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John and Diane's Amazing Round the World Aventure


Johnny B

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April 7 – Day 94

 

Oh no, we only have 20 days left! How could it have gone so fast? At least we have some good ports left, including some we’ve never visited, including Split, Gibraltar, Lisbon, and Bermuda.

 

Yesterday in Venice was wonderful, but it was cold and, at the last, rainy. Today was a whole different story. It was blue, sunny and warm, and the perfect day to be in Venice. We discovered that, like so many places, this is just the beginning of the tourist season, and things are much slower than summer. We’ve only been in Venice in the summer, and spring is really a nice surprise. Although there are still lots of tourists and the line outside St. Mark’s is long for most of the day (hint: visit in the late afternoon), it really isn’t nearly as crowded and the little alleys and byways are much emptier.

 

Today we took the shuttle boat in and headed to the post office near St. Mark’s Square. We had more than usual to send to our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter (did I mention how cute she is?), so we spent about a half hour with our new best friend, the lady in the post office, but were successful in getting a box sent. We did talk to our daughter last night and she said that the stitched-up package from Bombay arrived in good condition. After reading about the process, she was interested to see what it looked like upon arrival.

 

After the post office, we just wandered. We had a couple things in mind and ended up buying a Venetian mask, which we buy on each of our trips here. This one will make six, and they adorn a wall in our dining room. We found some tee shirts and a gift for another friend. Boy, this place is expensive!

 

We wanted to see the Jewish ghetto, which is north of the Grand Canal. It’s the place which first gave us the word “ghetto,” but now it just looks like a residential area. We walked in areas which were very non-touristy, and all we heard spoken was Italian. Finally it was lunchtime and we settled in for some gnocchi, lasagne, chicken and fish – it was delicious.

 

Our only disappointment was that there are many more islands to explore in the Venetian lagoon, and we didn't have time to get to them.

 

We walked more after lunch, and eventually ended up back at the ship about 2:00 in time for a nap before one of the most spectacular sailaways we’ve seen – and over the last 94 days, we’ve seen many. With not a cloud in the sky and the temperature in the high 60’s, we could not have had a better departure through the lagoon and along St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and the Lido Island. Our friend Gene played some Italian favorites on his trumpet, and soon Venice was behind us.

 

Tomorrow is Split, Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia) and we’re looking forward to a city which we’ve never visited. I guess the walking will continue.

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April 9 – Day 96

 

It’s been a weird couple of days. Yesterday was (supposed to be) Split, Croatia, and today was (supposed to be) a sea day. Well, that isn’t quite the way it went.

 

Yesterday morning we got up, looked outside, and John said, “It looks a little rough for tenders today.” In another half hour, it looked a little rough for anything smaller than the Amsterdam. When we anchored outside of Split, the ship’s crew partially lowered two tenders and then put one in the water so that the on-shore staff could go in and set up what was needed. You should have seen that boat; it looked like a cork floating in an active child’s bathtub. How the guys got ashore I don’t know, but they did, and then they actually got back.

 

By that time, it was clear that we weren’t going anywhere except to the next port, and about a half hour later the captain came on the public address system to tell us that it wasn’t safe for us to go ashore, so we were just going to move on, at half speed, to Malta. We had been looking forward to Split, specifically to see Diocletian’s Palace (one history major, one history minor), but it did give us an extra sea day, so we didn’t complain too much.

 

This morning when we went to breakfast, our friend Didi, who works in the Lido, told us that there was a medical emergency and that we’d be arriving in Valetta, Malta, today at 5:00 PM. What?! How could we get there so quickly? During his 1:00 announcements, the captain confirmed that we would, indeed, be arriving in Valetta at 5:00 because a passenger needed to be taken to a hospital there.

 

So, right on time, we approached Valetta, and what a beautiful old city it is. Everything that you see from the sea looks like an old fort (probably because most of it is), and the relatively new passenger terminal is really quite nice. Most of the passengers were on deck watching as we sailed in, and then everyone was hanging over the side of various decks watching as our passenger, an older lady, was brought out on a gurney and put in an ambulance. We certainly hope she gets better quickly so she can rejoin the ship.

 

The weather was sunny and warm, so we got off the ship and walked up the hill to the center of town. It is an old city, dating back to pre-Phoenecian times, but most of the structures there today were built during the Middle Ages by the Knights of Malta, also known as the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The streets are of stone and there are outdoor cafes everywhere. The shopping, however, is decidedly modern; we knew that as soon as we walked by Claire’s Boutique! There are dozens of churches, and many of the major streets have statues of saints at every corner.

 

We had to come back to get ready for dinner, but we have until 6:00 tomorrow to explore. We were here many, many years ago, but we still want to walk around and decide on one of those outdoor cafes for lunch. We’re hoping the weather holds, because today it was just like summer in San Luis Obispo. Can’t wait!

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Yes, you make me jealous on two fronts......as a Cal Poly grad, I LOVE SLO and your amazing cruise. Lucky you!!!!!

 

For those of you not familiar with San Luis Obispo, it's like being on a World Cruise every day of your life.

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You have managed to keep me undercontrol until my next cruise in 13 days...I am up at 5:30, no questions from DH, he knows I'm headed for my morning dose of John and Diane (I hope)

 

Coffee, lifting dark and a cool breeze blowing over me(not for long, I'm in St. Pete Fl and summer is closing in) sets the mood for a most wonderful day.

 

thanks for taking your time to make our time so much better:)

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April 10 – Day 97

 

Malta is really quite wonderful. If you haven’t been, it really is worth a whole week. This is yet another place to which we have decided to return. We had a really excellent day and, as usual, walked and walked and walked. Ever since our first trip to Europe in 1969 (I know, I know, it’s really a long time ago), we have been of the opinion that the best way to see a place is on foot.

 

We walked up through the walls into the city at about 9:00 and everything was just opening up. We explored streets and streets, realizing that, unlike most medieval cities, this one was built according to a plan, with streets at 90-degree angles to one another rather than just wandering like most little village streets. The Co-Cathedral of St. John (I have no idea what a co-cathedral is) takes up an entire city block, and the interior is spectacular. The shops seem to be a mix of modern (like Monsoon and Marks and Spencer) and cute little mom and pop shops selling a small variety of things.

 

We wandered clear to the end of the fortified city and found something called “The Malta Experience.” You walk about 100 feet through a medieval tunnel into a gift shop/ticket sales area. Beyond that is the theatre where you don headphones in your choice of language to watch a big-screen presentation, narrated by Derek Jacobi, presenting in a really absorbing manner the history of Malta, from pre-history until today.

 

We learned a great deal from the “Experience.” There are amazing prehistoric ruins on the island, and the narrator claimed that Malta was the first place in the world to have a freestanding temple, predating Stonehenge by 1,000 years. The Phoenicians settled in before Christ, and then the Knights Templar arrived in the late 1400’s and early 1500’s. The Knights were challenged and besieged by the Turkish troops of Suleiman the Magnificent for two years, but they eventually prevailed and fortified the city of Valetta, leaving it looking like it does today – well, sort of.

 

The problem came during WWII, when Malta, a British possession, was brutally bombed for three years by the Italians and Germans. The citizens lived in caves and underground, and were within a week of the end of their food when three supply ships landed on St. Mary’s Day in 1942. Postwar reconstruction has left the city the beauty it is today, and arriving by ship really shows it at its best.

 

The buses here are something else. They are bright and colorful and many look just like 1950’s cars. In fact, the Hard Rock Café shirts have a picture of one on the back. We took one of them (for 47 euro cents) to St. Julien, down the coast, to wander around and have lunch on the beach. It was really lovely – and warm. My favorite part was a sign on the beach that said, “Owners are warned that horses are not allowed to swim.” Had we wanted to wander around the island at will, an all-day bus pass costs E3.50, but all individual tickets, to anywhere on the island, are the same price that we paid.

 

At 4:00 we stumbled back to the ship, with full tummies and sore feet. Then at 5:00, we hosted our 9 other tablemates to, first our room, and then the aft deck, for a sailaway party. As we mentioned earlier, we brought five cases of wine on board with us, and because we still have about two cases, we decided we’d better start hosting a lot of parties. Oh, the problems we have.

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April 12th—Day 99

 

Watching leaping dolphins, sighting passing freighters and fishing boats, and viewing the coasts of Africa and Europe were just a few of the experiences I had this afternoon as I walked 14 laps (4 miles) around the Promenade Deck. Realizing that the “shores of Tripoli” and the ruins of Carthage were within my grasp magnified the sense of history I felt while walking into a gale force 4 wind. As we have sailed on this most comfortable ship for the last two weeks, I think some of us often forget the history that has gone on before us as we traverse the Mediterranean. We have, metaphorically speaking, crossed the Dardanelles with Alexander the Great, shipwrecked on Malta with St. Paul, invaded Venice with Napoleon, and fought the Barbary Pirates with the US Marines—and that’s just the surface.

 

Speaking of history, one of our recent activities has been to join a trivia team (I’m not sure if Diane has mentioned this or not). It has been a most interesting or should I say cutthroat experience. Our team is composed of four devil may care members and two other delightful people whose goal is to have fun! “Fun” seems to be missing on several other teams; one team, rumor has it, assigns members to study a different subject each night, and I have witnessed one of their members with a stack of reference books in the library taking notes! This team has accused others of cheating and demanded to see the answers of other winning teams—this is really pathetic if true. And this is all for a luggage tag or a coffee mug. Just to make sure you don’t think this is sour grapes, our team has won, but the most fun we have is laughing at ourselves.

 

As the cruise is now approaching its final two weeks, we are suddenly getting subtle reminders of this: how do you want to settle your final shipboard account: cash or credit card; do we have transportation needs from Ft. Lauderdale to wherever; when do you want your luggage delivered to your room, etc. We are (well, I am) somewhat ambivalent about the cruise coming to an end. We missed our granddaughter’s 2nd birthday yesterday, and we can’t wait to see family and friends again. On the other hand, we have made great friends on the ship, visited fantastic places, experienced wonderful and exotic cultures, and have been treated royally onboard. The next two weeks may be bittersweet for some, but we are determined to enjoy every single moment we have left while realizing how fortunate we have been to have this wonderful experience.

 

Tomorrow is Gibraltar. Can’t wait to see those Barbary apes!

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John and Diane,

This thread has been so wonderful to read. You have truly brought us to so many exotic and fastinating places and also given us the "feel' of the ship on such a special voyage.

I'm delighted to hear that this cruise has lived up to your expectations.

Thank you again for allowing me to come along!

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John and Diane, I am still reading your blog and living vicaricously through your adventures. I agree Malta is wonderful place. When you go back be sure to check out the winery.

 

" A co-cathedral a cathedral that shares the honour of being a bishop's seat with another cathedral. " From Wikipedia.

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April 13 – Day 100 (Serious Boo-Hoo)

 

We woke at 7:00 AM and were surprised to look outside and find the sky still dark. We have sailed quite far west of our last stop, Malta, and haven’t changed the clocks back yet, so I guess this is the result. The only thing we could see was something rising up above the harbor, so we knew we had arrived in Gibraltar, one of the two ancient Pillars of Hercules, the other one across the water in Morocco.

 

When we finally got ourselves going, it was 9:00 and time to pick up our friend Woody. His wife Susie had been here before and really didn’t want to go up the cable car to the top of the “Rock” again, but Woody did, so the three of us set out on an adventure. Susie is afraid of heights, and she told us that she was so frightened when she took the cable car up that it took three martinis for her to go down – uh, or something like that.

 

We walked about a half mile into the town square, and found a lovely pedestrian area with tons of shops that seemed just a little bit of England. The plethora of pubs just confirmed it. We made a mid-course change, however, and decided that rather than just take the cable car up the rock, we’d engage a car and driver (for not very much money) so that we could see as much as we wanted to up there.

 

We headed up the Rock, learning that there are 30,000 people in Gibraltar and that, in the last two elections where they were asked, 98% and 99% of the voters, respectively, said a huge “YES” to the question, “Do you want to remain a part of Britain?” It was a sunny clear day, so we could see out into the Mediterranean, over to Africa and the other “Pillar of Hercules”, and, across the landing strip at the airport to Spain.

 

Once we arrived up on the mountain, we learned that there are lots of things to do up there. We went into St. Michael’s Cave, where the stalactites and stag mites reminded us of the caves in Halong Bay, Vietnam. I guess they do a bang-up sound and light show in there, but we weren’t going to be there for it. Then we continued up the mountain to where the Barbary Apes live. They are good-sized tailless grey monkeys, about 300 in number, who live on The Rock. Legend says that when they go, the British will lose Gibraltar, so naturally the residents take good care of them. We met the youngest (born a few months ago) and the oldest (probably 25) and watched one of the wanna-be alpha males attack the old guy because he was making a pass (or something) at one of the females. Photos of monkeys on heads were dutifully taken – I can hardly wait for the Christmas letter!

 

Our next stop was The Siege Caves, where British soldiers lived for three years in the 1700’s while under attack by the French and Spanish. The caves still contain some of their cannons, and, because of the holes cut into the outside walls, weren’t too bad for someone with claustrophobia.

 

From the top of The Rock, we could see for miles and miles in all directions. It really is cool to know that Africa is that close and that we could walk into Spain if we so desired (and if the ship wouldn’t sail without us). The tour was well worth it.

 

We were dropped off downtown and promptly found a great pub for fish and chips and a pint. Heck, we even bought the tee-shirt, which says “The Gibraltar Arms.” On the way back to the ship, we finally found a wonderful supermarket, formerly a Safeway but now called Morrison’s, so we stocked up on Diet Pepsi. We got back to the ship in plenty of time for the 3:00 sailaway, and watched as one woman, who had been lost, raced onto the ship just before it sailed. Had she missed it, her option would have been a flight to Lisbon, where we call tomorrow.

 

Tomorrow morning there are only 14 days left, and, as John said, there are lots of hints that the cruise is coming to an end. However, in the meantime, we’re just going to keep on boogie-ing and enjoying every minute.

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I never thought of this before, but am now realizing that the longer the cruise, the longer the "beginning of the end" takes. :(

On a shorter cruise, it's only a day. On some of mine, it's been as long as a week. But for your cruise---it's a whole two weeks of winding down.

Bummer.

I have continued to be amazed and entertained as I followed your reports of this grand cruise around the world. So many places I will get to only through the generous reports of those such as you.

Thank you again for taking us all along.

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I, too, have really enjoyed your travelogue on your Around the World Journey.

It is an interesting observation: 14 days to go and it's the beginning of the end. I guess it's all relative...I haven't yet enjoyed a cruise longer than 10 days! ;)

Yours has been very interesting, and I appreciate taking the journey with you through your eyes!

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Day 100 .. can it really be? I find myself popping in every evening to see if you've posted another installment sharing your adventures. I have really enjoyed traveling the world with you .. So many places we've never been ... that are now are calling our name thanks to your wonderful reports.

 

Enjoy your final two week on-board .. I'm sad to know your cruise is coming to an end .. I will miss your updates!!

 

I often wonder how one feels after being onboard for so long .. and if people enjoy repeating the expereince. Being on-board for 100+ days -- would be interested in hearing your thoughts on living in a cabin for this long ... does it start to feel too small as the days roll by, or do you find yourself calling the entire ship home? It's obvious you both enjoy traveling ..would you consider embarking on another world cruise?

 

Thank you again!!

 

Peggy

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14 Days!!!! You still have 2 more "normal people" cruises ahead of you. Loved reading every installment of your adventure!! Thank you.
:rolleyes:

Cocokai...I had a big laugh at this response....i was thinking the same thing and just about to write it!!

BUT, John and Diane...we feel your pain. AND AND AND the burning question is so many minds...have you booked your next cruise?

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I remember on about the 2nd day of our RTW cruise, I was still feeling in awe of actually being on the ship for 99 days when some one pointed out a lady who was on her ----ummmm, I think it was her 10th or so RTW cruise. By her self since her mother had died. So I quit thinking I was so unusual but continued to be thrilled and am still thrilled nearly 10 years later!! We did it!! We actually went around the world!!! And I'd go again in a heartbeat!

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April 15 – Day 102

 

Yesterday, we woke up, looked out the window and didn’t know where we were. The Golden Gate Bridge made us think we were in San Francisco, but the statue of Christ the Redeemer made us think Rio de Janeiro. It turned out we were in Lisbon – it must have been a trick question. The statue is there because Lisbon and Rio are sister cities, both Portuguese speaking, and the bridge was built by the same company that built San Francisco’s – I guess they only had the one plan and paint color.

 

Portugal is a country that we haven’t visited, and we were pretty anxious to see it. It did live up the hype. Lisbon is a wonderful city, and the fact that it was clear and warm didn’t hurt either. We walked for about four hours (now there’s a surprise!) through the old part of town and loved the hills, red roofs, tiled buildings, and cable cars. There are statues everywhere, and many of the streets are tiny and winding. Every single street, sidewalk and walkway we saw was cobbled, the sidewalks with smaller stones than the streets. In many areas, especially the large city squares, stones were used to create mosaics of waves, designs, or simple pictures. In that way it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. On one pedestrian walkway ascending a hill there was a mosaic showing two men making a mosaic, and at the part where it showed them actually putting stones in, it was unfinished – on purpose, to show that they weren’t done. Really clever!

 

We walked up one of the hills to the castle, which was begun in the 1100’s. As we wandered through it, we had wonderful views of the city and the Tagus River, where our ship was docked. The castle looks exactly like a castle should, with a large curtain wall and those cool little holes to shoot arrows through. As we left the castle, we turned down a small street and found a restaurant which had views over the same areas as the castle. It was a wonderful place for lunch.

 

The only thing that bothered us was the enormous amount of graffiti which we saw absolutely everywhere. I don’t know why, but those people all write on walls the same, whether it is in Lisbon or 5,000 miles away in Santa Maria, California. Is there an online course for this sort of thing? I just don’t get it.

 

More than anywhere else, the city reminds me of San Francisco, with its narrow streets and hills and cable cars. It has the same charm and the people seem equally relaxed. We really do want to return here, too, and then branch out to see some of the rest of the country.

 

Today is a sea day, and it was the passenger talent show, part 2. We did another “Shirley and the Pips” number, which involved singing “Let Us Entertain You” and swinging various items of underwear over our heads while spelling out “Amsterdam.” That’s really all you need to know about it. We made fewer mistakes this time, which made it not nearly so funny as the first show, but we did have a great time.

 

Tomorrow’s Madeira, a Portuguese possession, and we have a CSI tour of the island, including lunch. Our experienced tablemates told us that it’s a great tour and a great lunch, so we signed right up. After tomorrow, it’s just the open Atlantic for five days, and we’re getting closer and closer to . . . well, let’s just pretend we’re not.

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I'm new to this site and have just found your post.

 

My mom and grandmother are on the ship with you and have been sharing their experiences with me along the way. It is great to read about it all from a different perspective.

 

Their names are Susan (my grandmother) and Susie (my mom). If you run into them... say HI from me!!

 

What a small world!!

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John & Diane - I heard recently heard about your post and spent well into the night (1130p is way past my bedtime!) reading and taking notes. THANK YOU VERY MUCH for all the time and energy you put into this thread.

 

We are going on our first WC in Jan 2009 on the Tahitian Princess and I am scouring CC for tips, hints, things to do, what to pack, etc. I have several great ideas and suggestions from you that I will surely follow:p

 

Thanks again for taking time from your vacation to let us at home live it though your eyes. I will keep checking your post for any more updates.

 

Dolores

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