Friday, July 13, 2018

On Hiatus

I thought I would be writing about our trip to Alaska now, but things have not worked out as we planned.  In fact, it looks like there won't be any travels for us this year.

When I wrote about our Mediterranean cruise last winter, I mentioned that I was sick with a cold when we got back from our cruise.  The cold went away, but I continued to cough and after several treatment attempts my doctor decided to do an x-ray.  The x-ray showed a nodule on my lung which was pretty scary, but a subsequent blood test showed that I had valley fever.  Valley fever is a fungal disease that is caused by breathing a fungi spore into the lungs and only occurs in the Southwestern United States.  It's not very common, but is becoming more common, particularly in the area we live.  Luckily for me, my doctor recognized it right away and started treatment immediately.

Valley fever can be a very serious disease, but luckily for me I never got very sick and the worst things I experienced were the coughing and a loss of energy.  To be honest, the side effects of the medication were worse than the valley fever symptoms.  Anyway to make a short story long, when it came time to make our final payment for our June Alaska cruise, we decided we shouldn't chance losing our money and decided to cancel our cruise.

We were disappointed, but we made up for it by booking a two week trip through the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer train and then another week on Vancouver Island.  By the end of June I was feeling pretty much back to normal and my doctor gave me a clean bill of health.  It looked like all things were go for our fall trip.

Unfortunately, as I was getting better, Val was starting to have problems with her knee and it kept getting worse and worse.  Finally in May she got an MRI and the news was what we feared, she needed a knee replacement.  At that time she thought she would still be able to take our fall trip and get the surgery after we returned, but it kept getting worse.  In mid June we went up to Stanford and got a second opinion, which unfortunately just confirmed her doctor's diagnosis.  By then the pain was getting worse and she knew she wouldn't be able to make the fall trip so last week we cancelled our fall Canadian trip and she is scheduled to have her knee replaced in August.

She has already had her other knee replaced five years ago so she knows it's not a very enjoyable experience with a lot of pain, exercise and physical therapy.  Full recovery usually takes a year, but the first month is the worst and by the end of the second month she will still have some pain, but will have pretty much resumed her normal life.

This was a big disappointment for both of us, but things happen that you have no control over, especially as you get older.  It looks like 2018 will be our first year without a major trip, but we will come back strong next year.  A year like this will give us an even greater appreciation of our past and future travels and our life in general.

That's it for now, Val always tells me I go into too much detail when I write and it looks like I've done it again.  We do have one trip already booked for February/March of 2019; a cruise up the Amazon River and then on to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival.  Also, we would like to re-book our Canadian trip for next Fall.  Looks like we'll be getting right back to traveling, so we'll see you on down the road.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Reflections


If you've made it this far in the blog, congratulations, it was a real marathon.  I normally write the wrap-up and reflections for our trip as soon as I get home, but for this trip, here I am doing it on February 1st, almost two months since we returned home.  This was not really by design, but more from circumstance.  I came home sick, my computer failed and it was two weeks before Christmas so I put almost everything about the trip on hold until the beginning of the new year.  I decided to publish the whole blog before I wrote my wrap-up and finally, the blog is done!!  It is the longest one I have done, and there were a lot of photos to go through, but it did allow me to relive our trip and gain a little more appreciation and perspective of what we saw.

Before I get to my reflections, a little sidebar here.  When we got home I was watching TV one night and there was a car commercial on that was about a young couple with a new car throwing darts at a map to see where they would go.  The commercial was kind of stupid, but at the end they said something that struck me as being pretty profound.  I don’t know exactly how it was worded, but essentially it said, “it’s not the destination that makes the journey, but who you make the journey with”, and that is so true.  There is something wonderful about traveling and seeing new things, but even more wonderful is having someone to share it with and there is no else I would rather share it with than Val.  Thank you Val.

Since we have gotten home, several people have asked me what was my favorite place on the trip was and my answer always seems to end up a lengthy response.  One memory leads to another and almost every place we visited had something special to offer.  We got a taste of the tradition and culture of some places, and were amazed at other places as we realized that we were looking back at thousands of years of history.  Since I can’t really pick out any favorite place, I will talk about the places I enjoyed the most (standing in pouring rain in Athens will not rate as one of most enjoyable moments).

Visiting the Azores was very special as we had no idea how green and lush they were.  We didn’t have the best of weather so it would be nice to return with a bit of sunshine, but the Azores were still a great way to kick off the trip.  Our time in Lisbon was also wonderful and spending the day with Greg and Isabel was one of the best times on the trip.  Barcelona was a big surprise, we had heard and read so many negative things about the pick-pockets, petty theft and crowds, but Barcelona is a great place.  It is a beautiful and vibrant city with friendly people who seem for the most part, to be tolerant of tourists and that can’t be said of everywhere we visited.

Another place that really surprised us was Pompeii, I never realized what a large city it was.  Reading about the city is one thing, but seeing it and the artifacts made you think of the people living there and how their lives were so quickly changed.  Seeing the original ancient site of the Olympics in Greece was also an eye opener, I had no idea it was such an elaborate and large compound.
One of my favorite places was Dubrovnik in Croatia.  We saw many medieval walled cities on the cruise, but Dubrovnik was by far the best.  Val and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit there and would like to go back again someday.

I think our best stretch of ports were the islands of Rhodes, Crete and Malta.  The day we spent visiting Lindos on Rhodes, and Chania on Crete were two of the highlights of the trip.  I think though, if I had to pick my favorite place we visited it would probably be Malta.  We spent two days there and had a wonderful time.  Both days we had private tours with excellent guides and they made it even more special.

Visiting the island of Sardinia in Italy also stood out as we were able to spend part of a day experiencing the traditional hospitality, culture and food with an extended family at their villa.  That was a Thanksgiving we will always remember.  Lastly there’s the Portuguese island of Madeira.  We didn’t really get to see much of it because Val was sick, but it was such a nice day and the island was so inviting, we would love to revisit it and see a lot more.

I have fond memories of everywhere we visited (maybe with the exception of Athens 😎), but these were the memories that stood out for me.  This was a long cruise with lots of time changes and a pretty intensive port schedule, but Val and I both agree that we would do it again as there is so much more to see and do.

Our next trip is another cruise, this time a short 14 day Alaska cruise out of Seattle in June.  We decided to take a breather this year and not travel so much so it is the only thing we have planned so far.  We always do our “geezer” trip in the fall, but we aren’t even doing that this year due to unforeseen circumstances, but hopefully we will restart that in 2019.  We will do some short trips and probably do a road trip or two, but otherwise things are going to be pretty quiet in travel wise in 2018.  That’s it for now and we’ll see you on down the road.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 49, Debarkation and the Trip Home

Friday, December 8, 2017

We were up this morning at 6:30 as the ship was schedule to dock at 7:00 and we were scheduled to get off the ship 7:45.  Neither of us slept well last night so we were both tired when we got up; not a good way to start a long day.  We packed our last remaining things and headed off to the Neptune Lounge for our last breakfast on the ship.  We then returned to our room and waited for our debarkation group to be called.

Our plane doesn’t leave Fort Lauderdale until around 7:00 tonight so we have a lot of time to kill today.  To pass some time we signed up for a ship airport transfer that include a tour of Fort Lauderdale and a boat ride around the inland waterways and harbor.  Because of that we were one of the first groups scheduled to leave the ship.

Getting off the ship was a breeze as luggage was just being delivered to the terminal when we came off the ship and after a short wait, we found our luggage and headed to customs.  This summer Val and I signed up for a Global Entry Pass and although it was a bit of a hassle to get, it was well worth it.  Fort Lauderdale is the only cruise port in the US to have a Global Entry line and there was hardly anyone in it.  We sailed right through customs in less than five minutes and were outside the terminal in less than fifteen minutes after leaving our room.

Before we found our tour bus, we had to deliver our two large pieces of luggage to the Luggage Forward representatives as we were shipping them instead of lugging them around.  This is the second time we have done this and even though it’s a little pricey, it is well worth it for us.  There was a bit of a mix up finding them, and we were given wrong directions several times, but we finally found them right in front of the terminal.  Because we had gotten off the ship so quickly, they weren’t there when we first exited the building.

Fort Lauderdale Tour

After getting rid of our large pieces of luggage, we found our tour bus and got on and enjoyed the cool, air-conditioned air.  Even though it’s December, Florida was still warm and humid, even at 8:30 it the morning.  We sat on the bus for a while and waited for the stragglers to wander in and then we were on our way.  The tour was nice and drove us around Fort Lauderdale and gave us a feel for the culture and history of the city. 

After our drive around the city, we were dropped off at the harbor where we boarded a tour boat that gave us a tour of the inland waterways and harbor.  Fort Lauderdale is made up of a lot of inland waterways lined with very expensive homes and lots of boats and yachts.  It seemed that the main purpose of the trip was to point out the expensive homes of all the rich and famous people, which while being interesting, didn’t make me want to move to Fort Lauderdale.  The boat ride was very pleasant as we were shaded and there was a pleasant breeze blowing off the water.  After the boat tour, the bus picked us up and delivered us and our remaining luggage to the airport.  I’m glad we took the tour even though it wasn’t as interesting as what we have been used to seeing on the trip, we did enjoy it and it helped pass some of the long wait we have before our plane leaves.

The Flight Home

When we got into the terminal, the first thing we wanted to do was check our bags, get through security, and find something to eat.  Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way because the Virgin America check-in didn’t open up until two hours before our flight.  I guess there aren’t enough Virgin America flights out of Fort Lauderdale to keep the check-in open longer.  We found some seats in the terminal and started our three-hour wait for the check-in to open.

I left Val with the bags, and went looking for a place we could get something to eat.  It seemed that all of the restaurants were on the other side of security, but I did find a Starbucks that served sandwiches so we took turns getting something to eat while one of us watched the luggage.  The sandwich was actually pretty good, but having to sit in the terminal juggling our food and drinks on our laps wasn’t what I had in mind.

While we finished eating, I noticed there were people in the Virgin America check-in line.  We immediately got in line, checked our luggage and quickly got through security, found our gate and had a seat for the long wait.

I still wasn’t feeling well and it had already been a long day so all I could think about was getting on the plane and getting home.  My cough, which I hoped was going away, got worse so I went on a successful search for cough drops, but unfortunately, they didn’t help that much.  We still had over four hours before our flight so we read, talked and took turns walking around the area.  There were a lot of people and most of the gates were packed with people so we didn’t want to lose our seats.

Time slowly passed, and it was finally getting near time to board when the dreaded announcement came that our flight would be delayed.  It turned out to be only a 35 minute delay so by 7:30 we were boarding the plane.  They wanted to make up time so they were hustling everybody on board and trying to get them seated.  We again had opted for the economy plus seats that gave us extra legroom as well as free food and drinks, movies and priority boarding.  The priority boarding is a big plus as it is such a hassle to find space in the overhead bins when you board late.

The flight seemed very long and Val ended up watching two movies.  I mostly read and played my Wordbrain game on my phone until we were finally landing at LAX.  We made our way to the luggage pickup and saw my brother Doug and his wife Janis waiting for us, which was a very welcome sight.  It didn’t take long to get our luggage and we were soon in their car heading to their house where we spent the night before driving home tomorrow.  We are so grateful to Doug and Janis for picking us up; the original plan was for us to take the Flyaway bus service to a terminal near their home where they would pick us up, but while we were on the trip Janis had e-mailed me and said they would pick us up at the airport.  Thank you so much Doug and Janis, you made a very long day much easier.

We made the 45 minute drive to their house and we all quickly headed off to bed.  We were in bed by 11:30, which was 2:30 AM EST and that meant it had been 20 hours since we had gotten up on the Veendam this morning, a very long day.  By this time, we were both running on fumes and the bed felt very, very good.  It will be great to get home tomorrow.

Saturday, December 9 - The Drive Home

I guess because I was used to being on Eastern Time, I woke up early and was up by 8:00.  Val had no such trouble and slept in.  Janis had an appointment this morning so I had some breakfast, read the paper and talked to Doug until Val got up.  There is currently a massive fire raging in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, which is between Doug and Janis’s home and our home in Atascadero.  We thought maybe we could see them from the plane last night, but that wasn’t possible.  Highway 101, which is our route home, has been closed on and off all week so our concern today was that we would have to take a more roundabout way home, but I checked when I got up and it was open.

Val finally joined us and after a bite to eat for her and a little more conversation, we hit the road.  We were originally going to stop in Thousand Oaks and visit my parents, but with me being sick, that didn’t seem like a good idea so we shelved that.  The other thing we wanted to do was stop at Los Arroyos, our favorite Mexican restaurant.  We timed it just right so it was lunchtime and we were hungry just as we got to the restaurant.  It had been over two months since we had a good Mexican meal so this really hit the spot.

After lunch we continued our drive north and as we approached Ventura we could see a massive plume of dark smoke ahead of us.  That much smoke is unusual in a fire that is more than a week old so it showed just how massive and terrible this fire was.  As we drove north through Ventura and the area south of Santa Barbara, we could see where the fire had burned down to Hwy 101 and in some cases, jumped the highway and burned to the ocean.

We made it home by mid-afternoon and I can’t tell you how good that felt.  We loved our trip, but being gone for almost two months is a long time, especially when you come home sick.  Everything at home seemed fine, which was a relief, but we did have a pile of mail a mile high.  Traveling the world and seeing new and exciting things is a wonderful way to spend your time, but as the saying goes – there’s no place like home.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 48, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Thursday, December 7, 2017
Day 48, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Today we are at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, our last port before returning to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow.  Half Moon Cay is an island owned by Holland America and is for their exclusive use.  There are beach activities and you can rent cabanas or even villas for the day as well as several food options.  If this were at the beginning of the cruise I might have enjoyed seeing the island, but after 48 days, I didn't even want to go ashore.

We got up this morning and when we looked out the window it looked pretty inviting, a tropical island with nice beaches and sunny skies.  The sunny skies didn’t last though as clouds kept blowing through, sometimes bringing rain showers.  We had breakfast and waited there while our room was cleaned.

My cold seems to have plateaued as I am not really feeling any better today so I decided that I didn’t want to expend any energy going ashore so we are not visiting Half Moon Cay today.  It is a tender port (the only one of the cruise) and that’s always a hassle, so Val agreed that we would stay on the ship today.

The Zuiderdam, another Holland America ship, was also in Half Moon Cay today.
Half Moon Cay is a tender port, so a combination of ship's tenders (foreground) and tenders that stay on the island (background) are used.
The beach did look inviting, but on day 48 of the cruise, I had run out of energy.
This is where the main facilities are and you the tender docks.  You can see a tender docked right in the center of the picture.
After deciding we were not going ashore, there was nothing to do, but start the packing process.  The worst part of packing is integrating all of the things you have purchased on the trip and find room for it.  Luckily, we had planned in advance so there was extra space and by lunchtime we had done most of the packing.  We still have some last-minute things to pack this evening, but we’re pretty much done.

Packing does take some planning though as you have to put your bags you don’t want to carry off the ship yourself outside by 1:00 AM.  They will be in the terminal when we get off the ship and we still have to take them through customs, but we have too much to carry off ourselves.  That means anything we will need in the morning has to go in a bag that we carry off ourselves.

We had our last lunch in the Lido and then a walk around the ship where everything is very quiet.  We returned to the room until it was time for Val to go to trivia which was at 3:00 today.  After Val left, I updated the blog and checked my e-mail.

When Val returned from trivia we really didn’t have much of anything to do so we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading.  We did have another medical evacuation this afternoon, though.  We were scheduled to leave Half Moon Cay at 4:00 and just as we were getting underway the captain announced we would be diverting to another island in the Bahamas that had an airport where they could evacuate an ill patient so they could be medivaced to a hospital in Florida; not a good way to end the cruise.

After the unscheduled stop, it was time to get ready for dinner and our last night of trivia and the casino.  As I have said before, I’m not a big fan of trivia, but I have enjoyed meeting and getting to know Roy and Gabriella, and Charles and Judy; it was sad to have to say goodbye to them tonight.  Next it was our last dinner of the cruise and we said our goodbyes to our dinning stewards, Aries and Rico.  Rico is actually getting off the ship with us and flying home to Bali in Indonesia from Fort Lauderdale.  He has been on the ship for seven months working every day with no days off, I don’t know how they do it.  He already has his next contract so after three months off, he will be back on board another ship for another seven months at sea.  It’s a very tough job, but they always have a smile and are always very helpful, we really liked Rico and Aires and also Toto, our steward for the first half of the cruise before he left to go home.

Aries and Rico behind Val and I.
We spent our last night in the casino as we spent our first night, unsuccessfully and quickly.  We returned to our room and did our last-minute packing and then I moved all of the bags we wouldn’t carry off the ships ourselves out in the hallway for later pickup.  We then went straight to bed as we have to be up early tomorrow morning when we arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 7:00.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 41 - 47 Sailing Back Across the Atlantic

Thursday, November 30, 2017
Day 41, At Sea

With the extra hour of sleep, we gained last night, we were up before 8:30.  We had our usual breakfast in the Neptune Lounge and hung around there for a while before returning to the room where I updated the blog and downloaded yesterday’s pictures while Val watched a movie on TV.

We went to the Lido for lunch and then Val went to trivia while I read for a while.  When Val returned from trivia, we went to the Neptune Lounge and looked at more of our pictures through our visit to Gibraltar, only a few more days to go and we’re caught up.

Despite feeling better last night, Val still isn’t feeling well and it looks like her cold is coming back and she has a bad sore throat.  She spent the rest of the afternoon resting and I spent it reading.  We did our usual trivia, dinner, casino routine and then returned to the room and called it a night.

Friday, December 1, 2017
Day 42, At Sea

The captain had said yesterday that we were headed into a storm and to expect lots of rocking and rolling and we started to feel it during the night.  When you look at the ship’s course since leaving Madeira, first he went to the north, but then turned back to the south to avoid the worst of it.  Strangely enough, the weather was sunny and warm this morning, but windy with very heavy seas.

Val woke up and felt worse and decided to see the ship doctor this morning.  Her sore throat is getting worse and she doesn’t want to end up having to fly home sick.  While she was at the doctor I, I ate some breakfast at the Neptune Lounge, and then stayed there to read for awhile.

While I was reading in the lounge, Val walked in, back from her doctor’s visit.  It turns out she has an ear infection and the doctor gave her a round of antibiotics to take.  We talked for a bit and then returned to the room where Val rested and I decided to start going through our photos and getting rid of the bad ones and duplicates.

This brought us up to lunchtime and Val didn’t feel like going to the Lido so I went up and got her a sandwich and got one for myself.  The seas continue to be rough and I decided to try and take a movie showing the horizon up and down and tilting.  I went down to the promenade deck and to get closer to the water and I tried to take more movies of the big splashes of water caused by the ship’s bow going up and then crashing down into the trough of the wave.  The promenade deck is deck six and at times the water was shooting up over my head so it was going pretty high.  Nobody was getting wet though as the water was going away from the ship.

I returned to the room and Val wanted to get out for a bit so we went up to the casino and wasted a little money.  We returned to the room where Val went back to resting while I continued going through the pictures.  That is going to be a slow process as we have taken over 11,000 pictures so far.  I got as far as Portugal and then I relaxed and read until dinnertime.

Val still wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to go to trivia, dinner or even the casino so I went down and told the trivia group that we wouldn’t be there tonight.  As it got past 7:30 I was getting hungry and Val decided she had to eat so we went up to the Lido to have dinner and then returned to the room.  Despite the fact that we gain another hour tonight, Val went to bed early hoping the antibiotics would take effect and she would feel better in the morning.

Saturday, December 2, 2017
Day 43, At Sea

Because of the extra hour sleep we were up just after 8:00 and happily, Val was feeling much better; the antibiotics had done their job.  We had breakfast in the Neptune Lounge and then hung around until our room had been cleaned before returning.

We had nothing planned so I went back to work on our photos and Val read and watched television.  Today we had scheduled a lunch in the Pinnacle Grill with our evening trivia team.  The Pinnacle Grill is the high-end restaurant on the ship and unlike most of the other choices for food, they charge a fee, albeit a small one.  We met the group at 12:30 and had an excellent lunch and better conversation.  The only person missing was Gabriella who has a very bad cold.

After lunch, Val and I decided to make up for last night and visit the casino.  I quickly went through my money, but Val had an excellent day and broke her losing streak.  We returned to the room where I continued going through the pictures and Val relaxed and read.  After going through as many pictures as I could take, I updated the blog and then spent the rest of the afternoon reading and relaxing until it was time for dinner.

After our big lunch at the Pinnacle Grill, we weren’t very hungry for dinner, but we decided to go anyway and eat lightly.  After getting ready we went to the evening trivia and had one of our worst nights, but nobody did well so we didn’t feel too bad.  After that we had dinner, but skipped dessert.  We finished the evening in the casino before returning to our room.  I went to check my e-mail and found the Internet wasn’t working so I spent a little more time working on our photos before calling it a night.

Our evening trivia team - Charles, Judy, Roy, Gabriella, Val and myself.
We continue to have rough seas which is quite a change after the calmness of the Mediterranean.  It doesn’t really bother us as neither of us tend to get seasick, but it would be nice to have better weather.  The captain said tomorrow will be worse with rain expected, but then it should start to clear up.  We’ll see, but at this stage of the cruise, it really doesn’t matter anyway.

Sunday, December 3, 2017 
Day 44, At Sea

We woke up this morning to overcast skies and rain.  The seas were rough on and off during the night and I heard thunder at one point.  We had our usual breakfast and returned to the room where I again tried to get our e-mail.  The talk in the Neptune Lounge had been about the lack of Internet and nobody seemed to know why.  It’s not a big deal, but my parents are in their 90's so I do like to stay in touch with my brother as things do happen.  Last year while we were gone my mother fell and broke her neck and it took my brother several days to get in touch with me.  This year I vowed to stay in close touch, but now we have gone almost two days without e-mail.

Not surprisingly, my attempt to get my e-mail was futile so I spent the rest of the morning working through more of our photos.  I made my way through Mallorca so I am making real progress.  It would be nice to finish this before we get home, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

The weather is quite bad today  with high winds and heavy rain.  The winds are so bad they have closed the outside decks.  I went out on our balcony and although it is somewhat sheltered, I could still feel how hard the wind was blowing and the waves looked like surf breaking with the wind blowing on them.  Despite the bad weather, the seas weren’t quite as rough as they have been though.  Also, despite how nasty the weather looked, the temperature stayed around a very comfortable 75 degrees F.

We went to lunch in the Lido and then Val went to afternoon trivia in the Crow’s Nest and I went back to working on our pictures.  When Val returned from trivia we went to the casino to participate in the second slot tournament of the cruise.  Today is the first of three qualifying days with finals being on the final day of the cruise.  Val usually does well at these, but surprise, surprise, I ended up at the top of the leader board and Val didn’t qualify.  My score was over 1,000,000 and it’s the best I’ve ever done.  Usually that high of a score will get you into the finals so maybe I’ve made it this time.  Val has two more tries to qualify; it would be fun if we both ended up in the finals.  After doing our qualifying rounds, we hung around the casino and played for a while and we both ended up breaking even so we can return tonight after dinner.

It was late afternoon when we returned to our room and while I continued my work on our photos, Val read.  The storm seems to have broken as the seas have calmed and the sun is out.  We are supposed to have better weather for the rest of the cruise.  We did our usual dinner routine and although our trivia team did well tonight, we didn’t win.  We went back to the casino after dinner, but I didn’t do well and my night was quickly over.

When we got back to our room we found that we would be gaining another hour of sleep tonight so it was earlier than we thought.  The Internet was back so I downloaded my e-mail and found that I didn’t miss anything during the outage and that was a relief.  The countdown has really started for the end of the cruise with only four days remaining.  Most people we talked to are ready to get home again.  There is a cold going around the ship so many are suffering from that, but luckily Val is feeling much better; now if I can just keep from catching the cold.

Monday, December 4, 2017
Day 45, At Sea

I ended yesterday with the comment that I hoped I didn’t get the cold that was going around, but I may have jinxed myself, I woke up this morning coughing and feeling congested.  I hope it’s just a passing thing as I sure don’t want to have to spend the day getting off the ship and flying home feeling sick.

We had our breakfast and hung around the lounge while they cleaned our room and then it was back to working on our photos for me.  I am making progress and have thinned a lot of the not-so-good and duplicate pictures out.

The weather has certainly improved as it is partly cloudy with the temperatures staying in the mid-seventies.  We decided to have pizza one last time before the cruise ended so we decided to do it today.  We headed up to the pizza place on the Lido Deck and found out the wait time was 45 minutes – it looks like everyone else had the same idea we did.  That was too long to wait as Val had her trivia to go to so we decided to wait and do it another day.

After lunch, Val headed off to her trivia and I updated the blog and then backed up the work I had been doing on our photos.  Today is the second qualifying round for the slot tournament so after trivia Val and I went back to the casino.  I was still in first place so there was no need for me to compete, but Val tried once again to qualify for the finals.  Today was better than yesterday for her and she moved into third place.  Val and I are now number three and one, I hope we get to compete against each other in the finals.

The Leader Board - I'm number 1 and Val's number 3.
We stayed and played for a while, but I quickly spent my money and returned to the room, but Val stayed.  Val returned a little later and was very happy; she had done very, very well – the best win of the trip.  We decided to look at the rest of the pictures for the trip and went down to the Neptune Lounge and spent the rest of the afternoon doing our review; we have now looked at all the pictures we took.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing and reading until it was time to get ready for dinner.  We did our usual dinner routine and then returned to the room.  I worked on the pictures for a while and checked my e-mail, but I figured the best thing for my cold would be rest so I called it a night and went to bed.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Day 46, At Sea

I woke up this morning and definitely knew I had a cold.  Although not feeling terrible, I was definitely sick so now my goal is to be feeling better by Friday when we arrive in Fort Lauderdale and get off the ship and head for home.

The weather has definitely improved as it was sunny outside with a few clouds and the temperature was up in the high seventies.  We had breakfast and then returned to the room, but just as soon as we got settled, our room steward arrived to clean the room so it was back to the Neptune Lounge.

After they were done, I worked on pictures for the rest of the morning while Val read and watched some TV.  We went up to the Lido for lunch and then Val was off to trivia and I laid down to rest for a while.  When she returned, it was time to head down to the casino for slot tournament finals.  I was still first and Val third, but just minutes before the qualifying round ended, someone knocked Val down to fourth.  It doesn’t really matter what place you’re in as long as you qualify.

Charles, Judy, Roy and Gabriella (our trivia team) came down to cheer us on and the finals were underway.  Things didn’t go as we hoped and neither Val nor I won.  Oh well, this was Val’s fourth time playing in the finals since we started cruising, but it was my first so that was exciting for me just being able to compete.  After the finals we stayed in the casino and played for a while and then returned to the room.

I was feeling a little better so I decided to work on pictures again.  I would really like to get the sorting and culling done before we get home and that goal is now in sight. 

It was the eighth and last formal night of the cruise tonight and Val and I decided we were done with formal wear for the trip and decided to skip the dining room tonight.  We did go to trivia and then went to the Lido for dinner.  It was back to the casino for a short visit and then back to the room.  It was still early so after checking my e-mail I decided to what … go through more pictures of course.  The end is in sight and I hope to finish up tomorrow.

Even though I’m feeling better, I am still not back to normal so I didn’t stay up too late.  We gain another hour tonight so that will help also.  I have started the coughing phase of my cold so I hope it doesn’t keep Val or myself awake tonight.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 
Day 47, At Sea

Despite gaining an hour last night, I still slept late this morning.  I did have several bouts of coughing in the night and that kept both of us awake.  Today is our last sea day and tomorrow we will be at Half Moon Cay Island in the Bahamas.

After a long break for breakfast while they cleaned our room, I went back to working on pictures.  I really want to finish this first cut before we get home so I have dedicated today to finishing it up.  Val relaxed, read and watched TV while I worked.

We decided to have our last pizza of the cruise today for lunch, but decided to wait until Val returned from trivia to avoid the long wait.  After trivia, we went to the Lido and got our pizza and had a nice lunch.  I said it before, but the pizza is surprisingly good, especially the crust.  I didn’t feel like going back to working on the pictures so after we finished our pizza, we went down to the casino to lose a little more money.

I was quickly done in the casino again and I wanted to take some pictures around the ship so I left Val in the casino and got my camera.  After finishing my picture taking, I returned to the room and decided to make one last push to finish going through our photos.  I’m happy to say that I have made it through all of them and managed to reduce the number of photos by quite a bit.  That’s one job I won’t have to do when we get home.

When I finished the photo, I updated the blog and then spent the rest of the afternoon reading and resting.  I’m still coughing, but feel better and hopefully by the time it’s time to get off the ship, I’ll be back to normal.  We returned to our normal evening schedule tonight with trivia, dinner and the casino.  I’m ending the cruise with the same bad luck I had at the beginning.  Oh well, at least it was pretty good in the middle.

We gain another hour of sleep tonight, that’s two days in a row.  I would have rather they saved it for tomorrow night since we’ll be arriving in Fort Lauderdale at 7:00 on Friday and we are schedule to be off the ship at 7:45.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 40, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Day 40, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

Our port today is Funchal on the island of Madeira, which is part of Portugal.  It lies 544 miles west and slightly south of Casablanca.  I'm going to quote Google Maps again for a description of Madeira.

"Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, is an archipelago comprising four islands off the northwest coast of Africa. It’s known for its namesake wine and warm, subtropical climate. The main island of Madeira is volcanic, green and rugged, with high cliffs, pebbly beaches and settlements on deltas of the Fajã River. Capital Funchal has botanic gardens and is known for its harbor and a large New Year's fireworks show."

Not a great map, but it does give you an idea of where it's located and its proximity to the Azores.
The ship docked at 8:00 this morning and there were already two other ships in port so we knew it was going to be crowded today.  We had a private tour scheduled for 9:00 this morning so we were up before 8:00.  Val didn’t sleep very well last night and woke up not feeling well, but she still wanted to go on the tour.

After eating our breakfast in the Neptune Lounge, we got off the ship and went to look for our guide.  We had a very good docking spot and were right in the center of town so we had a short walk to the terminal parking lot where we saw our guide holding a sign with Val’s name on it.  Our guide’s name was Angelo and he asked us what we wanted to do today.  He had a list of possibilities and we told him what we wanted and we were off.

We drove through the city of Funchal and then through the countryside on our way to a small fishing village.  I was surprised to learn that bananas were a big crop here and we saw huge fields on the terraced hillsides.  Madeira is a mountainous island and most everything is built up the hillside.  The other thing we noticed on our drive was how clean Madeira was and how polite the drivers were.
Those are all banana trees on the slopes/

Angelo told us about the local geography and culture as we drove and we were soon at the fishing village.  With the other two ships in port, we weren’t alone there, but it was still an interesting visit.  Unfortunately, as we walked through the village, Val began to feel worse and worse and didn’t know whether she could go on, and after discussing it, we decided it would be best to cancel our tour and return to the ship.  Val felt very bad about it as she really had wanted to see Madeira, but it’s no fun doing it while you’re not feeling well.

Angelo was very understanding and drove us back to the ship; we hope he was able to pick up another tour today so his time won’t be wasted.  The port area was bustling when we returned with dancers in traditional costumes performing near the dock.  

When we returned to the room Val went back to bed, but she encouraged me to go back out and explore the town of Funchal a bit.  I didn’t really want to do it without Val, but after a while I decided to go and got back off the ship.  There was a pedestrian promenade along the waterfront with beautiful views of the bay as well as many shops and restaurants so I decided to follow that.  It was a really nice walk, but after a couple of miles, I decided to return to the ship and see how Val was doing.  I did stop and buy my obligatory t-shirt, but other than that, I came straight back.

A wide promenade was adjacent to most of the harbor. You can see the traditional white and black paving on the promenade.  It's made of black volcanic rock and white stones.

When I got back to the room, Val was still in bed and not feeling much better, but she was hungry.  It was lunchtime so I went up to the Lido and brought her down some food and then returned and got something for myself.  After eating, Val napped and I went up on deck with my camera to take some pictures of the town from the ship.

By late afternoon Val was feeling better and decided she would go to her team trivia.  After trivia, she returned and actually said she was feeling better; great news.  I went back on deck and took some more pictures of the same things in different light.  I ended up with many pictures of the same thing, but it gave me something to do.

We were supposed to leave at 5:00 today, but they had run a test of the emergency generators and one failed so that had to be repaired before we could leave.  By this time Val was feeling almost back to normal so we got ready for dinner and were off to our pre-dinner trivia.  The ship finally sailed out of the harbor just before 7:00.

We sail away from Madeira and start our seven day Atlantic crossing.
After trivia, it was dinner and the casino and then back to the room.  Tonight, the clocks would be moved back another hour, which is always welcome.  Tomorrow is the first of seven straight sea days before we make our final stop in the Bahamas before returning to Fort Lauderdale.

Today was a disappointment for both of us as we had been looking forward to seeing Madeira, but things happen and you can’t do anything about it.  Madeira is a beautiful island, and I enjoyed just being docked there and walking around for a while, and we did get to see a little bit of it on our short tour with Angelo.