Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community

Johnny B

  • Content Count

  • Joined

About Johnny B

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    San Luis obispo, CA
  • Interests
    Tennis, Cooking, French

Recent Profile Visitors

The recent visitors block is disabled and is not being shown to other users.

  1. Wednesday, April 11, 2018 Happy 12th Birthday to our wonderful granddaughter Jessica Kruger National Park, South Africa Yesterday was “rhino day.” Clement, our driver/guide, told us that he had, as his primary responsibility, finding a rhinoceros for us to ooh and aah over and, of course, to take wonderful photos. The clocks were set for 5:30 and at 6:00 we were on our way to the trails within the park. Now to understand Kruger, you have to understand its size. It is only a bit smaller than Belgium and is the size of Wales. It measures about 223 x 40 miles and contains just under five million acres. You can see, therefore, that when you’re looking for an animal that likes to enjoy privacy, like the rhino, it’s not the easiest thing to do. We set out in our safari vehicle, driving miles and miles and miles, looking for expanses of grassland and muddy ponds where rhinos would likely be found. We saw elephants and lions and zebras (pronounced zeh-bra here) and giraffes and hyenas, but after four hours of driving on an absolutely beautiful morning, there was no rhino to be seen. Clement had been so intent on his prey that we didn’t even stop for morning snacks. I was ever so glad I had had a piece of toast and a cup of tea before we left. Arriving back at the villa, we enjoyed a 10:30 breakfast and then three hours of blissful sunshine and the infinity pool before our 2:00 lunch. M-po, our chef, is absolutely marvelous and would not be out of place in a 4-star restaurant. We had talked over lunch and decided that we would skip the morning drive the next day. All of us have flights of 24 to 27 hours, and we really didn’t need to get up at 5:30 to begin the day. Clement picked us up at 3:30 and, when told that we wouldn’t have a game drive the next day, he said, “Then I guess we’d better find a rhino today.” Again we drove and drove and drove, at one point stopping in front of a very old bull elephant with only one tusk. We were only the length of his trunk away, but he wasn’t aggressive and he did give us an opportunity for some super photos. Every safari vehicle we encountered told us the same story: no one had seen a rhino for a couple of days. Just as we were about to say that we’d be happy for four of the big five, Kenny, the tracker who sits on a chair which extends from the front of the vehicle, shouted, “Rhino!” Sure enough, way across a grassy expanse, in the middle of a herd of impala, was an enormous male rhinoceros. Clement said that it was about the biggest one he’d ever seen and estimated its weight at two tons. We drove closer and closer, very slowly so as to not alarm him. He kept walking, eating grass (they’re vegetarians) and “marking his territory.” Actually, that became a bit of a joke on our game drives. Whenever one of the men in our group needed a “comfort stop,” he’d tell Clement that he needed to mark his territory. In our final parking place, we were absolutely amazed by the wonder of Africa. The rhino was walking slowly, surrounded by impalas which were running and jumping, zebras just “hung out,” and a giraffe wandered by. Because all of those animals are vegetarians, they coexist peacefully. That particular scene was probably the best moment of our trip to Africa. Our final dinner at the villa was wonderful: a main dish of sole and kingclip (fish), a salad nicoise, and a beet salad (which made John very happy). There was beautiful weather, we could see a herd of impala across the electric fence, and we couldn’t have had a better last evening here. Today has been very relaxed. We slept until 6:30, which seemed like half the day, finished packing, and now we’re headed for breakfast at 9:00. Clement and Kenny will pick us up at 11:00 for the drive to the Hoedspuit airport, the first of our five flights today. We fly to Johannesburg, then to Istanbul, on to Frankfurt, continuing to San Francisco, and finally to San Luis Obispo. Believe me, we aren’t looking forward to today’s airborne adventure. It has been a wonderful month. We departed San Francisco on March 11 and now on April 11 we head for home. We had a great group of congenial travelers (and, believe me, that’s not always the case) and such seaborne and land-based adventures that made for a memorable trip. Thanks for following along. John is busy editing photos for Facebook (if you have it), so those should be up in a few days. See you for the WC in 2018!
  2. Monday, April 9, 2018 Kruger National Park, South Africa Oh what a wonderful two days we’ve had. We’ve been to game reserves twice before, but never at this level of luxury, and the huge number and variety of animals at Kruger is amazing. We arrived on Saturday, got situated in our luxurious villa, and met our staff. We have a butler, a cook, a cook’s assistant, a server, a laundress/room cleaner, an overnight security person (who saw a lion at the edge of our property last night), a driver/guide for game drives and a tracker who sits at the front of our safari vehicle to look for animals and their evidence (either footprints or dung). Can you believe it - just for the six of us? I’m certainly going to have a hard time going home to the place where I’m all of the above! Our first game drive was in our reserve’s property, and we were able to check off one of the Big Five when we saw a herd of Cape Buffalo. We were pretty excited to see them, and Clement, our guide, promised more the next day. That evening we had a boma, or braai, what we in California would call a barbecue. Our dinner was cooked and served in a bamboo enclosure away from the main house, but with linen tablecloths, crystal stemware, and silverware. The food was wonderful, including grilled chicken, pork, and beef sausages along with roasted potatoes, salad, butternut squash, and a few other bits and pieces. It was delicious. Midway through the meal, we heard a large group singing African songs, and suddenly a group of about twenty teenagers, dressed in tribal costumes, came down the walkway and into the bamboo “room” to sing and dance traditional African pieces. It was unexpected and quite wonderful. Yesterday we went out for our early morning drive at 5:30 - the one drawback of a safari. As we drove into the park, the fog gave the place an ethereal look, and some of the photos we took were really beautiful because of it. Big Five animal number 2 was an African elephant. We first saw one walking right down the middle of the road, so we waited for him to leave. Then, as we drove along, we spotted more and more elephants and realized that there were dozens of them, from a nursing baby of approximately six months to huge old males with enormous tusks. We just sat and watched and were amazed at the numbers of animals there. As we continued along, our driver saw another safari vehicle pulled up next to a mud hole, and when they spoke, the other driver said that there was a leopard there. It wasn’t at the mud hole but was having a nap in the high grass. We drove up and parked about ten feet away, and the leopard never moved. Since leopards are such solitary animals, they’re difficult to see, but we managed, and number 3 was checked off the list. Our morning game drive got us back to the villa at 10:00 when breakfast was prepared and set on the table in our beautiful outdoor dining room. Then it was time for a shower and later, a nap, before leaving at 3:00 for our second drive of the day. The high point of the afternoon was number 4: lions. It was an incredible pride of about seven female lions who were just lying in the road having an afternoon siesta. We sat and watched as they woke up one by one and then wandered off down the road for their evening hunt. This group was fairly skinny, and Clement said that they probably had not had a successful hunt in a few days and would be going after anything edible. One of the great traditions about safari drives is the afternoon “sundowner,” when our vehicle is parked and we all stop for snacks and drinks. On Saturday it was dark when we finally stopped, but today it really was just around sundown. Today’s morning drive began at 6:00 and our goal was number five, a rhinoceros. We drove and drove and saw hundreds of animals: giraffes, zebras, warthogs, kudu, and others, but there was no luck with our main goal. We even parked next to another pride of lions, about six altogether. Tomorrow morning we’ll try again. This afternoon, rather than going back into the park, we went to Moholoholo, an animal rehabilitation center which does amazing work with everything from birds to huge lions that have been hurt as a result of man’s incursion into their world. For example, there were enormous birds that had had run-ins with electrical wires and needed medical help. Some of the animals could not be returned to the wild because of their injuries, so they stay there for us to see. Since it’s almost 10:00, it’s bedtime, since the clock is set for 5:30 and we’ll try once more to find that elusive rhinoceros.
  3. Saturday, April 7, 2018 Cape Town Hoedspruit, South Africa What a wonderful two days it’s been. We have spent time wandering around Cape Town, having dinner with our friend Dave and his girlfriend Vanessa, some really excellent wine tasting and then flying to Kruger National Park in the north of South Africa. On Thursday, we Ubered to Dave’s house at 5:30, as requested, and had Champagne and wine with hors d’oeuvres. There were two highlights of the visit: we met Vanessa and John learned “sabrage,” or the art of “decapitating” a Champagne bottle with a saber. If you’ve never seen it done, it really is fascinating. You take the cage and foil from the top of a very chilled Champagne bottle, turn the bottle sideways, find the seam in the glass, and then use the side of the saber to quickly run alongside the seam, making a clean break in the glass and having bubbles come out the top. It’s fun to watch and easier than we expected. Dave’s saber was a gift last year from Ollie, one of the singers on the 2017 WC. We then headed to Marika’s, Dave’s favorite Greek restaurant. About every two months the restaurant has a special dinner with paired wines and it just happened to be tonight. We drank and ate, talked and laughed, and all eight of us had a wonderful time. During dinner, Vanessa asked about the wine tasting tour to Stellenbosch that we had booked through the hotel for $87.50 each. She was appalled and told us that was highway robbery. First she called the hotel and cancelled the tour and then called the driver that her company uses and booked him for Friday afternoon - at $35.00 pp. What a difference! She also told us that the three wineries that are usually used aren’t that good but have a relationship (AKA $$) with the tour companies. Instead, we went to three absolutely wonderful wineries, one of which did wine/chocolate pairings, and then had lunch outside at a small restaurant which, we were told, most people don’t even know about. Eating lunch at 3:00, however, doesn’t make me want dinner, but the meal was oh so tasty. Since Will and Nancy didn’t want to go wine tasting, they booked a car and driver to see the Cape and the penguins and other things in that direction. We all arrived home at about 6:00, tired and definitely not hungry, so we settled for a very light dinner (mine was a bowl of minestrone) in the hotel dining room. This morning we had a driver (arranged for by our SA travel agent) call for us at 9:00 for the 20-minute drive to the airport. Our two-hour flight took us north to Kruger National Park, specifically to Hoedspruit, one of the smallest airports we’ve ever flown into. Fortunately it was only 20 minutes away from the AM Lodge, our home for the next four days. While John and I and Rich and Ginni have spent time at game reserves, Will and Nancy have never been to Africa, so when they saw a giraffe wandering alongside the road on our drive to the lodge, they thought they could die happy. They have no idea how much more they’ll see in the next four days, beginning with our 5:00 game drive this afternoon (in 30 minutes). Our wonderful South African travel agent, Ryan at Perfect Africa, again “hit one out of the park” with this choice. He described AM as “a 5-star lodge with 4-star prices.” But instead of being near the main lodge with the eight cottages, we’re a five-minute drive away in one of the most luxurious places we’ve ever stayed. It’s a villa with three ensuite bedrooms, a large living room, a beautiful outside deck, and a plunge pool. We also have a staff of three, not including our driver/guide, Clement, and our tracker, Kenny. Everything is included: food, beverages (hard and soft), a cook, a butler, and someone to do our laundry. John will be posting photos of this little bit of heaven on earth on Facebook (dianeandjohn st john), including the giraffe who munched tree leaves while we ate lunch on the outside deck. What a treat. So . . . gotta go, get dressed in long pants and long sleeves to avoid the bugs, and we’ll get in our safari vehicle and hit the road. Life is good.
  4. Thursday, April 5, 2018 Cape Town, South Africa Every time we come to Cape Town (and this is the third time), I think, “I could live here.” The city sits between two oceans, has everything from fine wines to penguins, and the cost of living is remarkably reasonable. It really is a great place. Yesterday was our day to disembark, but it really took us a long time to get it done. First, we left the ship at about 9:45 with our luggage, grabbed a taxi outside the terminal, and went to our new “home,” The Commodore Hotel at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront center. Even though check-in isn’t supposed to be until 2:00, they prepared our rooms and gave us our keys by about 10:30. As John was going through the clothes in his suitcase, he suddenly said, “The laundry!” I had begun a load of laundry at the ship before breakfast and then forgot all about it. The solution? We hiked over to the ship’s shuttle, drove the ten minutes to the ship, found out that our room keys still worked, put the clean laundry into the dryer, and went up to the Lido for lunch. Then it was time to take the shuttle back to the V & A, go to the hotel, and put the laundry away. Then, at about 3:30, we took the shuttle again and returned to the ship to watch as Bishop Desmond Tutu received the first annual HAL “Shared Humanity” award for his work for a free South Africa and his work afterward for peace. Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela were the two most important individuals in the fight to eliminate apartheid in South Africa, and then, because of their anti-violence stance, South Africa became an equal rights democracy instead of the site of a racial bloodbath. They really are/were heroes in this country. Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison as a political prisoner, refused to support violence, and he and former President de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize in the 90’s. An excellent reference to Mandela’s attitude is the book Invictus, which became a movie with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. Mandela and Tutu were leaders who changed a country. After the ceremony and presentation, we took the shuttle (again!) to the V & A and our hotel, where we joined up with our travel mates for a little wine before heading out to dinner. The restaurant was just OK, but the company was excellent, so a good time was had by all. Today had a late start, as we got to bed late and didn’t wake up until almost 7:30. The hotel has an excellent buffet breakfast (included), one of the best we’ve ever had. It included cappuccino, so what more could you want? Everyone headed in different directions afterwards, with Will and Nancy planning on a three-hour bicycle tour of the city, Rich and Ginni headed over to the Green Market, a city block filled with native stalls and great prices on things like masks and carvings. We, however, decided that since we’ve never been up Table Mountain, it was time - even thought the clouds were headed in. What an experience. While you can hike to the top (no thank you!), most of us take the cable car, arriving in less than five minutes at the 3,000 foot “table.” Our first two days here were absolutely clear, but of course we decided to go on the day it was clouded over with “the tablecloth.” The best part was just being up there. The clouds rolled in and out, but we loved the whole experience of being up so high and reading the postings around the mountaintop about different aspects of it as well as its history. Our trip was well worth it! Tonight we’re meeting our friend Dr. Dave, the 2017 WC ship’s doctor. We’ll be going to his house for wine and then heading nearby to his favorite Greek restaurant for a five-course dinner (with paired wines) for $25.00 per person. I told you the prices were reasonable. It should be a great evening. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.
  5. Tuesday, April 3, 2018 Cape Town, South Africa Boy, have we had a busy couple of days, all courtesy of HAL and its president, Orlando Ashford. Every year the HAL president, no matter who he is, comes onboard the WC for several days, during which all kinds of things happen. New President’s Club members are officially “sworn in,” service awards are presented to employees who have at least 25 years with HAL, a gala cocktail party is thrown, and the “Big Party” takes place. Now this party has taken many shapes over the years. It has been in a dry cistern in Istanbul with everyone from belly dancers to the American ambassador, it has seen the Lido deck transformed into a safari camp, and people still talk about the dinner at Ephesus with an orchestra playing. This year’s “Big Party” was much more low key. It occurred on most of Deck 5 and the Crow’s Nest, had minimal decoration (thousands of lighted plastic tubes), and involved (literally) thousands of appetizers and open bars everywhere. We thought it was great for several reasons: the fact that it was spread out over almost all of Deck 5 and the Crow’s Nest reduced crowding, always a problem when the ship advertises free drinks; people wandered from one area to another, meeting up with friends and crew members; and its time frame (4:30 - 8:00) allowed guests to pop off to early dinner or just take a break. After checking out Deck 5, we spent our time in the Crow’s Nest with the usual suspects, and additional friends pulled up chairs from time to time. That particular venue had a cricket theme, with non-stop video of famous cricket matches playing on the screen, cricket scores and equipment for decorations, and the Station Band playing great music for dancing. In fact, an additional band had been brought on to play in the Explorers’ Lounge, and a friend told us that Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corporation, was rapping there at one time. Who knew? Overall it was a lovely time, but we did hear some people complaining (of course) that it wasn’t spectacular enough and didn’t hold up to previous events. Oh well, we figure three days of complimentary cocktail parties ought to make most people happy - it certainly did for us! I suspect that one of the reasons for a “simpler” party is the same as the last time the WC called in Cape Town: a large contribution was made to Bishop Desmond Tutu’s foundation. In fact, Bishop Tutu will be on board tomorrow afternoon to receive an award from HAL for his efforts toward peace. Since we’ll be off in the morning, we’ve arranged visitors’ passes for the afternoon so we can come back for that ceremony. We missed Bishop Tutu in 2014 because we were overland on safari, but by golly, I’m not missing him this time! This morning’s sail-in has been a comedy of errors. We always have an assigned berth at every port, and we were to pull in there at 8:00. However, at about 8:30, Captain Jonathan announced that there was a cargo ship in our berth and he hadn’t been able to figure out why that was and how it would be fixed. Later, his announcement said that there was a state funeral yesterday for Winnie Mandela, and it may have slowed down work and prevented the cargo ship from being off-loaded. Later, however, he said that the ship was to have sailed at 6:00 AM and now was moving so that we could dock. While we’re just rolling with the punches, I know that some passengers are getting very anxious because of plans they have. I hope it gets sorted out soon and I’m also looking forward to going ashore. Although we’ve been here twice before, we’ve never gone to the top of Table Mountain, which overlooks the city. Often, a large cloud covers the top, and the locals refer to it as “The Tablecloth.” Today, however, it’s beautifully clear, so it may be the day we take the cable car to the top and see Cape Town from another angle. It’s our last full day on this lovely ship, so we’re going to take full advantage of it. P. S. Yes, there are games to borrow in the library.
  6. Sunday, April 1, 2018 Happy Easter! Happy April Fools’ Day What a wonderful way to begin Easter Sunday. Every year on the WC, there is an Easter sunrise service, and this year’s was alongside the midships Lido pool. Since it was at 6:00 AM (with sunrise today coincidentally occurring at 5:59), I set the clock for 5:30. However, I awoke at 4:30 and, afraid that I’d oversleep, I just lay there for the next hour until 5:30 when I hopped out of bed and headed in to brush my teeth. When John realized I was awake, he asked what time it was. I replied that it was 5:30, to which he responded that it couldn’t possibly be and he should be able to go back to sleep. Not gonna happen! Since it took me about three minutes to brush my hair, put on lipstick, and put on last night’s outfit, I volunteered to go up to the Lido to hold four seats - for us, Rich and Ginni. The service was “standing room only” and even the seats on the other side of the pool were full. Because the roof was closed and the sound of the “waves” in the pool drowned out much of the other sound, people were having a hard time hearing. However, in the middle of the Catholic priest’s homily, there was a Bang! and then the roof began to open. As soon as everyone figured out what the sound was, laughter began, and the priest made a comparison with the opening of the tomb on the first Easter. Strangely enough (and I don’t understand enough acoustics to know why), when the roof opened, we could all hear everything quite clearly. Worship continued and I think everyone found it inspiring. When the service was over, most worshippers headed into the Lido buffet, but we decided we’d wait for a bit. Rich and I appointed ourselves to go to the Explorations Cafe for lattes and cappuccinos, and by the time we returned the lines had disappeared. I do love after-church waffles, bacon, and fresh-squeezed OJ. Since it’s an at-sea Sunday and Easter to boot, it was the most popular Sunday brunch of the cruise. Usually, passengers just wander in and the headwaiter takes you to a table. For Easter brunch, however, reservations were absolutely necessary, and they stopped bookings at 600. We booked for all six of our table group and, as usual, Philip put us at a really nice six-top table overlooking the back of the ship and the beautiful turquoise ocean. Today’s brunch was even better than the last one, with three delicious tasting courses. Before anything else, they brought us a basket of hot cross buns and breakfast pastries, but we knew better than to spoil our appetite. We did, however, indulge in the mimosas (2 for 1!), and then began on our first course called a “cold sampler.” Keep in mind that every “sample” is very small. This course included a tiny fruit salad, a mini caesar salad, a deviled egg with crab topped with Malassol caviar, tiny shrimp in cocktail sauce in a little bitty glass, a goat cheese cake topped with smoked salmon, and a Caprese with prosciutto on a piece of focaccia that was about an inch by a half inch. You see, these are very small portions, but each one is quite delicious. The main course, called the “hot sampler” included a baked Easter basket with Hollandaise sauce over a tiny poached egg, a chunky lobster pot pie, a tiny biscuit with gravy, baked macaroni and ham in gooey cheese, a piece of roast lamb loin en croute, julienne carrots alongside a mini hash brown, and Easter cinnamon swirl French toast served atop a small jar of maple syrup. Doesn’t it just make your mouth water? Finally it was time for the dessert sampler, including an M & M scone filled with whipped cream, dark chocolate bread pudding, and “Easter Bunny’s Carrot Cake,” which was a small piece of carrot cake topped by a white chocolate bunny with a marzipan carrot. What a meal! We were so full afterwards (since even tiny servings add up) that we headed out to the Promenade Deck to walk a couple of miles and hope to walk off some of it. John’s taking a nap as I write this, but we have to be ready for this evening’s Gala Cocktail party hosted by Orlando Ashford before dinner. More food? Oh my!
  7. Saturday, March 31, 2018 Maputo, Mozambique Africa at last! We docked this morning at Mozambique’s capital and main port, and it certainly is an interesting place. The large warehouse-type buildings next to the ship have a metal substructure, but no roof. I guess after years and years of war and only about twenty-five years to rebuild, there are other priorities. Although we were excited to visit a new country, we were also a bit out of our comfort zone, especially after listening to Barbara’s lecture on what we should expect. She told us that Maputo, and indeed all of Mozambique, is just in the beginning stages of building a tourist industry and that we shouldn’t expect what we find in other ports: beautiful four-star hotels, widespread internet, and a slew of sophisticated tour guides. We met our guide, Alex, near the gangway, and were immediately impressed with his command of English. We began our walk with a visit to the Maputo train station, listed as the third most beautiful in the world (after the Gare de Nord in Paris and St. Pancras in London). It truly is beautiful, with its green and white walls and bronze dome. We continued through Workers’ Square, commemorating Mozambican and Portuguese soldiers who lost their lives in World War I, and then down what was the main street of the city many years ago. Alex told us that this is the Red Light District, and that fact was borne out by the ladies outside the buildings, one of whom first came and rubbed the sizable belly of the man in front of us and then blew a kiss at John. Boy, was that a welcome to Maputo! The fort is a fascinating structure that was originally built in 1721, but it’s been destroyed and rebuilt many times, even into the 20th Century. It certainly looks old, though. Then it was time for a snack break at the Cafe Continental, where we were offered coffee or soft drinks and then served pasteis de nata, a classic Portuguese tart with flaky pastry and a wonderful custard filling. I could have had two or three of them, but I limited myself to one. Alex told us that the saying is “If you haven’t had a pasteis de nata, you haven’t been to Maputo.” Our last stop was the Central Market, where you could buy produce, meat, fish, wood carvings, batik fabrics, and all kinds of other things. The strangest thing we saw, however, was behind the market where there were three or four short “streets” almost exclusively selling black wigs. There were all kinds, all lengths, and all styles. I’d never seen so many wigs in one place in my life. There were hawkers on most of our walk, but they were no more aggressive than we’ve seen in other places and, like most of the people we encountered, were very friendly. Then it was time to return to the ship, and I had almost never looked forward to air conditioning so much. It was 88 degrees and humidity was in the high 90’s, and a few times I just had to find a tree to shade me and keep me from getting dizzy. I’m usually not too bothered by things like hot weather, but today almost did me in. We enjoyed Maputo and learned a great deal about it. We’d have liked to have had more time to explore like to come back to spend more time seeing the city and its surroundings. The evening entertainment has been excellent lately, with Cul’Africa (I misspelled it earlier) on stage again last night. Their love of their home country, South Africa, was evident, and our officer and crew friends from that country were just about in tears and even more anxious for our three-day visit to Cape Town. Tonight we will have The Muses (from Johannesburg) on again, and I’m anxious not only to hear them perform, but to explain their ultra-modern instruments. One of the nicest things about this cruise is that you’re basically living with the on-stage entertainers and encounter them around the ship, so when I ran into the four “muses” at the pool yesterday, I asked them if they’d explain their fascinating violins, viola and cello, and they agreed that it would be a good idea. We should hear all about them tonight. Tomorrow is, of course, Easter Sunday, and we’ll begin with an Easter sunrise service at 6:00 AM. Our table group has reservations for the Easter brunch at 12:00, and then Orlando Ashford is hosting a cocktail party in the evening before dinner. Gosh, I don’t know if I’ll even have time to fit in a nap, but it should be a wonderful day.
  8. Friday, March 30, 2018 Good Friday Last day at sea before Maputo Days are counting down, at least for us. Several friends have just figured out that we’re not staying on until Ft. Lauderdale and seem to be surprised (I hope not pleasantly so). In addition, some of our friends are disembarking in Maputo to go overland on safari, so today is the last day we’ll see them. All of these “goodbyes” and “so longs” have made for interesting dining arrangements, as all try to spend more time before we or they disembark. This has brought our attention to the dining arrangements on the ship, which I think are pretty interesting. In 2008, when we took our first WC, everyone either had early or late seating, 5:30 or 8:00. While 8:00 is fairly late for us, 5:30 is waaaaay too early, often even before sailaway. Actually, our body clocks just set themselves ahead when we’re on cruises. At home, it’s usually to bed about 10:00 and up and at ‘em by 6:00 or 6:30, with dinner somewhere between 6:00 and 7:00. On board ship, everything is later. We stay up almost every night until 11:00 (and sometimes later), get up about 7:00 (unless there’s a time change, and then it’s closer to 6:00 or 6:30), and, of course, dinner is at 8:00. Nowadays, there are three choices for the dining room: 5:30, 8:00, or “anytime dining.” Most of you already know this, but whatever your dining choice, you can make changes. We invite friends to our table, we are invited to other tables, and occasionally we dine with “anytime” friends. Since we’re nearing the end of our time on board, this is happening more and more. A couple of nights ago, our friends Bill and Patty (also retired teachers) invited us to join them at 6:30 for “anytime dining.” We hadn’t done this before, so we were interested to try it. Now keep in mind that 5:30 is the most popular time to eat, and 8:00 always has extra tables, but we didn’t know what would happen when we wandered in, asking for a table. We were shocked at the number of people waiting in the foyer, and when the hostess took our names, she told us it would be a bit before a “four-top” became available. I really didn’t like the crowds nor the wait; I guess we’re just spoiled at walking into the dining room and going directly to “our” table. After about 15 minutes, they found a table for us and we had a really nice couple of hours catching up and exchanging information. Last evening, we wanted to get together with our friends Martha (Marty) and Billy (who are disembarking in Maputo for Kruger National Park) so they came to our table, which is really an eight-top for the six of us. All eight of us get along really well, and we just talked and laughed for a couple of hours. This evening, it’s just the opposite; John and I will be dining at Jan and Dick Yettke’s table. We’ve known them ever since we began these adventures, and we do try to spend time together during the cruise. Their situation is the same as Billy and Marty: they’re off tomorrow and we don’t know if we’ll see them before we get off in Cape Town. We know almost everyone at their table, so it should be a good time. It’s always difficult to be at the end of any cruise, whether we’re doing the whole WC or just 20 days (as we are now), but it is wonderful to be able to bounce around the dining room saying goodbye to friends.
  9. Thursday, March 29, 2018 At Sea en route to Maputo, Mozambique As we enter the sphere of influence of Africa, we’ve noticed some changes on board. For one thing, the lovely cherry blossoms bordering the daily program have changed to African designs in shades of brown, black and tan. Many of the passengers who are going overland to game reserves left the ship in Seychelles or Reunion, and many more will disembark in Maputo, as it is very close to Kruger National Park. For me, the most exciting change is that we received an information sheet last evening telling us that Bishop Tutu will be on board on April 4. This causes a bit of a problem for us, however, in that we are supposed to disembark that day at about 10:00 AM, and the program with Bishop Tutu doesn’t begin until 4:30 in the afternoon. John suggested that we disembark, check into our hotel, and then work with Henk, the Hotel Manager, to find a way to get us back on board for the program. I think that will work. The bishop was on board the ship a couple of years ago, but no one knew he was coming, so many of us were overland looking at wild animals. This time I don’t want to miss it. Another change is the entertainment. Night before last there was a four-person group called Ca’Africa (I forgot the translation of the first part). The group members, from various parts of South Africa, seemed to be quite young, perhaps mid to late 20’s, and their music was partly in Zulu and partly in English. Their last song was written by Paul Simon and was on his Gracelandalbum. Those kids rocked! Last night a string quartet of young ladies played a variety of songs and didn’t sound at all like the usual string quartet. For one thing, the instruments they played were incredibly avant garde, apparently made out of plastic with only the suggestion of the shape of a violin, viola, or cello. The sound, however, was clearly that of the intended instruments. There was no classical music played, but this string quartet played lively African and western music while wandering around the stage. It was great. Yesterday and today were the luncheons for Mariners with at least 500 days. Yesterday was for those with 900+ (which we miss by about 40), and today was 500+. It was a lovely lunch and we sat at a four-top by an ocean window with Rich and Ginni. For a first course, the choice was beef tataki or artichoke and pea soup, both of which were excellent. The main gave us a choice of lamb loin, seared black cod and clams, or mushroom and cashew parcel. Three of us had the lamb and Ginni had the cod, and my lamb was really quite wonderful. The dessert was tubes of dark chocolate filled with vanilla ice cream, but because Lent doesn’t end until Sunday, I just had a dish of blueberries. Overall, it was a really nice lunch and the best part is that I don’t have to choose what to wear to dinner tonight; I’ll just wear what I wore to lunch. Today is my last Book Club; we’re finishing our discussion about Circling the Sun. I have really enjoyed reading it and will re-read Beryl Markham’s West With the Night, which I read several years ago when John gave it to me as a birthday present. After Cape Town, the bookmark says the Book Club will read China Rich Girlfriend, the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, but I think the choice has changed to An American Marriage, an Oprah book selection. I’ve downloaded it to my Kindle, so it will no doubt be good reading for the (long) airplane ride home. According to Captain Jonathan, we’re halfway to Maputo now, and John and I are really looking forward to our walking tour there and then our time in Cape Town. P. S. Pastor Al and his wife Jan live outside of Vancouver, BC, if that helps. Clergy and teachers neither get paid nor volunteer. They get a free world cruise and many love the job.
  10. Wednesday, March 28, 2018 At Sea en route to Maputo, Mozambique Sailaways are always lovely things; we’re disengaging the ropes and heading out into the open sea again. We love to stand on the back deck and watch a port, no matter how much we love it, recede into the distance as we move into what seems like the unknown, the magnetism of the sea. Well . . . yesterday was a sailaway to remember. During the day, Orlando Ashford, President of HAL and Arnold Donald (yes, you read that correctly), the CEO of Carnival Cruises, boarded the ship and will head up a number of celebrations as well as some more serious meetings. To greet them, Henk and his hotel crew set up an event around the midships pool with free-flowing drinks as well as hors d’oeuvres being continually passed around. It began at 5:00 and lasted until 6:30; people appeared like ants at a picnic at about 4:45 and by 6:40, the deck was almost empty. It’s amazing what free alcohol will do for a party! What really added to the fun was the Station Band playing in the small gazebo, and the dancing never stopped. It’s even more fun when officers join in; Hamish, the Cruise Director, Mario, the Assistant Cruise Director, Mark, the Events Manager and even Henk, the Hotel Director, were out there dancing up a storm. There are, of course, many more events planned with the “Top Brass,” including a President’s Club dinner this evening. I guess our invitation was lost in the mail. Today and tomorrow there are lunches for those with 500 days or more and the annual “Big Party” will be on April 2, the evening before we arrive in Cape Town. It’s always fun to participate in these events, but sometimes, especially if drinks are free, the crowds get a bit too thick. Today John will be attending Barbara’s (the port guide) talk on Maputo. It’s our only new country this cruise, and we’re really looking forward to it. On Barbara’s recommendation, we signed up for the walking tour of the city, since one can see so much more on foot than on a bus. Yesterday, as I was passing the chenin blanc table, I heard one woman carrying on and on and . . . about her four-hour bus tour. We do have a booklet that describes the tours in detail and, for the most part, the descriptions are accurate. A word to the wise: if you do sign up for an HAL tour, read the entire description. We have had one or two experiences when the description bore no similarity to the actual tour, but they’re usually pretty good (we assume, since we usually take zero HAL tours, this one being an exception). A sad note, at least for me, is that Courtney, our librarian, had to disembark yesterday because her herniated disc was getting so bad that she needs to fly to Holland to have surgery on it. I’ll miss her both in the library and at Book Club, speaking of which I’d better grab my book and finish it; the meeting is tomorrow!
  11. Tuesday, March 27, 2018 La Possession, Reunion If there’s anything better than a French meal, I certainly don’t know what it is. Even if our visit would only be for a day, we’d been looking forward to visiting Reunion Island for some time, and it might have had something to do with the food. We were docked just before 8:00 this morning in La Possession, the port for Reunion, and the “all ashore that’s going ashore” announcement was made at about 8:10. There were, of course, the many, many tour buses waiting for their occupants as well as several shuttle buses waiting to drive us either to downtown La Possession or to St. Denis, the capital city of the island. As soon as our shuttle bus was filled, we headed to St. Denis, a 20-minute drive along the ocean, always our favorite view. When we arrived, most of the shuttle passengers headed up the main street, the rue de Paris, while we headed down the street to the park along the ocean. We stopped to take a photo of John in front of the statue of Roland Garros, a local hero. He was born on Reunion and became one of the greatest heroes of WW I as a pilot, keeping in mind that this was only about 15 years after the Wright Brothers first flight. When he was killed in the war in 1918, his fame continued, and even today, the French Open tennis tournament takes place at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris. As a tennis fan (short for “fanatic,”) John was quite pleased to be in the same photo. We wandered all over St. Denis, finding a lovely pedestrian shopping street, buying some ibuprofen at a pharmacy, and discovering the Grand Marche, or Great Market, where all kinds of local products were on sale. Another benefit to the market was the free wifi which we were only too happy to use. Some of the things we like the best about St. Denis are the old colonial buildings from the 18th and 19th century. Most have been converted into offices or apartments, and some have even been torn down to be replaced by modern office buildings. So sad. After seeing a great deal of the city, we headed back down toward the ocean until we found ourselves at Paul, the bakery/restaurant I mentioned yesterday. It was coming up on noon, so we shared a salad and a baguette sandwich, which took us back to picnics in Paris in the little park behind St. Germain church. While we tried to use their free wifi, we found it impossible to access, so after we finished lunch, we walked outside where the city-wide free wifi made it possible for us to check up on email, post on Facebook, and catch up with friends‘ texts. Then it was time to hop aboard the shuttle again for the return trip along the ocean and back to the ship. Once we returned and headed up to the Lido, we were reminded that Orlando Ashford is boarding today (along with his family and a large number of “the brass”) and he’s being welcomed by a party around the midships Lido pool. Free liquor will flow freely and Chef Petr (correct spelling) has many different kinds of yummy appetizers promised. It should be a wild, crowded time, and we just hope no one ends up in the pool. As our adventure continues at sea, we’ve received some emails and texts from our neighbors that there have been two break-ins within our 28-home neighborhood, and while our friend Vikki spends the night there sometimes and checks every day or so, we’re still rather uncomfortable about the situation. Apparently the same person/people are responsible, since the same kinds of things have been taken in both burglaries, mostly jewelry. I guess the sheriff’s office has been quite involved and is trying to get some fingerprints from the crime scenes. Oh well, just one more thing to worry about. We’re not tempted to fly home or anything as drastic as that, since if they break into our house for jewelry, they’ll get the best you can buy on sale at Kohl’s.
  12. Wednesday, March 14 - Singapore If anyone ever tells you that a 17-hour flight is "not too bad," don't believe them. We left San Francisco at about midnight on Sunday and didn't arrive in Singapore (even nonstop) until Tuesday morning. That darned International Dateline! Fortunately, our hotel room was ready for us by 11:00 so we could shower, change clothes, and get in a much-needed nap. Our friends Rich and Ginni, who had come on the same flight (after a four-hour flight from Austin), were staying at a different hotel in Singapore's Little India, while we're staying at The Swissotel (yep, no "h") on Clarke Quay. We all agreed that after that flight, we didn't need to make any plans until dinner. We do love Singapore. The combination of English colonial buildings and modern architecture makes the city/state a beautiful spot. The place is clean enough to eat from, due to the strict laws about nearly everything. You do know about chewing gum being illegal here, don't you? The geographical location near the equator provides, as our taxi driver told us, "just one all-year season." Right now, that season is just plain hot, with a serving of humid, however I imagine a few people on the East Coast would trade that nasty snowstorm for 88 degrees with 90% humidity in a flash. Of course, this year-round weather produces beautiful tropical flowers and plants throughout the city. The four of us met up at our hotel at about 5:00 and quickly found The Brewerkz for a beer (or a cider in my case) and a plate of calamari. I thought we were going to order dinner there, but it turned out to be a progressive dinner, so we moved down the quay to Jumbo, a popular local fish restaurant. There are two things that always sell us on a restaurant: it's fairly full and many of the customers are locals. That's what Jumbo looked like. Our seafood fried rice, shrimp, and garlic broccoli were great, and the weather in the evening made us happy to be sitting outside on the water. I think we saw more of Singapore today than we have in previous trips, because instead of taking the subway to Rich and Ginni's hotel, we decided that the mile and a half walk would be good for us. On the way back, the four of us stopped from time to time to look at some of the many gold stores in Little India and I even picked up a new top for Indian night on the ship next week. We have long known that the best way to see a place is not from a bus but from walking, walking, walking. Today was a good example of that. Tomorrow is "All Aboard" day, so we're planning to hop onto an Uber about 11:30 or 12:00 and make our way to our "home away from home," the m/s Amsterdam, at least for the next 20 days, along with Rich and Ginni and our friends Will and Nancy. Afterward, we disembark in Cape Town, see our old friend Dr. Dave (from last year's WC), and then head to a game reserve in Kruger National Park for several days before heading home. We are really looking forward to spending time at sea (lots of sea days - hooray!), seeing old friends, and spending time "on safari." I'll keep you up to date on our adventures. P.. S. The term "ferry boat people" was a less-than-kind label of some people who took only a segment on a rather upscale world cruise on another line.
  • Create New...