Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Home at last!

We are home without an incident to the trip. Long drive though, as I thought might happen. But before that trip...
Sunday dawned and We ,all, answered the call of day break. I slept in the camper, as i entered the house i saw Penelope. She saw me! She was gone! Scared by that tall man who is supposed to be a grandfather. Really, what is a grandfather anyway? Some one you don't see often enough to know. We worked on that for the weekend.
Usually, out of towners  disrupt the day habits of the people they visit. We didn't change that at all. My son and daughter-in-law continued with their day to day and we boys traveled the countryside. We visited Black Canyon and witnessed the enormous drop in water level at the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Gunnison and surrounds are experiencing a drought of several years now. We traveled to the Hartman Rocks Recreation area and the Gunnison River. We did hook up with the family to shop the yard sales. I have several purchases that will leave one breathless. Among them are sweet pickled jalapenos!
After returning from our tours, we paired up and George and i took on Matt and Bert in horseshoes. Now one may hear me talk about my prowess at horseshoes. When one sees my perfect form as i loft the shoe. When one follows the graceful arc of the shoe while it turns slowly to open the shoe for perfect landing on the pin at the other pit. When the sound of metal on metal screams across the countryside to announce another perfect throw and score. It brings a tear to the eye of the beholder as only a thing of beauty can. Thus do i describe my capabilities on the horseshoe pits.
I describe but in actual play i defer to my son. As a father i must lead my son and daughter into the future and provide them with skills to live. So i lose most of the games to my son. Oh i won once. Just to keep him in line. But of the 30-40 games we played i showed how to be a great loser. Brings a tear to the eye of how humble i am!
Sunday night brought discussions and somber moments as we decided what time we would get on the road home.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday, going home.

We are set to travel home today. We think we will not travel straight through as we did coming here but we are not on the road yet. we will meet with one of my long time friends in Denver before setting out. But even before that...
The drive from St. Louis to Gunnison was uneventful save the darkness for 10 hours and the fact that there are not so many gas stations on I-70 in Kansas. We found one, finally, which was unattended but still available for fueling. If not for this we still may be on the side of the road.  We reached Gunnison on Friday afternoon. I believe the trip took about 27 hours. We drove 2 hours on and 4 hours off and were still dead tired. We managed to stay up long enough to greet the grandkids and son and daughter-in-law. Talk for a little then to bed. I do not know if my head hit the pillow but i did wake up the next morning snug under the blankies.
Saturday, we woke at Traverse City time since our internal clocks hadn't adjusted during our drive. Still we survived the day with talk and getting to know the grandkids and they getting to know us. We chatted about this and that and just enjoyed the company. In the afternoon, we drove to Crested Butte to watch the bikers(peddle) rid eup and down main street in honor of the 4/20 day. It is legal to own grow and use marijuana in Colorado and has been since 4/20/2012. Hence the celebration on Saturday. the bike crowd measured in the tens of hundred and with no shots fired. We had dinner in Crested Butte while watching the tragedy in Denver at their celebration. What is up with that?
We finished the day at home talking and playing with the kids. Of course, as a grand parent, my job is to rile them up so bedtime is a long process. I did good. However, sleep won out in the end and with the kids down, we all took to bed as well. Traverse City time being what it is in Gunnison, Colorado.
night, night.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just reminded....

I have just been reminded that i was doing a blog of this trip. I will explain why i needed reminding.
George and I left Thursday noon for Chicago to pick up my brother, Bert. Our(my) objective was to drive straight through to Gunnison, Colorado. sounded simple enough to me. My Garmin said it was 24 hours and with three drivers... Before my trip started and during it, My brother, Jon, texted that there was terrible thunderstorms and weather and i should reconsider my trip. I am not easily dissuaded. I pressed on thinking the storms would travel East as they always did and i would arrive in Chicago after they passed through. After all it is 6 hours to Chicago.
George and i drove through rain showers but nothing intense. Simple driving, really. However, once near Chicago, one could see rivers over flowing and wet streets everywhere. I had to pick up Bert in South Holland, the first exit leading to Chicago fro the I-80. Bert lives in the city limits but his girl friend lives on the south side. Thank goodness!
Just as we crossed the overpass we noticed all the traffic going north, our direction if we had to go into Chicago, was at a stand still. More precisely, cars were backing up to the exit ramp and getting off. The intense rain, we missed, flooded the expressway and cars were backed up for a mile or more. no exit from the flood to the exit we got off at so no retreat for any already on the expressway. We picked up Bert and got on the expressway going away from the flood and on to Gunnison.
Our trip to St Louis missed the big rains. Just as i had surmised, the storm was past but not completely. We battled, and i mean, battled winds from the front right quarter all the way to St. Louis. I guess about 20-30 mph with gust above that. We drove with the steering wheel turned slightly into the wind to go straight. When we drove through and overpass and when we passed a truck the wind abated and we had to straighten the wheel. Immediately and passing said overpass or truck the wind hit us and nearly blew us off the road until we could return the wheel to the former position. This constant adjustment went on for several hours until St. Louis when we turned West and the wind became a headwind, much easier to manage. Missouri and Kansas we drive through at night. We saw nothing but some red lights denoting wind arms and little else. As dawn broke we had more, much more of Kansas to see which is flat lands as far as the eye can see. Really, the drive was getting long.
Did i mention we were towing a pop up camper? That little contraption was a diligent follower but cost bunches in gas. We averaged about 8 mpg. Here's looking at better mileage coming home.
more tomorrow or later tonight.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On the road again.

I am off to Gunnison Colorado to drop off my pop camper for my son. I have a Roadtrek motor home to drag it and leave in, in comparable luxury.
George Hunting, newly retired is accompanying me as well as my not so newly retired Brother, Bert. We will pick Bert up on Chicago on the way.
The current weather is a line of Thunderstorms from St. Louis to Traverse City. However, it is still 10 hours before George and i set out. The storm system should pass and we will have clear to Gunni.
This  link is a  RoadTrek look alike
Stay tune for the adventure.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Taking a break

The above picture is from the Island of Murano, the glass making island off Venice. We visited the island and walked about. When the "free" water taxi dropped us off at the dock we were escorted into a work room where a demonstration of glass blowing was taking place. We have seen this before when we visited the glass works in Corning, New York. Still it is interesting to watch a Master take a glob of molten glass and make a bathroom tumbler which you could purchase for 20euro. (Euro is a $1.30) After the demonstration we were escorted into the main show room where you could purchase a chandelier, glass object D'Art or many other pieces too delicate to touch. Prices start well out of my range and went up. No pictures of course, these were one of a kinds. All very beautiful.Wish i had won the lottery.
I am taking a break from the blog until Monday. I have to organize the hundreds of photos i have into something coherent. Also, i have to fix the shed that crushed under the snow load while we were gone. and other household duties left untouched.
If you have joined the blog then you will get a message that a new blog has been added, if not then Monday should have a new entry.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Summary 1.

I am compiling my photos and other information that i collected on our journey and found some interesting facts. Get a pillow and a strong cup of coffee for just statistics can be a tad boring.
As we began our ocean crossing we cruised in waters with a depth of 1300ft give or take. As soon as we passed out of the continental shelf, in our case just east of the Bahamas, The floor of the ocean dropped to 15,000ft. That is right, almost 3 miles. The lowest i saw was 18,000ft. At the Atlantic Ridge, the volcanic fissure that is spreading our continents, it rose to 10,000ft.  Our speed seemed to average around 18kts(20mph).
The first point of interest on the journey other than the journey itself was the Strait of Gibraltor. We arrived around 2:00am. I had many interested souls with me on the forward deck even though we could only see lights on shore and nothing else. It was pitch black. It took, maybe an hour plus, to pass through the channel. Depth 1100ft, width 7.7nm. The little hand in the photo above shores our position as we entered the strait. An interesting highlight, possibly for my nose only, as we got closer to the African shore(in miles of course), The wind coming from the south had a distinct odor.Tangier is the country and city on that side and i imagine this is what it must smell like. It was a smokey, spicy, not unpleasant yet strange odor. Perhaps my imagination and an exotic place but there it is. Cruise distance 3815nm. Cruise time 10 days. Time zone change added 6 hours(GMT +1).
First port of call Malaga, Spain. Distance traveled 3916nm.
I won't give port by port statistics (unless you ask) but the depth of the Mediterranean got downwards of 8900ft from what i saw.
Total distance to Venice, Italy with stops in Barcelona, Florence and Rome was 5992nm and took 18 days.
We passed through another Strait at the tip of Italy. It is a mile wide and separates Italy from Sicily, the Strait of Messina. Talk about threading the needle. This is so small that you can almost touch other boats as we made passage. Car and people ferries zoomed across our path. It was thrilling. The summit of Mt. Etna was occluded by clouds so no pictures. :(.
This information was acquired from a gps system presented on the internal television system with large screens posted about the ship as well.The pictures to be posted are of this system, same as you would find on a long flight.
Our land travel from Venice to Vienna to Prague to Berlin to Cologne to Amsterdam was 1366mies (1187nm). We rode on regular trains for the most part but had the high-speed rail from Berlin to Amsterdam reaching speeds in excess of 150mph. zoom zoom.
Total time from Florida to Amsterdam, the hard way, was 28 days.
Our flight of 7.5 hours to return us to our -5 time zone, was 35,000ft high, 3932miles (3419nm) at a speed of 554mph.
Check here for screen shots...

Monday, March 4, 2013


Traverse city

Made it home without a hitch last night. Got yhtorugh customs and immegration like butta'. Thank goodness we did this before the Sequester issues kick in. We had enough personnel to make the experience just right.
Now is a weird period. We have laundry to wash and bags to unpack and all sorts of mail to sort through then try to get back to a regular life style. It is a little overwhelming. During the last month we had things to do each day. Evenon teh boat we knew we weren't going anywhere so it was a none thinking life style. Now we have responsibility back and it is odd.
I am up for the challenge though and look forward to growing up all over again. Maybe this time i can do it right!
Sun! haven't seen it in 10 days. It looks wonderful. In the next couple of days i will wrap up this blog and psot all the picture fit to print. Deb and i travel west in May so there will be another blog for that trip.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cologne and Amsterdam


Finally, the sun came out! Noonish on Saturday the sun appeared and we rejoiced. If was a glorious thing. Our hearts jumped with delight at its radiance.
I walked the shopping district near the Dom and reveled in the sunshine soaking up the vitamin D. Soon after it appeared... it disappeared. Good thing we boarded our train for Amsterdam. 
cologne is a Beautiful city, lots of history and places to see. However, without benefit of sun and warmer temperatures it is just not a thing one would like to do at the end of a long trip. We did get to Hard Rock in cologne. We walked a little in the area around the train station and walked a bridge over the Rhine. enough!
Our trains from Berlin to Cologne and from Cologne to Amsterdam were the German High speed trains called ICE. During the Berlin-cologne leg we reached a speed of 249km, around 150mph. The trip from Cologne-Amsterdam topped out at 133km that i noticed. Very comfortable trains, quiet and smooth riding. A very pleasant way to travel.
We arrived in Amsterdam ready to get to our room and wait for the next day's travel to the airport. However, we found that the Hard Rock Cafe in Amsterdam was only a short tram ride away. "second Wind" kicked in and off we rode.
We had our picture taken in the hard Rock and left due to shoulder to shoulder people. Next door was an Irish pub where we settled in for beer and a celebratory Paddy's. Amsterdam's energy and lights and youth brought us back for one more crack at walking the streets. We passed some sex shops, ( i dragged Deb out several times), past some hash houses, (i dragged Deb out several times), and just walked and watched... still too damn cold.
At this moment the fog has set in and we can hardly see the other side of the canal from our 6th floor room. We won't see sun today until we reach flight deck 25 or 30. We will walk for breakfast this Sunday but we are done and done. 
Next post... Traverse City.

Saturday, March 2, 2013



It was our last day in Berlin, actually half day. We were up early to see the Berlin Wall one last time. There are two places to see the extant wall. one is a good distance out for a tourist. At the fall of the wall many artists from around the world painted their thoughts on this section. It may run 500ft. Today's news story is that developers want to tear the wall down to make way for hotels and such.
The other Wall segment is in Potsdammer Platz. This section had been chained off and connected to a museum. too many "wood peckers", the name Berliners gave to tourists who broke off pieces of the wall for souvenirs  so now you can't touch it. But connected to this part is the original foundations for the East German side watch towers and such. I heard that 138 people died trying to cross the border from East to West. However, the same report suggested more than 500 people made it through.
We walked around Checkpoint Charlie on this trip as well. It is unimpressive save the picture of tanks lining Friedrieche Strausse during the height of tensions. We had to continually remind ourselves that this city was a theater of war. Over half the city was destroyed, rubble, some places a lot more. 
After our history lesson we returned to the hotel and grab our  luggage for the trip to the Cologne HauptBahnHof. 
The train trip from Berlin to cologne was uneventful save seeing a Monorail in Wuppetal, Germany. It was the suspended type with a Erector set style support system. Cool!
We had grabbed a map to our hotel from Google. The map gave us directions but had the caution, (Beta) on it. So we followed the directions. We walked down the first street looking for the "slight left". Under a blue lit tunnel, we entered into a local business area. Street not more than a car and a half wide. small shops on both sides of the street. Didn't seem like the place we were headed for.  Fortunately there was a map of the city right there! Blessed saint of travelers whoever that is. We checked our location a found we had passed our hotel. Returned under the blue lit bridge, turned right as directed, and walked past several hotels, none of them ours. Turned at the corner and found a small restaurant and asked the question. It was right around the corner if we continued on! We could have gone the other way and walked right to it instead we walked around the block. Be careful when Google says "Beta".

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Here we had a full day of Berlin. Wonderful city. Great food. We are getting tired. We took a tourist, "Hop on/Hop off" bus and got off once. then just sat on the bus to go home. This travel stuff is getting long. 
We have been gone too long. It is exciting to get to a new city but it is over whelming with what to see and what to pass on. Also, the weather hasn't given us sun so it is just dreary. Warm at about  4c and no wind so it is comfortable to walk but we are tired. 
We love Berlin and hope to return but it is time ot go home.
We visit Cologne tomorrow and Amsterdam the next day. Then homeward bound on the big bird. It is time!

Berlin, arrival.

We left Prague at 8:30 on Wednesday. An early start for travel for us. We feared missing it so we took a cab. I made sure they understood we only had 300czk so if the driver wanted to make a bit extra there was no extra to make. All went without incident and we waited for the train.
5 hours later Berlin! this town of 3.5 mil. or more has a very complicated public transport system. To get from the West HBF to our hotel we needed to take one train then transfer to another. It was easier since the language is based on our latin alphabet so comparing names is easy. Once at our station we walked the wrong direction at first. Nice cloudy day for a walk however, so very nice. 
We continue to have cool, 1-2C, temperatures but no wind and, unfortunately, no sun. Deb is over her cold. I have a tickle in my throat. I hope i can stave off the sore throat until Amsterdam, two days hence.
We walked our neighborhood upon our arrival. Very large business district west of us. Found an Irish pub with great beer. Of course, lucky us we walked right into Hard Rock Cafe. Our barkeep there gave us the name of a restaurant that had the best food we have had all trip. We have a lead on another restaurant fro tonight's dinner.
Today, as i write this a day later, we will use the "On-Off" tourist bus to show us highlights. As i said the public trans systems will get us to where we want but it adds a bit of a challenge in logistics. On the tourist menu, The Brandengurg Gate, checkpoint Charlie and some of the Wall as a start then what ever else is available until nightfall,


Praha and Berlin
We spent the day in Prague strolling the streets of "Old Town" then meeting a friend, well Deb's friend, we all know i have no friends, who took us above the castle so we could walk down through the castle. Very interesting. Saw a very nice view of Prague. Unfortunately, for our guide we had an issue.
Old town is a tangle of old Strauses(streets) mostly one way. We called  a cab to pick us up outside our hotel and zoomed up the hill, Cost about 1200CZK. We walked down through the castle and "Golden houses" and out to a very stunning view of Prague. Then came down a long stair case lined with Guitars players from as far as Mexico and Nashville, a plain out beggar and a street actor posing as the King of Austria, near as i can reckon.
At the bottom of the stair walk we hailed a cab for the ride back. Now, mind you, we probably halved the return trip distance. When we passed the second landmark i recognized, yes I recognized, the driver and our Czech speaking friend had some words. When we, finally, helped our aged taxi driver back to our hotel he charged us double and feigned "getting lost" as his excuse. the other cab rides we had offered no such illegal activity. I fully think that people are honest and out to do good but we got lucky with this scoundrel.
Slept poorly last night, anxious that we will not get to our train station for an early out, 8:30, due to crash in subway , bad taxi driver, or possible meteor attack on our position. Then what would we do? 
Berlin, here we come.

Monday, February 25, 2013

First Picture in Praha, the train station
Listening to Czech Improv...will bring some back.

Vienna and the Train trip.

Deb was up and as perky as she can be. we have breakfast then off to see the town for one last time prior to boarding our train for Praha(Prague).
We walked down the "City Center", a business district. Then through the Museum complex whic, i believe, is called "the Ring". Lastly, we entered the Natural History Museum just to see in they had different natural history than us. Not so much! It seems they have all the same information. The presentation is a little different but then i haven't been in the Chicago Natural History in a long time. We did see the "Largest Meteorite" display in the world and i had a picture of me taken as though i were a Neanderthal! A bit of computer trickery to be sure.
We return to West hauptBahnHof(the main train station) in plenty of time. We had a short discussion about taking one of the scenic street cars but thought better of it. Good choice this!
We picked up of bags from storage, we stored them at the hotel, and  went to our train station. Deb, always alert for disaster, checked our tickets not the last but the twentieth time and, lo and behold, the train was leaving the Weidler BahnHof and not the West HauptBahnhof. We were in the wrong station! A quick question of the "info" desk and off to line 6 and 4 stops. That is what he told me. I forgot to ask which direction. Once in the tube, asked an office and he pointed ot the proper track side and off we went.Upon arrival at the "fourth" stop we walked righ tin to the station without incident. Waited an hour for our train. Watched a train bound for Warsaw stop on our track at the appoitned time we were to catch our train and 5 minutes later our train arrived. All was well!
We found our first class seats, a small upgrade fee large comfort pay back, and settled in. The conductor, ticket taker, whatever they are called here, asked for our tickets. Now, our last train person asked for our tickets and said we didn't have a validated Eurail pass. But after review of the documents let it pass and we had our berth(read prior posts). Not so this gent. He looks at the reservation for our seats and the accompanying Eurail pass, without a stamp, and says "Not valid, No stamp!". Of course, we discussed with him how we were told it was alright and how we had traveled already without virtue of stamp(i never said "Virtue of stamp") but he was stalwart in his conviction and we paid 63 euros for the  train ride to the Czech border, Breclav. He did tell us the train would stop for 15 minutes and i could get my voucher stamped so the remaining portion of the trip would be covered by our prepaid ticket. At one i thought i could do it but after much thought decided to pay the extra fare to Praha rather then risk missing the train while getting a "stamp".
The new crew got on at Breclav and upon presenting him with our "unstamped" credentials we rode free to Praha. go figure!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wien (Vienna) Austria.
We arrived by train from Venice at 8:00am. Same Time zone. As a matter of fact we will be in this time zone until our return to Traverse City. Our train trip was uneventful, if you can think of a room 6'5" long and 4' wide. The sleeping arrangements are bunk beds on atop the other. I am just short enough to not touch feet or head but just barely. if i lay flat on my back i cover the entire sleeping bunk. Put that and two large bags full of clothes on the floor an dit is a challenge to get up and visit the head. Which, since, i had a beer or two before get on the train, i was visiting the head several times.We walked out of the train station and right into the hotel, however, they wouldn't let us check-in early so we had to sit in the lobby for 6 hours.
I say we sat, i meant Deb sat. We have had cold weather and with our walking in Venice and now in Vienne Deb has caught a cold. Nose dripping and a brohcial cough. Nothing serious just makes her feel not up to long walks about Vienne. I have been out and would love to see this city in full sun and warmer weather. The public trans system is excellent. I was able to travel quite freely to the various sites. Oh... it is Sunday and most of the sites and closed!!!!!
one more day in Vienna then off to Prague. Hoping for better weather and Deb ovecoming her cold.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


We arrived as mentioned in Venice. Found the hotel without so much as a farethee well. The hotel was exactly as advertised at visible from the People Mover, like an airport tram, from the port to the town. 
The room was ready for us at 9:00am when we arrived which was a pleasant surprise. Room is about the same size as our cabin but it doesn't have the view nor the rocking motion.
Now that we are on our own so to speak we find the choices overwhelming. We can choose to go this way or that and know we may have  a hard time coming back. This town is a crazy quilt. We have many, many restaurants and all charge, unlike the boat where food was free! 
Our hotel gave us a walking map so we knew something. Our first walk got us to Hard Rock, St. Mark's square, the Bridge or Sighs and more. It is cold! Another difference with cruising, the temperature is subject to external forces so we will layer up this morning.
Today we walk and walk. We may try for the Murano glass works but we are not sure of the cost. It is a island over there. We have an overnight train to Vienna this evening so we have to entertain ourselves for 14 hours. 9pm boarding but we have to out of our room by 11am. We can't see Hard Rock again, $10 a beer.
This is not a cheap city... at least for tourists. Probably there are local places that may offer a less expensive environment which we hope to find today.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Venice Arrival!

We have arrived in Venice, Italy. It was quite unspectacular. We passed into the lagoon around 4:45am then got a tow to our berth and were tied up by 6:15am. No fanfare. No fireboats with jets of water. No brass band. But we are here. Ready to begin the next phase of our trip.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cruise end

(picture to follow shortly)
Seaday 13

Or maybe 14. It has been a while and i have lost track. Regardless, We are 17 hours from docking and the end of the cruise.
We can see the crew taking all non-essentials off their appointment and storing them. Deck chairs stacked and stowed. Vacant rooms loaded with material from other vacant rooms. Some of our guests left early. The menu feels like left overs. Still good and edible mind you but just not a theme as all other menus were. Our last supper menu, no connection with "The Last Supper", is an eclectic mix of fish, poultry, beef and mac n' cheese. All in all a nice way to finish.
I asked earlier if i would do this again. Not if it was a Caribbean 7 day thing but i might try for the return "Sunshine" voyage from Barcelona to New Orleans. Shorter crossing and may have worse weather but cruising on a trans-atlantic is very nice. As such, i will look for the cruises, cost effective cruises(cheap) that will give me a tour to interesting places and time on the boat in days not over night.
We said "Arrividerci" to two of our 6 dinner partners in Florence. Tonight we say the same to the other two couples. Bittersweet to be sure. We do have email addresses and are already friended on facebook by some but still...
during the cruise i have thought of some interesting topics and forgotten them by the time i return to the stateroom. Should i remember any i will jot them down and ad them to this blog. However, the next entry should be from Venice and our trials with the train system of Europe.
Seaday 12
the second to the last full day at sea. We passed through the strait of Messina. The mile and a half passage twixt Sicily and the boot tip of Italy. Before that we passed by Strombuli an active volcano 50 miles off Italy. All in all a very exciting day. 
We had a dress up day, our second of the voyage, today as well. We all walked the promenade in our on-board finest but that doesn't mean people have changed. I found many people when dressed assume they are better than others. people are still people, i guess.
I was able to go backstage of the main theater space. WOW! 25 fly bars, a 40 foot fly space, two wings with tons of space and at least, a 40 foot deep stage with added 15' motorized orchestra pit.
One more day then we wake to Venice and no more pampering. We are thinking about taking the Sunshine, the new name of the refurbished boat, back from Barcelona when it makes its return crossing to New Orleans. When does "les Miserables" closed?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Arrived in Cittevechia at 7:00am. Boarded our bus for the 1.5 hour ride to Rome by 7:45. Turns out the ride was more like 2 hours with rush hour traffic. Rome being inland on the seven hills. 
The traffic is something else to watch. We have decided there are no laws governing motorscooters and motorcycles. They travel between cars at will and always percolate to the front at stoplights. Cars are, mostly, the size of the Fiat 500 and the BWM Smart car. All small. They need to be to traverse some of the back streets of Rome. The bus drivers though receive the award for driving. They negotiate their behemoths with inches to spare on the the expressways and in the town centers. They can parallel park their 50 foot bus in a length 10 feet longer then their bus. They are magicians!
Rome, for those asking, is all uphill. It could be due to the prior day's walk in Florence/Pisa and/or it could be due to the fact that the whole town is uphill. 
We walked all over with a map made in hell. The roads on the map made no sense and the printing was fuzzy, with or without my glasses which have finally made a spectacle of themselves and become a pair of monocles. Without the aid of said map we stumbled on most of what we wanted to see missing only the Spanish Steps which i called the "Roman Steps" when i inquired to their whereabouts(how embarrassing) and the Vatican, due to a Metro strike which ended at 2:00pm, the time we were on our way back to the ship.
Fear not, i tossed my coin in the Trevi fountain and wished for World peace,(shush, don't tell or it won't come true) so look for a brighter tomorrow... tomorrow.
Where we have stopped we were happy with our time in each city. We think that you can see them in one day with a thought to come back if it tickles you. However... you can not see Rome in one day, period.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Firenze - Pisa

Florence - Pisa

Just returned to the ship after a rush tour of Florence and Pisa. We spent about 3.5 hours in Florence arriving about 9:00am local. It was under 50F but started warming up during the day. We walked and walked. Saw the Duomo and the Bapistry, had a beer at the Hard Rock Cafe and walked the Ponti Vencio. With this done we had plenty of time to stroll around and see interesting architecture. This trip was an "on your own" tour. We had a bus take us to the cities then we were on our own.
For your travel information, it is not the same seeing a picture then standing in front of the real thing. When we turned the  corner at the Duomo the image just stops you. i have seen pictures but the real thing is it. The same only more goes for the leaning Tower of Pisa. The scene is just stunning and caused everyone around us to gasp. There is nothing else in Pisa for tourists but it is worth every penny to see it live.
We continue to experience fantastic weather. The expected weather tomorrow in Rome is Sunny and 55F. That would make it the same as we had today and we can do that. 
We will have the same "on you own" tour tomorrow. Only this time it will be in Rome with a heck of a lot more territory to cover. We expect the same experience when we view the landmarks in Rome.
We have back to back tours so it is an early night for us. Well, maybe a beer or two.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Seaday 11

Seaday 11

Today we arrive in Livorno, the port where we find transfer to to buses for Florence and Pisa. Excitement!
Yesterday, as are all seadays now, was just a day to get through so that we could visit another city. We ate, We read books or watched TV. We ate some more.
We lose two of our dinner mates this stop. Many people have taken this cruise merely to come to Italy for other reasons. Our dinner mates will disembark in Florence and stay for several months. We have formed a special bond at our table. For 11 days we have eaten together and found we enjoy each other's company. We have heard tales of people not getting along very well and 18 days at dinner could be a big problem. Now we said good bye to one couple. Kinda bittersweet.
But since donnie is not known for his emotion... On to Florence.


We arrived in port at 8:00am. We were on land and walking the Las Rhamblas by 9. Businesses don't open until 10ish so we had time to ourselves. Found the underground and got to Sagrada Familia. That is always busy.
It is a magnificent building still in progress since 1886. We decided that waiting the half hour/hour was not in our single 8 hour plan so we walked the rest of the city as far as we could. We just roamed around back towards the ship taking back streets, little more than alleys, until we found a big thorough-fair then back into a little street. We had a beer at the Hard Rock Cafe which was under reconstructions so we sat in a basement extension without benefit of guitar bar.
We walked the length of Las Rhamblas and found an open air food mart. Candies, fruits, meats of all kinds. This was the place, if there was any place, that we were most at risk of pickpockets. It was packed with people. Not one feel on me bum for donnie! You know i tried!
Finally, back to the ship by 4:00PM then shipped lines and off at 5:00pm. A very good day. Pictures to follow 
Check here for all photos.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


A foggy day on the Mediterranean

Getting prepared to visit Barcelona. The ship is docking as i write( well actually i have just returned.) Here are pictures from our travels. Only afew, more to come.

Now on to Barcelona.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Seaday 9
Finally, one more day until we set foot on Terra Firma. The Tuesday Seaday was uneventful we all were waiting anxiously for the passage Through the Strait of Gibraltar. Even if it is at 3:30am. Notice i finally spelled Strait correctly and even made it singular.
We mostly, just napped or read books. Nothing to report.
Well there was one thing. One of our table mates had a birthday today and the other will later this month so we made some cards and ordered a special birthday cake. Otherwise, When the novelty wears off, what remains is just a trip across the Atlantic Ocean.
One thing, however, our Maitre'd said that he was told that crossing the Atlantic was going to be rough, big swells and waves. We had non of that. Our weather was sunny and warm, some times a little cool but the most waves we had were swells of 10ft and choppy 4-6ft waves. Nothing else.Talk about a great crossing!
Since i write this after visiting Malaga you will here more about weather in the next installment.


Malaga Cruise day 9
Malaga! What an interesting town... at least the part we saw. when one is as experienced in these travel matters as Deb and i are, being as we are on this cruise, one notices that the town you are in is only as good as the town you see. We visited the "old Town" and fell in love. Who knows what the rest of the Population 630K town looks like?
Most of us said we could live here. It is pretty and clean. Expensive in the places we visited, but then this is the tourist part of town and we know what that means. 
Here is a travel tip. when we left the ship we walked through the terminal and found a counter with the "Carnival" sightseeing service. when asked, they said,"We don't know what is outside but for 23 euro each we can give you an "on-Off" bus with 4 stops. We bought because "they didn't know what was out there". Over dinner that evening we found out that the double decker bus we passed had 25 stops, a headset for information and was 23 euro each! When we complained Carnival said they contracted that service and it wasn't part of Carnival. Now if you consider, they service was the only one offered in the terminal, we had "Carnival" stickers to identify us and we used "Carnival" labeled buses .. when it quacks and walks like a duck, even sub-contracted, it is a duck.
so one concludes don't believe anyone. Check it out for yourself.
Trip tip complete.
Malaga was founded in 600BC. You can see on the map that it is in a nice location found trade. We visited a castle and the Picasso Museum. Then we visited a Roman theater. I hope we can find a time to post the pictures. ship board our internet is expensive and slow, so uploading the pictures we have is not in the budget at least not all the pictures. Stay tune.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Seaday 8

Seaday 8
The weather has made a change for the cooler. We have clouds and temps in the low 60's. with a wind in the 30knts it is not conducive to go on deck, though we did attempt to see the ISS. The cloud deck prohibited same.
We have not seen the moon on our trip and wondered if it disappeared during our journey through the Bermuda Triangle. Google reports it rising at 9:35am and setting 9:35PM. when there was clear skies above i did not see it... daytime viewing isn't the best however. So we continue to live in the shadow of the triangle.
As i write this we are one day away from going ashore. I write the day after the titled seaday. Some of us, your author included, are getting a little tired of a featureless horizon.
Tonight we will pass through the Straights and to that end we hope to see land before sunset. I stand watch at 4:00pm GMT. Report at 11:00.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Seaday 7

Seaday 7
Before we go any further, i must admit to a confusion of riches. We have so many islands out here that i confused the Azores with the Canary islands. Again, i wasn't wrong merely confused by prevailing conditions. Moving on.
Here is what we did on seaday 7. 
Rose around 7:am. Cleaned up and went to breakfast. After breakfast rummaged around the room for a while then to the Lido deck to read books. The 40 knot headwind was too much to attempt. Walked aimlessly about the ship. Some of the onboard distractions just don't make it for me. Bingo, while profitable when won, costs more than any enjoy gained by it. Tossing things, bean bags, balls on rope and other things, again dont' make it.
Finally, lunch was upon us. More salad. Then a walk around the deck and determined the weather, though 68F and sunny, was not conducive to watching "Casablanca" in the 40 kts wind. Settled for "The Avengers" on the little screen. Today, looks like, "Tangled". oh joy, oh joy. It is a musical maybe we can do it next year.
Did i tell you that i lost Sunday? Yup, i was looking at the weather report posted outside customer services and noticed it said Sunday. Laughed at it then told Deb how silly they were. That is when she informed me that it was Sunday and i was silly. Now i will check the calendar everyday.
Moving on in our day, we read some more then played "Giant Jengo" again. That was fun. 
Dinner came none to soon. Heard that we had to turn in our passports since we land in Malaga in two days. Yea.
After dinner we waited for the "Liar's show". This show has the 5 onboard comedians making up a definition for some obscure word. Only one of them is telling the truth. The audience votes. Who cares?
Still trying to answer the question would i do this cruise again?
Evonne, at out our dinner table said if we were on a regular gruise we would be going home today. We have 11 more days, 7 at sea. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Seaday 6

Seaday 6

Went for a walk on the track, level 10. Walking counterclockwise on the track. The ship is steaming at 18kts. There must have been a head wind coming from just off the bow at more than 15 kts so the effect was a walk into a wind of 30-35 or more kts. That is close enough to mph for government work. Makes 10 times around the track or a mile that much farther. Got some nice pictures though.
Read a book the entire morning.
The Captain gives a short position/weather report at noon each day. Today he announced that we will pass through the Gibraltar Straits around 1:00am. I will be there but will not guarantee the photos.
If you type 35.50N and 29.24 W into Google Earth you should get close to the Canary Islands. They lie about 100 miles North of our position. Since we passed the continental rift we float over the Euro-Asian Plate. I just made that name up but the idea is good. We have about 1300NM left until we reach Malaga. We have this in room display similar to the displays on airplanes that track our position on a map. It shows the Straights of Gibraltar a hand width distant. Translates to 1100NM.... or so. It is getting shallow here. I hope our captain knows where he is going. The sea depth is 9500 ft. I can almost touch bottom if i jump overboard.
In preparation for our first port of call, we had a Spanish lesson. I, now, have four sheets of paper with many words that i can point to if i need help.
The question was raised at the dinner table if we would take this ride again. Interesting.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Seaday 5

Seaday 5
We are more than half way. We passed that mark yesterday, as i write this the day after, with so much as a "hoorah". It was just a position on a map. We arrive in Malaga at 8:00am so i started doing some math and realized we would pass through the Straits of Gibraltar at night. A visit to customer service who talked with the bridge confirmed my suspicion. Now what? Stay tuned for further
Yesterday was largely uneventful. We read quite a bit. We did play the "Giant Tower". A jengo game with pieces many times larger. We had 15 people all taking turns making a 3 foot high tower larger by removing pieces from the bottom. An additional problem was the rolling of the boat. Very entertaining!
I did loose control yesterday as well. I am trying to be good with consumption of fruits and salads for lunch and breakfast. However, lunch offered Key Lime Cheesecake. I faultered and consumed a very large piece. I am not ashamed. though it may not look like it i am mortal like everyone else!
Last night we were told to set our clocks ahead one hour. This morning the ship's clock remains an hour behind if one set one's clock forward. It really doesn't matter what time it is so long as i pass by the dining room at half past the hour from 4 to 6 and sit down when it is my turn. We are on the early service which sits at 5:30pm. whatever time!
I have been thinking about this time thing ever since the first time change. We really don't need to change until we reach land. The ship may as they are in contact with the outside world but for us passengers anytime is good so long as we aren't late for dinner. More on that later.
Our main course last night was several selections as usual, but my choice was the Filet Mignon. mmmmm! Not that i make a big deal of it but my table mate received a larer piece. I am not one to point this out so i kept silent but i will watch his plate from now on!
Today (Seaday6) we pass over the mid-Atlantic ridge. Remain seated it is not a big deal.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Seaday 4
Another day on the high seas. After much research and soul searching i have decided that i spoke in haste in discussing the distance and speed of our vessel. I told our dinner table that we we traveling at about 10mph. Well, it is about 20 mph. I am sure i wasn't wrong just misunderstood... again.
We have decided that breakfast and lunch will be mostly salads. The menus are too good and the opportunity too great. We may gain many, many pounds if we are not watchful.
One of the many group activities on board was a presentation of things to do during our Spain ports. Pickpockets abound. Keep your money in your front pocket and purse over your neck and in front as well. Other than that the people ar friendly and helpful. Since most are regular people like you and me relax and have a great time. Then came the sales pitch for the various tours offered by cruise line. Tomorrow we learn all about the Pisa and Rome stops as well as the tours. Most of what we do on board is purchaseable(if that is a word). Prior to the presentation they presented a Bingo game with a $1000 pot. We didn't play, not that we didn't want to, we just didn't know. so now we read everything on the calendar. We will, also, visit the casino where you can put a dollar in a machine and have a chance to win $1000. Bet ya' that is easy to do!
Many "multi-cruise" people are amazed that Deb and i have taken an 18 day cruise as our first true cruise. We took one a long time ago but it was a short Miami-Bahama cruise so i don't count it. Well all i can say is that there is too much to do. You can eat 24 hours a day. Nap when ever and where ever. You can read in the same lounge chair you nap in and/or you can walk around the deck. Who could ask for more?
We have a varied cast of cruisemates from young to old. But for the most part, i am reminded of the line the young boy says to Traverse Cityite, Bruce Willis, in "6th Sense" (I paraphrase), "I see old people".
Looking forward to today we mark the halfway point of a Atlantic crossing.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Seaday 3

The above shows you how much time we have on our hands. Towel Art!!!!

Currently at 32.56N, 54.29W, Course 75degrees at 17.9kts, Sea Depth 18310ft. Cruise distance 1431 nm. Swimming home not an option!
Seaday 3 was a very busy day!
Firstly, we left the Bermuda triangle. Possibly, we left earlier but i just thought of it now. We did not experience any supernatural moments. No mysterious mists, time fluctuations, alien sightings or anal probings. I believe the "Triangle" musings to be myths... now.
Weather was calm, sunny and breezy, temps in 70's and winds around 20mph. Makes walking on the track a lot farther.Our day usually starts with in-room coffee then breakfast in the Sun and sea buffet then back to room then whatever. Yesterday we followed this routine and the whatever became the aft pool area for
some reading time. As i walked past the bar area where people sat with breakfast plates, a gentleman said, "don"? I had no idea who he was but he know me, further saying,"I am from Traverse City"! Turns out he is Tom Stoppel(name correction to follow when i get a proper spelling) who recognized me from the Old Town Playhouse. I won't go into his thoughts on my performances but he loves the playhouse and Traverse City. He retired as the Regional director of the Boy Scouts. His wife, Georgia, was just as excited when she
arrived. Tom and Georgia have sold their Tc home and are moving to Iowa to get closer to family. Go figure! They promise to return to TC for "Les Miz".
We walk the stairs as much as possible and walk, walk, walk. Too much food and to little self-control.
Last night I attended the sing-a-long version of "Grease". I never enjoyed the movie and with this exercise, my appreciation was not changed. we started with the version without words and the audience didn't sing. When the powers that be noticed they restarted the movie with the proper version. it didn't help!
A few words about our stateroom. We have an aft stateroom with a balcony that overlooks the fantail and propeller wash. Our view is westerly. The room may be 12 feet across and 20 feet deep. Enter forward going astern on the starboard side is a set of closets and a desk area. The port side is the head with shower. Passing these we come to the living quarters with seating area and double bed, thence to the balcony. Sara, i believe this to be twice as big as your apartment in Seoul, Korea. Good thing we are here for only 18 days and not 2 years. Pictures to follow.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Seaday 2

Today was a special day. The impulse for this trip was my father's last wish to have his ashes scattered over the ocean. Since he didn't say which ocean i had several to choose from. We found this trip to Venice, Italy on the web and couldn't pass up the offer. I had visited my daughter in Portland, Oregon and scattered some ashes in the Pacific so this only made sense to scattered them in the Atlantic as well..
Today, i was escorted to the aft deck, water level and allowed to release both Dad's and Dorothy's ashes at some where close to 28.35.39 N and 70.24W at 15:00 GMT. Not much of a ceremony, no band or color guard but the deed was done. Pictures to follow.
Speaking of longitude, latitude, We had a time change last night. Well, of cruise director, Noonan, told us a t 3:00am to set our clocks ahead an hour since we moved time zones. However, he forgot to check with the captain. Seems just like on an airplane, we don't change our clocks until we reach a port. Deb and i got our coffee delivered early this morning. Not a pretty sight for service staff. I will gussy up sooner for the next delivery.
Also, we were at 639nm from our start when the captain announced over the intercom that we had 3280nm until we reached our first port of call, Malaga. Cruising at 18.4k, we have some time left.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sea Day 1 is almost over. Notice i said "Sea Day". We cruisers have our own language. We have been on the ship for one day but moored. When we are under way on the high seas we call it "Sea Day". You are welcome for the new knowledge.
Let me tell you cruising is not for the faint of heart. We were up at the crack of 6:30 when our coffee was delivered. Just try to get back to sleep after sitting on the balcony and several cups of coffee. It is a trial!
Since we were up breakfast was in order, your typical breakfast buffet. The scrambled eggs may have been powdered but everything else was very nice. Truly, some of our shipmates did not need to eat breakfast, unlike svelte Deb and I. So we merrily stuffed it down. I promised myself i would walk the track several times tomorrow.
We decided to skip, the shuffle board tourney as well as the "Toss", the bingo and other ship sports. Our day consisted of walking the ship, taking some pictures and a nap or two. I am sure we will get the hang of this sailing thing soon.
Our weather is fine so far. It gets cloudy then full sun then cloudy. As i write this it is after sunset and the stars are all out. I mean ALL of them. Wow.
We float, at this position in the Atlantic, 14640 ft above the sea floor and are 355nm into our trip. I do not know how far we will travel. We are steaming along at 18knots. Stay tuned.
We have a limited internet account and won't do much emailing until we hit free wi-fi in some town.
We think Wizard stowed away. either that or his doppleganger is aboard. Pictures to follow.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Arrived in Florida, No problems...almost.

So it begins. the trip to Florida was uneventful. We left on time from TVC then from DTW. weather was just fine for travel. (yawn) travel is such a burden.
Well, maybe it wasn't all sweetness and cream. While on final approach to Miami international the Hostess announced that all electronic devices must be turned off. Deb had to ask if digital cameras were included. "Yes", she said, "and do you want to know why? The battery may explode if you have it on during take-off and landing because of the pressure change!"
So during landing i took pictures. No explosion.
After we landed the hostess asked everyone to stay seated after we got to the gate. "No arms, elbows or bags in the walkway, please". Finally, a lone passenger was escorted off the plane. Not sure what that was all about but i did feel a flush of heat when i thought maybe they were coming for me cause i had an electronic device on and took pictures!
Then to top that, we had to stand in 75F degree heat and waited over an hour for the hotel transport. It was grueling. Fortunately, Deb and i weathered this horrific heat well!
Our room has the Miami 500 right outside the window. Cars and motorcycles, i swear, were topping 90 miles an hour. Zoom, Zoom, whinnnn, Zoom.
This morning we had the continental breakfast offered by the hotel. A tasty cup of coffee and the smallest muffin, not english, i have ever seen. Of course there is a full menu to choose from if you want more. Since this is about cheap and not luxury we opted for the small muffin and will hope for better once we board the ship.
Waiting for the transport to take us to the Port of Miami and the long ride back home.