Archive for March, 2013

Favalosa and back!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2013 by David Palmer

Favalosa and back!
Alarm set for 6.45 am, but woke and got up at 6.15 am. We had packed and left suit cases out side the cabin last night and they had gone. In our post box next to the door was the account for the cruise. Everything checked out except one item against the mini-bar. After we had both showered we joined the queue on Deck for accounts. It was only 6.55 am and the line was already very long! Half an hour later, it was checked, found in our favour and we were reimbursed.
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On return to the cabin we collected our hand luggage and went for a very full breakfast. We watched the ship approach the port while we ate and afterwards went onto deck to see it moor alongside the quay. The sun was out and just a few miles away over the tops of the mountains was a blanket of snow. It was bitterly cold and the wind was howling along the deck. By 9.10 am we were sat in the theatre waiting for our call to disembark. We were the first group to leave as we had a transit to Nice airport.

Disembarkation was straightforward and we were soon on the coach with our cases in the hold and sitting behind Jonathan and his mum. The journey took around two hours and wound along the coast. Many of the mountains were topped in cloud, but they slowly disappeared to leave a beautiful sunny day the further west we went. We passed through many tunnels (some of them very long) and above Monaco spotting a cruise ship in the harbour. Must be a lovely place to live.
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After having to transit from our drop-off point from Terminal 2 to Terminal 2, we checked in early. We said goodbye to Jonathan and his mum, who were catching an earlier flight than ours, and settled down to wait the 3 hours before we flew. With BA we had a nice snack on board before landing at a miserable and cold Heathrow some two hours later. Our baggage arrived quickly, but we had a freezing cold wait for the hotel Hoppa bus for the journey to the Holiday Inn. Once there we picked up our keys, found the car and set off home. We were home for 9 pm. With central heating switched on and hot water bottles made, it was off to bed after a warming cup of coffee. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Favalosa Nineteen

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2013 by David Palmer

Favalosa Nineteen
Palm Sunday today and we woke to the first grey skies and rain! Watched the rolling waves during breakfast, no sign of dolphins, they probably were staying at home. Attempted a little walk on deck, but too chilly and wet.

Continued to rain during lunch and visibility outside wasn’t great. We docked in Marseille around noon, the city looked wet and miserable through the gloom. We had been planning to go ashore and possibly get on the city tour bus, but the rain hadn’t stop and we didn’t fancy it, so after lunch we read the newspaper, drank coffee, did the crosswords and watched the rain through the windows on Deck 10. Ray and Glynnis went to disembark but the crew at the gangway told them that as it was Sunday, no shops were open, so they returned.
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The rain eventually stopped as we left port at 6pm. Marseille was just as miserable as it had been all day.

Our last evening meal on board was memorable because Mario (our waiter) performed quite a few card tricks and also bent a spoon, Uri Geller style.

On return to our cabin we started packing as when we dock in Savona we will transfer to Nice and fly back to the snow and frosts of the UK.

The evening entertainment was titled ‘Elan the Mine’. Obviously a French artist, a little lacking in material and substance (but then so is the nation). However, we did enjoy laughing at his antics and tom-foolery and despite the dismal weather outside a good time was had.
We had coffee with our dinner partners before returning to our cabin to finish packing.

Favalosa Eighteen

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2013 by David Palmer

Favalosa Eighteen
We had a relatively late break fast as we were not due to dock into Barcelona until after 1pm. Afterwards we had a good walk around the decks, but though the skies were still cloudless, there was a chill wind that made my walk in shorts and t-shirt a little bracing. When we stopped for coffee in one of the restaurants we came across our dinner partners and sat and chatted. We were all going ashore but not on an excursion (we have all been to Barcelona before). We decided to pair up with Jonathan and his mum and use the shuttle bus to the Centre.

The rest of the morning was spent (after I had changed into trousers and jumper) on the top deck under neath the funnel. It was an excellent spot out of the wind and gave us a great view of our entry into the port, we had it to ourselves as the other passengers preferred to stay inside behind glass.

As we were disembarking we had a relatively early lunch. I pigged out on the sea food with cuttlefish stew, paella and a huge plateful of mussels (if I fall overboard, I should float).

We met Jonathan and his mum on Deck 8 and left the ship with them. Costa have their own terminal so the process of leaving the ship was very quick. We caught the bus into the Centre of Barcelona, the journey only took a few minutes. Once there we found Rambla Street (where a lot of the shops are) and ambled up looking at the street artists and shops. We spent half an hour perusing the market, Sue bought a coconut and I had a coconut and pineapple fresh crush. We walked the full length of the street and then returned via the back streets for the bus pick-up.
On boarding we had the obligatory coffee. It was quite welcome as though the afternoon had been warm, later on it had started to get chilly and we were in need of some heat inside (having watched the TV and observed the snow that the UK was suffering, staying on board for another week or so might be an option).
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The evening meal was pleasant and the waiters once again lit candles and sang. Some of the singing we have heard during our trip has been exceptionally good, particularly the classical opera.

The evening entertainment was a French juggler. Quite amusing but being French he dropped too many balls and as with his country in the past, he relied on the other nationalities in the audience to pick them up for him. It was enjoyable but not great.

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Favalosa seventeen

Posted in Uncategorized on March 22, 2013 by David Palmer

Favalosa Seventeen
The clocks went forward yet again last night. Apparently at 6 am we sailed passed Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean, but Sue and I remained firmly asleep and didn’t emerge for breakfast until 9 am. One think we noticed as we ate was the number of ships we could see through the windows. Having gone for a couple of weeks and not seen any, we were now surrounded by the things. Plus, we also saw two lots of dolphins swim by before we had even finished breakfast, just shows how busy the Med is.

Our morning game of Scrabble had to be with the only board left in the library and it was German (again). We have been used to playing with the Spanish version, but the one today was a bit of a ‘mare for both of us. The values and numbers for each letter are so different from the English that what would would have been high value words resulted in fetching a very low score and vice-versa, plus the numbers of letters were not conducive to producing English words. However, like good Brits, yet again we won through and finished the game in the face of German adversity!
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We have clear blue skies again to today even though we were expecting worse as we had heard that the UK was having heavy snow. We were just off the coast of Southern Spain and we could clearly see a lot of snow on the mountains in the distance. I think this must be a very rare occurrence for so far south.
In keeping, during the late morning Sue watched an ice-carving demonstration on the deck, while I used the binoculars to observe the many ships that we seemed to be passing so quickly (20 knots).

We had lunch and spotted a couple more groups of dolphins swimming with the ship and afterwards we sat on the top deck with the binoculars enjoying the sun and looking at the many types of ship passing by. There was a meeting in one of the lounges during the afternoon to give out the information for disembarking the ship at the end of the cruise. It sounded pretty straight forward and hopefully will go smoothly. After the meeting we sat with our dinner partners and had coffee, we watched more dolphins swim with the ship for a while, before returning to the cabin and watching the atrocious weather conditions back in the UK on BBC24. Feeling a bit chilly by such news we returned on the deck and sat in the sun to warm up.

The evening meal was a Gala Dinner and again we had been invited to the Captain’s Cocktail Party before hand, this time we got dressed in our glad-rags and attended. After 3 glasses of champagne and a small glass of grappa (thank God), we left the party and joined Glynnis and Ray for dinner (Jonathan and his mum were eating in another restaurant). The waiters and cooks entertained us with more song and dance routines. We had some more champagne and a special cake (Sue wouldn’t eat mine and I had to myself, yuk).

We met Jonathan and mum in the theatre later for the evening show. It was titled ‘Vibrations’, singers and dancers with special effects. Thoroughly enjoyable, loved ‘Pinball Wizard’ and all the Abba numbers. We lost track of the number of costume changes as the songs rapidly followed each other without pause for over an hour. We had coffee as usual with our dinner partners afterwards.

Favalosa Sixteen

Posted in Uncategorized on March 21, 2013 by David Palmer

Favalosa Sixteen
This morning we woke up and found the ship had already docked in port. Blue sky and hot, even though it was still only 8 am. After breakfast we had a walk around up on deck to scan the sky-line. Casablanca is a very busy port and the cranes and container ships were already hard at it loading and unloading the many thousands of containers that we could see just around us, the port seemed to stretch way into the distance.

By 9.15 am we had disembarked and were walking along the quay with many other passengers towards the city. It was quite a trek. All Arab cities I have ever been to are an assault on your ears and this one was no exception. The car drivers just seem to lean on their hooters as a normal driving technique. Allah knows why you should pay any attention to one beep as apposed to another as they are all at it! After around 20 minutes walking and gambling the traffic we found the Medina.
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We wandered through the rabbit warren of alleyways and streets looking for nothing in particular but ended up on several occasions bartering for things that caught our eye. After a few purchases, we knew we had done well when the final deal was a tiny fraction of the opening gambit and we could see with satisfaction that the look on the shopkeeper’s face was one of disgust. But, when you are hardened Hedge Fund managers like Sue and I, we know that it is a loss of face to an Arab if he enters into serious negotiations (with dollars) and thinks the shop next door might persuade us with a more tempting offer. When we had enough of the clamour and attention grabbing traders we walked back to the ship for lunch.
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After lunch we picked up the bus number of our excursion to Rabat. We were again one of the first on the bus. Jonathan and his mother were also on the trip. The guide we had was a young Arab girl and was very good (she needed to be). The journey to Rabat took asleepy one and a half hours and Sue had a little doze on the way. As we entered the outskirts of the city a local Taxi ran into the back of our bus as we left a roundabout. The driver and guide after much arm waving and gesticulations with the Taxi driver resolved the situation and the journey continued.

We arrived at the King’s palace a little late and after a whirlwind visit of the toilets (I visited these on the way back and didn’t meet the king), his mosque and then his palace, we returned to the coach. As palaces go, it is at the bottom of our list for size, architecture and interest. It just shaded the toilets (which appropriately were at the front of the Mosque, heresy!!!).
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We next saw the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. It was quite pretty but not of any substantial size. The main interest was the Islamic fanatacist who attacked our guide, rebuking her for not treating the Mausoleum with sufficient respect by talking loudly to us infidels. She wouldn’t go away and had to be restrained by a guy who I assumed was a relative. When things calmed down we got back on the bus and travelled to the Medina. There we had a very short walk through the streets, before returning to the coach for the journey back. Sue managed to negotiate with a street trader for an amber and silver necklace before she got on the bus.
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It was dark (7.45 pm) by the time we boarded the ship and after a quick change we went to the restaurant on Deck 10. We had our meal with Jonathan and his mother. The entertainment in the theatre was a video of a Pavaroti concert, we briefly watched it before returning to the cabin to watch TV.

Favalosa Fifteen

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2013 by David Palmer

Favalosa Fifteen
Back at sea. Late breakfast (9 am). Blue skies, puffy white clouds in the distance, sea swell but no white horses. Sue saw her first whale, she noticed the spout first then spotted it keeping pace with the ship for a around 5 minutes before giving up and diving. She thinks it was a lone male.

During the morning we played scrabble in the library (German board), it was a tough, long game, the letters and combinations didn’t make for easy play. Afterwards we had coffee on Deck 10 and met Ray and Glynnis and had a long chat. They gave Sue the ‘Express’ so that was her afternoon sorted. I have finished my book and attempted to download one off the net, but the Googlebooks update has a bug in it and is preventing me from doing so (annoying).
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At lunch we were joined by Jonathan, his mother wasn’t feeling too well because of the swell and was laying in her cabin. We put the world to rights over salad and then each went our different ways. It is another lazy day, we do not dock until 7 am tomorrow in Casablanca.

Around 4p m I found Sue on Deck 10 and we made our way to the restaurant for coffee and paninis and then had a walk around the ship. Though the sky was cloudless the wind had a chill to it and most people on deck were wearing jumpers or were laying on sun lounges wrapped in blankets (defeats the point), we could tell we were moving ever north. During the afternoon more were whales sighted.

The evening meal dictated we were to be dressed in red, green and white (couldn’t work out why). It is Italian night! We were treated to napkin waving songs, women dancing with the waiters and it was all finished off with a conga. A rather inebriated Irish passenger (aren’t they all) stood up and sang a song to the Italians (we were to annoyingly see a lot of this gentleman over the next week or so). Our waiter showed us another trick, and I showed the waiter a trick (but it didn’t work and cost me 2 Euro!)
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The entertainment in the theatre was an entertainer called Mike Pidone, his one man show was exceptional. He had a tremendous voice and sang tributes to Frank Sinatra, Pavaroti, Cruso etc. His stage presence was one of the best, if not the best I have seen, he knew how to work an audience. He did a take off of Ray Charles on the piano that was unbelievable. However, the Irish gentleman I mentioned earlier in the evening proved a bit of a problem for him. Pidone had met him in the bar earlier (surprise, surprise) and when he spotted him on the front row, invited him on the stage to sing a verse of ‘Moon River’. Mistake! Once up and singing he was difficult to shut up and embarrassingly when he was encouraged to sit back in his seat, after he had completed the entire song, he got back onto the stage to thank the Italian audience and wrap his green towel around Pidone. Thankfully he remained in his seat for the rest of the performance (or left to visit the bar again). Pidone’s version of Nessum Dorma as an encore was superb.

Afterwards on the way to the restaurant for coffee, another Irish lady in the lift to the upper decks we were sharing apologised and said she felt ashamed for being Irish (so they don’t all drink Guinness).

We sate with Jonathan and his mum for coffee and Mike Pidone came over and chatted. Nice bloke and fluent in at least 5 languages.

Favalosa Fourteen

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2013 by David Palmer

Favalosa Fourteen
Choppy sea during the night. We could feel the motion of the ship in bed, but it didn’t prevent a good nights sleep. The deck was wet when we woke for breakfast so it could have rained during the night. I checked the cabin TV to see if we were in port, the ship has CCTV front and aft so you can watch the sea go by from the comfort of your cabin, we were still at sea and the sky looked cloudy. By the time we had emerged for yet another early break fast we noticed that it felt decidedly chillier outside. As we ate breakfast, Madeira emerged from the clouds and we could see the high cliffs, Funchal and the mountain backdrop. The ship docked as we ate. The clouds moved away, the sun came out and blue reigned supreme again. The waves had numerous little white tops on them all the way to the horizon, a magical sight with the sun glinting and sparkling off the rolling breakers.
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We had booked an excursion and as we knew the routine now, we didn’t bother waiting and queuing, we got our bus number and disembarked. As expected, we had first choice of seats and waited for the other passengers. For once it was just us English on the coach (a shame as my German is really started to improve).

The first stop was a view point high up in the mountains for photos. From there we went even higher to the top of Pico dos Barcelos to catch our ‘cestinhos’ back down. A ‘cestinhos’ is a wicker sledge shaped basket that you sit in and it is guided down the mountain road by two locals dressed in traditional gear. I videoed our journey down. I was expecting a short ride of around 100 – 200m, but in length it must have been around a mile or so. We stopped around half way for photos, the ‘runners’ they waxed the runners and really showed us the speed they could reach on the 2nd leg (Sue bought a T-shirt in the shop at the bottom). Good fun, I think a must do if you ever visit Madeira.
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Our next stop was again on top of a mountain for more photos. There was a little market, which we wandered around. A (Chilean look-a-like)duo were playing a small guitar and pan-pipes under a tree (they could have been Peruvian), as we arrived they were playing “Halleluya”, it seemed quite appropriate (they could have known Bob Dylan), the views were stunning.
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After less slithery journey down the mountain we next had a drive through Funchal, stopping in the center. After a short walk we visited a 17th century wine house and sampled some Madeira wine, rather sweet for my and Sue’s taste, but that didn’t prevent me from buying a bottle. We then had an hour and a half to walk around the town and sample its delights. We strolled around and joined the many holiday makers and locals (who were about to take lunch). We finished our walk in an park overlooking the harbour (good view of the ship) close to where we were to catch the bus back.
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On return to the ship we met Jonathan and his mum returning from a trip to the Botanical Gardens. We passed through security with them and then met them in the restaurant for lunch. That afternoon they were going to Reid’s (poshest hotel on the island) for afternoon tea. We had elected to read our books and relax after all that exercise on a sunny deck and look at Funchal through the binoculars.

During the evening meal we chatted among ourselves about what we all had done that day and it turned out we all had very different experiences. Our waiter gave us a puzzle to work out (which we failed at) and he had to show us the solutuion. We met Jonathan and his mother in the atrium after dinner and we walked to the theatre and looked at previous cruises they had been on (on his ipad) until the show started. It was titled ‘Mercedes and Zoltan’, it was a clever acobatic/balletic act with a talented violinist displaying her talents between routines. Very enjoyable and different. We had teas and coffee with them in the restaurant at the back of the ship afterwards.