30 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

We slept a bit later, then went upstairs for some breakfast. We were not due to arrive in Lisbon until noon, but could see land as soon as we got up, as we were going north along the coast of Portugal. I decided to see if there was a washer free and lucked out and so I managed to get a load of laundry done by about 1100. Lisbon is a beautiful port, several miles up the Tagus River. We watched the approach from our balcony, as we went under a huge suspension bridge, looking much like the Golden Gate (designed by the same engineers) and past the Christ the King on the far bank. It looks like a small version of the one in Rio – and we learned on our tour that that is exactly what it is. We had a little bit of lunch around 1200 – by now already docked and people going ashore. The town is very beautiful and picturesque – we took lots of pictures – starting right when we got off for our tour – which started at 100. All together we took over 550 pictures between us. Another fantastic guide named Christina and she gave us little radios and headsets which made the walking parts of the tour so much easier – you could hear everything she said and did not have to jostle around and crowd together. Our first stop was about ½ hour walk through the Alfama old town quarter – very narrow, windy, steep cobblestone lanes and quaint old buildings and shops with apartments upstairs. The weather was perfect for walking – I was a bit warm in the sun because I wore a sweatshirt – but it was in the 70s – no big deal. Next we drove along a very road avenue much like the famous one in Paris. Beautiful, hilly city and the purple jacarandas were blooming all over. We made several quick stops to view a vista to the ocean, a famous landmark, etc. and got a nice hour or so ride around Lisbon. Then we went to the Belem area, to the Jeronimo [St. Jerome] Church, where there had also been a monastery. Near the water and spend about an hour at the Maritime Museum and the church. We saw the tomb of Vasco da Gama at the church – learned a lot about the various Portuguese navigators to the new world and to China. On the way back to the ship we stopped for two quick photo ops along the waterfront. First, the Belem Tower – a very old fortress on the water and finally the Monument To the Discoveries – a very famous statue erected in the 1960s with huge portrayals of 32 of the most famous Portuguese sailors, explorers, kings, and others of importance. Quite impressive. We really loved Lisbon – visit was too short. We sailed away just at sunset – about an hour late due to some unstated technical problem. It was a very beautiful sail away. Quick dinner in the buffet. Two sea days ahead – the last two.

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29 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

There was an old movie called something like If Its Tuesday, It Must Be Sweden – we are beginning to feel a bit like that – yesterday we were in Morocco, today was Spain, and tomorrow Portugal! We had a very interesting day. Our bus left Cadiz, our port, at 900 for the two hour ride to Seville. The ride took us through scenery that looked a lot like the Central Valley of California – olive trees, oranges, grape vineyards, sunny and dry climate and fairly flat country. Driving into Seville we saw some beautiful Spanish mansions and lots of trees. Weather today was perfect – sunny and clear and in the high 70s – although it may have hit the mid 80s around 330 when we were waiting for our bus back to Cadiz. We had opted to do our own independent tour of Seville which worked out fine a little confusion at the beginning and end – it was our guide’s first day on the job and she didn’t even know where the Tourist Office was so we could get maps – so the whole group of 38 wandered around with her until she found it – then she told the group the wrong time to meet, a half hour later than she meant to. Some of the group had taken off before she realized her error and chased us down to correct it, so in the end we had to wait for those people anyway. At the end when all were reassembled we walked five blocks back to the bus. But the five hours in between were great. Central old town Seville was fabulous. The roads are all cobblestone and there were horse drawn carriages you could hire (we didn’t) – but Dan took my picture with one of them – and also took my picture with a cute mounted policeman. We wandered around and then spent well over an hour in the Cathedral – the largest in the world! There was a huge group of soldiers with drums and bugles and weapons that marched through and did changing of the guard at one of the altars at noon. Very impressive – we wondered if they do that every day. There was so much to see in the cathedral – including Christopher Columbus’s tomb, although there is now some doubt if his remains are really there. Anyway, after the cathedral we found a small café and had some fantastic fettuccini carbonara – with fresh home made noodles and a chocolate croissant and espresso. Then we went to tour the Alcazar – fabulous old fortress and palace and still the home of Spain’s royalty. Then we wandered around and bought a lot of postcards. Final stop was a Starbucks for a latte and a bathroom. There are no public loos, so you have to be creative – our friend Megan said to just go in any bar and ask. We chose Starbucks instead. Think most everyone slept on the bus ride back. We sailed away around 700 and I think we will sleep well tonight!

28 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

Casablanca – but not a sign of Bogie! We had a fantastic day here in Morocco. We were docked around 600 starboard. We heard the thrusters about 530 and got up to watch. Always interesting. Three busloads of folks took off before 700 for a ten hour tour to Marrakesh. We decided long ago that we did not want to sit on a bus for 7 hours to spend three hours there. We were not sorry, although Casablanca does not have a casbah and other Arabian style old structures like you see in the movies. And speaking of movies, of course everyone knows there really was not a “Rick’s Café” (although an enterprising American has opened one here now) and the entire movie was shot in Hollywood. But the place will always be linked to the classic movie in American minds. I was not disappointed at all. Our tour left around 800 and was back a little after noon. Our guide was fantastic, probably the best one we have ever had. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco – about four million people and is the economic center of the country and the largest port in North Africa. It is a big bustling city with lots of traffic, but we had such a great guide it didn’t seem so bad. We got off the bus several times and did a lot of walking in various places. The first stop was an open market where we saw a great array of fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, meat carcasses, fresh fish, and flowers. Our next stop was the Medina government owned area that includes the President’s Palace and the city administrative buildings and law courts. We spent about an hour walking and listening to her descriptions of the buildings, tiles, culture and food. Unbelievable tile work – gorgeous colors. We stopped for refreshment around the pool of a posh hotel on the ocean. Weather today was gorgeous too. Next stop was a photo stop at the fantastic mosque on the water – the 3rd largest in the world (although the one in Oman made the same claim). Our last stop was a shop that was full of souvenirs of all types of local art – leather, brass, jewelry, carvings, etc. I bought a lovely purple caftan with gold embroidery for 20 euros. Dan got some postcards, a wallet, and some gifts. Things were pretty quiet on board this afternoon – most people took all day tours. After lunch we took a nap and then swam for about an hour – may be our last chance in the pool. We had a hot dog by the pool, then came back to watch the sail away at 700. We watched War Horse on TV and enjoyed it very much. It wasn’t over until after 830. Went and grabbed a little late supper. We lose another hour of sleep tonight, but don’t have to be at our tour until 915, so not a problem.

27 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

We both slept late today – Dan left the cabin at 715 and I got up around 8 – went to get coffee – then to the library to do my daily puzzle before bridge class. I can’t believe we only have two more days at sea and four tours – less than a week to Dover! Class was good, as usual. After class we accepted an invitation of two of our bridge mates from Canada to join them in the dining room for the special Sunday Brunch. I had not intended to go to it – in fact, I did not go the last one a couple weeks ago – but decided it was the last one and these people are really neat – so ran to the cabin to change and then met them in the dining room. It was a spectacular array of food and ice sculptures, as usual. Had a ham and cheese omelet, fresh fruit, almond crescent rolls and a couple of gigantic strawberries dipped in chocolate. That was much less than a tenth of the things they had out to choose from. We sat and visited for a while and then went back to the cabin to relax until time for bridge. We decided to play E/W today and felt pretty good about the game – even got two top boards against a couple of “know it all” players. But I was surprised when Dan went and got the scores later to find out we had tied for first. Only two more bridge games to go – would be nice to go out on a high note. Anyway, after bridge we stopped for a little snack and then went to the internet room to try to print out our boarding passes and luggage tags for the next cruise. But the system was real slow, so Dan said he would try again later. Back in the cabin and watching (in some cases re-watching) the presentation on our next 3 ports – Casablanca, Cadiz, and Lisbon. By 730 it was obvious we didn’t want to go and wait for a table at the Bistro, so I called room service and ordered burgers and fries, green salad, and caramel flan. I put out my breakfast order to be delivered by 630. We are supposed to be in Casablanca around 600. Have been doing puzzles and reading a great book by Tom Parker Bowles – Camilla’s son. Will go to bed soon and get rested up for the next 3 days in ports.

26 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

Tenerife, Canary Islands. Alarm went off at 615 and Dan was still in bed! Amazing. He got up and went for breakfast, just as mine was delivered. Took some beautiful sunrise photos as we were getting into port and docked. Our day long tour was the first one out – we had to be down there at 815 and were on the bus and on our way by 830. What a fantastic day we had. Weather was spectacular. We never even wore the sweatshirts we took. We drove through town and headed to the mountains, to the Las Canadas National Park – where we got unbelievably up close and personal with the 12,000 + foot volcano – Mt. Teide. We climbed up a winding road, through several micro-climates, even going a few miles through the clouds until we got on top of the semi-permanent cloud layer and it was beautiful and sunny. We stopped for a couple of photo ops on the way up. We stopped at a café just outside the park for a “comfort stop” opportunity to buy coffee, snacks, postcards, and Dan’s hat for only four euros, before continuing on up a very harrowing road (but at least it was paved), across a saddle between two volcanic caldera and to a point where we had an unbelievable vista and some incredible volcanic rocks and lava fields. We had seen a lot and this was really special – a lot like Hawai’I in many ways, yet different. Our guide was great and gave us lots of good information. We headed back down, stopping a couple of times for more photo ops of unique flowers and so on. We came down a different way into Puerto de la Cruz, a seaside resort town with great charm. I was really glad when we got back there at 115 and made a dash for the potty. Anyway, had a wonderful lunch of local food – chicken, potatoes and pumpkin soup in an interesting “theme park” featuring over 240 miniature replicas of all of the towns and buildings around the island. We took lots of pictures. Back on the bus we headed for our last stop – a small but beautiful orchid garden that has been there for over 200 years. Famous guests of the house that owns the garden have included Agatha Christie, who was so charmed and intrigued that set one of her stories in that garden in Puerto de la Cruz. It was very charming. There were actually flowers all over the island. We really liked the whole day – great tour. We got back to the ship about ½ hour ahead of the sail away at 500. Didn’t see a whole lot of the city – but got some pictures of key items – like iconic opera house by Spanish architect – interesting, but not like Sydney. Buffet for dinner tonight. We had such a big, late lunch we didn’t need much. Sea day tomorrow, then 3 tour days in a row. Time is getting short – will have to start packing soon.

25 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

Another sea day – we lost another hour last night, but think we get it back between the Canary Islands and Morocco. Dan was up very early, but I slept until after 730. I just got dressed, filled my mug with coffee, and went to the library to do the daily Sudoku puzzle before bridge class. I had two happy discoveries this morning: first, they had a Sudoku book in the gift shop that I had overlooked before – so I got it. I may have done all of these before, but don’t imagine anyone but an idiot savant to remember the number sequences – you know, like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman – am I showing my age? I also discovered that the casino not only had nickel machines but penny machines as well. Don’t know why I hadn’t spotted that before. So on our next sea day, I may take a couple of dollars and play for a long time. The casino is only open when we are at sea, the same as the boutiques on board. Anyway, we had a good bridge lesson, then I went and grabbed a little late breakfast, then came back to the cabin to read and relax. Too cold to think of going to the pool. Dan gathered up a load of laundry and threw that in and when it was done we went and got some lunch before bridge game. While we were waiting for the laundry, we watched our port expert talk about Casablanca, Morocco and the tours available to us when we are there. We are glad we decided not to try to do the tour to Marrakesh – it is 3 ½ hours on a bus, each way. Yuk! We will be happy with the morning in Casablanca. We did not do well in bridge today. We had a couple of high boards, but many more low ones and ended up on the bottom. Oh well – we are having fun, for the most art, and trying to ignore a couple of real jerks that drive all the rest of us batty. We had a very light snack after bridge, then came back to the cabin to watch a presentation ot TV about the Spanish Armada, very interesting. We went to the Bistro for dinner a little before 700. We didn’t have to wait too long for a table – were back in the cabin by a little after 800. We have an all day tour in Tenerife tomorrow – we have to get up a little after 600. I always order room service breakfast on port days – will be here at 630. Time for bed.

24 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

We lost an hour last night and I slept until almost 800. Dan was up and out early as usual. I skipped breakfast and went to the library to do my Sudoku and read until time for class. People who have never cruised often ask how we can keep from being bored during the long sea days. Each evening we get a Princess Patter, a four page slick paper brochure listing all of the events and their times for the next day, from the first ones at 600 in the morning until ones starting at midnight. To give you an idea, here are some listed for today: stretch aerobics, mahjong, ping pong, bridge class, bridge game, Latin dance class, culinary demonstration by the Head Chef, bingo, morning and afternoon trivia contests, arts and crafts class, shuffleboard competition, cultural lecture on the life of Mohammed, Pictionary, goofy golf, special matinee performance by visiting concert pianist, afternoon tea, ballroom dance lesson, AA meeting, and an afternoon movie, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. At any time you can avail yourself of the library, pool, hot tubs, several bars, internet room, game room, workout room, jogging track, Lotus Spa (where services cost extra), the buffet restaurant, or about 20 TV channels on the TV in your room (where you can also get room service 24/7). The TV has several news channels, plus a variety of movies, comedy shows, educational shows, and so forth. There is also a promenade area with shops selling convenience items, jewelry, gifts, souvenirs, clothes, and so forth. There is also a photo shop and a casino that operates when at sea. All of this is on a small ship of only 680 passengers. The larger ships have multiple pools, more of all of the things that we have, and some even have a climbing wall, or a wave pool if you want such things. Anyway, we are certainly never bored. Today was a club championship game in bridge, which means more points if you place. We were lucky and came in second N/S. We felt pretty good about that. We had just a minimal snack after bridge since we decided to dress formal to go to the dining room at 600 since lobster tails were on the menu. We each had two of them! For dessert we had sugar-free key lime pie. We stopped by the photo shop on the way back from dinner and ordered the video of this third portion of our cruise. We also purchased four of the portraits taken by the ship’s photographer. Another hour lost to time change tonight. Good they do most of them on sea days.

23 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

Woke up around 6 and looked out and we were just approaching the Sao Vicente harbor of the Cape Verde Islands. Jagged peaks stuck up out of the water and it was a bit cool and cloudy. I watched the pilot come aboard and then when I realized we were coming alongside starboard, I took my breakfast out on the balcony and watched the activity – always interesting. It is a beautiful harbor and though there were containers on the dock, our view of town was not obstructed by them. Lots of boats in the harbor. We took our heavy sweatshirts on the tour, but the weather improved, and the only time we had to put them on was at the top of the mountain. It was still cloudy on top and we were not able to see the stunning view of the harbor from there, but there was a vantage point halfway down that provided a vista of the harbor, our ship, and another one of the islands that was pretty spectacular. The journey to the top was an adventure. The road, one lane of cobblestones all the way to the top, was a twisty, turny shelf road that scared me to death. We were on city buses and one of them didn’t make it up the mountain. We passed that group of folks wandering around their disabled bus as we chugged up. We heard later that a second bus had been sent to help out, so they did get all of the tour. After the trip up and down the mountain we continued on the cobblestone road (only one short section all day was paved) to two small fishing villages on the other side of the island. Gorgeous aqua water, white sand blown in 400 miles from the Sahara, and breaking waves. We had a stop at a local establishment for some refreshment and a bathroom break. The local children were tickled to see the pictures of themselves taken by the bus passengers, and mugged outrageously. We headed back to town and had a quick tour of it before going back to the ship. Several people, including Dan, got off in town to look around and then walk or take the shuttle back to the ship. I had some lunch and then sat with my book on the balcony and watched people come and go below. I saw Dan come back about 200, although he didn’t make it back to the cabin for another hour. [I was having my late lunch] At 600 we watched the activity of casting off the lines, pushing away from the dock with the thrusters, and then slowly sailing away toward the Canary Islands. We really liked the Cape Verde Islands and enjoyed the day very much. We just had an early dinner in the buffet. We lose an hour each of the next two nights. Two sea days

22 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

Not sure what time they finished refueling, but sometime during the night heard the thrusters going to push us away from the dock and then we were out to sea. After we got going, the ship was rocking and rolling pretty good all night. We had to close the bathroom door to keep it from slamming back and forth. We are, after all, going straight west in the Atlantic toward Cape Verde Islands, our next port. Only five more sea days after this one until Dover. Hard to believe. Our house/pet sitter, Kim, sent us pictures of Bobo and Dolly in their new summer trims – I think some people call it a teddy bear cut. They are sooooo cute, but said to Dan ‘they don’t look like my babies!’ Anyway, seeing them really made me a little homesick, but just a little. Today was a pretty good day. We started our new group of bridge lessons – learning more about various kinds of doubles. The ship was rocking and rolling pretty hard most of the day. There is water in the swimming pool now, but they had it blocked early in the day, as there was no way you could be very safe in it with giant waves sloshing around. We may not have another chance to swim – we are going north and already the weather is cooler. Maybe after our tour in Cape Verde tomorrow – since it is only half day. But I think it is supposed to be cool and windy. We’ll see. Anyway, we had some lunch and then to the bridge game at 200. We thought we did better today, and we did – came in 2nd – we’ll take it. After bridge we decided to go to dinner early tonight, about 530, when the Bistro first opens. Last two nights we have had to wait. Well, we didn’t have to wait for a table tonight, but they didn’t seem to have it together yet – so the service was slow. Oh well, it was good and we were still back in the cabin by around 700 after going up to the library to look at the bridge results, as mentioned above. We watched the hour long Senegal dance show that had been presented live last evening before we left Senegal. It was good, but lost something with a fixed camera – would have been better in person. Anyway, we got to see it. Now we are watching a nature show on the ocean. Princess does a great job of putting stuff on TV that is related to what you are experiencing on your cruise. Got to get up early tomorrow for tour of Cape Verde.

21 May 2012, Gail’s trip log

Today we were in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal – the farthest west point in Africa. It is a busy seaport. We actually arrived before 700 and since we were alongside on the starboard side (which our cabin is) I was able to sit on the balcony with my breakfast and watch all the activity of getting the ship secured, getting gangway out and set up, getting local officials onboard, and so on. All this usually takes about an hour. We didn’t have to go and wait for our tour until 830, so I had plenty of time to watch. There were no dancers on the dock today, but a group of locals came on board and performed at 400. We didn’t go to watch, but it will replay on TV for several hours tomorrow. The weather was nice, not too hot, but Dakar is a big city with lots of dust blowing in from the Sahara and some smog. We didn’t see the sun for an hour after sunrise, and then only faintly, and this strictly due to the dust in the air. We opted not to go out to Goree, the former slave island 3 miles out [after capture, slaves were kept imprisoned there until being shipped elsewhere]. Those that went said it was very good, but we had plenty to see and do with out four hour city tour and handicraft market [actually three of those ‘shopping opportunities’]. Traffic was bad, but we have seen worse. We also didn’t see many motorbikes here [or in Ghana, presumably since both of these countries are relatively “affluent” compared to Togo and Benin]. First stop was the presidential residence and office [actually a white house that looked very familiar], where we caught the changing of the guard. We may not see it in London but we saw it here. This was actually a French colony – the main governmental and trade center for all of French West Africa – and even played a role in WWII. Anyway, every place we stopped there were street vendors – some women with babies on their backs. They were selling all kinds of stuff. They were very aggressive everywhere, especially at the handicraft market, where they would grab your arm and try to pull you into their stall. We stopped for a photo op at the main mosque – this is a 90 percent Muslim country, then went to the towering and controversial “African Independence Monument” which is on a high hill, given to them by the government of North Korea. We drove to many parts of the city – there were street markets and vendors everywhere. We saw some French colonial buildings along with some modern ones. Dan bought a tshirt and 2 hats for himself and got a pretty blue caftan for me for ten dollars. I wore it to dinner. We also got a little African drum and a carved giraffe at very good prices as mementos of our visit to Africa. We were back to the ship by 130. After some lunch Dan went back out to a kiosk on the pier and got some postcards. We wrote out about 10 real quick and he went back down and got them mailed. Our sailaway was at 600, but we only went a few hundred yards to a fueling pier with huge oil and gas tanks on it. The captain came on and told us we would be getting about 200 tons of oil and then we would put out to sea when that was done. We had dinner and watched them getting hooked up to fuel about 700. They are still loading at 930, so we assume we will head out during the night sometime. Sea day tomorrow.