Sailing onward to destination Bermuda – West End

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We’re on a three-week cruise celebrating our 50th anniversary, along with the Caribbean Princess Cruise Line!

Our journey so far, after a delayed start from Houston due to severe weather, took us to Port Everglades in Florida (See my first post in this series.)

Trying to make up for lost time, the Caribbean Princess sailed away during the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, April 21, leaving Port Everglades in our wake and headed for the next port destination, West End – Bermuda.

Just call us lazy because for the past few days we have requested breakfast delivered to our room to enjoy as we watched a little news on TV, and kept current on the ship’s course. We decided to take our paperbacks out to the deck chairs for some contemplation and relaxation. We have settled into our lazy days, gourmet meals and live entertainment every evening.

Tonight will be our first formal evening, so we made sure that we had our party clothes ready to go to the Coral Dining Room on this always-fun occasion. The dinner was a culinary delight, unfortunately, I felt ill a while later and stayed in my room the remainder of the night. These things do happen and it’s a good idea to pack Imodium for such occasions. The next day is Friday and I thought it best to take it easy and do some reading on the balcony, which is really an awesome alternative! The weather is in the 70’s, mild and pleasant. The views of the Atlantic are spectacular in its deep, aqua-blue sereneness.

The Caribbean Princess is back on schedule. Today we would prepare for our arrival in West End Saturday morning April 23 around 7 a.m., by watching a presentation on Bermuda. The island offers glass-bottom boat rides, an aquarium, museum, zoo and several golf courses, plus lots of beaches and water adventures! We were planning a tour on our own and take a boat ride from West End to Hamilton, then take a bus back to the port area, or vice versa, with our friends Don and Margie.

This island is quite spectacular! As we near our destination, from our ship we can see the British Royal Navy WWII staging area in our sights. The weather is perfectly pleasant and in the 70’s.image

West End, Bermuda, is a bustling place full of tourists, buses and traffic. Buses have the right of way here, where every possible post boasts a sign that says, “Give way to buses!” I wonder what’s the rush, as buses fly by.image

Once in town, we walked the streets and found shopping malls, churches and restaurants. The history here is British, so traffic drives on the left, which makes American’s uneasy to say the least. There are narrow, winding streets, so our bus ride was pretty much like a fast ride at DisneyWorld. I could see pedestrians hopping out of our path as we barreled through, barely missing bus stops!

The City Hall and Arts Building caught our attention with its pristine white exterior and clock tower — very British!

Our walking tour led us to a church with beautiful stained-glass windows and tall steeple. The Anglican Church of Bermuda, Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, was consecrated in 1911. Beautiful!image

Walking around West End was exhausting on sloping streets, and often the walkway would lead to steps down to the next street level.

We decided to stop for a beer and snack at a restaurant with outside tables – Bone Fish Bar & Grill. Here was the best place to do some people watching, and enjoy our cold drinks during the heat of the day, which was still only in the 80’s.image

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Our boat ride across the bay by water taxi was uneventful, although the scenery was well worth the effort.image

We left West End, Bermuda, thinking that for a tropical island, this one’s climate was not too hot to enjoy the surroundings — I give it an A+. I would like to return for a longer visit one of these days…

The Caribbean Princess would now set its course for Liverpool, England. Yes, that means we won’t see land for about a week on this trans-Atlantic voyage.

(You are reading the second post in a series depicting my travels on the Caribbean Princess ship for three weeks from Bayport Cruise Terminal in Houston, Texas, to Ft. Lauderdale, Bermuda, Liverpool, Wales, Hamburg, Le Havre/Paris and South Hampton/London in the spring of 2016.)

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An update on our 41-day Trans-Atlantic cruise to date!

Just to recap – it’s been a while since our continuing cruise statistics were gathered. I forgot to post the total mileage from Galveston to Barcelona, where the first of three, 2-week cruises ended.
When the Mariner of the Seas pulled into the port in Barcelona on May 6, the total cruise distance was 5,456 nautical miles. I’m amazed that time seems to be flying by…
We left the Port of Galveston on April 21, with our first stop Nassau in The Bahamas. From Nassau we sailed to Funchal, Madeira, then on to Gibraltar. The next stop was in Spain – Alicante, and ending in Barcelona, which is also the beginning of the second cruise!
We had many wonderful adventures at every destination, each with its own special memories. If I had to choose a favorite, I could not!
I will remember the tropical, beautiful surroundings of Paradise Island in The Bahamas; the fabulous, floral countryside and wine tasting in Madeira; the vistas from the Rock of Gibraltar and the Barbary Apes greeting us there; the quaint setting of Alicante, Spain, and view of the Castle of Santa Barbara, plus a visit to Town Hall Square and the Cathedral of Alicante.
Last but not least, Barcelona – the city of tourists! You can see why people love this lively Mediterranean city! The architecture, the castles, the museums, its proximity to Montserrat – and the list goes on and on.
Uh hum! There are some things not listed in the brochure, and we found out about one of them this week. A letter from Captain Flemming was delivered to our stateroom, which contained a warning about pirates in the Sea of Aden and how the ship would react in the event of an attack. In fact, he said we will have a drill to instruct passengers about pirate procedures. We were told not to be alarmed if we see small crafts approaching the ship. Ship security will be on high alert and, if necessary, the captain will zig-zag the ship to avoid the pirates. We are asked to keep drapes drawn during this period so that no light can be seen at night. Wow, I feel much better now… Well, at least until May 16-18 when this adventure will occur.
In the meantime, we were treated to uproarious laughter by John Martin’s comedy show last night in the Savoy Theatre. If you ever get a chance to see Martin, get ready for a real treat! He has CDs for sale, but you’ll have to check online to see if you can order them. Do it, if you can!
Now that we’re cruising through the Mediterranean, many well-known geographic names are passing by on both sides, even though we cannot see them. We sailed west-to-east by the island of Sicily off the tip of Italy to our north, and Benghazi south of us.
Today looks like another nice day to enjoy the Mediterranean sun on deck, with mild temperatures hovering around 70. As I write this at 8:30 a.m. on May 9, the air temp is 59 degrees F; sea depth is 7,780 feet and the distance from Barcelona is 1,147 nautical miles. Total distance for us on this day (19 of our 41-day cruise) is 6,603 nm.
The Mariner of the Seas will arrive at the City of Alexandria tomorrow morning, May 10, where our excursion to Cairo takes us to visit the pyramids! We will also take a boat ride on the Nile River, where they say we’ll be treated like Pharos…so come back soon for my next report!
Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com!

Mere words cannot describe Montserrat near Barcelona!

Mere words cannot describe Montserrat!

Barcelona – A city of tourists!

Montserrat

Montserrat

Today, May 6, marked the end of our 15-day cruise from Galveston to Barcelona on the Mariner of the Seas. It also marks the beginning of our 16-day cruise from Barcelona to Dubai!
It was a day to do some sightseeing in Barcelona and surrounding points of interest.
We had a rocky start this morning getting off the ship, as there seemed to be too many people who needed to get to too many different places, with very unclear instructions. There were cruisers getting off the ship in Barcelona; cruisers getting off and taking an excursion before flying home; cruisers getting off for excursions then continuing on the ship for the next cruise. Mayhem ensued! Somehow it all got sorted out and everyone went on their way!. Things don’t always go smoothly on a cruise but most of the time it’s like a dream!
Our onshore excursion was by autobus, which took us one hour out of Barcelona to Montserrat, whose name means serrated mountain. We have never seen anything like this mountain before!
We visited the mountaintop monastery with magnificent views of the city and countryside. In the cathedral here you will find the Black Madonna, which is so named because of its appearance following a fire that once burned everything to the ground. The wooden Madonna statue was still standing and had turned black from the fire. It is considered to be a miracle and attracts visitors who wish to view and pray before the Black Madonna. On this day, the crowd was huge due to many buses from several cruise ships docked in the port, as well as groups of school children on a field day.
After enjoying the unbelievable vistas and sights of the rock formations, our bus took us back off the mountain and into Barcelona. Here we were amazed by the many different styles of architecture. Views from the coach included the Columbus Monument, Catalunya Square, Passeig de Gracia Boulevard, Casa Mila and Casa Batllo Montserrat.
All of these things were truly amazing; however, even more amazing were the crowds of people we saw in the city and the numerous motorcycles and scooters that were parked on every street! Barcelona seemed to be the city where everyone in the world who is on vacation gathers at once!
If we ever come back to Barcelona, I’d like to visit the Gothic Cathedral, built from 1298-1450 on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to Hercules, and some famous art by Gaudi and Picasso. But there is only so much one can see in a day!
We departed Barcelona sailing across the Mediterranean to Alexandria, Egypt! After three days at sea, we will arrive in Egypt on Friday.
Happy birthday to our son, Matthew Dale Cook – May 7!
See you back here – until next time…

Look for a link to Trilla’s Travels at http://www.ourtribune.com

A day in Alicante!

Yes, here we are in Spain! We arrived at the Port of Alicante about 9 a.m. Sunday (today), and proceeded to our onshore, bus excursion for an “Alicante City Tour!”
We just left Gibraltar yesterday, which is British, so now we switch gears! We’re enjoying many cultures along the way on this cruise!
The Alicante city tour was great, especially seeing all the different architectural styles of many old buildings. Our first stop was to visit a museum – “Museu de Fogueres.” The main exhibit consisted of amazing papier-mâché art associated with the Alicante Fogueres de San Chuan Grandes Fiestas. Each piece was captivating, making one wonder how such art could be created with papier-mâché! Fiesta Princesses dressed in specific San Chuan Fiestas costumes are also part of the annual festivities. In many ways, this reminded me of the royalty associated with Mardi Gras in the U.S. (Making a mental note to do some research on that!)
The highlight of our day in Alicante was a grand tour of Castillo de Santa Barbara, which is a Moorish fortress perched atop Mount Benacantil. The views of the city and the harbor from the castle were breathtakingly amazing! This intriguing fortress is one of the first things visitors notice in the city, as it is huge, imposing and sits high above the city protecting the harbor.
We took a stroll along the Explanada de España, a palm-lined promenade with shops and cafes. Alfresco dining is the norm here, it seems! Every restaurant we saw included many outdoor tables, some with umbrellas or awnings and some in the open. Today is Sunday and the tables were beginning to fill up as we came through. Our tour guide told us that people revere their Sundays for dinning out, and will scrimp on weekday meals in order to partake in this cultural tradition.
I enjoyed the best pistachio ice cream ever at Kiosko Peret at Explanada De España! What a sweet memory.
Back at the ship, we are getting ready to end the first cruise and begin the second of our three, two-week consecutive cruises. Barcelona is the end and it’s the beginning! See you in Barcelona tomorrow!
Gracias por su visita! Come back soon…

Explanada de Espana

Explanada de Espana

Sights of Gibraltar!

After leaving the Portuguese Island of Madeira on May 2, the Mariner of the Seas navigated further across the Atlantic and through the Strait of Gibraltar, passing by many exotic places on the northernmost coast of Africa, such as Casablanca and Morocco. By 5:00 this morning, the Port of Gibraltar was nearing.

Our decision to take in Gibraltar’s sights via taxi/van turned out to be a very good idea!

Paul, a native of the area who spoke excellent English, was our driver and tour guide, and was extremely knowledgeable about the region. Unfortunately, ours was one of many taxis, vans and buses making their way around town and up the mountain. Some excursions included a ride on the cable car and others included attractions such as dolphin/whale spotting or WWII historical tours.

Most excursions included a ride through town and to the top of the mountain, encountering Barbary Apes, which are actually tailless monkeys, along the way. Gibraltar’s population is 30,000 people and 300 apes! The monkeys live on the “rock” and the city subsidizes their food intake by placing fresh fruits and vegetables in certain feeding stations. Visitor need to be aware that the apes will grab anything that is loose, hoping to find a yummy treat! They are not afraid of visitors and seem to by saying, “Come on in, we’ve been expecting you!”

Europa Point is fabulous! It is one of the southernmost points of Europe with breathtaking views, directly across from Morocco. Harding’s Battery is located here, as well as Trinity Lighthouse, Mosque of the Two Holy Custodians and the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe.

The Moorish Castle, dating back to 1160 was a highlight of our tour, even if was only viewed from a distance.

It must be emphasized that vistas from high points on the mountain are spectacular, with views of the bay and marina, the Mediterranean and, on the other side of the airport/ airstrip, La Linea, Spain.

Only a few of the many interesting points at Gibraltar are included in this brief blog, so I hope you will Google it and explore more for yourself! You may want to see it in person!

More excursions are scheduled for us – Alicante, Spain on May 5 and Barcelona, Spain on May 6! (When the ship reaches Barcelona, the first two-week cruise comes to an end. Some voyagers will leave the ship and new travelers will come aboard. The next two-week cruise for us goes from Barcelona to Dubai. The last two weeks will take us from Dubai to Singapore.)

Come back soon! Photos by Estel D. Cook.Image

Look for the link to Trilla’s Travels at www.ourtribune.com.

Moorish Castle looking out over Gibraltar from the "rock."

Moorish Castle looking out over Gibraltar from the “rock.”

Day 12 – We made it!

Madeira is a beautiful mountain island of Portugal. City of Funchal in foreground.

Madeira is a beautiful mountain island of Portugal. City of Funchal in foreground.

A Taste of Madeira:
Today marked the end of our Mariner of the Seas Trans-Atlantic ocean voyage to Europe. We sailed out of Galveston on April 21 and left the port of Nassau on April 24. Eight nights and seven days later, we docked at Funchal, Madeira, before dawn – around 6-6:30 a.m. today.
Madeira is part of an archipelago, which belongs to Portugal. It is spectacular, to say the least!
Our only complaint of the day was an overcast sky! Otherwise, we were astonished by this little Portuguese Island!
I will never forget the sight that sparkled in front of my eyes as we were approaching the dock in Funchal. It was as if I were viewing a Christmas village, as every part of the island was aglow with thousands of lights that were the homes and businesses on the hillsides and mountainsides of the island – I was simply amazed!
As daylight approached, and as we paused at the first stop of our excursion, we could see the picturesque marina and the many terracotta-tiled roofs of all the homes and businesses.
Madeira means “wooded island” in Portuguese and it lives up to that name. However, we found that the island’s small fishing villages, crops of bananas and grapes to be most surprising.
Although there are no parcels of flat land anywhere in sight, the island is covered in thousands of patches of terraced gardens packed full of banana plants, grape vines or flowers, making this island an absolute wonderland!
Our tour guide told us that Madeira earned a prestigious title – something like, “Floating gardens of the Atlantic.” A pleasant, constant temperature that stays within a variation of merely 10 degrees is said to be the reason why.
We learned that the crops are grown on the island according to the altitude levels on the mountain. For example, different flowers are grown plentifully year around at different altitudes, depending on the species of plants. Near the coast, you find flowers and bananas in abundance. The next level is the vines – grapevines and floral vines. Higher up the mountain is European forest, and at the highest level only smaller shrubs. Not one inch of the island is idle.
Madeira claims the highest coast in all of Europe at the cliffs of Miradouro Do Cabo Girao! The view is truly breathtaking! They welcome cruise ship passengers into their world for the sake of tourism.
The people here learn to speak English as part of their curriculum, and at matriculation they are expected to know perfect Portuguese, speak English and their choice of French, German or Spanish.
Wine is produced and exported here in abundance, along with bananas, leather, flowers and textiles. They are respectfully known for delicately embroidered goods and lace. We sampled a couple of local brands of wine, while enjoying cheese and fresh-baked bread. Yum!
In a phrase – I fell in love with Madeira and the island’s beauty and resourcefulness!
See you Saturday, after we have toured Gibraltar. Remember, we are cruising all the way to Singapore so come back often!
You can also find my link at http://www.ourtribune.com.
Highest coast in Europe is found at Madeira!

Highest coast in Europe is found at Madeira!

Fun at sea!

The sun is shining, the sea is calm and the Mariner of the Seas is bustling with activity. At 1:30 p.m. today, “The Hobbit” was showing on the giant screen poolside – what better way to relax and enjoy the show?
Speaking of shows, during the first two weeks of this cruise, the headliners have certainly been some of the best! Today we were given a unique opportunity to meet four of the entertainers in an informal setting, followed by a Q&A session.
What do an Olympic gymnast, a singer/impersonator, a world-class violinist/personality and a magician/comedian have in common? They are headliners on cruise ships around the world!
I was curious about their backgrounds and how they found their way into the cruise entertainment world.
Gold medal Olympian and world champion gymnast Lance Ringnald amazed the crowd with his athletic abilities at age 42. Although the ship has no uneven bars or pummel horses, Lance has managed to put together an exciting routine that includes silks, juggling, piano and singing, all woven together with his easy-going manner and a lot of humor that wraps the audience around his little finger. He was once asked to sub for a fellow gymnast on a cruise ship and has never looked back! Lance was born in 1970 in Des Moines, Iowa, and trained in gymnastics since age 10. Not knowing what to expect before his show, I came away simply amazed!
Hannah Starosta is a personality that lights up the stage! She is a world-class violinist who can keep the audience laughing with an ease that rivals the best of comedians, while performing the world’s most loved music! She is of Polish and French ancestry, with dual citizenship in Great Britain and Poland. Hannah has been playing violin since age four, and is amazing. Her charismatic energy and talent is incomparable!
Paul Tanner is a talented singer/impersonator who impressed everyone with voices that included Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Elvis, Johnny Cash and many others. He’s a fellow Texan from Killeen who now lives with his family in Florida. He has been a voice impersonator all his life. Paul’s ability to impersonate voices is unrivaled…Great job, Paul!
Nick Lewin gave the audience good laughs and remarkable talent! Without giving away his secrets, he amazed one and all with mesmerizing magic. Nick, who is from England, said all he ever wanted to do was perform magic, which he has been doing since age seven. His performance left us wanting more!
On the night of Day 10, John Bressler took the stage – piano and all! John’s musicality and comedic presence was astounding! His performance made me wonder why his name is not one we hear more often…this is talent, including his piano performance, singing and comic relief! Loved it!
Rumor has it that these talented headliners will leave the ship in Funchal/Madeira on Thursday, May 2. We assume this means that more talented artists will join the Mariner of the Seas at that time.
Headlining on cruise ships is the best kept secret in the entertainment world!
Yesterday was our 10th day at sea on this 41-day journey on The Mariner of the Seas from Galveston to Singapore. Our journey has taken us more than 3,900 nautical miles from the Port of Galveston. Tomorrow, May 2nd, we will see land again for the first time in eight nights and seven days – that’s how long it takes to cross the Atlantic Ocean!
Hope you’ll come back soon for another update! Find my link on http://www.ourtribune.com.

Entertainers on the first leg of our 6-week cruise: Paul Tanner, Hannah Starosta, Nick Lewin and Lance Ringnald

Entertainers on the first leg of our 6-week cruise: Paul Tanner, Hannah Starosta, Nick Lewin and Lance Ringnald