What a great experience! We had a lot of fun and were able to enjoy the company of our friends…and new friends. There were 12 of us that joined the cruise from the Salt Lake City area…. Maurine and Dave Paull, Jon and Lenore Bouwhuis, Ivan and Celeste Hogan, Steve and Sue Rigby, Joan Besst, Glenn Rigby and John and I.
4/20 – 23/2013 The ship left Ft. Lauderdale at 8:00 in the evening and headed to New York City. Pretty ironic that we flew to NYC from SLC in four hours, but it took us three days to cruise back !! The weather was cold and stormy, the sea was rough the whole way. While on the ship we had a schedule of eating breakfast around 9:00 a.m., lunch around 1:00 p.m. and dinner at 5:30 p.m. We could choose between the buffet (which is open 24 hours a day) or the dining room. Dinner was always in the dining room.
4/23/2013 We arrived in NYC at 7:00 a.m. We arranged to take an excursion put together by Legendary Journeys (the booking agency for our cruise). The guide took us through Manhattan, uptown, downtown and everything in between. We walked to the Rockefeller Center and wandered around in Time Square. We got back on the bus and saw the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Central Park, Grant’s Tomb, Harlem. Greenwich Village, SoHo and Little Italy. We walked past Ground Zero, but were unable ro walk through it because of time constraints. We saw Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge.
4/23 – 28/2013 We left New York at 11:00 p.m. for Ponta Delgada on the Azores Island. Distance from NYC to Ponta Delgada is 2251 nautical miles. While on the ship the entertainment crew had different activities to participate in like Bingo, dance lessons, gourmet cooking demos, chess lessons, quiz shows, video presentations, behind the scenes information of the MSC ship, battle of the sexes shows, newly wed shows, trivia games, cake decorating demos, fashion show, etc. Everything was planned for indoors. All activities were indoors because the weather the whole way across the ocean was cold and extremely rough. The ocean was exceptionally rough and many people were sea-sick. The captain put on the television a map that showed the ship going though the middle of two opposing storms. We were on a huge cruising ship and it was rough. I would have been more nervous if the ship had been any smaller. The ship took quite a beating. We were on the 10th floor and John saw the spray from splashing waves up past our balcony !
Each evening there was a show in the Carlo Felize Theatre. There was several operas, music concerts, magic show, dance productions, one-man show, acrobats, etc. The shows were really good, however, we did get tired of listening to Italian operas. English once in a while would have been nice.
All announcements on the ship and introductions to the shows were given in five languages by the cruise director and co-director. The introductions and closing remarks took about as long as the productions.
4/29/2013 We arrived in Ponta Delgada at 8:30 a.m. and went on an excursion sponsored by Legendary Journeys. On the tour we saw many of the most prominent features of the island. We passed along the sea-front of Ponta Delgada en route to a pineapple plantation. We saw vast greenhouses and heard a narrative explaining the complete process of cultivation and marketing of the fruit. We crossed the island through the rich agricultural areas before reaching Ribeira Grande where we visited this old Portuguese town, noted for being the largest and oldest city on the north coast. We also stopped at Pico do Ferro Belvedere Viewpoint where we had great views of the surrounding landscape and of the magnificent Furnas Valley. On the return to the ship we visited one of the most interesting natural phenomena’s in the Azores, the mineral springs. The Hot Springs & lakes are composed of 23 mineral springs spewing out hot water in a sulfur-laden atmosphere. On the southwestern part of the island you can find the Termas da Ferraria Spa, a place where natural pools are heated by thermal water, and where a Spa has been built in order to better employ the resources at hand. The Termas da Ferraria thermal springs are considered unique in the world due to the hot salty water with a high content of sulfur, which help treat rheumatism and nephritis and are also used for other illnesses. The modern Spa is a mixture of the traditional concept of thermal springs used for therapeutic and medicinal ends, with more contemporary techniques of physiotherapy, relaxation and wellness.
Many restaurants use these springs to cook their food. As you can see from the pictures, they bury the pots, let them cook for six hours, take the pots out and take them to their restaurants. We tasted the food at one of these restaurants. On the return we passed the Vila Franca do Campo, a picturesque village that was once the capital of the island.”
4/29 – 5/1-2013 We left Ponta Delgada at 5:00 p.m. and are to arrive in Lisbon on May 1st at 1:00 p.m. 779 nautical miles. We saw Fatima and Lisbon. We traveled into the scenic Portuguese countryside, approximately 90 miles to a place known as the “Lourdes of Portugal,” which according to Roman Catholicism, is the site of miracles. On May 13, 1917, three young shepherds were tending their sheep at Cova da Iria, when the sky suddenly lit up. The virgin appeared before them in an oak tree, and spoke Her message, which was repeated insistently and gravely at each appearance on the 13th day of each subsequent six months. It was a call to peace. It was particularly apt since Europe had then been in war for three years. Since the apparitions, Lourdes has become one of the world’s leading Catholic Marian shrines and the number of visitors grows each year.
We saw the Batalha Monastery which was built to thank the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory over the Castilian in the battle of Ajubarrota in 1385, fulfilling a promise of King John I of Portugal. The battle put an end to the 1383-1385 crisis.
It took over a century to build, starting in 1386 and ending circa 1517, spanning the reign of seven kings. It took the efforts of fifteen architects (Mestre das Obras da Batalha), but for seven of them the title was no more than an honorary title bestowed on them. The construction required an enormous effort, using extraordinary resources of men and material. New techniques and artistic styles, hitherto unknown in Portugal, were deployed.
On our return to the ship we had a short tour of Lisbon. Portugal’s capital is an 18th century city but was probably originally settled by the Phoenicians, then the Romans, Visigoths and the Moors. In 1755, a great earthquake destroyed the city. In the old Moorish section, which survived the quake, there are still remains of pre-quake Lisbon.
May 2 – 3, 2013 We left Lisbon at 1:00 a.m. and arrived in La Voruna, Spain at 8:a.m.; 779 nautical miles. On this tour we crossed the heart of Galicia to reach the capital Santiago. We learned of the history of Saint James. We visited the impressive Cathedral. The Cathedral, the portico Del Gloria and the Silver urn contains the ashes of St. James. We walked through the streets and picturesque squares. We walked around the Plaza del Obeadoiro, the real heart of the town and where the Hostal de Los Reyes Catolicos and rhe Palacio Rojoy are located.
May 3 – 5, 2013 We left at 5:00 p.m. from La Coruna and arrived in Dover at 6:00 a.m. on May 5th. 674 nautical miles. Today saw the city of London and all its historic sites. Places included Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, St. Pauls Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and more.
While on the ship we were able to get to know our servers, Nesia and Leo. They were helpful, very accommodating and willing to learn how to make banana splits. We also met Nesia’s wife Sylvia who worked in the Zebra Lounge. They are a cute couple that work together on different cruise lines.
May 7, 2013 Well the cruising part of our journey is over. We had to leave our rooms by 7:30 in the morning and get on the buses that took us to our hotel in Frankfurt, Germany. On the way we drove through Cologne, Germany and visited the Cologne Cathedral Tower, shopped and ate lunch. The world-famous monument: the Dom (Cathedral) started in 1248, completed in 1880 is the largest gothic building north of the Alps.
May 8, 2013 – Today we took a tour of Frankfurt and the World Famous Romantic Road to Wurtzburg. In Frankfurt we saw the old city centre, Romergberg Square and the world famous Romer Town Hall. After we left Frankfurt we headed along the Romantic Road. We shopped, toured Wurtzburg and ate lunch.
May 9, 2013 – Today we enjoyed Strasbourg, France.
May 10, 2013 Rhine Valley River Cruise & Tour – The wide deep and sluggish Rhine River flows from Switzerland into the North Sea in the Netherlands, and most of its length in the process meanders through the mountains and plains of Germany. The river has always served as a major trading route. Today we enjoyed a scenic cruise through vine-covered hillsides dotted with romantic towns and castles, many associated with fascinating legends and fables. We saw quaint villages and vineyards lining the river’s shores and more medieval castles than anywhere else in the world.
May 11, 2013 Rothenburg and the famous Romantic Road villages are considered the most beautiful in Germany. From Frankfurt we traveled to Rothenburg through the picturesque Spessart Mountain. On the bank of the river main we passed Wuerzburg and then along the Romantic Road. We had time to shop and walk around….and have lunch