We were up earlier than usual this
morning.Although we had stayed up late,
we regained one of our lost hours and had an extra hour’s sleep.We are now three hours ahead of the East
Coast and the NYT finally arrived before we went to breakfast.For most of the cruise, we have been getting
our 2 papers when we go to breakfast and finding “our” paper at the room after
When we returned from breakfast, “the
boys” were still at work cleaning the cabin.A supervisor was there [for reasons we do not know] and asked when we
had taken the Grand World Voyage.He had
spotted the Bluetooth speaker on the headboard and recognized it.
For the first time in about three
weeks, we have a blank space in the NYT crossword.They get harder as the week progresses and we
were getting smug about solving them.We
are about 2 letters shy today, but we have until Monday, when the solution
appears, to figure it.
Today was another Mariner Luncheon
for the 4 and 5 Star Mariners; the ones, twos and threes had theirs
yesterday.This one was an Indonesian
rijstaffel and included prawn crackers; Bumbu Gado-Gado [steamed vegetables];
Soto Ayam [soup]; and Nasi Goreng [fried rice accompanied by spicy shrimp, pork
cubes, chicken satay, beef rendang, spiced green beans, banana fritters and a
meatball].It was spicy to the palettes
of the old people, but we knew just how watered down the heat had been.Had HAL served authentic Indonesian fare, the
flower locker would have been overflowing.
The captain told us in his daily
update that he was heading to a more westerly course, so we don’t have to worry
about Brazilian visas.The seas were
much calmer today and the wind died down; even so, one of our luncheon tablemates
complained about the bumpy ride during the meal.Ironically, we were seated by the rear window
and could see just how calm everything was.It made us wonder how some of these people reached 200 days aboard
Otherwise, it was “just” a sea day
and there are too few of them left.
– More of the Same
and the Sunday Puzzle
December 2 – Still Heading Brazil
It was the usual sea day comprising
too much food; too few correct answers; and lots of SCANs.We hid more eyes from the towel animals on
the adjacent table at dinner and are still waiting for a response.It doesn’t take much to keep us happy.
The cabin stewards skipped our room
tonight, but it was our own fault.We
had forgotten to change the sign on the door from “privacy please” to “service
please.”The only loss was the bedtime
chocolates and we have a trove of those [and stroopwaffels] already.
We stayed up late [for us] to see the
Indonesian crew show.Our waiter, Roy,
took part and we recognized several other crew members.It was almost midnight when the lights went
– Rolling Home
December 1 – Next Stop, Brazil
The ship has been rocking and
rolling, just as the captain promised.He has chosen a heading more southwest than he had hoped for and if he
does not correct it in time, we will be in Recife, Brazil.
Since it was a sea day [again!],
there was little to report. The big
excitement in our day occurred early when MA had her nails done at 9:00.We skipped breakfast in the MDR so we would
not be late. We continued to play trivia
with Stan and Renee with middling success.Although we are using the HAL 9000 team name, first introduced in 2001,
we should probably call ourselves Close But No Cigar.It is hard to win when other teams are
turning in perfect papers.We are having
more fun than anyone else; we laugh constantly whereas we hear nothing but
serious mumblings elsewhere in the room.Don’t even ask about our discussion of which part of the body a cow uses
to sweat [For the record, we said ‘tongue.].Ah well, Scarlett, tomorrow is another day.
We discovered today that Renee write
“romantic mysteries.”We are not sure
what that means but will check to library when we get home; we have already
tried to find her on our free e-book source to no avail.
We attended the evening show tonight
which featured Vox Futura, a group of 4 young black men singing as a group and
individually.They had been
semi-finalists on Britain’s Got Talent and they did.We are anxious to see them again on Monday.
It was just another day on the medium
seas.The high seas will come later in
the week when we have a seven-day stretch of sea days.
The only change from the usual sea
day our going to see The Man Who Knew Too
Much, an Alfred Hitchcock f from 1956.It was a spy story starring James Stewart and Doris Day.The first part of the film – which set up the
rest of the plot [again, pun intended] – was set in Marrakech.We enjoyed watching scenes in the El Fnaaand elsewhere, reliving our visit in 2001.
TOMORROW – Magnificent Madeira
November 30 – Have Some Madeira, M’Dear
The last little rock between us and
home was Madeira, another Portuguese outpost in the middle of nowhere.We have visited here several times and always
been impressed by the abundance of fresh flowers on display throughout the
capital, Funchal.In past visits, we
have taken the shuttle from the port to the center of town and then just
wandered around.We are especially fond
of the local market with its displays of local fruits and vegetables, flowers
and crafts and fresh caught fish.
We are headed for several days of
stormy weather and not-so-smooth seas.We did some bouncing tonight and on occasion thought we had hit potholes
in the Atlantic.
We set the clocks back another hour
last night, so we were only 5 hours ahead of the East Coast now.We took advantage of the extra hour of sleep
so we could be ready to leave the ship for our 9:00 a.m. tour.This was our only real shore excursion [not
counting our abortive lunch in Florence].
There were only the 2 of us.D made no effort to find people on Cruise
Critic to share the expenses.That
decision made the tour much more expensive but meant we did not to worry about
what other people wanted to do; we have had too many tours derailed by other,
selfish travelers.Sadly, they do not
even know that they have done it.
Today’s tour was a Jewish Heritage
Tour of Casablanca and it delivered everything it promised and then some.We have been here twice before but never
toured the city itself.In the Fall of 2001,
we took a HAL tour to Marrakech.In
2011, we saw the Hassan II mosque from the outside and briefly visited a
synagogue on our way to Rabat.Today was
all Casablanca, all the time.
We met our guide, Abdel, just after
9:00 and luxuriated in being the only in a six-passenger minivan. The crown
jewel in the Casablanca skyline is the Hassan II mosque, named for its
benefactor.Although the French
architect was not Muslim, he had studied Arab and Moroccan design elements and
created the third largest mosque in the world [after Mecca and Medina].The interior can accommodate 25000
worshippers at one time with men on the first floor and women in the
balcony.The courtyard can hold even
more, perhaps another 50000 or more, for Ramadan.
Because the building has no
air-conditioning, the ceiling of the main sanctuary is designed to retract to
let in fresh air.So many thousands of
people can generate a lot of heat and sweat in closed environment.For cooler weather, the floors both inside
and out can be heated by pumping warm water through built-in pipes.By the same token, cool water can be used in
hot weather to make the men on their prayer rugs more comfortable.
The mosque complex is really a small
city.It includes not only the mosque
itself but also offices, classrooms and nearby buildings as well.The interior of the sanctuary is approximately
200 meters long and 100 meters wide which makes it more than 4 acres under one
roof.The retractable ceiling was almost
70 meters high [if memory serves correctly].It is really big.
Abdel parked the car and walked us to
the Hassan II mosque and then into its bowels to purchase our tickets [which
were included in the price of our tour].However, he did not accompany us on the tour; instead, we had to wait
for a group of English speakers to gather before the mosque’s own guide showed
us around.Because talking to any group
of tourists is like herding cats, there were some gaps in our presentation
because the guide would talk before everyone had caught up with her.
If we heard her correctly, the wood
used for the women’s balcony and other structures was cedar because it resists
the effects of salt water.For the same
reason, titanium is used throughout the complex because in addition to being
light and strong, it does not corrode.This is important because the mosque is built partly over the incoming
Atlantic Ocean.There was a Quranic verse
Hassan II liked which referred to God and water, so the architect incorporated
the water in the design.The esplanade
around the mosque offers a magnificent view of the ocean.
The tour was not easy on the
knees.First we climbed up stairs to get
from the street to the grounds of the mosque.Then we went down stairs to purchase the tickets and back up for the
tour.After we finished in the
sanctuary, we went down again to see the men’s ablution room before struggling
up more steps to leave the mosque.
The ablution room was a tremendous
facility with rows and rows of circular washing stations.Muslims must wash before praying and the
place to do that at Hassan II [the ablution room] must be able to accommodate
thousands of people.Although the
stations were stone, the room had an industrial feel to it.We have been to other mosques which had much
more modest – and often outdoor – facilities.
Naturally, we had to remove our shoes
before we could walk on the carpets of the mosque.In other places, we left our shoes in a rack
and retrieved them when we left.Here,
however, we were issued plastic bags so we could carry them with us.As we left the sanctuary, we put our shows
back on and deposited the bags for recycling.
And after all the worry about the
scarf, MA did not have to cover her head!It’s a good thing she likes the scarf she bought yesterday.
Since this was supposed to be a
JEWISH Heritage tour, and we had already spent over an hour at Hassan II, we
continued onward with Abdel to the Beth El Synagogue.This particular synagogue is best known for
its 10 stained glass windows which added visual warmth to the sanctuary.This is a typical older synagogue with the bima [the altar] in the center of the
sanctuary.The Ark containing the Old
Testament scrolls is on the far side of the room opposite the entry with the bima in between.It was a lovely little building and D put
money in a slot marked “for the synagogue.”There was one marked “for the poor,” but they are on their own this
Abdel then proceeded to give us a
driving tour of Casablanca including neighborhoods both rich and not.The largest population of Jews lives in the
Bordeaux area, but it is a mixture of Arabs, Moroccans, Christians and
Jews.It is by no means a ghetto.The old Jewish section, the mellah, was more of a segregated area
but there has been no interference or prejudice against Morocco’s Jews.In the old days, the mellah [a word meaning salt because many of the Jews were salt
merchants] sat on one side of the king’s palace and the Muslims sat on the
other.As Abdel said, the Jews and the
Muslims have so much in common including dietary laws that there is no reason
for them not to get along.
Abdel is extremely proud of his
country and king.He brags about the
religious tolerance shown in all levels of Moroccan society from the royals on
down.As evidence, there are still about
a dozen active, but small, Jewish congregations in Casablanca where 4000 of
Morocco’s 4500 remaining Jews live.
In 2001, Jon and Briton told us to
skip Casablanca because it was just a big European city.Today, we saw the proof of that
statement.Casablanca is a city of
neighborhoods each of which has its own identity.We saw great mid-century homes surrounded by
walls topped with bougainvillea in at least 4 colors.There were apartment blocks, both
mid-century and more recent; luxury hotels; slums; and everything in
between.There is a portion of the
Corniche which has private beaches and another section with public beaches; the
access points on the public beach are numbered to make it easier to find
friends.Each section of the public
beach has a different vendor for beach furniture and food.
Speaking of food, all of the usual
players are here although their numbers are not as great as elsewhere.Pizza Hut and KFC are not hard to find and
McDonald’s is all over, too.Abdel told
us that McDonald’s observes all of the halal dietary restrictions in preparing
its food.The others may as well, but
the laws are not as strict on their menu items.
Many Casablancans still buy their
groceries the traditional way by going from vendor to vendor for different food
types such as cheese, fish, meat and vegetables.Only recently has the concept of the
supermarket begun to take hold.Since we
did not see any, we had to take Abdel’s word for it.We did see a modern shopping center past the
public beaches.We were told there is
another one farther out.Again, malls are
a new concept in an ancient country.
Back to the tour.Our last stop was at the Jewish Museum.It is housed in a former home for orphans and
still bears the name of its benefactor on the exterior wall.Like Beth El, it is small but houses several
old synagogues or, at least, their bimas.There were relics from Moroccan synagogues,
candelabra, jewelry and a whole display of hamsas.Clothing from the early 1900s was on display
along with dolls dressed as Jewish women would have been in various cities in
the 1930s.It was all interesting but
there was no docent to put it into context and Abdel just turned us loose and
waited for us.We had had the same
experience at Beth El.Even so, the museum
was worth visiting and we were able to get some good, if illegal, photos.
When we returned to the car from the
museum, we told Abdel that it was time for lunch.He offered halal, kosher or anything else we wanted.We told him to choose something he liked
because we had no restrictions.He
decided on fish.We thought we would be
going to a restaurant or café that specialized in fish, but, instead, he took
us to the fish area of a local market.The journey was not without its tense moments as he tried to find
parking.Finally, he found a spot but
had to pay [i.e., bribe] someone to get the spot and guarantee the car’s
safety.We had earlier discussed the
Arab tradition of baksheesh and
laughed at the fact that, despite his protestations that it didn’t exist anymore,
he had had to use it to park.
The market had vegetable sellers,
fish mongers, poultry vendors and others.He took us to his favorite fish stall and asked if we liked
sardines.Well, these were not in a tin
can but on ice.Since he seemed to want
them, D agreed to share some of the small herring with him.Alas, there was no sour cream and onions to
go with them.MA did not want sardines
in any form, so Abdel and the vendor picked a nice fish – perhaps haddock,
perhaps halibut, perhaps something else – and we were done with this part of
the transaction.We were surprised to
see many of the fish vendors selling prawns and oysters since they are not
kosher, but we never really asked about this seeming dichotomy.
We walked out of the market and
across an alleyway to a series of tables where we sat down.Soon, we were brought plates of salad with
fresh tomatoes, onions and cucumber.Then we discovered bowls of lentils in front of us and delicious local
bread.Next came the sardines grilled
with salt [too much of it for D].Abdel
ate with his hands, but D tried to eat them with a knife and fork.While we were eating the sardines, roasted
green peppers dusted with cumin were put on the table.Around the time we had all had enough to eat,
MA’s fish arrived.It had been split in
halve and cooked to perfection.We were
so stuffed with all of this food [and our standard-issue Cokes] that we sent
half of the fish and a small loaf of the bread home with Abdel.He paid in dirham, the Moroccan currency and
told us that it was the equivalent of $25US.We had no reason not to accept this and paid this and a handsome tip
when we returned to the pier.
We finally waddled out of the café and
through more of the market.We saw
flower arrangements and Abdel told us that it has been only recently that
people have begun to give flowers as gifts.Prior to this, people brought salt, bread and even money as presents
when visiting.We wound around the
exterior of the market, retrieved the car [and paid the baksheesh] and decided to call it a day.
We are really on the way home
now.Cadiz lies on a peninsula on the
western coast of Spain, so we have only the crossing ahead of us
[notwithstanding two more ports].
For some reason, we were literally up
before dawn.Of course, in our
window-less interior cabin, we did not realize this at first.However, it was a few minutes before 8 and sunrise
was 8:15.Imagine the greeting we got
when we arrived at the MDR!Not only had
we actually shown up today, but also we were much earlier than usual.We were so early [how early were you?] that
we could have made it to 9:30 trivia had we so desired.We didn’t.We already told Stan and Renee that we do not do morning trivia or
We were a bit concerned because the
weather forecast, as noted yesterday, called for rain.Skies looked threatening as we ate breakfast,
but we tried to attribute that to the nascent sunrise.When we left the ship around 11:30, there was
actually a bit of sun mixed in with the wind; as we returned several hours
later, we had a bit of rain.At least
the weather did not ruin our day.
Cadiz is one of our favorite
ports.Cruise ships dock in front of a
pedestrian area full of shops and cafes [and pigeons].There is a park which runs parallel to the
one street passengers must cross to get into town.The side streets which branch off of the
pedestrian plaza are narrow, overhung by tiny wrought-iron balconies which
reminded us of New Orleans.
Because the town is on this
peninsula, one is never far from water.On previous visits, we have taken the HoHo which follows a good portion
of the coastline before going inland to the El Cortes Ingles store.Last year, we rode the bus “for old times’
sake” and got off right behind the cathedral yet we were still on the coast road.We then walked downhill to the cathedral
plaza [where we checked in on FB today] and shopped for tchotchkes before
Today, we simply crossed the road and
walked into town.We wandered through
the main plaza on the way to the cathedral, passing several tour groups
outside.Once again, we skipped the
church and went shopping.We found
little to inspire us but still managed to spend 10 euros.It was time for lunch.
We must have had big Xs on our bodies
because lunch became a quest rather than a meal.We looked at the café near the cathedral
where we think we ate last year but saw nothing on the menu or in the display
case which appealed to us.The next
café, on the main plaza, had outdoor seating shielded from the wind and with
gas heaters a la the café in Barcelona.We took seats and were given menus and then were either forgotten or
ignored.The only action we got was when
the pigeon swooped over D’s head; at least he did not leave a tip.The paella we saw advertised was not to
be.We looked at another café on the
plaza but saw nothing awe-inspiring.
We debated finding a bakery and
taking goodies back to the ship but decided to try one of the side streets
where we could see tables by the sidewalk.We found one which boasted of wraps, quiche and “empanadillas” which we
presumed meant “little empanadas.”There
were no seats left inside, but one of the employees gestured to a table
outside.D had to go back inside to get
the menu.We settled on the “special” of
6 empanadillas for 10 euros as well as the ever-popular Cokes.When no one came to inquire, D went back
inside to place our order.Again,
through pantomime, he was told that the food would be brought to us.When our food did not arrive after what we
considered a reasonable time, we left, still hungry.No one chased after us.
A few doors closer to the plaza, we
found a coffee shop which had yummy pastries in the display case, so, once again,
lunch was pastry and cappuccino.While
it was not the paella or even empanadilas we sought, it was a good alternative
and cost only 7 euros, cheapest meal so far.
We shopped [successfully] before
returning to the ship.When we passed a
Chinese restaurant, D went in and retrieved a carry-out menu in Spanish] for
Roy who is always looking for Chinese when we are in port.It’s too bad that he is going home when we do
and may never return.
With a visit to the Hassan II mosque
in Casablanca scheduled for tomorrow, MA had just about run out of time to buy
a scarf as a head covering.She passed
by scarves when the ship’s shops had them on display because she thought she
could find one on shore.There were none
to be found in Katakolon or Cadiz, our main search areas.On the way to dinner tonight, she inquired at
the shops.Of course, all of theirs were
back in storage.But wait!One of the clerks remembered on hiding under
the register!It was perfect and only
$10, the regular price.Now MA is all
As mentioned before, the cabin
stewards, who have been less than perfect, leave towel animals on the bed each
night we have been saving them.We
colluded with Roy to place 2 on the plate of one of the neighbors at dinner
who, in her turn, left them on our table.Tonight, we left an apple with 2 eyes and a nose and lips painted on in
lip gloss.Since we wanted it on the
table before she arrived, D took the apple to the MDR during the early seating
to give to Roy.Sudi took it in his
stead and when we came to dinner tonight, they had hidden it in a napkin.Of course the lip gloss smeared making the
apple look like a cheap floozy, but it did not matter because our victim did
not come to the dining room.After
supper, we upgraded the apple with a nose and mouth made from dried apricots.We are eating elsewhere tomorrow [details to
follow] so she will wonder where it came from.We can only wait to see what’s next.
We slept in this morning, the second
day in a row that we missed breakfast in the MDR.We heard about it, too, from everyone in the
dining room when we went to lunch.The
weather forecast called for rain and temperatures peaking at 58F.Neither was obvious to us as we ate lunch at
the rearmost point of the MDR.MA could
not see as we approached the Rock of Gibraltar and D could only see things
after we had passed them.It was a far
cry from the cruise we took when we passed the Rock while eating breakfast in
the Lido, the passage accompanied by the opening of Thus Spake Zarathrustra [better known as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey].
With such an unpleasant prediction,
we decided to wait until after lunch to venture forth.There was the barest hint of rain drops when
we left the ship, but soon we had to put up the hoods on our jackets and zip
them up to ward off the wind.About a
half-mile from the ship [probably less], we decided that there was nothing in
town that we had not seen several times before; we hustled in slow-motion back
to the Rotterdam.
When we first visited Gibraltar in
2001, we took a HAL tour which drove us all around and let us visit the famous
Barbary Apes “up close and personal.”Our guide warned us not to have any kind of food for the apes as they
were rather excitable and curious.He had
brought snacks enough to occupy the apes while we watched.Even so, several used MA as a springboard as
they jumped from person to person.When
we spoke to people about the apes this week, we warned them not to bring food;
to leave jewelry at home; and purses on the bus.Even so, we heard of at least one incident in
which an ape went into a passenger’s backpack, took out an envelope and
scattered its contents to the winds.Some people never learn.
When we returned from our abbreviated
walk, we went to the Ocean Bar for sodas, then back to the room for the
SCAN.We stopped in the casino again on
the way from dinner; MA increased her winnings and D did not.
The forecast for tomorrow is more of
the same – rain.Temps are supposed to
be warmer, in the mid-60s.We are
hopeful since this next port is one of our favorites.
We are heading toward Gibraltar today and will exit the Mediterranean early tomorrow morning.We will not witness that milestone.It is significant, though, because it means we are on the downhill side of the cruise. [Actually, we have been since we left Piraeus/Athens a week ago.] We will be home and back to reality in 2 weeks.Between unpacking, doctor dates, Christmas plans and travel, and New Year’s guests, we will be busy from the first day.
Emily and HJ called us this evening around 7 [1 in the afternoon in Baltimore] to make up for yesterday’s non-call.We spent about 15 minutes talking about nothing significant.With Emily’s help, Harper told us about seeing Christmas trees, dancing, riding a train and eating chocolate.She also wanted to know why we were dressed up.HJ was in rare form, but Emily told her we had to go to dinner, so the call was terminated before she could get antsy.
We had the penultimate formal night tonight. [MA – escargots/ D – king crab legs] The last one is schedule for our last sea.We think it was set for then so there will not be enough time to send the formal wear to the laundry/dry cleaner.That just means that D’s tuxedo and shirt will be sent out on the first day of our next cruise.
We stopped again in the casino on the way to the room. The less said the better.
TOMMORROW -- Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean
Thursday, November 24 – Sicilian Showers
The Weather Gods caught up with us today bigly.Pennants on boats next to the Rotterdam were flying straight out, parallel to the ground with not fluttering at all.Add the pouring rain and the weather was brutal.Once again, we had no definite plans other than to wander around and find a café for lunch, so we did not miss too much.Having found the BNP in Palermo, there was no reason to leave the ship even when the wind and rain slacked off later in the day.
At trivia, we overheard someone talk about finding a market full of cheeses and hams.We would have liked that but not enough to get soaked.Speaking of trivia, we scored 16/17 today and still came in second.We fear we have peaked.Stan and Renee are fun to talk to, but Stan doesn’t bring much to the game; Renee is the one who contributes when we let her.
Our Skype call with Emily and Harper was a little more successful than yesterday’s with Jon and The Boys.The video was clear but we had no sound.Apparently HJ could hear us but we could not hear them.We will try again tomorrow and hope for a better connection.
Rich and Donna [the couple from Cleveland] sat with us at dinner again.Although the conversation was lively, especially MA’s recounting of our adventure in Florence, we talked an awful lot about medical maladies and matters, a sign, no doubt, of our age.
MA cashed out her $157 casino winnings from last night so she wouldn’t spend all of it and return to her old ways, losing $15 of it.D is about even for the trip.
TOMORROW -- A Sea Day on the Way to Gibraltar
November 23 – Perfectly Fine in Palermo
First, corrections and
recollections.We did not go to the
movie last night because it started at 9 and we figured [correctly] that we
would still be in the MDR.Even if we
had hurried, we would have been there until almost 11 and it would have been
midnight before we got to bed.Instead,
we played penny slots until we had reached our pre-determined limit and went
“home” to read.The lights were off by
As for Valletta and Magrr, they are
starkly beautiful.Malta is an island
fortress. The walls of Valletta go
straight down to the water.It is
beautiful and historic [as the home of the Knights of Malta] but impregnable,
and amazing to see.The architecture is
straight out of the Crusades, all beige stone and high walls.To honor its military history, ceremonial
cannons are set off every day at noon and 4 p.m.We were buying our lift tickets at noon and
were startled, to say the least, because we were practically under the cannons.By 4, though, we were back aboard and did not
hear them in the cabin.
Magrr is completely different.Granted, the cliffs on the island come
straight to the water’s edge, there are no palisades or battlements and no
ceremonial fusillades. Like many Mid-East nations, the buildings were the same
beige color as the landscape.If we had
not known better, we could have been looking at Israel, Oman or Egypt.Agriculture seems to be the major industry
and the arable land is terraced to make the best use of it.There is only a small harbor which can handle
small ferry boats, so we anchored off the city and people used tenders to go
ashore.Valletta, by contrast, has a
large commercial harbor, apparently the largest natural harbor on the Mediterranean.Situated as it is in the middle of the Med,
it is a good transit point to go anywhere; we saw overnight ferries going in
every direction and to practically any country from France to Greece.
Palermo, too, is a commercial center
and has no cruise terminal at all.We
walked off the ship and past a half-dozen vendors trying to entice us to take
HoHo or taxi tours, horse-drawn carriages and even tuk-tuks reminiscent of
Southeast Asia.We bypassed them all
politely and walked toward the center of town.
D was trying once again to find a BNP
bank in order to withdraw euros from our checking account.In theory, BNP is a cooperating bank with
Bank of America and we will have no additional transaction fees. The exchange
rate for the euro is lower than when D bought some before the trip, and we are
“banking” on the rate going up [pun intended] before our cruise next
Spring.If it does, we will be a little
ahead, but if the rate stays low, we will just be losing currency traders.
We found a square in front of what we
presumed was a theater.MA sat on a
backless bench while D scouted out the territory, so to speak.He thought we were near the sought-after bank
and inquired at a men’s store, writing the name down so there was no
confusion.The clerk pointed him down
the street we were on and said the bank was about 2 minutes away on the
right-hand side, the same side MA was already on.D followed the directions, found the bank and
withdrew 250 euros.We will find out how
much they really cost in USD when we get home.
Mission accomplished, we headed back
toward the ship looking for a bakery/café we had seen on the way up the
street.We were almost at the ship when
we found it; we had become a little worried that somehow we had passed its
window full of pastries and cheesecakes.Relieved, we went in, looked at the cases of calories and sat down.D asked a young girl who was behind the
counter for 2 cannoli and a cappuccino, but, we discovered later, she did not
speak English.Still, how many ways are
there to say cappuccino?D approached
someone else after a while, was told the girl did not understand and gave his
order adding a Coke Zero for himself.Eventually everything arrived at our table and we had one of our best
lunches to date.The cannoli were
scrumptious, MA’s cappuccino was beautiful to look at and the Coke was the
drink of the gods.
We took our time eating because
Bristro [not a typo] had free wi-fi.After several false starts with the password, we were both on line
downloading mail, Facebook and even Spotify [in an effort to play some of the music
offline].We finally forced ourselves to
leave without any carryout goodies to return to the ship and our books and
We had arranged with Jon to Skype
with The Boys this afternoon.Our 4 p.m.
was 9 a.m. in Wisconsin where they had gone for the Thanksgiving holiday.We had to try several times because they were
late signing on but eventually made contact.The connection was not good.We
both disconnected our video but, even then, the audio was sketchy at best, so
we gave it up.We are due to Skype with
Emily and Harper tomorrow; maybe we will have better luck.
Dinner note [for Jon] – MA had tempeh
and rice with a curry sauce.She said it
was good but not as good as the fried tempeh we had in Jakarta.
Once again, we skipped the show and
spent time in the casino on the penny slots.MA’s luck finally turned and her $20 start ended with $157 on her
account.Now she can have the operation.
The past few days have been
relatively quiet.No one seemed to
notice that the blog was not posted which makes one wonder if anybody is
actually reading it.No matter, it
serves as a journal for us for when we forget what we did.
Sunday was a sea day and the one-week
anniversary of D’s Italian escapade.We
steamed across the Med toward the port of Valletta, Malta, where we will spend
a day before going to the neighboring island [Gozo?] and the town of Magrr.
Monday was beautiful and warm.Skies were clear and the temperature was
about 70F.We had no exotic plans for
our day in Valletta because we had a rather extensive and fascinating tour in
2009.At that time, we saw mostly
remnants of early Malta including Hagar Qim, stone monoliths reminiscent of
Stonehenge.We also visited a complex of
pre-historic caves and a subterranean hand-hewn complex under a house in the
city.The latter was discovered by
accident when workers were doing renovations to the house.Anyway…
We expected to go ashore and wander
around before finding someplace for lunch.We did that but with a twist.Roger and Barbara joined us [how could we say “no?”], so we did not do
the walking and exploring we had anticipated.Barbara uses a walker which limited our range because the streets are
not level or especially smooth.After
leaving the ship and making our way through the terminal, we followed the road
for perhaps a half-mile before coming to the elevator [1 euro] which took us up
to street level.We walked through a
park and then stalled.No one knew where
to go and Barbara thought it was time to eat [12:15].The group dithered about where to eat until D
selected the Italian café we had just passed.We sat outside, of course, and watched the tourists while we ate and talked.When we were done, we retraced our steps and
returned to the ship. Our big adventure in Valletta.
We stayed in Valletta’s harbor until
6:30 this morning when we started for Mgarr [Muh-jar].We were at anchor before 10 a.m. when tender
service began for those going ashore.MA
doesn’t do tenders anymore and D is not allowed out on his own since Florence,
so we spent a quiet day reading and watching the water.After dinner, we went to the theater to see Bad Moms.
We first visited Athens in 2009.We pre-arranged for Nick, a driver but not a guide,
to take us to all of the tourist highlights which he did.When we met him in the parking lot by the
cruise terminal, he “suggested” that we begin our day at the Acropolis, the
hill overlooking Athens containing the Parthenon.He said we would beat the heat and the
crowds, and he was right.We also spent
time at the National Archeological Museum [best remembered for the Hall of
Naked Men], Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Zeus and more modern sites.The latter included the stadium where the
modern Olympic games were introduced; a statue of Lord Byron; the changing of
the guard in front of the President’s home; and the highest point in the city
from which we could look down on the Acropolis.
When we returned in 2011, we hired
Nick again. D and a friend went to
Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus and elsewhere.MA stayed on board the ship as she under the weather.Although Nick was not as outgoing as he had
been, it was still a good tour.
Since we’ve “done Athens”, we stayed
aboard the Rotterdam in Piraeus today.Piraeus serves as the port for Athens just as Civitavecchia [literally
the “old city”] is the port for Rome.Both
Rome and Athens are about an hour’s ride from their respective ports.
We wandered into the cruise terminal
in search of free wi-fi but could not connect with the internet.Our tablets swore they were connected to the
terminal’s server, but that was as far as we got.Others were similarly frustrated and those
from the crew who did get on had more patience than we did.They said it was slow and certainly were not
exaggerating.We went back to the ship.
The rest of the day was similarly
quiet.Trivia, lunch, etc.The big excitement was another boat
drill.Cruise ships are required to have
emergency drills for passengers every 30 days.The folks who boarded Monday in Rome had theirs that afternoon, but
those of us who boarded in Canada or the US had ours today.
We love Katakolon.Period.It is a three-block town that appears only when there is a ship in port
and then closes until the next ship.It’s
sort of like the old musical Brigadoon
in which the town appeared every hundred years.And we may be the last ship of the season, so everyone will go away on
vacation or tend their gardens tomorrow.
The three blocks comprise tchotchke
stores, clothing stores, jewelry stores, a drug store and about a half-dozen
outdoor cafes; these may have indoor seating, but we have never looked for
it.Today was, perhaps, the warmest day
we have had, a good 10 degrees warmer than Florence at about 65F.Not only did we not need coats, we were
comfortable eating outside in “our” café.
The walk from the ship to the town is
about 2 inches.Okay, it’s a block.The most noticeable feature of the walk is
the stench of sulphur where the dock meets the land.It’s been this way at least since we first
visited in 2009.Once around the corner,
though, it dissipates quickly.We looked
in souvenir stores just to see what we could see and, as always, bought some
items which will go unspecified.We
walked past the jewelers and the clothing stores and went to the end of the
third block, rounded the corner and walked into the café we go to every time we
are here.Although it advertises itself
as a fish-centric restaurant, we avoided the fish and got moussaka [MA] and a
gyro platter [D] along with 2 Diet Cokes.Other passengers wandered in while we were there and quite a number of
crew were there as well.We watched as they
ordered extra rice which the waiter brought along with soy sauce, ketchup and
mayo.When we finished, we paid our 27
euro tab and went for the real shopping.
MA was wearing a “Trojan wall”
bracelet which she bought here last year.We looked in several stores before finding one which had a similar
necklace.The necklace was too short,
however, but the staff offered to add 3 links [more if needed] to bring it the
length she wanted.There was no
additional charge most likely because of the huge markup already in place.The price was allegedly 92 euros but “for
you, only 80 including the extra links.”Maybe we could have found it at a better price at the next/last store,
where we bought it originally, but maybe not, so MA walked out of the store
wearing the necklace.We looked for
souvenir polo-style shirts for D but found nothing; the one shirt he liked wasn’t
available in the right size.Another
possibility was dismissed when we heard the price.
Having eaten lunch and used most of
our available euros, we returned to the ship where we read until trivia.The “new people” showed up again and we now
know his name is Stan; we still are not sure of hers.We chatted until game time, scored 14 points
again [nowhere near the perennial winners] and then chatted some more.Stan told us yesterday that he had brought
the wrong power cord for his laptop and had borrowed one from one of the tech
people but the plug was the wrong size.D took ours to trivia today and told him to try it.When we returned from dinner tonight, there
was a note in the door saying that the cord had worked and to call them.D did and then went to their room to retrieve
the cord so he could use our
laptop.We will probably be passing this
cord back and forth for the next three weeks.
As most cruisers know, the cabin stewards
place towel animals on the beds when the do the evening turn-down service.We have been saving the eyes and tonight at
dinner we made little faces on our butter plates – two eyes with a butter
nose.The waiter, the wine steward and
Stephanie, the assistant manager, were all caught by surprise and are now
convinced that we have escaped from the asylum.
Lest you worry, there was no entry
for yesterday.It was a sea day with
little to distinguish it from all the others.We did, however, add a new member to our trivia team.He asked to join us Tuesday and was brave
enough to return yesterday.He and his
wife, who are from western North Carolina, joined the cruise Monday in Rome.She has been under the weather, apparently
from jet lag, so we have yet to meet her.While we all introduced ourselves, we cannot remember his name.As an aside, we continue to be also-rans with
14 of 18 points, but we are having fun and it is good to have someone else to
Last night was also Formal Night
#4.We invited speaker George and his
wife Jan to share our table while they could because they depart on Saturday
when we reach Athens.We had a pleasant
evening talking about our families and travel experiences, two safe
topics.Even though they are Canadian,
we did not even tiptoe toward politics.George and Jen sat next to us on the World, so it was like talking to
old friends again.
We planned to explore Corfu more than
we did Naples but still intended to find someplace for lunch while ashore.Once again, we missed our goal.MA was not feeling up to wandering the old
town and she would not let D go alone lest he have another “spell,” so we
stayed on board, read and relaxed.The
old town here sounded interesting and very walkable.There is an old synagogue as well as more
than 30 churches in an area that looks to be about 8 blocks square.Throw in shops and cafes, and it is probably
a lively place to walk.Maybe next time.
We chatted with our anonymous trivia
partner by the Lido pool after lunch.His wife was with him and we made very small talk.She looked rather wan and appeared to have
had tea and crackers for lunch.We
wished her a speedy recovery.Surprisingly, she joined us at trivia this afternoon.We played well as a team [14/17] and spent an
hour in conversation once the contest was over.As noted earlier, we have missed the social aspect of trivia and hope we
don’t drive them off before we return to Florida.
We have visited Naples twice before.In 2009, we organized a tour for 6 to the
Amalfi Coast where we visited Positano and Sorrento where he had “real”
pizza.We also spent time wandering the
ruins of Pompeii.Last year, MA’s back
bothered her so much that we got as far as the terminal before she returned to
the ship; D wandered around Naples looking for a BNP bank so he could use his
ATM card at a cooperating bank without a service charge.We got a little farther today.
We had hoped to follow up on advice
from the World cruise’s port lecturer who said that there was a pizza place
literally under the cruise terminal.The
terminal is built like a big H with a roadway running under the
crosspiece.When we finally put down our
e-readers and went looking, we found not one but two little cafes selling pizza
and other goodies.
We picked one and realized we were
the only non-Italians there which we took as a good sign.While sitting in a covered enclosure outside,
ordered a pepperoni pizza and 2 Cokes. It was a bit chilly but too bad and the
walls surrounding this “patio” offered protection from the wind. The pizza and
soda hit the spot and, we thought, was quite affordable at 12.5 euros.By European standards, it was a bargain.
As Rogers and Hammerstein wrote in Oklahoma, when Judd Frye would die, “the
flowers in the dell will out a different smell….”For those who did not already know,
passengers who reach their final destination before the ship does have the
flower locker as their new cabin; hence, yesterday’s title.
Also, despite her best efforts, MA
was not able to find any eligible sailors when she went for a drink and dinner
last night.We thought you would want to
The doctor in Florence told D to take
it easy and rest for a few days and not to drink any alcohol.Since he does not drink and is naturally
lazy, these were easy instructions to follow.We stayed in bed until 8:30 despite having turned out the light at 9:00
last night.After a quiet breakfast in
the MDR, during which a half-dozen or so staff members asked after his health,
we returned to the room to read for a bit.With the prospect of sleeping all day ahead of us, we left the room so
the stewards could straighten it.We
think they were behind schedule this morning because Rome is the end
of/beginning of a segment and they had to prepare the rooms for the new people
[all 50 of them].We took our tablets
and the laptop to the Ocean Bar where D was able to find an outlet.Once the laptop was plugged in, he worked on
the blog while MA read.When he was
finished, she proofread and offered suggestions and corrections which he duly
followed.The entry was finished but not
posted around 12:15, so we toted our HAL bag to the MDR for our first lunch
there. Normally, the MDR is closed on port days but was open today for the newly
arrived Mariners.Apparently it was open
the day we boarded, too, but we did not know it.
We returned to the room where D
posted the blog and deleted email.The lights
were turned off around 1:30 and the alarm set for 6:00[!]We didn’t sleep that late, but let’s say that
this SCAN was a lot more fun than yesterday’s.
We ate dinner at the Pinnacle Grill,
Holland America’s extra-charge steak house.The add-on charge is now $35 per person, but we remember when it was
only $10.However, as 5-Star Mariners,
we each receive 2 free dinners at the Pineapple [as we call it], so dinner was
free and we will go again in early December as we cross the Atlantic on the way
When we booked this cruise, we
especially liked that there was no pressure to race off the ship at every port
since we had been to most of them.We
made arrangements for only two excursions, one in Casablanca and one in
Florence where we had lunch reservations at Ristorante ZaZa.We ate there in 2001 on our first visit.
Well, the “best laid plans of mice
and men” and all that means that we did not get to ZaZa for lunch.In fact, we never got to lunch anywhere, but
we did have an adventure unlike anyone else on the Good Ship Lollipop.Here’s what happened:
We were up way too early by our
standards and had a light breakfast in the room.By 7:30, we were in the theater where we
waited about 2 minutes before being called to board our bus to Florence.We hate The Big Bus, but it had become our
only viable transport after our original group of six dwindled to the two of
us; the private escort we had contracted was simply too expensive for just
The ride to Florence [Firenze to the
locals] was uneventful.We were dressed
for brisk weather because the forecast called for a high of 55, quite a change
from last week’s temps of 80 in Tuscany.About 15 minutes out from the city center and our “disem-bus-kation,” D
began to feel warm and clammy as well as a wee bit dizzy.Blaming it on the heat on the bus and his
multiple layers of clothing, he assumed that the cold air outside the bus would
Once outside, as the group began
walking toward Santa Croce church, he actually felt worse.He was having trouble walking and told MA
that he was, as he said, “staggering.”Granted, the street and sidewalks were cobblestone, his problem was from
the dizziness.Thing were spinning so
much that he sat on the steps of Santa Croce while the tour guide gave her
speech about when and where to meet and what to do in an emergency.When the group dispersed to enrich the
Florentine economy, D sat on the steps in front of a storm drain in case he
We moved to a table at a nearby café,
but D feared he would fall off the chair because things were really
spinning.MA went into the café to ask
someone to call our local trip coordinator [the aforementioned emergency
procedure] and D moved back to the curb in front of the café.Within 2 minutes of the phone call, Debora,
the coordinator, was there.She and MA
hovered and huddled behind D discussing options while he threw up in a plastic
shopping bag.Finally, D agreed an
ambulance would be in everyone’s best interests.It should be noted that several shopkeepers
were concerned enough to offer help of one sort or another; D did not want to
make a mess in the leather store if he didn’t make it as far as the proffered
toilet nor was he keen on the lemon offered by the barista.
The ambulance arrived in about 5
minutes.He declined the crew’s efforts
to help him stand up, but needed assistance walking to and climbing into the
ambulance.Stretched out on the gurney,
he had his sweater and shirt pushed up and out of the way while electrodes were
attached.It must have looked like a
scene from a TV show.When it was time
to speed off to the hospital, which is behind the Duomo, D asked if MA was
coming and was assured she was in the front seat.Off we went, MA in the shotgun seat, siren
blaring, until we reached the hospital.
During most of this, D had his eyes
closed to assuage the spinning.Assorted
people pushed the ambulance gurney through the Minotaur’s Labyrinth before
settling into a curtained treatment area.The staff removed the rest of his clothing thoroughly if not
gently.Now our hero was reduced to
black socks and matching Jockey shorts, an adult movie in the making.The socks were pushed down [although the
shorts weren’t, thank God], and leads were added to those already covering his
body like freckles.When the
almost-English-speaking doctor arrived, he checked peripheral vision, had blood
drawn and sent D for a head CT.
And then we waited.And waited.All the while, MA and Debora were in the waiting room with no
information.Apparently, we were all
waiting for the results of the blood work and for a specialist to review the CT
films.MA couldn’t get anything to eat
because D’s wallet was in his pants pocket and the pants were in a bag under
the gurney.Debora offered to take her
somewhere and lend her money, but, in the end, they waited together.Debora finally left to run another tour
errand, but returned when MA called later [see below].
Almost 4 hours after we arrived at
the hospital, MA was brought the treatment area where the doctor said that all
of the tests had been negative; D had had neither a stroke nor a coronary.In fact, the head CT showed nothing
[snickering is allowed here] although there was the possibility of a benign
cyst which would not have had any connection to the symptoms.With that, we were given copies of all of the
tests [in Italian, of course], CDs of the scans and a bill for 121 euros.
We were escorted to the front of the
ER where we were able to pay by credit card despite having been told we would
have to pay in cash.The gentleman who
took our credit card called Debora for us and she was at the hospital in less
than 5 minutes.She called a cab to take
us to the bus and called the bus to let the driver know we were coming ahead of
the group.We were on the bus almost an
hour before everyone else arrived and we returned to the ship without further
incident.It should be noted that
throughout this adventure, the people of Florence were wonderfully kind,
concerned and helpful; if you have to go to a foreign hospital, Florence is the
place to do it.
Back in the room, D stripped out of
his sweat-soaked and still-wet clothing and went straight to bed where he
stayed, waking briefly to talk to MA.She, meanwhile, was not about to miss Indonesian Night in the MDR, so
she went alone and garnered everyone’s sympathy while enjoying bami
goring.She was exhausted, too, and the
light, and we, were out by 9:00.
And that’s how we spent our day in
– Resting in Rome
November 12 – Fabulous Florence
Well, here we are with yet another
sea day, so there isn’t much to report that hasn’t been written before or won’t
be written again.True, we had another
formal night [chilled New England lobsters for appetizers!], but the highlight
of the day was a Skype chat with Jon and The Boys.The connection was not good, but we don’t
know if that was because of the satellite connection or broadband overload
caused by too many passengers using the system simultaneously.Despite the often-frozen screen, it was good
to see and talk with them.is ey