Saturday, May 11, 2013

AT SEA

What do we do on board ship?  A lot of it is just waiting for the next meal.  The Prinsendam is the smallest Holland America ship and goes to ports the big ships can't.  Most of the people on the ship had started in Ft Lauderdale and were finishing there, a 62 night Grand Voyage across the Atlantic and around the Mediterranean and back.  I was only on for the last two weeks, from Barcelona to Ft Lauderdale, so people pretty much knew each other and had their routines.

  There were lectures, dancing, bingo and other games, a beautiful library, and food, food, and more food.  They had Happy Hour, so you could get a glass of wine or something before dinner and take the second free one in with you to the dining room or wherever you wanted to eat.  Sometimes I skipped the formal meal and just got a hamburger and two for one beers on deck.  They also had a nice buffet with lots of regular and "Asian fusion" food.  And don't forget the ice cream bar!

We had a beautiful seafood buffet on deck one day, all locally caught, and they showed some pictures or had the heads of some fish, like the 8 foot tuna.  I especially enjoyed the afternoon tea every day at 3 p.m., with live chamber music and to die for scones and cream.  Didn't help my waistline, though.  Luckily there was also a beautiful gym on board, and not many of this mostly older crowd used it.

At 9 p.m. there was usually entertainment and dancing, but I rarely made it.  Too much!  They did have some good entertainment.  They had contract performers that stayed on for all or part of the voyage, plus local musicians, comedians, puppeteers, etc that came on for a few days.  An example was the fabulous Flamenco group that joined us in Barcelona and left in Cadiz.

One night we celebrated the 140th anniversary of Holland America, and the pastry chefs went wild!





My favorite (and calorie free!) things were the little folded towel creatures the cabin crew left on my bed every night, along with a piece of chocolate and the schedule of activities for the next day.  I actually took a one hour class in how to do these, but the crew gets two days of this in orientation and I couldn't begin to rival them.










Thursday, May 9, 2013

THE AZORES


On May 8 we reached Punta Delgada on Sao Miguel, the largest and most populated island of the Azores.  All of the nine islands are volcanic in origin, and there are many craters and geothermal features. It is part of the mid Atlantic ridge, the world's longest submarine mountain range, formed 250 million years ago. The first recorded sighting was by the Portuguese in 1427.  It remains a territory of Portugal, 900 miles away.

Sete Cidades Lake




















I took a trip to Sete Cidades, named after the seven kingdoms of Atlantis, which the Azores are supposedly the remains of.  The village is on the shores of two crater lakes divided by a bridge.  One has famously blue water and the other green, but the color difference is because of the algae on the green side.  The day was overcast, so they looked much the same to me.  The village was small but modern, and seemed a different world from villages in Africa.  We stopped at a picturesque church.

On returning to Punta Delgada, we went to a tasting of local wine and cheese  in the harbor area.  I enjoyed both.  After going back to the ship for lunch, I walked around the town.  It was frustrating not to be able to get internet to work at the shopping mall.  By this time it had started to rain pretty heavily.  We were lucky to be in town at the time of their major festival, Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, but the rain put a damper on the many lights and flowers that make the festival famous.
Horta

Pico Island
One of our engines is not working, so we stayed in town several hours past scheduled time for the part to be flown in, along with the technician to do the repairs.  The engine was eventually fixed, but one of the stabilizers was out, so we were unable to get off the ship in Horta, our scheduled port the next day, because the ocean was too rough for the tenders without having the stabilizer.  I did get pictures of Horta, on Faial Island, and nearby Pico Island as we sailed away.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

SEVILLE

My new home for two weeks

Sailing aboard a Holland America ship is certainly different from a student ship like Semester at Sea.  The main focus is body, not mind, with emphasis on food.  Breakfast is available at 6 a.m. and the food circus goes on in many venues till midnight.  I took a tour of the food galleys and it looks like they use as much food in a week as SAS did for a whole semester for roughly the same number of people! In an average week, they use 6,400 pounds of meat, not including poultry and seafood, 12,040 eggs, and 2,500 pounds of butter.  We only have about 550 passengers!   The quality is a world apart also, with beautiful presentations of luscious meat, fish, pasta, salad, and dessert dishes.   They seem happy to cater to whatever you wish, also.  A far cry from the buffet lines of mostly rice, pasta and unrecognizable main dishes in the SAS buffet.  I was not tempted to gain weight there, though.  We will see what two weeks on this cruise does to my waistline.  It is too much, though, and I already find myself skipping meals due to overload!

On the third day we docked in Cadiz, Spain for a day.  Cadiz is the oldest city in the Christian world, with walls built in the reign of Julius Caesar.  The port took in much of the wealth that came to Spain from the Americas from the 15th century on.  The name of the region, Andalusia, means "land of the Vandals," from the Visigoths who displaced the Romans.  There were subsequent invasions from Arabs, Berbers, English and French.

Cadiz, Spain





Fans for sale
I took a day trip to Seville to see the Alcazar, the oldest royal palace in Europe, built by the Moslems in the 11th century.  Adjacent to it is the third largest gothic Cathedral in the world, built in the 15th century on the site of the old mosque.  The tower remains.  The son of Christopher Columbus is buried in the Cathedral, and an honor guard of four statues carries some of the remains of the man himself, although he was buried in Santo Domingo.  His body was apparently moved a few times and lost pieces with the moves.  The idea of being cremated and scattering ashes doesn't bother me, but scattering body parts, or "relics" is pretty gross.

In the 15th century, Seville was the fourth largest city in Europe, after London, Paris and Naples, with a population of 130,000.  In 1649 it lost half the population to epidemics.  There is an old Jewish quarter, but most of them were banished in the Inquisition.  What remains of the old city is a pleasant blend of narrow and windy cobblestone streets, wide plazas, and beautiful parks.  It is very peaceful, but the history has been violent at times.  The city has grown a lot.  Major crops are grapes and cork, an excellent basis for their wine industry.

Gate into the Alcazar palace
Seville







As we left town, we visited Plaza de Espana, built in 1929 for the Ibero-american Exhibition.  The surrounding area has many beautiful buildings built by various countries for the exhibition, many of which remain as consulates for those countries.