Monthly Archives: January 2013

ms Rotterdam in the Gulf of Aden of the Arabia Sea

Replies to Comments
Mary Ann: Take a small roll of duct tape; I didn’t pack it and regret it.
Lori: Hope you are doing well. Come see me in FLA.
Sylvia: There is still a hop on/hop off bus at Piraeus port.
Carole, Ine, Jack: Hope to meet you all about March 1.

From the Captain
“As we are about to transit some areas that have been affected by piracy incidents in the last couple of months, we are kindly asking you the cooperation with the following: In an effort to sail through the areas as un-noticed as possible, we intend to “darken” the ship; not only will the vessel be less recognizable as a cruise ship, it also helps our Security personnel to maintain night vision and it will enable them to spot a small boat quicker from their observation posts.” Drapes and curtains are drawn at all windows during this time. Lights on decks are also dimmed.

Egypt Erupts
Less than 2 days after we passed through Suez, Egypt, a riot erupted with several deaths And several days after passing Port Said, the fighting in the streets had left 30 dead. Since we will be transversing the Suez Canal again in 6 weeks or so, I hope the situation calms before then.

Captain Sybe de Boer hosted 4 star Mariners to a cocktail, wine, and champagne reception in the Crow’s Nest. The Crow’s Nest was filled with 4 stars. The evening before the Captain had hosted a dinner in the Pinnacle for 5 stars. There are 20 on the Rotterdam at this time. I am counting the days until I add the fifth star…. it will happen on this voyage.

The Solos Table at the Pinnacle Grill was memorable. The cuisine of the Pinnacle was wonderful as usual. Our table consisted of David from Canada, Sandy and me from USA, Ron from Scotland, and Martina and Eric from Holland. Eric was born in Indonesia and lived through the Japanese occupation; he left in 1947 and this will be his first trip back. Martina went to Indonesia as a nurse in 1947 and served a children’s hospital there for several years.

Captain de Boer and Hotel Director Francois Birada hosted a cocktail, wine, and champagne reception for Cruise Critic guests. The appetizers were scrumptious. Officers and staff mingled with CC guests in probably the nicest affair of it type I have ever attended. 120 Cruise Critic members are doing all or part of the Voyage.

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Safaga, Egypt

Shore excursion
My first organized shore excursion was a resounding success. We used Leisure Travel EG, for the Hurghada City tour. Our guide was Mohktar; a likeable young man with an excellent command of the English language. Our van was new and comfortable; our driver would easily outpace NASCAR drivers. There were 9 of us: Sandy, Maren, Bob and Leslee, Dot and Ed, an Edith and Berend. $35 US for the entire day and a lunch at the Starfish Restaurant which was comprised of so many courses that I lost count.

The drive from Safaga to Hurghada is either barren desert or crowded seaside hotels…. it is one or the other. Our guide told us that most of the tourists, over 60%, were Russian. And he doesn’t like Russians. They are so destructive that the airport is building a separate terminal for them.

We did the standard stop to view the city and visited the fish market…. then it was off to the mosque, where the women were dressed head to toe. Hopefully I will be able to upload photos sometime soon. We visited a Coptic Christian church, St. Mary’s, which appeared to be a cross between Catholic and Greek Orthodox. A small aquarium housed Red Sea creatures… beautiful, exotic, many species I had never seen.

Although I had been assured that we would not be kidnapped to someone’s brother’s store… we were. To a perfurme store. However, at that time, we were so full from lunch and pleased with our tour, there were no objections from the tour participants. I even purchased eucalyptus in case I come down with a cold.

The tour lasted over 8 hours…

Ship Notes
The ship put on a BBQ at the Lido Pool. The food was cold and not very good. But the cotton candy was a hit. There was an Egyptian folkloric show scheduled for 9:30 p.m. but I couldn’t stay awake and retired to my cabin to fall asleep by 9.

Pirate/terrorist Attack Mode
The ship is in attack mode. Darkened ship at night, guards patrolling decks, firehoses deployed, and the Navy helicopters within 15 minutes. There was a riot with several dead in Suez, Egypt, shortly after we passed through.

Canneleto Dinner
I hosted a dinner for 7 of my Cruise Critic friends in the Cannelto Restaurant aboard ship. The ladies received Chickfila watches from me. Lots of laughs and remembrances of common experiences. Several of us have cruised multiple times together.

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Suez Canal

Ship Notes

Because the Rotterdam has many ladies who wish to dance, and, unfortunately, only one Social Host, David, two passengers have volunteered to act as dance hosts. And Cruise Director Glenn occasionally participates.

Cat and the Hal-Cats put on a great performance… even if you are not dancing, you’ll love the music. Cat is a young, beautiful, accomplished songstress from Pennsylvania.

Don’t miss the show Dinner Belles performed by three HAL singers …. a fantastic musical about 3 housewives remembering their budding singing careers. Pianist Robin Zebaida enlivens his performance with tales of the lives of Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Chopin, and Rachmaninov.

The staff member, Jan, who is normally the children’s activity director, has been assigned to shepherd the Singles and Solos events on the ship. She’s arranged luncheons, cocktail hours, and Pinnacle dinners.

Small World Department
I discovered that Jill, who has done a yeoman’s job herding Cruise Critic affairs, was on the Veendam in 2008 on the Amazon. And we both did the overnight shore excursion to the Aerio Towers up the Rio Negro from Manaus.

LaFontaine Dining Room
Food is such an important part of any cruise. I have fixed early seating with Sandy, Marian and Hans, and the delightful Margaret and Peter. My last night’s dinner: Rainbow Trout with Citrus-Cured Salmon Tartare (rainbow trout filet wrpped around a citrus salmon tartare, delicately poached in a chive-chervil broth, served chilled with marinated jumbo shrimp and salmon caviar), Dutch Green Pea Soup (flavored according to tradition, with carrots, leeks, potato and celery leaves enriched with a hearty helping of smoked ham and sausage), Duck Pate and Mushroom Duxelles Stuffed Chicken Breast (served with a rich Madeira suce, Parisian potatoes, sautĂ©ed spinach, and carrot batons), Chocolate-Epresso Souffle (served warm with a side of raspberry sauce).

The Suez Canal Transit
The Suez Canal is a 101 mile maritime canal between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Always an experience, the transit from Port Said to Suez takes approximately 14 – 16 hours. Weather gorgeous and most passengers on decks to view Egypt… cities, oasis, desert, and our introduction to the Middle East.

We dock in Safaga, Egypt, tomorrow morning.

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Nafplion and Piraeus, Greece

Ship Notes
The Interdenominational Protestant Chaplain on this cruise is a Presbyterian, the Rev. Bryce Little. Again this Sunday the congregation was large, surprisingly so since it was held while we were in port.

Skipped dinner to see the movie “Magic Mike” in the Wajang Theater. Should have gone to dinner. The movie was filmed in the Tampa Bay Area and guessing the locations provided the most entertainment. The film was boring and long… and not enough nudity.

The Piano Bar with pianist Lee has become the spot to be… sing-a-longs are especially loud and jovial.

Nafplion, Greece
Finally, a charming city to stroll without getting frostbite. Free wifi in the city square… sunshine, temperature in the low 60’s… heaven. This picturesque town is not to be missed.

Piraeus, Greece
The morning was chilly and sunless. Took the Piraeus mini-train (sort of a dressed up golfcart tram) for 5 Euros. Walked around the town. Got bored and cold… returned to port where there is free wifi. Couldn’t take the metro into the plaka in Athens because it is not running… you guessed it, the workers are on strike. Since it is Monday, the museums are closed. Went back to the ship.

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Tunisia and Malta

Ship Notes
The magician Mark Oberon was very good; “how did he do that?” sounded from all over. The Entertainers and Musicians of the Rotterdam presented Amore: from the Three Tenors to ABBA! Excellent. The Velvet Voice and Personality of Miss Lorraine Brown had the audience giving her a standing ovation. Attended the movie The Avengers. An 11 year old boy would have loved it; I didn’t. Sing-a-longs at the Piano Bar with Lee continue to be fun.

LaGoulette, Tunisia
Cold, rainy, windy. Tour with Mohamed Taher Ben Jebara, $60 USA pp.

We visited Carthage, founded by Princess Dido in 814 B.C. By the fourth century BC, Carthage controlled most of the southern Mediterranean coast. The Phoenicians built covered docks in a circle around a small island which remains today. The Carthage based Punic Empire grew powerful for a time, but after Hannibal’s campaigns, the society declined. The Roman soldiers destroyed Carthage in 146 B.C. The Carthage Museum contains Roman ruins since Rome sacked, burned, and salted Carthage. There is a statue of the French King Louis IX who died there while on a crusade after his mother had told him not to go. Just goes to show, you should listen to your mother.

The visit to the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial was poignant. 2,833 headstones provide rows of white crosses and a wall is engraved with the names of 3,724 missing in action. The area is pristine and beautiful.

The blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said was marred by the extreme wind and cold. However hot mint tea with pine nuts at a local restaurant was welcome.

Walking down the Main Street of Tunis to the Medina which houses the souks, we could have been in any metropolitan city except for the razor wire and tanks.

We saw the building where there was a British diplomatic presence from 1662 to 2004; it’s now a hotel.

If you liked the weather in Tunisia, you’ll love it in Malta! The coldest day of the year, rain, wind, absolutely miserable. Tour with guide Bridgette, 20 euros pp.

Malta is 93 km south of Sicily, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. A member of the European Union. St. Paul was shipwrecked here in 60 AD and converted the people to Christianity. Malta was ruled by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, and the Knights of Malta. Malta achieved independence in 1964 and was declared a republic within the British Commonwealth in 1974.

The 8 pointed cross of Malta represents the eight aspirations of the Order of St. John: live in truth, maintain faith, repent sins, give proof of humility, love justice, be merciful, be sincere and whole-hearted, and endure persecution. However, our tour guide said the 8 points represented the 8 different languages of the home countries of the knights. The Great Siege of Malta occurred over 3 months in 1565. Following it the city of Valleta was built and named after the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John.

I’d like to come back to Malta… absolutely charming, filled with archeological and historical sites….but only if the sun shines and the temperature reaches 75 degrees.

Sitting in the square of Nafplion, Greece.

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Lisbon to Malaga

Because Sunday fell on a port day, church services were late in the afternoon. Reverend Little conducted a surprisingly well-attended service culminating with Communion.

The evening of the Lisbon port highlighted the Entertainers of the Showroom at Sea in a production entitled Unforgettable. The group was made up of 4 men and 2 women and featured more singing than dancing. Good, but not one of the best I have seen on HAL ships.

A sea day… always a delight… saw me shopping the in ship’s store: a pink zippered sweatshirt jacket and black long shrug are now in my closet. The Dance Class taught the Charleston. Perhaps I won’t be featured on Dancing with the Stars after all!

The show was a modern day look on Flamenco by Passionatta: 4 young women, in various costumes, performing dances. I could have watched it for another hour. Wonderful!

The Rotterdam passed through the Straits of Gibralter around 2 a.m. without me watching.

Malaga was sunny but cold and windy. So much so that touring was unpleasant. The city shuttle was 4 euros; the Hop on Hop off tour bus 17 euros. Toured Castillo de Gibralfaro (2.80 euros entrance). The Moorish fortress spreads out along a cliff that is dotted with cypress tress. The castle dates from the Phoenician era, but Moors modified the structure in the 8th century. At one time the walls encircled the Alcazaba where Arab monarchs resided during the 11th century.

Had lunch at MacDonald’s at Vialia Shopping Mall which is really a train station. 5.95 euros for the chicken sandwich lunch, and the wifi signal was poor.

All in all, the stop in Malaga was marred by the cold (51 degrees) and wind. Had the temperature been warmer, I am sure it would have provided more pleasant memories.

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Southampton to Lisbon

Arriving at Heathrow, I was met by a lovely lady from Holland America transfer service which was pleasant and efficient. However, arriving at the port, efficiency ended. The embarkation was disorganized chaos. The best part was meeting friends and getting hugs.

At the mandatory passenger emergency drill, Sandy and I arrived at our station in the dark and cold, to find we were the only ones there. The crew joked they were putting a mini-bar on the lifeboat for us. Slowly, others arrived, and the drill proceeded.

Rough seas during the night on the Bay of Biscayne.

On January 11, about 11 attended a Facebook Meet and Greet. The evening’s entertainment was a tenor, Lee Bradley, who was superb. After the show, Maren, Sandy, Linda, and I went to the piano bar for loads of fun with the Piano Man Lee doing Rat Pack songs.

The following day brought about 80 together for the first Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. And David and I danced the waltz at dance class. I think I am ready for Dancing with the Stars!

The first formal night dinner was out of this world. I enjoyed mussels in white wine, duck pate, Barramundi, and dessert of chocolate soufflé with hot chocolate sauce and a bowl of raspberry sorbet. Our table mates provide much entertainment.

Most fun has been meeting friends from other cruises: Clementine, Byron, Carol, Edward.

Most of our day in Lisbon was spent taking the #28 tram around the city; climbing the narrow cobbled streets of the city.

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Formal dinner

Formal dinner

Although I wrote an entire blog for the trip from Southampton to Lisbon, I cannot find it!
The voyage has experienced rough seas. Meeting friends has been a highlight.

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Every voyage gets a guide/journal. Guide because it lists places to visit and shore excursions; journal because it lists luncheons, CC Meet and Greets, Facebook Meet and Greets, and my personal experiences. And maps… taped on the walls of my cabin… so I can be sure the Captain is on course!


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Packing… Continued

The last several days have been spent packing, after trying on clothes for fit and appearance. Everything must fit into two checked bags of 50 lb or less each, one carry-on, and one personal item (large handbag). I use Eagle Creek packing cubes and zippered plastic bags from linen purchases. Everything is in a packing cube or bag which keeps suitcases organized.

One of the hardest part of packing for this voyage is the climate changes… from the cold of Europe to the heat of Indonesia. Practically my entire “winter” wardrobe for the voyage will be worn on the plane….jacket and boots especially are space and weight consumers in a checked bag. I wear a Baggallini passport/ticket holder around my neck.

I pack my toiletries which will be used up or left to provide room for those “I can’t live without” purchases that I’ll be sure to make! Medicines and first aid supplies are packed, hoping that I never need them.

Clothes: 2 pj’s, 2 hats, 5 pashminas/scarves, 1 evening bag (large enough to hold my eyeglass case and one of those little liquor bottles), 1 Baggallini travel handbag, 7 pairs of shoes (I really worked to downsize the number to 7), 2 swimsuits with coverups, 1 travel vest (an excellent investment), 3 pairs shorts, 8 T-shirts, 2 sweatshirt jackets, 4 pairs slacks/capris, 2 casual dresses, 2 long casual dresses, 4 formal slacks, 4 formal tops, 7 smart casual tops, 2 long sleeved blouses which can be used as jackets.

Costume jewelry is a big part of my attire. I never take expensive jewelry out of the country… it is too easily lost or stolen.

The following items are ones which I have found to be useful when cruising for long periods of time: power strip because the cabins never have enough outlets; hanging shoe rack; small electric fan; multiple shirt and skirt hangers; small flashlight, sewing kit, and a lanyard for your key card.
Toys! Can’t live without Kindle, iPhone, iPad and wireless keyboard, and my Nikon and its accessories.
Finally, I always pack my cane (just in case my leg acts up), an umbrella for the sun, a poncho for the rain, and the best thing you can have in hot, humid climates…folding hand fans!

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