Civitavecchia, Italy

April 4, 2022

We arrived in Italy this morning, had breakfast and got ready for the team to change our room to one across the hall and mid ship.  This is because our desired type of cabin was not available on the first cruise and then it became available – so we had to move to the originally booked one for the second cruise.  They are back to back but were booked separately.

Well, it was amazingly well done. Before we knew it, all of the clothes on hangers were already in our new closet, and the suitcases that we just stuffed things into arrived as did our flowers.  We just had to carry our valuables.

This is the gateway to Rome.  Many of the friends we made on board were leaving, some staying on in Rome for a few days and one brother and sister who traveled together had an audience with the Pope to look forward to today!

We have spent several days in Rome before and with the room change, didn’t want to travel that far.  We had never explored Civitavecchia.  The town is just over a mile to walk to so after we settled in our new room, we headed out.  It is a beautiful sunny day today, mid 50’s, which is just about what we expected for all of the Mediterranean ports.

We shopped, visited the market (always a must for us), walked around the town and on the sea wall and stopped at a restaurant for a nice lunch.  We had a delicious wood fired vegetable pizza, salad, and Norm had a glass of red wine.  I had my usual daytime Coke Zero. The resident dog was nearby but never begging!

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These amazing orchids are in the main area of the ship.

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Lots of Mediterranean ports to come and new friends to meet.  This is a port intensive segment, only one sea day is expected and of course, we don’t know if any weather systems will prevent our visits but fingers crossed that we will get to go to the 5 cities we have not yet visited.

We expect the ship to be half full this voyage, about 600 people.

We leave at 6 PM today for Amalfi/Positano and in the meantime, we are on the deck reading and of course, I am posting this to the blog.

Posted in April, Europe, Food, Spring Cruise 2022 | 3 Comments

Monte Carlo, Monaco

April 3, 2022

We  have been to Monaco before and were looking forward to tour tour today which was taking us to Eze, France (have visited before and loved it) Nice (new to us) and Monte Carlo (visited before ). The tour was called Jewels of the Cote D’azur

Our guide was Bridget and our driver was Marino.

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The Principality of Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, second only to the Vatican.  It is only 5000 acres and has a population of 38,000. 8000 are citizens and the rest are residents. About 120 different nationalities live here and it is a magnet for sports stars, entertainers, etc.  Elton John and Bono both have houses here.  It is one of the world’s most notorious tax havens (residents pay no income tax). I asked Bridget about the residency requirement for residents and she said it is 6 months but is very hard to prove or enforce.  The people who work here cannot afford to live here.   It is also famous for the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, held every year since 1929. We will visit here later in the tour.

Our first visit on this tour was to Eze. This village has winding roads that reach a height of 1000 feet.  No cars are allowed on the road.  We visited here many years ago and really enjoyed it.  Many of the shops were closed when we arrived early but opened up later.  Two five star hotels are located here.

On the way we passed another yacht, the Olivia O which is 250 feet long and is valued at 250 million Euros.

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The views from the top were so beautiful.

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After visiting Eze, we traveled by the middle corniche road, which is the road that Princess Grace was traveling in 1982 when she ran off the road and died the next day.  She is still beloved by the people and her son, Prince Albert, is the reigning prince.

Nice was next on our visit.  It is the 5th largest city in France and one of the oldest.It was originally built by Greeks.  Today there is a “semi marathon on the promenade so it is closed from 4 AM to 2 PM.  We did get to see some of the runners and had a chance to be on the promenade.  There is a man made beach but no sand, just pebbles.

We walked to the market which was outdoors and very nice.  Bridget told us about Socca which is a crepe like dish served in waxed paper and eaten by hand.  It is made mostly from chick peas.  You see these little carts around the market bringing the Socca, which is made off site, to the stands to sell.  It is hot and delicious and you can tell it is popular because people are lined up to wait for it.  It looks like a huge flat pizza before it is cut.

We also visited the Cathedral of Nice.

I had to stop by the chocolate shop where they had delicious choices! LAC Chocolatier.

We enjoyed the market and it was chilly and windy today but we dressed for it and were very comfortable.

The flower market was so pretty, we bought a bouquet to have in our room on the ship.

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This was the most amazing gelato shop I have ever seen.  There must have been almost 75 flavors and some were flower based.  Bridget said her favorite is the violet.  It was too cool for me to try it though.

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We returned to Monaco via the lower corniche which hugs the see for our last stop in Monaco and Monte Carlo. We went to the Rock, known as Le Rocher, which just out on the south side of the port and is home to the royal palace. We were too late for the changing of the guard at noon (they change every hour, but the noon one is the one to see).  We have been here before and have seen it, so nothing to miss. There is a wonderful aquarium here founded by Jacques Cousteau and the yellow submarine of Beatles song fame is outside of the aquarium. There are no homeless or pickpockets in Monaco because there are cameras everywhere.

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We walked on to casino square in Monte Carlo and were allowed in to the main room and one of the small gambling rooms with no charge.  If you want to gamble (no time for that for us), you pay a $17 entry fee.  The area around the casino often has the most expensive cars you would ever see parked there.  Today we only saw Rolls Royce and Bentley.  Ho hum, we see them in Palm Beach!

The Grand Opera House, the Hotel de Paris and other casinos, palace-hotels and grand cafes surround casino square. There are also some lovely gardens.

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The graves of Princess Grace and Prince Rainer in the Cathedral.

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That’s our reflection in the middle of this large mirror in the square!

This is the famous tunnel that the Grand Prix goes through. The grandstands are already set up and a seat costs about $600 Euros.  They are all sold out!

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This area is known as Cote D’azur and it gets about 300 days of sun per year, a warm temperate climate.  Here too, Bridget says they haven’t had enough rain. Real estate is extremely costly here.  In the French Riviera towns, 10 square feet in an apartment costs about 10,000 Euros.  In Monaco it is 10 square feet for 50,000 Euros.

At each stop we had free time and we wandered around each city. We returned to the ship later than the time posted but because this was a ship sponsored tour, they waited for us.

Then we got our belongings organized as they will change our room tomorrow.

Posted in April, Europe, Excursions, Spring Cruise 2022 | 3 Comments

Cruising the Mediterranean Sea

April 2, 2022

Last night was the third of the Oceania Club cocktail parties. Some of the statistics we heard at all three:

There are 924 passengers onboard, the ship holds 1250. The passengers come from 17 different countries. Most of the passengers are from the US, second is Canada followed by UK, Germany and the Netherlands.  There are more than 725 crew who serve us so beautifully. More than 200 crew work in the culinary department and all breads, pastries, etc are baked on board with the exception of the English muffins and the bagels.

As I wrote before, we are missing the port of Marseille. It is a disappointment but the weather today is really something wild. We have 60 knot winds and huge waves. The water comes up over the front deck! And when you see the waves crest, often a small rainbow can be seen in them. So it is very understandable that the ship would have a hazardous time docking anywhere here. At this point, the Mediterranean is worse than the Atlantic.  We are lucky that we don’t mind the rocking. We are now at sea at the border of Spain and France at the Bay of Roses. We  just passed the meridian.

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And here is how I had to dress for a walk on the deck. It is 45 degrees and extremely windy. I had just taken the windbreaker jacket off!  The walk was cut short at 30 minutes when they closed the deck because the winds were way too strong. So I went to dancercise class instead.

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I try to do all of the blackjack tournaments and have come in first once and second once.  Today my new friend Laura won!  People say they think we are sisters.  Here we are in our favorite place.

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We had our covid tests today as we are on the next segment of the cruise and needed a negative result to continue.  We were both negative.

Tomorrow is our last port in this segment, Monaco.  We  have not yet heard that we will have any problem docking there.  Fingers crossed.  Then on Monday we reach the port of Civitavecchia which is the  port closest to Rome.  It is the end of the first segment of the cruise and we know that about 330 passengers will continue on with us.  We do need to change rooms and will do that before getting off the ship.  We have a butler who will do all of the moving for us. We just need to personally take our valuables. We have been to Rome before so we plan to take a taxi to Civitavecchia, explore and have lunch.

Posted in April, At Sea, Europe, Spring Cruise 2022 | 1 Comment

Malaga, Spain

March 31, 2022

Malaga is a beautiful city built around the splendor of Spain’s Moorish heritage. We decided to explore that heritage by traveling to Grenada to tour Alhambra, a complex of palaces atop a hill that offers panoramic views and a detailed study of incredible architecture, art and history.

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Before we left for the tour, we saw a huge yacht, the Lady Moura, in port.  I looked it up and it turns out that many famous people have sailed on her.  Now she is owned by a Mexican businessman.

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There is also a ferry to Africa from here as it is really a close trip and there is a Spanish territory that it travels to which is adjacent to Morocco. Sergio thinks that the nicest part of Morocco is southern Spain!

Our guide for the trip was Sergio. On our 90 mile 2 hour trip to Grenada, he gave us a lot of facts and history about Malaga and Grenada.

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Here is Sergio in Alhambra explaining the mosaic tile work.  You can see that some of the stucco and tiles are damaged.

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Spain has fared better than most of the world in controlling the spread of Covid.  We did not need to get tested to disembark here but we did need to wear masks inside and out.

The city itself gets about 320 days of sun each year and it has had its effects on the reservoirs – right now they are only 15% full. They are just recovering from a huge sand storm from Africa which spread red sand everywhere.  They got some rain just at the end of that for which they are very happy, but he said it seemed like it was raining mud and was very hard to clean up.

Only 18% of their power comes from wind energy and the cost of energy here is high. They are trying to do more solar but it is just the beginning for them.

They have earthquakes almost every day here but they are so slight you really don’t feel them.

We had a rest room stop about half way to Grenada which I normally wouldn’t mention but there was a shop there and I spotted 3 liter bottles of olive oil for 16.9 Euros which is about 19.75 in dollars.  Wow, wish I could have taken that home.  Sergio says they have 500 million olive trees and we saw many of them on our trip. There are also many almond trees.

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Orange trees are plentiful and line many Malaga streets, but they are bitter and only used for marmalade.

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Alhambra means “the red” and it is a spectacular place.  It is a palace and fortress complex and is a UNESCO heritage site. It was begun in 1238   the site of an earlier fortress and palace complex.

Visitors line up to get in but for groups, you have a timed ticket and must show your original passport.  Our tickets were for 12:30 PM.  We had 25 people in our group.  We arrived at 11 so had plenty of time to see the amazing gardens before we went into the palace complex.  It is the #2 tourist site in Spain after the  Camino de Santiago and can get as many as 7600 visitors each day.

Inside the palaces, as is common in Moorish architecture,  there are interior courtyards with fountains, reflecting pools and plants as well.  The palace decoration is primarily decorated with mosaics on the lower walls and carved stucco on the upper walls. The stucco includes geometric patterns, vegetal motifs and Arabic inscriptions.  Stalactite like sculpting was used on entryway ceilings and vaulted ceilings. Some of the ceilings are made of leather.

Seeing the preservation of Alhambra and all of the work that went into the buildings, gardens and courtyards made this trip one that we will always remember.

The author Washington Irving lived at the palace while he wrote Tales of the Alhambra which was instrumental in introducing the site to Western audiences. There is a plaque honoring him in one of the rooms.

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The view from the complex and the resident cat.

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What we didn’t expect in Grenada was the weather.  When we left Malaga, it was 63 and pretty sunny. Grenada is 2800 feet above sea level and it was 46 degrees and rainy much of the time.  It wasn’t a heavy rain, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for it and was cold the whole day. But it didn’t change how much I enjoyed the visit. Of course the local people were thankful for the rain.

Grenada is only 30 minutes away from the Sierra Nevada mountain ski areas and they had snow so they extended the season for 1 extra week.

The gardens here are really beautiful.  From the tall cypress trees to lovely wisteria and many kinds of flowers and plants set on several levels, it is a joy to see.  There are also some places that you can see ruins of former residences. I have many pictures but will share just a few.

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The walkways are designs made from small stones.

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After our visit to the complex, we had lunch at Restaurant Jardins Alberto which is just across the street from it.  It was a typical Spanish lunch including gazpacho, salad and small plates with local specialties and a kind of flan for dessert.  Not as good as the food on the ship but then hardly anything is! And no one really liked the wine.  I was so cold I had to get tea to warm my hands.

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We were entertained by two musicians who then tried to sell us CDs or USBs with their songs.

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I did have a short snooze on the way back.  A word or two about Malaga itself, which we only drove through, but Sergio filled us in.  It is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and there is a museum dedicated to him.  I guess Sergio is not a fan, though, as he said you have to drink heavily to appreciate Picasso’s art. There are lovely beaches, an old historic quarter and beautiful gardens with plants and trees from all over the world. The Cathedral of Malaga is known as “La Manquita””, (the one-armed) thanks to its unfinished right tower.

All in all a very full and interesting day.

I am writing this on April 1 and as I always say, if the captain comes on the intercom at any time other than noon when he gives the daily update, it is never good news.  His message today was that we will miss tomorrow’s port, Marseille, France, due to high winds.  The winds may go as high as 50 knots which makes it dangerous to get into port and dock. It is a disappointment, but it you can’t argue with the weather.  So we will have another sea day on the way to Monte Carlo and we hope the weather will be better.  I just heard from a friend who is on the Insignia, following us by a few days, and they were advised that they will miss their next two ports because of this weather system.

Tomorrow we will get a covid test two days before this segment ends in preparation for the second leg of this cruise – we booked it as two separate cruises.  We will be moving to another cabin as well – when we get to the Rome stop on Monday. Monte Carlo is scheduled for Sunday.

Posted in Europe, Excursions, March, Spring Cruise 2022 | 2 Comments

At Sea

March 30, 2011

It’s a nice sunny day on the way to Malaga, Spain with the temperature of 64.  Seas are a bit rocky so they brought the Country Fair inside.  This is a time where many ship departments set up booths and passengers play whatever game they wish to get tickets which are drawn for prizes.  The casino always has some simple card game, the chefs usually have spice containers that you need to sniff and identify the spices, the housekeepers have two passengers try to see who can put a pillowcase on the pillow the fastest and so on.  Norm went and had fun but didn’t win any prizes.  I had a cooking class so I missed it.

Cooking class today was Viva Espana and it was a lot of fun.  The instructor, Noelle,  made paella all during the class and shared all of the steps in between the recipes we made.

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First we made Pan Con Tomate which is one of the typical tapas of Southern Spain.

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Next we made Gambas Al Ajillo on Scallion Polenta Cakes.  This is a typical dish in Northern Spain and is meant to be picked up and eaten with the hands.  It is called pitos and when this type of small dish is eaten, it always has a toothpick in it.  The toothpicks are collected and that is how the server knows how to charge for these small appetizers which are chosen by each customer.

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In Spain, it is typical to have tapas or pitos during the afternoon and dinner around 10 PM.  That for sure would not work for me!

The last dish was Garbanzos Ibericos. Sorry this one came out blurry for some reason. It is chick peas, garlic, jamon and baby spinach.

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We ended with Sangria Blanca which the chefs made for us to drink as we ate the paella.  I had enough of all of the food for Norm to join me at the end of the class to taste each recipe.  The paella and the garbanzo dish contained meat, which I don’t eat, but I was able to taste just the rice in the paella and just the spinach and garbanzos in the last dish.  I would make them all at home and could make substitutions in each. 

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Tonight is the second Oceania Club cocktail party and our entertainer will be Dimitris Dekavallas, a Spanish Guitar Virtuoso.

Posted in At Sea, Food, March, Spring Cruise 2022 | Leave a comment

Funchal (Madeira) Portugal

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

As I wrote, we missed our first time visiting the Azores. So now we are in the Madeira Islands.  We were told to expect all kinds of weather – sun, clouds and rain and we had all three depending on what part of the island we were on.  The rain was a slight sprinkle at the top of the island.

The island is only 300 miles west of Africa and has a fairly even temperature all year around and is close to a tropical zone.  You see lots of types of vegetation, including palm trees. Here is where the island is located.

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Our tour today was Monte Village and Botanical Gardens. Our guide was Isabel and she was very good.  They provided  the portable radio so we could hear her from everywhere.

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Some facts about Funchal: The word comes from the Portuguese word for fennel (juncho) which was found in abundance when the founding father, Zarco, first came to the island.  It is on the largest island in the Madeira archipelago and is the capital.  250,000 people live on the island and 110,000 live in Funchal itself. Many of the other islands are deserted or are conservation areas. The island is 53 x 17 miles long and wide.

Our bus took us first to the cable car station for a 15 minute ride to the top – Monte Village.  The homes and view of the harbor were wonderful in spite of some clouds. The cable car takes you up to 1500 feet.

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We visited the mountain village and the church – The Church of Our Lady of Monte.  It is a beautiful church and there is a lot of wood in the construction.  The island was known for its wood at the time the church was built.  The word Madeira means wood in Portuguese.

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Here are some photos with the view from the Monte village.

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After this visit, we took one of the most unusual rides we have ever had – on wooden toboggans!  The origin of the toboggan is from 1850 when the wife of Mr. Gordon, a wealthy resident who lived on top of the mountain, fell off her horse and broke her leg.  He had the toboggan built to allow her to descend the mountain safely.  After that, most people didn’t have the money to ride in one, so it didn’t become a popular ride until much later.  These are hand built wooden toboggans and are operated by trained men who guide the toboggans down a street of about a mile long.  It is quite a twisty ride and there are also cars on the street.  A license to operate them costs about $25,000 so most of the licenses are handed down in families.  Many years ago, these men had to carry the sleds back to the top of the hill after the ride down.  Now they are loaded onto a van. For every ride, the men switch sides of the back of the toboggan so that their legs get an equal workout! And today was the first day they could work without masks!

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Here is what they looked like in the old days!

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They have specially made boots that last under a year.

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And now. It was really fun!

We then went to the botanical gardens which is about 1000 feet above sea level.  It was the garden of William Reed and was completed in 1960. We had a wonderful walk through a beautiful garden – we could have spent much longer than an hour here.  In one area the founding year and this year are formed in plants and the founder’s name is there too.

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After this visit we descended to the town which is right near the port.  Some people visited the embroidery factory (they are known for this) but we chose a walk through the market (we always love them).  It was a really nice one. They are also known for Madeira wine but we didn’t have any while we were here.

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We then chose to walk back to the ship, it was about a mile.

A few things we saw along the way:

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The statue is the famous Portuguese soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo.  And the other guy is the one I love. Even when he fools around!

Tomorrow is a day at sea and then we arrive in Malaga, Spain.  Our entertainer tonight is a singer, Chris Ritchie who is from the UK.

Posted in Europe, Excursions, March, Spring Cruise 2022 | 2 Comments

Still at sea!

Monday, March 28

But tomorrow we get to our first port, Funchal, in the Azores.  I think everyone is eager to get off the ship.  We have not heard about any need to be tested, but we do need to bring our proof of vaccination as there will be random checks by the local authorities.  Masks are recommended outdoors and as of the date of our sailing, they were mandatory in all indoor areas such as shops and restaurants.  I will let you know the actual situation after our visit.

Here on the ship, life remains wonderful.  On the night of the 26th it was the most rocky time of the trip.  The rocking doesn’t bother either of us, but the rocking and pitching caused our water bottles,  which are made of glass – no plastic bottles on this ship, to clank together and fall to the floor.  One drawer in our closet actually flew out.  This woke us up three different times. 

We had the last of our clocks moving forward last night – for this segment, we are 5 hours ahead of NY time right now.  On our next segment we will move one more hour forward just for our time in Greece and back again when we get to Croatia.  I do have to say that there is a nice slow adjustment vs when you fly and you move the time ahead  all at once.  So, amazingly, I slept until 9:30 AM this morning!  I can’t tell you how very rare that is, I can’t even remember a time.  I am usually up at 6 AM or before so even with the slower time change, it does have its effects.

We heard Linda Gentille again last night and I remember now that she is at the NJ Symphony in Cape May in the summer.  The last cruise we heard her on – she mentioned that and we decided to go while we are at our shore house in the summer.  Of course, we promptly forgot.  But this time, we will try to get there sometime this summer.  She was amazing again.  One of the things she does is take 10 song suggestions from the audience and then she plays them all usually in order backwards. The band is from Ukraine and they are wonderful.  The way they play with the guest performers when they have only one rehearsal is wonderful. They get standing ovations when they are introduced.

Tonight’s show will feature the onboard entertainment team with a show called Broadway which I am sure we will enjoy.

I had the culinary class which was called Most Requested Red Ginger. It was wonderful. Here is the fabulously outfitted culinary center and pictures of the dishes we made and ate – along with a dry rose wine.

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The culinary center and a display of Asian ingredients used in the recipes.IMG_9640~photoIMG_9637~photo

Our instructor, Noelle, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.  She has been teaching on ships for 10 years and is terrific.  She demonstrates and then we go back to our stations to make each recipe.

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This is the Pomelo Banh Trang Roll with Miang Dipping Sauce.  We made 2.

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This is the Miso-glazed sea bass which is served just like this in the leaf in the Red Ginger restaurant on board.

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All the ingredients for the delicious Lobster Pad Thai.  She recommends mise en place which means setting all of your ingredients out before you start cooking.

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There are only 12 stations in the center and Noelle said that before COVID, they had 2 guests to a station, which would work well because as you can see from the first picture, there is lots of distance between them now.

The cooking class finished with ice cream that they made right there – it was cardamom ice cream and was just delicious. We got a recipe book with all of the recipes plus two – the Tom Kha Gai soup and the Duck Confit and Watermelon Salad which is a huge hit in Red Ginger.  Since I don’t eat meat or poultry any more, I have not tried it but would certainly make it at home for Norm. We also got the recipe for the ice cream and a Soaked Ginger Cake too. 

Now, the only problem with the story is that this class was at 4 PM and lasted until 6 PM.  We had a dinner reservation in the specialty restaurant, Jacques, at 6:30.  Of course I was not at all hungry so I had the onion soup and only ate the broth.  But it was worth it.  Norm had the special of the night, salmon.

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Oceania is certainly known for their food and this cruise is no exception.  There are a lot of plant based choices and I do love the fish and seafood.

I have done pretty well in the casino and had a second place in the blackjack tournament a couple of days ago.

I mentioned the switch away from plastic water bottles.  This began on our 2019 world cruise.  They give you a silver bottle that you can fill and take ashore and in the rooms the bottles are tall and made of glass.  They refill them with either still or sparkling water every day.  And unless you request it, they don’t use any paper straws.

In the Terrace Cafe where we have our breakfasts most mornings, they have always served you most of the foods and now the area around the food that was open and they handed things to you that way, is sealed with plastic wrap and they hand you the food over the very top counter which is hard for some of the shorter staff.

I did my Florence Nightengale thing this morning.  As I was doing my morning walk on the outdoor deck, a woman fell right in front of me, hitting her right shoulder.  The safety crew member came pretty quickly but wanted to help her up by putting his arm under the right shoulder!  I advised against that, and helped her up from the other side, she asked me to walk her off to the library where her husband was.  I don’t think she broke anything but she will be sore for sure.  After that, they closed the whole deck to clean it even though there was just one slippery area.  So I didn’t get my 4 miles in yet, and will go out again later.  It is much calmer weather today and the captain says it should remain that way and we should get into port on time tomorrow.  Our tour starts at 9.

Tonight is the first of 3 Oceania Club cocktail parties which are held for the Club members (returning guests).  There are always a lot of returning guests given the quality and reputation of Oceania.  We are asked to arrive 15 minutes early for a meeting with the Captain and the General Manager as we are their most traveled guests on this cruise and will be recognized in the party. We are also invited to the other two.  Lots of free drinks await!


Posted in Food, March, Spring Cruise 2022 | 3 Comments

Many days at sea

Posting on Saturday, March 26

Well, I decided enough is enough and it is time for a post.  With updates!  So we are missing our first port after six sea days which means eight sea days for our crossing.  The port is the first of two in the Azores, Ponta Delgada and the captain informed us late yesterday that the weather will be too rocky to get to that port, so we will have two extra days at sea. He has informed us that tomorrow the waves will be smaller but will pick up the next day.  17 foot swells are reported but we don’t mind it, we get rocked to sleep and I can still do dancercise and line dancing.  The dancers say the trick is to slightly bend your knees and you get more stability that way.

This rainbow was spotted from our deck walk this morning.

rainbow

Today we were invited to lunch with the General Manager, Marck Warmenhoven who is from the Hague, Netherlands.  We had a great conversation with him and were surprised that it was just the three of us at the table.  Apparently we are the most traveled guests on this segment of the cruise.

Here are the previous summaries of the days.

Six sea days in the Atlantic on the way to the Azores.  We get the Currents newsletter every day with all of the activities on board. Those of you who have been on cruises, especially on Oceania, this will be familiar. But ship life is interesting on sea days so for my readers who are not familiar, I will write about what goes on when not in port.

There is a coffee chat with needlepoint every morning – they give you a kit and if you finish it, you can get another. For me, not likely!  I really have never liked needlepoint, but I DO like the chat part and have met several new friends.

Then there is line dancing – THAT I like!  We usually learn a new one or two and practice the others.  Our assistant cruise director, Jason, is a hoot and makes it a lot of fun.  It is even more fun when the ship shifts side to side just enough to make you lose your balance!

There is a culinary center on board and I didn’t know to sign up ahead of time (we didn’t have this on the small ships)  so most of the classes (which are hands on) were filled.  I was told to go and hang out in case someone didn’t show up, so I did that, two people didn’t show up and I got to do the first recipe, then they came 23 minutes late and I got kicked out!  I think they should have shown up on time, but… I did get to sign up for the Asian one and am on the waiting list for others.  It is a beautiful set up.

Our shows have been good, the theater is large and has comfortable seating. Last night (March 22)  we had an Irish comedian, George Casey, who made us laugh out loud! The onboard entertainment team is very talented too and their first show was called Brill and was about the building in NYC in which many songs of the 60s were composed.  Think Ronnettes, Shirelles, etc.  Norm and I had never heard of the building or that there were so many songs that emerged from it – so even the history was fun and the music took us on the way back machine.

I do play blackjack and enter the tournaments which are held every sea day.  Today (March 23) I won!  Yay!!  Sometimes I play 3 card poker too but I think the way you play that is you place your bets and the casino collects them.  It is rare to get a really big win there but it is fun and of course the casino is where I meet people too.

I had a wonderful hot stone massage and went to a ladies pamper party where we got facials.  Norm had a massage today too.

All kinds of sport activities here, dancercise, golf putting, shuffleboard, bean bag toss, table tennis, paddle tennis, and croquet to name a few.  You get these big O points which you turn in at the end of the cruise for mostly unnecessary items but people make quite a sport of collecting them for some reason.  We have 0 big O points.

Norm generally attends the enrichment lectures which are quite good, right now there is a series on oceanography, one about Chelsea and one on iPhones.  They have chess, bridge, trivia and of course – bingo.  And jewelry demos, wellness lectures, all kinds of other activities.

We were invited to a wine tasting tomorrow and lunch with the general manager on Saturday.

We have not had to be tested for COVID yet and the information we have so far says to disembark at our upcoming ports we need to bring proof of vaccination – we don’t yet know if any will require testing.  If they do, we will get complimentary tests on board.

Guess that is all for now.  Tonight’s entertainer is a pianist – Linda Gentille.  I believe we heard her on another cruise and enjoyed her. If you can find her on YouTube, watch her fingers fly as she plays.

The food is as amazing as we remembered.  So far we have had dinner in three of the four specialty restaurants – Toscana, Red Ginger and Jacques.  All were excellent and we plan the other one with a good chance we will add a few more reservations.  And on the next segment we have reservations for all four as well.

My cooking class will be for the Red Ginger recipes and I got into another waitlisted one, Viva Espana – apparently that will be tapas.

As I mentioned, we had dinner in Red Ginger –  it is a favorite and is not on the Insignia – the ship for our world cruises.  I had to take pictures of the food.

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We were waitlisted for a tour we really wanted to do in Malaga, Spain – Grenada of the Moors and Alhambra.  It is one that is non refundable, so we doubted we would get in since probably no one would cancel, but we got word that we can go.  I suspect they added more spots but don’t know for sure.  I am sure I will have lots of pictures from that, it is on March 31.

Michelle Montouri had a second show and finished with the theme from Titanic – she came out in this outfit. 

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I got this plaque as a gift (thank you, Bill) and decided to paint it in the artist studio on board.  I am pleased with the way it came out.  We plan to hang it on our door on our next world cruise in January 2023!

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Guess that is all for now, long post but lots of sea day info to cover.  Our next port is Funchal in the Azores, on Tuesday.

Posted in At Sea, Food, March, Spring Cruise 2022 | 2 Comments

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas

March 20, 2022

As I mentioned yesterday, we had a schedule change to Great Stirrup Cay instead of Bermuda.  We know that the weather in Europe is likely to be in the 60’s so we went out to the beach today. 

stirrup Cay

We had lovely weather and nice, clear water.  They have large tenders here to get you to the island and we were the only ship anchored here.  This island is next to Coco Cay where the RCL ships go and there were two huge ships over there.  On Great Stirrup we had hundreds of lounge chairs open to us!

beachscay chairs

Supposedly there was an excursion that was called “swimming with the pigs” but we didn’t sign up for it nor did we see any actual pigs!

There was, however, a tower that I thought was a lighthouse but it was actually used as part of a zip line (I don’t do those either) but a few intrepid people were up there and zipping around!  The painting on the tower was done by Guy Harvey.

harveytower

The covid restrictions have been loosened on the ship and also on this island.  The crew are still wearing masks but we are told that as soon as all are boosted they can remove them.  They say that will be soon, probably on this cruise.  Masks are optional for passengers and some wear them but most do not. This was on the walkway on the island.

flip flop

After our return from the island, I went to the spa and enjoyed a rest on one of the heated tile loungers.  I want one of these at home!

tile bed

Dinner was in Jacques, the specialty restaurant named after the executive chef of the cruise line, Jacques Pepin.  They only have this one on the larger ships.  On our world cruises on the Insignia, they had some items from Jacques on the main dining room menu and they were always excellent. We shared a table with a woman from Manhattan and a couple from Edmonton Canada and had a delightful time.  This is the crab salad appetizer and we both had a special fresh caught sea bream for the main course.  They were making crepes Suzette for dessert so we had to have that too.  Delicious!

crab salad jacquescrepes chefcrepes

Entertainer tonight was a singer – Michelle Montuori.  She has a nice voice and is quite funny.

There are about 950 passengers on board – the ship capacity is 1250.  Nothing seems crowded and we have met several passengers and quite a few crew members that we know from our previous trips.

Of course I visited the casino and so far, so good.

6 days at sea await and there are plenty of things to do.  This ship has a culinary center where you do the actual cooking and then get to eat what you make.  I hope to get into some of those classes. 

I will post on the sea days if there is something interesting to say, otherwise I will do one larger sea day posting.  We arrive in Ponta Delgada (Azores) on March 27. My friend Tori has sent me detailed weather information and maps and confirms that the weather the captain is avoiding near Bermuda is likely to make for a bumpy early part of the Atlantic crossing, so we will see. Thanks, Tori, for keeping us the most up to date with the weather!

Posted in Caribbean, March, Spring Cruise 2022 | 3 Comments

On board!

Adventure is about to begin. We waited about an hour to have our COVID requirements checked and then came onboard the beautiful Marina. Had lunch, did some exploring and are going to a Cruise Critic meet and greet at 4:30.

The first surprise was that we are not going to Bermuda. The weather is the stated reason but since we were not going to be there until Tuesday, we don’t know if that is the only reason. Instead, we are going to Great Stirrup Key in the Bahamas tomorrow. Then we have 6 sea days before we reach the Azores. We are getting $50 each credited to our account since we had to pay a fee to get a Bermuda landing permit.

Here are some pictures of our room and balcony. More fun to come!

Posted in Caribbean, March, Spring Cruise 2022 | 10 Comments