woman who had to be in her 80’s. Then she took off her apron, grabbed her castanets, and the two of them began dancing the flamenco in the middle of the square. It was truly wonderful, and we really did win the “best guide” award.

When we wended our way out of the Jewish quarter, we came upon the entrance to the Alcazar, or the royal palace. Francisco told us that when the royal family comes to Seville, they still stay in part of the palace, but then tourists may not visit. Fortunately for us, the royal family was nowhere in sight, so our tour was begun. The Alcazar itself is an amazing structure, in the Moorish style, which was the fashion of the time. So many things were imported from the Arabic countries, including numbers (Arabic numerals), algebra, advances in medicine, astronomy, and others. At the time, in the west, it was considered “stylish” to imitate the Arabic styles, so the Alcazar has arches, Arabic writing, and the Arabic style of rooms opening around a central patio with a fountain. The whole palace is just beautiful. Strangely enough, it resembles in its Moorish design the city hall in Santa Barbara, California, but not in its size.

As we left the palace and headed into the gardens, a peacock was walking along a stucco wall. We were all trying to get photos of him when he jumped down onto the ground, and then the goal was to get a photo of him walking. However, then he surprised us by walking toward us and spreading his feathers in full display. Even Francisco was shocked; he said he had never seen one of them do that before while surrounded by people. That little ham of a peacock just stood there for quite some time, turning around to display all of his beauty, and I think our group of 16 must have taken about 500 photos. I know that I have half a dozen.

We finished that part of our walking tour in the plaza between the Alcazar and the Seville Cathedral. We were told that we had two hours on our own to eat, shop, and sightsee to our heart’s delight. Most of our 16 headed back to the old Jewish quarter to a restaurant they had seen, but John, Sky and I with two other friends went into the cathedral, since we knew that it was the burial place of Christopher Columbus. If you’ve read about this at all, you know that there are two competing “burial places” for Columbus, Seville and Santo Domingo. However, Francisco told us that in 1992, on the 400th anniversary of Columbus “discovering” America, a DNA test showed that the Columbus in Seville was the real one. We don’t claim to know any definitive information, but we went into the cathedral anyway.

Just to the right of the entrance door is the massive casket of Columbus, carried on the shoulders of the statues of four Spanish kings. I find it truly ironic that someone that important in history, who was allowed to die in a Spanish prison, is shown being carried by kings. Oh well, much of history is irony anyway.

We continued around the massive church, which is the third largest cathedral in the world, and appreciated the beauty of the chapels, the choir, the sacristy, and the massive solid silver altar on one side of the cathedral. Just outside, on the way to the exit, is a beautiful courtyard filled with orange trees next to the requisite gift shop. It was an excellent use of the 45 minutes we spent there.

By now it was 2:45, and my stomach was beginning to call the shots. John told me that lunch was my choice, and all I wanted was food, sunshine, and a lack of crowds. We turned down the first sidestreet that we saw and almost immediately found a nice little restaurant with a sunny table in the street. We ordered sangria, paella (for John) and pizza (for me) and just enjoyed the sun. The meal was good, the sunshine was better, but then it was time to rejoin the group and drive back to the ship.

Ninety minutes later, we were early enough arriving in Cadiz to justify a drive around the city, where we saw beautiful beaches, medieval towers (to watch for ships coming into port) and a recently discovered Roman amphitheatre. At almost exactly 6:00, we reboarded the ship for a short break before dinner.

Dinner tonight was great fun. We had invited the four members of Black Tie, the entertainers on board, to join us as we often have in the past, and they were just as good company as always. Valerie and Susie are lovely, Con speaks in the same deep tones in which he sings, and Yuri does voices and says funny, irreverent things that keep us all in stitches. He was especially funny repeating the voice of “Patsy” from their Spamalot act last night. Yuri not only sounds like Patsy, but he looks like the actor who we saw playing him in London. Yuri and Con are huge soccer fans, and after the main course but before dessert, they just had to excuse themselves to go to the bar across the street to watch the Chelsea - Barcelona match. Their wives threatened death and dismemberment if they weren’t onboard by the 10:30 “all aboard” time. (Chelsea won)

It was a night to turn the clocks back, and the entertainment was a film short subjects show (which we skipped), so it was early to bed and another sea day tomorrow.
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Old April 19th, 2012, 11:43 AM
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What an exciting, full day for you!!
I think I need a sea day to relax from your report of all the touring you did.
Thanks again for taking us along!
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  #331  
Old April 19th, 2012, 02:09 PM
Johnny B Johnny B is offline
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April 19 – Day 104
At Sea

Another lovely day at sea before arriving in Funchal, Madeira. Last evening, the captain warned us that it would be rough during the night, so we should be sure that nothing that could be damaged should be left out. The outside decks were also made “off-limits.” As far as we’re concerned, all that is good news. We get a reminder that we’re on a ship, and the rocking just makes sleeping even easier. It was pretty rocky during the night, but nothing that caused us any concern, and this morning we headed off to the gym as usual. We had to hold on tightly to the elliptical cross trainers, and when we finished, we found out that the Lido pool had experienced “surf’s up,” and the decks were being swabbed from the overflow. As we ate breakfast near to the pool, it was entertaining watching people walk crookedly to navigate the rocking of the ship. It really is fun to have some high seas.

Today was pretty low key. Shortly after breakfast the seas calmed somewhat, and even though we still know we’re on a ship, I think they’re about the put away the “barf bags” which hang from the elevator area railings, and the outside decks are busy with walkers once more.

We played Trivia for only the second time in ten days, and did abominably. For four questions, we had to decide between two suggested answers, and for all four, we chose the wrong one. Strangely enough, all three teams in our little area had the same score, and it wasn’t anything to write home about.

This afternoon was just blissful. While it was cold and windy on the aft pool deck – they even put all the lounges away – the Lido pool had its roof closed and felt like sitting in a greenhouse. It was so warm, actually, that after reading on a lounge chair for awhile, I had to switch to one with more shade – and that’s for someone who loves the sun. We must have stayed out there for about three hours, long enough to virtually finish my book, The Hour I First Believed, which I can highly recommend. He threads together such disparate things as the Columbine shootings, the Iraq war, women’s prisons, and the Civil War and makes the reader want to keep on reading, all the while making you laugh out loud at times.

While we read outside today, our friend Yuri, from Black Tie, sat down to chat for about a half hour. I relayed the compliment from this thread and he actually turned a little red. He was such a sweetheart talking about his kids, a son, 17, and a daughter 13. As he described the 17-year-old, George, he sounded like he was describing himself, which he admitted when I mentioned it. Earlier, when Susie (of the same group) encountered John, she gave him a hug and thanked him for inviting the four of them to dinner last night. They’re such lovely folks, and are on again tonight, so we’re really looking forward to seeing them.

Speaking of Black Tie, one of the things that we do a lot at our table (you may have noticed) is to invite guest entertainers and lecturers to dinner. We highly recommend this to everyone; you meet fascinating people (most of the time) and, for the most part, they really do appreciate being asked. There are a few who just out-and-out ignore invitations (gee thanks, Osmond Brothers), but most are very gracious and do come and join us. It makes for wonderfully entertaining evenings.

I guess I’d better just get used to these leisurely days; we’re going to have seven of them between Funchal and Ft. Lauderdale. Even the feeling on the ship is changing. Passports have been returned, luggage is being distributed to cabins for packing, air transfer information is being asked for – all in all, we’re feeling like the cruise is going to end tomorrow instead of nine days from now. We’ve also heard from a few officers about the “great things” to be expected in the remaining time. It’s almost a joke among the passengers that everything improves in the last week – just before the opinion questionnaires are distributed.

I guess it’s time to get ready for dinner – and to wonder when we’ll see all that stored luggage.
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  #332  
Old April 20th, 2012, 10:31 PM
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Phew! Diane, had to really catch up with you, seems that time has really flown by!
Must be bittersweet to spend that last week, do enjoy the lazy days and all your impressions and memories.

Thanks so much for your beautiful stories.
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  #333  
Old April 20th, 2012, 11:09 PM
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Thanks for taking us along on your cruise. We enjoyed it very much.
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  #334  
Old April 20th, 2012, 11:24 PM
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I've thoroughly enojoyed your thread, Diane...can't believe it's all ending on the 28th. But like anything else, all good things have to come to and end....
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  #335  
Old April 21st, 2012, 12:50 PM
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April 21 – Day 106
At Sea en route to Ft. Lauderdale

Today is the first of seven sea days before reaching our home port. I really don’t know how I feel about that. We’ve both been anxious to get home and rush to see our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, but after yesterday, the last sailaway, I also feel very sad to be completing the cruise. It’s not the luxury of it that I’ll miss (although I’m really not anxious to begin making my own bed or doing my own laundry), but the people who have made up our little city for the last four months. None of us lives near each other, and even when we get together for a week in the summer it’s not the same. We’ve also made lots more friends on this cruise, and there are some that we’d really like to spend time with away from the ship. Even Yuri, Val, Con, and Susie of Black Tie have invited us to fly down to Australia to spend time with them, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen

Even though several of our friends have had their luggage delivered, we have not, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the upcoming packing. I know one thing, however: I am soooo tired of some of my clothes. Every time I look in the “dinner wear” closet, I close my eyes and mentally moan. Then I grit my teeth and try to remember what I haven’t worn in the last month. Sometimes I guess correctly, but sometimes I don’t. When the clothes get home, a lot of them are going to be shoved into the back of the closet and not worn for a very long time.

We’ll also have to decide how full we can pack our four free suitcases, which will be delivered directly to our home. There is no weight limit, so I think I will jam them very full. In addition to what we came with, we have some lovely “pillow gifts” to take home – and some of them are quite large. We checked three suitcases when we flew to Ft. Lauderdale, but if I can jam enough into the large cases, we might just have two, and those two should be free because of my United Explorer credit card. Our flight home won’t be easy or short (Ft. Lauderdale to Houston to San Francisco to San Luis Obispo), but it’s nothing compared to Black Tie’s return to Australia: Funchal to Lisbon to London to Hong Kong to Sydney – 21 hours. At least ours is only a total of 10 hours, including connections.

A couple of days ago I mentioned that it was fun to invite speakers and entertainers to the dinner table. That evening I took my own advice – even further than before. I had nipped into the ladies’ loo before the last Black Tie performance and since it only has facilities for one, I had to wait a few minutes. Then a cute little dark-haired woman came out, began to chat with me, and we continued the conversation for several minutes. I asked her if she had boarded in Athens, and she said she had come on just that day and was a new entertainer named Paula Randell. I asked what her act would be and she said that she did a Dame Shirley Bassey “tribute.” She seemed pleasant and chatty, and when we went outside she introduced us to her partner Neal, so I jumped right in and invited them to dinner the next night. They said they’d love to come and we agreed to meet in the Crow’s Nest before dinner.

After the show, John must have asked me several times, “Why did you invite her? You just met her.” I assured him that since Paula was pleasant and chatty, I was sure she would be good company at dinner. I also reminded him that we had invited other people we really didn’t know, but he thought this time I should have at least gotten to know her a little better.

Well, dinner was delightful. Paula entertained us with some of her “show business stories” and told us that her second show next week will be Cher and Tina Turner. Neal was delightful, and everyone (including John) had a great time. We even helped her plan her “Big Spender” number by nominating Sky and Heo to be the men to go on stage with her for the song.. She said that Dame Shirley was always presented with flowers at the end of her concerts, so we decided to take the flower bowl from the dinner table into the Queen’s Lounge and present it to her as a joke. It should be fun, and it’s tonight.

It’s time for Trivia, and we can only hope to do better than our abysmal showing the day before yesterday. John did remind me that we won the game before that, but still . . .
So, once more into the breach.

P. S. We won today!
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  #336  
Old April 21st, 2012, 01:52 PM
boaterette boaterette is offline
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Great as always, but what happened to Funchal?
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  #337  
Old April 21st, 2012, 06:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny B View Post
April 21 – Day 106
At Sea en route to Ft. Lauderdale

Today is the first of seven sea days before reaching our home port. I really don’t know how I feel about that. We’ve both been anxious to get home and rush to see our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, but after yesterday, the last sailaway, I also feel very sad to be completing the cruise. It’s not the luxury of it that I’ll miss (although I’m really not anxious to begin making my own bed or doing my own laundry), but the people who have made up our little city for the last four months. None of us lives near each other, and even when we get together for a week in the summer it’s not the same. We’ve also made lots more friends on this cruise, and there are some that we’d really like to spend time with away from the ship. Even Yuri, Val, Con, and Susie of Black Tie have invited us to fly down to Australia to spend time with them, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen

Even though several of our friends have had their luggage delivered, we have not, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the upcoming packing. I know one thing, however: I am soooo tired of some of my clothes. Every time I look in the “dinner wear” closet, I close my eyes and mentally moan. Then I grit my teeth and try to remember what I haven’t worn in the last month. Sometimes I guess correctly, but sometimes I don’t. When the clothes get home, a lot of them are going to be shoved into the back of the closet and not worn for a very long time.

We’ll also have to decide how full we can pack our four free suitcases, which will be delivered directly to our home. There is no weight limit, so I think I will jam them very full. In addition to what we came with, we have some lovely “pillow gifts” to take home – and some of them are quite large. We checked three suitcases when we flew to Ft. Lauderdale, but if I can jam enough into the large cases, we might just have two, and those two should be free because of my United Explorer credit card. Our flight home won’t be easy or short (Ft. Lauderdale to Houston to San Francisco to San Luis Obispo), but it’s nothing compared to Black Tie’s return to Australia: Funchal to Lisbon to London to Hong Kong to Sydney – 21 hours. At least ours is only a total of 10 hours, including connections.

A couple of days ago I mentioned that it was fun to invite speakers and entertainers to the dinner table. That evening I took my own advice – even further than before. I had nipped into the ladies’ loo before the last Black Tie performance and since it only has facilities for one, I had to wait a few minutes. Then a cute little dark-haired woman came out, began to chat with me, and we continued the conversation for several minutes. I asked her if she had boarded in Athens, and she said she had come on just that day and was a new entertainer named Paula Randell. I asked what her act would be and she said that she did a Dame Shirley Bassey “tribute.” She seemed pleasant and chatty, and when we went outside she introduced us to her partner Neal, so I jumped right in and invited them to dinner the next night. They said they’d love to come and we agreed to meet in the Crow’s Nest before dinner.

After the show, John must have asked me several times, “Why did you invite her? You just met her.” I assured him that since Paula was pleasant and chatty, I was sure she would be good company at dinner. I also reminded him that we had invited other people we really didn’t know, but he thought this time I should have at least gotten to know her a little better.

Well, dinner was delightful. Paula entertained us with some of her “show business stories” and told us that her second show next week will be Cher and Tina Turner. Neal was delightful, and everyone (including John) had a great time. We even helped her plan her “Big Spender” number by nominating Sky and Heo to be the men to go on stage with her for the song.. She said that Dame Shirley was always presented with flowers at the end of her concerts, so we decided to take the flower bowl from the dinner table into the Queen’s Lounge and present it to her as a joke. It should be fun, and it’s tonight.

It’s time for Trivia, and we can only hope to do better than our abysmal showing the day before yesterday. John did remind me that we won the game before that, but still . . .
So, once more into the breach.

P. S. We won today!
I somehow missed Day 105? Funchal? I can't find it here. Did you skip posting it?

We've been to Funchal twice on two different ta's so I was looking forward to what you did there. We took a tour of the island the first time and just did walk around on our own the second time, enjoying the marina area.

I loved your description of Cadiz. Brought back some good memories.
I'm going to miss journeying with you when your cruise comes to an end next weekend. It's been wonderful since you're such a good writer.
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  #338  
Old April 23rd, 2012, 11:45 AM
Johnny B Johnny B is offline
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April 23 (Shakespeare’s b-day) – Day 108
At Sea

The “final days” continue, but it’s like the last days of the Titanic – everyone just goes around doing what they enjoy doing. Hopefully, we will end our cruise more successfully that that ill-fated ship, but we still are having a countdown – today is the second of seven sea days, and then Captain Mercer says we will dock in Ft. Lauderdale at about 4:30 AM on Saturday.

The entertainment on the ship has, for the most part, been very good. We’ve enjoyed The Aussie Boys, Melissa Manchester, Doc Severenson, The Unexpected Boys, Black Tie, The Grace Trio, and many other talented entertainers. This week, however, we probably have the most acclaimed entertainer: Michael Feinstein of piano and “The Great American Songbook” fame. He even has his own supper club in New York called “Michael Feinstein at Lowe’s Regency Hotel.” He performed last night to a very happy audience.

The second evening show begins at 10:00 and generally ends at 10:45. Last night’s show began at 10:00 and ended after 11:00 to a standing ovation. Mr. Feinstein is on board with a group of ten: his father, uncle, publicist, partner, and whoever else he wanted to bring along. Most of the entourage seems to be young, attractive, and outgoing. The artist himself looks about 35, but I googled him and found out that he’s 55 – very surprising.

His piano and singing performance focused on the old songwriters that are his favorites. Feinstein’s specialty is the Gershwin brothers. He told us of working for Ira Gershwin many years ago, when Feinstein was 20 and Gershwin was 80, and their working relationship lasted for six years. He is considered the foremost American interpreter of Gershwin music, and the end of his concert was a wonderful medley of well-known Gershwin songs.

If you ever want to meet entertainers, you have to spend time in the Crow’s Nest after the second show. They almost always hang out there, because most of them are used to the late hours of entertaining. Our new friend Paula Randell and her partner Neal were up there, and then Michael Feinstein’s entourage began to arrive. As we were leaving and waiting for an elevator, one arrived, carrying the performer with his father and uncle. He was very pleasant and we complimented him on his show. As I finish writing, I’m sitting out on the Lido deck, just finishing lunch and Mr. Feinstein is just sitting around with a bunch of his friends being as nice as can be to people who are complimenting him on last night’s show.

There are, of course, different tastes in music, and while most of the older passengers seemed to love the concert, many of the younger staff members left early and didn’t quite “get” what the big deal was.

Although most of our friends not only have their luggage but have mostly packed, we haven’t even seen the luggage. The weather forecast for Wednesday is rain, so that should be a perfect packing day. The adventure will be called “How much can we jam into the four suitcases that will ship for free?” I’ve decided that the last laundry run will be on Thursday so that we should only have to launder a few things when we get home, including Thursday night’s formal shirt.

The days count down, and we’re looking toward the end of this cruise with more anticipation than any previous one.
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  #339  
Old April 23rd, 2012, 11:48 AM
Johnny B Johnny B is offline
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I don't know what happened to Funchal - I wrote it and thought I had posted it, but the internet has been a little hinky lately, so I'll blame the airwaves. Anyway, here it is:

April 20 – Day 105
Funchal, Madeira

This is our third visit to Funchal, Madeira, and we like it better every time. It sits out in the Atlantic, about a thousand miles from Portugal, its mother country, and it’s absolutely beautiful. There are tropical flowers everywhere, and this time we lucked out by arriving the second day of the week-long Funchal Flower Festival.

We arrived this morning at 8:00, but John and I took our sweet time, getting to the gym, having breakfast overlooking the city, and then getting off the ship about 9:30. Our goal this morning was the basket ride from the top of the mountain above Funchal. It’s something that almost everyone on the ship has already done, and we decided it was our turn, We took the cable car the two miles up to the top of the mountain, floating over red-tile roofs and community gardens in the old city. We had a beautiful view of the sea and of our ship as we went up, up, up.

At the top, we walked even farther up the mountain to the Church of our Lady of Monte. It’s a lovely little church with a beautiful painted wooden ceiling. While we were there, we learned that Charles I, the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after Franz Ferdinand was shot, beginning WWI) had abdicated during that war and moved himself and his family to the village of Monte, 2,000 feet above Funchal. Unfortunately, he died of pneumonia six months later and his (extremely large) casket is in a little side chapel of the church.

Then it was time for the baskets. These are large wooden vehicles made with two seats, with sled-like runners underneath. Because it is so steep on the hill, you can sit in the basket with two “pushers” getting you started down the hill and then jumping on the back to guide the basket and make sure you don’t hit one of the side walls, since the road is pretty curvy. We probably got up to about 20 m.p.h. and traveled something in the neighborhood of a mile. It was great fun and I’m glad we did it.

From the ride’s end, we walked about another mile (steeply) downhill into Funchal, ending up in the old city. It’s a great walking city, and one of my favorite things, here and in other Portuguese areas like Lisbon and Rio, are the sidewalks and plazas. They are paved in thousands of small stones in the form of mosaics, with black and white designs. Sometimes the designs are quite plain, like the downhill sidewalks that were white stones with black stone bands in them. Some are more elaborate; in many of the plazas the black and white stones form wave patterns or occasionally even pictures of ships. It really is beautiful.

After hunting for about half an hour for the restaurant where we ate in 2008 (I think), John finally found it. We sat upstairs overlooking the sea and enjoyed calamari (John) and a ham and cheese omelet (me) along with glasses of sangria. Just love that stuff, no doubt because of my love of fruit.

As we headed into the center of town, we got right into the middle of the flower festival. In at least two places, there were “floral carpets” on the paved areas. These were roped-off areas about six feet by 150 feet with continual designs in flowers. It was like being at the Rose Parade. There was also a large tent off the main street that appeared to contain hundreds of individual blooms to be judged. The scents were wonderful and the flowers themselves were beautiful.

But soon it was time to find the shuttle and head back to the ship. This is a port where we really, really would have liked to have spent a few days, and someday I hope we will fly here and spend about a week. The climate is very much what we’re used to in Central California, and the beauty of the place is incredible. Also, the people are friendly, and no one even mentioned worrying about pick-pocketing, as they did in Barcelona, Cadiz, and Naples. It’s just a wonderful place to visit.

At 4:30 it was time for our last sailaway – so sad. There were more people there than almost any sailaway since Ft. Lauderdale, and when we pulled away from the dock and the band played “Anchors Aweigh,” it really made me sad. I told Irving, the music director, that as often as I’d made fun of that song, this was the last time we’d hear it this cruise, and that made me sad. Brett, the Assistant Cruise Director, reminded us that we had first met at the Ft Lauderdale sailaway and even remembered the lounge chairs on which we were sitting. The whole party ended when Bruce, the Cruise Director, and his entire staff jumped into the pool fully clothed, while everyone cheered.

We now have seven sea days before Ft. Lauderdale, and I’m hoping that at least a few of them are pool days. We are anxious to get home and see our granddaughter, but it will be sad to say goodbye to our friends and to our ship. I guess there’s always 2014.
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  #340  
Old April 23rd, 2012, 12:00 PM
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What an amazing day in Funchal. So sorry your epic adventure is winding down, it has been the highlight of many of my mornings. Enjoy your continued crossing and extra hours of sleep! Thanks again for taking us along!
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Last edited by localady; April 23rd, 2012 at 12:00 PM.
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