At Sea

March 28, 29 and 30

Between Sao Tome and our next port of Walvis Bay, Namibia, we had 3 days at sea in the Gulf of Guinea. After our day in Sao Tome, we crossed the equator, and for the first time since COVID, Oceania has allowed the “crossing of the equator”ceremony to take place.

The judge, King and Queen Neptune as well as the “mermaids” and other members of the entertainment team played their parts well. Some of the band members led the procession around the track on the upper deck and the festivities occurred on deck 9 near the pool. Abby and Ilya of the entertainment team had never crossed the equator before and were subjected to the full treatment, lots of food spread all over them before being doused with water, and of course they had to beg to be shellbacks and kiss the fish. Here are some photos.

We had a beautiful sunset the following night. And we had dinner with friends, Brooke and Kim from Toronto.

Charlie brought me some chocolate!

On the 29, we had another around the world dinner, this time in Polo. Here is the menu. Very inventive and delicious. The dessert was amazing, both chocolate mousse and creme brulee in the pineapple bowl.

And here is the photo of our table, one of Paul and just us.

Next, on the 31, we arrrive in Walvis Bay, Namibia. It will be our second time there and we are looking forward to it.

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Sao Tome and Principe

March 27, 2023

Last night was the Oceania Club Cocktail party. I mentioned before that the number of returning guests is so high that they need to do two parties every segment. Last night was the first of this segment. We are always invited to both. But last night was special because we reached the President’s Circle level of membership, the highest level on Oceania. There are only 19 at this level in the whole world. We chose to receive our pins at this party because we wanted to have Ray, our cruise director present. He was with us on all of our world cruises. So we were surprised and delighted when he actually presented our pins instead of the usual procedure of having the general manager, Claudio, do the presentation. It was a nice honor and thanks to friends Marilyn and Ellen, we do have pictures.

Today I had a Board meeting for ICF scheduled at 1 PM my time, so we didn’t have a scheduled tour. There is not pier here, so we have to take the tender (aka one of the lifeboats) to shore. We then took the shuttle to Independence Square, walked through a market and wanted to see if the famous chocolate place was open. No on the chocolate! And it was very hot, so after about an hour of walking, we returned to the ship. The tender takes about 30 minutes to go from ship to shore, so we were back in time for lunch and my Board meeting.

Here are some of the pictures from the ship as we arrived, in the town and when we returned from shore.

It is known as the best chocolate in the world, but who really knows?
Some type of ceremony going on

When I tried to get on the internet for my meeting, the internet was not working at all. I went all over the ship to find someone to help, but no one was available, so on my cell service, which wouldn’t support zoom, I managed to get a message to ICF. Needless to say, I was pretty unhappy but you never know what kind of service we get anywhere.

About 30 minutes after the meeting started, Norm let me know he got a message over the internet, so I was then able to join the meeting for the remaining 90 minutes. No way of knowing what happened, but all’s well that ends well!

We cross the equator this afternoon, and for the first time since COVID, they are allowed to do the crossing ceremony in which “pollywogs” (those who have never crossed) become “shellbacks” (those who have crossed). We have crossed many times, but we will witness the ceremony from the deck. There are several crew member pollywogs and I am sure a big initiation is in store for them. The band usually marches around the deck, King Neptune arrives and the ceremony involves kissing a fish and being douse with some substance, often pancake batter. I will post some pictures tomorrow.

Posted in Africa, March, World Cruise #4 | 2 Comments

Cotonou, Benin

March 25, 2023

Benin is a new country for us. Cotonou is on the coastal strip between Lake Nokoue and the Atlantic Ocean. The city is cut in two by a canal, the lagoon of Cotonou, dug by the French in 1855.  The Oueme River flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Cotonou.  The population is about 700,000.

When we met to get our bus tickets for our tour, Game Village on Stilts, we found that there were 5 buses needed and only 3 were there.  So after we waited about 30 minutes and no buses arrived, the destinations staff told us that instead of the 8:45 departure, we should come back at 9:45 but if anyone wanted to cancel and get a refund, we could.  We opted to wait and I got a cappuccino at Baristas.  Then we went to the open deck to watch the dancers and drummers.  About 40 people did cancel and I assume some booked taxis to do the same tour.  I think the staff was hoping enough would cancel that we would only need the 3 buses.  Well, eventually that was the case, and we set out on 3 buses.


We had many guides with us and later we found out why.  The two main ones on our bus both talked at once from different points in the bus and it made it very hard to hear.  No microphones were available and they didn’t seem to understand that only one should be talking because we couldn’t hear what either one was saying.

We spotted the American Embassy.


We stopped at the Bella Naija statue, a 30m tall statue honoring the women warriors of Dahomey. It is also called the Benin Amazone. Benin was once the center of a powerful regional kingdom called the Kingdom of Dahomey.  There was a powerful women’s corp which grew to about 6000 women and was known to be fierce and cruel.

This statue is in honor of the Amazones of Dahomey who were the subject of the recent movie “The Woman King” and depicts these warriors who fought against French colonial rule more than a century ago.


We passed by markets and noted these men selling cosmetics from the pallets on their heads.


We then drove through the city and on to Aborney Calavi where we boarded boats that took us to the village on stilts.  Along the way, we saw many people fishing by casting large nets.  From time to time we saw small cages where the fish may be kept for several days.  There are other large areas that are lined with leaves that attract the fish.  Here, the fish might be growing for a year or more, and these are the ones that can be sold for more money.


We saw people of all ages in small canoe like boats, some with makeshift sails, some with motors and some that were propelled by paddles.  We learned that each family in the village has three boats,  one for the children, one for the wife and one for the husband.


The village has 45,000 residents and there are schools, churches, mosques, pharmacies, restaurants, hotels and really everything a village would need.  But no bathrooms, the people use the water for everything.  It didn’t smell bad though.


Each boat had 8 passengers plus a guide – so that is why there were so many guides on our buses.

Here are some pictures from the village and our boat trip there and back.


We got out of the boats at a restaurant/shop.  We didn’t buy anything except that Norm had a $2 beer which we all thought was a great bargain.  The price listed in their local currency, the CFA Franc, was about 96 cents!


I wonder if these statues would be outlawed in Florida?


On the way back, we had a different guide who told us more information about voodoo which pretty much confirmed what we heard yesterday.  He also said that when he was younger, he ate everything but now he believes that the god he worships most commands him to eat only vegetables.

When we returned to the port, I met a port agent who said that our ship is the first one to come there in 5 years.  No wonder many people stared at us as we visited their village.  He also told me that on January 10 of each year, there is a big voodoo celebration that is like our Christmas.

We last  visited west Africa in 2015 and it seems mostly the same as then. Benin is much cleaner than some of the other countries, though.  Geoffrey (one of our guides) said that the city cleans up every night.  Here there is lovely landscaping and clean streets. 

What a different and interesting time we had the last two days.  Next we have a sea day and on Monday, we will visit Sao Tome and Principe.

Posted in Africa, Excursions, March, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment

Lomé, Togo

March 24, 2023

We had a late tour scheduled today, so we both did our walks first.  There was a rain storm all night with thunder and lightning, and the port workers were sweeping off the water. There was quite a show going on at the port, many dancers, drummers and two guys on long poles dancing to the music. It made the walk much more interesting!


After the morning tours left, Ray made an announcement that if you were traveling outside of Lomé, you needed to bring your proof of yellow fever vaccination with you, so we got our certificates out, but no one checked them when we left the city later!

Our tour was called Voodoo Ceremony in Sanguera.

Our guide on the bus was Thomas.  We also had two security guards with us and Thomas assured us it was just a precaution! On the way, we saw this hotel and we felt right at home. Smile


It took almost one hour to reach the village.  When we arrived, we watched the official welcome ceremony done by the chief priest which involved creating libations using maize mixed in a large calabash bowl.  The mixture was then put on the ground and we were allowed to enter into the area of the ceremony.


The chief priest and other dignitaries sat in chairs and there was a lot of dancing to the drumbeats.  Sometimes, a dancer or another person at the ceremony would seem to almost faint, and another would help them.  There was the maize powder on the ground in front of the chief priest and from time to time, one of the dancers would come for a blessing and rub their head on the powder.  I always love to watch the children and this little girl came and sat next to many of us.  Interesting that one of our passengers was in his wheelchair, and the celebrants often came and hugged him as if they were transmitting healing powers. Others came and danced next to us or shook our hands.


Thomas had explained that voodoo is a religion, not witchcraft or about other rituals that we might have thought.  He said that the pins in the voodoo doll is something made up by Hollywood!  Like the Hindu religion, people who practice voodoo believe in many gods.  Thomas mentioned four, and when I asked him how many there are, he just said there are “many”.  Norm found information that there are eight main ones.  The gods they believe in have names like dark of thunder and god of land.  People who practice voodoo believe in the worth of all living things. He also said that even people who are of another religion (Catholic, Muslim, etc.) also come to the voodoo ceremonies and count voodoo as their religion too.  I guess they don’t want to take any chances about which religion is best.

The ceremony went on for about an hour.  The village people distributed beer and soft drinks while we watched. Very interesting afternoon and it does give a very different impression of voodoo. When we left, the children of the village lined up to wave goodbye to us.


Back on the ship, dinner in the terrace was grilled fresh tuna which our chef got at a local fish market.  It was fabulous.


At night, instead of the show, we had the “seventh annual Togo toga party”.  We had bought outfits in Dakar.  Here are some of the pictures of the evening and some of the costumes.  Many people bought fabric in the various west African cities that we visited and made all sorts of outfits out of them.  Ray said that the shopkeepers thanked him for the many sales they made.


There were prizes for most creative, best toga, most unusual and funniest.  Ray and Casey chose people who would compete and then the winners in each category were decided by applause and were awarded a bottle of champagne.  Norm was in the creative category (must have been the bow tie!) but didn’t win.  The tall man standing next to him who made his toga from 14 napkins carried that category!


The entertainment team performed and it was a night of dancing and great fun.  They even had a special toga drink for $7.  I didn’t try it.

Tomorrow will be Benin, a new country for us.

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Takoradi, Ghana

March 23, 2023

This is our second time visiting Ghana.  Here are some pictures of our sail in.  The air is much cleaner than yesterday, but it is quite hot, almost 90 degrees.


Today we decided to take the Twin City of Sekondi-Takoradi tour.  Our guide was Nana and he was very friendly and informative.  Ghana is a mostly very religious Catholic country.  Twi is the local language but the official language is English. He taught us a few Twi words.  Ghana has had 11 different governments over the years, the current one is a civilian, not military government and has been that way for 10 years now.  It was under British control until 1957. 60% of people in the country are employed in some type of agriculture and cocoa and crude oil are important exports. 

Nana also talked a lot about cultural norms here, for example, you should not gesture or do anything with your left hand.  They consider it to be dirty given bathroom habits and they do also eat with only the right hand.  They don’t usually use utensils.

Children have long names and the first part of their name is always the day of the week they are born.  For families with more than one child born on the same day, the second part of their name could be the word for the time of day they were born or some physical characteristic, like fat or skinny.  I would hate to have my name associated with baby fat all my life!! Babies are named at a special ceremony that takes place on the 8th day of life.

Family is very important here and before a marriage, the family must approve of it.  Then, Nana says, you marry the family and anyone in the family can show up at your home 24 hours a day, and stay as long as they want to.  If someone needs money, you must give it to them. They believe in communal living, so many families live together.


Our tour description said we would first drive through the monkey hills.  I guess they are still called that, but the monkeys have all left the area due to humans moving into their territory.

We drove past the hospital and other areas such as the Naval base where we were warned not to take pictures. I fact, we were asked to check with the person if you want to take a picture because some people here believe you capture their soul if you take their picture.  I always ask anywhere I go. Along the way and in every stop, we saw so many people carrying almost anything you could imagine – on their heads.  This always amazes me wherever we see it.


Our first actual stop was the fishing harbor.  What a busy place!  There were metal basins full of smaller fish everywhere and some people had large fish that they were cutting up. Many people were there and Nana said that it is that way every day except Tuesdays when fishing is prohibited. We walked through the market where people were very friendly.  I said to Norm that it seemed people saw us as a curiosity here.  Even when driving by on the bus, people stared and waved.


We saw some boats in partial stages of building.  We got to visit the ice plant which produces 50,000 pounds of ice a day and operates 24 hours a day.  Very interesting to see how they desalinate water and freeze it to keep the fish fresh. Their power plant is run by natural gas and is from Turkey.  Officials took us all through the market and explained everything but only at the last minute did they use a microphone, so it was hard to hear everything. 



Next we drove through market circle, a huge market, the biggest in Ghana.  There were a lot of people and a lot of stalls and shops but Nana said it was not too busy compared to usual.

A couple of interesting sights along our routes: Most of their Coke ads seem to be religious!


Our last stop was at the Raybow Hotel where we had refreshments and watched a cultural show with drummers and very energetic dancers.  Some of the passengers got up to learn a dance and you could see the locals trying to suppress their laughter.


When we arrived back at the port, there were local people with their items for sale.  I was looking for a certain type of basket, but the ones they had all looked mass produced and not what I was looking for.


On the way into the ship, a nice young man asked if I would do a survey and I agreed. The survey asked about my impressions, how much we spent (only the tour cost and tips) and some demographic information.  It seems that they are trying to improve what they do.  The people were so friendly here, we always felt safe and it is much cleaner than the other west African countries so far.

Good news here on the ship – there are NO quarantines at all for passengers or crew.  Yay!  Hopefully it will stay that way.

Posted in Africa, Excursions, March, World Cruise #4 | 2 Comments

Abidjan, Ivory Coast

March 22, 2023

This is our second time visiting this country. This time, we had not booked an organized tour and intended to take the shuttle into town. But when we saw the pier with many police armed with AK47s and read the travel warnings, we opted to stay on the ship. Some friends took the shuttle and came right back. Most of the west African countries are about the same, generally nice and friendly people but an element of danger to tourists, lots of trash and air pollution. The air pollution was quite bad today. We both did our usual deck walks but decided to eat lunch inside instead out on the terrace which we usually prefer.

Here are some pictures of our arrival. You can see the level of air pollution. It smells like oil and smoke.

Here’s a shot of the pier. Most of the police have now left and are providing armed escorts to the tour buses.

I had a nice surprise yesterday. There was a knock at our door and someone delivered a gift of chocolate covered strawberries and macarons. When I opened the card, I saw that the surprise was from the Casino team! I already ate a strawberry before I took the picture!

Some facts about Abidjan – it is the largest city in and the economic capital of the Ivory Coast. The population is about 6.3 million. Like other countries we have visited in west Africa, it is mostly a French speaking country.

What else is happening around the ship? Our entertainment has been interesting on the last three days. First we had a duo named the Tap Step Brothers. We were wondering how tap dancing could possible stay interesting for the 45 minute show – well they were amazing. They showed on video the tap dancer that did the tapping for the animated film Happy Feet . Then one of the team came out in a tuxedo and penguin hat and tapped with the animated penguins on screen behind him. There were all styles of tap dancing, then the duo (who are friends, not brothers) explained the difference in style and the taps on the shoes between regular tap dancing and Irish dancing. In the Irish dancing, the taps are made of fiberglass not metal. We really enjoyed the show and look forward to their second one.

We also had a show called musical bliss with two wonderful male singers, Sabatino and Sutcliffe. And last night we had a magician/comedian, Danny Buckler. Lots of laughs with him. Both will be back for second shows. I almost always go to the shows, but with Norm it is hit or miss, so I will be making sure he goes to the last two when they perform again.

The food continues to be wonderful. We will miss our Executive Chef, Farid, when he leaves for vacation in Cape Town. He will return in Tokyo to finish the world cruise with us. I hope his replacement will be good too, but Farid is truly special. We had another fresh fish grilled on the deck two nights ago. He is always doing added features. Some days he sets up a pancake and omelet station for lunch. And yesterday he had a nacho station. He is always front and center doing cooking and serving and seems to also be everywhere on the ship, greeting and lingering to talk with guests.

We are still in a high risk area for pirates and we do have a team of former Navy Seals on board who keep a 24 hour watch. During the days, we see them on deck or in the gym doing the most strenuous exercises you can possibly imagine. If I was a pirate I wouldn’t want to mess with these guys!

We now have three days in a row in the west African countries and we have tours in each. We will be going to a voodo ceremony in Togo and visiting a village on stilts in Benin, which is a new country for us.

Posted in Africa, Food, March, World Cruise #4 | 3 Comments

Banjul, The Gambia

March 19, 2023

Today we booked a private tour with Sonia and Boris.  We were here in 2018 and enjoyed our tour then, so this time we were going to do something different.  Three other couples booked a tour through the same company and we were all waiting at the pier for the tour guides – ours said to look for Sonia’s name on “A4” paper!  Eventually one of the people on the other tour got an text – it turned out that the guides were waiting for us at the other ship that was in port!  We could watch them running to get to us. In the meantime, many vendors came to set up on the pier.


Our guide was Mustafa and he was clearly the junior guide of the duo.  The other group went in an open air vehicle and we 4 were in a SUV. We traveled together and both guides gave us information during the walks. Their guide stood on the back of the vehicle the whole time.


We stopped first at Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral which looked pretty beat up from the outside.  Mass was just finishing and the priest shook each of our hands as we went into the church.  I loved the fabrics of the womens’ dresses last time we were in Africa and they are just as impressive this time.


90% of the country is Muslim but there is  a small number of people who practice other religions. We saw hardly any women wearing head scarves or any kind of Muslim covering.

After the church, we went to the market and walked through a lot of the stalls.  We saw (and smelled) everything from dried and fresh fish to vegetables, live chickens and clothing of all kinds. Mustafa said that people come to the market to shop every day since a lot of them do not have refrigeration.  This is one of the poorest countries in Africa. The people seem very happy and we did not feel at all unsafe.  But the shops and the houses are really bad. The market was just along the beach so we walked out there and saw some of the fish that was just caught.

The chickens, chicks and cats seem to get along well!


This looks like wood, but it is a kind of plant that they use to clean their teeth.


There was a restaurant in the market that had open fire and really no place to sit.  I wondered how things don’t burn down!


The city is divided in two by the Gambia River.  We asked why the country is called “The Gambia” and not just Gambia.  The Portuguese named it after the river known as “the River Gambia” so they called it “The Gambia”.

We saw a man on the street leading this flock of sheep.


On one of our walks, we saw the Bombax ceiba, a tree that has a flower the opens like cotton and is used for making pillows.


Many bridges connect parts of the country to the rest.  Along the river there are many types of mangroves.  Here among the red mangroves, women harvest oysters and there are piles of oyster shells everywhere.  One of the women showed us a basket of oysters she had harvested.


We saw some crocodiles on the shore near the mangroves. Little did we know we would see more up close later in the tour! These kids had fun waving to us.


In fact, this was our next stop – in Bakau. First we went through the museum where we learned many of the rituals of the people.  One room was all about the circumcision rituals.  We asked if women here are still circumcised and yes, some are but many less since it is being really discouraged. There were some of their instruments on display and a shop with lots of wood carvings. This man was carving one as we watched.


The art as we entered the museum was beautiful.


We then walked to the crocodile pool where we found many crocodiles both in the water and around the grounds. There were attendants there who told us there are 100 crocodiles there – they keep the population at that number – and that they are fed 250 kilos of fish every morning so they are too full to eat US!  We were allowed to come right next to them and touch them.  Eek! The ones who are pregnant, have eggs or babies can get aggressive so we couldn’t go near them but we did see some.

Kachikally is also  one of three sacred crocodile pools in the Gambia, traditionally believed to cure couples of infertility. Women struggling to conceive traditionally visit to bathe in the water (today this takes place in an open concrete hut); if a pregnancy results, it is traditional to give the child “Kachikally” as part of their name.


This is the nest of a bat that lives in the area. A huge tree and one that has the plant used for loofah.


We stopped at the river and saw people getting on a boat.  One of the flags on the boat was the US flag.  There were lots of women in white with large hats both getting on the boat and standing on the street.  Was this a bachelorette party???  Our guide said they were probably filming a video but we don’t know for sure. 


We had an early departure from the port today and needed to be on board by 2:30, so we declined the offer to go to a hotel for relaxation and lunch. We did stop for local bananas and delicious oranges though.

On the way back to the ship, we went to an area that was full of peanut hulls.  They eat a lot of peanuts in their food, and the hulls are used for mulch that breaks down in to fertilizer.


Back on the pier there was a band with a surprising bagpipe player.  There were lots of vendors set up too, they were just setting up in the morning as we left the ship.


Tonight we have a show called the Tap Step Brothers that Ray said people talked about for months after they performed on the last world cruise.  Looking forward to that after a fresh fish grilled dinner at the Terrace Café. We saw that Farid bought fish in the port yesterday.

Posted in Africa, Excursions, March, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment

Mindelo, Cape Verde

March 16, 2023

We arrived into Cape Verde around 10:30 in the morning. It is our first port in Africa. Here are some shots of the sail in.

Our tour today was called Island Discovery. We were last here 8 years ago and spent time in the markets so this time we wanted to see more of the island. Our guide was Armindo and we were on a small bus with 15 other guests. We drove through the town of Mindelo where our ship docked. Almost 90% of the population lives in this city, which is the capital. Cape Verde is made up of 10 islands. Most are uninhabited and they are all barren. Many of the houses have no electricity or water and many are in various stages of construction as the owners complete just what they have the money for at the time. The islands obtained their independence from Portugal in 1975. Even though they are African geographically speaking, they have retained a strong Latin flavor. We passed by this fish seller just on the side of the road.

We drove to the outskirts of a small village “Mato Inglese” where we hiked for about an hour through the valley. The area was very uneven and unfortunately one of our group took a fall. He was OK, thank goodness. All around us were dry mountains, someof them volcanic. Armindo said that the tourist season is from October through March and that if they get rain at all it is normally in September or October.

After the hike, we drove to the first beach we would visit, Praia Grande. We tasted the local liquor, Alcane Grogue, which is made from sugar cane and has an alcohol percentage of 43%! It was too strong for me, but Norm enjoyed it so much he even gave some to these people who were not part of our tour.

The beach was pretty far below our stop and it was a short stop, so no one walked down. We could see the stark contrast between the beautiful blue sea, the volcanic rock and the white sand beaches. Many of the beaches are grainy and gray but not this one. The white sand was blown here from the Sahara desert, it is not natural to Cape Verde!

One of our casino dealers, Hitesh, joined us on the tour.

We then drove to Baia das Gatas (Catfish Bay) which is a bay protected by jetties and rock formations, making it very calm, like a swimming pool. I did go swimming and you had to walk out very far for it to get up to your waist. The name comes from a type of shark that was found here that looked a bit like a large catfish. Not sure if any are still here, but we didn’t see any.

Even the dogs like this beach!

We had lunch here at this local restaurant, buffet style, with beer and wine offered.

When I took a walk out on one of the jetties, I saw these rock formations. I am not sure how they hold up in the wind. You can see that on the other side of the jetty, the waves are pretty big.

We had a nice two hour stay at this beach, then we headed for our last stop, the top of “Monte Verde”, the highest peak on the island. The road was narrow and mostly roughly paved if at all, and it would up the mountain side. We had some nice views on the way up. But when we got to the top, clouds were rolling in and we had no view of the beautiful beaches.

Collapses in the mountain
The top of the mountain with the cloud cover
At the weather station on the way back to the ship

We both really enjoyed the day. It was a nice combination of hiking, beach and beautiful scenery. When we got back to the ship and went to dinner, we heard that on the night of the 17th, we will be entering a High Risk Area (HRA) for Piracy. We remember this from the Gulf of Aden, but didn’t know it was also here. We got a letter in our room from the captain that there would be a general announcement in the morning and it included measures we should take while in Piracy areas – keeping balcony lights out and curtains closed during the darkness hours and what an announcement would sound like in the unlikely event of a piracy event.

Posted in Africa, Excursions, March, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment

At sea

March 13, 14, 15, 2023

The wifi has been very erratic and we have been at sea for three days crossing the Atlantic from Brazil to Africa. The usual sea day activities took place and we were lucky to have a very smooth crossing with great weather.

I placed second in one blackjack tournament and won another so that hobby is going OK overall! We have had some wonderful entertainment too, a pianist named Filip Wojciechowski from Poland performed three different concerts and was just terrific. Thinking of my painful 5 years of piano lessons and watching his fingers fly over the keys (no music in front of him) is truly spectacular to watch. In his last concert, he played lots of movie themes – just great.

The other thing that took place on three different days was a series of luncheons for passengers on previous world cruises. This is our 4th, so we were invited to three of the luncheons. Our Oceania ambassador, the general manager, the cruise director and the around the world host and hostess were there and each hosted a table. We really never go to the dining room at lunch so it was a nice surprise to experience the different menu items they have only there. I think I already posted one picture of the 2015 lunch and the salmon appetizer that Norm enjoyed so much. There were 16 guests from the 2015 ATW cruise, 13 from 2017 and 30 from 2019. They will have a lunch for the 2020 which got cut short in March of 2020 when Covid hit, 2021 was of course, cancelled (we were signed up for that one) and 2022 happened (we cancelled our reservation for that one and are here instead) but it was a very different itinerary with very few passengers. Many of the passengers that are here now had cruise credits from the one that was interrupted and the one that was cancelled. So the 2020 and 2022 lunches will probably have many more attending.

Our first port in Africa is Porto Grande, Cape Verde which is an island off the west coast of Africa. We were there in 2015 and enjoyed it. We will do a 6 hour tour this time which includes one of its beautiful beaches and 1 1/2 hours of hiking. I am glad we are both up to that now!

Some people took pictures of the tables of guests at the luncheon but I don’t have the 2017 and 2019 yet. so the only picture I will add to this blog post is the one of this beautiful rainbow that I took one day at breakfast. It was better in real life!

Posted in At Sea, March, World Cruise #4 | Leave a comment

Fortaleza, Brazil

March 12, 2023

Today we took a tour of the highlights of Fortaleza. We were here before, but I was confused about which city it was. I thought it was one of the smaller cities we visited on our Amazon trip. I looked back at the blog, and no, this was a large city, of over 2 million people.

Our guide today was Elder, he said the meaning of his name is “life”. The city is not much different from all of the other Brazilian cities, well, except Rio which is quite beautiful. Elder talked a lot about the oxidation from the salt and said that cars last only 3 – 4 years here. Bikes and TVs can be ruined in a year. The buildings suffer too, there are many that have their beams destroyed. Fortaleza became the first place in Brazil to free the slaves – in 1881- three years before the rest of the country.

An unusual story is about a bar we passed that is open only one day a week, on Mondays. It is called the Pirata Bar and it stays open all night for dancing. I guess the business model works for them since it has been a success for more than 30 years. It is located at Iracema Beach near all of the five star hotels.

Coconuts are found everywhere and are used for drinks.

Our tour went to three places. After a drive through the city and along the beaches, we went to the Se Cathedral, which looked like kind of a mess from the outside. It is made of concrete and is pretty discolored. It is built in the Gothic style and was inspired by the Notre Dame in Paris. It was quite beautiful inside without a lot of the glitzy gold that we have seen in other churches. There was a Sunday mass going on while we were there and the singing was beautiful. The cathedral has 270 beautiful stained glass windows which were imported from Germany. They go all around the cathedral and are depictions of all the saints. The cathedral took 40 years to build.

Statue of St. Joseph

Our next stop was to the Emcetur, another former prison repurposed into a handicraft market. This one had large outdoor courtyards and three buildings with many of the same products we have seen all through Brazil. There are always embroidered and woven dresses, blouses and lace tablecloths as well as the usual tourist items. Shoes are a big item here and very reasonable in price. I bought some local cashews (there are cashew trees all over the area) and a green t-shirt since I didn’t bring one and St. Patrick’s day is coming up! I don’t generally wear a lot of green. We also had a tasting of the local liquor, Cachaca.

The last stop was the Teatro Jose de Alencar, the theater that is named for the great 19th century novelist and poet who was a native of Fortaleza. The theater was originally an outdoor theater and the courtyard is still there, but it was remade into an indoor theater. The iron work and the caned seats were an interesting feature. Elder shared that in the past, the ladies would go upstairs to a small room and then come down the stairs to the waiting gentlemen and proceed into the theater.

It was another hot day, but although the clouds looked a bit threatening, there was only a brief shower before we got off the ship. There is very little rain here and the temperature stays almost the same all year. On the way back to the ship we saw this interesting sculpture but we didn’t really get the meaning. Something about women’s empowerment!

We had dinner with Mui, Erin, Sonia and Boris and then went to the Oscar party where our entertainment team and the guest Celtic violinist, E Sarah Carter, performed Oscar winning songs from past years. The lounge was decorated and there was even a red carpet, lots of drinks and snacks including popcorn. The awards ceremony was broadcast on three screens. I didn’t stay until the end because of the time difference here, but will find out how we did on our guesses of the winners tomorrow.

We will start our Atlantic crossing on Monday and will have three time changes in the next three days, adding an hour tonight, Tuesday and Thursday.

Posted in Excursions, March, South America, World Cruise #4 | 1 Comment