Sunday, May 27, 2018


So having enjoyed our stay in Funchal the ship untied and headed off to Africa!  Yes, it is a new continent for us so we were excited.  Of course it's a cruise so we get to stay in port of a day.  No time for a safari but instead we got a tour of Tangier, Morocco.  Viking is fairly new to this ocean cruising thing so I'm going to give them a break and just say the tour wasn't the best use of our time.  We got a tour around the Kasbah in these groups of about 30 people.  You would have to say the area is extreme.  A beautiful building will be next to one that looks totally uncaredfor. 

Our guide was interesting enough but it did seem that every block contained a home that had been owned by some Hollywood-type who liked drugs.  That was kind of annoying but then he brought into TWO sales rooms; one selling rugs and the other selling some sort of herbal medicine.  Those were downright insulting.  Even if we had simply walked another couple of blocks it would have been better.

We did get to visit the Kasbah Museum which was, at least, a beautifully restored building.  The tile work and the wood work was amazing. 

Soon, of course, we were off to Spain.  Oddly the voyage went to Cadiz then to Valencia and finally to Barcelona.  The reason I consider it odd is because to visit Cadiz we had to go back west a bit.  However, it gave my wife and I a chance to visit Seville so that was fun.  Unfortunately the tour was a 2 hour bus ride, 3 hours in the city and another 2 hours back to the ship.  At least this guide wasn't trying to sell us anything! 

So we leave Cadiz just after dinner so we get to go through the Straits of Gibralter about midnight.  I must admit I think it should have been in daylight.  We had an entire day at sea between Cadiz and Valencia getting in quite early in the morning.  My wife and I both enjoyed Valencia.  The tour was in the old section of town and centered around two or three churches.  Churches are ok but it was some sort of holiday and most people prefered to leave the churches to the congregations.  It was kind of interesting that buses are not allowed in the older parts of town so the bus dropped us off then came back a couple hours later.  We took a walk that took us out past a university to a city park.  It just seemed a very beautiful city.

That left us one last night onboard the ship.  Most folks were headed off to the airport but my wife and I wanted to see more of Spain so set out early to catch a train.  People who were going to the airport had their luggage all piled in a building on the pier.  We are carryon folks so we just walked out.  I've got to say some people had quite the luggage collection!  We actually did carry an extra bag this time because of all that time on the ship.  In the end it was unnecessary and was mostly unused.  We found a taxi who took us to the train station for a very reasonable 20 euros or so. 

We had reservations on a late morning train so had plenty of time to just relax.  The Spanish train system seems pretty good; this one was a really high-end one and we found ourselves doing almost 300 kph (something around 185 mph) towards Madrid.  We had only one stop so made the journey in 2 hours 45 minutes.  We've been in Madrid so were only using it as a place to get a rental car.  Now we wouldn't have staff around helping with everything but we'd have to figure things out on our own. 

I'll do another installment in a few days.  Take care and thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Time for an Overview

So I figured out that I've been off-line for quite a while with no real explanation and I ought to do something about that.  So, here goes.  

Late last March my wife and I flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We spent a couple days in the city before boarding a cruise on the Viking Sea.  The ship was making it's repositioning cruise.  It cruises the West Indies in the winter and the Baltic in the summer.  This cruise was to Barcelona, Spain via Sint Maarten in the Virgin Islands, Madiera, Tangiers and various ports in Spain.  We decided to also spend three weeks wandering around in Spain after the cruise.

We started, as I said, in San Juan.  We stayed in the old city never venturing into the new parts.  The old parts are in fair condition though there are some blue tarps covering damage from the hurricane but things are gradually being brought back to life.  The forts survived just fine.

The cruise is sort of a bucket-list thing.  For much of my life I wanted to buy a boat capable of ocean travel.  That never happened.  The next best thing is a cruise and it was pretty amazing.  Viking has positioned themselves as the cruise line for older folks and (aside from the crew) there might have been one person under 40 on this ship containing 900 plus vacationers.  The ship itself is only a couple years old and is nicely set up.  We chose a Deluxe Veranda stateroom.  It was 270 sq. ft. including the bath.  For rv'ers that's plenty of space.  All cabins have a balcony and there are two wrap-around decks for walking.  Of course there is also a gym and spa for those wanting them.  There is NOT a casino; NOT a Captain's night; and NOT big name shows.

The weather was close to perfect the entire cruise.  Mostly there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Walking was definitely a shorts and shirt kind of thing.  There is a pool with a cover.  It was covered in the evenings and one or two days when we got close to Europe.  It was only then we all realized it was only April!
Not the 'bikini contest' sort of pool area!  There was also a small 'infinity' pool with hot tub on the aft deck by the bar. 
Check out the lady walking the deck.  Did I mention the age of the cruisers?  Probably only about 5% of us were using assistance meaning canes, walkers or wheelchairs but that is still 50 people.  Four laps of the ship equals one mile in case you are wondering.

There is a buffet restaurant that we used for breakfast and lunch most days.  Dinner was at a more normal restaurant with waiters and all.  There are two 'specialty' restaurants and while we tried both I couldn't honestly say the food was any better.  A little more pretentious but that's about it.  There are a a couple of things Viking is doing right.  One is that they offer free beer and wine with your meals.  I'm sure it means nothing to many people but my wife and I like a glass of wine with our meals.  Another thing is that there is a free laundromat on each floor of the ship.  I've seen people with three or four huge suitcases but since my wife and I are carry-on folks we really appreciate being able to clean our clothes rather than pay the horrendous fees most ship laundries charge.

After a few idylic days at sea we came to tie up in Funchal on the island of Madiera.  It was rather strange coming upon this piece of land after so many days at sea.  But it was a beautiful green island.
After we landed we took an 'included' tour of the island.  It was rather disappointing since it was mostly a bus ride.  We did get to stop at this huge cliff that overlooks the sea. 
Then we got dropped off to shop in the downtown area.  No thanks.  We simply walked back to the ship. 

I'll get us on towards Barcelona next time.  For now, thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Yeah, I'm back.

I've been gone so long Google texted me checking to see if this logon was actually me!  Aside from the obvious question of who the heck is so bored that they would try to hijack my blog, gosh, maybe I should feel important.  Hmmm?

Anyway, the answer as usual is that we've been traveling.  I don't have any excuse for not blogging in the early portion of March except that I'd just be wasting the reader's time as well as my own.  However in late March we managed one of those bucket list things:  crossing an ocean on a ship. 

We flew out of Las Vegas to Charlotte, NC and then on to San Juan, Puerto Rico to join our ship.  Let me tell you, that was the flight from hell.  Not that they weren't smooth, polite and relatively on time; it's just a really long time to be traveling.  The time difference isn't too awful but it was just nasty.  The good thing is that you end up in Puerto Rico.

We went a couple days early so we could look around the city a bit.  We aren't hearing much about San Juan since Hurricane Maria hit there in late September 2017.  Well, let me tell you things are definitely NOT all fixed up.  Don't get me wrong, they have done a ton and as a visitor everything was great.  We stayed in a cute little hotel, ate well and visited a few of the many tourist destinations.  I've read that in the interior of the island they are still using portable generator sets for the power grid.  What you  have to be there to appreciate how many roofs are still covered in blue plastic tarps. 

San Juan has an old part of town and some of those old buildings weren't up to the stresses imposed by the hurricane.  No surprise there but just flying in over normal surburban housing provided one with a sea of blue tarps.  Whatever Chinese companies make those things must have had to go into overtime plus mode to fill the need. 

I'll write more and even add photos but right now we've only been back 4 days and I'm definitely not all here.  Take care!