A Travellerspoint blog


Cruise Day 24 – Las Palmas

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Day 83 Tuesday 7 December - “Cruise Day 24 – Las Palmas”

An uneventful night at sea and we arrived at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in brilliant sunshine at 11 am. A surprisingly busy and extensive port. The Cunnard Queen Elisabeth was docked on one side and we occupied the other side of the main pier.
fter an early lunch we stepped ashore with only a five minute walk to the city. Along the way we passed two 'square rigged' ships – one from Germany the other from Great Britain. They look very stately but quite small when compared to the Jade and the Queen Elisabeth.

We walked around the area close to the port and enjoyed the pedestrian friendly nature of the area. Lots of fancy shops, restaurants and cafes. In the main 'down-town' area there were many elegant department stores featuring many of the high fashion international brands. Jenny felt that the prices were quite reasonable.

The city is certainly one of the cleanest and most modern we've visited. There are still narrow alleys and some erratic driving but generally a relaxing visit. After about three hours on our feet and with the temperature in the high twenties we were happy to return to the ship.

The Stardust show tonight was a 'Tribute to Celine Dion by an English singer Tracey Shield. She had a marvellous voice but I personally couldn't relate to the songs.

We've hit a significant Atlantic swell and with a strong wind on our port beam the Jade is making some interesting movements.

Posted by greynomadm 13:22 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Cruise Day 21 - at Sea

Day 80 Saturday 4 December - “Cruise Day 21 – at Sea”

There was a surprise or two in our 'letter-box' this morning. Along with the regular 'Daily' there were three envelopes. One was an invitation to join the Captain for cocktails in the 'Courtyard' on deck 14, an area usually reserved for the residents of the penthouse suites. Another contained a letter from the Hotel Director inviting us to have breakfast and lunch in the exclusive 'Star Lounge' for the remainder of the cruise. The final envelope contained a voucher for any of the speciality restaurants including a bottle of wine. We are being given the VIP treatment.
hecked with reception regarding a cruise map we'd partly organised during the first 7 day cruise. Our contact had gone on holiday but she'd left a note against our cabin number so there was no drama. The map shows the route of each cruise and an abbreviated log of the cruise. Normally they are one map per cruise but I'd arranged to have all three combined on one. No problem, it would be available in two or three days and it would be delivered in a mailing tube. Just as well because it would have been wrecked if we'd tried to pack it.

We had lunch in the Star Lounge, an experience far removed from the hustle and bustle of the Garden Cáfe. Excellent food, great choices on the menu and full silver service, but a bit sterile and lacking in atmosphere. We may try it again from time to time but didn't feel totally comfortable there. Nice to get the VIP treatment but a bit rich for our tastes.

There was a talk on Morocco and Casablanca by Gaby which has certainly whetted our expectations for tomorrow. There are conflicting opinions, some say the place is fantastic others claim it is not much better than Cairo. We'll go ashore and make up our own minds.

Gary provided an interesting half-hour lesson on how to survive in Spanish, his advise is similar to what he told us about Italian. Don't talk to them, don't let them talk to you – ask them to draw it on your map. Sounds good but it didn't work for us in Barcelona.

During the afternoon the land on our starboard side, Spain, showed snow-covered peaks. There has been some early heavy snow falls all over Europe. Tomorrow in Casablanca it is forecast to be 21, crazy temperatures.

After dinner we assembled in the stair-well on deck 13 mid-ship where the hostess escorted us up to deck 14 for the cocktail party. The courtyard is an area for the exclusive use of the high-rollers and comprises their own mini fitness centre, a pool and a hot tub all surrounded by comfortable lounges in a tropical setting. It was great to see how the other 5% live.

On return to the cabin we found a plate with chocolate dipped strawberries, complements of the Hotel Manager. It appears we are two of only seven people on board who are doing the three cruise back to back. Two Aussie couples and three Canadians.

Just after 8 pm we passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, Europe to starboard and Africa to port.

Posted by greynomadm 13:28 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Cruise Day 20 - Barcelona

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Day 79 Friday 5 December - “Cruise Day 20 – Barcelona”

The Jade docked at 5 am and we didn't even notice. It had been suggested that we vacate the ship as they went through the process of sterilising the cabins and public areas. So we stepped ashore to have another look at Barcelona – there's a stiff breeze and the temperature hasn't made it to double figures.
We s
trolled up La Rambla which was much more subdued at 9:30 on a Friday and had a proper look at the Market. There is an amazing variety of produce available and it all looks extremely fresh and apparently inexpensive. Many of the items being sold are unrecognisable, one looked like the skinned head of a lamb or goat, what you would do with it I have no idea. Much of the fresh fish also defies my ability to recognise. It appears that just about anything you can drag out of the sea is for sale.

We'd picked up some post-cards and wanted to mail them. So we had to find the Post Office. After asking three different people we finished up in a bank which was almost next to the Post Office. From the outside it is indistinguishable from a bank and inside it is strictly postal business and money transfers only. I didn't even see postage packaging or pre-paid envelopes. You take a number from a machine and hope you make the correct choice. Then you sit and wait until your number comes up above one of the tellers, quite civilised once you get the hang of it.

Found a McDonald’s and bought a small packet of fries so that we could use the toilets. This one has three floors with quite a few tables occupied by people using the WiFi Internet. Wandered back to the dock-side and used the Port-Bus to get back to the ship. The only queue we had to line up for was the security scan. It felt pretty good to know where we were going when the majority of the people were obviously somewhat confused.

We were 'welcomed' aboard again, had some lunch and retired to the cabin to read and snooze and keep out of the way of all the new passengers. Looks like there's a lot of German and Dutch people on board. There's also a significant number of Americans. One advantage of being in the same cabin again is that we didn't have to attend the 'boat drill'.

Figured we could do without the welcome show tonight so we were back in 5574 by about 7 pm. We cast off about 7:30 pm heading for Casablanca, 720 nautical miles away, where we are due to arrive at 8 am the day after tomorrow. As we're heading East, our clocks are to be put back an hour. That means adjusting time on my watch, the camera and the computer. We've done that so often it is becoming quite routine.

Posted by greynomadm 11:29 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Cruise Day 18 & 19- Malta & a Sea Day

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Day 77 Wednesday 1 December - “Cruise Day 18 – Valletta Malta”

Lazy breakfast today, we're not due until 11 am. The sky is very overcast and again there's a fog or mist drawing the sea and the sky together. First thing we notice is the many ships lying off the East Coast of Malta.

Right on schedule we enter the harbour of Valletta which is surrounded by massive old fortifications. The facilities are quite extensive, including commercial docks and even a dry-dock. The buildings are built on the almost sheer cliffs and reminds me of Monaco but here the buildings are ancient. The temperature is quite mild as we walk ashore and find the local bus which takes us to the centre of the city for just 1 €.

The trip in is quite interesting with many narrow sections and a series of switch-backs as we climb up the cliff. Traffic is very light and sensibly on “our” side of the road – a heritage of the British. The streets inside the city walls are very pedestrian friendly with little if any vehicle traffic. Also missing are the crowds and the garbage we've experienced in the recent past.

The general atmosphere is very relaxed and we had no trouble finding our way around as most of the streets follow a sensible grid pattern. We found and visited the St John's Cathedral. Not on the scale of Rome's Basilica but what it lacked in size it made up in grandeur and extent of its decorations.

Wandered back to the ship and managed to record some images of the harbour from the vantage points along the way. It was interesting to see our ship tied up next to a naval destroyer which I think was flying the German flag.

Another excellent dinner and we're encouraged to attend the Chocoholic Buffet in the Garden Cáfe at 10:30, not sure if we'll still be awake but it sounds good. We decide to skip the show in the Stardust and wander up to the library to exchange some books. We are certainly getting in plenty of reading.

The Chocoholic Buffet was more than anything we'd expected. The most incredible array of chocolate deserts, sculptures and displays, a feast for the eye as well as the tongue. I spent the first few minutes trying to capture the trays and trays of decadence, then ignored the camera and grabbed a plate. We'd managed a few minutes of preview because the Indian Maitre D from the Grand Pacific had whisked us in the back way.

Day 78 Thursday 2 December - “Cruise Day 19 – at Sea”

The sea's a bit rougher today, there are 'sick bags' distributed throughout the public areas. The disease control protocol is still in place which slows down the food distribution at the 'buffet' which is now a form of silver service. A lot more work for the staff and some of the passengers are upset about it, I can't understand why.

Attended a meeting of the passengers who are continuing on the next cruise, there were about 100 people there and doubtlessly as many again who didn't bother to turn up. The Captain explained what the processes would be in Barcelona and advised us all to leave the ship for two or three hours. He explained that the entire ship was to be fumigated before the new passengers would be allowed to board. There is no hard evidence that there is an infection but he insists that it is a necessary precaution.

We were told that we should pack away any items in our cabin that are normally left on the bedside table or vanity. When it came to questions one of our fellow attendees asked if the sterilising agent would effect any medication – Hello !! It is supposed to be packed away – somewhere there's a village looking for their resident idiot.

There wasn't a lot happening so we exchanged books and spent most of the afternoon making up for the late night yesterday. Dinner in the Grand Pacific again, all new dishes we hadn't previously tried. Not bad after 19 days, even the desserts had some new entries.

Decided to give the 'show' a miss tonight and leave room for those who hadn't previously seen it as there's only one show tonight.

Posted by greynomadm 10:20 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Cruise Days 7 & 8 - Palma de Mallorca & Barcelona

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Day 65 Friday 19 November - “Cruise Day 6 – At Sea - PS”

This Post Script is mainly to record our impressions of tonight's Stardust performance. The stage set-up was way beyond what we've got used to and the show took all the members of the ensemble, the magician and the strong-man. The title was “Elements” and the theme were the traditional elements of earth, air, water and fire. There were mermaids 'swimming' from the ceiling, the strong man and his partner took to the air and the magician performed illusions involving water and fire. As a finale every member of the cast came out decked in white and sprinkled what looked like snow flakes from every possible vantage point. A truly amazing show.

Day 66 Saturday 20 November - “Cruise Day 7 – Palma de Mallorca”

The ship arrived at about the scheduled time and after a relatively early breakfast we went ashore. The shuttle bus took us around the harbour to just below the Le Seu Catedral. All along the road the seaward side is packed with sailing yachts and power cruisers of various sizes.

We found our way to the cathedral but were turned away as there was a service in progress and the signs indicated we should return after 10. We wandered through the many alleys and lanes of the old quarter locating many of the significant buildings marked on our map.

By about 9:45 we'd been walking for the best part of two hours and the inevitable call of nature had to be satisfied. Jenny needed to buy some salve and we asked the lady in the pharmacy where there was a public toilet – her reply “There are none. What you have to do is buy a coffee at a cafe or bar and use their toilet.” There was a bar of sorts just around the corner and that's what we did. You don't pay for the loo as such but you don't get to go unless you buy something. I guess we'll just have to get used to it.

After satisfying nature's call we climbed back up to the cathedral and paid the entry fee. The structure is ancient, massive and impressive. In addition to the main altar there are a number of chapels along both sides of the main church. Each chapel is dedicated to a particular saint or religious event. In addition to this central attraction there are a number of display cases two of which housed a single silver candelabrum that must have been over 150 cm tall and weighed many kilos.

We spent well over an hour in the cathedral and then wandered along the city wall to finally find our way back to the foreshore and a waiting shuttle bus. On return to the ship we had a late lunch and spent what remained of the afternoon in our cabin.

We were most impressed with Palma de Mallorca. It is beautifully located on the Bahia de Palma, it is clean (a feature not shared by many places we've visited) and the traffic – at least on a Saturday morning, appeared to adhere to some set of rules. Looking at the map of the island it would appear to be a place where one could spend a week or two poking around the many small ports and villages.

On the way to diner we met the magician in the corridor. Jenny made some smart remark along the lines of “could he make him disappear?” pointing to me. Quick as a flash he produced an iPod out of Jenny's right ear. Then he muttered some mumbo-jumbo and asked her to blow on it and it turned into a golf-ball sized sphere which he then swallowed. A hearty wave and he continued on his way.

The 'crew' show was along similar lines to that on the Star on the Alaska cruise. Very entertaining and some seriously good talent aboard this ship. The most unlikely act was the executive chef from “the kingdom of Bavaria” who had a remarkable voice and all together enjoyed himself way too much.

Day 67 Sunday 21 November - “Cruise Day 8 – Barcelona”

We wake up along side in Barcelona. An early breakfast and we pack our bags for the transfer to our new cabin. All very simple and painless. We then retired to the Spinnaker Lounge to avoid the activity as over 2,000 people found their way off the ship. It was a bit like ants scurrying out of a net being flooded. Quiet descended and the only activity was the crew preparing for the onslaught of over 2,000 new passengers coming aboard. It was interesting to observe all this activity without being a part of it.

Spent part of the afternoon unpacking our gear in the new cabin and attending the Emergency Evacuation Drill. Then diner again in the Grand Pacific and working out what to have from the same menu we had a week ago. A number of the staff had already apologised for the duplication but we didn't have a problem finding something else to eat.

We decided to give this evening's show a miss and spent the time catching up with this blog. Tomorrow is a 'sea' day and we've already found four or five things we may like to do. One thing is for certain, we won't be bored.

Posted by greynomadm 00:23 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

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