A Travellerspoint blog

Cruise Day Thirty Six - 23rd Day @ Sea

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Overnight the ship has changed course slightly and is now sailing NorthEast. This places the sunrise off the starboard bow. The swell continues to rock the ship but the sick bags have been removed. The sunrise started quite ordinary and then developed briefly into a spectacular showing. Breakfast with Jenny is likely to be the feature event of the day. There isn't much in the Patter that appeals.

Some paperwork needs our attention, we have an appointment to meet with the authorities in Mauritius when we arrive there on Monday. Looks like another full passport check complete with Arrival and Departure documents. Tomorrow is Reunion Island, amazing to find this outpost of France in the middle of just about nowhere.

Attended the talk by Lyn Hurry in the Theatre and after a quick lunch returned there to listen to David Knight. His seminar dealt with Hypnotism for Health and the power of the mind to address all manner of ailments. I didn't receive all the instructions for self hypnosis, I think I nodded off. David is also billed for tonight's Entertainment as the Comedy Showtime in the Vista Lounge.

We've seen the movie showing in the Theatre and decided to watch a movie on the TV in the cabin. The Draft features Kevin Costner and was a clever portrayal of the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind the scenes in the annual NFL drafts. It would have been more meaningful if we'd had a better understanding of American Football. It was interesting enough to keep me awake and that's an endorsement.

Enjoyable dinner tonight finally received some laundry back, just as well as I was almost out of undies. Went to the Vista Lounge to see what David Knight's comedy show was all about. I don't know what made me think his show would be any better than others we've seen. His wasn't. Perhaps I'm sceptical but all I see is some pathetic individuals making a fool of themselves.

We have an afternoon tour on Reunion Island tomorrow. Be interesting to see how this differs from other tropical islands in remote places. I hope this is not becoming totally boring but I've selected another sunrise image, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 09:19 Archived in Reunion Comments (0)

Cruise Day Thirty Five - 22nd Day @ Sea

Friday, 12 February 2016

This morning was similar to yesterday, the ship is sailing at 18 knots on an East NorthEasterly course, there's a SouthWesterly breeze resulting in very little wind across the deck. There were more clouds this morning which combined with the sun to provide some interesting images. There were few people about but one of the regular walkers stopped for a chat.

Returned to the cabin and had a quick look at the images, I should find one I can use. Off to breakfast and decided to sit out on the open deck for a change. I have difficulty getting comfortable on the deck lounges but lasted a while before heading to the Vista Lounge. The Executive Chef and Maitre d'Hotel provided an entertaining culinary demonstration. We've seen these in the past and some have been brilliant, today's rated about 6 out of 10.

From 11:00 to 13:00 there was an impromptu Exotic Fruit Station on Deck 12. I managed to snap some shots of the display before it was devoured by the hungry hordes. Jenny collected a substantial plate of fruits we had not previously seen aboard. The Horizon Court featured some Mexican dishes for lunch, many of them quite different to any I've tried before.

The Movie of the Day was "No Country for Old Men" a bizarre story line with many twists and turns which left many corpses along the way and left the end up in the air. Bit like a long winded joke without a punch line. The worst part of it was that five minutes into it, I realised I'd seen it before. Didn't make much more sense the second time around.

Formal night tonight so need some extra time to get dressed. The small buttons and gold studs on the dress shirt are not getting any easier. My whiskers are starting to look a bit unruly but there isn't anything I can do about them. I'll be well overdue by the time we get home.

Lobster tails and monkfish on the menu tonight, Réne, our junior waiter offered me a double helping - how could I refuse ?? Tonight's show is in the Vista Lounge. Toni Stevens led us through many of the old pub singalongs all the way back to the 40s. Not exactly riveting entertainment but much better than last night's idiot.

Clocks go forward another hour tonight and the sunrise is a little later - by the clock. This morning provided some different sunrise images I've selected one, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 10:26 Archived in Reunion Comments (0)

Cruise Day Thirty Four - 21st Day @ Sea

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The ship is on a East Northeasterly course and cracking along at a steady 18 knots. The motion was obviously considered severe enough to prompt the deployment of sick bags. A bundle of sealable bags is placed at the head of each flight of stairs and at the entrance to some of the public lounges. The sunrise was early this morning and was only clearly visible from the front of the ship. Fortunately the area on Deck 15 had not been closed as often happens due to weather conditions.

I regularly leave the laptop running in the cabin with a slide-show of the day's captures. This has been appreciated by the cabin stewards in the past. Romulo is no exception and asked if I had any video footage of yesterday's Zulu Dancers. I did and played some of it for him, he kept saying "Mama Mia", he was obviously impressed.

Sat around the International Café most of the morning and read our Kindles. The Outlet Sale attracted the usual horde of eager women and some reluctant husbands. I didn't bother to join the crush. A quick lunch in the Horizon Court, we've found that the food looks better early in the session. The offerings in the Horizon Court change regularly throughout the day and also from day to day. The schedule is :
05:00 to 06:00 - Continental Breakfast
06:00 to 11:30 - Breakfast
11:30 to 15:30 - Lunch
15:30 to 17:30 - Light Snacks
17:30 to 23:00 - Dinner

Most times only one side for the service line is open while the other side is being cleared away and set up for the next switch. During the evening service, the Port side is closed off and is christened the "Sterling Steakhouse" and bookings are required. There is an additional charge and the food is worth the extra money. We've enjoyed their steaks on past cruises but the servings are really to big for us.

Watched a movie in the cabin, the feature movie in the theatre didn't appeal to either of us. One advantage in watching a show on the TV is that it is easier to nod off and catch up on an afternoon nap. As it eventuated, I didn't sleep through it but didn't make a note of the title and the cast. Had a short snooze before going off to dinner. We're off to see Gary T Thompson in the Theatre, he's billed as a "Comedy Vocalist", can't wait to find out more.

The show was free, free of comedy and free of vocals. Pathetic is an inadequate description. His act was improved for a brief time when a retired real estate salesman from the audience was invited on stage and hijacked the show. Clocks are adjusted forward tonight so we get an hour less.

This morning provided some interesting sunrise images I've selected a distant shot, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 10:59 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cruise Day Thirty Three - Port of Durban

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

View 2016 Indian Ocean on greynomadm's travel map.

Usual start to the day but the sunrise was disappointing but I decided to stay on deck for our approach too Durban. Things were a little behind schedule and the Captain announced that we were waiting for the pilot. Shortly thereafter he made an urgent request for the forward upper deck be cleared and withing minutes our pilot dropped in from a helicopter.

The port of Durban is extensive and is the busiest port in all of Africa. There were quite a number of vessels at the various wharfs around the port. We were at least an hour late docking which disrupted the various excursions scheduled. Our excursion was scheduled for 12:30 and was adjusted out by 30 minutes to 13:00.

We sat around the International Café for a while and then up to the Horizon Court for an early lunch. The coach allocation for our tour was a bit erratic with some confusion on the part of some passengers. To add to the confusion we were required to check through South Africa Immigration on our return to the ship later in the day and then hand in our passports. Some passengers needed to reclaim their VAT and would need to have their passports for that. It all seemed to work out but had some up in arms.

The 'Coach' was a bit of a shock, five narrow seats (2 + 3) and rather inadequate air-conditioning. The 75 minute drive to the Phe-Zulu Safari Park was very picturesque providing a variety of scenes and glimpses of the Valley of a Thousand Hills. On arrival at the Park we spent a generous amount of time exploring the curio shop. We were then treated to an energetic dance performance depicting the marriage proposal, the visit to the fortuneteller and the wedding dance. We were provided the luxury of a shaded seating area, they performed in the afternoon sun.

After the cultural experience we were provided with refreshments consisting of a scone with jam and cream with the choice of tea or coffee. The restaurant also provided impressive views over the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Our next stop in the rotation was the reptile section to view many of Africa's snakes and a selection of exotic reptiles in their own section. From there we returned to the coach passing through the crocodile breeding enclosure. I think they were referred to as the 'Nile Crocodile' easily a size match to our salt-water version but with a more pointy set of jaws.

Back to the Port and through Immigration with scarcely any delay. Back on board by just after 17:00. Time to strip off some of our gear and proceeded to the Horizon Court for the third time today. We finally set sail at about 18:30, for a variety of reasons well after the originally scheduled time of 16:30. No desire to attend the show tonight and it is already 20:10 as I write this. Two sea days coming up with our next port being Reunion Island.

Lots of images today and I've selected the face of one of the dancers, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 10:14 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cruise Day Thirty Two - 20th Day @ Sea

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Scattered clouds and light winds contributed to a better than average sunrise. Usual early morning routine, just fewer laps of the deck to accommodate the twinge in the left knee. Splashed out some more money to buy a dress watch for formal nights. Came in a box with a wallet and pen for $30.

Spent time in the Theatre for Lyn Hurry exploring the significant people that have contributed to the performing arts in Australia.

Chinese New Year so lots of Asian style dishes in the Horizon Court. I managed to walk past most of the tantalising flavours. Couldn't pass on the beautiful Sichuan Prawns though.

Movie in the Theatre this afternoon is "Kingsman - The Secret Service" staring Samuel L Jackson and Colin Firth. Two hours of fantasy, unlikely plots and some witty one-liners. Comments like "biggest load of rubbish" and "utter rot" from people who like us, stayed to the end anyway.

Dinner in the dining room was followed by a show in the Theatre. Titled "Headline Showtime", Brett Cave provided 45 minutes of high energy song and piano, playing the golden oldies of the 70s and 80s.

Durban tomorrow where we say goodbye to South Africa.

Managed to catch a reasonable sunrise this morning, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 10:54 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cruise Day Thirty One - Port Elizabeth

Monday, 8 February 2016

View 2016 Indian Ocean on greynomadm's travel map.

A solid overcast and occasional light showers greeted our arrival in Port Elizabeth. My left knee was still causing me discomfort and I decided to forgo the exercise on the open deck. After breakfast we assembled in the Wheelhouse Bar for our tour to the Addo Elephant National Park. The park is located 72 Km North of Port Elizabeth and is home to about 600 elephants in an area of 108,000 hectares. The drive to the park took about 90 minutes along mainly multilane highway.

After a quick comfort stop at one of the park entrances our driver took us along many sealed tracks and stopped whenever there were significant wildlife sightings. Visitors are prohibited from leaving their vehicles and consequently all photography was through glass which took the edge off the focus. While the park was primarily established to protect the remnant elephant population it is home to hundreds of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Of the long list of residents we saw and in most cases photographed; Zebra, Cape Buffalo, Warthog, Elephants, Eland, Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Leopard Tortoise and the Flightless Dungbeetle. Other famous residents include Rhino, Leopard and Lions. Some of the rarer animals have been introduced from other national parks to create a balanced population.

After two and a half hours we returned to the park entrance for a visit to the obligatory 'Gift Shop'. The absolute bargain for me was the excellently presented "Official Guide" at 40 rand (AU$4.00) easily worth three times that price. The shopping must have been good, one couple finally managed to return to the coach 15 minutes late. There was little impact but I can't understand such rude behaviour. The trip back to the ship was uneventful and we were back in time for a late lunch.

Today is likely to go down as the highlight of an incredible series of tours here in South Africa. All Aboard is 19:30 and dinner is 'Open Seating' so we'll most likely eat in the Horizon Court or as one wit in the lift called it "The Horror Zone". A simple snack and we're off to the Theatre to spend an hour with a wacky Welshman Taffy Spencer. His jokes were generally very clever and funny and his magic was clever. Not sure if he's a better comedian than magician or the other way around. A fun hour regardless.

A simple collage of an Elephant, warthog, buffalo and a zebra forms today's image, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 11:11 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Cruise Day Thirty - 19th Day @ Sea

Sunday, 7 February 2016

There was a significant drop in temperature overnight as we touched on the Southern sections of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. The sky this morning was totally overcast and the wind across the deck coupled with light rain made for unpleasant conditions. From memory, this is only the second time the weather's been like this.

Dropped in to the 'Shooting Stars' nightclub and took some early morning images as a backup in case nothing better comes along. The morning progressed along a familiar track: breakfast with Jenny, Port lecture in the Theatre followed by Lyn Hurry talking about the Broadway Musical "South Pacific" and the continued popularity of the story. Amongst many songs mentioned and played during her talk was -"You've Got to Be Carefully Taught". The words of that song were strangely connected to words from our tour guide yesterday. The end of apartheid no only freed the black and coloured but has released the most of the white population from the constant fear of black violence preached during 50 years of anti-black propaganda. Hope that makes sense, the connection is that for almost all of his life he'd been taught to 'hate', what a terrible way to live.
A simple lunch from the International Café and time to catch up on some sleep. Throughout the Port Lecture Jenny had to nudge me to stop my snoring. Three hours of sound sleep has us both feeling much more alert.

Excellent dinner in a dining room that was once again barely 60% occupied. We tried to discuss the alternatives of formal (fixed time) dinning against 'any time' dinning. Conrad, our waiter, with only 6 or his 18 seat station occupied, finds that traditional is easier on the waiters. Not sure how much attendance is effected by the demographics (97% Australians) and the 'happy hour' in the Wheelhouse Bar from 15:00 to 16:00. I think the flexible and casual atmosphere of the Horizon Court has a great appeal for many.

I've twisted my left knee and it has become painful to walk. I'll need to look out for a crepe bandage to strap it up. Attended a show in the Vista Lounge, a short rotund Mexican who lives in Sydney stepped on stage with a massive and colourful sombrero. That was almost the best part of Patricio Rodriguez's show. His joke barely raised a grin, his singing OK and the 45 minutes a bit of a waste of time. The fact that we had nothing better to do didn't stop a good number of people from walking out.

A simple collage of the nightclub forms today's image, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 11:08 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

Cruise Day Twenty Nine - Cape Town (Day 3)

Saturday, 6 February 2016

There was a chill in the air on the open deck at 05:45 and a damp sea mist rolled in over the city. The sunrise was far less spectacular than yesterday's offer. Tried to create some images that tied the ship to Table Mountain but that didn't work too well. Joined Jenny for breakfast before preparing for our shore excursion.

Today's tour is a drive to the University Town of Stellenbosch with time to explore then on to a local wine estate to taste the local wines. All was proceeding well as we were all aboard the coach by 08:20. All that is except for one. One passenger had checked in for the tour and was recorded as having left the ship but hadn't arrived at the coach. We sat there for a while until the official departure time. Still no sign of her. The tour guide allowed an additional 10 minutes to be sure and we finally pulled out at 08:55. Not an encouraging start to the day.

Our trip today is mainly North from the city thereby avoiding the traffic snarls. We travelled past a number of new developments and finally the start of the wine region. This area is one of a number of wine regions and the guide explained the origin of wine making in the Cape. Our destination is the town of Stellenbosch where the University is renowned for two things, research and development of grapes and wine making methods and for being the only University to teach in the Africans language.

It was a beautiful sunny day and it was Saturday. Traffic was at a standstill and the bars, taverns and coffee shops were doing a roaring trade. There were people literally everywhere. The main attraction for me was the many examples of magnificent Colonial architecture that line Dorp Street. Some are set back from the street while others stand right up to the footpath. All are immaculately presented in a brilliant coat of white. The mature oaks that line the street provided relief from the sun but made it difficult to capture that ideal shot.

Back on the coach to drive out to the Neethlingshof Wine Estate. Set on the slopes of the surrounding hills the vineyards create a pleasant green tapestry offset by structures in the whitewashed Colonial Dutch Style dating back to 1814. The primary aim for most was to attend the wine tasting and buy the local wines. I decided to wander around the Estate and photographed some of the gardens and buildings. The distant vineyard by this time were covered by a pall of smoke from a fire in the area. The smoke also closed the highway along which we'd travelled to get there.

The return trip to the ship was always intended to be along a different route but even that had to adjusted to avoid the smoke. I was surprised at the casual attitude to the fire. Our guide was almost nonplus, his only comment was to say that at least there wasn't much wind. Our return route took us past a number of shanty towns which were more extensive and elaborate than I had expected. It was explained by the guide that everyone in South Africa is free to live where they want, the determining factor is that of affordability. There is a move to set up more development areas for 'middle class' housing now that land ownership is open to all who can afford it. The post-apartheid South Africa is a work in progress and with eleven 'official' languages the wheels of progress roll slowly.

Today marks the end of our stay in Cape Town and two more South African ports to go. The impression has been almost 100% positive and places South Africa with Canada and the USA on the list of countries we'd happily visit again.

Off to the mandatory General Emergency Alarm Drill. It appears that these drills are required to be conducted every month and according to a note in the Patter, the list of those attending must be submitted to Maritime Authorities.

Back in the cabin and ready to do dinner in the main dining room for a change. Lovely dinner and decedent desert. Decided to give the show in the Theatre a miss and look for a movie on the TV instead. Chances are we'll fall asleep regardless of what we set out to view.
The ship is underway heading for Port Elizabeth back on the East Coast. We've been advised of increasing winds and swells, the ship is rocking gently as I type.

Today's image is of a Dutch Colonial building dating back to 1830, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 08:41 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cruise Day Twenty Eight - Cape Town (Day 2)

Friday, 5 February 2016

View 2016 Indian Ocean on greynomadm's travel map.

Went up on Deck 14 and witnessed an incredibly brilliant sky. The Easterly skyline was bathed in a beautiful pink/red glow. The reflected lights from buildings and the harbour almost overwhelming. Decided to get off the ship to catch a ground level view. sadly most of the colour had gone so decided to try and capture an image of the ship from the back end. As I walked along the wharf I was intercepted by a lady security person. She didn't want to stop me but just warn me and walk with me. She escorted me along the wharf for me to take the photo and then walked me back to the gangway.

Joined Jenny for breakfast and decided to take a walk to The V&A Waterfront. Due to the extensive construction activity the path was uneven but well signposted. The complex is huge and we covered only a small portion. There are upmarket hotels, boutique clothing shops and many restaurants. Most of the buildings are re-purposed commercial warehouses surrounding a series of jetties and wharfs. The area is still in use for various ship related functions and moorings. Ferries, yachts and tour boats compete for day trip customers. There are helicopter flights and tours out to Robben Island amongst other offerings.

Back to the ship for some lunch and prepare for our outing this afternoon. At 13:20 we boarded our coach which drove through the inner city areas where there were many magnificent buildings. We then continued to the bottom station of the Table Mountain Cableway. Two cars operate in opposite directions and climb to the top of Table Mountain which rises to 1000 meters. Each car carries up to 65 people and the floor of the car rotates as it scoots up the hill at 10 meters per second. Each car has a built-in tank that can hold 4000 litres of water which acts as ballast during the windy seasons.

The view from the top provides a spectacular overview of the city below. Even with my maximum zoom on the camera it was difficult to pick out specific buildings. I was able to snap a slightly blurred shot of the Sun Princess at her berth. The return trip down the mountain and on to the docks was along a different route which went through the expensive houses at the foot of Lion's Head.

We were back aboard about 17:00 and prepared for a quick meal in the Horizon Court. After diner we lined up at the Theatre for tonight's Cape Town Folkloric Show by "African Masala" who provided a high energy and colourful performance of music and dance. It is past 21:00 as I write this and I'm finding it difficult to remain awake. Another tour tomorrow morning and that will end our stay in Cape Town. Two questions I had were answered today. Why don't more ships visit Cape Town ?? The Captain stated "It is just too far from anywhere". The other was; with so few ship visits what do all the fancy coaches get used for ?? Our driver today explained that there is a year round call for the tour buses to service tour groups that fly in and also for many conferences. The ship visits are nowhere near the mainstay for the local tour operators.

Today's image selected from the day break shots captured this morning, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 11:34 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cruise Day Twenty Seven - Cape Town (Day 1)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

View 2016 Indian Ocean on greynomadm's travel map.

A cool breeze and clear sky greeted our arrival in Cape Town, it was a good sign for our 'all day tour' starting at 09:00. We boarded our 5 star luxury coach piloted by an amazing driver who managed to thread the couch through the early morning traffic. Our drive along the scenic Atlantic coast of the Cape to the Cape of Good Hope National Park was along a narrow winding road that had the coach hugging the rock face on one side and the other side at times appearing to overhang the cliff edge. The construction of this road nothing short of a civil engineering marvel.

Along the way we sighted a troop of Baboons making use of some parked cars as playground equipment. There was also a distant sighting of a rare and beautiful 'Bonte Bok' and later a small group of Eland, again at a considerable distance. We arrived at the most South Western point of the African Continent where there was a scramble to have photos taken with the sign. We were at 18° 28' 26" East and 34° 21' 25" South.

From there we drove to Cape Point where a redundant lighthouse marks the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. To access the lighthouse we boarded a funicular railway to a viewing platform. From there various paths and about 100 stone steps takes you to the base of the lighthouse. Thess are the highest cliffs on the South African coast. The lighthouse became redundant when it was found that it was too high above the sea and often shrouded in mist. A new and more powerful light has been installed lower down on the point.

Back on the coach a beautifully located restaurant for lunch and beverage. The meal was most substantial including fish, vegetable and a side salad followed by desert and coffee. My choice of beverage was a local draught beer. It went down a treat on what had become quite a hot day. From the restaurant there was but a short walk to the Boulders Beach penguin colony. Once named the Jackass Penguin in common with a similar penguin found in South America. The current name of African Penguin has been adopted when DNA testing proved that they are different.

Back on the coach to head back towards Cape Town along the Western shore of False Bay through a number of beautifully located seaside villages many of the preserved in the Victorian style of the late 1800s. By the time we arrived at the last attraction, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens it was almost 17:00. We were meant to be back at the ship and had about 30 minutes more to drive. It was agreed that 45 minutes would not do justice to this magnificent place but that we could not stay longer. An all too brief short walk gave us some impression of the scale and diversity of these gardens.

Back on the coach to crawl our way through the peak hour traffic of Cape Town. Thanks to skillful navigation by the driver we were back at the ship about 18:30. Fortunately our 90 minute late arrival had no impact as the ship is here for two more days.

Today's outing would have to be one of the best we've experienced and I was greatly impressed by the level of service provided by the tour company. Every aspect of the tour was conducted with good humour and flexibility and the enjoyment of the guests being paramount. It came as a surprise that Cape Town had only about 20 cruise ship visits in 2015. I feel it deserves to be on more itineraries.

A quick change of clothes and a simple dinner in the Horizon Court completes this most enjoyable day. It is now over two hours since our return and it has taken that long to sort through 150+ images and compose this blog. I have chosen an image of one of the penguins for today's photo, if you have time you can view it by following this link to the image for Today

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 10:44 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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