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Seek Timeless Treasures with Bill & Mary Ann - 2019 World Cruise -131 days

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Love the details of your day.

 

We used to know the under ground trains in London by heart as we visited there many times.

 

Your 1/2 day sounded wonderful.

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Report #64   Singapore, Singapore   March 23, 2019   Saturday   Chance of rain & 91 degrees     Part #1 Of 3     80  Pictures

 

Our second day in Singapore would be way too short to do all we wanted.  All aboard was 4pm, with a mandatory muster drill at 4:15pm.  Almost 80 folks went home today, and about the same amount of new passengers boarded.  This marks the halfway point of the cruise.  How did this go by so fast???

 

So, after a light breakfast, we went off the ship by 10am, expecting a short line at the security checkpoint.  Lots of people were backed up, waiting for the immigrations check, but most of them were coming from a ferry.  Our group had three agents getting us through the line.  Since we had been cleared yesterday, it did go a tad bit faster.  Then we went through the xray check, and down the escalators to the Harborfront Mall.  The HAL tour groups were assembling here for another day of organized bus excursions.  We have been on every one of them, and thankfully, we were not on any today. 

 

The mall and the entire city for that matter was much busier today, because it was a Saturday……kids were out of school.  The MRT was busy as ever as we made our way to the first stop at City Hall.  It took two train lines to get there, but we wanted to see how far the work has progressed at the famous Raffles Hotel.  Turns out, most of the hotel has been closed off to the public, including the main entrance.  The only photo we would get of the properly dressed Sikh greeter would be a painting on the side of the barrier wall.

 

Once we made our way out of Raffles Place shopping center, we crossed the street to circle the hotel nicknamed the “ famous old lady”.  The restaurant the Longbar was opened for lunch and their famous Singapore Sling, but not until 11:30pm.  We were too early, although we would not spend the money for the over-priced very sweet drink with a touch of alcohol anyway.  Had one a long time ago when the price was under $20, but we found the Tiger beer was much better.  Even the beers were over-priced at $15 at that time, because there is a high tax on alcohol in Singapore.

 

We did find that a small shop had been re-located at the hotel where you could still purchase Raffles souvenirs.  We were informed that this property will be opening sometime this coming July.  And from the looks of the work done, it will probably be on time.

 

Ducking back the way we came, we now headed for the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Shoppes.  Forgetting that Marina Bay MRT stop was the correct station, one of us remembered it was really Bayfront.  Back on the correct train, we got out right at the entrance to the lower level of the Shoppes by the Bay.  Going up escalators, we strolled through part of this over-the-top high end mall to access the outside plaza and view of the Marina Bay. 

 

We are convinced that when the temps and humidity go up, the locals stay inside, never leaving the air-conditioning.  The outside areas were almost empty of visitors today.  We walked up to the lotus-shaped Art science building surrounded with a pond full of lotus blossoms and small fish.  Directly across the Marina Bay, we should have been able to see the famous Merlion statue, half fish, half lion, the symbol of Singapore.  However, the statue was completely covered with a screened tent, and most likely was undergoing cleaning. 

 

Time to walk to the Gardens by the Bay and the new icon of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  From the walkway out of the Marina Bay, we got some great views of this oddly-built hotel with three individual towers and an “ironing board” deck on the top.  The towers measure 656 feet high, and the Sands Sky Park Observation Deck on the top is 492 feet long.  It houses an infinity pool that is 492 feet long.  Friends Queen Karen and Diana spent a night at this hotel, and showed us photos and videos of their exciting swim in this pool.  What a memory they will have forever.  Now to access this deck, you have to pay $23, unless you have reservations for dining at Ce La Vi or the Sky Bar at one end.  Years ago, when this hotel was new, we went up the elevator to the top, and got to see the pool and restaurant through a gate.  Good enough for us.

 

Continuing on this walkway, we entered the Gardens by the Bay where the domes are located.  We have toured the Flower and the Cloud Forest Domes, so we did not feel the need to pay $28 to see them again today.  It would take more time that we did not have.  We did take the time to stroll the entire gardens, getting photos of the Super tree Grove, and the OCBC Skyway with a 72 foot high walkway in these trees.  You can walk the 420 foot walkway for an $8 fee.  The evening laser and sound shows must be dazzling and it is free, as is the entrance to this park.  And there is dining at the top of the largest Super tree called the Indochine.  They serve cocktails and flavors guaranteed to take your breath away.  Bet the prices on those cocktails would do the same, with the high price of alcohol.

 

Heading out towards the exit, we crossed over the Dragonfly Bridge, taking photos of the boardwalk that surrounds the lake.  It is called the Scented Walk that measures 1444 feet.  Would have been great to do the hike, but it was way too hot to even try it.  This was on the way to the MRT, where we took the elevator to the entrance to the Bayfront Station.

 

We caught the blue line, to the purple line, which took us to our last stop at Clarke Quay.  The trains were so full that we stood the whole time.  Yesterday, the younger kids gave up their seats to us, as is suggested by signs in the trains.  Getting off here, we hoped to find a café opened on the riverfront.  However, we normally do this the first full day here, but arriving so late yesterday, we saved this stop for today.  Well what we did not know was that none of the restaurants or bars open up until later in the day.  Our only option was to go to a Chilis, which we love at home.  But, it was full of little kids running from end to end.  Not exactly the ambience we wanted, we got back on the MRT and went back to Harborfront.

 

We still had to get our $20 deposit back from our MRT tickets, so we lined up at the office with 20 other folks doing the same thing.  Even though it was before 3pm, this line was much longer than we remembered.  You would think that the refund desk would have more than one agent, but they do not.  Takes patience, but these things happen.  At least we know we still had plenty of time for the all onboard time. 

 

With more money to add with what we did not spend for lunch, we figured that we could pick up room snacks at the little supermarket in Harborfront.  But we found the line there was even longer than the refund line.  We gave up that idea, and went directly to a money changer, where we got US dollars with hardly no fee at all for the exchange.

 

Back through the checkpoint, we made our way to the gangway, where we surrendered our passports to the ship’s front desk people.  We were glad to hand them over, since we do not like having to take them with us.  But in some places in the world, you are required to do this.  A copy is not a substitute either.

 

The coolness of the ship was most welcomed, but we did not have much time to relax, before the horn blew for the third muster drill of this trip.  Almost 80 folks had departed, and 80 new ones came onboard.  After the short drill, we headed back down to work on photos until it was time for sail away.

 

The lines were dropped around 6pm, and the ship turned around and headed out into the Singapore Straits.  There is a huge number of ships in this port, so the sail away was far from boring.  The only thing that hindered it was the massive black cloud that headed our way, dropping much needed rain.  A passing shower made us go down to deck seven, where we have the shelter, but still have the railing.  It was there that we thought we recognized a couple of folks that we met back in 2016.  Not totally sure, they spoke first, also remembering us, as we sat across from them at breakfast in the dining room many days.  Unknown to us, they have been following blog, and took note of some of the details we have been including.  Actually, we do this so we don’t forget, but are sure happy we can help other guests as well.  They had a long flight from Seattle, but will settle in after a short stay in this wonderful city.  Welcome Nancy and Mike.

 

We welcomed two friends from Sydney to our table tonight…..Greg and Heo.  They will be on now until we return to Ft. Lauderdale.  Barb has known them for longer than us, and are really close buddies.  And since they read our blog often enough, they know the happenings of the last two months.  The menu for our meal tonight was Singaporean, but the guys said it was nowhere near the real deal.  The spices used and even the ingredients were not the same, although they still seemed to enjoy it.  As for us, we ordered the crispy spring rolls (excellent), and the tortilla salad with grilled chicken.  Most satisfying and perhaps healthy.

 

We now have three sea days on our way to Sri Lanka.  Really need the down time to re-energize.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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I really appreciate all the details you give.

 

Sorry you never got a chance to eat ashore.  

 

We would definitely do the gardens as we love flowers and plants.

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Great pictures as well.

 

I love to see those gardens at night as well.

 

Wonderful sights as you were leaving Singapore.

 

Unusual sunset.

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Report #65    Day at Sea   March 24, 2019   Sunday   Partly sunny & 82 degrees    Part #1 Of 1   14  Pictures

 

Yesterday ended another segment, and the egg consumption remains impressive at 36,700 of them eaten.  We need to ask if that includes all of the baked goods and desserts that require the use of eggs.  We certainly hope so.  The total miles traveled is somewhere in the neighborhood of 18,000 nautical miles.

 

Think we failed to mention that the clocks went back one hour last night, giving us that hour we lost before arriving to Singapore.  Tonight, we will put the clocks back another hour as we are now heading in a westerly direction. 

 

Since today was a Sunday at sea, there was another brunch in the dining room from 11 to 1pm.  It sure has been a hit with a lot of guests, we have heard.  Especially those who like small tidbits of many things.  We learned at breakfast time that the waiters test the dinner entrees everyday well before dinner is served.  This way they can describe what the food is, and if it is too spicy or salty.  Now we understand why our waiter Slam suggests the fish dinners, because he likes all fish.  So far, the most consistent dinners have included the chicken entrees in our humble opinion.

 

It was plenty warm outside today, so we relaxed at the pool.  It was windy, but it kept it tolerable.  And we had visitors.  Leta stopped by with a book for one of us to read, and also an invitation to join her and Bill at their table for dinner tonight.  Sounded like a plan to us.  Then another buddy stopped by to share her plans for an upcoming trip to the Taj Mahal in India.  Many savvy long time cruisers have figured out that arranging an overland excursion independently can be much more affordable if done right. 

 

For some reason, we noticed a lot of work being done on the ship, such as closing off of the promenade deck in front of several lanai rooms.  Wonder how these folks like not being able to use their private lounges?  The work seems to be going on overhead where a lot of debris fell from the upper platform.  On a previous cruise, we actually saw some tools fall from above the deck, barely missing us as we walked by.  Now they just close the deck.  The railings have been undergoing several coats of varnish at the Seaview Pool.  Carpeting has been removed and replaced in many stairwells and hallways. Finally, when we went to lunch in the Lido, three workers were using a power saw to cut a hole in the ceiling near the ice cream corner.  Usually these repairs occur when the ship is in port, and most of the guests are off of the ship. Not so much anymore, we see something every day. Even some elevators have been out of order for days. Sort of takes the “grand” out of the world voyage.

 

We lasted at the Seaview Pool until the rain began.  It may have been a passing cloud, but since we are so close to the Equator, we did not want to chance sun burning by staying much longer.  After lunch in the Lido, we spent the remaining time working in the coolness of our room.  Watching a news channel, we saw the report about a Viking cruise ship evacuating passengers and crew from off the coast of Norway.  What a nightmare that must be.  We will also be visiting some ports in Norway in April, so we hope the seas calm down by then.  As this is being written, the news announced that the ship has arrived safely to a port.

 

Our dinner with Leta and Bill was so much fun, the time went by in a flash.  We had lots of catching up to do, and we all agreed that we need to do this again soon.  Right when we sat down at their table, Slam, our waiter, came with a tray of our fresh veggies that we enjoy every night. We are sure that there were two plates of them, and Barb sent one over to us.  The marinated hearts of palm are a favorite of ours, and we were happy to share them with Leta and Bill. 

 

The entertainer this evening was a singer by the name of Sharon Calabro.  Her expertise is singing the songs of Karen Carpenter, as well as playing the drums like she did.  We noticed that last night, there was no entertainment at all, but only a 9:30pm game show.  That’s a first.

 

Bill and Mary Ann

 

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Wonderful sea day you had.  Yes -- Viking Sky first lost all engines and then the storm hit.  5 large helicopters got over 400 passengers off the ship.  Then 3 large tugs arrived and slowly got her to a port -- 3 engines were restarted.  But a lot of internal damage was done to the ship.  Either 28 or 29 passengers were injured.  The cruise was to see the Northern Lights.

 

Glad you had a wonderful dinner with your friends.

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Report # 66    Day at Sea   March 25, 2019   Monday   Partly sunny & 82 degrees

 

Lucky for everyone, the seas have remained relatively smooth and the winds gentle.  Watching the news, we are shocked at the recent problems with that cruise ship losing power off the coast of Norway.  Never know when a glitch in the system will end up with a ship in trouble.  Hopefully, that won’t happen to all of us…..especially when we head towards that part of the world.

 

On a lighter note, shipboard life continues as normal as we have begun transiting the Bay of Bengal on our way towards the island of Sri Lanka.  According to Captain Mercer, we are already half way there.  And to get us on the correct time for that country, we will have to set our clocks back ½ hour this evening.  Another one of those strange time changes that occur in some places we travel. 

 

Two guests speakers gave lectures today.  One has been on for a while, Adele Thorne, who spoke about swim bathing history.  Now that is different.  And a new lecturer, Barry Dryer, educated the folks on Sri Lankan history.  Finally, a guest chef, Petrina Loh, worked her magic in America’s Test Kitchen. 

 

Sales in the shops continued with the $10 fashion collection with a buy 4 and get 1 free deal.  On the more pricey items, you can buy Swarovski zodiac collections, or upgrade with bling from Le Vian.  Just in time for formal night….oh pardon us….gala night.  That reminds us of a saying that we got on the “good night” card a few weeks ago.  It read: To me, travel is more valuable than any stupid piece of bling that money can buy.  – Raquel Cepeda -  Well, sometimes…..

 

While some people were learning the waltz in dance class or participating in watercolors and arts and crafts classes, we were enjoying the art of sunbathing.  It is also a great place to visit with friends who come out to share news as well.  And for the third time on this whole cruise, a bar crew member brought those of us using the lounges at the Seaview Bar, a 2 quart pitcher of ice water with lemon slices.  Prior to this, only one person received this treat, which we figured should be offered to everyone back there.  Now it is.

 

When we left Singapore a few days ago, we spotted some rather young fellows onboard that appeared not to be passengers.  They did not fit the profile.  Anyway, when we saw today’s newsletter, it made sense that these guys are the upcoming entertainers.  They are an LA based group of singers that have been on NBC’s The Sing-Off.  Also performing with groups such as Linkin Park, Pentatonix, and the Black Eyed Peas (we are familiar with them), they are an “a cappella” group of Filipino-Americans.  Bet their show will be a good one.

 

At 6pm, we went to deck five across from the Ocean Bar, and commandeered “our” chairs back.  They had been inaccessible with the Princeton Tailors using this section of the railing for their sales.  It is the nicest out-of-the-way place to listen to the band and watch the dance partners practice their new moves.  For the first time that we can remember, the group of dance hosts and one lady hostess that had been on the ship since Ft. Lauderdale all went home.  A new group of men hosts arrived in Singapore, and one of them is Ray, a fellow we know through Barb.  She has known him from other cruises, and are friends, and maybe occasional dance partners.

 

This evening was a Secret Garden Dinner, another gala event.  It was advertised as a floral inspired dinner and we were all welcomed to enjoy the mystery and wonderment of the event.  What we found when we entered the dining room were the super tall vases filled with yellow flowers, big and small, and palm leaves.  Some of the skinny vases measured over three feet tall.  On the top of the vases were green battery-lit lights.  Looked really cool, and yes, floral.  And we had company.  Renee, the spa manager, joined the five of us as our hostess.  All of us have known Renee for a very long time, some more than others.   Asking how business has been, she said it has been crazy busy.  That is good news, since on most cruises, we have heard that the spa is the biggest money-maker on the ships.  Especially the shorter voyages, where people want to indulge as much as they can while on vacation.  We ended up being the last guests to leave the dining room, but still in time for the 10pm showtime.

 

The clocks did indeed go back ½ hour tonight. 

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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Report # 67   Day at Sea   March 26, 2019   Tuesday   Partly sunny & 82 degrees

 

Today is our third day at sea, as we get closer to the island of Sri Lanka, located on the southern tip of India.  The skies have remained mostly sunny with occasional clouds with only a few showers.  Actually some rain might have been welcomed as it would have helped cool the air off.   The heat and humidity have begun to affect the air-conditioning on the Amsterdam.  Everyone has noticed that the public areas have been much warmer than usual.  Especially in the Lido and the dining room.  It always seems worse when we have a gala evening, and the guests are dressed in their finest.  This group, for the most part, have adhered to the “suggested” dress code, even the fellows who have to wear the jackets.  The only place that seems to stay cooler has to be the Mainstage, where it is not odd to see people wearing sweaters and jackets.  And remember, heat rises, so the best deck for coolness is the Dolphin deck.

 

An activity onboard that many people like has to be the ship building sea finals.  A week or so ago, it was announced that the materials to build a replica of a ship that will float were available to collect for those who wanted to compete.  So at 1pm today, the contenders tested the waters of the Lido pool to see how well their vessels floated or not.  If nothing else, it is always good for some laughs.  Usually the contestants have had prior experience in this boat building, and know the secrets of using materials correctly.  Back several years ago, or tablemates joined forces and duplicated the Amsterdam’s design, naming it the Dumpsterdam.  Gloria, a talented water colorist, gave the design all the details, and it floated longer than the rest of the entries.  Naturally, they won.

 

Ship sales were in full progress with the unveiling of sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.  Just in time to entice passengers to buy these treasures before we arrive to Sri Lanka.  You can also purchase these semi-precious stones in this country, but buyer beware…..you better know what you are doing.  Much of it looks good, but if the price is cheap, it’s probably fake.  That applies to the shore side shops as well, as nothing you buy there at these stalls will be guaranteed.  Normally, these warnings are in the port lecture, so it is a good idea to go and listen to Ian, the expert. 

 

Other lectures included tons of info on Sri Lanka….good to know before going on tours tomorrow.  Now that we are getting into areas of the world that are heavily religious with certain rules to respect, it is much better to be up on proper clothing and behavior while visiting there.  Helps to avoid embarrassing situations or awkward moments.  Believe us, we have seen some good ones.

 

We had a very relaxing afternoon at the Seaview pool visiting with friends.  There was a saving breeze blowing across the deck, otherwise, it was hot-hot-hot.   Besides the jugs of Crystal Lite we bring, the bar staffers are bringing us and our buddies a 2 quart pitchers of ice water.  Sure helps keeping us hydrated.  During his PM talk, Captain Mercer warned again that the temperatures will be in the high 80’s tomorrow with an index of 15 for the UV rating.  Sometimes we get late afternoon rains, but it was not in the forecast.

 

Dinner was fun tonight with our group of friends.  Since we know so many folks between the five of us, conversation flows.  And during the year, Greg and Heo keep track of our travels by reading the blog most days.  They seem to remember more of what we have done than we do.  Tonight we shared travel stories about the Disney cruise we did a few years ago, and the Disneyworld trip they took recently.  Both experiences had a lot of humorous moments involved.  The guys have also gone on different cruise lines, and we learned how differently Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Seabourn operate these days from embarkation to the cruise experience.  They all have some good aspects as well as some negatives.  Although Seabourn would have the least negatives with the one exception of the high price.

 

The entrees we ordered were pork piccata, and a teriyaki salmon salad.  Both were very tasty, although Barb and Greg had something that was too full of garlic and undercooked pasta. This does not happen often.  We shared one order of pineapple upside down cake with vanilla ice cream.  The five of us lingered after the meal, but we soon noticed that many waiters were assembling on our lower level, setting up a buffet station.  Seems they were going to have a party with Indonesian food around 10pm.  Nothing fancy, it was rice noodles with meatballs, shrimp crackers, and a special jello/fruit salad for dessert.  Sure is nice that they have these special gatherings, since it keeps up the morale among this very special group.

 

The variety show in the Mainstage featured the comedian, Glenn Hirsch and the singer/drummer, Sharon Calabro.  With her photo in the newsletter, we would say she is more of a dead ringer for Cher instead of Karen Carpenter.  Must be the long hair.

 

The Amsterdam should be docked in Colombo tomorrow by 6am, but we certainly will not be watching a sailing into the port at that time of day.  Now if they were serving Sri Lanka rolls (aka Panama rolls), we might be enticed.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

  

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Glad that your world cruise still has the ship building contest.  It is gone from the other ships -- too many people were cheating.   We witnessed ships being built in the terminal before anyone even got on the ship.

 

Lovely that so many of you can talk about past experiences on other cruise lines.

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Report #68    Colombo, Sri Lanka   March 27, 2019   Wednesday   Sunny & 90 degrees   Part #1 Of 4    80  Pictures

 

Back in 2001, we visited the country of Sri Lanka for the very first time. With a population of over 22 million, we expected the peaceful tear-drop island, once called Ceylon, to be a place with steamy tropical air filled with cinnamon and tea plantations.  It was.  But we also discovered that it was a place of political turmoil and civil unrest.  Not only in the capital of Colombo, but also out into the country sides.  Almost 20 years later, not too much has changed….it still is a volatile country, although the capital city has become more safe for tourists we heard. 

 

Located at the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka is a tropical primarily Buddhist island with some very interesting history.  Colonial museums and monuments can be seen in the capital, but so can modern high rise apartments and high end resorts.  It is heavily influenced by ancient kingdoms, the Portuguese, Dutch, and the British.  Foods that is popular here are rice, coconut milk, curries, pickles, and chutneys.  A certain type of mud crabs exist here, and are shipped to many nearby countries.  Tablemates Greg and Heo indulged with a lunch at the Cinnamon Hotel today, and said the crab was out of this world.

 

One of the most fun places to visit out of town had to be the Pinnawela Elephant Sanctuary and the sacred city of Kandy where the Temple of the Tooth resides, an authentic relic from Buddha.  One time we took the antique train ride, which seemed to take forever.  But what a blast from the past as we rode through country sides, seeing how these folks live away from the big cities.

 

More recently, we took a safari trip to Yala National Park to see the leopards and elephants up close and personal.  It was an excellent experience, despite the fact that the entire country was undergoing a terrible heat wave.  Then we had two separate trips to the settlement of Galle which revealed the Dutch history from the colonial past. 

 

The most interesting random fact about Sri  Lanka is that cinnamon was cultivated here centuries ago, and has traded the spice since 2000BC.   We had a private visit to a plantation a few years ago, and saw the entire process of cinnamon bark gathering.  It was surprisingly labor intensive, and an art that is passed down from the workers to their children.

 

As we mentioned, a 3 hour ride to Pinnawela Elephant Sanctuary was offered through shore excursions.  The best thrill was seeing these animals taken into the river where they are bathed, groomed, and watered by their handlers.  And you view this activity from a tiered restaurant right above the river.  We have done this tour at least twice, except we never paid $350 per person which included the train ride.

 

Other excursions here were city tours, as well as a long ride to Galle, the Dutch settlement we mentioned before.  We did spend two lovely days at the colonial hotel there a few years ago, enjoying our time there.

 

So today, we began the day with a dining room breakfast, learning about the party the fellows had last night with their late Indonesian dinner.  Apparently, the chefs had brought 3000 small meatballs while in Semarang to be served later on.  Our favorite waiters confessed to eating from 10 to 45 meatballs in one sitting.  They may have been joking about the amount, but had so much fun teasing each other today. 

 

By the time the last of the tour buses were leaving, we went off to explore the city nearby.  To back up a bit, last year in December, we had to apply for the Sri Lankan electronic visa before we left home.  Done completely on the computer, we filled out the form and paid the $35 fee for a one day stay.  Normally the ship was able to procure these, but not anymore.  Compared to other visa applications for other countries, this one was fairly easy.  At least we did not have to mail in our passports, since everything was done electronically, as well as having the proper forms emailed directly to us.  Without the visa, we would not have been allowed to leave the ship…..not even to buy souvenirs on the pier.  Many folks we know chose to stay onboard, having been here dozens of times over the years.

 

No doubt about it, today was going to be a hot one.  Maybe not as hot as Darwin, but a close second.  One factor of walking out of this port has to be the encounter with the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers offering tours for $1.  You had better practice your skills at saying no thanks, and really meaning it.  These guys can be persistent to the point of disbelief.  We had been warned to make no eye contact or even responding with nothing more than saying no.  Since we have done this stretch of the road many times, we were prepared for it.  And just like last year, at one point, a well-dressed what you would assume was a business person, warned us to stay away from these drivers.  Then he will go into a talk about an elephant parade about to happen at a temple, and he would call a taxi for us.  Again, we said no thanks.  And besides, there was no parade at all.

 

About the time you think it would not stop, we were at the Kingsbury Hotel, where we ducked inside to escape the ride offers and cool off.  This is a modern and elegant property where if you chose, you could spend a nice afternoon eating lunch and using their pool for a fee.  On a couple of separate occasions, we stopped here for tea and small sandwiches following a city tour.  Today we just visited, but did not stay.

 

Continuing on towards town, we passed by the British colonial buildings of the government complex – Sri  Lanka’s seat of government.  These days it is dwarfed by all of the high end hotels and financial centers.

 

A complex that was in the works for several years has been completed at One Galle Face.  It includes a modern mall, towers, and apartments.  Perhaps when we come back here next year, we will see what they have to offer here.

 

We reached the Galle Face Greens, a promenade of ¼ mile along the coastline of the Indian Ocean.  Back in 1859, this stretch of grass was used as a horse racing track and later, a golf course.  The wide walkway above the surf was filled with benches and snack food stands for the locals.  Being on the water like this also provided a nice breeze, making the hike tolerable.  Most of the ladies carry umbrellas for shade, as there are no trees planted here at all.  About at the halfway point, there was a pier that went out over the water.  We walked out to the end, watching the fish swimming in the shallows over the coral and rocks.  What you won’t see in the water are swimmers.  We suspect there is a powerful undertow, and also it is possible that the water is polluted.  Warning signs were posted the entire length to stay out of the ocean water. 

 

At the end of this promenade is a most lovely hotel called the Galle Face Hotel.  It has been here since the 1800’s and recently renovated.  We made our way through the marble-clad lobby to the outside open-air patio dining, and the section called the Travellers Bar.  Part of the back section had reserved signs on the tables, set with tea cups.  We suspected that the HAL group would be stopping here for their tea and snacks, which they did.

 

We spent two luxurious hours relaxing in the comfortable chairs sipping Lion draft beers, sharing a ham and cheese panini and bowls of chili-flavored chips.  The local chipmunk paid several visits, begging some food from us.  He took a few of the chip bits we left for bait (had to get close-up photos of him).  One chip was too big, and the little devil simply licked the seasoned salt off of it, and discarded the chip.  The new group of dance hosts happened to be sitting across from us, and they were equally amused as we were.  Eventually the dance teachers Kirsten and Alex, joined them, and we became their official picture takers.  All but one of the dance hosts are from England, and seem to be a much more friendly group than the first set of guys. 

 

When the HAL group was ready to depart, one couple stopped and asked us how we got here.  By walking, of course, so they decided that the cold beers we had were a far better idea than hot tea, and would attempt the hike when they got back to the ship. They were soooo jealous that we had free time to stay, but we did tell them we had done the same tour they just did more than once, so we understood.  By the time they left, we had ordered a brownie with a scoop of ice cream to finish our meal.  Really good and just enough with sharing it.

 

It was interesting watching the outdoor buffet set up for a private group of business people we assume.  It was off limits to the general public today.  Before we departed, we walked the property taking many photos.  The pool area was separate from the patio, so maybe next time, we will try  their cuisine. The only difference from last year, was that we had paid with the US dollars, and they converted it the rupee.  Now they will not do that.  But they did take a credit card, where we might even get a better rate exchange.  By  the way, the ship did not sell Sri Lankan rupee, but a local rep came onboard with their money, and sold it near the front desk.  They also had a hospitality desk where maps were handed out.

 

The walk back to the ship was by far easier, as the taxi and tuk-tuk guys knew you were not interested in a tour at 3pm.  All aboard was 5:30pm, so we took our time getting back.  Closer to the pier area, a gigantic project of reclamation was ongoing since our last visit a year ago.  Funded by the Chinese, we heard, this area will look like something you might see in Dubai.  A whole new spot with high rise resorts, shopping, and restaurants.  It will include entertainment venues with a meandering creek with bridges.  The total cost is in the billions.

 

Before we boarded the ship, we strolled through the craft market set up on the pier.  There may have been many bargains here, but since some of the bus tours had just arrived back, the vendors were too busy to help with pricing. And we were not in the market for “elephant” pants which seemed to be the hot item of the day for many ladies.  Since we already own wood carvings and treasures from here, we came back on the ship with nothing new.

 

It was so refreshing to get back to the air-conditioning, we stayed inside working on photos until sail away.  At 5:30pm, there were still buses late, and people shopping.  It was not until after 6pm, that we left the very busy harbor.  The sun set with an orange ball of fire going down on the horizon.  With no clouds, there was little color before it just went dark.  We stayed until 7pm, visiting with good friends, catching up on their exploits of the day. Always nice to hear so many different stories as the lights of the city faded in the distance.  The next port will be Cochin, India.

 

Dinner was heavily Sri Lankan themed, although one of us had the American stew.  It was cooked to perfection.  The minced skewered chicken salad was also good with some different spices.  We shared one sticky date muffin again with a scoop of ice cream.  We were so exhausted from the long walk in the heat, that we skipped the show with Kenny Martyn, a clarinet player.  He will be back at least once more we are sure.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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Wonderful report on Sri Lanka.

 

That is grand that you have been there before, done the tours, and now can find your way around on your own.

 

Looking forward to your pictures.

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Report #69   Day at Sea   March 28, 2019   Thursday   Partly sunny & 82 degrees    Part #1 Of 1     14  Pictures

 

Warm and steamy….that’s the way the day began, and it only got hotter.  With the ship only doing 10 knots, there was barely a breeze on the outside decks.  The majority of passengers stayed inside the ship, joining in the activities of a regular sea day.  Lectures on the upcoming port of Cochin provided tips on what to do there, and the speaker educated the folks on the history of Cochin as well.  To add to the knowledge of India, a 1984 movie, The Passage to India, was shown in the Wajang.

 

One fun activity took place in the Lido Pool today.  It was a Live Poolside Splash Auction where folks bid to “balloon splash” some staff members.  This was done to raise donations for the charity Vision Rescue in India.  This may be the first time this was done on the world cruise, as far as we know.  Since it was such a hot day in the sun, Hamish, the cruise director, announced this game twice in order to draw the folks out there. 

 

We sailed up the west coast of India all day, and perhaps only 20 or so miles from the shore.  There were small boats passing by us all day, more than likely local fishing boats.  Some looked like nothing more than big row boats with an engine.  Open to the elements, with no protection from the beating sun, there were from 4 to 6 guys in each colorful boat.   At a few times, these sailors came within several feet from the ship, which is really unnerving if you were watching from the lower promenade deck.  As we approach Mumbai, we are wondering if the ship will be outfitted with the razor wire this year.  Even though we have not heard about pirate activity in these seas, does not mean it is not happening.

 

Everyone has reported that their laundry has been taking several days to come back.  Our last one was turned in on the 24th, and we got it back today, the 28th.  Then we got a note explaining that the turnaround had been extended up to 72 hours.  The blame was put on the fact that 900 guests are making use of their perk for complimentary laundry service.  Now that we know this, we have to make it a point to turn the laundry in more frequently to avoid running out of socks or whatever. 

 

We were back to the three of us at dinner, since the fellows had been invited upstairs with other friends tonight.  We all ordered good entrees with a little tweaking involved.  One thing all of us has learned, sometimes the hard way, is to have gravies, dressings, or sauces on the side.  The chefs have been using some unfamiliar spices, so this is the best way to give us the option of using it or not.  In our chef salads tonight, there was one item that no one, including Slam, knew what it was.  It must have been the substitute for salami strips.  Turned out it was thin slices of a smoked sausage, and most tasty. 

 

After dinner, we took our usual walk outside to find the sky was lit up with a lightning storm over the mainland.  Too far to hear thunder, it was great to watch.  Even in the darkness of the night, several fishing boats were lit up all over.  It reminded us of being in the Vietnam area, where night fishing is acceptable.  Must be the same here.

 

Captain Mercer announced that we will be arriving to Cochin an hour earlier than expected.  There will be a zero count immigrations check where the entire ship needs to be seen before anyone is allowed back onboard.  Many tour groups will be leaving for a three day two night excursion to the Taj Mahal, so they will need to get to the airport for their flights.  We did this in 2007, glad we did it, but considered it a one-time visit.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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Report #70   Cochin, India   March 29, 2019   Friday   Sunny & 95 degrees    Part #1 Of 4    80  Pictures

 

“Incredible India” is the modern slogan that can describe this country of over one billion people.  The capital of this diverse country is New Delhi in the north, and the main languages spoken are Hindi and English.  It is vast with a plethora of cultures and at least two of the world’s great religions.  But along with that amount of people, there is over-crowding, poverty, and politics that are everyday challenges.  There is a vibrancy with noise combined with frenetic energy in the big cities….it is part of their everyday life.  Just walk the streets and you will see what we mean within minutes.

 

The best time to visit happens to  be November through March in the plains, but July to September in the Himalayas.  Right now in March, we could say it is steamy and very hot.

 

There is so much to see in India, but the utmost most popular destination has to be in Agra at the white marble, jewel-studded Taj Mahal.  Many find themselves on the path of the pilgrims on the banks of the Ganges River, followed by a trip to Mumbai, and the majestic heights in the Himalayas.  Having the privilege of being on a safari adventure in one of their famous national parks to search for Bengal tigers had to be one of the most memorable side trips we ever did.  Further south the beaches of Goa attract many visitors, with traveling by train anywhere in the country can be a thrill.

 

We were introduced to Indian food on that safari with the serving of “thalis”, several small servings of rice, curries, chopatis, fish, chicken, and spicy condiments.  We just discovered pappadams, the thin rolled crispy cracker they served us last night.

 

The favorite drinks are lassi, a sweet or salty yogurt shake or chai, a sweet Indian tea. 

 

Trademarks are Maharajas, holy cows, Ghandi, the Taj Mahal, temples, slums, and Bollywood. 

 

Here is an interesting random fact – there is no such thing as “curry” in India, as the southern Indian word “kari” means fried or sauced.

 

So here we are in Cochin today, located on the southwestern end of India.  This city was a major seafaring port that traded cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, especially to China and Arabia.  In 1530, the Portuguese came to Cochin and built a fort.  The Dutch eventually attacked and drove them out by 1663.  Indian rulers defeated them, but the British had the final stronghold in 1814. Evidence of all of these cultures can be seen in the historical parts of this spread-out city. This area has also been made popular with the unique Chinese fishing nets, a symbol of the city.  Some of them are still used today.

 

We were here in 2009 and took a tour on a very slow boat in Cochin’s lake area.  Seeing the famous fishing nets working stayed in our memories, as well as the sighting of some pink dolphins.  We also flew from Cochin to see the Taj Mahal with our travel group, and as we said, we also flew from here to New Delhi to begin a Bengal tiger safari out of Jabalpur.  So we never did see much of the city on our own. 

 

There were a few tours offered by the ship such as the same harbor boat excursion or a city tour.  They were $65 to $75 for 3 to 5 hours.  The longer tours took the folks out of town to go on a houseboat in the lakes, rivers, and canals of the backwaters.  Some included lunch and they cost from $175 to $210 for 8 or more hours. 

 

An HAL shore excursion group went to a 2 night, 3 day overland to see the Taj Mahal for $3000 (double), although we know of several independent groups that did the same itinerary for much less.  They should all come back in Mumbai on day one, March 31st.  Sure hope they make it back to the port gate before it is closed.  We have heard some mighty bad stories about problems getting back into the port and the ship that time of night. It does not always work.

 

Many of us were not happy that there was no shuttle bus due to a very strict taxi union.  This is something we have been told year after year in some of these Indian ports.  Since we are not comfortable being transported in a tuk-tuk or a cramped taxi, we decided to stick close to the ship today.  Besides, the predicted heat today was 95 degrees, and we believe it was already that high at 10am. 

 

And there were complications which we did not know until later in the day.  Entering the country in Cochin, we were all required to go through for a face-to-face inspection with the Immigration Officials in the terminal.  It would be another zero count, where absolutely everyone had to be cleared before anyone was allowed back on the ship.  Sounds easy, right?  We had been given our letter of instructions, for us it was letter “S”, allowing us to go anytime we wished, as long as we got off before the 10:30am estimated finish time.  We all needed four items to get off….our room key, the passports we were handed, the e-visa copy they printed, and the small slips of landing cards.  Well, not everyone had the same type of visa we had, which is a ten year one in our passport book.  Other folks had shorter time e-visas, but did not bring the letter with them when they went off.  So therefore, they were being turned around and set back onboard to find their copies. 

 

We should have guessed there was a problem when announcements were repeated over and over to bring the correct documents.  Our guess is that the info given to us was not explained clearly.  The end result was that the line backed up to the point no one could exit the elevators, and most everyone lost their place in line.  Greg and Heo informed us at dinner that there were fights between the passengers and the crew as well. They added that the new purser lost her cool, and lost control of the unruly crowd, sending her running back to the ship. The line ended up leaving the passengers standing out in the beating sun for 30 to 40 minutes, which made for some hot tempers.  And here we were oblivious to any of this by going to breakfast as always, and taking some morning photos from deck three. To our surprise, there were many flocks of birds flying around the harbor and ship this morning.  They were egrets, crows, cormorants, brahminy kites, and what we believe might be the changeable hawk-eagles.  At one point later in the afternoon, one of the hawk-eagles actually dive-bombed us, touching the hair on one of our heads….quite a surprise as these birds are aggressive.

 

When we heard the call for the rest of us to go through the checkpoint, we spotted Barb leaving the ship.  We followed her by five minutes, and found the process worked rather quickly.  Lucky for us, we had missed the nasty mess.  Thinking back now, we wondered why the officers we did see looked as if they had been hit by a truck.  And here we thought it was heat stroke or something.

 

There was a series of tented stalls on the pier, so we took our time checking out their offerings.  Not intending to buy anything, we ended up with one of those mosaic-metal purses or box, as the vendor called it.  Recalling they cost a lot more in Mumbai, the price was much better here.  Their silky tops were over-priced, and if it wasn’t so darn hot outside, we may have stayed and bargained harder. Two for almost the price of one patchwork handbags found a home with one of us as well.  Some of the vendors were selling those semi-precious beaded necklaces that we have seen in Oman.  The “real” ones cost a lot, so the ones they had on display looked good, but we could tell the way they were strung and the ends not up to par, we knew they were fake.  Problem was, they were asking a lot of money.  We did not see anyone buying them.  We did get some really great photos of all of the Indian treasures though.

 

Back on the ship, we cooled off in our room, then had lunch in the Lido before the throngs of tour people got back.  When we returned to our room, we found a note from the hotel director with an apology and explanation of what went wrong this morning with the immigrations check.  Defending the time it took to complete the process (3 hours), he added that the discomfort it caused was regrettable.  It was obvious that many well-meaning folks gave advice on how to change this process.  One of the complaints was that none of us received a passport receipt like we always do.  Local officials would not permit it.  He reassured us that all of the passports that were kept by these Indian officials had been brought back onboard later in the day, and their records matched everyone up with the proper documents before they were locked up for safe-keeping.  In addition, those overland groups that needed to be at the airport early for flights, must have been quite upset with unexpected delays.  So we can see both sides of the story here.

 

By 5pm, we went up to deck nine and got good pictures of the surrounding areas around the ship.  And more photos of the birds soaring and diving all around us.  Once again, the actual sail away party was held in the Crow’s Nest, and the Seaview pool area was almost empty for most of the late afternoon.  Many did show up when the ship left the port after 6pm.  As we sailed out towards the opening to the sea, we passed the historical area where the Chinese fishing nets were located.  Lucky for us, there was enough light to get pictures since the sun had unceremoniously set around 6:35pm. 

 

So we did hear the entire story of this morning’s mess, and coming from the guy’s viewpoint, it was almost funny the way they described it.  Hope that is not repeated on this cruise, because the “natives” will not stand for it.  As one might expect, the dinner menu was heavily “Indian-themed”.  One of us ordered the chicken tikka, while the other had the tomato soup….both quite good.  Entrees were pineapple-panko crusted chicken breast with forbidden rice, and a chicken Caesar salad with the incorrect dressing.  Caesar dressing resembles blue cheese, which is not a favorite of ours.  The two dressings had been mixed up in the kitchen.  Dessert was a shared chocolate bread pudding sitting in a puddle of vanilla sauce.  Good conversation and a deck walk kept us out until after 10pm, so we missed the show of the magician, Peter Methab, who was actually an actor in “The World is not Enough”, a James Bond film.

 

Looking forward to a day at sea as we sail towards the huge city of Mumbai.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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Report # 71   Day at Sea   March 30, 2019   Saturday   Partly sunny & 82 degrees   Part #1 Of 1

 

As the Amsterdam travels further north up the coast of India, it felt like some of that heavy humidity let up somewhat.  Still quite warm, there was a wonderful breeze blowing across the decks all day.  Few people knew this because there were only a couple of walkers on the promenade deck this morning.  There would be no people using the lounges because most all of them were all folded up due to deck work about to happen.  On both sides, it appeared that painting the blue lines at the base was about to begin.  Some guests defied this, and set up their lounges anyway.  They would endure the terrible smell of paint, because this is where they spend their day.  The feeling we get is that the work will continue until enough passengers complain, then the ones that order this busy work will react with an alternate plan.  Remember, this is a “grand” voyage like no other….not an ongoing construction zone.

 

There were new signs posted in the bow and aft sections saying please respect the crew and other guests by not throwing anything overboard.  And please use the trash bins that are placed in the front and the back.  Hard to believe that the folks would even do this, but there are many more cameras now, where everything that occurs can be seen and recorded by security.  There have been more than a few times that we witnessed some passenger throwing ice cubes with lemon slices over the aft deck of the Seaview pool.  Don’t they know that the discarded ice will end up on deck three, and possibly on someone’s head?   Same goes with the guests in the veranda rooms.  Sometimes people throw trash from their balconies, and it ends up coming into another balcony halfway down the ship.  Now we are going to watch to see if these new signs will be effective.

 

Lectures on India continued with hints on what to see and do while in Mumbai.  We will spend two days there, so there will be ample time to see everything the city has to offer.

 

There was a repeated class on how to wear a sari, just in time for Sari Night this evening at dinner.  These “drapes” worn by typical Indian ladies look great on them, since they  know the art of securing them.  However, it is not an easy thing to figure out.  It takes a lot of safety pins to keep these in place correctly, or one can be “unraveled” during the course of the evening.  The two piece Panjabi outfits with the matching scarves is a much better idea.  In previous years, this dress night was always a formal evening.  That way the nicely-dressed ladies matched the formalwear of their partners or other diners.  Now it is happening on a casual night, so it will be interesting how many ladies will dress the part.

 

Spending a few hours sunbathing at the Seaview Pool should have been relaxing, since the weather was perfect for it.  It was not to be.  Due to a few crew workers using power tools (compressor and chipping guns) to remove paint on the walls of deck nine, it sounded like another major construction zone. This began after 9am, and continued for hours.  Usually this type of work is done with hand tools and sandpaper. This was ongoing right over the smoking section of the Seaview Bar, where a number of folks gather daily to chat and smoke.  They could not hear each other over this loud noise. No one around this entire deck could take it much longer. Neither would the people in the cabins below this deck, especially deck seven suites.   You better believe they would be calling the Neptune desk with complaints.  This disturbance continued for about 30 minutes, until people began calling the front desk for help.  That prompted one of us to ask the fellows if they could do this work at a time that no one was out there, like when the ship is in port for instance.  Knowing they were disturbing passengers, they apologized by said they had orders to do this until noontime.  It was only 11:30 at this point.  Bottom line – enough folks spoke up, and they ceased the work within 10 minutes, moving around the side towards the basketball court area.  Everyone understands that the cosmetic painting has to be continuous, but there has to be better times to do it such as when the heat of the day is less for the workers doing it, or most guests are off of the ship in a port.  Anyway, the work resumed after 1pm, but the fellows were using grinders instead. Was not the greatest day to use the back deck for anyone.

 

The fellow artists of the watercolor and arts and crafts classes had their day to put their very best items up for auction in the Ocean Bar today.  There was a silent auction where guests bid donations for the exchange of enrichment classes, a ship tour, spa packages, and more.  The money donated will go to Vision Rescue, a charity in India.  It will add to the $3550 that was made at the poolside splash party a few days ago.

 

And to get the folks in the mood for more of India, the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  was shown in the Wajang Theater.  Even though we have seen it a few times, we will probably watch it again on TV sometime tomorrow evening.

 

Our entire table was invited to share an evening with a couple we all know….Leslie and Handler.  Six of their tablemates are on overland excursions, so the five of us and Don McD filled their table of eight.  The menu was almost entirely Indian cuisine, except for a few appetizers and entrees.  Earlier in the day, we had asked Shiv, who is from New Delhi, what he recommended for a good Indian entrée.  He admitted that nothing that was served in the dining room was close to what real Indian food is like.  The heat and the spices they use here is on the light side, to appeal to the majority.  Less is more.

 

To follow the theme for the night, the napkins and chair covers were a mix of colors, and the waiters were dressed in a mix of long Indian tunics.  Very nice.  Then Leslie showed us her table’s “tool” for getting the salt and pepper shakers.  It was a metal extendable back scratcher with a claw.  That’s the problem with a large table, nothing is within easy reach, as we well remembered.  Of course, all of the guys picked up the back scratcher, and used it for the intended purpose of scratching their backs, drawing laughs from everyone around us. Leslie and Handler also chuckled, saying we were like herding cats, and there would be no controlling any of us.  Oh what fun we have.

 

Just as we sat down, our waiter Slam, brought our usual plates of hearts of palm and assorted veggies.  What a guy…he always worries that we won’t have enough to eat.  We ordered one turkey soup and a tataki beef appetizer.  Entrees were peanut cilantro chicken salads with dressings on the side.  Greg ordered some extra pappadams (large rolled crackers), and shared them with all of us.  Leslie had ordered a peanut butter silk pie, which most of us had for dessert.  It was tasty and smooth as silk.  Then the waiters brought us two plates of the fancy chocolate surprises, which had been served at 8:45pm throughout deck five and the Crow’s Nest.  It was a nice way to end the meal as we lingered sharing stories of places we have been and people we all know.

 

There may have been time for Barb to get to the Crow’s Nest for a Bollywood Night, even though it might just be the type of music the band was playing.  The entertainer this evening was Kenny Martyn with his clarinet show, so that was also an option.

 

Tomorrow, the Seabourn Ovation will be docked astern of us.  We have friends from home traveling on that new ship, so we hope to be able to meet up with them at some point in the day.  There was talk that Captain Mercer contacted the captain on the Ovation, requesting permission to have the guests visit each other’s ships.  Since they are owned by the same parent company, Carnival, perhaps it will be possible.  Time will tell.  In the “old days”, these types of visits happened all the time.  Not so much anymore due to strict security measures.

 

Bill & Mary Ann 

 

 

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Great pictures.  So many pictures of birds in flight.

 

Glad to see the sunflowers are doing well and one is forming a head.

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Report #72   Mumbai, India   March 31, 2019   Sunday   Sunny & 92 degrees    Part #1 Of 3     80  Pictures

 

Our port of call for the next two days is the city of Mumbai with a population of 12 million (2012), and ranked the fourth most populated city in the world.  The highest point in the city is 46 feet above sea level, and they get 85 inches of rain annually.  That seems like a lot, but in Cochin, they get a whopping 11½ feet of rain a year.  Temperatures in the summer range from 86 to 106 degrees, while in the winter, it is as low as 54 to 80 degrees.  Which is not low at all.  Mumbai is described as a city of contrasts, which is an understatement.  Some of the wealthiest live here, but are outnumbered vastly by some of the poorest.

 

The city’s name of Mumbai is derived from Mumba, a goddess that was worshipped by some ancient tribes.  That translates into Mother.  The city is actually a conglomerate of seven islands, originally home to a fishing community. Back in the old days, it was known as Bombay, when the islands were gifted as a dowry to Charles II of England when he married Catherine of Branza, the daughter of King John IV of Portugal.  With 300 years of British occupation, Bombay became a thriving seaport.

 

Mumbai today is a business and entertainment capital of India.  Ever heard of Bollywood?  It is the glittery film industry that rivals Hollywood in America.  Things to do and see close to Mumbai’s seaport are the Gateway of India, the Taj Hotel, the Fort area, and the Colaba marketplace.  You can also access a ferry to Elephanta Island from the Gateway area.  To explore more, we recommend a taxi ride.

 

Tours offered by shore excursions include the highlites, religious beats, or the Queen’s Necklace, a tour of the city lights (one with a dinner).  They range from 1½ to 5 hours for $55 to $180.  Other sights to see are Victoria Terminus Railway Station, built in 1853, it is a marvel of architecture where ½ million passengers use it daily.  Dhobi Ghat is another marvel where laundry is done the hard way….by hand.  Marina Drive is a sight to see at night with the glittering lights and ocean views all the way to Chowpatty Beach.  These are just a few, but there are many more things to see if you have the time.

 

There was another overland tour for 5 days, four nights to see the Taj Mahal and Pink City of Jaipur.  It cost  $6000 (double) or $8200 (single).  We think that had to be pre-booked and paid for prior to the cruise.

 

We were not alone in the port, as the Seabourn Ovation, one of their newest ships, was docked directly behind us.  But the best news is that we had great friends from home on that ship, Alene and Don.  Today happened to be the only one where we crossed paths.  So we have been emailing, and trying to figure out a meeting point.  Long story short, we did not apply for permission soon enough to board their ship, so we planned on meeting in the terminal.  They had a morning tour, and we went off to the city, so meeting at 3pm would work for all of us.

 

Getting off the ship around 9:30am, we went into the terminal, showed our landing papers, went through xray, then exited the doors to board the necessary shuttle to go to the Green Gate.  It is not allowed to walk through the busy port area.  Lo and behold, we ran right into the line where the Seabourn bus tour was loading passengers with our friends among the group.  With handshakes and hugs, we visited briefly, and agreed to meet up at 3pm.

 

At the Green Gate, we left the little bus and went through the security there and off into the city.  And the taxi guys.  Here we go again….just say no.  Actually, no means maybe to them, and it took two blocks of fast walking to fend them off. Since today was Sunday, we were in no rush to get to the main sights too early by taking a taxi.  We noticed that many of the giant trees had been cut down on this street.  Also, there were no cows roaming freely here like there used to be.  There has been an effort to clean up the streets here, and it shows.  We even saw a street sign warning the locals not to use plastic bags.

 

The long walk brought us by the Fort area, the library, and the local police station, a fairly safe place to walk.  The closer we got to the Gateway of India, we saw the crazy traffic and busy sidewalks filled with spicy aromas from food stalls nearby.  Many local families were out and about for a Sunday outing.  Going through more security checks at the Gateway, we entered the massive square where the ladies wore their most colorful saris.  Many of them were on their way to the wooden ferries that took them to Elephanta Island, a 45 minute ride.  There you can see the cave temples carved out of rock knowing it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We have been there a few times, and found it fun going to the top being carried on litters with chairs.  Besides the caves and sculptures, there were naughty monkeys up there, that would steal anything you had on you.  Our one time visit was fun, although it took most of the day.

 

After taking too many photos (saving only the best), we crossed the road to enter the Taj Mahal Palace, also one of the icons of the city.  Due to the unfortunate invasion over 10 years ago with terrorists, there are security measures taken before entering the lobby.  We had to pass through xray and put our handbags through as well.  Marble floors and crystal chandeliers greet you as you enter.  This area is the tower lobby, which does connect to the old hotel.  A series of the most high end shops line the hallway, along with a cocktail lounge, restrooms, and the central pool and gardens.  This retreat area of the hotel is off limits to outsiders, which is understandable.  We entered just long enough to snap a few photos of the pool and the surrounding landscaping.  As pretty as it is, this area was also part of the terrorist’s invasion.  Most of the small shops were closed this morning, because it was Sunday.  Burlington’s, their famous store for custom-made clothing, was opened for business.

 

Our visit here was also nice to have a chance to cool down from the humidity of the morning.  Checking out the buffet service for brunch/lunch, it was an elegant setting with what we learned was an expensive meal with champagne.  Little too fancy for us.  Browsing the window displays of the shops on this side of the hotel, we took more photos, then exited the revolving door to outside.

 

Making our way towards the Colaba Marketplace, we wandered the street side shopping and the small stores.  This place is famous for their ethnic artifacts, accessories, trinkets, clothing, and neat shoes.  Not really needing anything does not apply here.  A beaded seashell clutch caught our eye in a shop window.  A similar beaded purse on the ship cost almost 10 times the price of this one, so we had to buy it.

 

Then it was time for a break and hopefully…beer.  Leopold’s Café was our next stop, where we have always wanted to go, but it was always too crowded.  This time we were early enough to be able to choose our table.  But first, our hand bag had to be checked.  Far from fancy, this popular restaurant was also hit by the gunmen, which is hard to imagine when you are sitting in there.  Anyway, we ordered two Kingfisher beers with an order of crispy potato wedges to share. We did inquire if we could use US dollars, and the money collector of the café had to be the one to OK it.  He said fine, and also kept the exchange rate fair. 

 

Right across the street from the café was the Citywalk shoe store we always visit.  In a matter of minutes, one of us owned two pairs of dress sandals at a very good price.  The even had men’s shoes, which looked pretty nice.

 

We took our time walking back to the pier with little bother from the persistent taxi drivers.  They know your day is done.  That does not apply to the “rent a baby” girls that beg for money.  We have been told not to give them anything because it just encourages more girls to do this.  You cannot give to one, and not the rest.  At that point, it becomes dangerous.

 

Back at the Green Gate, we showed our passes and hopped on the next shuttle back to the ship.  Having about a half hour to relax, we went off again at 3pm to meet our friends in the terminal.  They were sitting in the area where passengers were getting free wifi.  Right before leaving the ship, we inquired at the front desk if our Captain had gotten permission for the guests of both ships to see both ships.  We were told no, but advised to pick up our passports and try to gain access to the Ovation with our buddies.  Nothing gained, nothing lost we said.  It was worth a try.

 

So off the four of us went to the Ovation, where we asked the security fellows about boarding.  We were told sorry, but unless our names were on their roster, we could not board.  No exceptions.  Oh well, we tried, and it did not work, so we went to the tented area in front of the ship, and visited there for an hour or so.  As the shade decreased, and the sun began “cooking” some of us, we decided it was time to part.  Just then, their shuttle stopped and let off a group of guests that included their cruise director.  Our friends know him well, and called him over to introduce us.  Don and Alene explained our predicament, and the CD said he would look into it.  Maybe he could do something. 

 

Within a few minutes, he and our friends waved us onboard and guess what?  We had gotten approved.  We turned over our passports and were handed guest ID’s.  At that point both the cruise director and the hotel director greeted us.  During the course of our conversation, the hotel director mentioned he had waken the captain up to get this OK’d.  How about that?

 

With many  thanks, we were off for a tour of a very beautiful ship.  Even though it is smaller than the Amsterdam, the public areas were spacious.  And they only have a maximum of 700 guests.  Very spoiled guests, but then you do get what you pay for.  We did see Don and Alene’s room which was really nice.  Very much the same as the cabins on Regent and Silverseas.  Plenty of room for a long trip.

 

After the grand tour, we ended up in the observation lounge, relaxing on plush chairs with ice cold beers.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  We were so lucky to have been granted this permission to board, so it just proves it is who you know more than anything.  Since their Authentic Bollywood Performance was about to begin at 6pm, the same one we would see at 9:30pm, we said our final goodbyes and walked back “home”, with bragging rights. Sure was a nice afternoon.

 

Dinnertime came quickly, and all were present to share their activities of the day.  Greg and Heo have sailed with Seabourn many times, and knew of the extra perks that come with their sailings.  Since the entertainment was early this evening, we ended our meal before 9:30pm, which was perfect.  We did go to the performance, but it was really crowded with no space at the back of the deck five entrance to the show lounge. When several fellow guests jumped up to take photos, they blocked the little view we had.  And we were so bone tired, we only lasted about 10 minutes. 

 

Tomorrow would be another full day, so we called it a night and turned in.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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So wonderful that you got permission to visit the Ovation as well as having a chance to meet your friends from home.

 

Yes, I do know about Bollywood.  Sorry that people stood up and you couldn't see the show.

 

That hotel sounds beautiful.

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Report #73   Mumbai, India   April 1, 2019   Monday   Day Two   Sunny & 90 degrees    Part #1 Of 4    80  Pictures

 

Today is the end of another segment which began in Singapore and ended here in Mumbai.  Only a small amount of guests left the ship, and the same amount joined.  This segment had the lowest amount of eggs consumed….21,600.  Isn’t that incredible?  The next segment will end in Barcelona.

 

It was going to be another sunny day with high temperatures.  However, there was a stronger breeze, which always helps.  We went off the ship about 9:45am and arrived by the 2 minute shuttle ride to the Green Gate by 10am.  We decided to retrace our walk from yesterday, and ended up at the Gateway of India within 30 minutes.  Compared to yesterday, there was a lot more car traffic and lots of folks going to work, since it was a Monday. 

 

The Gateway of India had far fewer people, and there was no waiting to take the ferry to Elephanta Island.  But we knew that the island was closed today, as it is every Monday.  You can still travel there by ferry, but there is no access to the caves on top.  Even at that, the local vendors were still trying to sell us ferry tickets, but at a reduced price of 200 rupees, which is about $3 USD.  They did not hide the fact that the island was closed, so they dropped the price from 250r. to 200r.  We declined as it would have taken a 1½ hour round trip.  What many vendors don’t tell you, is that the ferry coming back to the mainland will not leave the island until it is full.  Meaning that you could be waiting for up to 2 hours to return.  That happened to friends who did this excursion on their own several years ago.

 

Crossing the street and trying not to get run over by the black and yellow taxis, we entered the Taj Mahal Palace again.  It was more for an experiment with our camera, since some of the photos from yesterday were blurry.  Changing the setting seemed to do the trick, but we would find out later when they got down-loaded.

 

Continuing up the back street towards the Colaba area, we passed by old mansions, carpet cleaners, and day care facilities.  At the end of this street, we turned right, and walked by a series of restaurants and bars.  Good thing we went this way, because we ran right into two cows that were tethered on the corner.  A couple of guys had feed for them, and may have been enticing tourists to buy veggies to feed the cows.  One of the cows seemed ready to burst from a full udder.  In past years, these cows walked the city wherever they wished.  People would feed them, and then use their milk to make yogurt and other dairy products.  We suspect with the “clean-up” project in the downtown area, these cows and their other by products (manure) have been removed forever.  We did notice that the streets were much cleaner, but not the harbor waters.  Some places were covered with plastic refuse, especially around the Gateway seawall.

 

Even on a Monday, the Colaba market was still busy, mostly with locals.  We window-shopped, then went into one shop that had some nice blouses and tunics.  One of us found a nice dressy poncho like top dotted with stones in a silky print for a great price.  Then we stopped once again at the shoe store, and found two pairs of sandals on sale – grand total of $18. USD.  The vendor did not like small bills, so he asked for a $20 bill, and gave us rupees in change.  We came out ahead by $1, and bought a small coin purse outside for 200 rupees.

 

Since the beers were so good at Leopold’s Café, we went back and ordered the same as yesterday.  However, we did add a small hot apple pie to share, which came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It was about the creamiest we have ever eaten.  Today there were several folks from the ship, including Harvey and Barbara, both of whom had fun shopping today.

 

Heading back to the ship, we passed by many historical buildings like we did yesterday.  The good thing was that the taxi drivers did not approach us for rides, as they know you are going back to the ship.  All aboard was at 5pm, except for the new arrivals, who had to be at a muster drill at 4:15pm.  The rest of us did not have to participate.

 

Checking out the few shops in the terminal, we priced an identical top that they were selling, and were delighted to know that it was double the price we paid in town.  And their prices were fixed….no bargaining.  There was one small liquor shop that also sold snack food.  The bottles of alcohol were reasonably priced, and we wondered if anyone was buying them.  The xray check was in the terminal, not on the ship.  We learned later that when you bought a bottle, the vendor asked for your room number, which we assume, would be called into security onboard.  Unless they gave a wrong room number?  On previous cruises a few years ago, no one really paid much attention to bringing wine, beer, or hard liquor onboard on a grand voyage.  Not so anymore.

 

What we did have to do, was turn in those stamped landing cards so they could conduct the departure clearance formalities.  At sail away time later, a few names were announced, and we assume these folks lost their cards or forgot to turn them in.

 

Once again, the real sail away activities were in the Crow’s Nest, as they featured drink specials and hot appetizers.  With the Station Band playing, they can sell way more drinks than at the Seaview Pool.  And there is much less work for the crew, where they don’t have to hang the flags, or set up the cocktail tables by removing two rows of lounges.

 

The outdoor folks like us still enjoyed the sail out of the harbor at the aft pool.  The eagle-hawks were flying high, putting on a show for all of us.  We stayed long enough to watch a small fleet of local fishing boats coming back from a day of work. Some of these boats still had nets in the water, stretched between them.  A large number of freighters and container ships sat idle in the harbor.  Further out, we passed by oil and gas rigs.  But the best sight was watching the sun set by 7pm, visiting with friends and sharing stories of the past few days.  Several folks we know had gone overland to see the Taj Mahal, Susie and Eddie among them.  They all had a wonderful experience, reminding us of when we did a tour there back in 2007.  Not much had changed from what we gathered.

 

Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill restaurant at 8pm.  Everything we ordered was delicious and cooked perfectly.  They even had fresh strawberries and blackberries for dessert.  We had run out of the strawberries and raspberries days ago, so a new shipment must have arrived yesterday. 

 

We heard that the show of the singers and dancers, The Midnight Hour, was really good.  We do hope this form of entertainment will continue on the grands, even if they will not happen on their other ships.  Perhaps that is simply a rumor that they will be going away.

 

Good news…we got ½ hour back on the clock tonight.  Always welcomed by all.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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Found it strange that the person from whom you bought the poncho from wanted a $20 bill instead of all your small bills.

 

Some of the ships now have the new Pinnacle menus.  And the shows that many of us have enjoyed for years are gone from many of the ships.  Sad.

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Love the pictures.

 

Couldn't wear those sandals -- no support for my feet.

 

Too many pigeons.  Nice pictures of the Ovation.

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