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Explore the world with Pete & Judy on the 2018 Holland America Grand World Voyage

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Wow. I’ve binged on all your posts the last 2 days. Thank you for you pr detailed and insightful posts. I’m living vicariously through your grand adventure

 

 

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Wow. I’ve binged on all your posts the last 2 days. Thank you for you pr detailed and insightful posts. I’m living vicariously through your grand adventure

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

 

Thanks for the feedback...I appreciate it very much

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Day 96, April 10th - Luanda, Angola

 

Pictures and video on the blog

 

 

The city skyline came into view around 7 AM as we closed on the port and saw that it was surprisingly modern. A couple tugs that came out to greet us but we learned later the pilot was a no-show so Capt. Jonathan came alongside the wharf by himself, which for a harbor as open as Luanda, would not be any big deal.

 

The Changing Face of Luanda

 

Our three-hour HAL excursion was scheduled to leave at 9:15 AM. It was called “The Changing Face of Luanda“ and cost $200 which was on the high side for primarily a bus tour of that length. During my research before this visit I didn’t find very many tour operators. After our visit, I did learn about Eco-tours and they got a great review from someone I knew on the ship. I will provide a link for the company here: eco-tours .

 

My biggest concern from reading earlier reports was the strict enforcement of a no picture taking policy. I read stories that on other excursions passengers had their cameras confiscated by government minders because they photographed what appeared to be an innocuous building that turned out to be a government building. I was considering not taking my camera but decided to bring it along and just be extra careful about where I took pictures.

 

There were eight 30 passenger buses on our tour and we left in a caravan about 9:15 AM. The distance from the ship to the front gate was about a half mile. Immediately outside the gate there was a small park where a craft market was set up for the cruise ship passengers.

 

As we headed off towards our first stop, the city looked quite ordinary as we were almost expecting to see something out of Mad Max with gangs of roving bandits everywhere based on some of the warnings. Our tour guide, Sebastio, spoke excellent English and was quite knowledgeable and personable. He assuaged our fears about taking pictures and said he would warn us in the one area where photography was strictly prohibited. Other than that one spot, near the Presidential Palace, he encouraged us to take plenty of pictures and not to worry.

 

The Igreje de Senhora de Nazare

 

We started out driving on the main road next to Marginal Bay and headed to our first stop: The Igreje de Senhora de Nazare which translates from Portuguese to the Church of the Lady of Nazareth. The eight buses pulled up on the main street across from the church where we all got off, crossed the street, and headed inside the church’s gated compound. Next to the church was the Ministry of the Interior building which was described to me as like the FBI with one of its primary missions as the execution of internal security. I was surprised that the guides said taking photographs of the Ministry of the Interior building was okay. The church itself, built in 1664, was rather small, and the inside has some interesting tile covering the far wall next to the altar.

As we were walking back to our buses I noticed a police car and an ambulance parked behind our last bus. Sebastio explained that tourism is becoming very important to Angola and they want to ensure the safety of organized tours, so they escort larger excursions with a police car and ambulance.

 

Old Iron Palace

 

Next up on our tour was the Old Iron Palace. According to one theory, this was designed by the famous architect Gustav Eiffel. There is no official record of how the building ended up on the spot, but it was believed to have been constructed in France in the 1890s and then disassembled and was headed to Madagascar. When the ship carrying it ended up on Angola’s skeleton coast due to tricky currents, the Portuguese rulers of the Collie claimed it for their own and used it as an art center. After Angola’s independence, the building was neglected and heavily damaged during the Civil War. The building is currently being renovated and its ultimate use is still undecided, but it might end up being used as a Diamond Museum or a restaurant.

 

Church of Los Remedios

 

Another church, the Gothic style Church of Los Remedios (1628), was our next stop. This is another small church that we spent a few minutes looking inside and taking some pictures.

 

Angolan National Museum of Anthropology

 

Continuing, we stopped at The Angolan National Museum of Anthropology, which features traditional masks along with some sculptures, weapons, jewelry and musical instruments. Outside in the courtyard was what looked like a group of students listening to a musician playing the guitar. It wasn’t clear what their affiliation was with the Museum or if they were simply there visiting on a field trip from school. There were restrooms available in the Museum. (If the line for the restrooms is long, there are more upstairs. Be prepared with your own TP and use your bottled water to wash your hands.)

 

San Miguel Fort

 

San Miguel Fort (1576), was built to defend the port and the city from the French, Spanish and Dutch armies and sits on a rise overlooking the city. There is a large parking lot in front of the Fort where there are some tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces along with some aircraft on display. We ran into some people we knew from the ship, but they weren’t on the tour, and I asked if they got here on a private tour. They replied they walked here from the ship, about 2 miles, and although it was hot (bring plenty of water) they felt safe making the journey on foot. Later on, we talked to other people who made the same walk and no one reported any difficulty.

There are some displays in some rooms off to the side as we walked into the Fort, but I bypassed those and headed up the walls of the Fort to see the view which provided a nice panoramic view of the city. The ship was visible off in the distance and as I looked down towards the water off to the left I saw the poor section of town with it’s collection of metal sheds and a hodgepodge of other housing types. I did note that almost every dwelling there had a satellite dish.

 

Agostinho Neto Mausoleum

 

Continuing on, our next stop was the Agostinho Neto Mausoleum – featuring a large obelisk that looked almost like the nose of a spacecraft. This is the gravesite of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto, with his casket on display inside. The structure was a gift from Russia which had friendly ties with Angola at one point in time. As we entered the Mausoleum I noticed several rows of children waiting to enter. They were from a nearby school visiting the Mausoleum on a field trip.

 

One of the most interesting parts of our tour was our discussions with our guide. He was quite candid about life in Angola, spoke great English, and was very knowledgeable about what we saw and other aspects of the country.

 

There were several policemen patrolling the mausoleum and we were surprised when they agreed to have their pictures taken. Their one caveat was that we not post them on social media, so I will honor that request and not publish them here. They were very friendly but only spoke a little English. Sebastio, was very helpful in translating.

 

Parliament and the President's Palace

 

This was our last stop and the remainder of the tour would be in the bus driving by the Parliament building, the Bank of Angola and the Presidential Compound, where some other government buildings are located. The area around the Presidential Compound was where Sebastio cautioned us to not raise our cameras in view of people on the street and we were not to take pictures. The buildings in this area looked similar to the Parliament building, constructed of a reddish brick in a colonial style.

 

Market

 

As we approach the port gate, we saw the market that was set up in the park and asked the driver to let us off here. After a short consultation they decided it was okay to drop us off as long as we are willing to walk the half mile back to the ship on our own. All except one or two people got off the bus we were in.

 

The market had an interesting collection of local artwork, and handmade crafts along with some commercially made T-shirts and other more traditional tourist items. We spent about 20 minutes browsing around, not buying anything, before heading back to the ship.

 

Summary

 

As it turned out Angola was much nicer than expected and if we make a return visit would probably organize a private tour to see some different areas. There was one report we heard later of someone being a victim of an attempted robbery, that was broken up by a passerby. This allegedly happened within a few blocks from the market but I was not able to gain a first-hand description so I’m always a little wary of the details.

 

Back on the Ship

 

Back on the ship we spent the afternoon sitting by the pool enjoying a late lunch, and I returned to the cabin to work on editing some more video.

I wasn’t feeling well around dinner time, so I decided to order off the main dining room menu and have it delivered to the room. The menus are available on your phone using the ship’s intranet. This is the first time I ordered off the main dining room menu. It was very simple, I placed my order and requested a specific delivery time. A tray with all the courses was delivered at the time I requested.

 

Here is what I ordered:

 

  • Barley and Mushroom Soup
  • Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail
  • Pork Cordon Bleu
  • Blackberry Crisp

Judy went by herself to see Pete Neighbour, the jazz clarinetist, that we saw on the 2016 World Cruise. He put on another wonderful show.

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Even though your cruise has been over for a while now, I am still enjoying your reports. They are quite thorough, and paint a full picture of both your ports, and life on board.

Thanks for continuing to post your journey.

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Thank you, Pete and Judy.

 

I’ve enjoyed cruising along with you, especially while recuperating from a total knee replacement. Great blog with lots of helpful information. Plus I also love to knit.

 

Sherrie

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Love your detailed reviews

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

 

Even though your cruise has been over for a while now, I am still enjoying your reports. They are quite thorough, and paint a full picture of both your ports, and life on board.



Thanks for continuing to post your journey.



Thank you, Pete and Judy.



I’ve enjoyed cruising along with you, especially while recuperating from a total knee replacement. Great blog with lots of helpful information. Plus I also love to knit.



Sherrie

 

Thanks for following......appreciate the feedback

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Day 97 – At Sea - April 11th

 

Today is the first of five consecutive sea days which we always enjoy. A big part of our World Cruise are all the activities that we take part in the ship.

 

I was still feeling a little crummy from yesterday so I stayed in the cabin most of the morning and missed the coffee chat, which is at 9:30 AM. Today’s guest was the executive Chef Petr.

 

My other morning routine is to go down to the casino at 9 AM and sign up for the Texas Hold ‘em games. Depending on the interest, there are three games, sometimes four. I usually play in two games.

 

I spent most of the morning continuing to edit the safari videos, and since this is written after the fact, those videos are part of the posts from early April that talk about our Safari.

 

We received an interesting memo this morning from Henk, the hotel director, about a shortage of melons. Hank always tries to write memos with a humorous twist and been quite successful throughout the cruise. This memo talks about the upcoming melon shortage. This one was titled “Melon-chol-y [a feeling of pensive sadness for the shortage of melons]”. The memo explains that our shipment of melons did not arrive in Cape Town as originally planned and they would not have a chance to resupply until Senegal. Rather than supply the normal amount of melons every day and then run out before Senegal Hank decided to allocate the remaining melons over the remaining days so there would be some melons available every day but they might run out during the course of the day. You can see a copy of the memo HERE.

 

Judy went to the Crow’s Nest for knitting and I met her for lunch by the Lido pool. Judy enjoys having a Turkey and Swiss cheese Panini while I’ll always scour the line and typically get something different depending on what looks good.

 

Another note we received today was announcing the third and final photo contest. Once again this would be voted on by the passengers. We prefer the way the photo contest has been judged on previous cruises where a select group of officers would judge the entries. Now with so many entries each photo gets a half a dozen to a dozen votes and a photo with 15 votes may win. Voting is only allowed for one day to minimize the allowable time for lobbying your tablemates, etc. to vote for your entry but there’s still an element of the pictures being a popularity contest more than the best photo wins. In a few weeks, at the end of the cruise, the Ship’s Officers will vote on the best photo of the cruise judging the winners of the previous contests.

 

Pete Neighbour, the jazz clarinetist who performed last night, was our guest for dinner this evening. We have seen him perform on previous cruises and enjoy his performances very much. He was a wonderful dinner guest and we enjoyed learning more about his background and some of the ins and outs about working on cruise ships.

 

Beechers macaroni was one of the entrées for dinner this evening. Every pasta dish is always available as an appetizer size which I always do whenever there’s macaroni and cheese of the menu.

 

Tonight’s guest entertainers were a quartet called “4ever”. Two of the quartet are from Spain, one is from Uruguay and the other is from Italy. Individually they all have amazing voices and as a group they filled the Queen’s Lounge with their performance. They sang a wide variety of songs from pop hits like Bohemian Rhapsody to an Italian version of Unchained Melody.

 

Pictures and video on the blog

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Day 98 – At Sea - April 12th

 

4 AM wake up call

 

For the second time this cruise, we had an actual first stage alarm. You may recall that the first one was during our late seating dinner back on 10 March. That turned out to be caused by some residual smoke/fire from the incinerator. This time the alarm sounded around 4 AM waking me immediately. Judy didn’t wake up and I decided to let her sleep unless things took a turn for the worse. About 15 minutes later, the Captain came over the public-address system and informed us that the problem was with the incinerator again and the situation was under control and the alarm cancelled.

 

Crossing the Equator

 

For the fourth time this cruise we will cross the equator. We will be crossing around 11:30 PM this evening. The Shellback ceremony will take place tomorrow around 10 AM. Preparations for the ceremony have begun in the Lido pool area. They’ve started hanging pirate flags and other similar Crossing the Equator decorations.

 

This Crossing will be extra special since it will occur at the intersection of the equator and the Prime Meridian – which will make us all “Emerald Shellbacks.” The Captain mentioned during one of his noon navigational updates that he received numerous requests that the ship deviate from its original course so that we would cross at the prime meridian. Apparently, it wasn’t too far off course as he agreed and we will be crossing there tonight.

 

There are 3 types of “Shellbacks”:

• Ordinary Shellback – cross equator anywhere

• Golden Shellback – cross at the international date line

• Emerald Shellback - cross at the prime meridian

 

I first crossed the equator in 1985 on board the aircraft carrier, USS Saratoga, when I was in the US Navy. I became a Golden Shellback while I was on board the aircraft carrier, USS Ranger, in 1993.

 

The Crow’s Nest will host a Prime Meridian and Equator Crossing party tonight at 11 PM.

 

Internet Outage

 

For most of the cruise the Internet has been remarkably good. Much better than I experienced on the 2016 World Cruise. During the 2016, cruise uploading pictures was a chore and I typically had to do them one at a time. This cruise I’m able to upload them in a single batch and am successful most of the time with only a few needing to be reloaded.

 

Around midday I noticed the Internet was not working. Soon we received a notice that the Internet was unavailable. This has happened from time to time during the cruise but after about an hour it seemed that something more serious was going on. This was confirmed in the afternoon when we received a letter from the IT officer, a copy of it is HERE, that said the power supply failed that powers a critical internet system component. The letter went on to say that Internet conductivity may not be restored until Senegal or Gambia 4-5 Days from now.

 

Fortunately, I didn’t have any extraordinarily pressing business that required access to the Internet and we are still receiving satellite TV. A little to my surprise, we still received the daily New York Times in hard copy. Since we were still getting Cellular at Sea I suspect that they are using the cellular service to download the copies of the papers at the print shop and deliver to the cabins.

 

Early this afternoon the Captain announced that one of our diesel engines had a problem requiring us to slow to 10 knots instead of our normal speed of 16 knots. We never heard any more about this engine problem so I suspect it was resolved later on in the day.

 

Liver Soup!

 

A few days ago, I commented that no one at our table ordered the liver when it was available a few days ago. Tonight, we had the option of ordering “Liver Dumpling Soup” which I had never heard of before, and everyone at our table took a pass. See the blog for copies of all the menus.

 

Omar

 

The entertainer in Queen’s Lounge this evening was a performer that went by a single name, Omar. He was billed as being able to play up to 20 different musical instruments. He displayed his talent on about 10 during our show. These included the violin, bagpipes, pan flute, recorder and guitar.

 

Prime Meridian Party

 

After the evening show in the Queen’s Lounge, I headed up to the Crow’s Nest for the Prime Meridian party. This was also billed as a pajama party and many people wore their robes, a few people wore pajamas, but about half the crowd was in street clothes.

 

The Crow’s Nest was comfortably full, with many people standing around staring at the large TV screen watching our position as we got closer and closer to what will ultimately be all zeros on the latitude and all zeros on the longitude. The Station Band played terrific music and the dance floor was full of people enjoying the music.

 

As the ship neared the Prime Meridian/Equator the crowd gathered around the large TV screen and watched the final seconds before the screen indicated we had crossed. As it turned out we probably missed the precise crossing point by 30 or 40 feet and with the precision of today’s GPS systems it was shown on the screen that we never did hit 000 latitude and 000 longitude at the same time. We would hear later that the only way to do this exactly would be to stop the ship and maneuver to the precise point, so we were happy with coming extraordinarily close and declaring ourselves Emerald Shellbacks.

 

Here is a

to the video of the Prime Meridian and Party on the blog.

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Day 99 – Crossing the Equator - April 13th

 

The Crossing the Line ceremony was scheduled for 10 AM by the LIDO pool. I arrived at 9 AM to get a good seat to shoot video. I was in the second row.

 

 

is a video highlight reel

 

Michael, Connor and Grahame, from the HAL Orchestra, were setting up under the small Gazebo near the pool. The HAL Orchestra guitar players, Emilio and Mati, were Pollywogs and we would see them later when they went thru the ceremony. A large frozen fish was in place between the Gazebo and the stern end of the pool. This fish was brought aboard in Fort Lauderdale and kept frozen until today specifically for this ceremony.

 

Off to one side, a metal cage, that is used to load luggage on and off ship, was set up for use as a holding cell for the Pollywog prisoners while waiting for their turn before King Neptune.

 

Set up along the stern end of the Lido pool were 5 folding chairs for King Neptune’s Court. They would pass judgement on the various Pollywogs who would be brought before them for justice.

 

Most of the seats were filled by 9:45 AM and by then the available railing space above, on Deck 9, was filled, too.

 

The ceremony started at 10 AM sharp with the Pollywog Parade. With the HAL Orchestra’s trio playing an appropriate pirate themed dirge the slimy Pollywogs were led around the pool by the Trusty Shellbacks. Afterward the second lap around the pool, the Trusty Shellbacks herded the Slimy Wogs into the holding pens.

 

King Neptune’s Court, which consisted of the Captain and 4 of his senior Officers, marched across the Lido deck, took the seats by the pool and the ceremony was underway.

 

Every ship’s department had Pollywogs in the holding pen. They were brought up to face their justice in groups of about 5 Pollywogs at a time. Trusty Shellbacks led them to the edge of the pool facing the Captain and his court. After they knelt, Hamish, the cruise director who served as the Magistrate, would read a list of humorous charges. Following the reading the of Charge Sheet, each Pollywog was required to “Kiss the Fish” and they proceeded to give the formerly frozen fish a smack on the fish’s lips.

 

Their next stop was the ‘surgeon’s tables’ where they were coated with a semi-liquid meringue looking goop by King Neptune’s “medical staff”. Once they were completely covered, the Captain would pass judgment with a thumbs up or thumbs down. A thumbs down meaning they had to get dunked into the pool and remain there for the rest of the ceremony. Those with a thumbs up were forced to sit in the hot sun. It was really a better deal to get a thumbs down as they could stay in the cool water and wash off the goop rather than have the goop dry on their skin under the hot sun.

 

After careful consideration, the Captain and his court would give a thumb up or thumbs down and the Pollywog would either leap into the pool or slink off to the other end of the pool to await the end of the ceremony.

As the ceremony was wrapping up, Clare Gill, one of the HAL dancers, who was serving as King Neptune’s mermaid assistant, thought she was off the hook due to her proximity to power. The tide turned quickly as she was called to account for her pollywog crimes. Showing no mercy, the court found her guilty and into the drink she went.

 

Following the ceremony many of the ship’s staff posed for the following photo that you can see on the blog

 

The internet remained out of service all day.

 

Queen's Lounge

 

Jo Little was back in the Queen’s Lounge for an encore performance. She was very funny and has a great voice. Her performance which blends comedy and singing is unique and well worth your while.

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THANK YOU for your terrific reviews of your experiences and factual information about the ports on this cruise!!!

 

I was a passenger on the Full WC 2018 and am enjoying reading about my cruise from various perspectives. Yours is the best in terms (in my opinion) of reviewing so many aspects of the cruise. THANK YOU. I have been able to relate to so many things you describe and have ideas of what else to do in many ports should I be fortunate enough to visit them again.

 

One thing I would like to add about Luanda, Angola. As we all learned, they have been very busy trying to upgrade things that travelers and tourists like to visit like the main waterfront area - beautiful. However, one could see beyond the main tourist areas things were very different - alot of work ahead for them. For example, when one was at the Fort, after passing beautiful beaches, business and homes, friends suggested that I go to the left of the fort buildings and walk along the side of the building to a view point. WOW, WHAT A DIFFERENCE. One looked down on a huge jumble of jammed together shacks of many descriptions and at least a mile of trash filled oceanfront. The collection of trash was at least 40 feet wide along the beach, both on shore and water. Now, as I understand it, they have worked to improve the condition and safety of their city, and should be commended, but lots more to do.

 

They really worked hard to make it safe for visitors and seemed to be successful at that. Many police officers and other public safety workers present whenever our small busses stopped in specific areas, such as the beautiful waterfront area of the city.

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THANK YOU for your terrific reviews of your experiences and factual information about the ports on this cruise!!!

 

I was a passenger on the Full WC 2018 and am enjoying reading about my cruise from various perspectives. Yours is the best in terms (in my opinion) of reviewing so many aspects of the cruise. THANK YOU. I have been able to relate to so many things you describe and have ideas of what else to do in many ports should I be fortunate enough to visit them again.

 

One thing I would like to add about Luanda, Angola. As we all learned, they have been very busy trying to upgrade things that travelers and tourists like to visit like the main waterfront area - beautiful. However, one could see beyond the main tourist areas things were very different - alot of work ahead for them. For example, when one was at the Fort, after passing beautiful beaches, business and homes, friends suggested that I go to the left of the fort buildings and walk along the side of the building to a view point. WOW, WHAT A DIFFERENCE. One looked down on a huge jumble of jammed together shacks of many descriptions and at least a mile of trash filled oceanfront. The collection of trash was at least 40 feet wide along the beach, both on shore and water. Now, as I understand it, they have worked to improve the condition and safety of their city, and should be commended, but lots more to do.

 

They really worked hard to make it safe for visitors and seemed to be successful at that. Many police officers and other public safety workers present whenever our small busses stopped in specific areas, such as the beautiful waterfront area of the city.

 

Thanks for following - appreciate the kind words

 

Pete

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Day 100 - At Sea - April 14th

 

Culinary Operations Manager Florin was the Coffee Chat guest this morning.

We learned that the Grand World Voyage is the only cruise where the ship plans the menus instead of the staff in Seattle. Every August, the Amsterdam team gets together and plans out the menus for the entire World Cruise, looking at themes, gala nights, ports etc. Once they have the plan laid out, they convert it to specific quantities of food and send the requirements to Seattle in two-week segments. Seattle will develop contracts for the required food and arrange to have it shipped to the appropriate port as required. Very little food is bought locally due to strict requirements for quality and food safety which require rigorous vendor qualifications that usually can’t be accomplished during a short port visit.

 

Fun Fact – the ship uses 25,000 eggs every two weeks.

 

Florin passed on some good news and announced he was being promoted to Hotel Director and would be heading over to the Maasdam after the World Cruise.

 

Florin.jpg

 

Today was another Gala night. Our table host was Martin, the ship’s second engineer. Las Vegas was the theme with the tables decked out in appropriate Vegas style.

 

Pete Neighbour, the Jazz Clarinetist, joined the Ocean Trio in the Ocean Bar at 8:45 for a jam session. This was only publicized thru a small line in the When and Where – so if you enjoy Jazz, and have the good fortune to have Pete Neighbour perform on your ship, keep a lookout for this special performance.

 

Normally Cruise Director Hamish, kicks off the evening’s entertainment, but tonight Mark, the event manager, appeared on stage wearing a Lemur costume and advised us that Hamish was unavailable since he was “tied up”. Just then, Hamish rolled onstage, bound and gagged and sitting in an wheeled office chair. See a video of this opening on the blog.

 

The Holland America Singers and Dancers were in the Queen’s Lounge this evening performing “Astoria” which is set in “Astoria, a middle-class neighborhood in the northwestern corner of the New York City borough of Queens. A storyline set in a Student Music Academy, where love, music and good times unfold”. This show is different than most since it has somewhat of a story line, although it is hard to follow. Although the HAL Orchestra did not perform live, the show used taped music, several members of the HAL Oechestra had small roles, playing musician roles, as part of the cast.

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Day 101 – At Sea - April 15th

 

Pillow Gift

 

Last night we received another pillow gift. This time it was TSA approved locking luggage straps and luggage locks. Here is a picture.

 

TSA-Straps-Pillow-Gift.jpg

 

 

You can find a list of all the pillow gifts for this cruise on the 2018 World Cruise reference page on the blog HERE

 

Coffee Chat

 

Pete Neighbour, the Jazz Clarinetist, was the guest for Coffee Chat this morning. He has been working on cruise ships for over 15 years. The Amsterdam was his first Holland America ship about 10 years ago. Pete grew up in East London but now makes his home in South Carolina.

 

Guanabana Soup

 

Cold soups are usually available every evening and tonight the choice was Guanabana soup. You can find a copy of the recipe here. I am not a big fan of cold soups, but Rick thought the Guanabana soup was fabulous and wanted to see how it tasted as a rum based drink. Our ever ingenious wine steward, Kaye, consulted with the galley and bar staff and produced a Guanabana Cocktail for our table. There is a picture of her with a tray full of this special treat on the blog. It was pretty good, but I don’t think it will have a place on the HAL drink menu anytime soon.

 

Queen's Lounge

 

Pete Neighbour and Bruce Parker shared the stage tonight for a split bill, with each artist performing for about 25 minutes. They both were outstanding and were some of our favorite guest entertainers this cruise.

Edited by The-Inside-Cabin

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Day 102 April 16th

 

Banjul, Gambia

 

Today was our first port after five days at sea. Due to the tides, our arrival into Banjul, Gambia, was delayed by an hour, from 8 AM to 9 AM.

My research into Banjul before this cruise revealed that there weren’t many tourist spots close to our expected mooring point but I did discover a tour company called Black-And-White Safari that had several Interesting excursions in Gambia. The Gambia Home Cooking Tour caught my eye and I arranged this for Judy and me and Rick and Margaret. The cost was $60 per person. Here is a link to the Black-And-White Safari website. You can find more information about the Gambia home cooking Tour here

 

is a video with highlights of our day

 

Black and White Safari Cooking Tour

 

We’ve come to enjoy cooking tours, and this would be our third of the cruise. Cooking tours give us an opportunity to interact with the locals and share in a common activity. Looking back on our previous excursions over the years we always remember most fondly those that involve interacting with residents in an informal setting. Everyone we would meet today was fluent in English which made our interaction with them much smoother.

 

Months ago, when I set up my tour I arranged for our pick-up time to be 8:30 AM but I was able to contact our tour operator and change the pick-up time to 9:30 AM.

 

Banjul Port

 

The ship moored at around 9 AM and we were clear to go ashore at 9:20 AM. There weren’t any immigration requirements for this port except to carry a Gambian shore pass that was issued to us a few days before we arrived.

We moored alongside a pier that runs parallel to the coast and is connected via a bridge about 150 yards long. At the end of the bridge are numerous large intermodal containers, stacked four to five high, which formed a canyon leading us to the port gate.

 

The pier was extremely crowded with tour operator’s buses and vendors when we departed around 9:40 AM. A representative from Black-And-White Safari was scheduled to meet us on the pier. He called my cell phone about 9:30 AM and said that he would meet us near the gangway and escort us to our tour guide and their van. After a few minutes of wandering around the pier we spotted the Black-And-White Safari representative and he proceeded to lead us across the bridge, through the intermodal canyon and out the port gate where he met our guide, Bina, and our driver, Sanny.

 

Since our van was only a block away from the port gate we didn’t spend much time in the immediate vicinity but from the looks of it, it didn’t seem very promising from a tourist perspective. The main attraction near the port was Albert’s market, about a mile away, but based on conversations with people who went there it wasn’t anything exceptional. I would strongly suggest arranging an excursion in this port rather than taking your chances wandering around without a plan.

 

Serrekunda Market

 

The original plan for the Cooking Tour was to go to Bina’s house first, change into traditional Gambian clothing, and then head to a nearby market to shop for the food we would use to prepare our meal. Since we were an hour late we were going to go directly to the market and we would shop with Bina wearing our normal clothes.

 

Bina’s house was about 12 miles from the pier in a city called Serrekunda which has a population of over 300,000 people. The city of Banjul is much smaller, about 31,000 people, and sits on the peninsula that sets it apart from the mainland of Gambia.

 

On the way to the Serrekunda market, we stopped along the side of the road near a Coca-Cola vendor selling his product out of the back of a cargo bed attached to the front part of a motorcycle. Bina bought a case of soft drinks that we would drink later.

 

The streets around the market were busy with vehicles and pedestrians and there wasn’t any place to park. Our driver, Sanny, stopped by the side of the road and let us out and we followed Bina through the throngs of people down a small alley into the heart of the market.

 

Bina knew exactly where she was going, and we ended up at a small stall that provided us with most of our dry goods, vegetables and chicken. Bina was working off a shopping list, and she would confer with the shopkeeper and he would scurry off and gather her requests. While he was doing that, Bina would engage with us on a variety of topics about Gambia and her own background. Ten minutes later, we had everything we needed, and Bina paid about $16 US for everything she ordered.

 

Bina-with-dry-goods.jpg

 

We headed off down another narrow alley where we found a butcher working on a goat. We needed a few pounds of beef which he chopped off a larger piece.

 

On the move again, we headed down to the center section of the market where we found some spices in addition to a large sea snail. Bina explained that we would use this snail as a flavoring agent much like you might use a bay leaf.

 

There was an election coming up, and we saw a few posters for the various candidates, but we didn’t get into much detail about the politics of Gambia.

 

Bina's Home

 

Once we were back on the street, Bina called our driver. He pulled up about a block away and we piled into the van and headed off towards Bina’s house. The last quarter mile or so the paved road turned into a dirt road. Bina’s house is a small apartment located in two buildings with about four units in each building. There is a center courtyard that is behind a large gate, no vehicles are allowed, and there is overhanging porch outside each apartment’s front door.

 

The apartment itself is about 20’ x 20’, with three rooms: a living room, two bedrooms, a small space for the refrigerator and a bathroom. There was a large flat screen TV in one corner of the living room that was connected to the satellite dish outside. They buy their electricity by the kilowatt hour in advance. They buy something like a gift card which would give them a code to enter into their electric meter that then would authorize a certain number of kilowatt hours.

 

Out the back door is a small patio where they prepare all their food. There isn’t any kitchen in the Western sense of the word, all the cooking is done over charcoal or wood fires inside a small shed.

 

Once we settled on the sofas in the living room, we met Bina’s family and many of the neighbors along with many of the neighborhood children. We changed into local Gambian clothing in one of the bedrooms and then headed out to the back courtyard to start preparing our meal. Bina and her sister were quite surprised when Margaret and Judy said that Rick and I were the main cooks. For them, meal preparation is mainly a woman’s job. All the preparation is done efficiently as Bina was quite experienced in working in the smaller space with very few of the conveniences we’ve come to expect at home.

 

Preparing the meal

 

We are all given tasks mainly cutting the various vegetables that would be main ingredients of the rice-based chicken dish called “Benachin” (which means One Pot) and a peanut based stew called Domada, which is the national dish of Gambia.

 

While we were working on the vegetables Bina and her sister, Kari, were cutting the meat, preparing the fires and boiling the rice. Kari showed us her snapchat posts with one of her favorite songs called

. It was also her phone’s ringtone. - Nice….

 

Enjoying our Meal

 

Once the food was finished it filled several large circular trays. We moved back into the living room to eat. Many of Bina’s friends and neighbors returned to join us as we dug into this delicious meal. We were given large spoons to use but everyone else simply ate with their hands. We had made so much food there was a large tray left over that Bina sent to one of the neighbors and we had a chance to meet them while they were enjoying the meal.

 

After we finished eating, many of the local children returned and we enjoyed playing some games with them for a few minutes before taking some group pictures.

 

It was time to leave and we said our goodbyes and headed out to this street where Sanny was waiting with the van. As we pull away the children raced alongside the van yelling goodbye. It was all very sweet. We had a wonderful time enjoying Bina’s hospitality. I highly recommend the Black-And-White Safari Gambian Cooking Tour if you plan to visit Banjul.

 

On the way back to the ship we passed through a military checkpoint. It wasn’t clear exactly what they were checking for, and we passed without incident.

 

Sanny was able to get the van closer to the ship, right outside the intermodal container canyon so our walk back to the ship wasn’t quite as far as this morning’s walking from the ship to the van.

 

There were several local vendors on the pier selling souvenirs and we spent a few minutes looking at what they were offering but we didn’t find anything we wanted to buy.

 

Back on the ship

 

Back on the ship 4Ever performed for the second time this evening singing a variety of hits including: “Fever”, “Volare” and “Time of My Life”.

 

More pictures on the blog

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Video of the Black and White Cooking Tour was wonderful. Thank you for continuing to share your trip!

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If there was ever awards for cruise blogs, I would vote for you for the gold medal. “Excellence in Cruise Blogs”

 

Video of the Black and White Cooking Tour was wonderful. Thank you for continuing to share your trip!

 

 

Thanks for your kind words and for following along!

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Day 103 - April 17th - Dakar, Senegal

 

Yesterday was one of the highlights of the entire World Cruise. Interacting with local Gambian residents was at real joy and we enjoyed our time with Bina and learning more about how the average Gambian lives.

 

Today we visited the city of Dakar in the country Senegal. This port turned out to be the worst one of the cruise.

 

The ship was inport from 8 AM until 5:30 PM. The ship was cleared quickly after arrival as there weren’t any immigration procedures. Since we didn’t have a tour planned, we left the ship around noon looking to catch the shuttle bus to Independence Square about 10 minutes away.

 

Map.jpg

 

Shuttlebus to Independence Square

 

The shuttlebus was a Hertz airport rental car shuttle that was apparently pressed into double duty as the shuttlebus. When we arrived, the bus was getting ready to close its doors. We managed to get on board and claimed the last few seats. This was one of those buses were seats fold down into the aisle so there is no aisle once all the seats are filled.

 

Traffic was fairly heavy as we moved from the port to Independence Square. As we got closer to our destination, our bus stopped to wait for the previous shuttle to leave the parking space. A vendor carrying a large tray of water bottles on his head started banging on the windows trying to get our attention so he could make a sale. The windows on the bus didn’t open so even if we wanted to buy anything, which we didn’t, it would have been impossible. After about a minute the bus started to move and the frustrated street vendor cursed at the passengers on the bus. Welcome to Dakar.

 

Our shuttle stopped about halfway down one side of Independence Square. I didn’t recognize it at first since it was brown dirt space without a tree in sight. I expected the main square in the Capital City to be a little bit green, and a little bit inviting, but it was neither.

 

Independence Square - not a warm welcome

 

As we left the bus we were swarmed by locals offering tours, products, everything and anything and they were quite persistent. We managed to break away and ended up talking to one man about 20 feet from the bus who forced a locally made keychain into our hands. We asked him how much it was and he refused any money saying it was a gift. We carry keychains from Imperial beach that we give out to people along the way as small tokens of appreciation. We offered one of our key chains in exchange and he refused acting almost indignant. Then his story changed from not wanting money to now demanding money. He then tried to force a necklace that probably would’ve cost around $20 or so into Judy’s hands but by now we were totally turned off and refused. We gave him back his original keychain and walked briskly away and he did not pursue us any further. A few other vendors would approach us trying to sell items and we persistently refused. After 30 or 40 yards they finally would give up. It was not very enjoyable because every person we saw up ahead had the potential to be a person who might hassle us although most of them left us alone.

 

Finally we were in the center of Independence Square, next to a non-functioning fountain, and had a chance to review our map. We had originally intended to explore in a direction away from the ship but changed our minds and decided to walk the 1 mile back to the ship.

 

As we walked down one of the main streets, people left us alone as most were going on about their business to and from their own jobs, shopping or whatever. We had a sense of unease though as we felt that at any moment we might be accosted by some street vendor but everyone left us alone.

 

Casino Grocery Store

 

About two blocks from Independence Square we came across a grocery store called the Casino, which is a French based company. We decided to go inside and see what was for sale. At the entrance, we were ‘wanded’ by security. The store was what you would expect in any modern grocery store. All the typical items were for sale and the place was clean and well organized. They readily accepted dollars and euros, but we chose to use our credit card to make our small purchase.

 

Central Market

 

I noticed that there was a market a couple blocks further down the street towards the ship and that would be our next destination. As we walked down an alley approaching the main entrance there were a series of stalls selling a variety of souvenirs. A small wooden carving caught Judy’s eye and we proceeded to start price negotiations. The vendors didn’t really have a good concept of negotiations because the price would start at say $20 we would offer five dollars then they would counter with an offer of $25. Then after I looked puzzled they would reduce the price to a random number say $14 and then when I offered our price he would go back to say $20. It was quite odd and we finally agreed at $10 which was probably still more than we could have paid but I was growing weary of trying to negotiate in such a random fashion. The men were quite friendly though and we posed for a picture and chatted for a bit before moving on into the market itself.

 

The market featured stalls of produce and fish as well as souvenirs. We spent maybe 10 minutes walking through before we exited on the opposite side.

 

One interesting note was that along the way we didn’t spot any other tourists from the ship or from anywhere else for that matter. After the market it was about three more blocks before we got to the main Boulevard de la Liberation where the gate to the port was located. There was nothing that looked interesting along the way and we walked fairly briskly for the last quarter mile until we crossed the street and found the entrance to the port. They checked our cruise card, not requiring a picture ID, and we were inside the gated area which is still about a quarter-mile from the ship.

 

We stopped by the vendors that were allowed inside who were selling a variety of souvenirs that were laid out on the ground. Nothing caught our eye so we headed back onto the ship.

 

Back on the Ship

 

During dinner we learned from our friends Rick and Margaret, that they had a completely different experience in town. They were on a shuttle bus about an hour earlier that us, and were equally accosted by many locals. Totally by chance, they met a person who acted as their guide for the remainder of the day and did a wonderful job. This guide took them on a walking tour through the back factories where all the various trinkets were produced as well as some of the higher-end art shops that they were interested in with no upfront money expected but Rick did provide a tip at the end.

 

We also learned that shuttle buses later in the day were being rocked by rowdy locals and passengers felt their personal safety was threatened. Consequently, the later shuttle buses didn’t drop anybody off at Independence Square and simply drove around for about a half an hour before heading back to the ship.

 

For future travelers I would suggest trying to arrange a local guide service in advance and avoid taking the shuttle bus.

 

As I mentioned earlier posts the ship had run out of melons due to a missed shipment in Cape Town. Well today the melons arrived and as we were returning to the ship we watch them load them aboard. We learned later that these melons were flown in from Holland and not purchased locally as is true in most cases. The requirement for quality and food traceability is such that the ship rarely buys local produce and in most cases everything is flown in to meet the ship at various ports.

 

Even though we left port at 5:30 PM there was no live entertainment in the Queens Lounge this evening. A movie called the Legend of 1900 was featured which was about a boy who lived a life at sea and grew up to be a great jazz pianist. We took a pass on seeing the movie but we understand it is quite good.

 

Tomorrow is a sea day before we arrive at Cape Verde for final port before we returned to the United. States.

 

As always, more on the blog.

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I'm glad I clicked on your Dakar post today. You see, we were in Dakar this spring while on the Prinsendam Grand Med and Africa voyage. We experienced the same problems there that you did. When we were dropped off men ran up to us, got right up in our personal space, and harassed us about buying their trinkets, taking us on "private tours", etc. They followed us and wouldn't step back. We wanted to walk around a bit and see the market places, but we felt so uncomfortable here, we headed back to our shuttle bus. For some reason the driver wouldn't open the bus door for a good 5 minutes. Meanwhile we were trying to keep these men away from our pockets and backpack. It was a relief to get back to the ship! Very sad that this would be the extent of our visit to Senegal. Gambia was slightly better and we spent more time off the ship there, but I wouldn't want to go back.:(

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I'm glad I clicked on your Dakar post today. You see, we were in Dakar this spring while on the Prinsendam Grand Med and Africa voyage. We experienced the same problems there that you did. When we were dropped off men ran up to us, got right up in our personal space, and harassed us about buying their trinkets, taking us on "private tours", etc. They followed us and wouldn't step back. We wanted to walk around a bit and see the market places, but we felt so uncomfortable here, we headed back to our shuttle bus. For some reason the driver wouldn't open the bus door for a good 5 minutes. Meanwhile we were trying to keep these men away from our pockets and backpack. It was a relief to get back to the ship! Very sad that this would be the extent of our visit to Senegal. Gambia was slightly better and we spent more time off the ship there, but I wouldn't want to go back.:(

 

 

 

Thanks for your comment. I just got back from a business trip but will resume posting soon.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro

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I just got back from a business trip but will resume posting soon.

That's good to hear (the posting part, not the business trip). Some of us are very interested in your reports of the trip. You write about interesting adventures in great detail. I enjoy your posts immensely.

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Day 104 - 18 April – At Sea

 

After our disappointing port call to Dakar I was a little apprehensive about our port visit tomorrow in Praia, Cape Verde. This was one of the countries that was listed in the warning letter we received a week or so ago and I was not looking forward to a repeat of yesterday.

 

Coffee Chat

 

The guest for Coffee Chat this morning was Geoffrey, the HAL club manager, along with one of the children, a 10 year old boy named Shane. Geoffrey has been with Holland America for four years. Before that he was a substitute schoolteacher in California. Born in Jamaica, Geoffrey moved to New York City when he was five where he grew up. During the question and answer period one of the guests asked for Geoffrey to show us the contents of his ever-present backpack. Geoffrey began to pull out one item after another including games, sunglasses and other knickknacks. He finally pulled out, as if by mistake, and to the surprise of the gathered crowd, a roll of duct tape. Feigning embarrassment, he put the duct tape back in his bag and said it was for a project he was working on and then glanced at Shane hinting that it might be used to keep him in line if he misbehaved.

I spoke to Geoffrey afterwards and he confided that the duct tape, along with other items, was included in his bag for comic effect as he expected to be asked a question about the contents during the interview.

 

Chocolate Surprise

 

Today was Holland America’s 145th birthday. To celebrate they had another Chocolate Surprise like the one they had earlier in the cruise during one of the Galas in the Queen’s Lounge. The Chocolate Surprise took place on Deck Five and the Crow’s Nest starting at 9 PM. Since we are still eating at 9 PM we thought we might miss out, but about 9:30 waiters came through the dining room with trays of the various Chocolate Surprises which consisted of a variety of cakes, chocolate pops and other tempting treats.

 

Savannah Jack

 

Performing tonight in the Queen’s Lounge was the group Savannah Jack from Nashville, Tennessee. They played hits from a large library of popular tunes from the 50’s through the present day. They were able to create country sounds along with classic rock and put on a fantastic show. Normally the late show is a repeat of the early show, but Savannah Jack started the early show playing one song from each year between 1956 and 1972 and then during the late show they continue playing songs starting with 1972 onward including such hits as:

• Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)

• The Gambler

• The Devil Went Down to Georgia

• Take Me Home, Country Roads

• Margaretville

• Silly Love Songs

• Celebration

 

of their performance.

 

Savannah Jack engages well with the audience and plays nothing but crowd pleasers. You can’t help but have

a great time

 

SV-Jack.jpg

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19 April – Day 105 - Praia, Cape Verde

 

After our terrible experience in Dakar – we were a little apprehensive about our visit to Praia as it was one of the countries listed in the letter the ship sent us on April 9th. You can read a copy HERE

 

I didn’t find anything of interest during my pre-cruise research on this port. After reviewing the excursions offered by Holland America, we decided to go on the tour called Cultural Praia.

 

Here is the description of the $69 tour from the excursion booklet:

 

Cultural Praia

 

 

Welcome to Praia, the most cosmopolitan Cape Verdean city and an authentic cultural storehouse. On this excursion you will get to know the culture and traditions of Cape Verde in general, and of Santiago Island in particular. Praia has absorbed various influences from the other islands due to interisland migration, as well as influences from abroad. Visit the center of the city, the plateau and Ethnographic Museum, founded in 1997.

 

Don't miss the vegetable market, whose atmosphere is as colorful as its wares. From there, a short walk takes you to Praça Alexandre Albuquerque -- an iconic gathering spot for the people of Santiago. View the Palace of the President and the viewpoint of Statue of Diogo Gomes. Gomes discovered the Cape Verde Islands in 1460. You'll see one of the oldest buildings in Praia -- the Jaime Mota Barracks -- dating from 1826. Pass the Prime Minister's residence and various embassies en route to the breathtaking view from the Cruz de Papa Monument above Quebra Canela Beach. Avenida Cidade de Lisboa, the most happening street in Praia, leads you past the Government Palace and the all-important soccer stadium. Before heading back to the port you will stop to browse at the lively Sucupira Market.

 

Notes: Tourism infrastructure is limited in Cape Verde; the coach may not have air-conditioning or a PA system. Public markets are closed on Sundays and holidays.

 

Queen's Lounge tour meeting place

 

Getting an early start, at least for us, we met our tour group in the Queen’s Lounge at 8:15 AM. In a few minutes they called for our tour to assemble and head down to the pier where we found our 24 passenger bus.

 

Port Area

 

The ship moors in the container port without any tourist infrastructure nearby. The port gate is about a half mile away and this is where some people had to meet private tours that they had arranged earlier. They ended up having to walk the half mile to the gate to meet their tour.

 

After about a 10 minute ride, we reached the first stop and were let out on the sidewalk in a commercial area. Unlike Dakar, we weren’t greeted by throngs of people pestering us or trying to sell souvenirs or tours. There were plenty of people in the area, but they were friendly and continued to go on about their business when we arrived.

 

Ethnographic Museum

 

As we walked down the pedestrian promenade towards a Museum we would visit, it was immediately obvious that the city was much nicer than Dakar, and was the nicest city we visited since Cape Town.

 

Our first stop was the Ethnographic Museum which maintains a vast collection of pieces that tell the everyday life of people in Cape Verde including tools used in agriculture and raising livestock along with pieces of pottery, weaving, and clothing. The museum was mildly interesting, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit.

 

We left the Museum and continued walking on the promenade towards a municipal market, a quarter mile away. Along the way we discovered several nice cafés, shops and a collection of kiosks selling souvenirs.

 

Municipal Market

 

The municipal market was typical of what we have found throughout the cruise only this one was very clean and well organized. Fruits and vegetables were the main products sold, along with some meat and fish. One section had counters that offered prepared foods where people were buying their lunch.

 

We continued walking about a quarter mile and came across an open public square where a bandstand was getting set up for a musical concert later today. If we were going to be here longer we would definitely come back here to enjoy what looked like it might be a nice concert. Praia was turning out to be a very nice town, and I’m surprised now that it was on the Africa warning letter. Maybe there are other parts that aren’t quite as nice as where we were, but this downtown area is something that you should stroll around when you visit.

 

The Cathedral

 

The Cathedral, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graca, was our final stop on the walking part of our tour before we got back on the bus. The Cathedral itself was quite ordinary but there were some children visiting at the same time and we were able to engage with them which was interesting.

 

We were now a couple of blocks away from the ship’s shuttle bus, which I’ve marked on the map that is posted on the blog.

 

There is a large park across the street from the church where we found public bathrooms and had a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful weather before we got back on the bus and headed off to the Mercado de Sucupira.

 

Mercado de Sucupira

 

On the hill above the main town, the Mercado is much larger than the first one we visited. This market sold mainly dry goods such as clothing and household items and things you might find in a drugstore or Walmart back in the USA. The people were not especially friendly, refusing requests for photographs which was a little surprising for a place where you would think they would want to encourage visitors to browse around and spend time looking at their wares. Consequently, we didn’t spend much time here, and neither did anyone else in our group. We were all back on the bus in about 15 minutes.

 

Pope John Paul II

 

Our next stop was an overlook, about 2 miles away, where there was a large statue of Pope John Paul II. The statue was constructed in 2007 by the Praia Chamber of Commerce. The Amsterdam was visible off in the distance and we had a nice view of the town off to our left side.

 

The Lighthouse

 

Our final stop was a lighthouse at the end of a Peninsula overlooking the harbor. About half of the tour group, including myself, climbed up the 100 steps to the top of the lighthouse. At the top, there was a small catwalk around the outside of the lighthouse. Stepping outside we had to hang onto our hats because the wind was blowing at least 30 knots. The view from the lighthouse was spectacular, with a great perspective of the city, the harbor and the Amsterdam moored across the harbor.

 

It took about 20 minutes to get back to the ship, the whole tour was about four hours.

 

Sail Away Party

 

The highlight of this afternoon on the Amsterdam was the SailAway party featuring live music by the Station Band along with hors d’oeuvres and complementary beverages. Table 303 assembled at several tables near the forward port corner of the pool. The party was well attended but not overcrowded. Everyone who wanted to find a seat was able to find one somewhere. The festivities concluded after the band stopped playing which prompted about a dozen guests to jump into the pool fully clothed. Here is a video that gives you a good feel for what took place.

 

 

Maria Lyn

 

Tonight’s entertainer was a talented vocalist from Wales, Maria Lyn. She has a beautiful, powerful voice and sang hits from Broadway and other pop tunes including:

 

Tonight from West Side Story

Thank you for the music - Abba

This is my life Shirley Bassie

 

Don’t miss seeing Maria Lyn if she is performing near you.

 

Back in the cabin we found our new Silver Medallions that would be officially awarded tomorrow evening.

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