Epic Cruise Adventure: Transatlantic

Barcelona, Spain

For most of the passengers this is the end of the cruise. Another cruise begins this afternoon. New passengers will board the ship. There are about 1300 of us on the Mediterranean cruise remaining on board for the Transatlantic. This is Susan and I first B2B (back to back) cruise experience. We even have the same cabin for both cruises. No changing cabins as others are doing today.

Our day is filled with riding through Barcelona and venturing up to Montserrat. This trip has been one of venturing away from the port city to other destinations. Off on excursions and adventures rather than just exploring. It had made this trip much different to our other cruises.

Barcelona looks beautiful and interesting. We drive through the streets. Beautiful buildings, churches, Gothic architecture that I would love to view in more detail. We drive through the old Olympic village that now is a wonderful residential area full of apartments, condos, shops and restaurants. It looks like a great place to live. I would have liked very much to explore Barcelona more. Our day is full and we will not have time when we return.

After driving for an hour we arrive at the railway train that will take us to the top of the mountain.

The Monastery was founded by the Benedictions in the 11th century. Arriving at the Basilica there is a service going on. I am interested in observing the service. Since the service is going on it is not possible to walk up and see the Black Virgin Mary. Susan comes inside to see the Monastery but does not stay. I wish I could get closer but there are many people inside. Some sitting listening to the service and others walking around taking in this beautiful monastery.

Knowing Susan is wondering around outside. I leave before the service is over. Outside the views are inspiring. I can’t imagine how the monks were able to climb up here and build these structures of stone and magnificence. The highest point is still above up. I watch the funicular going up to the top.

I see Susan and join her. “I feel more spiritual here than I did in Rome.”

“Yes. I feel it. I am drawn to this. I would have liked to have been here for the whole service.”

“You could have stayed.”

“I know but we only have so much time and I didn’t want to miss these views or lunch.”

The wind is whipping and chilling us. Down to the shops to explore and to find some reprieve from this wind. The shop contains all kinds of religious and spiritual artifacts, mixed in with teas and spirits the monks make, and tourist items.

Lunch is served in the bottom room of the restaurant overlooking the cliff. The ship has reserved a room on the lower level for all of the cruise passengers on this excursions. There are so many of us that there are 8 groups totaling about 300 of us. The ship and restaurant apparently didn’t communicate the correct amount of people so the staff has to hurriedly add another two tables.

We joined a table of people that were not in our group. Time to meet new people again who have been on the ship and are staying on. Lunch is wonderful despite the disorganization and the frustration of the staff. Everyone around us didn’t mind the slow pace or the confusion. We chatted and toasted enjoying food, wine and great conversation. I love this.

Another very long day and I am exhausted. I am not use to this pace of life. I am an island girl, a beach girl. Susan has loved every hectic minute of it. We return to the ship. They are running late loading and we are all arriving back to the ship one bus load after another. The B2B process goes smoothly and we are on the ship and back to our cabin.

We have been to some amazing places but I am looking forward to having sea days, several sea days and four in a row! I love visiting places and seeing and exploring new places. I love adventures but I love just being on the ship and on the sea. As I look forward to the Transatlantic, Susan not so much.

The ship didn’t leave Barcelona until we were dinning in the dining room. The ship added extra supplies apparently the Food Manager was concerned about enough having enough water and supplies and so extra supplies were loaded late.

John Heald, the senior cruise director and Cruise Ambassador had joined us on the ship. He will be with us until Bermuda where he will fly ahead to New York.

And we are underway heading to Gibraltar and then out into the Atlantic Ocean!

Sea Day

A much needed sea day. One wakes up when they wake up, goes to breakfast, I head to the lido deck today. Checking out the Fun Times with the daily activities is a sea day ritual for me. I mark the activities I am interested in, although sometimes as the day goes along I end up missing something.

People often ask me, “What do you do on a sea day? Isn’t it boring?”

There is so many choices I never get to do half the things I want to do. Some choices don’t interest me at all and when there are no activities going on that I want to join in there are still plenty of options. Sitting out on deck, reading, soaking up the sun, enjoying the pools or hot tub are always a great option.

There are quiet areas that others haven’t discovered if you want some private time or to read without the busy activity around. There is the slides and skyride if you dare! There is an arcade, ping pong, miniature golf, and basketball.

I go to the Morning Show in the main lounge then off to the library to write. The seas are calm today and the ship is just gliding along. Someone just got married. Time for lunch. Sometime outside on deck enjoying the sunshine. I return to the cabin to see what Susan is up to. She often takes a nap on sea day afternoons.

Matt the cruise director announces that the back decks are going to be closed off for a while. There is a medical emergency on board and a passenger is to be airlifted to the hospital. The ship has slowed down but not stopped. The helicopter approaches and the passenger is lifted up. It all went smoothly. I have never been on a cruise where we had a medical emergency before. Prayers for the passenger and their family that all will be well.

I am still tired. Not yet recovered from all those busy port days.

 

Gibraltar

I have figured out what port we are at but I still don’t have a clue what day of the week or month it is. Not that it matters really. We arrive into port early. It is getting towards 8 am and it is still dark. Sunrise isn’t until 8:22!

It is another one of the many rainy and overcast days we have had on this trip. I had never thought about going to Gibraltar. Another rock, another mountain top with amazing views once again. Susan has filled our day once again. At least I don’t have to decide or think about what to do on port days.

I see dolphins all the time, Susan doesn’t. Dolphins are plenty here around the straights of Gibraltar. We are on a Dolphin cruise in the harbor. The dolphins here are different than the ones I see often. They are smaller.

 

 

 

Susan is ecstatic there are hundreds of them swimming around the boat. It is a sight to see. Even I am enthralled with these magical creatures. Seeing them no matter how much I see them still makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop! It is a magical experience no matter how many times you experience it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up a taxi tour with 3 other couples. I am in awe as we ride around Gibraltar. Our driver is fun and informative. It really makes a difference when you get a guide who loves people and loves showing you around. We see the British Navel buildings, and then we drive across a runway. Yes a runway where planes land! The road goes right across it! On the other side of the runway is the border with Spain.

 

 

 

 

Driving around the Europa Point we stop at a lighthouse overlooking the Gibraltar Straits across to the African Coast. African coast is barley visible through the fog and rain. Up the rock of Gibraltar, as we are inundated with Barbary Apes leaping around beside us and up onto the taxi. I am riding in the front and am startled when one jumps onto the windshield in front of me. Susan is enchanted with the apes. She has been talking about them since she heard about them. It is the highlight for her!

 

 

St. Michael’s cave is located in the mountain side. I am the one enchanted now. This cave is breathtaking. I would love to hear a concert in the amphitheater here.

On our return to the ship we see what is left of the Moorish Castle and the old city. There is a spectacular view of the Carnival Vista at port.

As Malta was a surprise port on our Mediterranean cruise, Gibraltar is a surprise highlight of this cruise.

Sea Days

Two sea days! We are heading through the Straits of Gibraltar out into the Atlantic Ocean. I am exhausted. I could sleep all day. Rocky rough seas and tiredness lull me back to sleep. I can hardly keep my eyes open. My body refuses to move. I hate wasting a day. Even though my life is more laid back than Susan, I too like to enjoy every minute.

I struggle to get up. I want to get some Fresh Air. Fresh Air always revives me. I manage to drag myself up to the lido deck. The pools are empty of water as the seas are too rough. The ocean looks choppy but it feels rockier than it looks. It is cool-no cold outside. I am chilled by the air but it doesn’t seem to be reviving me.

Nothing is working to fight this exhausted. The rocking of the ship just adds to the sleepiness and I succumb once again to sleep. I sleep right through dinner, through the night and into the morning.

My body still feels abused and exhausted but I am determined to function today. Outside activities are still shut down today. Inside the ship is alive with action. I watch a dance class and then find a spot in the Antrum to people watch and attempt to write. It is a lazy slow day with not much activity for me. I am a silent observer today rather than an active participate.

At dinner the chef has made me a special pasta dish. All of my tablemates had enjoyed it yesterday when I hadn’t made it to dinner. Tonight I feel honored and special that the chef would do that and thank Ken the Maitre d’ who arrange it.

I still don’t have the energy to go to the Piano Bar or the Red Frog Bub tonight. I hate missing a night of fun and music but we pull into Porta Del Garda tomorrow. I have been looking forward to visiting the Azores.

Porta Del Garda, Azores

Docking the rain clouds linger over the island. Fog thinly veils the green mountain tops. I have dreamed of seeing the crater lakes of blue and green. The sky has diluted all colors. I hope the sun at least peeks through so I can see the difference in the colors of the lakes.

Our drive through drizzling rain mutes the green mountainsides of the volcano. Still even muted in tone I am still in awe, it is the greenest place I have ever seen. Emerald city of the earth. Fields of green rise up along the volcano as she rises from the sea.

 

 

A look out point near the top are the remains of a crumbling hotel built in the sky overlooking the Sete Cidades. From here we look down into the volcanic crater containing the two lakes and a charming village. It looks straight out of a fairytale.

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of the yellow brick road to Emerald City, we have traveled the Emerald Forest to the enchanted village by the mythical lakes.

 

 

Sete Cedades, the Seven Cities with its cobblestone streets, cows walking the roads to pasture, Gothic church and gardens, small homes lining winding the edge of the larger lake, the bridge between the lakes of blue and green and the pastry shop with patrons lined out the door.

 

 

Unfortunately the grey hue of the sky dulls the colors of the lakes. Instead of one blue and one green. They are both different shades of grey-blue. If you look hard enough the smaller with a hint of the promise of green.

Returning to the port city of Porta Del Garda, we walk down the port street to a plaza where people are taking their picture in the arch way. We explore the side streets with their shops and restaurants. It took blends with the fairytale atmosphere. I am bewitched by this magical place. Maybe I will return one day.

Sea Days: Crossing the Atlantic

I am more than ready for four days at sea! The weather is slowing improving. Each day bringing a little more sun and a little more warmth.

I start the first day with going to John Heald’s talk. I have been following him on Facebook. I have seem him here and about on the ship always swarmed with people around him. Most of them just want to meet him and have their picture taken with him. Too many want him to do something special for them or solve a problem they are having. It is the people who are demanding or angry and expect him to resolve, fix or change anything they don’t like or aren’t happy about that disrupt things.

In the talk there is one man who is screaming and yelling. John asks him to wait and they will handle it privately but he keeps causing a scene. I have come across more people this trip who are doing nothing but complaining. The couple of times that I needed something, all I had to do was ask someone politely if I could have what I needed and it was taken care of. Everyone has gone over and above doing the best they can to help. Somethings are not in the crew’s control but if they can fix it or help they will.

Sea days are what you make of them. Pick from the many activities the cruise staff are running, enjoy the decks, pools and activities on your own, find a private space to sit and relax and read, meet new people and have interesting stimulating conversations, or just sit and enjoy a drink at the bar.

In the evening you have several different dining option. I still prefer having dinner in the dining room. I love having dinner with new people I have just met and get to know them each evening. I love being served and taken care of like a guest and getting to know my servers. Dinner is a relaxing formal yet casual experience. We do sometimes try one of the specialty restaurants but the main dining room is where we prefer.

At night I love the fact that there is live entertainment and shows. Several different options to choose from. I love the piano bar which is my go to entertainment in the evening. I love that I can wander from venue to venue and enjoy different entertainers and different music in a single evening. I always find a favorite. The bands and musicians on the Vista this trip were some of the best I have heard. Nothing disappointed me.

I did tire of the piano bar, after all I was on the ship for 23 days! I ended up many nights in the Red Frog Pub. The guitarist/singer was fun, interacting with the crowd and we sang along and danced the night away. The dance bands were rocking the ship. The dance floor was so crowded it spilled out into the hall! The main shows were great productions. I must admit they are somewhat smaller in scale then the old days of the Mardi Gras and Carnival but the quality never lacks.

One of my favorite activities on board is the Behind the Fun Tour! I highly recommend it. There is nothing like walking down I95 and seeing what is happening down below as the crew and staff provide for all the necessities of running a cruise ship. Meeting and seeing the areas of the crew, the kitchen, the laundry, and the food storage help you understand what an amazing feat it is to keep everything running smoothly. The highlight for me is always the engine room and the bridge. You are not allowed to bring you phone or camera on the tour. A ships photograph comes along and takes those photo ops in the kitchen and on the bridge. The Tour does cost but is worth it at least once. The photos along with gifts from the chef and ship are included in the price of the tour.

Bermuda

We have just had almost 20 days of magical historical ports throughout Europe. A trip of a lifetime. Bermuda, I have been here many times in years past but I am glad to be here again. I have been looking forward to the beach. I am a beach girl after all. An island beach girl, sand, ocean, warm sun, beach bars, flip flops, sundresses, bathing suits, and don’t forget that tropical rum drink!

I am anxious to get to Horseshoe Bay Beach. As we wind down the roads over the connecting bridges to the island section of Bermuda where Horseshoe Bay beach lies I am riding with anticipation.

And then the beach lies before me. Heaven on earth. Before I get that drink or explore this exquisite beach I have to get into the ocean! I have been missing this since Rhodes and that seems like ages ago.

We have arrived early and there is plenty of space on the beach. As the morning rolls on the beach fills with cruise passengers and tourists but the beach is so large that we only take up a small space. There is still plenty of space to roam and find that spot by yourself if you desire.

I like being around people, swimming and splashing around together. Sitting under an umbrellas soaking up just enough sun, sharing my love of the beach with another beach goer. It is time for Bermuda’s National Drink, Dark and Stormy. I head to the beach bar where I discover many of the Red Frog crowd. I greet them and chat order my drink and return to the beach. I could stay all day but we are heading back for to the port area for lunch. We choose a table that is outside but under an awning for shade.

We head back to the ship to shower and change before we head out for our sunset Rum Goslings harbor cruise. What a wonderful way to end a day in Bermuda! Watching the sun go down and drinking rum!

We are staying overnight in Bermuda. In the morning we head back into port for some quick sightseeing and some shopping. We leave at noon to head to our final destination New York City.

Final Sea Days

As we pull out of port, I grab my fun times and go sit outside on deck. I relax enjoying the sun and the sea wishing this could go on forever. I open my Fun Times to see what I may be interested in later this after or this evening. I am filling with excitement! I am jumping up and down inside. Plan A is here. Sam and James are here! It says they are here! I can’t wait to see them.

Plan A, Sam and James saved my cruise last time. I didn’t like the entertainer in the piano bar. I knew one of the dance bands and enjoyed them but they played in the casino bar. It was awkward and uncomfortable. I had wondered the ship trying to find some other music to listen to. The ship seemed like it was missing bands because two of the venues had no music. I don’t really like the dance club with the DJ. I love live music.

I wondered into the Antrum one night and sat down to listen to the two guitarists out of desperation. They were wonderful! I fell in love and returned every night after that. Sam began to see me and recognize that I was there every night. I got Susan to come listen to them. I got up the courage to speak with them. On the last night I had Susan take my picture with them. When I came home I connected to their Facebook page.

And here they were!! I went to the Atrium early before they were to start because I knew they would be there setting up. I hung on every second. I knew the songs they played. I was very happy to see them. At the end of the evening I approached Sam and told him that I had been on the Triumph with them and they had made my cruise. He said when he saw me he that I had looked familiar but he wasn’t sure where from. It was Halloween and I told him it was the same week last year, Halloween week.

I told him I had pictures on my phone still. “Show them to me”. I pulled them up and we started looking at them. “James come here. This is Cathy she was on the Triumph last Halloween. Look at the pictures.”

James comes over and we talk and reconnect. I promise I will be there tomorrow to see them again.

I have become friends with Karan who I had met in the piano bar. It was our last night and I wanted to connect with her. After dinner I went to the piano bar. I sat with Karan for a few minutes enjoying Ben but I wanted to spend the evening listening to Plan A. I told Karan about them and to come join me when she left the piano bar.

Off to listen to Plan A. Later Karan joined me. When they finished we hung around and talked. Karan took my picture with them. It was a great last night listening and reconnecting with Plan A and introducing my new friend Karan to them. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay on for another cruise.

Hopefully we will meet again on another cruise soon!

 

 

 

New York

I am woken early in the morning by a bang outside my window. I get up and see a tugboat right up against the ship. I realize it is pushing us. I hear the engine gunning and feel the steering system trying to turn and turn. I think we are stuck in a sand bar. Eventually we were moving without the tug boat pushing us and we docked.

We had let the ship take our luggage to unload and our number was for debarkation was 31. The process didn’t go well. We didn’t hurry enjoying breakfast in the Family harbor lounge. Finished with our last minute packing and no longer allowed to remain in our cabin, we returned to wait for our number to be called in the Family Harbor Lounge.

We sat with a couple from Wales who were on their first trip to the states. We talked about New York and what to see and do. It seemed that the whole disembarking had either halted or we were forgotten. Once in a while one of us would venture up to the lido deck to see what was happening because we felt like we were alone down below. And then the Cruise Director would call a couple more numbers.

It was about 10 am when our number was finally called and we headed of the ship to immigration then to collect our luggage then to customs. That process was also slow and confusing.

The end of our Epic Cruise but the journey isn’t over just yet. We are staying in New York City at our favorite hotel for two nights. We pull our luggage across the street, up the avenue and around the corner to the Ink48 hotel. We drop our luggage in the holding area and head off into the streets of New York.

It had been hours since we had had breakfast a 6 am and now it was nearing 11 am so we were hungry and decided to have lunch before we walked around New York. We found an Irish Tavern just up the street from the hotel. It was a wonderful meal. Our stomachs full we started exploring New York City.

Both of us have been here before but it always feel different. Susan wanted to find the theater where we would be seeing a show tomorrow night so we would know how to get there in the dark. We headed to the theater district. I had actually never been to this part of the city. We walked up and down reading show names until we found ours.

Then we began a grand tour, Times Square to Central Park. We walked and walked until we couldn’t walk anymore. Back at the hotel which was swarming with Carnival employees we checked in and settled into our room. It was exciting to be in New York. It was fun to see all the Carnival staff making it feel like we hadn’t quite left them yet.

It is the Carnival Vista’s debut in the United States. Carnival was having a grand gala tomorrow with celebrities, dignitaries, and employees as well as invited guests for a christening celebration. We could feel the buzz of excitement all around us.

We had dinner at Patsy’s Italian Restaurant on W. 56th Street. We took a cab. It was busy with people but our table was ready. We had made reservations. Once again we had pasta. I will eat pasta all the time. It is the same meal but it is different everywhere.

Waking up in New York is such a different experience than waking up anywhere else. It is noisy and active all around. People moving here and there. Taxis driving, horse and carriage rides. The hotel is full of people gathering and getting ready to head over to the ship.

 

 

After breakfast in the Print Restaurant, we head out to ride around more of the city on the Hop On – Hop Off bus. We don’t plan on getting off except to change buses when we have to. We are just going to ride all day and see as much as we can see.

Late in the day we head back to the hotel but stop first in another Italian Restaurant we see to have a late lunch/early dinner before we go to the theater tonight. Here there are local New Yorkers enjoying a meal as well.

While resting before getting ready for the theater I see a helicopter flying low by us and out towards the ship which is bustling with activity. I pull up John Heald’s Facebook page and watch live what is happening on the ship.

 

 

I have never been to a Broadway show before. We head to the theater. The show is On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan at the Marquis Theatre. We are guided to our seats which are in the first row! The first row! The show was fun and entertaining. We sang and laughed. I had one scary moment when one of the dancers foot slid off the stage in front of me but he quickly recovered. It was a splendid experience. Next time I go to the theater I will sit farther back as I had a stiff neck afterwards from looking up all night.

A wonderful ending to an amazing Epic Cruise Journey Adventure.