Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Greeting from the Atlantic Ocean

9 November 2010
Somewhere in the Atlantic heading to Florida

Our cruise has been great, including our port days (some glitches on board but that's for another time). Will just write some highlights and will post my journal after I return home.

Our time in Rome was great. Beautiful days, no need for jackets during the day. Saw a few churches, had some delicious meals, wandered around Trastevere, and had a great pre-cruise get together that I organized for Saturday night for about 40 people. The place I picked, a bar, was located near the Campo dei Fiori. I arranged for drinks and antipasti. Everyone had a great time.

Bus service to the port went pretty smoothly, although we had a wet and cool morning. The group (39 total) met at my hotel and we headed to the port, arriving around 12:30pm. It was great to see the Equinox docked. Two or three other ships were in port, so the area was busy with arriving passengers.

Louisa was excited to see the cabin with the views from the balcony. A bottle of champagne was on our table.

Great sail away party with fellow cruise critic cruisers –at least 150 people showed up. We started at the oceanview bar but it was very windy and cold, so we headed to the sky view lounge.

First dinner on board was fabulous – prime rib! The portions were huge so I couldn’t eat everything. Enjoyed our dining companions but felt 6pm dinnertime too early. We switched to late two nights later.

LIVORNO: Next day we headed to Lucca and Pisa with Franco, who I hired to take 8 of us for the day. It POURED all day long. It was our worse day of the entire trip so far. My socks were soaked half way through the day. In Lucca after our walking tour and splitting up with the group for a while, Louisa and I ducked into a restaurant I had dined in several years ago. We enjoyed some hearty local soups. Also shared a delicious serving of baked fennel that was topped with parmesan cheese – nicely melted. In Pisa 4 people climbed to the top of the tower of Pisa while two went to a café. Franco took Louisa and me for a driving tour to the port marina area, as we just didn’t want to be outside in the rain. He later dropped us off at a café and bought us tea, which we welcomed.

CANNES: Cloudy day but were happy it wasn’t raining. Great tour with Alain for 8 of us to a few small hill towns. Biot was a lovely small town; Tourrettes was my favorite and Saint Paul de Vence my least – too touristy with all the shops. No charm at all. Our lunch consisted of a panini sandwich while it lightly rained. It wasn’t anything like yesterday.

BARCELONA: Easy day, as we had been there before. Walked along Las Ramblas, explored the fabulous Mercat (indoor market), delicious tapas for lunch (and red wine), and some light shopping. Beautiful sunny day.

CARTAGENA: Met fellow cruisers at our first cruise critic connections party. About 80 people showed up. The staff served coffee, tea, juice, and pastries. Had about 45 minutes before splitting up and getting off the ship. Cartagena is an easy port to visit, but we were docked away from the town center. Complimentary shuttle service to the center of town. Visited city hall in time for an interesting tour. The building had been renovated. Enjoyed some fried calamari and marinated mussels for lunch with a glass of sangria. We walked around the area but didn’t climb the steep hill to the old fortress.

CADIZ: My favorite port of this trip. Beautiful, beautiful city. Tickets to the main cathedral included a visit to the crypt and the nearby museum. I also climbed the tower for great city views. Another perfect blue-sky day with temps in the low 70s. More tapas for lunch. Long walk along the city walls and gardens. Lots of pedestrian streets to wander around.

1st Day at Sea: Being a ‘port intensive’ cruise, everyone was so happy for our first sea day. We enjoyed a cruise group get together and a cabin crawl where we visit various cabins. I go to check out the suites and larger balconies.

TENERIFE, Canary Islands: I had booked a rental car but later canceled the reservations, as I decided to take the tram to La Laguna in the morning and a visit to Santa Cruz in the afternoon. However, I do regret not keeping the car, as 99% of the stores and restaurants were closed being a Sunday. Friends Bruce and Gail joined us, and their new friends Mary and Don. We had to buy our tram tickets from a machine and had some difficulty. Don was the last to buy a ticket, as he allowed another couple (Diane and Murray from Canada) to buy theirs. The tram was arriving and it was arriving fast! I had said to Mary, “Oh look, Don is being nice and allowing that couple to buy their ticket before him. He’ll probably miss the tram. I got on board, Louisa tried to tell the driver to wait, as both Don and Bruce were jumping the tracks (ticket booth on our side wasn’t working). The tram arrives AND leaves on time. No one else got on board from my group so I quickly went to the door to get off. Nope, the door shut in my face and I couldn’t open it. So, there I was leaving the station with Diane and Murray while everyone else missed the tram. I had a good laugh and knew they would eventually catch up to me.

Our visit to La Laguna was nice. It was on the cooler side but at least no rain. We just walked the town, visited the church (mass in session), and visited the market. I had lost my sunglasses the previous day, but I was able to find a pair at the market for 3.90 euros. Cheap! We all had lunch at a Turkish kebab place. Tasty and filling. Tram back to the port and on the ship. We decided it wasn’t worth walking around Santa Cruz since everything was closed.

YESTERDAY AND TODAY: Two sea days have been great. Small waves, so just a nice rolling of the ship. No rain. Lots of sunshine.

Food has been fabulous on this ship. Not a single bad meal. We enjoyed dining at the Silk Harvest, an Asian restaurant. LOTS of food and some of the best sushi I’ve eaten.

More later!