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

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The sunflower is doing well.

 

Glad to see some supplies have arrived and were inspected.

 

Those hotels are really beautiful.

 

The drawings on the walls are different but nice looking.

 

Love all the pictures.

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Report #84   Day at Sea   April 12, 2019   Friday  Partly sunny & 82 degrees     Part #1 Of 1    62  Pictures

 

This day at sea was a real transition in more  ways than one.  Once the Amsterdam turned north into the Gulf of Suez, the seas turned choppy and the winds were blowing at 51 knots across the decks.  Despite the fact that the suggested temperature of the day was 82 degrees, it was only 63 degrees most of the day.  With the wind chill factor, maybe less.  The scenery on both shorelines was visible as the distance was close at times.  We could have seen the jutting peaks of the desert landscape even better, if it wasn’t for the fine powdery sand that was blowing in the wind.  It created a fog-like haze, that ended up on all of the outside decks and railings.  Ever since we spent two days in Aqaba, we have been occasionally sneezing while outside.  Thank goodness, it is not a cold, but that fine dust that is suspended in the air.  The high humidity is gone for sure.

 

Now that we are surrounded by Egypt on both sides, the Sinai Peninsula on the right and the mainland on the left, it seems appropriate to add a few fast facts on this country.  Egypt is a country of about 83 million or more people with the capital at Cairo.  The history is epic of ancient cultures, pharaohs, and pyramids.  Their geography is mythical from the Sahara Desert, the Nile River, and the wealth of marine life in the Red Sea.   With a mix of Middle Eastern, African, and Mediterranean cultures, at times they collide.  And once again, this country so full of treasures to see is not on the tourist list….too unstable to visit these days.  We are so glad we have seen the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, Cairo and the museum.  We have experienced an Egyptian boat ride on the Nile.  What we have not seen is Mount Sinai, but we did ride camels in the desert to a Bedouin camp…. not the most comfortable ride we have done, but such a thrill.  Now there are no stops at all, which is too bad.

 

Anyway, Egyptians like to eat “fuul”, a salty fava bean paste with falafel, kushari noodles, rice, black lentils, and dried onions served with a fiery tomato sauce.  A good drink to go with it is Turkish coffee mint tea, or fresh fruit juices.

 

A random fact is that you will not need an umbrella because Egypt is the driest country in Africa.

 

We have friends that took a private tour to Israel, leaving from Muscat, Oman.  Besides the major cities to tour, they will make an overnight stop at the Dead Sea.  It is officially the lowest point on earth at 1400 feet below sea level.  It has the most mineral rich body of water on earth and the density of that water allows swimmers to float easily on the surface.  With the recent election in Israel, they may have some exciting stories to tell when they return in Naples.

 

All day we have been passing an assortment of oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Suez. And since it was too cold to spend any time at the pool, we met Barb for a very light lunch in the dining room.  Captain Mercer gave his PM talk and described what we should expect for tomorrow’s itinerary transiting the Suez Canal.  Once the ship reaches Port Suez, the Captain has to register at 4pm for his assignment to anchor in the waiting area.  We will wait here overnight, then follow the assigned slot that the ships will convoy through the canal.  Like ducks-in-a-row, the Captain said.  We will have three different pilots along the way, and the transit can take from 10 to 15 hours to transit.  The exact details will be in tomorrow’s newsletter.

 

Around 3:30pm, we were already at anchor when the Captain came on the loud speakers and said a convoy going southbound was exiting the canal.  It was led by a French aircraft carrier by the name of Charles de Gaulle.  It was escorted by another military ship.  One of us made it to the promenade deck to take some close-up photos, and also spotted a small local boat making its way towards our hull.  They pulled up right alongside and asked for food or anything people might give them.  Hard to believe they would be allowed so close to a cruise ship, or any ship for that matter.  It was quite unnerving for the folks watching on deck three, because this happen so suddenly.  With all of the extra security, who knows what can happen at any given time, although this time, they went away to another nearby vessel, bugging them.

 

Now that we were on anchor, the ship seemed to drift with the current.  This caused interruptions with the satellite TV reception and possibly the internet connection.  Emails and reports were sent numerous times as the connection cut off, and restarted.  Watching the news feeds was impossible, and will remain that way until we commence sailing tomorrow morning.

 

Both guest speakers dealt with Suez Canal history, so today would be a great time to catch up on the talks on TV.  Either that or check out the many sales onboard in the Shops, or participate in the several happy hours in the lounges and bars. 

 

Dinner was just the three of us, with the guys in the Pinnacle Grill.  Be interesting to hear about the changes they will notice tonight.  The menu choices were difficult tonight, getting harder to find simple dinners.  Tonight was more of a meat and potatoes evening, but hard to find on the menu.  The closest was the cornflake breaded turkey breast with garlic mashed potatoes.  Good thing there is always the alternate menu items, because there are no surprises there.  We shared a fusilli pasta with smoked sausage, which was tasty, and  then ended the meal with one bread pudding with berry compote.  Slam added 6 chocolate biscotti cookies for good measure.  Hard to escape the extra calories here.

 

The show this evening was a performance by two multi-instrumentalists Duo Yalba.  They promised a captivating show with a wide variety of musical styles with the help of the Mainstage Band.

 

Looking out our window at 11pm, we saw the Tui ship, Mein Schiff 4, dropping anchor close to us.  Bet they will join in tomorrow’s convoy with us. And thinking ahead, we figured that this transit through the Suez Canal may be the last one Captain mercer will do.  Next year’s world cruise will go to Africa, and not to the Mediterranean….so no Suez Canal.  And since the Amsterdam will travel down the east coast of South America next year, the final transit through the Panama Canal in January was the last for the Captain as well.

 

Bill & Mary Ann 

 

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It is interesting to see how the World Cruises have some different changes each year -- keeps everyone from getting bored.

 

I am also surprised that the small boat was allowed to get so close to the ship.

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Report # 85   Suez Canal Transit   April 13, 2019   Saturday   Sunny & 71 degrees     Part # 1 of 4    80 Pictures

 

Today was special, since the Amsterdam would be making the journey through the Suez Canal.  By the time we went to breakfast in the dining room,  they had already brought the first pilot onboard at Port Suez and then entered the canal by 5:30 am.  It was obvious that we had gotten placed first, with the Mein Schiff 4 following in this convoy.  Since we did not go to the aft deck today, we are not sure how many vessels were in our convoy heading north.  Our only disappointment was that we missed out on the “Suez Rolls” that were served at 6am in the atrium, the bow, and the Crow’s Nest.  Had we reminded our excellent waiters yesterday to please save two of them, we would have had them.  But we forgot.  Our next best guess that these rolls might be served could be in Amsterdam.

 

Although we have enjoyed this transit several times over the years, we should have brought Fodor’s Egypt reference book with us.  That way we would have had all of the important info with us as we made the trip through it today.  Ian and the guest speakers did give narration off and on during the day, but the outside speakers left a lot to be desired.  They were either too loud, or the lecturers did not speak loud enough most times. 

 

So we watched most of the sailing from the bow from the morning to the afternoon when the ship exited into the Mediterranean Sea at 3pm.  It was much warmer than the predicted 71 degrees, as the ship slowed down a lot as we left the Great Bitter Lake.  The entire length of the canal is over 120 miles long, up to 673 feet wide, and is 79 feet deep.  For many years, it was single-lane, with passing places in Ballah By-Pass.

 

Compared to the Panama Canal, there are no locks as the seawater freely flows through the canal.  And here is an interesting fact:  The canal that is north of the Bitter Lakes flows north to south in the winter, while in the summer, it flows in the opposite direction.  It took 10 years of work to complete this ditch through the desert, as it can be called, with the grand opening in November of 1869.  In those ten years, over 100,000 people lost their lives during the construction.  The end result was an artificial waterway connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, eliminating the need to navigate around the tip of Africa.

 

The Suez Canal Authority of the Arab Republic of Egypt owns and controls this waterway.  This authority allows passage of ships in time of war as in time of peace by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.

 

We have seen so much progress over the years in regards to the shorelines of this canal.  There have always been settlements, small cities, and agricultural acreage most of the way, but now we have witnessed new massive apartment complexes popping up, expanding the existing cities.  They are cities within themselves.  Most of these projects are located on the east bank where there was nothing but mostly desert.  We can only guess that these new builds are the modern bedroom communities for those who choose to commute to work in this canal zone.   There is one main bridge that spans the canal, but now tunnels are being installed under the canal so the commuters will not have to take just the ferries across.

 

The biggest change we have experienced is the fact that there are miles of separation lanes, where the north and south traffic are separated by an island of sand dunes. At one time, we had full view of both banks for the entire journey.  Now with the split, most the ships we see passing the opposite way are only seen from the top decks.  It gives you the feeling that they are traveling through the sand, and not in the water.

 

Captain Mercer pointed out one of the largest container ships in the world passing on our left.  We thought he had made a mistake when he stated that there were over 20,000 full size containers on that vessel.  But it was no error, there were even more than that…..unbelievable.  Anyway, with the expanded two lane traffic lanes, up to 100 ships can transit this canal in one day.  One thing we did not hear was how much it cost the Amsterdam to transit this canal.  Bet it was a whole lot of money.

 

We passed by many monuments, statues, as well as military outposts, mosques, and the pigeon towers.  The older swing span bridge was only visible at one break in the center island of sand dunes, but we did get great photos of the large bridge that spans the canal.  Funny thing, there was absolutely no traffic on it.  But then today was Saturday, which is like Sunday to them…..a day of rest.  Besides the many fellows we saw fishing from row boats, there was little activity of local people along the route.  The only animals we saw were a few dogs, some birds such as grey herons, egrets, crows, and terns.  And we did see commuter trains on one stretch of the canal.

 

At two times during the transit, food was served with the help of smiling waiters on the outside decks, even the bow.  The 10:30am treat was a hot bowl of Mediterranean lentil soup.  Even though at this point in the canal was quite warm standing the sun, the soup tasted really good.  Then in the afternoon around 2pm, three waiters came outside with trays of chilled fruit soup, which were the color purple.  The servings were a mixture of blueberries and maybe very ripe blackberries, since there were ground up seeds in the smoothie.  Sure was refreshing, and made up for missing the tasty rolls in the morning.

 

We think we picked up another pilot at the halfway point in Ismailia.  Then another pilot came onboard from Port Said.  By the time we reached the outskirts of Port Said, the temperatures dropped and the wind became chilly. Yep, we are in Europe now, leaving exotic Asia behind. Recalling this change in weather from previous transits, we knew that the extremely hot and humid days of this cruise were over.  Time to get under the bed, and haul out the warm weather clothing and arctic jackets that we left in our suitcases.  Hopefully we won’t need them until we head north out of the Straits of Gibraltar in a week from today.

 

We stayed out on the bow until the last of the guests had left.  Estimating that at least 1000 photos had been snapped between three of our cameras, our editing work would just begin after we ate lunch.  That would take us to dinnertime at 8pm.  Funny thing, by the time we got our lunch salad and sandwich at the Lido, the place was virtually empty of guests.  It was suggested to us that most all of them were down for naps.  And why not?  It had been a long day for most, since the commentary and special rolls being served began at 6am sharp.  And of course,  we all received the personalized official Suez Canal certificates in our mail slots later in the day. 

 

All of us were back at the table with stories to share.  The fellows had gone to the Pinnacle Grill last night and reported the changes they had noticed in the menu selections.  Most everything was to their liking, probably due to the fact they are both food experts.….appreciating every aspect of fine dining.  We lingered over shared desserts of chocolate brownies and biscotti cookies once again.  This can be addictive we’re afraid.

 

Showtime featured an international operatic tenor by the name of Lee Bradley.  We could hear him singing all the way to the elevator lobby on deck three forward.  A most powerful voice.

 

For the first time this cruise, we had to turn the heat up in our room.  By the way, we do like to try some local cuisine while traveling, but have to avoid dishes that we are not sure of the ingredients.  Allergies to some foods is the problem, and not worth taking chances.  Testing the ethnic foods while on the ship is by far safer, since we ask first what is it in it before testing. 

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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Wonderful information about the Suez canal.

 

Sorry you missed out on the special buns.  Love the sounds of the chilled fruit soup.

 

Can't imagine how large that container ship is that carried over 20,000 containers.

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Report # 86   Day at Sea   April 14, 2019   Sunday   Partly sunny & 69 degrees   Part #1 of 1

 

We woke up to blue skies and even bluer seas.  Sure looked nice outside, but how warm would it be?   We went to breakfast like usual, but found most everyone had put on sweatshirts or sweaters.  Perhaps they knew something we did not.  It was not as crowded as it normally is, since today is Sunday Brunch at 11am once again.  It would be the “shoot” glasses (accidently misspelled) with tiny servings, a three-course set menu.  We’re not sure when this was added, but there was an advertised sparkling wine special as well until 1pm.  Bet that enticed some new customers.  Except us.

 

Going out for our walk was a shocker as the temperature was only 58 degrees with 51 knot winds blowing across the decks.  Welcome to the Med in springtime.  There was not one person sitting on their private lounges outside their lanai rooms on the lower promenade deck.  Not even with the wool plaid blankets that have replaced the beach towels.  We do hope that by the time we reach the next port of Naples, it will have warmed up somewhat.  We did pull out the warmer outerwear that we had stored under the bed,  which included arctic down jackets and warm gloves.  We are prepared for anything this time.

 

Since we were so far behind with photo work, we spent much of the day working in our room, while catching up on port lectures and news.  We think the only people at the back pool will be the smokers across from the Seaview Bar.  That group will be out there no matter what the weather.

 

Today we sailed around the south coast of Crete, according to the Captain’s PM talk.  Tomorrow, we should be approaching the Straits of Messina located between the island of Sicily and the mainland of southern Italy.  We are required to have a local pilot onboard to guide us safely through this body of water.  If we recall right, this sailing can be very rough and extremely windy.

 

There has been a major problem with the ship’s internet for the last three days.  Not only slow speed, but the inability to even bring up the Navigator page has started to drive the folks nuts.  Thinking that a good time to try going online during the first dinner service proved fruitless.  After checking with the front desk folks, we discovered they had no internet either.  Something is being done they said, but it might take changing to a different satellite before it works again.  So after we listened to the Ocean Quartet playing, we went to the digital communications manager in the library.  There was a line forming since she was beginning her 7 to 9pm session.  Everybody had the same complaint, especially the couples that had purchased two internet packages.  Some of the passengers actually work online and were quite upset with the answers they were getting.  It might not be effecting the passengers, but the staff and crew as well.  That might help getting this sensitive issue resolved sooner. 

 

Dinner was fun as always, and there were some good choices on the menu.  Three of us had the German-style weinerschnitzel, Barb had the beef dish, and Bill had the bread salad with breaded chicken.  The salad dressing has gotten better, but the regular dressings are totally gone.  Hope their delivery gets to the ship in Naples, as we are noticing many missing items now.  Coke Zero is one of them, and may not arrive until Barcelona.  Guess we will live…..

 

The entertainer of the evening was Kevin DeVane, a world traveling comedian appealing to audiences from the Us to the UK and more. 

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

 

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Report # 87   Day at Sea   April 15, 2019   Monday   Partly sunny? & 71 degrees ?    Part #1 Of 2   80  Pictures

 

Partly sunny and 71 degrees….we think not.  These forecasts must be written without anyone actually looking outside or opening a door to feel how cold it might really be.  Try no sun, but very cloudy, occasional showers, and temperatures in the high 50’s.  If you add the wind factor, the temps were downright chilling.  And for this time of the year, it is to be expected.

 

Sometime last night, the internet connection had been restored to almost normal.  The computer expert in our room woke up at 5am, and found that the system was working, and it was even fast.  Hopefully this will last.  Later this morning, we had a little chat with Henk M, our hotel director, and mentioned that it would be most helpful if we had the ability to know the amount of megabytes we are using at any given time.  When we were on the by-the-minute plan, this helpful info was available.  It is not the same with the new system.  You would expect 300 or 500 megabytes to last all day, but depending on what you are doing, it is easy to exceed your allowance.  So far as we know, no one has been charged extra.  Now the digital communications manager can access everyone’s account and tell you exactly how many megabytes you have used, but the customer cannot see that.  “We are working on that” is a promising reply, and we certainly hope that means sometime in our lifetime.  For those guests that bought the 113 day Premium package for $799 (some couples bought a package for each of them), were extremely unhappy yesterday with the lack of service for the last three days, as well as many other previous problems.  Can’t blame them, since that’s is a lot of money to spend. Perhaps the smart folks did not purchase anything through the ship, and decided to wait and use wifi onshore.  So many more cafes and restaurants offer it for free these days, that they get by just fine.

 

The lectures were full of people who stayed inside to keep warm and dry today.  Ian gave a talk all about things to  do and see in Naples.  We are all keeping our fingers crossed for a rain-free day, since the trips to the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri can be outstanding on a sunny day.  We have done both, but during the summer months when the weather is warmer.

 

A more serious lecture was all about the story of Pompeii and Herculaneum, both cities in ruins after the volcano erupted centuries ago.  But the best story has to be the history of pizza….right up our alley.  We will catch that on TV later today.  One of us has made all types of pizza from scratch over the years, and both of us love to eat it.  A win-win.

 

We met Barb for a dining room lunch today for a change.  Sometimes the lunch menu is even better than the dinner selections.  And we like the fact that the serving portions are smaller.  We intended to have a hot soup, but the appetizer salad and Greek meatballs also sounded good.  Two of us ordered the sweet and sour pork, small portions.  Really good.

 

Then……what a surprise we had when we returned to our room, and found that water from the commode had flooded the bathroom floor and was pouring out into the room.  That must have been flooding for over 45 minutes.  Although we were able to shut off the water and wick up the bathroom water with all of our towels, the carpet was soaked halfway into the room….and perhaps more that we could not see. 

 

Immediately, we called the front desk, and a room steward on duty came with more towels, then reported the problem to the plumbing department.  With a little more clean-up, the mess should be cleaned up.  Well, not exactly….

 

By 5pm, we began seeing land as we neared the southern part of Italy, and there was a good chance we would be able to see Sicily on the left, and the mainland of Italy on the right.  Sure enough, it was there, and by now, the clouds had mostly blown away and the sun was actually out.  So we have to take it back….there was some sun today after all.  But it soooo cold and extremely windy, that we went back and got the arctic jackets and gloves before going back to deck three. 

 

We joined the handful of brave folks, including Susie and Eddie, who came out to enjoy the view as well as take tons of photos.  At least we would have the sunlight for the best exposures.  There was a glitch however, when the deck crew came outside with buckets and the big scrubber to wash the teak decks around 6pm.  All of us stayed until the hoses came out, and we had no choice but to leave.  A few people were really upset that with scenic cruising, the decks would have to be hosed tonight. 

 

The Sicilian pilot was due to board, although we never saw the boat arrive.  We went up to deck six forward, and almost blew off of the deck, but stayed long enough to see the narrowest point between Sicily and Italy.  Then we had to leave.  At 7pm, we had an invitation to an exclusive cocktail party in the Officer’s Bar on deck A.  And it was just for the President’s Club members only.  Many of the ship’s officers and staff members joined us.  The Captain’s wife, Karen, arrived without her husband, saying he was busy taking the ship through the strait.  So she was not sure he would be able to attend this gathering.  But most of the officers we knew such as Shiv, Christel, and Philip joined our table for much of the time.  During our talk with Christel, we mentioned our “flood”, and she immediately phoned the proper department to have them follow up on the clean-up.  Little did we know what that would involve, but we figured the room did need further inspection.

 

Eventually Jonathon did come to the party, and after making a quick circle around each table, he came and sat with the four of us…..Barb, Karleen, and the two of us.  Barb has gotten to know both the Captain and Karen, and also Hazel, so much better this year, since they spend some quality time together in the Crow’s Nest before or after dinnertime.  The subject of retirement came up during the conversation, and the Captain shared his feelings about some of the things he will be doing for the last time as Captain now.  Sailing through the two canals – the Panama and Suez, are among the last ones he will do, as next year, we will head down the east coast of South America, then sail to Africa.  No canals.  The Mercers have a bucket list like most couples have.  And since he cannot travel any more than two hours away from the ship now on any given sailing, the major sights are off limits to them.  Two such destinations for them might be Machu Picchu and a safari in South Africa for starters.  Taking a cruise?  Maybe not.

 

The party ended after 8pm, and with all of the tasty appetizers and drinks, we really did not need much for dinner.  But before we headed to the table, we wanted to check to see if anything had been done in our room.  Looking down the hallway, we could see many workers with equipment ready to go into our room, so we left, figuring it would be done by 10pm.  Well, not exactly.

 

Tonight was a gala evening with Viva Italia as the theme.  Our favorite Italian specialties were promised, except no meatballs and spaghetti unfortunately.  Arriving a bit late, we found that we had a guest host, Mark, an officer from the engineering department.  He was most friendly, and we did remember he had joined us two years ago at a similar dinner.  A native from Scotland, he talked about his wife, who he met on a ship several years ago, and his two year old son.  They will visit him when we reach the port in Scotland in a few weeks from now.  And of course, you could hear the excitement in his voice.

 

The most Italian dish we had was a bowl of Roma tomato soup and the dessert of limoncello soufflé.  Surf and turf and chicken Caesar salad were the regular fare, although maybe “Caesar” salad could be considered Italian?  We all stayed until 10pm, despite the fact that the entire lower level of the dining room had cleared out.  Mark seemed to have enjoyed his dinnertime as we all did.

 

Captain Jonathon had mentioned that we should be passing Stromboli around 10pm.  So we stopped on deck three to see the volcano, and by golly, it was there.  Even in the darkness of night, we were able to see the lights of the shoreline and the peak of the volcano.  No activity tonight however.

 

Now the fun? started, when we went back to our room, which was literally turned upside down.  The couch had been pulled from the wall, and everything that had been on the floor was now on the bed and couch.  Pieces of wood were under the bed and the couch because we think the room had been shampooed and suctioned.  Then they added a very large heater with a blower along with a dehumidifier running full speed with a tube leading into the drain in the bathroom floor.  The heat was turned on high.  No way could we spend the night in our own bed, let alone even access it.

 

Oh yes, we had gifts tonight.  Under the pile of suitcases and life jackets on the bed, we discovered two pouches with grey neck scarves, matching mittens, and caps with the 2019 world cruise logo embroidered on them.  Now that we are headed towards a colder climate soon, we did expect to see these useful items pop up as gifts.

 

A note had been left outside saying that a room nearby had been reserved for us for one night.  Going to the front desk, we were given keys for an outside cabin mid ship, right up the hallway.  We packed a few things, changed out of our formalwear, and dressed for tomorrow. Now we hope that by tomorrow morning, we will be able to get back into the cleaned room, depending on what is needed to fix the bathroom.  There was a reference to floor damage.  And apparently, it must have leaked into the cabin next door to us, since there was a dehumidifier in that room too. 

 

So here we are, in a strange room that is flip-flopped in design.  At least there was a vacant room for us to use, but we suspect this is where they house the visiting entertainers.  And guess what?  This room had a new flat screen TV, which we did not know existed on this floor.

 

There was a performance by the dancers and singers called Amour, an upbeat, fun, and entertaining show for sure.  Too bad we missed it.

 

Oh well, we are looking forward to exploring Naples tomorrow and finding the best pizza ever…….

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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A lot of excitement you had.  Hopefully the bathroom problems have been solved and you won't have to deal with any more flooding.  Glad they had a cabin for you to stay in.

 

Hope the sunflowers weren't hurt.

 

Enjoy your day in Naples.

 

 

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Report #88   Naples, Italy   April 16, 2019   Tuesday   Partly sunny & 66 degrees     Part #1 Of 4      80  Pictures

 

The port of call for today was Naples, and the only stop we will make in the country of Italy.  Even though the ship arrived on time and was docked by 8am, we were not cleared by the local officials until well after 9am.  The excuse was there was another ship in town, the NCL Spirit, and the customs and immigrations folks were busy over there.  That ship is not all that much larger than the Amsterdam at over 75,000 gross tons, but she holds from 1976 to 2475 passengers, which exceeds our amount of 1200.  It is described as offering an extremely casual atmosphere for the guests that seek a lively lifestyle.  The cabins are very small with limited closet space, so their cruises are short in duration.    Four to seven days we have read.  Anyway, they were here first, and they got priority clearance procedures.

 

But first, here is a little info on Italy.  The capital is Rome and the 2012 population was 58 million people.  And it seems that most of them drive Vespas or very small cars.  A traveler’s experience in Italy has to be described as exuberant, effortless, earthy and sophisticated.  Or in our words, just plain fun, but also steeped in ancient history that goes on forever.  A few of the coastal cities, and some inland, not to be missed are Rome, of course, Florence, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast.  These are sights you will never forget.

 

The best time to visit are April, June, and September, but avoid the summer months because everything is crowded and the weather can get very hot.  Things to see and do include all of Rome, the museums of Florence, all of Venice, and what’s left of Pompeii after Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.  And don’t forget Sicily, it has a charm all of its own.  Some other places we have yet to see are the Alps and Milan, but that would have to be done on a different type of vacation.

 

Their favorite dishes include tripe with potatoes, tomatoes, and pecorino cheese.  Or try a T-bone steak in Florence, or devour meatballs and spaghetti with freshly-baked bread in Tuscany.  And last but not least, order pizza in Naples.  Don’t have to tell us twice…..

 

Trademarks are Renaissance art, ancient ruins, pizza with olive oil pasta, espresso, vespas, and the world’s best ice cream or gelato.

 

A random fact is that 3000 Euro, on average, is tossed daily into the Trevi Fountain in Rome.  It promises a return visit, and perhaps that is true, because we have been back often.  Unfortunately, it will not be on this cruise.

 

Hamish, our CD, happily announced after 9am, that the ship had been cleared, and everyone that was going ashore, could go.  There were several excursions that were set to go off at 8am, so we can only imagine how crowded the show lounge must have been.  We found out when going back to our room after breakfast that the stairwell and elevators were jammed with “sticky” guests.  The good news was that the all aboard time had been extended an hour, so that meant none of the tours would be short in duration.  We would all have to be back by 6:30pm. 

 

The best news to report was that the weather was going to be perfect with temperatures in the high 60’s or low 70’s and no rain.  Naples is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to the 9th century BC.  This epic city is chockful of ruins from the Roman and Greek periods.  And also the place to see historical museums, theaters, and churches from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods.  On the other hand, you’ll easily find plazas, [arks, gardens, and so many restaurants and cafes to relax and enjoy the best Italian food ever.

 

And shopping?  From street vendors, antique shops, and upscale high-end boutiques, it is a paradise to those who desire to indulge.  It is also a good place for slightly illegal sales of knock-off treasures such as purses and “leather” products.  But who’s looking?

 

The upmost most impressive fact is that Naples is considered the birthplace of pizza.  Now you’re talking.  There is even a ship’s tour that will take the guests to a small restaurant to see expert pizza-makers demonstrate their art.  Part of that success to their pies is the use of the wood-fired ovens.  We have done that excursion and were pleasantly surprised to find that each of us was getting a 16 inch pizza pie.  We were in heaven.

 

There were ship tours that stayed in town.  They included shopping with experts, a taste of pizza with two “foodie” tours which ran from $60 to $200.  One excursion that has been added since we were here last was a drive out of the city to a dairy with 600 buffalos that are milked to make mozzarella cheese. 

 

All of the rest of the tours were out of town and included a jetfoil ride to Capri, one most wonderful way to spend a sunny day here.  Then the longer tours went to the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento, the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and Mt. Vesuvius.  Prices began from $90 to $300, and all of those tours would make a stop at a cameo factory, a must when you visit this area.

 

As for us, we left the ship at 11am after having spent a night in a different room due to the flood in ours.  Later in the morning, our room had been restored to its normal state and was dried out.  Sure hope this is the end of the problem….

 

We found our way out of the huge terminal, where the info gal had no maps and no info that was of use to us.  This terminal is located on the second level, and you had to look to locate the elevator instead of taking the long flight of stairs to the street  level.  Normally not a problem, but the knee is still acting up.  Going down stairs is harder than up.

 

It was a long hike uphill on a wooden boardwalk to navigate the streets in town.  There was still construction here for the underground transit system we believe.  Once we got up by the ancient castle, we found where most of the hop on hop off buses were taking on passengers.  Every significant site that was being sold on the ship could be accessed by these bus tours, but we did not pick up the flyer to check prices.

 

Further up the street, we carefully crossed by the traffic signal.  Carefully, because you will get run over in a nano-second of you’re not careful.  Even though today was a weekday, it was really busy with locals and traffic.  It was then we realized that this is Easter Week, and most schools would be closed for the holiday. There were also many groups of school kids on organized tours. 

 

A great building to see is the Galleria Umberto that is within a very historical domed building from centuries ago.  The entire floor under multiple domes is tiled or made of marble.  In the center are detailed mosaics with the compass rose and surrounding works of art encircling the compass.  Many boutique shops, cafes, and bakeries can be found here.  We ran into our buddies, Bill & Leta, who were relaxing at small tables outside a café.  They had purchased a couple of sweet cannolies? from a corner bakery.  And it was close to noon, so lunch for them with a couple of local draft beers were in order. 

 

From here, we exited the building and took a right turn up the almost pedestrian only lane.  This cobbled street was lines with shops, cafes, and street markets.  It was a paradise of souvenirs, clothing and jewelry boutiques – modern as well as old.  Further up the hill were the meat, fish, and veggie markets, most of it right on the curbsides.  Narrow alleyways produced people of all ages driving the motorbikes at a high speed.  If you hear the noise of the engine, you had better move aside, as they might pass by you with only inches to spare.  Life happening here has a heartbeat all of its own, as it seemed like at least one million local folks were shopping in the delis, bakeries, and veggie, fruit, and fish markets.

 

We did find a few treasures to purchase as a keepsake from Naples.  Two cotton scarves were a deal at 2 Euro each, and a handmade doggie purse was also a good buy.  There were some Moroccan vendors selling the knock-off items, but they were not dealing very good.  It would be better bargaining closer to the pier. Besides getting many colorful photos, we love being able to mix with the crowds to see how these people manage to live in a crowded by charming city.  Everyone seems to know everyone here, as we saw many elderly folks kissing both cheeks and hugging in a typical greeting. 

 

Now, the best part of the day was to come…..lunch.  The street traffic became much more crowded as we approached Plaza Tieste’s Trento and two major buildings.  One was Teatro San Carlo, the oldest operating opera house in the world.  And the other monumental structure was Palazzo Reale, a royal palace, one of four, that was used by the Bourbon kings during their rule.  Obviously, they thought bigger was better.

 

On the way to the area where we have found great pizza, we had to pass by the massive Plaza Plebisctio and the San Francisco di Paolo Church, a neoclassical design built to celebrate the end of Napoleonic rule.  Other impressive buildings are there also.  While taking pictures of the statues, we noticed a small crowd watching something.  Turned out it was a puppeteer, who was entertaining the folks with a dancing, singing puppet that had a mini microphone and tap danced while he sang.  One of the cutest things we had seen today. 

 

We had reached the district that lies above the harbor with wonderful views of the Bay of Naples.  Several large hotels were here with dozens of cafes and restaurants in between.  Since it was nearing 1:30pm, most all of the outdoor patios were full of customers indulging with plates of Italian food.  Sure looked good.  We kept going until we rounded the corner, and recognized where we had dined several years ago.  It was a restaurant by the name of Aquolino in the group belonging to Antonio’s & Antonio’s.  Most all of the tables were outside the restaurants, covered with awnings.  Horse-drawn buggies were passing by this mostly pedestrian street.  That’s when a waiter approached us and invited us to dine there.  He had a table for two ready, and it was about the only one left.  As long as they still had pizza on the menu, this would do just fine.

 

We were handed the English version of the menu, and the waiter suggested the most popular pizza with the toppings we liked.  Wood-fired and cooked to perfection, we were each served half of the pie with a large glass of Italian draft beer.  Have to admit, it was so good, we decided to order another one….Margherita with parma ham and shaved parmesan cheese. Thinking ahead, we do know there is a good pizza café in both Barcelona and Cadiz, but it cannot compare to here in Naples.  That was the reasoning for indulging with two pizzas. 

 

We added one dessert of baba rum, a new sweet treat we have never tried.  Sure was good.  Then as another surprise, the waiter brought two small glasses of Limoncello, a sweet but tart liqueur that finished our ample meal nicely.  We lingered until 3pm, then headed back towards the ship.  In the main square, we recognized many folks from our ship, including Barbara and Harvey, who had taken a 6 day private tour to Israel.  They said they had the best time ever, and had spent the night in Naples.  Exhausted, they were glad to be coming back to the ship.

 

On our way back on the wooden walkway, we ended up bargaining for a small Moschino purse from a Moroccan vendor.  The price was right, and he was happy to take US dollars.  We resisted even looking at the shops in the terminal, because so much of the souvenirs can be tempting.

 

Since the all aboard time had been extended for the extra hour, we took the time to work on photos.  That’s when we had another surprise with the leak, or flood, in the bathroom.  At least this leak only continued for about 15 minutes before we found it, but long enough to cause some carpet soaking anyway.  Reporting it, Christel was calling us immediately.  The plumber arrived, and when we asked if he had replaced anything in the bathroom, he admitted he had done nothing, as he did not see anything leaking yesterday.  He said he would fix it, and since we had sopped up the water, we figured that would be the end of this problem.

 

The ship left the pier around 7pm, and we watched from the aft deck eight, even though the official sail away party was held in the Crow’s Nest.  An impromptu performance by some of the crew bar staff gave a little show, singing and playing their instruments for everyone back there.  We stayed until the last rays of the setting sun went behind the mountaintops of Naples.  The best one we have seen for weeks now.

 

Dinner was fun catching up with what everyone had done today.  The fellows had gone on their own to the island of Capri, and had a wonderful day.  They also came back early to Naples to enjoy pizza too.  Barb had gone off to explore the shopping areas with friends, so it was a good day for all of us. They all kidded us that they hoped our room had not flooded again.  Oh boy, how did they know????

 

Surprise, surprise……when we got back to our hallway, we found the telltale sign of the extension cords coming across the hallway for the plugs of the heater and drying units again.  Now what happened???  Our room was turned upside down once again, with everything piled on the bed and couch, both of which were propped up off of the carpet.  We had the keycard for the room up the hall with a note of apology for the inconvenience.  We had no choice but to sleep in the spare room once again.  And since it was so late, we decided to follow up with this situation tomorrow morning.  Obviously nothing had been fixed like they had promised.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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OH NO!!!!!! That is awful! So sorry you had to deal with this after a lovely day in my “homeland”. 

 

Take care,

Denise and Howie too

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I was hoping those problems would be gone after the wet dock 18 months ago.

 

Roy

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Glad you enjoyed your day in Naples.  We stayed there for several days on a land vacation many years ago.  So much to see and do there.

 

I sure was hoping to read that your problems with the cabin would be over with by now.  Hope they have found where the leak is and get it fixed!!

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Glad to see that the sun flower is lasting.  Do you think you will get any seeds from it?

 

Love the pictures -- but your room really was turned upside down!!

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Report #89   Day at Sea   April 17, 2019    Wednesday   Partly sunny & 69 degrees    Part #1 Of 1    60  Pictures

 

Today should have been named “ Scenic Cruising the Strait of Bonafacio”, the passage between the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, since that is where the Amsterdam was taken around 10am today.  More about that soon, but first, here’s the latest news with the “leaking cabin”. 

 

After the second night in a different cabin, we checked to see if there was any progress made in our room first thing in the morning.  Nope, both the drying units were still running, and no workers were anywhere in sight.  But it was early, so we went off for breakfast, followed by a walk outside. Gan surprised us with giant blueberries for our yogurt starter we have every day. Since we were already approaching the strait between the islands around 10am, we went up to deck six forward, and stayed for an hour watching the strait sailing.  It was quite scenic with Corsica on the north side and Sardinia on the south end.  A few vessels were there too, like row boats for fishing, small and large sailboats, to a couple of sleek cabin cruisers and large cargo ships.  It was cool in the shade, but perfect in the sun, while it lasted.  Taking photos for an hour, we went back inside when the sun was behind the stacks.

 

Thinking that the work should be done by now, we were even more surprised to find our room really turned upside down.  Now the bed had been taken apart, and the mattresses had been laid up against the wall.  Everything we had hanging was covered with sheets, including the bed, the desk, and the couch.  The windowsill had been cleared of everything.  Where were our potted plants?  And the curtains?  A good thing….the plants were all in the tub, and the curtains were gone.  So we went immediately to Shiv, the executive housekeeper, and said, “What’s going on?”   He had no idea what was taking place.

 

So he phoned the departments involved, and with his assistant, and Christel, who appeared, we all went to our room in an attempt to solve the mystery.  The carpenter was taking off the wall enclosure surrounding the window to check for leaks there.  If he found nothing, the ceiling might have been next.  But we knew the only leak was from the bathroom, and after satisfying themselves that nothing was in the walls, they agreed there were no wall leaks coming from gutters that have a drainpipe in the walls.  Shiv told the plumber to change the suspected valve stem behind the toilet button, since it had not been done two days ago, by their own admittance.  OK, hopefully this job will be wrapped up this afternoon.

 

The best place for us was to meet Barb in the dining room for lunch and have a good laugh over the recent events.  Barb and the guys had kidded us last night at dinner that we might be flooded out again.  How did they know???  Since we still had photos to work with, we went back to room #2, and finished our reports and photos.  Sometime after 4pm, our room had been restored to its original order, more or less.  So we moved back in and thanked the nice room steward up the hall for his help for two days. 

 

Around 6pm, there was a knock on the door, and here was the plumber asking if he could come in and replace the part in the bathroom wall.  Good grief….that should have been the first thing done.  And here we thought this had been replaced this afternoon.  Lucky for all of us, it did not leak for the third time.  Even knowing that this part was new, we still plan on watching for leaks.  Every day and every night.

 

Going up to the atrium to listen to the Ocean Bar Band, we had visitors…..Henk, Christel, and Shiv…all checking to see if we were still staying dry.  We were most happy to report all was well and thanked them for their intervention.

 

So at dinner, we sure got a lot of razzing from our buddies. Greg and Heo said they would be anxious for days, worrying if the leak would appear again.  We had been having a discussion about the two little dogs that are onboard as service dogs.  That’s when we had the brainstorm that due to extreme flooding anxieties, we might qualify to have a toilet-watcher dog, who would stand guard for sudden leaks, then give us a warning. They all thought that was a great idea.  Of course, this was all in good joking, since we do think the service dogs are a wonderful breed and perform such a most needed job for those who need it. Greg suggested that our stories were like following an episode of Faulty Towers, a hilarious British TV show several years.

 

Today we were due for our President’s Club amenities of flowers and sodas.  The flowers were recently shipped to Naples, and were really pretty. We were lucky.   Recently talking to Calista, part of the florist team, she said the entire flower order had missed the ship in Aqaba, and had to be re-directed to Naples.  By the time they received the boxes after it was held for another 8 hours by the Italian custom’s officials in Naples, much of the quality of the  flowers was ruined…..past their lifespan, she said.  So now, they will have to replace even more in Barcelona, along with a whole lot of other missing food items and supplies.   

 

We skipped the show of Duo Yalba, the multi-instrumentalists, since we were truly worried about finding our carpet flooded again.  So when we went back, all was well.  The goodnight card we got a few days ago said “Life is a journey, make the most of it.”  Unknown author.  Guess this bathroom leak was one of life’s journeys we can live without.

 

Tomorrow we will be in Barcelona, the first of two stops in Spain.  Looking forward to it.  And tomorrow will be the end and start of another segment of the world cruise.  We were informed that 72 guests were getting off, and 68 new ones were boarding. And during this sailing from Mumbai to Barcelona, we all consumed almost 39,000 eggs.  Incredible.   

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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What an adventure you are having with your cabin.

 

Hopefully all has been taken care of.

 

Hope the plants haven't gone through too much shock and continue to grow.

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Just looked at all the Naples pictures.  So many vendors selling everything.

 

Great pictures of the sunset.

 

Wow -- you cabin was really torn apart on the second attempt to find the leak.

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Report # 90   Barcelona, Spain   April 18, 2019   Thursday   Cloudy & 64 degrees    Part #1 Of 4    80  Pictures

 

Besides today being Holland America Line’s 146th birthday, it was also a birthday for one of us –  Bill.  How nice to have a special day for him we joked. In addition, some VIP’s joined the ship as well.  Namely, Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corporation, Orlando Ashford, the President of HAL, and his wife and youngest son, and at least one executive head chef from Seattle, we heard.  But more about that later.

 

Spain is one of Europe’s most exotic countries, according to some experts, with old traditional ways, but mixed with a tendency towards the future.  The capital is Madrid and the total population is about 41 million people.  Architecture ranges from Islamic designs to Gothic cathedrals.  The food is just as exciting – spicy and tasty.  Best time to visit is from May to October, avoiding July and August, their hottest and busiest tourist season. 

 

Things we have seen and done include a trip to the Alhambra to see Andalucia’s Islamic architecture, Barcelona and Gaudi’s art, the islands of  Mallorca and Menora for their secluded beaches, or a day trip to Mijas where we saw donkeys as local transport and ate roasted chestnuts that were sold on the streets. Day trips or overnight adventures take you to see Madrid, Seville, and Cordoba….places we have yet to see.

 

A must to eat in Spain has to be the wafer thin slices of jamon, their cured ham, and their favorite dish of paella, a mixture of seafood and rice in a red sauce.  Paella was invented in Valencia, another port where we have never stopped.

 

Favorite beverages are vino tinto (red) or blanco (white) wines, fine sherry from Jerez la Frontera, or sangria with floating fruit.

 

Trademarks are the flamenco dance, paella, bullfighting (yes it still happens with a passion), football, fiestas, Costa del Sol, and creative pickpockets in major cities. 

 

A random fact is that Spaniards spend more money on food per capita than any other European country.

 

So, we arrived on time to the harbor, but due to a flotilla of cruise vessels coming into the port, we were not docked and cleared by officials until 9:30am, an hour and half late.  Once again, it had to be announced that everyone on tours should NOT go to the Mainstage until we were ready to debark.  With many passengers leaving the ship at the end of their segment, they had priority, especially if they had flights home.  The shore excursions were no longer than 5 hours, so they would not be shortened.  And to help with the guest’s concerns, the all aboard time had been extended to 6:30pm.  Usually, we have a 2 day stay in Barcelona, but not on this cruise.

 

There were a total of six cruise ships in port today.  Besides the Amsterdam, there was the Phoenix Reisen Artania, the RCI Spectrum of the Seas, and the MSC Meravasiglia….the last two were mega-sized.  Across the harbor, closer to town, were The World, and Regent’s Explorer, one of their newest ships in the fleet.  Since our book only includes ships up to 2014, we have no info on their stats.  However, if we had a choice of who we would sail with out of the lot (exception of the Amsterdam), we might lean towards Regent, which is all-inclusive with gorgeous rooms….every single one of them. 

 

We are not totally sure of the reason, but today the folks on the Amsterdam scored with a free shuttle ride to the World Trade Center in the city center. Everyone we know has always complained about paying the 3 euro each way for the shuttle.  It could be due to the fact that we were about the last vessel to dock at Terminal E, which is the furthest away.  Normally we enjoy walking, but since we only had one day here, we rode the shuttle, giving us more free time in town.

 

The day began well for two reasons….no leaks in our room overnight, and a slew of birthday cards for the birthday guy.  That was followed by more greetings in the dining room.  Gan and Feri, our waiters, had found some huge blueberries for our yogurt, and even located catsup for both of us. Gan even sang happy birthday to Bill.   By 11am, we were ready to go explore the town.  And for this port, we were required to pack our passports with us in case of any surprise identity check by the local authorities while in the city. 

 

Barcelona can be described as a blend of the old and new, reality and fantasy.  You can see many objects of art and architecture from Gaudi, the resident artist such as La Sagrada Familia Church, an ongoing project for forever since 1883.  Then there is the Picasso Museum with the most extensive collection in the world.  Other places to see are Passeig de Gracia, the major thoroughfare with shops, cafes, and some of Gaudi’s masterpieces.  The Barri Gothic is full of winding streets with squares, fountains, and palaces.  La Rambla is a tree-lined pedestrian walkway, undoubtedly the most lively street in town.  Palau Guell and Park Guell are the mansion of Gaudi and a hillside garden with whimsical statues.  La Boqueria is their large public market with fresh produce, meats, fish, and deli, and the Hill of Montjuic overlooks the harbor with the remains of a Spanish village.

 

To see out of town, you can take tours to the Monserrat Monastery with views from 4000 feet high.  We have seen the Black Virgin Mary statue, the patron of Catalonia.  But the most memorable experience we recall was hearing the oldest boys’ choir in Europe – the Escolans.  Heavenly.  All of the above sights could be seen on tours offered by the ship starting from $55 to $190, all short duration of 4 to 5 hours. 

 

It was easy to find our way from the shuttle drop-off point to the Christopher Columbus Monument at the bottom of La Rambla.  It was crowded with six ships in port, not to mention the several ferries we saw.  Today happened to be Holy Thursday on the Catholic calendar, so many local families were out and about town as well.  This was one place that many hop on, hop off double-decker coaches were available for the tourists.  The one day ticket was 25 euro ($28.41 USD) and offered two different itineraries.  One went west, while the other went east.

 

La Rambla began with street artists, the ones that are costumed and painted, posing like frozen statues.  On previous trips, we had been warned that while mesmerized by these artists, pickpocket artists are working the crowd.  One of us watched for that activity, which we have seen in motion unfortunately.  There was a continuous row of tents with souvenirs, and street side cafes.  We liked the pages of food photos of their entire menus, which one photo says a thousand words.  This is what we suggested to add to the ship’s Navigator site so we can figure out what’s for dinner.

 

Further up the really crowded street, we came across some of the sites like the Grand Theater and some museums.  On the left was the entrance to La Boqueria, the local market with food of all kinds.  This was hands-down, the busiest place in town….wall-to-wall people.  You have to be careful taking photos, which everyone and their brother did, mostly with cell phones.  Only one meat and poultry stand objected to cameras, so off-putting that few people bought their products. About the only thing we took was photos, but did purchase 5 euro worth of pistachio nuts. Some of the ready-made food to go sure looked good.  Many folks buy sandwiches and meat pies  to eat on the spot.  Drinks like fruit smoothies are quite popular, as is the fresh produce they sell.  Watching the expert butchers slicing the ham right off of the smoked legs was fascinating.  They shave it almost paper-thin.

 

We continued further uphill to the Plaza de Catalunya where the Hard Rock Café is located.  Going inside was like going into a furnace…it was very hot.  And it was so mobbed with shoppers, we skipped checking out their shop.  A few years ago, we purchased a city t-shirt, and it had not changed since then.  So that place was out for lunch.

 

Since we were up here, we decided to check out some of the stores.  Most of them were high end department stores.  A few we did explore were Desigual, Zara, and a couple of other boutique-like shops.  One thing we noticed was that there were no public restrooms to be found.  The only option was to go to a café or coffee house, buy something, then use their facilities.

 

We thought it best to back-track going into the Barri Gothic district with winding streets, hidden squares, fountains, cathedrals , and palaces. This has to be one of the most authentic spots in town as far as history is concerned.  The Gothic Cathedral is an impressive sight.  Years ago, while on a tour, we watched a group of elderly folks dancing in a circle with the ladies’ purses in the center.  They did this after mass was over on Sundays.  Today in the square outside the church was a man creating gigantic bubbles with a rope dipped in suds.  Kids were chasing them to be popped. 

 

We did not see the famous Gaudi creation of Sagrada Familia Church, but we have toured that historical site many times before.  Always a huge crowd there, and not always very safe.  We found our way back to La Rambla by going through narrow alleyways lined with tiny shops and cafes.  Most of the establishments looked like a night time venue. 

 

Back down to the Columbus Monument, we found the street vendors selling assorted things like designer handbags, shoes, sunglasses and trinkets.  The most clever thing we spotted was a vendor with an umbrella covered with hundreds of pairs of earrings. 

 

From here, we made our way to Port Vell and Maremagnum or the La Rambla de Mar.  There is a two story complex there with a mall-like atmosphere with restaurants and an aquarium.  There is a wooden slat bridge to cross, which happened to be opening up for a boat to pass through to the sea from the marina.  Always fun to watch the action when the bells ring, and the walkers have to scramble across.  Also the best place to find an empty bench and relax for a few minutes.  Extra-large seagulls begging scraps and fish in the waters below kept us occupied. 

 

Usually, we dine at a place called Gino’s, but today the place was jammed full of families with very young kids and no room for a table for two.  So we went back to the entrance to check out some nicer places up on the second floor overlooking the harbor. We found just the perfect place at El Chipiron with a view of the harbor ferries and the swing span bridge.  And they had more to offer besides seafood.  The menu had cheese pizza with ham and mushrooms, which we ordered, and it came with four slices of tomato-topped bread (assumed complimentary, but was not).  We had two ½ liter Gerra tap beers, and followed up with a shared dessert of carrot cake with ice cream.  Most diners on the balcony were getting huge pans of steaming hot paella to share among themselves at tables for two or four. 

 

What’s nice about eating in countries like Italy or Spain, they never rush you.  The bill will not arrive until you summon them.  Since it was nearly 4pm, we thought it best to head back to the shuttle bus.  On the way, we passed by several tables set with hundreds of antique items for sale.  From housewares to jewelry and keepsakes from the past, many folks were seriously looking for bargains.  Checking out the last of the street vendors, we ended up buying nothing today, but going back to the ship with many photos and full from a delicious lunch. 

 

After the short bus ride, we found that after we went through the  local xray check, there were a few stores in the terminal selling souvenirs and liquor.  Curious about the purchase of alcohol, and the policy of having to pay the corkage fee on wine, we wondered if anyone could buy bottles here, and take it onboard.  Will ask tomorrow if anyone did just that.  There was a collection table set up inside the ship, but the table was empty of bottles.

 

Back in our room, we found a birthday card from the Captain and crew along with a chocolate candy bar.  Nice touch.  Then at 5pm, there was a complimentary Tapas Sail Away Party held in the Lido pool area.  This included free champagne, sangria, wine, beers, or sodas.  The tapas, we never did see, because we went at 5:20pm, mainly to take some pictures.  The Station Band played music for the folks that like to dance.  This would be the start of several Mariner Appreciation Days to honor the loyal guests.  With the dome completely shut, it was really noisy and most people could not talk let alone think.

 

We did welcome Bob, Martha’s husband, who joined the ship today for the next 18 days.  Leta and Bill stopped on their way out after enjoying a few beers, like us, then exited when the party was over.  Most of the heavy party-goers begged the band to carry on for at least one more song.  They knew the free drinks would stop when the band did.  One man had some kind of problem, since the medical team had to get a wheelchair to take him away.  Hope it was nothing more than too much wine, and nothing more serious. 

 

By 6:30pm, we were underway, and we braved the cold and wind with Eddie and Susie to take some photos of the real sail away. None  of us lasted long since the wind almost blew us all off the deck.  Back in our room, we were surprised to find two plush fleece blankets, gifts for the 2019 world cruise.  Now these will be useful, even on this cruise when we head further north.

 

Dinner was in the Pinnacle Grill, and we ordered our usual items, but added the bacon on a clothesline this time, highly recommended by Heo and Greg.  The clothesline was a metal frame with hooks on a wire.  Three of those hooks held a piece of thick smoked bacon, cooked with herbs on the side and maple syrup and peppered. It was delicious, but rich. It also came with a slice of pickle and a lemon wedge to squeeze over the top.  We shared one order.  Then for dessert, one of us had the Key lime pie, and the other tried the new cheesecake pops – three small balls rolled in chocolate or strawberry icing.  Tina called them fun food.  Besides us, the big wigs happened to pick tonight to dine here as well.  Each couple had their own table for a cozy dinner.  It is their private time, as it was for us as well, but Orlando took the time to stop by our table, shake hands, and say hello.  He laughed when we welcomed him onboard along with his wife and son.

 

It had been a fun but exhausting day, but the good news was that our room was still dry….no floods.  And the best saying of the day was:  birthdays are nature’s way of telling one to eat more cake!

 

Bill & Mary Ann 

 

 

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So glad to read that your cabin hasn't had a leak in a day.

 

Have been to Barcelona many times -- even for stays before and after cruises for a few days.  Never been there with that many ships.  Took an all day tour to Monserrat and enjoyed a paella lunch at a restaurant on a high hill with fantastic views.  Have seen all the sights you mentioned.

 

One time we sat at a table for 6 on the ship and the evening before we arrived in Barcelona, since the others had never been there before we warned them about the beggars, pick pockets, etc.  One couple shrugged off what we said.  They were late coming to dinner and not looking in good shape.  She had scrapped up arms and legs from being attacked and he had a black eye.  Needless to say we never said a word.  They had been attacked after buying something in one of the shops along the La Rambla -- she had her gift and purse stolen -- he lost his wallet.

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With all the pickpockets in Barcelona it's really a shame that they make you carry your passport.

 

Roy

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If I may ask, when is the Q&A? We are anxious to hear about the 2021 GWV as well as what Orlando Ashford has to say.

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Report #91   Day at Sea   April 19, 2019   Friday   Partly sunny & 64 degrees    Part#1 Of 1   8  Pictures

 

If we ever appreciated a day at sea, this was one of them.  After such a long stay in Barcelona, we needed a full day to relax.  Most of the morning after breakfast was spent catching up on reports and pictures from yesterday.  It’s always wise for us to keep up with as much as we can right away, because the memory tends to fade if we let too much time pass by.  The next few weeks will be a test to see how we can handle several ports in a row with few sea days in between.  Brings back many memories of times we took shorter cruises with intensive ports.  When we returned home, we needed a vacation to recover.

 

A few days ago, Bill received a gift certificate from the hotel director for a $50 spa treatment, but it was only good until the 20th.  The only thing he could think to get was another haircut..…really more of a trim since he had one about three weeks ago.  It is interesting how this coupon works.  Whatever treatment you choose, the coupon will only cover that amount, but not the 15% gratuity.  He would have gladly given the balance of the $25 men’s cut as a tip to Cherrie, one of the hair cutters.  However, the gratuity cannot come out of the coupon amount. It has to be put on your shipboard account.  For us, it is no big deal since we have plenty of credit still to spend.  But for those folks that are running up a hefty tab, well, they resent it.  In addition, these coupons are not transferable to a spouse.  We have heard stories of folks ripping up the coupon in front of the spa receptionist, saying thanks, but no thanks.  In the end, he ended up with a perfect cut that should last now until we get back home.

 

Meeting up with Barb for lunch was fun as always.  Seems that the trivia questions of late have been getting harder for all of the groups to answer correctly.  Scores have been low, and that is probably on purpose.  Many times Barb will bring a hard question to us to answer, and sometimes we get it….most times we don’t.  It still is the most played game on the ship. 

 

Sometime today we need to watch the lecture all about what to see and do in Lisbon, Portugal as described by EXC guide Ian.  Lisbon has been a one-stop port for us, but we landed there on a Sunday.  Many sites were closed, so we took a tour out of town for the day.  This time we plan to spend the day in town, even though it will be Easter Sunday, and perhaps everything will be closed. 

 

Two new guests are onboard now.  One for the test kitchen, Erik Malmsten, who will more than likely prepare foods for the country we are visiting next….Portugal.  And guest speaker, Brian Stoddart, gave a lecture on the Spanish world, which will be appropriate for one more port.

 

Since today is Good Friday, a Catholic service was held in the Mainstage.  And a Seder Dinner was celebrated in one side of the Lido as they always do.  Our tablemates, Greg and Heo, attended this affair tonight, but they had to reserve their places a week ago in order to attend.

 

So it was just the three of us at dinner, and two of us were happy to see Empire chicken on the menu.  It is the Kosher chicken that is served upon request here for anyone that orders it ahead of time.  Well, it was a huge disappointment when our meals arrived, and the chicken was served with two pieces of dried up chicken with gravy.  Sure was not the good juicy and tender half chicken we would have gotten.  Bet the fellows will have a different story when we ask what they had for dinner.  Oh well, you can’t win all of the time, and Slam made up for it with two plates of biscotti cookies.

 

The Spanish Rumba Kings did a show based on the Gipsy Kings of old.  Sorry we missed it, because with a title like that, we were most curious what it could be.  Instead we went outside to catch the last of the sunset, and the beginning of the moon rising.  Both pretty neat sights this evening.

 

By the way, we went past Gibraltar tonight, but not until after midnight, unfortunately.  We have made two stops in Gibraltar, a small place of only 3 acres and a population of 28 thousand English-speaking people.  It is strategically situated guarding the Straits of Gibraltar, the narrow entrance to the Mediterranean from the Atlantic.  The “Rock” as it is locally known, has an interesting relationship between the British and Spanish.  The Spanish want it back, and the British may be happy to give it back.  The citizens love their curious corner of England, especially the upper rock with spectacular views and a colony of naughty Barbary macaques.  They are Europe’s only primates. If we had been able to stay up that late, and were located on the starboard side of the ship, we may have seen the “Rock” lit up as we sailed on by.  Would have loved having a stop here, but we seldom do on a world cruise.  But all was not lost, because we did see the north part of Africa….Tangiers, Morocco.  It was lit up and sparkling like gold as we sailed through the strait.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Wonderful report.  Loved Lisbon when we were there -- thankfully not on a Sunday.  One of the things that we liked about Gibraltar was the road going through the airport.

 

Sorry your special chicken was dry.

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Glad to see the sunflowers survived the turmoil and are doing well.  Glad the room is all in order.

 

You really did take a lot of pictures in Barcelona.  The food looks good.

 

We have seen the "World" ship in several different ports over the years.

 

Appreciate your taking the time to get all these wonderful pictures posted for us.

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