Wednesday, April 30, 2008

a Long Day of Traveling

It's 11 PM in FL and we have arrived home! Since we started out in Barcelona today at what would be yesterday now for them, (it's about 24 hours since we got up with the time change) this is going to be very short.

Flight was long but nice. And that's it for tonight. Brain is not working too well right now but should feel more normal after a good nights sleep.

So good night.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bags are packed and it's almost over

We did the packing, set the bags outside our stateroom and speding our last night relaxing and getting ready for the flight home tomorrow.

Today we visited the Provence region of France. Again some amazing green countryside. Visited an old Chateau, medieval actually with both Gothic and Renassiance Architecture. Steps were quite interesting - this means worn out - so walking up was a challenge.

We then went to another medieval town where we had lunch and it was absolutely the best lunch we have ever had on a tour! Plus they put plenty of wine on the tables and let's just say everyone slept on the way back to the ship in Marseille

We are tired so will really do the wrap up posting on Thursday after we get back on FL time. All in all the trip was wonderful and we got more than we expected.

From Europe and the beautiful Emerald Princess we are signing off until back in the US and get a good nights sleep.

CIAO, Areviderci, Buenos Noches, Adios, and Good night!

PS - Yes there have been misspellings but what the heck. You figured out what I have meant.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Tuscany Region in Italy

The pictures will never do justice to our tour today! At this time of the year the Tuccan Region is so green and lush but that will change in a month or so when the wheat is cut and the real heat sets in.

Today our tour included two medieval cities - San Gimignano and Volterra. We also had lunch at a beautiful old farmhouse Frattoria San Donoato. A true Italian lunch with all types of appetizers to begin with, some great fresh pasta and then homemade biscotti's. Of course we also had the wine and appertif they produce on the farm. All the items were fresh local things and what a pleasure it was.

The two medieval cities we visited were quite the site. both built around the 3rd century and at Valterra, there were even some ancient Roman ruins from BC. The views from both since they were on a hilltop were indescribable which is why I said the pictures will not do it justice (but we took plenty).

A real treat in Valterra which is also the Alabascar capital of the world was watching one of the artist sculpturers create a little vase from a piece of alabascar. As soon as he was done I asked him how much for it before anyone else thought of it. $10 Euro and we are bringing it home. We do have a nice picture of him when creating it and when finished. It will be a super memorable momento of this trip.

In the other city we found a Gelato shop with the World Champion Gelato makers for both 2006-2207 and 2008-2009. Gelato is great but this was outstanding! We took a picture of Helen and I outside the shop under their sign eating the Gelato. I intend to submit this picture to Princess for their photo contest and maybe it will win us a cruise. Time will tell.

It's France tomorrow and then back to the ship to pack since we end this trip on Wed morning. It has been a glorious cruise. One day hopefully anyone who reads this blog will experience it also and even if you don't book it through us, book it and do it!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rome and catching up

We've either had sattelite problems or the internet cafe was busy so haven't been back to you for a few days. I also thought I had posted the other day but ran out of minutes so computer cut out before it went through.

Our balcony breakfast went well. A great variety of foods, coffee, juice, champagne etc so we had a great time. It was a little windy so we spread things out on the bed for the 4 of us (the couple who had to buy joined us). The rest of that day was at sea - our last one.

Yesterday we were in Cagliari Sardinia. What a beautiful island although only got to see a small part of it. Main part of the tour we took was to the archelogical site of the ancient city of Nora. Seeing the ruins made us think a little of Mayan Ruins but these were quite different. It is quite amazing to think of what they built with the limited tools back in the BC days. They are still excavating this site as it was discovered by accident in 1956. Part of it is still under the sea and part on a military site. There were still some of the houses that showed the mosaic tiles in place and to think of that work is mind boggling.

Today we went to Rome. Seeing the ruins in the old city, the colleseum, and Vatican City and St. Peter's Basillica was an experience that is hard to describe. History come to life both past and present. Helen being Catholic did get a little teary eyed standing in the area of the Vatican we all see on TV when the Pope is doing something with the masses. Being Sunday and with something special going on unfortunately we could not get into the Vatican Museum so they subsituted the Dominica Catacombs instead. That was something quite interesting and walking through them was amazing. There are still about 2000 original grave sites dating back a whole bunch of years that were not vandalized for the marble which the other 4000 sites were (including the bones). Needless to say we did not walk through all of the catacombs but did get to see enough.

This was a great tour but we sure did some walking today! Plus leaving at 7:30 AM so figure what time we got up we are all tired. And we get to do this again tomorrow in Livorno (port of Florence). We are doing a tour of the Tuscany Region (I think) since we have been to Florence last time and we get to sleep in. Tour starts at 7:45. Tuesday is Marseille France (another long tour day) then it's time to pack since we get evicted from the ship early Wed to fly home.

Again, I got some good pictures and hope to be able to share some of them with all who visit this BLOG.

For now though, CIAO!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Day on the Rock

Well today we had a great tour in Gibralter. We got to see a little of the city and also to the lighthouse area where we got a little of the history of Gibralter. It is at this point where you look west down the Strait of Gibralter, South to N Africa, North to Spain and East into the Med.

After that we went to the Rock. Took the cable car up - 30 people squeezed in like sardines - the mountain to the 412 (something not ft) point (top is at 426) and what a view! Of course if you know the history of Gibralter, this is where the Barbary Apes live and roam free. They will snatch things right out of your hands if you don't watch out. We got some great pictures of these monkeys.

One of them grabbed a ladies pony tail and it was pretty funny (not for her though). They are looking for food and will grab your arm and take any plastic bag right away thinking there is food in it. Mama's and babies and the mommy's really watch out for the kids when anyone gets close to them.

One jumped in our bus when we were leaving and actually sat on the steering wheel - while the van was moving. Dirver finally got him to jump back out of the window. A fascinating experience to be sure. Again, got a picture of the monkey on the wheel and will post that one later on when we are bak home again.

From there we went to the Great Seige Tunnels. Again, a fascinating piece of history. In fact our tour guide was a 2 yr old back when they had to evacuate women and children and was evactuated to Moracco when the war was breaking out (WW2). He did have quite an interesting story to tell and really does know the history of Gibralter. He has written a book (didn't buy it though) and was a history teacher in the schools here for many years.

Last stop was the Gibralter Museum. Not allowed to take pictures so you will have to see this one on your own. It was a great tour and we spent a little time in town and walked back to the ship - and walked, and walked, and walked. Weather was about 70 or so and was pleasent although tiring to do this. Never even found a bar to stop and have a brew since we picked the wrong streets to go down. All residential.

Tomorrow we are at sea for the last time and then it is Gagliari, Rome, Florence and Marseille the last 4 days. May not post each day since we will be up early and are doing 10 hour tours each day. This is going to be like work! Well not quite but is going to be a tiring few days coming up.

We also will be getting our Champagne Balcony Breakfast tomorrow (our bet with a friend on the trip from the Super Bowl - he's a diehard Patriot fan and oh well - he's buying breakfast tomorrow

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You can't win them all

We're in Cadiz Spain today. Had to get up a 6 am since we had a tour starting at 8 and needed a little breakfast first (and of course coffee). Our tour was to a Sherry Winery and the Equestrian School.

OK, we got to taste some Sherry from the Tio Pepe cellars. The sweet was not bad but the dry was like medicine. It was interesting to see the barrels and a little explanation of the process. Unfortunately, they really don't take you to the area where they are really making and processing or bottling the stuff so not a very interesting tour or one we will recommend to clients.

Next it was off to the equestrian school. Again, no show so only saw the Andulusian horses in a warm up and training but no one explained what we were seeing. I could see horses doing this in the paddock area of a racetrack and can at least bet on one of them. Walking through the stables was - ehhh - since they don't allow any pictures. So the most interesting thing of the day, nothing to remember it by. I thought of buying a DVD to see what we had no idea we were watching. For 20 euro, wasn't worth it so I will write this one up to exercise.

Will we let this tour spoil our cruise? Absolutely not. Will I recommend to anyone? Absolutely not. So you can't win them all and tomorrow we are in Gibralter and get to see the "big rock." This should be pretty neat.

We are having a group dinner tonight with all our clients on board and agent friends in the Crown Grill. This is a specialty restaurant - Steak and Seafood - so we ate a light lunch to prepare for it now that we are back on the ship. A nap is in order so until tomorrow.............


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Day in Port and what not to do

I have no idea what day this is but we are back sailing towards Cadiz Spain. Yesterday in Madeira we had the most incredible experience. They have what they call a Tobagan Ride. You take the cable car to the top of the mountain (about 20 minute trip). What a view! Hope the pictures come out and I can post some of them for others to enjoy. Once on the top of the mountain, a short walk and you get to another road.

You must understand this is a beautiful island but it's all hills and small mountain. Once we got to the right location, there are the men with a wicker basket for 2 on sled runners. Get in and off we go. With nothing more than two ropes, they push the sled and you start down the mountain road. Twisting and turning as the road goes, you fly along down the mountain! They use the ropes to guide and brake the sled by twising it sideways. What an experience! Helen wasn't sure about this when we started and the picture does have a slight look of fear. But once at the bottom (about 6 minute ride) she was ready to do it again.

This is the only place in the world to do this so if you ever have the chance to get to Madeira, do it. They snapped a picture somewhere along the road (never saw them do it) and when we got to the bottom, they were there with the picture in a folder ready to sell you. Amazing how they have this worked out with a computer to get these ready in a matter of minutes. Of course we bought it

We also visited the Botanical Gardens and exotic birds. Georgeous, what else can I say. Again many pictures that hopefully we will be able to share later on.

Now for the "what not to do". Two people had the embarrassing and expensive experience of watching the ship sail out of port. Yes, they are on their own to get to Cadiz and catch up to get back on.

When they say be back on board by a certain time, you better be on board because that ship is leaving at a certain time with or without you. If you miss a ship, you better have a credit card to buy your air or whatever to get to the next port and return to ship. This is NOT covered by travel protection (stupidity never is) and it's going to be on "your dime."

When you take the excursions offerred through the cruise line, they have track of your return. If you are doing things on your own, they don't. If you finish the tour and then go out on your own, well again, you are on your own. You must always change your watch to "ship's time" and be back before the gangway is lifted.

We advise clients about this and fortunately never had one miss a ship during a port call. But we've seen it happen many times. Don't let it happen to you!

Tomorrow is Cadiz and we must get up early for our tour. In fact, we have early times every day for the remainder of the cruise so not sure what time of day I'll be able to post things.

Until later..................

Monday, April 21, 2008

Land Ho!

Well after 161 hours at sea on this absolutely smooth Atlantic crossing, land is just a couple of hours away. We will be visiting Madiera which is a Portugese island off the African Coast. We will be doing the tour with a cable car ride to the top of the highest point on the island and the Botanical Gardens plus whatever else is included in the tour (who knows, we booked it and figure it will be fine even though we don't remember what is included).

Another fine dinner last night and marvelous show with Broadway Star Michelle Murlin. What a voice she has! She probably would have resonated throughout the theater even without a mike. We love the shows on board since it is a live 10 piece orchestra, not piped in music, playing for the entertainers.

The sun is shining today and we expect to have a pleasant day on the island of Madiera.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Off the African Coast (almost)

Well it's Sunday and we are actually somewhat close to the coast of Africa altough we can't see it. In about 24 hours we will be docking in Maderia for our first time off the ship in a week.

This is an incredible crossing as the worse the seas have been is maybe 5 ft the other day. The ship has been sailing an almost perfect straight line from Ft. Lauderdale to Maderia since the calm seas have not caused the Capt to make any adjustments for passenger comfort.

There has been so much going on during the crossing. From the Princess Shcolarship @ Sea program with guest lecturers - finace expert who was the original voice of Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons, guest artists doing talks on art as they are creating new paintings, a murder mystery writer, and others. Entertainment is non-stop.

Helen and I treated ourselves yesterday to "hot stone" massages. Talk about something relaxing! It's a cruise ship so pampering yourself is a required activity.

All our clients and friends on board are having a blast. Our first timer is so funny. She would like the Capt to just throw away the compass and continue sailing on the ocean-she absolutely loves it (wonder how she would feel with 20 ft seas?). What she doesn't realize is we will need land to fuel up and get more food - The eating contest is in full swing judging by some plates. People do take the "one meal from start to finish" concept as being a continuous event. Slow down folks there's still 10 days to go! Soon the 18 pax elevators will only hold 10 people . Time for a show, then wine tasting, and the Capt Circle party early evening. Another rough day just trying to do all we are choosing to do.

Oh yes, we finally saw another ship (a freighter) heading west yesterday. No icebergs though.

Ciao from the Atlantic about 400 nautical miles from Maderia.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's day 4 of our 6 1/2 accross the Atlantic. Today had the absolute calmest seas you could possibly imagine. It was really like glass, not a ripple anywhere. The sun came out early in the afternoon and the pools were more crowded than the rest of the week.

I was asked to describe the ship so will do so in just a few words - very elegant! I will do a review in more detail upon our return to the real world since we are in fantasy world right now. I will get around one night and take pictures and hopefully figure out how to set up an online album.

Service and food has been wonderful (going to gain weight on the creme bueles).
Only thing a little dissappointing was last night at the Cafe Caribe Italian Night. Had one pasta, and the other dishes were probably real italian but not what we expected. So we went to the dining room and had Fettichini Alfredo after we finished what we had upstairs. We have switched to a reservation in our Personal Choice dining since the team that served us was so good and we had so much fun with them we wanted them for the rest of the cruise.

Did Movie Under the Stars last night and saw Hairspray. Good old fashion musical with much humor and an underlying message too. We did see it before it was released thanks to Carnival Cruise Line and a special preview we got invited to but was worth seeing again in this setting - deck 15 under the sky in the middle of the Atlantic.

Talking with several peopple today and we all noticed we have seen nothing the entire time out here in the ocean- no ships, no freighters, no planes, nothing. If something did happen, we would be toast since nobody could could give us aid.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Well got up this morning and looked east, west , north and south and we only see water. It's amazing how small you realize you are on this vast ocean. But it sure is nice view knowing how relaxed and pampered we are.

Breeze did pick up yesterday and we stayed under the dark clouds almost all day until the evening when it started to clear up. Had a little mist but still went on our balcony for a short time. Of course we leave the door open at night for the sound of the surf with the little rocking motion and sleep like a baby.

Our first timer is doing fine and loves this trip so far! She can't beleive she never did a cruise before and already talking about doing more. Others in the group are also having a great time.

Short post today since nothing overly exciting happening as this is the type of cruise where one truly relaxes. Entertainment has been very good all over the ship and it is a big ship. Casino has been bad, good, bad, good - normal but a long way to go. One of our friends made it into the Balckjack Tournament finals and although was down to $200 made a miraculous comeback and ended with $6000. Got him 4th place but since the obituary had been written about 5 hands earlier, quite a feat. Me? Knocked out so fast on a double down I didn't even know I played.

Well it's almost time to get ready for dinner. Heading in this direction, we are actually having 23 hour days since we keep putting the clock ahead each night as we move closer to Europe. Until tomorrow, have a wonderfulo day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Good morning from the middle of the Atlantic. We are on a course mostly due east towards Africa. I found the place on the ship where the navigation map is and plan to take a picture of it (I doubt if I would bid enough to win it in the auction). It's 3300+ nautical miles to Maderia from FL so sometime Fri we will be halfway I am guessing.

A little breezy today and there is some "motion on the ocean" but not bad. Still pretty smooth crossing so far.

The main show last night featured an singer named Darren Lynton and what a show he put on. He has some powerful voice and if you see his name on a cruise you are on, do not miss his performance. Although English, he sings in the style and voice of Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Sting, the Rat Pack and more. He also did Phantom of the Opera and received a standing ovation for that one. To know how good this was, keep in mind there are a lot of "mature" people on this cruise and getting up and down for many was not easy so a standing ovation was some compliment. I actually bought his CD which I never do normally but he was that good.

Also went to the movie yesterday P.S I Love You. OK, it's a chick flick but did have a nice underlying storyline and was a funny movie albeit sad in some ways. If you get a chance it is worth seeing for a good old fashion movie with a story line and no violence, or x-rated language.

Not sure of today's plan yet but we are sleeping well (got up at 8:15 this morning which is good for me). We keep the door to the balcony open so we could get the little motion with the sound of the surf. If you never have had a balcony, you might consider it once for this experience and you will sleep like a baby.

Until tomorrow, have a wonderful day - we will

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We're off and sailing

Well it's Tuesday our 1st sea day and we are sailing along with very calm seas. It's a little overcast but pleasent. Can't be sure but I think we are heading east from FL towards Africa and then will head north to the Med.

Sailaway yesterday was wonderful. The sun was shining, the seas like glass, the drinks were good and so many relaxed and friendly people. The ship is really, really nice. Very tasteful decor and the staff is very good up to this point and we expect it to get better since they will start to know the passengers.

Our cruise virgin is doing fine and she is a hoot! They (the meet and greet folks at airport) asked her at the baggage claim if she was "Princess?" and she said "NO, I'm the queen."

Waiting for her at the port so she did not have to board herself and find her way gave us a new experience. We got there about an hour before her and waited outside. By the time she got there an hour later and we checked in and boarded, we got to our cabin and lo and behold, the luggage was there (all but one piece which showed up later). This is the first time that luggage actually beat us to the cabin! We didn't even unpack until after sailaway on purpose another first for us.

Heading to the movies so will continue the saga tomorrow. I'll also tell you what we are seeing. the "boss" planned this one.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Party Has Begun

Well, it's close to midnight on 4/13. Our coming and going party was a big success with clients of ours meeting other clients of ours. Some came off a ship today and others are going tomorrow both with us and on other ships. It's a pleasure to be able to put things like this together since we live in S FL.

Helen and I set another record for us. We were actually all packed yesterday (2 days early) except for the toilitries which is the last thing. For 16 nights we still probably are taking too much and have 3 suitcases and the duffell with the shoes. Normally we would be finishing packing now for a 6 AM flight. Of course, with the party we had to get it done early.

We'll be heading to the port around 12:30 tomorrow instead of 11 like we normally would since we need to time our arrival with a cruise line transfer bus as our first time cruiser should arrive there around 1 and we don't want her to have to go through check all by herself. Actually, we want to get a picture of her when she steps on this beautiful ship. It is so much fun to relive our first experience getting on a ship through other people's eyes. I hope I can figure out how to download pictures to my laptop and maybe even post a picture on a posting. I'm taking the book to learn how to use the camera and then have to figure out how to add pictures on this thing.

So it's time for a glass of "vino" since the party's done, my desk is clear and I can relax until morning. Next posting will be at sea as we set sail for Europe.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The New Adventure Begins

A few weeks back I mentioned (I think I did anyway) that April 11th was my retirement date. Well the day is finally here and I left my job at our Corporate Office at approximately 4:20 this afternoon. Now I am a full time Cruise Specialsit helping folks plan and handling their cruise bookings and no longer recruiting new agents for our company.

I've had some folks ask me already how does it feel to be retired or semi-retired? I don't know. This is Friday, I worked all week and the weekend is here the same as it has been for years now. Monday morning will not even answer that question since Helen and I leave on vacation for our wonderful cruise on the Emerald Princess from Ft. Lauderdale and ending in Barcelona Spain. But when we do get home and May 1st rolls around and I don't have to leave home, then maybe I'll be able to answer the question.

I plan to post a daily log of our cruise so please join us as we sail accross the Atlantic and to some wonderful ports in the Med. Well, join us except for the food, the fun, and the ambiance. I'll try to give both humor and perspective of doing a "crossing" and one day maybe you'll give yourself a treat an experience this. It will be our second one.

So check back daily beginning Monday April 14th. Those who know me know that I can come up with some really "out of the norm" things . And for those who don't, well join in the fun.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Carnival Corp does the Right Thing

A short time ago I posted about Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara customers get fuel supplements refunded (within the guidelines).

Now Carnival Corp is doing the right thing on their brands which include Carnival, Princess, Costa, Holland America, Cunard, & Sebourne.

Here's the details:

First, you must have been booked and deposited prior to November 7, 2007 when this supplement charge was first announced. If you booked after that, then you do pay the supplement.

If you have already sailed or are sailing by tomorrow 4/4, you will be given a refund back to the way the payment was made.

If you are sailing between 4/5/08 and 6/23/08 you will receive a refund amount of what you paid in fuel supplement as an On Board Credit for your Cruise

If you are sailing 6/24 forward you have probably not made final payment yet and the amount will be removed from the balance due total.

This is the right thing to do and we are proud to be partners with all these cruise brands.