Curaçao.

We had a great day in Curaçao on Saturday. We had never visited this island before and joined Peggy & Lowell (who had been there before) on a day tour aboard a school bus that took us to the western part of the island.

This is the more rural part of the island and is rocky and still mostly natural and undeveloped. It is quite a contrast to the area near the pier and especially to Aruba.

Our first stop was at a volcanic formation of caves. The surf was rough and while I would have loved to go in, we were warned it wasn’t safe.

We also tasted iguana soup at the snack shack here. It tasted like really good chicken stock. Eddie our guide promised it would make us look 20 years younger. He said it would take a day or two to do so…it’s now day three and no difference. Think I can get my $2 back?

Curaçao is relatively arid so the island is covered with cactus which is strange to see on a tropical island.

Our next stop was a beach beside a fisherman’s pier. The fish remnants draw sea turtles and the turtles draw tourists. It was great swimming with them. The ones we saw were all pre-adult-under 25 years or so. Apparently they become vegetarian as adults and go elsewhere to find sea grasses. They ranged in size from 18″ Long to over three feet. Sorry I don’t have an underwater camera but the picture below is of the pier taken from our next stop. You’ll have to trust me that the turtles were incredible. Mike hadn’t been excited about this mostly beach trip (he burns so easily and hated sunscreen) but after our 30 minutes with the turtles he said any sunburn (there wasn’t any thankgoodness) would be worth it.

The next stop was for folks to jump from a 40′ high cliff into the beautiful water below. Given my unfortunate cliff diving incident in Cozumel several years ago, I declined the offer! LOL. The two (out of 23 on our bus) who did it said it was great.

Our next stop was at the #8 beach in the world as ranked by someone. It was beautiful. The title picture was from there as are these:

We stopped for a late lunch at another beach. The seven of us who were on the ship really only had time for a quick dip and lunch while the other guests from hotels got an extra hour of beach time. We loaded up and headed back towards town.

On the way we made a picture stop at the salt ponds to see the flamingos. These birds fly over everyday from their nests in Venezuela (42 miles) to eat the more tasty shrimp in Curaçao. Talk about foodies!

We arrived back to town with plenty of time to spare so Mike and I walked the 5 minute into the old part of town. To get there, you go through the old fort which had now become the home of restaurants and shops. Our goal was to see the floating Queen Emma bridge. This pedestrian only bridge crosses the bay and joins the two parts of the original town. Because all the industry is upriver, it has to move. We luckily got there just as a barge was coming in so it opened up (it becomes shorter by moving the floats closer together and swings parallel to the water flow) to let it go by. It is apparently the oldest and longest floating bridge in the world. It was originally built in 1888.

We then headed back to the ship. Viking was docked in front of us today (she had been behind us yesterday). It’s always fun to see ships we’ve sailed before. This morning (after a sea day on Sunday) we awoke to have Celebrity Summit sharing our pier in St Maarten. We sailed her in 2003 for Mike’s 40th Birthday cruise to Alaska. That was the trip that made us realize how much we enjoy cruising.

We are staying aboard the ship today enjoying having it almost all go ourselves. Tonight we celebrate Peggy’s birthday in LeBistro. Tomorrow we are in St. Thomas and are likely to stay aboard there too. Then two sea days before we disembark in Miami on Friday morning and fly to Raleigh that evening. Hard to believe this first adventure of our retired life is coming to an end…really doesn’t seem like it was 10 months ago that we were packing up that U-box in Houston starting out on it!

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Aruba.

Had an uneventful sail from Miami to Jamaica where we didn’t leave the ship and then after turkey for Thanksgiving yesterday arrived in Aruba this morning.

We took the public bus $5 roundtrip per person to the beach at the lighthouse. We had a couple of beers a piece and shrimp ($25) and a swim in the beautiful blue water. Lots of folks snorkeling alas we have no mask.

Now on the bus headed back to the ship. Got some leftover turkey, cranberry sauce and dressing for a lunchtime sandwich!

Tomorrow it’s Curaçao and a full tour of the islands beaches.

Miami.

After a lovely 14 days (including yesterday morning when we passed by the ship and boat above) we docked this morning around 4am in Miami.

We have to get off the ship and go through immigration at 10:30 (but the luggage doesn’t) and then will be able to reboard after the coast guard finishes some sort of Welcome to the USA ship inspection.

Hopefully it will go smoothly but the ship is setting our expectations very low. They say it will be 1 pm at the earliest.

Land Ho!

Saw the first land in eight or nine days this morning as we arrived in St Maarten. Two RCL ships docked here too- Serenity of the Seas is behind Jewel of the Seas. SOTS left Barcelona a day before us-I think they stopped in the Azores on the way here.

Crossing was uneventful and relaxing. Read all my books (as did Mike) and had to borrow one!

It’s hot and humid! Wandered onto land for a bit, but now back aboard headed to the pool. Love a day with most everyone off the ship!

Sagrada Familia.

Mike and I visited Barcelona in the 1990s as part of a whirlwind 10 day trip that included Madrid. At that time, Sagrada Familia only had Nativity and Passion entrances, and the towers associated with them. There was no roof over and hardly any columns in the nave. We had intended to visit the interior when we were in Barcelona last May with Mike’s brother and his family. However, I apparently failed to hit the purchase button to buy the tickets so we wandered the outside while they toured inside.

Thankfully we had a second chance and we really enjoyed our morning inside the basilica. I rarely get emotional over architecture but that wasn’t the case here. It is an incredible building. On a macro scale it is powerful but the details are really striking. No matter where you look, you see something new, innovative and inspiring. Unfortunately the pictures can’t give you the full impression. If you have the opportunity, please go. I know we hope to be around to make it back after they complete it (only 10 more towers to go!) in 2026…of course I think when we visited 25-30 years ago they hoped to have it done by 2010 or something…so we will see how it goes.

Below are pictures of the altar, the nave including the incredible effect of the stained glass windows.

We also visited the sacristy, the space used to store the priests supplies and vestments and where they prepare for mass. As a former altar boy, where we used a closet for a similar purpose, I hope you will trust me when I say Gaudi created the most beautiful space I’ve ever seen-he also designed the storage units.

As some readers may recall, when we were in Barcelona previously we had a wonder tapas experience at a little restaurant near our hotel and the Triumphal Arc, Elsa y Fred. Six other couples from the larger Cruise Critic that rode the metro together from the port to the church joined us to walk to the restaurant for lunch. While delicious, Mike and I agreed we wished we had of just ordered tapas rather than the meal of the day. Each of the three courses had two offerings so we had all six dishes and just halfed and halfed then between us. Of course we had to have their delicious octopus..and it was just as good as we remembered!

Appetizers were a delicious pea soup and a salad.

The main dishes were risotto with seafood and a really tasty sausage plate. Unfortunately no pictures of dessert.

After lunch we headed through the Gothic Quarter towards La Rambla, the pedestrian street that runs for many blocks. Along the way we happened upon a beautiful performance palace. I would like to go back and tour it’s interior. We also happened upon an ancient church which was the polar opposite (by just as impressive in its simplicity) to Sagrada Familia.

After getting to La Rambla, we wandered it back towards the port. All in all a wonderful day and a good walk-5.9 miles!

While I used the port terminals WiFi to post some overdue blogs, Mike went aboard and learned we wouldn’t be leaving as scheduled due to the weather predictions at Funchal. I’m writing this a week later in the middle of the Atlantic and the ship is still full of rumors as to whether it was the weather or the repairs that delayed us. Who knows and frankly I don’t really care.

We discussed using the extra day in Barcelona to explore some more of the city but that long walk the day before took it out of us and after not waking until almost 10 am, we elected to treat it as a sea day and do what we now do best. Nada!

Modena. (Or is there ever too much chocolate?)

not sure why (bad Spanish Internet? But all the pictures in this post aren’t loading. So sorry but here is the text.

We left Milan early in the morning and headed towards Modena our next resting spot. But first we had a hilltop town, two more lakes and a castle to see.

Our first stop was Bergamo. Mike and I had visited here last June so when we arrived and found parking near the upper city (Alta Citta) impossible, I dropped Mike, Lowell and Peggy (hereafter M,P&L) off at the upper gate and I drove to the lower gate of this walled city and sat in the car while M,P&L walked through town. They went into the Duomo but otherwise basically did a quick walk through.

From there we headed to Iseo ( on Lake Iseo) for a quick stop on our way to Lake Garda.

Peggy had selected Sirmione as our next stop. This town is on a peninsula that extends into Lake Garda. At the midpoint is the peninsula is Castello Scaligero which was built in the 14th century.

The medieval town and lake surrounding the castle are beautiful and could easily be used for a Disney movie.

We had a delicious lunch. Mike and I halfed and halfed lasagne and a local cod dish with polenta. While tasty I was disappointed that the polenta was grilled and not more liquid. Unfortunately we were both apparently too busy eating to take any pictures. sorry.

After lunch we continued onto Modena. Due to parking issues in Sirmione we needed up leaving later than planned which meant it was after dark when we got to Modena. We had difficulty locating our airbnb (the holiday festival and one way streets only raised my frustration level) but after a couple of phone calls to the host we finally found the right address and checked into our lovely home for the next two nights.

The apartment was located within the historic center which made driving difficult and after that stress of the previous night my passengers suggested and I readily agreed to trashing our plans to visit Verona and some other nearby towns and instead spend the next day in Modena.

Of course, after we discovered that there was a chocolate festival literally at our doorstep with vendors’ stalls for the next eight or ten blocks we knew we made the right decision! For dinner that night we basically had chocolate albeit not shoes or handcuffs!

The next morning we visited the Grande Plaza with the Duomo and the City Hall. We also went inside to the the “historic rooms” of the City Hall. Including a very old organ.

From the main square it was only half a block to the city market. As usual incredible sights, smells and tastes-including porcetta and prosciutto!

It had started sprinkling as we left the market so we headed towards the Ferrari Museum. Along the way we passed the Ducal Palace which was covered in scaffolding-but here it is as well a the view from it across its piazza towards Duomo.

Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena and started his empire in the building below which houses a display about his life and various engines.

The old garage is surrounded by a modern building which was inspired by the boot of a Ferrari.

The main display has cars from all eras. The space itself is very interesting-sloped floor from top to bottom in a curve and with a huge projection system where they show a film on Ferrari’s life and the history of the brand and team.

Of course there is a gift shop and Cafe which was in the curved part of the building looking out on the historic garage.

As always I love the juxtaposition of ancient and contemporary:

After a wet walk in the rain Back to the apartment we called it a day and ate our market purchases for supper.

I am posting this from the Barcelona cruise terminal after a beautiful day. I’ll do a full Barcelona post in the future but here is a teaser of the inside of Sagrada Famila. OMG it’s astounding. What a change from when we were here in the mid 1990s and it didn’t have a roof or windows or full height columns! (Oh, no filter used!)

They had the hole in the ship repaired when we got off this morning and were in the process of painting it but Mike just texted from onboard and the rumor is we may not be leaving until tomorrow. No biggie-what else do I have to do?

There’s a hole in our ship!

Two weeks or so ago we relieved an email from Norwegian Cruise Lines informing us of an itenerary change. Rather than arriving in Barcelona at 5 am on Wednesday and departing at 5 pm, we would arrive at 6 pm Tuesday night (today) and not leave until 8 pm. This change was required “in order to complete some technical repairs not impacting the safety of the ship”. No skin off our backs, extra time in Barcelona sounded fine by us. But wondered what was going to be repaired.

After we docked, Clay was sitting in the room at the desk with the balcony door open and was startled by the window washing apparatus going by with its driver who laughed and waved when Clay screamed like a girl. Turns out the apparatus was being moved to help out with this repair but we didn’t realize it until after dinner when we returned to the room to find the side of the ship bathed in work lights, two cranes and a hoard of hard hats lifting a crankshalf into a newly cut hole in the ship (above the waterline thank goodness) and two other hardhats grinding away on the removed hull portion presumably preparing it for reinstallation.

You can’t tell from the pictures but there a section of deck inside the hole has been removed so that the new crankshaft can be delicately maneuvered to the lower deck. Clay took the pictures below, some from our balcony but most from the pier. While ashore he got to talking to a retired nuclear plant engineer who had pictures of the old crankshaft sitting (in five pieces) on the pier in Civittivechia before he boarded. Apparently it had been cut into chunks aboard and then removed through already existing openings. According to this guy, the ship has five generators, three for the engine (need two for full speed), one to run the ship, and one spare. So I guess they were right when it said it wouldn’t affect safety.

Fingers crossed that they don’t drop the crankshalf before they get it fully aboard…or drop the hull portion overboard before they get it rewelded onto the ship!

But at the rate they are going-the crankshaft is now inside the ship (it is 11:10 pm) it looks like Norwegian had done great planning and logistics.Though I’m sure some folks will be complaining about that noise and lights. I hope the grinding is about done so I won’t be one of the complainers.

Views from the pier:

The view from our balcony: