Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Half of 42 Day Cruise


OCTOBER 20  -  November 30, 3012 

Here are pictures of my 42 day cruise to the Mediterranean aboard the Holland America ship Maasdam.  This is just a sampling of some 4000 picture that were taken on the trip. The cruise departed Ft. Lauderdale on Friday, October 20, 2012. I did not get to proof read the blog, so bear with me if any glammer or spelling errors.

Day 1 & 2 ... At Sea

Day 3 ... St Maarten  

We started the cruise heading southeast toward St Martin, and after 2 days at sea, arrival on Monday 10/22. It was a nice sunny day, so it was off to the beach to. After a day at the beach it was back to the ship for first formal night. After diner headed to the Sport's Bar to see if any game is on TV.

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Day 4 & 10 ...  At Sea

Day 11...  Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Spain 

After 7 days at sea, arrived Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands,Spain at 8am. The weather was cloudy and some rain during the day. Boarded a bus day to view the diverse scenery of the island from the beaches to the mountains. First stop was at Las Teresitas Beach, a mile-long strip of beach with 216,000 tons of golden sand imported from the former Spanish Sahara. Leaving the coastal road, the bus climbed to El Bailadero, the highest point offering views over the wild landscape. We then made our way to the old Spanish capital city of La Laguna, staunchly maintaining its colonial atmosphere at an altitude of 1,800 feet. While there,visited La Iglesia del Cristo Church where you will find examples of Gothic-Baroque architecture and a rich altar adorned in shining silver.

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Day 12 ...  Las Palmas de Gran Canaria , Spain

Up early, had breakfast in room and then out the cabin for my tour.  It was a 30-minute drive from the pier to the vast volcanic Bandama Crater. At 650 feet deep, the caldera is a stunning sight. To the far right was a golf course, I would not want to drive to the left. From the edge of this extinct volcano you’ll take in the sweeping view of the valley and the city of Las Palmas in the distance. Took a stroll along the cobblestone streets and see the outside of the Church of Our Lady of the Pines. Of the numerous landscaped parks and gardens in the city of Arucas, a visit to Marquesa’s Garden was included. This lovely respite was packed with an extensive collection non-native tropical plants. Here we had time to relax and enjoy a banana liqueur.

On the way back stopped by Mickey D's for some free wifi at the Marina Mall.. a three story mall adjacent to the cruise docks ships, Internet down to a crawl.

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                                                   Our Lady of the Pines Church

                                                Church of San Juan Bautista

Day 13 ...  Arrecife, Canary Islands 

This was one of the BEST of the 42 day cruise.  Toured the Montana de Fuego, or the mountain of fire, in Timanfaya National Park on the island of Lanzarote, as the ship docked in the port of Arrecife. Craters..craters and volcanic rock everywhere outside of the city which looks like a a 'moonlike' landscape. Lanzarote is like no other place in the world,  volcanic eruptions to cover three fourths of the island’s 324-square-mile surface. The best was the half hour Camel ride that keep us laughing and having fun and which took us up the slopes of a volcano. Since rain is scarce here, farmers have devised ingenious cultivation methods to grow vegetables in fields of black lava that are watered only by sea mist. Grape vines thrive in cinder pits called zocos, and porous lava granules allow dew to filter down to the roots. The result is a fresh, golden wine called Malvasía which we got to taste at La Geria, on  our way back to the port.

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Day 14 ... At Sea

Day 15  ...  Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanka  another great day of weather with the temperature in the mid to high 70's and sunny. we took a tour highlighted by visiting the INSIDE of the Great Mosque (Hassan II Mosque), quite an impressive vast interior. It is the size of 4 football fields and the roof opens up.  We also  briefly visit the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church and the central market. We then walked the streets and of the residential district as well as visiting the 'olive markets'..seeing the Presidential Palace along the way. While stopping by Ain Diab Resort we enjoy a refreshment drink and a look at the beach.  A fun day as we past by Rick's Place for a final photo-stop.

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Day 16  ...  Tangier, Morocco

Just before sunrise we passed by Tangier Lighthouse Point,  just west of the Straits of Gibraltar heading to Tangier for an early morning arrival. From the pier, we drove through a California-style residential area, then follow the charming road through the romantic landscape of the Rif Mountains to Cap Spartel. This area boasts a beautiful view of the point where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet. We then continue to Hercules’ Caves, where legend has it that the super-strong hero took his last breath after separating Gibraltar from Africa. The caves are a series of underground passages and a number of prehistoric relics have been discovered here. After a visit to the caves, we got back on the  motor coach and  back to Tangier city. Begin a walking tour along the narrow paths of the medina (Old Town) towards the kasbah (fort). Stroll through the mysterious winding streets and souks (markets), stopping to barter for that essential souvenir and to admire beautiful Moroccan handicrafts. Then, at the Ahlen (Welcome) Village, we were greeted in the spirit of Moroccan hospitality and enjoy a pastry and a beverage before returning to the ship.  With the clocks turned back to EST at home earlier this morning we are now 5 hours ahead of EST until  tomorrow in Almeria, Spain when we move up one more hour to + 6 hours ahead..

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Day 17  ...  Almeria, Spain

 The city of Almería, once an Arab stronghold, has seen ancient civilizations come and go over the many centuries of its existence. We started this tour of this interesting city by foot. as motor coaches are not permitted in the Old Town. We visited the Alcazaba Palace of the Moorish Kings (Caliphs) and stop at the cathedral, which is a Gothic building with Renaissance façades. Oddly, the latter was constructed with a dual purpose as incompatible as its architecture. It was both a place of worship and as a bastion of defense against Berber pirates. The 17th-century Convent of Las Puras, the Episcopal Palace, the Royal Hospital, the Cervantes Theatre and the Mercantile Center are all points of interest see saw along our walk. Great day for picture taking.  The clocks were set ahead again, putting us 6 hours from EST.

Day 18 - 19  ...  Barcelona Spain

Left Almeria late yesterday afternoon for our next port, Barcelona, Spain arriving at 4pm today.  We had dinner on the ship and then ventured out on our tour on a journey through the narrow streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. We saw St. James’ Square—home to the Town Hall and the buildings of the Catalán government. In the Gothic Quarter, we also visted  the Gothic church of Santa Maria del Mar, and walked downtown at Las Ramblas---a walking boulevard, and then headied back to the ship. 

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Our second day was a tour for a general introduction to the history of Barcelona, the coach traveled  through the Barceloneta fishing quarter, up Colon Avenue, and past the Columbus monument. We then entered the upper Eixample area where the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) Church is located. There we took photos of this marvelous structure, unique in both artistic and architectural form. Outside and inside, We were giving head sets and our guide showed and talked about the church. The church—the most famous of all Gaudí’s creations will not be finished till about 2024.  The tour continued to Güell Park, just 15 minutes away. The park is a unique representation of Gaudí’s imagination and work. Return to the city along the Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona’s widest avenue, with many Modernist buildings designed by Gaudí and other important architects of the time. You will stop at La Pedrera, At the end of the tour, we had an understanding of the special relationship between Gaudí the architect, and the city.

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Day 20  ...  Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Arrived on the island of Mallorca, Spain at 8am.  Today we will discover Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the Balearic Islands, with a population of 300,000 and a flourishing economy. Among Palma's lovely sights we toured the Gothic-style Bellver Castle, a unique circle-shaped castle built in the early 14th century. We viewed  the castle from the outside and admire the extensive panoramic landscape below, across the city and surrounding countryside. Next we stopped at the local  bullring, for a look at architectural engineering in this city's unique style. After the bull ring,  we had a guided tour of Palma's lovely 13th-century cathedral and had time to see the outside of the adjacent Almudaina Palace—once the palace of the Mallorcan kings and, before that, an Arab fortress.  

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Day 21  ...  At Sea

Day 22  ...  Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy

The ship arrived in Civettavechia, the port used for Rome which is about 1 hour drive away.  We were on an early bus tour of Rome today which started out at 715am.  Our first stop, Vatican City and St Peter's Basilica... then it was off to the Coliseum...followed by a super nice lunch at Tangara on the Tiber River.  After lunch we made our way to Trevi Fountain.. then a walk to the Pantheon with our friends Ray and Pat.  Got a couple of Gelato's and 'Gannolis' and then met the group back at Trevi Fountain for our final walk passed the Spanish Steps to meet the bus behind Plaza de Popolo.  Crowded crowded and more crowded, and that was where the fun began.  At the Plaza we somehow got in the middle of a 'flash mob' and Rave concert .. thousands of teens, it broke up just as we were trying to pass thru the main gate. We had to wait there nearly an hour for it to clear out, and then finally making our way thru.  We lost one of our group finally finding her on the outside of the Plaza. After finally meeting the bus we made our way back thru traffic and the hour plus trip back to Civettavecchia and the ship, arriving at 6:45 pm well past the target return time, quite an interesting day that was all in all a lot of fun.  Two exceptional guides both on the bus as well as visiting the sites... a tour to remember.  The ship kept the Lido open for us to have dinner. We were just informed that due to nasty sea conditions due to high winds we would be bypassing Sorrento -- anchoring/tendering  tomorrow morning and instead dock across the bay in Naples for an overnite stay instead. We are now at the halfway point 5684 nautical miles traveled.

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