Friday, January 26, 2018

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 35, At Sea

Friday, November 24, 2017
Day 35, At Sea

After four straight days of ports, today is a welcome break from all our activity.  We have seen and done some wonderful things, but it wears you down.  I slept well last night, but woke up early and decided to get up and work on the blog as I have fallen behind.  I made notes every day, but just didn’t have time to do a full writeup so my plan is to get as much done today before we reach our next port tomorrow.

After Val got up, we went down to the Neptune Lounge to have some breakfast and ran into Chris and Dennis, our tour mates from the first day in Malta.  We sat and talked for a while until our room was cleaned.  Dennis showed us some of the photos he had taken on Gozo which was nice since we haven’t even had time to look at ours yet.

After the room was cleaned, we returned and I went back to work on the blog.  We did receive a notice that the tour we booked in Cadiz, Spain had been cancelled due to a lack of interest so we decided to just go out on our own and not try to book another tour.  While I worked on the blog, Val read until it was getting near lunchtime.

We went up to the Lido and it looked like everyone on the ship was there to have lunch at the same time, very crowded.  After lunch Val was off to trivia and I was back to the blog.  When Val returned from her trivia, we took the computer and looked at more of our pictures.  We made it up to the first day in Malta, but we are still three days behind.

I returned to the room and got all the way caught up on the blog and then spent what was left of the afternoon relaxing.  Tonight was another formal night in the dining room so it took a little longer to get ready before we started our usual routine of trivia, dining room and casino before calling it a day.  Tomorrow we visit Gibraltar, but it’s like half a sea day as we don’t arrive until 1:00.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 34, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

Thursday, November 23, 2017
Day 34, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

Happy Thanksgiving from Cagliari, Italy on the island of Sardinia.  It seems a little strange to be away from our families on the holiday and equally strange to be in a different country that doesn’t even celebrate Thanksgiving. 

Today we didn’t arrived port at 9:00, but we couldn’t sleep in too much as we have a ship excursion scheduled called “A Taste of Sardinia”.  It was another sunny day so our stretch of good weather is holding.  After a bite to eat in the Neptune Lounge we were off to the showroom to wait for our tour to be called.  Our tour was quickly called and we were off the ship and on our way by 9:45.

The first part of our tour was a tour of the old walled city part of Cagliari.  The walled city was built on a slope so we were driven to the top and walked down through the city which is much better than being dropped off at the bottom and having to walk up as it was pretty steep in places.  Our guide led us down through the winding streets pointing out landmarks and filling us in on the history.  This walled city was not as impressive as some we have seen on the cruise which I think was partially due to the fact that we have seen many on this trip, but also because unlike many of the walled cities we have seen, this is still an urban area and there was much activity and traffic as we walked through it.  Despite that, we did enjoy our walk through it.

We enter the old city through the upper gate.
The view of Cagliari from above.


As we saw throughout Europe, there was a lot of graffiti, but some of it was quite good.

The bus picked us up at the end of our walk and we headed out of town to a village where we would go to a villa where we would have a traditional Sardinian lunch while we were entertained by Sardinian musicians and dancers.  We followed the coast until we turned inland towards the village we were visiting. On one side of the road was the Mediterranean while on the other were large salt evaporation ponds.  The interesting thing about the ponds were the large number of pink flamingos that made them their home.  Our guide said maybe we could stop on the way back to the ship and view and take pictures of the flamingos.

We arrived in the village and the bus dropped us off in the center of town where we were met by one of our hosts in full Sardinian traditional dress.  He led us down a side street where we entered a very nondescript plain building into a courtyard that was nothing like we expected.  There was a large tree with branches that spread over and shaded the whole courtyard.  There were tables set with white table clothes on one side and the entire area was surrounded by the villa itself.  We were greeted by more of the family dressed in traditional dress handing out a pre-meal glass of wine to everyone that wanted it and an accordion player and guitarist playing music for us.  It was like stepping into another world.

We were greeted by family members playing traditional Sardinian instruments as we walked in.
Val with the family patriarch.

Our guide translated while for us.
We were seated and while we were served our first course of a cheese and meat plate, we were serenaded as the musicians walked from table to table.  They were very good and we really enjoyed the music.  Besides the first course there was bread and fresh vegetables on the table with water and plentiful amounts of wine to drink.

The whole courtyard was shaded by the branches from just one tree.

We were served another cheese plate, but this time with four different types of cheese.  I thought they were all very good except for a creamy type cheese which neither Val nor I particularly cared for.  In the meantime, dancers had joined the musicians and the show was on.  Everyone who served and entertained was from the family that lived at the villa and the patriarch introduced the entertainment, but our guide had to translate as he didn’t speak English.  Besides the music and dancing there was a lot of singing as all of the entertainers had very good singing voices.  Even the family patriarch sang and he really had a good voice.  The food kept coming, the musicians kept playing, the singers kept singing and the dancers kept coming and everyone was having a great time; this was certainly much more than anyone had expected for the day.

Finally the dessert course arrived which looked and tasted delicious.  The first thing we were served was a donut like pastry but had kind of a creamy center and it was very good.  Then we were served a plate of a type of cookie that I’m not really familiar with, but they were also delicious.  We were all very full, but very, very happy.   

Donut like pastries were served and the sure were good.

I don't know what these were, but they were also very good.

All too soon it was time to go back to the real world and get onto the bus, but no one wanted to leave.  After saying our thanks and goodbyes to the family members we reluctantly walked back to the town square and the bus.  For a few hours we all felt that we had been transformed back to a traditional Sardinian family gathering that we remember.  It certainly wasn’t a Thanksgiving that we are used to, but it is one we will always remember; it almost made us forget we were missing our families.

All too soon, it was time to leave.
We made our way back to the town center to catch the bus back.
We were supposed to stop at a scenic viewpoint overlooking the city and harbor on the way back, but we had stayed too long at the villa and were way behind schedule so we skipped that, but we did stop along the salt ponds to and though we didn’t have time to get out, we did get some flamingo pictures from the bus.

Val got these flamingo pictures through the bus window.

The tour was supposed to end at 2:00, but we didn’t get back until three, but we still had plenty of time before the all aboard.  Before we got off the bus we were treated to what appeared to be some sort of an argument between our bus driver and guide and a port security person over where we could park the bus.  There was much hand waving and fast loud talking in Italian, but things eventually settled and we parked and got off the bus.  I don’t know whether it was a real argument or something for the tourists, but whatever it was, it was entertaining to us.

When we got back to the room, I downloaded our pictures, made some notes on our days tour and then backed everything up.  We relaxed a while and then got ready for dinner and did our usual routine of trivia, dinner and the casino.  One of the menu items tonight in the dining room was a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner so we opted for that and although it wasn’t as good as we usually have, it was pretty good.

So, we had a very different Thanksgiving today and one we won’t soon forget.  Tomorrow is a sea day which makes everyone happy after four straight port days and we will welcome the rest.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 33, Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Day 33, Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Today we are in Palermo, Italy on the island of Sicily, which is famous for being the birthplace of the Mafia.  Palermo is a big city with a population of around 1.2 million in the metropolitan area.  Like so many cities we have visited on this trip, it is also very old, founded in 734 BC.

We sail into Palermo.
We didn’t dock until 10:00 so we slept in until 9:00 after a very good night’s sleep.  Today we have a Cruise Critic tour organized by roll call member Julie.  We will be visiting an olive oil factory and a winery where we will have lunch and wine tasting.

We met with our tour group at 10:00 in the Ocean Bar and then went to  the pier where we met our tour guide, Alfie, and were happy to see there were two minibuses instead of the three vans they had scheduled.  The minibuses are much more comfortable than the cramped seating of vans.  The first part of our tour was a slow drive through Palermo mainly due to the very heavy traffic, but it also gave us a good look at the city as Alfie described the history and culture.

The term Mafia is actually a generic term, which refers to any criminal organization, so the Sicilian Mafia is actually called the Cosa Nostra.  A lot of the later history revolved around the Mafia and evidently 40 years ago, Palermo was a very dangerous town that nobody would visit.  At one point, two men decided they’d had enough and started a campaign to make Palermo safe again.  After 13 years they actually succeeded, but were killed themselves. However, by that time, it was too late for the Mafia and they were largely ineffective from that point on.  People were joking that the Mafia is probably stronger in the US now than it is in Sicily.

After leaving Palermo, we drove through the countryside and made our first stop in a small village to visit an olive oil factory.  This was a small neighborhood processing plant where local people brought in small batches of olives and then picked up their olive oil in small containers, which they carried home.  It was very interesting and we got to sample some freshly processed olive oil as it came out of the spigot into the container.  Alfie had brought bread for us to put the olive oil on and the taste was very different, and much better than the olive oil we get in stores.  It is much stronger, earthy, and the olive taste is much more prominent.

Olives waiting to be processed.
They're brought in the pressing plant.
Washed and then pressed.

And out comes olive oil.

Very good!
From there we continued our drive through the countryside of Sicily.  Sicily is very agricultural and as a lot of places we have visited on this trip, reminded us of the area we live in.  Our drive ended at the historical Principe Di Corleone Winery, which has been run by the same family since 1892.  It is about a mile from the town of Corleone, which is infamous for being the birthplace of five of the most powerful Mafia leaders.  It just so happened that today was the funeral of one of those early leaders who had just died in prison a few days earlier.

The grounds of the winery were beautiful.

This is where we would be having lunch.
The patio area.

More of the vineyards.
We were given a tour of the winery and the processes were explained as we went.  Since Val and I live in wine country and the owner of the company I worked at before I retired also owned a winery, this wasn’t anything new or of much interest to Val and I.  Val and I really enjoyed the beautiful day and the beautiful area.

Although the winery owner's son (in the tie on the left) spoke pretty good English, some things had to be translated by our guide, Alfie (in the middle).
This was a pretty good sized winery.

After the tour we were led to a patio before lunch where wine was served and  everyone seemed to really enjoy the wine.  After that, we went into the dining room where we were served a delicious Sicilian dinner.  First we were served several different dishes and all of us thought that was our dinner, but it turned out that was only the antipasto course and it was followed by several main pasta courses.  We were all full, but it was all delicious.  Throughout the dinner, various wine pairings were served and our hosts were very generous. 

Time to eat.
Alfie and Val

Alfie serving Val one of the pasta courses.

Finally, it was time for dessert and a plate of cannolis was served. These, we were told, were made the traditional way using sheep milk.  Everyone groaned at more food, but they soon disappeared as they were delicious.  After dinner wine was served (again) and the chef came out and was introduced to a round of applause. People were given the opportunity to buy some of the wine and many took advantage of it as they said it was excellent.

These cannolis were so good.  And they were made the traditional way using sheep milk.
The owner's son and general manager, Alfie, the general manager's son and our driver and second guide.
One last picture of the beautiful vineyards before we leave.
Finally it was time to board the bus and there were many happy, but very full people on the ride back to the ship.  We were actually supposed to drive back through Corleone, but we had spent too much time at the winery and didn’t have time.  It took us about an hour to drive back through the same countryside we saw on our way out, but the sun was going down and it gave everything that golden glow that you see near sunset.

All aboard today was at 5:30 and we arrived back at the ship in plenty of time at 5:00.  There were street vendors outside the terminal so we spent some time looking through them before getting back on the ship.  Even though Val and I didn’t drink any wine, we thoroughly enjoyed our tour today.  Alfie was a very good and personable host and the drive through the countryside gave us a good feel for what Sicily is like.  We especially enjoyed the visit to the olive oil factory, and the winery and dinner was very, very good.

We were still pretty full from lunch so we decided to skip going to the dining room, but we did go to trivia.  We also decided to visit the casino and were glad we did, I had a good night and Val had an even better night.  Tomorrow we will visit our last port of the cruise in Italy, Cagliari on the island of Sardinia.