29 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

Today is Sunday, but it doesn’t really feel like it. The priest left the ship in Dubai – and although a ship’s officer conducts an interdenominational service every Sunday, we have not gone to them. Ship rocked a bit last night, but we slept pretty well. I was a little sore this morning. I fell yesterday on our tour and scraped my leg a bit, but no big deal. Just glad we have three sea days to relax. I know when we get to the British Isles cruise we are going to have many back to back tour days. Gotta gear up for it. I have been eating too much the past few days, so today I was really strict with my food. I totally skipped breakfast and just had salad with shrimp for lunch, and a tangerine. For dinner I had three small appetizers and a fresh fruit plate for dessert. So I am hoping to feel less “bloated” by tomorrow. It is really hard to have unlimited amounts of good food around all day. Definitely going to get really serious when we get home. Anyway, I did a lot of reading in my book – really getting into it. We had bridge lessons as usual, then of course the bridge game this afternoon. We played North/South and of course all the cards were East/West. We thought we played pretty well, but ended up 3rd out of six tables.  Oh well.  After bridge, Dan went to the buffet [to check mail and work on pictures and music] and I went to the cabin to read. Then around 600 we put on our suits and went to the pool. It was empty yesterday – so all new water – was a bit chilly – not too bad. It is sea water. We watched the sunset and talked to some people in the hot tub. We have been chugging away in a southwest course ever since we left Reunion yesterday. We will pass the southern tip of Madagascar tomorrow morning about 600.  I will not be up to see it, but Dan might. He is still having trouble sleeping. [actually, when I go to bed early, I wake up early…8 hours is enough for me] We got another hour back last night, which doesn’t help. Now we are just 9 hours ahead of home. Dan went back upstairs with the computer. I will probably crash pretty soon. Another sea day tomorrow. 

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28 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

I woke about 600 (Dan was already up and out of the cabin) and watched the pilot boat from the balcony and the pilot coming aboard. We were just approaching the harbor of Reunion, an island that is still totally French – a overseas departement of France. My breakfast came at 630 (I do room service on port days) and I ate and watched them maneuver the ship alongside the dock and get it secure. Dan came back about 700 and got some US dollars to take to the purser’s desk to exchange for Euros. Most places will take US dollars, but prefer local currency. The ship was offering a good rate on exchange for Euros – and we will be in several more ports that use them – so he went ahead and got a bunch and put them in the cabin safe except for what we took with us today. Reunion is another volcanic island – although this one is still active. Most of the tours went to the volcano, but we decided not to – been there, done that, on Hawai’i. Anyway, tour was not quite as great as yesterday. Bus was twice as big (takes longer to get on and get off) and guide, though good, had very heavy French accent, which put us to sleep driving back down the mountain after lunch. But tour was good. We drove along the coast through St. Denis, the capital of the island, and then headed inland through an old collapsed caldera that they call a cirque. As we drove up the narrow winding road in this huge bus (hats off to the driver) we saw many waterfalls coming down the sides of the mountains (which top out at over 9,000 feet). One area was called Bride’s Veil and of course had a legend to go with it. We had an hour ‘shopping stop’ in a quaint mountain village called Hell Bourg, where we got some juice and French pastry and postcards. Then on to lunch at a place like a small chateau in the hills – where the lunch included rum punch and rose wine. We drank lots of water and a coffee. Food again was French/Creole, not quite as good as yesterday, but coconut pie for dessert was great – the French do know how to do pastries. Back on the bus we headed back down to the coast (many of us napping through the switchbacks) to the town of St. Andre to tour a vanilla plantation. Local operation, family owned, very interesting. We stopped in St. Denis for ½ hour at the botanical gardens. There was a wedding party taking pictures after the ceremony – we observed the kids are the same everywhere – chasing around and goofing off in their pretty clothes. Flower girls had actual fresh flowers sewn into a net like overskirt to their white dresses – really interesting. Anyway, back to the ship at 400. We sailed away at 600 right on time. Now 3 sea days to South Africa. I did manage a load of wash between 400 and 600, so now can just relax at sea.

27 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

There are no dodos left on Mauritius! I didn’t know until today that here is where they lived and, of course, died, because they just stood there to be killed – hence their name. [they were flightless, fat, and had no enemies except man – extinct by 1681] Of course Dan had to buy a hat and tshirt with a dodo on it. We were a little late in arriving at this beautiful island. After some confusion getting through their immigration process, we were off on our tour. We were the first bus out, which was very nice, since we were ahead of the crowds at all of the stops all day. And the bus was nice – smaller, just about 18 people – which made it quicker to get everyone on and off. After driving through the pretty, but congested, capital city of Port Louis, we headed for the hills. Our first stop was a shop where they make fantastic scale model sailing ships entirely by hand. We even went upstairs to see the craftsmen at work (actually half were women) and then looked at several dozen models in the shop showroom. [they had them from a few inches long to over 6 feet long, all famous sailing ships]. This is a volcanic island (now dormant) so there were beautiful jagged hills and valleys to be seen all day. Several people, including us, compared it to Maui or Bora Bora. Anyway, second stop was to look out over the huge volcanic caldera. It is grown over with vegetation and is fenced off – the ground is not stable enough to walk on. Here we also had beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Our guide spoke excellent English and gave us interesting background information all day. Mauritius is an independent country – but still part of the British Commonwealth. It is surrounded by a coral reef and had beautiful beaches and turquoise water We saw this from some of our viewpoints, but did not actually get onto any of the beaches. We had to more photo stops before lunch – one at a beautiful waterfall. Dan climbed up to the top area – I stayed down below. Next was a vista over a deep canyon, complete with local legends about its history. We stopped for a creole lunch (many creoles on Mauritius from the days when it was French, before 1815). Restaurant was overlooking yet another beautiful scenic vista in the mountains. It was open air like you find in Hawai’I or other tropical areas. The food was very good and the service was impeccable. The last part of the day was a 1 ½ hour drive back to the ship along the west coast of the island. Very pretty. Everyone really enjoyed this tour – some day long tours are really tiring, but this one was very nice. We had an early supper at buffet – sailed away at 800. Dan is back upstairs with his computer. Reunion early tomorrow.

26 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

Interesting night. The sea was rocking and rolling to such an extent that the bathroom door slammed shut 3 times! I thought at one point I was going to end up on the floor. Dan had put the computer on the floor as a precaution when we went to bed. In spite of this, we both slept pretty well – best for Dan in a long while. Dan went up to the buffet first while I joined him about 800. I had some breakfast – cream of wheat and a bowl of fresh raspberries! They always have lots of fresh fruit, but this was the first time for raspberries – so I took advantage of it. Then I went to the library to get my daily puzzles – which I knocked out in about 20 minutes. Then I read my book until time for bridge class. Class was thought provoking, as usual, although only 6 or 7 people are hanging in and coming to all the classes. He isn’t a really great instructor, but he does have some good stuff to share. Next, we came back to the cabin and read for a couple of hours. Weather was a little squally, so no one was on deck or in the pool. I went up to the internet café [which, despite the name, is just a room with about ten computers in it] and logged on to the free Princess website and read over the details of our tours for the next two days. I had forgotten the details – both are full day tours. After 6 straight days of sea and nothing but water – we are ready for some more touring. After lunch we went up to bridge 10 minutes before time and there were already 5 full tables and it looked like we might not get to play – Martin won’t deal with ½ table movements. But there was this ditzy lady there who didn’t have a partner – so Martin finally got his roommate, Derek, who doesn’t usually play, to make a 4th. So we ended up with six tables. This lady is deaf – and she couldn’t find her hearing aid batteries (sounds like someone I once knew!) and she never knew what was going on or what was bid. [the problem is much worse than just hearing loss] And we had to play them twice, since when there is time he does a “revenge round”! Anyway – strange day – some good boards, some bad – we ended up in the middle. We went to dinner early – around 630 – and will crawl in bed with my book pretty soon and hopefully get to sleep early. We get to Mauritius at about 10 in the morning.

25 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

Today was ANZAC Day. This is the day the Australians and New Zealanders set aside to honor their war dead – I guess similar to Memorial Day or Veterans Day in the US. Although I believe ANZAC day is tied specifically to one particular battle in WWI. [The Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey against the Ottoman Empire and Germany] Anyway, they had a special memorial service this afternoon. Our Aussie friends were not at bridge this afternoon. They also had a special cake and cookie display in the buffet area to celebrate. Dan slept a little better last night, but was still up early as usual. Maybe now that he has taken his last prednisone today he will not be so wired. He does seem to be feeling better again. I had some breakfast, then went to the library and picked up my puzzles for the day. Worked on them until time for bridge lesson. After lesson we came back to the cabin to read and hang out for a couple of hours. We are now almost out of the ‘pirate hot zone’. I think the Captain said the security posted on the stern deck 24/7 will end at midnight tonight. This afternoon we watched an hour long interview of the Captain by the Cruise Director – it had taken place at 200 and was replayed later – it was very interesting. [Among other things he is an attorney with a Master’s in Maritime Law, and has practiced it as well] We will really miss him when he leaves us in Capetown. Bridge was so-so this afternoon. We were sitting next to a very chatty group and it was very distracting. [The director doesn’t do anything to keep a semblance of order.] We placed 3rd out of 5 tables. After bridge and after watching the captain on TV we finally got in the pool for the first time in a week. Sun was just setting and it was beautiful. There was quite a bit of sloshing in the pool – there is quite a bit of swell in the ocean. It is getting more pronounced by the hour – so we may have a ‘rocky’ night. We had a somewhat later dinner in the Bistro. We were surprised that it was so busy since it was later. Anyway, good dinner as usual. No interesting movie on tonight, so will just read and go to sleep. Tomorrow, one more sea day, then 2 days of tours in a row [Mauritius and Reunion].

24 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

Today was the day we crossed the equator – for the second of three times on this ship. They always do a big silly ceremony with costumes and funny skits and so on. We watched it the first time, and it is on the video – so didn’t feel the need to watch again. But it did affect our day. Our bridge game was pushed out to 3 instead of 2 – and we have to be out of that room by r, so we weren’t able to play duplicate. We played a dozen hands of party bridge – which reminded me of why I don’t like party games. They had all the cards – I think we played 2 of the 12 – we kicked butt on defense and set them several times, but they had two late games that were cold – they beat us. Oh well – some tables didn’t even keep score, but the opponent wanted to, so they did. Anyway, Dan still isn’t sleeping well – so he was up and out pretty early. I went up about 700 and had some breakfast. Just before 800 I decided to give the laundry a shot and lo and behold there were two machines available. I ran back to the cabin and grabbed the bag and some quarters and got my 2 loads in just before 2 other folks walked in with their bags. Anyway, was glad to get that out of the way for next week or so. I was a few minutes late to bridge class but that was no big deal. Had lunch fairly early and then back to the cabin. I read for a couple hours and Dan took a nap before heading to the bridge game. After bridge we had a snack and visited with our friends, Colin and Meagan from Adelaide, Australia. They are so neat – wish we had them around us at home – great bridge players and very interesting to talk to. After that Dan wanted to go to the pool but I vetoed that idea for at least one more day. He is still hacking away – although I do think the prednisone is working – just hoping it doesn’t go downhill again after they run out after tomorrow. Had dinner in the Bistro – calamari, teriyaki cod with Chinese noodles, and strawberry shortcake. Now watching rerun of the 3rd lecture on the life of Mohammed. We are really enjoying it.

23 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

I slept over 10 hours last night – got up about 800 and went do find Dan in the buffet. He has not been sleeping well. The prednisone is making him pretty wired, but seems to be helping his cough again. Hopefully it will stay better this time. He can catch up on sleep later. I spent about two hours in the library after bridge class, working the daily Sudoku, and I found a Sue Grafton mystery I hadn’t read, so I checked it out. We really like the library – (of course we have both always liked libraries) it is usually quiet, overlooks the pool, has lots of comfy chairs, and deep colors and wood paneling. The ceiling is painted with flowers and birds, sort of like a solarium. I need to take some pictures of it. There are always 2 or 3 jigsaw puzzles in progress on a few small side tables. It is just a nice place to veg out for an hour or two. Dan had gone to lay down, although he didn’t sleep. About 100 we met in the buffet. They had one of their “theme lunches” today. They had a fantastic array of sushi, and cooks doing stirfry, and may other yummy things. I have been holding my own the last few days, but it is almost impossible to not eat more than you should. Anyway, bridge was at 215 as usual. We had six tables today. We felt we did pretty well. Found out later we were second by 1 ½ points. We’ll take it. We have made over two master points each so far on the cruise, I think. Every little bit helps. After bridge, a snack and then down to watch part two of the lectures on the life of Mohammed. Very interesting – I didn’t really know any of it before. Dinner at the Bistro and back to the cabin. Getting ready to watch Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the 900 movie. It was partly set in Mumbai, and in Dubai, where Tom Cruise apparently climbs up the side of the Burj Khalifa [and he does]. Others have said it is worth watching. Hope Dan sleeps better tonight.

22 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

Second sea day in this string. Very much like all the others. Slept well – woke to the sound of the ‘click’ of the door as Dan left to go up to the buffet for breakfast. That area is our unofficial hangout [big surprise, huh?]. Sort of reminds me of when I was in high school and would go to the cafeteria and listen to music and hang out with friends before class. [and I was same in college, living in the Student Union]. This morning was a little different. I joined Dan about 800 and had a small breakfast and visited with a few people. The Captain came by and people were asking him about our piracy status. Today and tomorrow are the days we are closest to Somalia – I think we are about 90 miles off the coast. He again assured everyone there is very little danger. In the Princess Patter, the daily newspaper we get at night, they also talked about the various military ships – US and otherwise – that are cruising the Indian Ocean right now – and listed about 30 of them. They even said we might see a reconnaissance airplane fly over. But all in all it is a huge ocean and we are not likely to see anything – except a container ship – over next few days. This being Sunday, they had a very fancy brunch in the dining room from 1030 to 200. We went about 1150 and had more than our share – it was very nice – ice sculptures and all – every kind of brunch food you can imagine. We visited for a while with a couple from Upland, CA. (We did have a lesson this morning, although it was shortened to prepare for the following magic show) I was so sure we did terrible that I left before the results were announced. Dan found me in the buffet hangout area a little while later to tell me we won – by half a match point. You just never know. We went back to our cabin and watched a replay of the 1st of 3 lectures by an onboard specialist [history professor emeritus from Furman University] about the life of Mohammed. It was very interesting. We had dinner in the Bistro and will be looking for a movie to watch pretty soon.

21 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

First of our string of 6 sea days. It was great after 3 hectic days of tours. We both slept over 9 hours – we were rocked to sleep by the movement of the ship. When we are going 19-20 knots, there is a bit of a swell – which is sort of like being rocked to sleep. We are going absolutely due south for the next six days. We cross the equator again in 3 days and I think when we are pretty much our of the ‘pirate zone’ [it extends to 10 South, so will be at least one more day after that] although I am not the least bit worried. We went up and had breakfast, then I went to the library until time for bridge class. They have a Sudoku and also a word puzzle handout – new every day – so I always go up to get them – also, bridge class is right next door. Class today was on defensive leads – always good to learn more about. After class, I took my book and sat on our balcony and read for an hour and a half – finally finished it this afternoon. It was a Dick Francis mystery, always good, but now I can start on my other book – The Girl Who Played With Fire. We had a very bad day at bridge – were on the bottom of six tables. Lots of chattering and distractions during the game didn’t help. After bridge we came to our cabin for a while, then got dressed up in our ‘formal’ clothes and about 530 we went up to a special cocktail party we had been invited to. They had it where we play bridge – one of the specialty restaurants. We chatted over sushi with a couple from New Jersey. At six we went to the dining room for dinner. It was pretty full – many people tonight because they were having lobster. It was very good – served with a crab cake and fresh asparagus. Next time I am going to ask for two lobster tails. Saw a couple at next table who did that. Had citrus soufflé with warm vanilla sauce for dessert. Food in the dining room is really very good – just most of the time it isn’t worth the effort to go. We didn’t get to the pool today – just as well for Dan I think, maybe tomorrow. Watching The Beaver with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster –strange movie. To bed soon I think.

20 April 2012, Gail’s trip log

Today was the day we stood on top of the world, so to speak. The Burj Khalifa is about half mile high – although we did not go to the very top. The viewing platform is on the 124th floor, which is about halfway to the top and plenty high. The top occupied space is executive offices on the 160th floor, but the tower is much higher than that. The weather today was a bit better than yesterday, but still a lot of haze [and dust and oil, plus high humidity]. We could not see the artificial islands off the coast, but we could see the entire main part of the city and the coastline. Our tourguide today was OK, but he had a much thicker [Italian] accent, so I am glad we had the other one yesterday and heard a lot of the history and details of life in Dubai from her. We had to walk a ways from the bus to get to the tower building. The grounds were spectacular, and the last 200 yards or s we walked via the huge Dubai Mall – 1200 stores – it was pretty awesome. The whole thing was just finished and opened in 2010 took just 6 years from start to finish. Like Dan said, can you imagine trying to do that anywhere where you had to deal with red tape, bureaucracies, environmental impact statements and so on? Here, the Sheik says build it and it gets built! [Plus, he has the money to do it, and do it quickly. At peak times over 12,000 people were working on it all within a 24 hour period, and they worked 24/7/365 for six years.] Anyway, all the reservations to go up to the tower were already sold out for the entire day. After a wait of 20 minutes or so in line for our reserved time slot, we were on the fastest elevator in the world – only 65 seconds for 124th floor! It was very smooth and they had music and informative videos playing, so it was pretty cool. We spent about ½ hour around the observation deck, part of which is inside and part outside, before returning to earth. While waiting for our group to reassemble Dan bought a small sandwich at Subway that was right where we were waiting. Many familiar brands in the Mall – including P.F. Chang’s with three huge horse statues. Almost every major US store and restaurant chain is here in Dubai. Next we drove back to the Jumeira Beach area and the Burj Al Arab Hotel. I didn’t get off the bus, but Dan said he got some better pictures today as it was clearer and we were closer to it. Last stop was an hour at the Mall of the Emirates – 500 stores. After taking a few pictures of the indoor ski and sledding area – we checked out prices at the Apple Store (much higher than in the US, but lower than in Europe) and then hit the Starbucks to wait for our ride back to the ship. Back on board by 215 and we sailed away an hour later. We just went to the Bistro for dinner. Before dinner Dan went back to the medical center for more prednisone – crummy air the last 3 days has stirred up his lungs again. We go through Straits of Hormuz tonight – then 6 days to relax at sea. Back to being good on my eating!