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I have started another blog which will deal with sailing the seas of life.  Please check in!elephantthai

The Grand World Voyage  2016 will be touched on in my new blog.

This blog will continue with the March 22, 2017, sailing on the Koningsdam.

 

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GWV 2014 — Last Days, Disembarkation, Home!!

My strength is the strength of ten, because my heart is pure. ~~ Lord Tennyson

Shipboard Life
At the Captain’s Farewell Champagne Reception, Port lecturer Barbara gave a concise and poignant recap of the ports we visited.

Rita Rudner’s show in the Queen’s Lounge was hilarious. I laughed continuously at her never-ending one liners.

Marty Henne gave a casual concert in the Ocean Bar the night before disembarkation. Unfortunately, most were preoccupied with packing so the audience was small.

Disembarkation
We were about 30 minutes later in disembarking than originally planned. The line for the porters took another half hour. Pat and I did manage to get all of our suitcases (I had double hers!) with one porter. We took a taxi to the Budget rental car place. I enjoyed driving the Chrysler 300 that Pat had reserved. A very nice car. We arrived at my house about 5:30. Pat rested for a short while and then drove on home to Georgia.

Home
It seems to take me longer every year to unpack and organize and go through the tons of paperwork.

2015
I plan to fly to Hong Kong the middle of January and board the Volendam for 42 day cruise in Southeast Asia… plus add-ons!

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GWV 2014 — Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Maarten

Bridgetown, Barbados
Skip Barbados! Don’t bother to leave the port… good wifi and free there!

Marty Henne Dinner at the Pinnacle
Outstanding! One of those evenings which will remain in your memory forever!! The food was extraordinary while the entertainment superb! Marty Henne played songs by Johnny Mercer interspersed with tales about the man. The menu was: Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho; Fois Gras; Dungouness Crab Linguine; Grassa d Corn Fed Beed with Tiger Prawn; and Chocolate Purse with Gelato (I wanted to lick my plate but restrained myself). Pam, Sandy, Maren, and I made plans to meet in New York City the end of October, 2015, and try to recreate this marvelous evening!!

Castries, St. Lucia
Initially I couldn’t remember if I had been to this port previously, but as soon as I stepped off the ship, I recognized it. I took a 4 hour tour ($27 US) of the island with Jeff, Joy, Pat, and four others. It turned out to be a repeat of one I had done previously!!

One Stop Radio Show at the Pinnacle
This script written by Gene Young apparently replaced the Mystery Dinner theme dinner held on other ships. Bring back the mystery!! Although I laughed and enjoyed the evening somewhat…. it paled compared to the Marty Henne dinner the previous evening. The cast were the members of the entertainment staff. I especially enjoyed Emily Butler from the Exploration Cafe (library), Kevin Stephens as the Unenthusiastic Boy (and leader of Pub Trivia), and Barbara Haenni (the location guide). Pat seemed to laugh as much as me; however, Sandy and Maren were not amused. The menu was: Home-Style Potato Salad (and unusual appetizer choice but one which I enjoyed); New England Clam Chowder in Sourdough Cup (this could have been a meal); Meatloaf with Redskin Potato Mash, Green Pease and Carrots, Gravy and Fried Onions; Butterscotch Sundae with Four Toppings. The favors were old time transistor radios…. I plan to put mine on the dash of my golf cart.

Roseau, Dominica
Finally an island I have never visited and one to which I’d love to return!! Settlement of the “nature island” dates back to the 16th Century by the French. It was taken over by the British in the late 18th Century. Both French and British colonial architecture survive on the island. Jill and I took a three hour tour of the island with four other passengers. We saw the Middleham Falls, Titou Gorge, Botanic Gardens, hot springs, spectacular views, more falls, and gorgeous natural beauty. Perhaps because there is no direct air flights to the island from the USA, it remains pretty much unspoiled.

Phillipsburg, St. Maarten
Having been abandoned by the Spanish in the mid 17th Century, the French and the Dutch moved in and divided the island, with the French getting more (21 square miles) than the Dutch (16 square miles). Besides this, the Dutch came out ahead economically by creating the first duty free port on the island. It is the shopping island!

April 25 — My Birthday!
Maren gave a birthday party for me in her veranda suite. Joan, Pam, Joe, Jill, and Sandy helped me celebrate. It was a perfect way to commemorate another year.

Shipboard Life
Pam, Sandy, and I finally came in second in Pub Trivia. We had a standing ovation!

The Amsterdam Singers performed in a Broadway Review written and produced by themselves. It was the best show they have given on the voyage.

Although exhausted from the day and my birthday party, I made an effort to attend the show in the Queen’s Lounge because the performance was by Shirley Dominquez playing Latin music on the harp. My grandniece Sophia is a harpist so I wanted to be able to tell her about the show.

Last Two Days Before the End
The last two sea days will be spent packing… and packing… and packing! Plus the Captain’s Farewell Champagne Reception, the Dam Dollar Redemption, and Goodbyes!! Plus the highlight show: Rita Rudner, one of the top comedians!

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GWV 2014 — Five Days at Sea

It is the mark of an educated man to be able to evaluate a thought without accepting it. ~~ Aristotle

Captain Jonathan Mercer
A native of Sussex, England, Jonathan Mercer joined the British Merchant Navy in 1968. After years at sea, he obatined the rank of Captain in 1987. In 1995 he joined HAL as the Captain of the Veendam and the first British Captain. (My personal favorite Captain… Captain Tim… is also a Brit.) Captain Mercer lives in Merritt Island, Florida.

Holy Week Activities
Pastor Don, a former Navy Chaplain, led the Maundy Thursday Communion service and the Good Friday service. On Easter Sunday, there was a sunrise service beside the Lido Pool. It was conducted jointly by the Catholic priest, Father Bob, and Pastor Don, while the water of the pool sloshed noisily in the background. Following the Ecumenical service, there was a Protestant Easter service with Communion. At this service Pastor Don read the cards which had been distributed earlier to the congregants. The completed cards read,”Easter means…”

Executive Chef Daniel and the Amsterdam Kitchen Brigade created a spectacular world of culinary delights, an exclusive feast for both the eyes and the palate. I ate at least a pound of lobster!!

One of the Major Reasons I Cruise with HAL
Perhaps one of the major reasons that I cruise with HAL is the staff. Our Indonesian and Filipino crew members are the finest in the world!! Out cabin attendants, Buddy and Jon, are continually asking if they can do more for us. Out dining room steward Eko Prittandono makes excellent suggestions as to what we would like. And the assistant dining room steward I Putri Satya Okaarimbawa always gets my iced tea without my asking.

Indonesian Crew Show
Wisely the Crew Show was moved from 11 p.m. to 3 p.m and was played to a standing room only crowd. This time change should be made a permanent one! Hendrick from the dining room played the drums in the crew show bank. Wangonly (Jon), our cabin steward, is a great singer. Ketut, my attentive waiter from the Lido, was in the monkey troops. Beautiful Tri and Ita from the Lido danced a Balinese welcome. Ardian who does the coffee trolley in the Lido was also in the show. Presty was the crew show director and has tremendous talent. Many more of the wonderful Indonesian staff performed.

Filipino Crew Show
Again, the show was scheduled for 3 instead of 11 and was standing room only! Traditional song and dance followed the Philippine national anthem. Our wine steward Antonio performed in a song number; the Ocean Bar waitress April performed in the candle light dance; and many more worked to give the audience an afternoon of entertainment. The performers received a standing ovation.

Mariner Society Functions
Jill and I attended the 5 star luncheon together. It was held jointly with members of the President’s Club, those passengers who have logged 1400 or more days!! I have over 600, and am pretty sure I will make the 700 day medallion, but beyond that, I don’t know!!

At the Mariner Appreciation Cocktail Party, I was surprised to be among the roll call for the new 500 day Mariners. I had my photo taken with the Hotel Manager and Captain and enjoyed the recognition. I had actually participated in the ceremony and received my medallion last fall while on the Zaandam. This function was far superior!!

Shipboard Life
On HAL’s 141st birthday, Joan, Sandy, Maren, Pam, and I had a hilarious dinner in the Cannelto. The food was excellent and the company meshed so well that the dinner lasted for hours!

Obviously I can be bought. The pillow gift was a Steiff teddy bear. The little animal in his sailor jacket sitting on a pillow alleviated my disappointments of the voyage.

The AAA cocktail party hosted by Jack and Gloria was first rate. We sat with Gene and Verlyn and others and laughed and drank our way through the party.

The guest speaker series featured Tom Goltz presenting a biography of Bartolome de las Casas, an early reformer and humanist. At the age of 18 in 1502, de las Casa went to Hispanola and was exposed to the brutal exploitation of the natives. In 1507 King Ferdinand appointed him Protector of the Indians. While in Cuba, he wrote “I saw here cruelty on a scale no living being has ever seen or expected to see.” The Haitian Chief Hatuey who had been taken to Cuba and was awaiting death by burning at the stake, was asked to convert, replied, “I prefer to go to hell if heaven means meeting up with any of you again.” 90% of the New World population died between the years of 1492 and 1600. In 1555, de las Casa wrote The Limits of Royal Power in which he said, “You cannot preach the first commandment if you cannot live the second.”

Queen’s Room Shows
The Incognito, three singers from the UK, get my award for the best show of the cruise. Emma, Adrian, and Christian provide top flight entertainment. Their operatic voices need no gimmicks, no props, just superb voices.

Marty Henne, singer, pianist, and raconteur, entertained with stories and songs of the Gershwin brothers. It was a very good show, but I still liked Incognito the best.

The Amsterdam singers and dancers continue to disappoint. The Irish Soul production may have been timely around March 17, but it failed to wow in any fashion.

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GWV 2014 — Cape Verde Islands

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from. ~~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

First discovered in the 1450’s, the islands were uninhabited until the eighteenth century when the Portuguese built a colony here, which grew as a provisioning station for ships crossing the Atlantic for the slave trade. After a hundred year drought devastated the island and most of the inhabitants died or immigrated, the British formed a colony in Mindelo and used it as a coal station at the height of the steamship era.

To partially make up for missing the African ports of Senegal and Gambia, we were three days in the Cape Verde Islands. One day in Praia and two in Mindelo. Now a stop in the Cape Verde Islands could be a pleasant one…. but three days!!! Please!!

At Praia on Santiago Island, I took a shuttle into town and walked around. Then Sandy, Maren, Fran, and I shared a taxi ($13 US pp) to the UNESCO site about 15 km away from town. The trip was interesting. However, this is not a tourist town nor a cruise ship destination, and without the trip to the UNESCO site would have been a waste.

The next two days were spent at Mindelo, Sao Vincente Island. Again a shuttle into town. Walking around looking at the buildings and shopping were the primary ways to spend time. I purchased a new handbag at a store… leather and snakeskin. I believe it is python. Anyway it is an “investment” (read expensive) piece which I will have for many years.

They’re Going!
Captain Mercer made an announcement describing the other ships in port. Among which was the fifth largest in the world sailing vessel, a sloop, flying the Isle of Mann flag. He failed to mention the cruise ship docked next to us. It was a Fred Olsen ship and was sailing to Senegal and Gambia!!

The thoughts we choose to think are the tools we use to paint the canvas of our lives. ~~ Louise Hays

Shipboard Life
Pam, Sandy, and I continue to fail at the Pub Trivia… we are joined occasionally by Jill and Nancy, but it doesn’t seem to elevate our scores. Assistant Cruise Director Kevin either took pity on us or rewarded us for our persistence and bought us drinks.

The dinner themed Under the Seas featured large helium filled balloons. Our cabin now has two large purple octopi and one large sea turtle floating at the ceiling.

The movie The Colony , 2013, featured Laurence Fishburne: “Forced underground by the next ice age, a struggling outpost of survivors must fight to preserve humanity against a threat even more savage than nature.” By about 15 minutes into the film, the movie goers were fleeing the theater like rats from a sinking ship. I stayed on… until the threat was revealed to be cannibals. I had been hoping for zombies. Then I fled also.

The Palm Sunday service began the Holy Week services by Pastor Don, a former Navy chaplain.

The last Cruise Critic Luncheon was as enjoyable as ever. I sat with Maren, Bert, Charlotte, Karen, Morrie,and two ladies from Leesburg.

Our pillow gift was a plate commemorating the voyage. I plan to hang it next to the Grand South America one! However, apparently some passengers complained about the plate. The design featured clouds which some thought were defects. The plate was made by Royal Goedewaagen.

Florist Louis demonstrated flower arranging. He is a true artist. HAL spends $7,000 – 10,000 each in shipping costs alone to provide fresh flowers at various ports along the World Voyage.

The culinary department prepared a Cabo Verde BBQ with traditional music. Following it, Debby Bacon performed under the stars. The moon was full but the weather chilly.

I finished I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith. The story of the wife of Octavianus Ceasar who became Augustus Ceasar and their 51 year marriage.

Shows in the Queen’s Lounge
Karl Morgan, a young singer from Wales, has good song selections.
I laughed out loud at Dan Horn’s second performance with his puppets.
Neil Lockwood is a superb pianist. His Bumblebee Boogie (not sure of the title) was fantastic!
The local Cape Verde performers, the Cape Verde Corda, sounded like any Fado group from Lisbon.

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GWV 2014 — Ascension Island

Soldiers, from the summit of yonder pyramids, forty centuries look down upon you. ~~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Ascension Island is a volcanic island in the mid-Atlantic range of sea mountains half way between South America and Africa.
This 35 sq. mile island was first occupied by the British in 1815 to prevent a rescue of Napoleon from St. Helena 200 miles away. It later served as a provisioning station for the Royal Navy’s anti-slavery patrol. Lately the island was used a a tracking station for NASA, a staging ground for the Falklands War, and a refueling station for the Royal Navy. Currently it has become the “in” spot for sport fishermen.

It is home to the endangered green sea turtle which swims 1200 miles from Brazil to Ascension to lay their eggs every 3 to 4 years. The eggs take two months to hatch. Green sea turtles can reach up to three ft in length and weigh up to 400 lbs. at maturity. Only a small number of hatchlings make it to the sea; the remainder are picked off by sea birds.

For reasons unexplained, the Captain reinstated our call to Ascension Island. We anchored and sent a tender to shore. Unfortunately, the swells were such that it would have been unsafe to operate tenders. Instead, conservation workers came to the ship bringing souvenirs for sale. The ensuing frenzy resembled piranhas after blood. The ship proceeded to circumnavigate the island for scenic cruising.

Shipboard Life
Total frustration with the internet!! One evening I spent 26 minutes trying to send one email to my daughter… without attachments or photographs. Librarian Emily attempted to help… without results. The next morning tech expert Craig worked 47 minutes with my iPad and finally was successful in sending the email. I was not alone… there were constant requests for internet minute replacement forms. Craig must have the patience of Job to do his job.

Stargazing with expert Dan Benedict has taken place for the past several nights. We have learned to spot the Southern Cross with its alpha and beta centuri, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, and Orion’s Belt.

Dinner in the Cannelto with Pam, Maren, and Sandy was a laugh-filled time. The show in the Queen’s Lounge featured Dan Horn the ventriloquist and his puppets. The old woman was hilarious, the doggy sweet and funny, but the old man needs to be retired permanently.

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GWV 2014 — Jamestown, St. Helena

The pyramids first, which in Egypt were laid; next Babylon,s gardens, for Amytis made; then Mausolo’s tomb of affection and guilt; fourth the temple of Dion in Ephesus built. ~~ Anonymous. “Seven Wonders of the World”

Founded by the East India company in 1659, Jamestown was once a place of great strategic importance for ships making their way around the Cape of Good Hope. The island of St. Helena is best known for the place to which Napoleon was exiled in 1815 after his defeat at Waterloo. He died in 1821 and was buried here but later his body was relocated to Paris. When the Suez Canal was built and offered an alternative route to the Indian Ocean, St. Helena was left behind. The island will change dramatically in the near future when in 2016 the airport opens. No longer will it be isolated in the Atlantic.

Excursion around St. Helena
Our shore excursion had been reserved by Pat who was unable to join it. Our group consisted of Joe, Jill, Mary, Bill, and myself. The cost was $49 US pp including tip. We visited Longwood, the final residence of the Emperor Napoleon during his 6 year exile on the island from 1815 – 1821. We also visited his original gravesite. The drive around the island was full of magnificent views. We stopped at the Plantation House, the home of the Governor of the island. It was built in 1792 as the residence of the governor of the East India Company. The grounds are home to five giant tortoises. Jonathan, the oldest, is reputed to be 178 years old. We stopped at the top of Jacob’s Ladder, a steep descent of 699 steps to the town. Joe climbed down the ladder. The remainder of us rode down to town.

Shipboard Life
The Culinary Department prepared an African BBQ which included zebra, ostrich, warthog, and crocodile. I had a baked potato and salad. Rooibos, a beer infused with the taste of red bush tea, was brewed onboard the MS Amsterdam enroute from Capetown. I loved the label. The beer itself was pretty awful!!

Stargazing to look at the Southern Cross, Mars at its brightest, and other wonders of the Southern Sky was cancelled because of cloud cover. Disappointing!

Jan Tarkin held an exhibition of her watercolors of the Grand Voyage. Jan is an accomplished artist who captured the feel of the various ports.

The show in the Queen’s Lounge featured the Divas of Motown, three young women from Atlanta who are personable and entertaining. Their performance included songs from the Motown era, Whitney Houston, the Jackson Five, and finished up with Proud Mary.

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GWV 2014 — Cancel Africa, it is now a Caribbean Cruise!

He who has achieved success has lived well, laughed often and loved much. ~~ Bessie Anderson Stanley

Because of several passengers’ concerns regarding the Ebola virus in countries near (not in) where we were originally slated to dock, Gambia and Senegal, we will be going to St. Lucia instead. We will also miss Ascension Island. This announcement was made after we left Walvis Bay. Had I known this, I would have left the ship in Cape Town, as would many of the other passengers. We are paying a high price for essentially a Caribbean cruise. We could have used the money for a safari or extended time in Africa and flown home.

We will, however, dock in St. Martin where the CDC has issued an advisory regarding chikungunya, a mosquito-borne illness resulting in high fever and joint pain. Almost 800 confirmed cases were reported the first two months of 2014 in St. Martin. Apparently this is not a concern!!

If there were concrete reasons to skip Ascension Island, Gambia, and Senegal, I think more interesting ports (such as those in Morocco or even the Canary Islands) would have been more acceptable rather than fighting the spring break mobs off Carnival cruise ships and every other mega vessel in the Caribbean.

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GWV 2014 — Walvis Bay, Namibia

Climb high, climb far, it’s the journey, not the arrival, that matters. ~~ T.S. Eliot.

Namibia is a southwestern African country of 2.3 million people, one of the least densely populated countries. 46% of the country is under conservation. 17% of the population is white. Rainfall averages 2 inches per year. Namibia has five uranium mines and is one of the world’s largest exporters of uranium. Mines can be 2.5 miles deep.

Charlotte arranged a full day tour for $89 US pp. We had four land rovers; 8 were in my vehicle. Fantastic congenial people: Karen, Morris, Kathy, Jack, Marty, Bill, and Joan. Also along on the excursion were old friends Carol Ann and Storm and Bill and Mary. We stopped at the Walvis Bay Lagoon to see the flamingoes (white) and learned that it is a Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance) for migrating birds.

Next stop was Dune 7. 426 ft. of high sand dune. Joan, Carol Ann, and Bill made it to the top! After a drive along roads made of salt, we came to the Moonscape, an area which was a sea during the Gwondonoland (spelling?) period…. that time before Africa and South America split apart. We drove along the bed of the Swakop River, which has water about every two years. We stopped to see the Welwitcher (spelling) plant which is one of the oldest species on earth. The ones (male and female) we saw were approximately 3-400 years old. Some plants can live 1,000 years. The other sparse vegetation included camelthorn trees.

Our final stop was Swakopmund, a charming nineteenth century village which retains its German heritage. Driving back to the port on a 2 lane road, we were told that this 30 km stretch was among the most dangerous in all Africa. 174 people were killed last year on the stretch due to poor visibility, overtaking (passing) on white (yellow), and drunk driving.

I purchased a large basket at a market. All in all, a wonderful TOO SHORT day!

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GWV 2014 — Cape Town, South Africa

You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way. ~~ Walter C. Hagen

Portuguese navigators pioneered the sea route to India, but it was the Dutch who set up a fortified settlement at the Cape in 1652. The indigenous Khoina initially welcomed them but later fled the colony. In 1688 the French Huguenots, fleeing from religious persecution, arrived at the Cape. They planted vineyards. By 1778, settler expansion had reached the pastures of the Xhosa tribesmen and frontier wars insued. The Xhosa had farmed the Eastern Cape for centuries. In 1795 British forces occupied the Cape. To the east, Shaka Zulu was jus beginning to build a powerful empire. Shaka Zulu, a gifted military strategist, became the chief in 1815. Shaka introduced the assegaii (short spear) and united lesser clans into a Zulu empire.

Relations between the British colonial administration and the Dutch became hostile. Dissatisfied Boer pioneers headed east and north in an exodus that became known as the Great Trek. Battles with the Zulu ensued. On December 16, 1838, the river ran red with blood as a 468 burgher commando defeated 12,500 Zulu warriors. In an effort to subjugate the fiercely independent Zulu, British officials provoked several incidents. In 1879 a 1200 strong British and colonial force was annihilated by 20,000 Zulu warriors at Isandhlwana Hill.

Africa’s Big Five
1. Lions. 2. Black rhinoceros. In serious danger of extinction. 3. Cape Buffalo. Can be extremely dangerous. 4. Leopards. and 5. Elephants.

Excursion to Cape of Good Hope
Ken arranged a full day tour to Cape Point for 11 of us. The cost was 695 rand for tour (about $65US) and was a superb value! We headed south from the port along the Atlantic side of the coastal route to Hout Bay Harbour. Here we stopped to take a 45 minute ride to a colony of 5,000 seals (for an additional charge of 55 rand). The ride was extremely bumpy and rolling! We continued south to the Boulders, a sheltered cove which is home to a thriving colony of African penguins (additional charge of 55 rand). The walk through the park is delightful with lots of sightings of penguins, busily building nests and stealing from one another!! The Chapman’s Peak Drive was nothing short of spectacular! We stopped at Cape Point for lunch and then Cape of Good Hope where we vied with the Chinese tourists for photographic spots!! We returned to Cape Town via the False Bay side, through charming beach side communities.

Shopping
After the day’s excursion, Lisa, Joan, and I took the ship’s shuttle to the Victoria and Albert Mall for an nighttime shopping experience. I returned to the ship empty handed after a couple of hours and fell into bed exhausted. The next morning our intrepid threesome was out early to catch a taxi to the Green Market, hundreds of stalls of African souvenirs in downtown Capetown. We then ventured over to an upscale store, Tribal Trends, which was a shopper’s wonderland! I purchased a woven bowl and a pillow with a map of Africa.

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