Europe - 13 May / 6 June 2018

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March 21st 2018
Published: March 13th 2018
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Europe - 13 May - 6 June 2018

Sunday 13 May 18 – Departing Brisbane

Up at 5am and away from the house by 7.15am. Barry the Uber man chatted al the way to the airport – we couldn't get a word in. $46.50 for the Uber XL fare.

Very busy Sunday morning at the airport. Struck the usual problems talking to a computer at check in and eventually got the job done with human intervention.

Next stop - Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) desk. What a shemozzle ! Just 2 operators for 50 + people in the queue – made slower by the language difficulties with Asian tourists. Finally served after half an hour waiting.

Next stop – pick up some duty free perfume for Roz, leaving the grog pickup until return. Another delay while purchases were being made at the Collections desk. Talk about disorganised !!

Next stop – calm down Jim – get the blood pressure under control !

Started boarding at 9.45 and pushed back at 10.15am. Into the air at 10.30 with a forecast t 12hour flight to Los Angeles.

Stacks of leg room in Premium Economy and the section is fairly full.

Glass of very passable sparkling Aussie wine on boarding followed by a Margaret River Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc for a pre lunch aperitif. (Note – blood pressure now doing well !!).

Tony the cabin steward is doing well.- and he has a good sense of humour as well.

Lunch was a beef with wine & mushroom or Creole Prawns and chorizo. One of each done and dusted. God meal.

Two movies – “Darkest Hour” and “Thank you for your service” – both well done although Gary Oldman as Churchill was fantastic.

Roz got a few hours sleep, I only dozed occasionally.

Good breakfast offered – chose the cereal and a very good fruit bowl.

Landed 10 minutes ahead of schedule at 5.50am LA time and went through extensive security checks in transit between arrivals and departures. We were happy they were so thorough – including a full body scan for every passenger.

Everyone has a uniform and a gold badge – but the attitude seemed less officious on this visit. Everyone polite and helpful.

Back onto the same aircraft and same seats for the flight to New York. The plane seems only about one third full - certainly very few in Premium Economy. Projected landing time 20 minutes ahead of schedule at 4.10pm at JFK. Another actor for the cabin crew - this time "Tom" somebody whose name tag reads "Phan Tom".

True to his word, the pilot landed us at just after 4pm. Another good, smooth flight but a lot of high cloud cover - which was borne out on arrival at JFK. Wet and windy outside but warm enough inside.

QANTAS now shares Terminal 8 at JFK with its code share partner, American Airlines. Much more up to date and easy to navigate - although the walk from the aircraft parking bay to the baggage claim was well over 1.5km. On the last occasion we were there, the baggage retrieval area in Terminal 7 was a disgrace - dirty, dingy and smelling like a public toilet.

A short delay in getting baggage at the carousel and our pre booked driver was ready and waiting for us to take us directly to the hotel - which we reached in under 60 minutes - well short of the 3 hours it took last time on a shared bus.

24 hours from leaving home to walking in the front door of the hotel !

Staying at the Hotel Lombardy (111 East 56th Street). It has turned out to be a good choice - just found it online and like the look of it because it has apartment style rooms with a separate bedroom, lounge area, kitchenette and bathroom. More than enough room for the two of us to swing a cat.

Quick shower and out to meet Renee and Adam who are here and head off to Washington tomorrow. Renee had found and booked a Lebanese restaurant nearby - Naya Mezze and Grill - and we had a great, light meal (particularly after the airline food we have had). The Lebanese wines were surprisingly good too.

A quick stop at a Walgreens chemist and picked up the kitchen sink for our three days in NYC. Some bread, milk and butter to enable us to make toast and have a coffee at midnight if the jet lag kicks in. Nothing worse than being stranded at 2am in a foreign hotel room, starving and wide awake - and nothing in the pantry. If our travels have taught us some things, preparing ahead for the night hunger games is one of them. Walgreens does sell the kitchen sink - chemist items, groceries, bread, milk, eggs - and beer and wine. Got to love it !!

Getting on for 10:30pm - time to hit the hay. We have a Neighborhood Eats Tour : Brownstone Brooklyn tomorrow starting at 12 noon in Brooklyn. Adam and Renee did it yesterday and said it was great.

A good start to the holiday. Weather is a bit dicey - it was raining when we came out from dinner tonight and the next couple of days are looking unsettled. We will manage !!

Monday 14 May 18 - New York

Got a good night's sleep of over 6 hours - probably need more but the body clock said to get up at around 6.30am. Bed and pillows are comfortable. Some external noise but not too bad.

Grey, overcast and a cool wind blowing. Forecast of just 23 degrees with most of the day below 20.

Continental breakfast in the dining room - a bit ordinary. We will get some fresh fruit and cereal (not the Fruit Loops offered) and do breakfast in the room.

Out and about at 9:45am and made our way to the Metro station at Lexington and 63rd Street for our ride to Smith Street in Brooklyn. Being over 65 we qualified for the Reduced Fare structure that got us to Brooklyn for $1.35 instead of the full fare of $2.75 - good deal

Our Neighborhood Eats Tour : Brownstone Brooklyn started with Mary Hannah as our guide and another Australian girl, /Alicia, from Geelong in the party. We met at Stinky's Brooklyn - a cheese shop and deli. Small world - Alicia's Dad was an Engineer Army officer who ended up as Commandant at the Command and Staff College at Queenscliff and Alicia had lived in the Commandants house !!

The tour took 3 hours - 12 - 3pm - and we visited nine establishments where we had a variety of tastings. In brief outline, the establishments visited and tastings were:

• Stinkys - cheeses
• Bien Cuit - a French bread shop for baguette and sour dough
• One Girl cookies - for cookies
• 61 Local - for peanut bar snacks, a boutique lager beer, ginger ale or Kombucha Tea
• Shelsky's of Brooklyn - a deli for bagel, smoked salmon and cream cheese
• Damascus Bread and Pastry - a Lebonese deli and pastry shop for spinach pie
• A visit to some very elegant brownstone buildings in leafy streets
• Court Pastry Shop - an Italian pastry shop for biscotti and an unusual aniseed tasting pastry
• D'Amico Italian coffee shop- for coffee
• Farmacy and Soda Fountain - for an egg cream soda

In all, we walked for about 7 or 8 km in the three hours and had a very good commentary from Mary about the tastings we were having and the neighbourhoods we were visiting. Cost was USD$69pp - not cheap but a different perspective on an area we probably would not have visited had it not been for this tour. We were impressed by the number of cafes and restaurants in the area and the streetscape with many small businesses.

We left the group at around 3.30pm and continued exploring the general area until close to 5pm when we took the metro back to Manhattan.

After 18,000 steps for the day (so far) , time for feet up and a short rest to get over the tour and the jet lag that was starting to kick in. the weather had improved dramatically through the day and we had good sunshine toward the end and it was quite warm, in the sun, on the street.

The feet up lasted until 7:30pm - and a snooze !! Must have been tired.

Out to dinner locally so we did not have to go too far - just an Irish pub - of which there are plenty in NYC.

Back to the barn and into bed by 9:30pm - hope we get a long sleep tonight to catch up. We have booked a Big Apple Greeter for tomorrow at 11am - Ettagale Blauer. Could be an interesting day - she is a prolific writer, authoring something like 26 books, most of them on Africa and jewellery. Roz and she should get on well - Ettagale has written one on "Contemporary American Jewellery Design". The Greeters are purely voluntary - no payment or tips. We have left it to her to select one of the New York City Boroughs to introduce us to. Looking forward to the tour.

Ended up over 19,000 steps for the day !!

Tuesday - 15 May 18 - New York

Great sleep overnight - almost 8 hours !Catching up on the sleep deficit.

On the move relatively early and out and about to Sephora and Bloomingdales looking for make up - my stocks are running low and Roz reckons I need a top up !!………………...Only joking !! Roz needed some stuff before we headed off to Europe in the hope it would be cheaper here than in Australia - but the prices are about the same in AUD$$. However, mission achieved.

Back to the hotel in time to meet Ettagale Blauer, our Big Apple Greeter - she is about 78 in the shade and a little bent over and shuffling ! But it proved she could move along fairly well and she was certainly a good conversationalist. She had lived in Africa for a number of years confirmed she has written about 26 books and is in the process of having another published about the concert at Woodstock in 1969.

The overall day was a bit of a disappointment - but it is what it is. Greeters are a not professional guides, they are voluntary and do not accept tips. They provide their perspective of the areas visited. With our guide, it was more like a gentle stroll through Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village having a chat with an old friend who threw in a few historical facts along the way. The conversation flowed and it was an interesting three hours in her company - but we did not get a lot of history !

We took the Metro train to the area in Lower Manhattan in Wall street and the surrounds down as far as the Staten Island Ferry terminus, stopping off at various vantage points. Then onto the Metro and back up to Greenwich Village (where Etta actually lives) and we walked a number of the historically important streets.

The business area around Wall Street was very crowded with workers and tourists but of interest was the remains of a timber wall built by the Dutch way back in the late 1600s when they were trying to keep the British out of what became New York - obviously didn't work ! The Dutch established what was New Amsterdam in 1624 but lost out to the British in 1664. Manhattan was named after the tribe of Mahattan Indians who used to live there. New York, as it became after the American Revolution, was the first capital of the United States. The capital then transferred to Philadelphia and eventually to Washington DC - in a barren, swampy, humid area that was not much use to anyone. Remind you of any other national capitals ??

We then moved on to Greenwich Village which has the reputation of being a bohemian centre and we certainly saw some folks who looked like they had escaped from Nimbin and emigrated to the USA on the streets. For the area that Etta showed us though, it seemed very genteel and there were some very nice properties in the streets we went to. Etta indicated most of them would not change hands under the USD$10M mark. Many of them were built in the early to mid 1800s - the oldest we found was built in 1816 - and a few had plaques on them indicating their construction year and a number had small historical plaques attached indicating which famous people had lived there through the years. It was a beautiful area and there were many corner cafes and restaurants making it a very community based environment.

Weather was great but it was a hot day with temperatures rising into the low 30s just after lunch. Brilliant sunshine, so we could not argue for much better. As it was, the day's weather deteriorated into the afternoon and a large, windy storm was forecast to hit the city around 5pm. We did get the rain but it was nowhere near as ferocious as the reports said it would be.

Etta left us at about 2.30pm and we took a metro bus up 6th Avenue from Greenwich Village to 34th Street in order to visit the all important Macy's department store. The weather was starting to change at this point and a strong breeze was whipping dust and particles into our faces and eyes. The best part (for me) was the coffee and strength restoring coffee scroll had in the Au Bon Pain café on the top floor. Roz managed to visit appropriate floors and did a "just looking" tour.

5pm was approaching and we did the dash back to the hotel on the E Line of the metro getting to the top at the corner of 53rd and Lexington - so just three blocks to get to our hotel on East 56 Street. We just beat the rain.

Deciding caution was the best part of valour, we headed to dinner at 6pmhoping to beat the raging storm that was supposed to be approaching. We had enjoyed the food at the Lebanese restaurant Naya so much we decided to go back. The salads were light and the meat portions were small so it was exactly what we were feeling like - and the restaurant was close to the hotel in case the weather did turn bad.

Feeling weary again - only 15,000 steps today but done in the greater heat.

Early to bed to try and get ahead of the curve for the next flight to Rome tomorrow afternoon. It is only a 6 hour flight but by the time we leave the hotel at about 1pm, fly at 5pm and arrive in Rome at 7:30am the next morning, we will need recovery time again !! Do not want to be stuffed for the cruise !!

Wednesday 16 May 18 – New York

Wet, dark and windy – nice way to wake up to a day. Last day in Dodge City and they are making it as hard as they can to get around. Certainly no great shots down the Avenues or of tall buildings in a single bound.

We had to start the packing for the departure later in the day and got out at about 10am in sporadic and sprinkling rain to do a final walk in the nearby streets around E 56 Street. Nothing spectacular revealed.

Decided to try a coffee at Little Collins, theoretically an Australian coffee shop in NYC. It was busing with clients and getting a seat was hard but we did manage it. Again, nothing spectacular about the concept or the coffee. We did see Flat Whites and Lattes on the menu though among the Australian themed savoury dishes.

That done, we made our way back to the hotel, finished the packing and headed to JFK using a Uber service. A big Suburban turned up – very comfortable and the fare was pretty reasonable at USD$79 (compared to AUD$165 for the forward journey in a black limo). Running time to JFK was about 50 minutes from Midtown.

Just about had to strip down to our underwear (only joking – but not far off it !) for the scanning and movements through Security. Inconvenient but necessary in this day and age.

QANTAS and American Airlines coshare Terminal 8 at JFK these days.

The movement onto the plane can only be described as a bun rush. Not order or control and it was a mad dash to get luggage space. Full plane apparently so there was not a lot of room. We did manage to get our bags above us in our seats. Row 36 in a B777 is the one to get n Economy. It is one of the few 2 seat configurations, the rest is 3-4-3 across the aircraft. Located toward the back it means you are the last to disembark but the convenience of not having someone climb over you or you having to climb over someone far outweighs that.

Pilot predicted a 7 hour 15 minute flight and he failed – ended up 7 hours 13 minutes, arriving in Rome Airport just after 7am local time. A relatively smooth flight but a few bumps mid Atlantic Ocean during the night.

Food was rubbish compared to QANTAS – adequate, but rubbish. Service from the cabin crew was good though.

Roz got some sleep and I even managed to snooze as well.

In summary, a bit of a nothing day spent getting ready and travelling.

Thursday 17 May 18 - Rome

Arrival in Fiumicino airport at 7:11am and then began the Italian saga of border control. There must have been three or four plane loads arriving with well over a thousand passengers to be processed through immigration. Just 6 desks were open at that hour of the day and we ended up spending over an hour an half getting to the front desk.

After getting through that bottleneck, we got our luggage and moved to the train where we bought a ticket to Roma Trastavere where would change trains and head directly to the port of Rome – Civitavecchia.

All went well with the trip (rather calming after the usual dash around getting out of airports. Fiumicino to Trastavere was Euro8 each and Trastavere to Civitavecchia was Euro4.60 each. Compare that to a cost of over Euro100 for a transfer by car.

Getting luggage on and off uneven trains and from one platform to another in Italy is always a challenge, particularly when at the last stop in Civitavecchia, all lifts were out of action for refurbishment. God only know how anyone disabled gets around. But again, it was managed. We left Fiumicino on the 9:12am train and arrived in Civitavecchia at about 11:15am.

Nice little money spinner in action for the gypsies at the stations. Mum with a baby in arms stands at the ticket machine and helpfully pushes the buttons for the old folks to get the tickets out. Then the hand goes out for the change – in my case it was change of 80 cents so she did not do real well out of me ! But I guess whatever it takes to earn a bob. Very polite and friendly transaction throughout.

On to Civitavecchia and Hotel San Giorgio which was just 200 metres from the station. Luck finally fell our way, arriving at 11:30am instead of normal check in time of 2pm – and our room was already vacant and ready for occupation !! Joy and happiness.

Going to the room was delayed however because as we crossed the lobby, I head my name being called. Old Army friends, Sandy and Mary-Jean Brill were in transit, leaving for their cruise today. Had we been half an hour later, we would have missed them. So the usual catch up occurred, even though we had dined together at the Aspley Hotel not 2 months beforehand, both unknowing our paths would cross. So the moral of the story is, don’t ever take the girlfriend or boyfriend on a secret trip – someone you know will be in one corner of the world to find you out !!

Cruise comforts needed to be bought – all the sprays, shaving cream, biscuits, soaps etc that you do not want to carry half way around the world to get on a cruise ship. Supermarkets are few and far between but found they were and the supplies stashed.

Lunch was had in Piazza Fratti at Dolche & Salato, a restaurant recommended to us by the Brills. And a good recommendation too. The operation consisted of one chef and one front of house lady (who went like a scalded cat) but the food was so fresh. We stuck with salads and had a great, light, fresh lunch after all of the airline sludge.

The other part of the restaurant was the floorshow put on by the visiting dogs accompanied by their masters. At one stage, we had 6 dogs in the restaurant, on leads but all having a go at each other. Knowing how I love animals, you would appreciate my patience with this scenery !!

But if you happen to be in this neck of the woods, we would thoroughly recommend the place too.

After the shopping, back to the hotel room for a much needed feet up and a shower before getting ready for dinner.

The evening is turning cold but the sun, in patches, is still beaming at 8pm ! Pizza and salad for dinner tonight.

We are both feeling the travel so will turn in early and we will be heading for Rome tomorrow to meet our friends Graeme and Kathy Woolnough who we met in PNG almost 40 years ago. They have just arrived from a holiday in Croatia and will be on the cruise with us.

Friday 18 May 18 - Civitavecchia

The day dawned cool and clear and remained so all day - top of about 23 degrees.

John - to satisfy your curiosity - just on 19,000 steps today !!

Good night's sleep after the broken night on the flight - got over 8 hours in - almost a record !! And Roz did the same

Breakfast in the hotel was very good for a European continental offering. Plenty of choices.

Caught a train from Civitavecchia to Rome at 8.42am - obviously a commuter train due to the numbers on board. By the time we got into Rome, there were people standing in the ailses

It pays to look at which train you are catching. The standard train took one and half hours into Rome at a cost of 5 Euros (one way- a distance of 60 kilometres - Brisbane / Gold Coast ?). The one express train that we took was also only 5 Euro but it only took an hour to get into Rome. An Intercity train took only 45 minutes - but the cost was 16 Euros.

Arrived in Rome around 9:50am and went straight to Graeme and Kathy's hotel in Via Cavour. Needed a caffeine fix by then so went to a nearby coffee shop and got a surprise - 4 x Coffees - 11 Euro !!. How good was that. We sat at a table and got charged less than 3 Euro a cup !! Italy is catching up !!

Graeme and Kathy checked out and stored the luggage and we took the Metro to Spagna station (Euro 1.50 each) and took obligatory photos on the Spanish steps and then head for the shopping district (where else ?) on the Corso. Purchases were made and we continued on our way to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. Both overwhelmed by tourists (including ourselves). Even though we have seen these icons a couple of times, the grandeur of them always impresses.

Lunch in a laneway before heading back toward the stored luggage and eventually onto a metro train back to Civitavecchia. We chose an express train at a cost of Euro 11.50 each which was to take 48 minutes. But fate intervened and no sooner had we boarded when we were informed the current engine fo the train had broken down - 25 minute delay !! So much for a fast train journey.

Eventually underway and got to Civitavecchia about half an hour late at 5:30pm. Met an Italian lady on the train, Roza aqbout 50), who was travelling north for the weekend to meet up with her boyfriend for a dirty weekend. She was quite open about he purpose of the visit and we had a great chat about things various including how deluded she as with the political and economic situation in Italy (remind us of anywhere else ??!!).

Graeme and Kath checked into the hotel and we headed for the Terrace bar for a cooling and relaxing drink before heading off to dinner. We chaose an area in Civitavecchia on the waterfront where there are many seafood restaurants and bars. A restaurant caught our eye due to loud music and a particularly agile waiter of the female variety who gyrated energetically to the music. We thought the floor show would improve the evening !

Expectations were dashed with the quality of the food and the level of service and when the time came to pay the bill, more farce ensued ! We had been overcharged for 5 meals instead of 4 and in deciphering the account presented, determined we owed some 18 Euro less than presented. A little bit of argy bargy ensued with me pulling out the big guns on my calculator and proving the point. The waiter dashed off the to the kit hen, we could see vociferous conversation being held and eventually a new bill was presented - some 20 Euro less than the original bill and almost 15 euro less than what we reckoned we owed. What did we do - ? We paid the last bill, of course !! and got out of Dodge City before they changed their minds again !!

A pleasant walk in the last throes of evening light to the hotel and a nightcap at the bar before heading to bed.

A good day out with friends in Roma and more than a little entertainment at dinner ! How good is that !!??

We go to the ship tomorrow at about 12 noon and board as soon as they let us on. Sailing time is 7pm - looking forward to unpacking and getting organised onboard.

Saturday 19 May 18 – Boarding Crown Princess

Another beautiful day to start the boarding process on Crown Princess. The ship only arrived in Civitavecchia at 11:00am and we were able to board by 1pm. For the size of the ship, that is excellent.

After breakfast, a quick walk up into the township to get last minute supplies including the bottle of wine each that we are able to take on board. Reasonable wines at the supermarket at just 3-5 Euro.

We paid 10 Euro each to take the shuttle from the hotel to the port – good decision – it was quite a hike !

The boarding process was easy and quick. As Platinum Loyalty members we got priority boarding and that pretty much put us straight through the waiting line and we were onboard within half an hour of arriving on the bus.

A small lunch in Horizons Court – the buffet restaurant – and we were able to move straight into our cabins. My suitcase had arrived so I was able to unpack and get the first load of washing on before the rush started. Having been on the road for almost a week, the wash was definitely needed. USD$3 for the wash and USD$3 for 40 minutes of drying.

We had arranged to meet up with the people we are going on a tour in Salerno with in the Wheelhouse Bar – nice folks. Ada and Leighton from California (both Chinese) and Stu and Sheila from Virginia in the USA.

Lifeboat drill was held at 5pm and by then Roz’s bag had arrived. So a mad dash to unpack and be ready for dinner by 6:15pm.

A good dinner in one of the main dining rooms but disappointment as our usual wine packages were not available. This cruise is technically 2 cruises – the first 7 days to Athens and then the second 7 days to Barcelona. On shorter cruises of 7 days, the packages are not offered and we have to pay the full advertised price of a bottle – whereas the packages bring each bottle in at about USD$5 cheaper.

The cabin is comfortable and it appears they have upgraded the quality of the bedding – will report after a night’s sleep (or otherwise). Cabin door left open overnight to the balcony as usual for us to get the fresh air into the cabin.

Tomorrow’s activity is a tour called “Fifty Shades of Lemon”. It will be 9 hours and we will visit Amalfi, Positano, Ravello and Scala – lunch at Amalfi. In between, we are visiting a lemon grove - “Mr Salvatore and his family will host us in the oldest lemon farm in the whole area” and be instructed in all things lemon including lemonades, lemon cakes, limoncello etc – as we hike about 3km through the lemon groves. It has the makings of a good day out.

10pm already and we are smoothly underway – time for bed as we have to be ready to disembark by 7:45am tomorrow.

Internet onboard is not flash. Was not able to send this until Saturday morning here.

Sunday 20 May 18 – Salerno

Good sailing overnight with no significant movement in the water. Coolish night but we still slept with the cabin door open for the night – beautiful fresh air !

Forecast is 26 degrees but in fact it reached 29 degrees mid afternoon with crisp blue skies.

Early rising at 5:30am to get ready and breakfasted in time for our tour. We docked at 7am in Salerno south of Naples and the Amalfi Coast and were off the ship at 7:45am to meet Massimo (Max) for our “Fifty Shades of Lemon” Tour.

Graeme and Kathy, Ada and Leighton, Stu and Sheila and ourselves in the party in an 8 seat people mover. Initially headed north from Salerno toward Naples and eventually arrived at Positano for a photo opportunity after about an hour and half.

The coastline is just so dramatic and the sea so blue. We struck it on a magic day and were lucky it was before lunch on a Sunday with minimal traffic on the road. That changed significantly after lunch with the Sunday drivers (and dare I say tourists) and the narrow Amalfi Coast road quickly became clogged up with delays getting through some of the choke points.

On towards the town of Amalfi which was a s busy as ever by the time we arrived at about 10:30am. Waiting for us were two golf carts to take us to the top of the main street to the lemon grove and factory owned by the Salvatore family.

When selecting a tour like this from the internet to get away from the ship sponsored visits, you never really know what it is or what it is about. The title, “Fifty Shades of Lemon” Tour, certainly attracted attention and the description was sufficiently different to warrant giving it a go. It they had called it the Lemon Factory tour, we probably would not have looked at it but the title caught my eye and the others agreed.

The Salvatore family has been in the lemon business for nearly a 100 years starting with the grandfather and family of 13. We met the grandfather – 83 years – who still had a strong handshake and still works in the grove. His son is now the prime mover and he is trying to make a financial success of the farm.

The grove is on the side of a steep hill and the work needed to tend the plot, the stone retaining walls and the trees themselves is incredible.

The business is having to diversify into other ventures to keep the business in business. Tourism is part of that and they usually have groups of up to 25 through twice a day to explain the history and process.

At the end of the tour, lemonade, lemon cake and limoncello are offered (all very good) for tastings – all made, of course, from the local product.

It was an enjoyable and informative tour.

We got to walk back down the hill into the town of Amalfi to poke around the shops, get a snack and a coffee before moving on to the town of Scala. The winding and the twisting roads had a detrimental effect on one of our party – fortunately he was seated in the window seat in the front. ‘Nuff said.

High up one of the ridge lines, at Scala, we had a picture perfect view of the township of Ravello below. Cannot believe how the houses and roads were built in the first place – particularly as most of it was done prior to 1900 (some older than that) without all of the modern construction and design aids.

On to Ravello for a late light lunch and a stroll around town. A very pretty town that deserved more time to explore but time was starting to go against us in order to get back to the ship. The drive from Ravello back to Salerno was over an hour.

Arrived back at the ship around 4.30pm. We all agreed it was a good day out. For those who had not driven or visited the Amalfi Coast and its roads, it was an eye opener. We had visited once before on our first cruise in 2008 with Den and Jim Wilson.

We are with the same group for our visit to Kotor in Montenegro on Tuesday so it was good that we had enjoyed each other’s company.

A thirst quenching drink at the bar, some ironing and got ready for dinner which we took in the Da Vinci main dining room. The menu had an Italian theme tonight.

Following dinner, we made our way to the theatre where a Brit bloke by the name of Stevie Bor was performing. He is a singer and guitar player who did a great one man performance, with the backing of the ship’s orchestra.

The last event for the day was to go to the night club at the back of the ship, Club Fusion, where a band was belting out some great 50s/60s rock and roll. We lasted until 11pm when it was time to pull the plug and head for the barn.

A good start to the cruise for day one on the move.

Just on 10,000 steps for the day. It will be hard to manage that with a sea day tomorrow !

Monday 21 May 18 – at Sea

A smooth sailing night and another fresh, coolish morning. Slept in until 7am !

Onto the Promenade Deck for the morning walk – thank you for big ships where we can walk all the way around the deck. On this ship, 2.8 laps of the deck equals 1.8km. Managed 9 laps – over 7000 steps and something over 5km in 45 minutes of walking.

Got a coffee from Horizon Court and headed for breakfast after we had showered and got ready.

Just in time to Club fusion to catch up with Kathy and Graeme for the end of the Trivia session (10 out of 20). Then down to Deck 5 for a coffee at the International Coffee Shop. Not a bad deal – only 75 cents for a cup of brewed coffee and free snack sized meals and sweet offerings. Stayed long enough to take lunch there for sandwiches and quiche – also free.

The ladies headed off shopping, Graeme to the gym and I wandered aimlessly for an hour or so before heading back to the cabin to reduce a lot of the photos I took yesterday to a more acceptable size for adding to the blog.

The internet upload and download speeds are slow, particularly at sea, and it is best to prepare the text of the blog offline and copy and paste, and to reduce the size of photos to kilobits so they will upload faster. That done, I managed to upload about 45 photos in about 7 minutes and publish.

Tonight is Formal night on the cruise. We have not gone out of our way to go overboard and that seems to have been justified. We have seen shorts, thongs and T shirts in the main dining room in the evenings so we do not have any high expectations for this evening in terms of formality. The ships are letting standards drop significantly – it really is up to the Maitre D’ at the door of the dining rooms to turn people back who are not appropriately dressed for dinner. We have seen it done on other ships, but not on this one, so far.

Tonight, we have booked into the Crown Grill, the Specialty steak restaurant onboard. Princess usually does these specialty restaurants well. We pay USD$29 extra for this restaurant (and have done so in the other Specialty Italian restaurant – Sabatini’s later in the cruise) – but the service and quality of the food here is always a cut above the general restaurants. Will report on whether that is true later !!

It is now later – about 9:30pm.

5 O’Clock Wine O’Clock had in the Explorer’s Bar with Cedric the bar waiter who had been on Sun Princess for a number of years. He was well wise to Aussie expressions and sense of humour – a lot of fun.

We had booked dinner in the Crown Grill – specialty steak restaurant. It lived up to the name and we had good food and service from Elvira from the Ukraine. Steaks and fish selected along with appetisers and desserts. A big but enjoyable meal. Only “off” bit, for a high end restaurant, was the delivery of mustards in plastic squirt bottles. You would think they would have a variety of mustards, in a steak restaurant, in prefilled containers for suitable presentation. Not so !

The show in the theatre to night was a production show by the Crown Princess Singers and Dancers – “DISCO – Blame it on the Boogie”. It was done well. Costumes and performances were very good. The lead singer must have been in his 40s (unusual) but he was good.

After our late partying night last night it was head for the barn time around 9:30pm.

Tomorrow is another early start as we are arriving in Kotor, Montenegro, at 7am and have to use tender services to go ashore as our ship is much to large to go alongside. The approach into Kotor is spectacular ( we know that as we have arrived in this port once before). The sail in enters a long fiord like entrance and the mountains soar to the left and right making it one of the most interesting ports to visit.

Nothing of any note today as it was a sea day but have still managed 11,000 steps.

Tuesday 22 May 2018 – Kotor

A cloudy start to the day but no rain and quite warm. We woke as the ship was entering the bay to the port of Kotor.

The run down the bay, with twists and turns, is about 2 hours and is somewhat fiord like with tall, bare mountains to the sides and villages scattered along the narrow strip between the water and the mountains. It is very dramatic scenery.

The ship is too large to go alongside so we had to use the tenders to get ashore and we were able to walk straight onto one rather than taking a ticket and waiting for a tender to become available. We were able to disembark by 7:30am.

Ashore, we met out driver and guide for the day – Milo. The same eight who went on the tour in Salerno were also on this tour. Milo must be in his mid to late thirties, is a stay at home dad who supplements his family income doing tours 6-10 times a month when the cruise ships visit. Milo proved to be a good guide with a good sense of humour. He is a one man band with tours providing Tours by Milo.

We first went to Perast, a village from the 14th and 15th centuries with 16 churches in it. Only one of the churches was still operating however with the rest falling into disrepair or being refurbished for other uses. A drive around the shoreline and then crossing the bay by car ferry.

Then it was up into the mountains to visit a number of small villages and lookouts. I will not attempt to name the villages, the names are so involved and complicated. But enough to say they all had an individual character.

Midmorning we stopped at one place which had a restaurant attached. Out the back was a room in which smoked hams were stored – great smells ! we visited the room and were also treated to a taste of plum brandy. Absolute rocket fuel but it did warm the cockles of the heart. It was getting cooler as we ascended the high mountains behind Kotor – getting up to 12,000 metres during the drive.

Milo showed us pictures of the area in winter and there were snow drifts well over the height of a man. He said areas in the mountains got down to temperatures of 40 below.

The roads were quite narrow and careful driving was required on blind corners to stay safe. Milo’s grandfather had been involved as a partisan in WWII in this area and in fact had lost his life toward the end of the war.

The end of the tour came in Budva, a largish modern town with an old town attached. We had a light lunch there and the opportunity to walk the narrow streets. Old facades but modern fitouts inside.

Milo was a good guide who we would recommend highly to others. Cost of the tour was Euro50 each.

Back to the ship and straight to the International café for a restorative coffee before heading back to our rooms for resting and preparation for dinner.

Dinner taken in the Da Vinci dining room. A little less enjoyable mainly due to a limited menu choice this evening. Still good food available but service was a little off as well. It shall be the subject of a sh*t-o-gram in the post cruise survey.

Clocks have to be put forward an hour tonight so an hour of sleep lost tonight. We arrive in Corfu at 7am tomorrow morning but we have not booked any tours. Likely to get off the ship at about 9am tomorrow morning. We have no formal tours organised for this port so will just wander the town and perhaps catch the Hop On – Hop Off bus that operates.

Only 8,000 steps today due to the amount of driving.

Wednesday 23 May 18 – Corfu

Overcast day but warm enough. The threat of a thunderstorm in the forecast for later in the afternoon. We had a smooth sailing night – the seas have been so benign and flat ! Makes for happy sailing.

Got up early and struck Graeme out on the Promenade Deck 7 doing walking laps – so we continued for about an hour at a brisk pace. Must have got the 5km in again (15,000 steps as at 3:30pm). Good way to start the day and walking on the Promenade Deck keeps us out of the sun and on a wide flat surface.

Coffee to wake Roz and I up for the day and then a quick breakfast as the ship was docking in Corfu. We are alongside for this port so that makes it easy to walk off the gangplank and proceed ashore.

Pays to read the reviews of others for ports. The ship wanted USD$14 per person for a return trip on the shuttle to the Old Town of Corfu. So the total for our group of 4 would have been USD$56. We walked off, found a cab and paid only Euro10 each way, total ! Just about paid for lunch !

The Old City of Corfu is a warren of old buildings with modern fitouts and many (many) retail shops. A lot of good quality leather and clothing shops. We had arrived relatively early and the place was uncrowded at 9:30am. By 11am however, the streets were full.

A gallop up the hill to what is known as the New Fort. Not so new and in terrible condition. At least entry was free – would not have wanted to pay for what was inside. Many of the wooden walkways are unsafe with lifting planks and holes. Had to watch where we were walking. Signage is minimal. The only bonuses going for it was the elevation it was at for good pictures over the Old City, and the fact that there were toilets (of questionable quality and cleanliness) at the gate – but bring your own toilet paper !

Time for caffeine relief and we found a nice little restaurant at the bottom of the hill (Evita) – Euro 11 for four coffees (pretty good we thought), free and fast wifi and clean toilets.

Then came the wandering of the streets - poking, lifting, staring, evaluating – but fortunately, not buying !! The interior of the Old City is quite extensive and it has many retail shops and many good cafes and restaurants.

After much wandering, lunch was on the agenda so we returned to the restaurant where we had coffee – and were welcomed back as old friends as only the Greeks can do. A helpful waiter accommodated our request to provide a “light” meal, saw us coming and served up a really delightful assorted plate of antipasto followed by prawns, octopus and calamari. Our “light” and his “light” were two different things – but we persevered and cleaned up the plates. It was good Greek fare and we did enjoy it.

Two mongrel cats stalked our table and the waiter had no problem with us feeding them the small left overs rather than taking it back to the kitchen.

Time was ticking by this stage and the serious end of the day was upon us – ladies shopping. Kathy and Roz went off to a linen store they had seen earlier in the day and Graeme and I repaired to a leather belt shop where considered purchases of belts (Euro10) were made. Underpants were not considered on this occasion – being kept in reserve if we need to make retaliatory purchases occasioned by the ladies.

A Euro10 cab ride back to the ship and we arrived in good time by 3pm for a 4pm sail away.

A Trivia session was being held in Club fusion at 4:15pm – we participated but did not cover ourselves in glory , scoring only 7 out of 20. Our thoughts were that the game was rigged by the number of northern hemisphere questions asked.

The 5 O’Clock Wine O’Clock session was held in Chez Trappett cleaning up the bottles we had purchased in Civitavecchia – meanwhile running the washing and drying cycles on clothes.

For a deck of some 200-300 people, there are only two washing machines and two dryers. Australians are in high visibility doing washing frequently – not sure what that says !!

Being in location to grab the next machine available is an art and it pays to strike up conversation with the person putting washing or drying in a machine, making a friend for life and extracting a promise that “you can be next on this machine – I will wait for you”.

It is also a mortal sin not to be present when your washing or drying cycle is completed and leaving clothes in the machine. If this occurs, you may find your clothes unceremoniously piled in the sink (if you are lucky) or placed gently on the floor (worst case) – the moral is to be there and retrieve your load. (USD$3 for a 40 minute wash cycle, USD$3 for a 40minute drying cycle – tokens helpfully spat out of a machine in the laundry with the swipe of your cruise card.

Having had a “light” lunch, we decided not to dress to the nines and go Formal – rather we dressed casually and went to the Horizon buffet.

Good meal had and a long chat and back to our room by 9pm.

The promised thunderstorm in the late afternoon has not made an appearance but the sky has certainly clouded over completely at dusk and the seas have risen considerably. Whereas previously we could not feel the movement through the water, there is a definite choppiness and we can feel the waves hitting the ship. A little bit of rolling too.

Tomorrow, we visit Crete and dock at the town of Chania. If we had more time, I would have been fascinated to drive the island and visit places and revisit the history of the Australian forces who had to evacuate Crete in WWII ahead of German paratroops.

17,000 steps today.

Thursday 24 May 2018 – Crete

A warm night and morning with a haze on the horizon. We know we are travelling down the western side of Greece from Corfu to Crete but we cannot see much from the ship. The forecast is for temperatures in the mid 20s with the chance of showers. It is patchy overcast but blue sky is showing through.

Good sleeping overnight with the seas calming and less sense of movement in the water. The rolling stopped in the night.

Up at 6am and on deck with Graeme for a gallop around the Promenade Deck for an hour. Maintenance and deck cleaning crews still out so the walking was restricted and we ended up on Deck 16 making the most of the available walking space. A short gym session finished off with a coffee on the open deck. Life is good !!

To breakfast after a lazy start (for some). We do not dock in Crete (Chania) until 12 noon and the ship is due to sail at 10pm. So we may be able to see the lights of the city on departure.

Sunrise in this part of the world is around 6:15am and sunset at 8:30pm – and the light slowly fades instead of the “shut the door” darkness we get at home.

Crete appeared in the distance and even from afar it was obvious how craggy and mountainous it was. A very narrow coastal plain with rising, jagged mountains behind it. In the distance were high peaks which still appeared to have snow on them.

We entered Souda Bay and on the way in saw a large US aircraft carrier with many aircraft on its upper deck. We subsequently found out it was the USS Harry S Truman, a 104,000 tonne Nimitz Class carrier which had just completed a tour of duty off the conflict zones in Syria. The centre of Chania was overrun with US Navy sailors from its 5,000 crew.

Transport was on local buses for just Euro 3.40 return for a trip of about 20 minutes each way from Souda Bay port to Chania.

We had an early lunch before leaving the ship.

We took the bus and arrived just outside the Old Town area of Chania. Again, we saw older and historic buildings which had been well refurbished for modern businesses. But the jewel in the crown was the waterfront area of the Venetian Harbour which was alive with visitors, cafes and restaurants set out in the typical European people watching style facing the front of the restaurant onto the promenade area.

We walked the city streets and the waterfront area and finally selected a place for a mid afternoon session to ease our thirst. The temperature had risen quickly through the day and reached around 28 degrees (instead of the forecast 23) by 2pm. We managed to deal with an Aperol Spritz and some dips while we joined the people watchers.

Alongside us were four sailors who were showing their youth by their ability to consume large amounts of food and drink – without making nuisances of themselves or being noisy. On departure, I congratulated and thanked them for their work in the Mediterranean. They seemed to appreciate the fact that an older person took the time to thank them.

We rounded out our visit to Chania by more street exploration but the afternoon and heat by this stage worked against further adventures so we made our way back to the ship arriving there at 6:30pm.

The pace of ports and touring is catching up with us and we thought it better to take things easy as we still have three more ports in the next three days before getting another sea day to recover.

Safely back on board, we repaired to the pool bar and had a predinner drink. Roz found her Princess favourite – a frozen marguerita – done the way only Princess seems able to do.

Only a light snack was indicated so we just went to the buffet in Horizon Court.

Tomorrow we visit Mykonos, arriving at 7am and departing at 6pm – so no need to rush off the ship at the crack of dawn.

We probably could have and should have done more here but we do have to pace ourselves for the second half of the cruise, which will also be busy.

Friday 25 May 2018 – Mykonos

The day dawned overcast and windy – not a good sign. Forecast was for 25 degrees. The day turned out to be great with the exception of the wind at the shoreline. It blew a gale all day near the water and made it uncomfortable. But inside the town, it was very comfortable.

Graeme and I managed our walking for 45 minutes from 6am and then had a well deserved coffee on the open deck. Most pleasant.

The ship docked alongside at 7am but we again took the easy option and took our time getting off. Back on board time was 5:30pm – so there was plenty pf time to go ashore and explore without bursting a boiler.

The mode of transport from the dock area to the town of Chora on Mykonos was by Sea Bus/Taxi. The taxi briefly left the protected dock and went into the open sea before entering the protected harbour – some ripples and bumps along the way but nothing to worry about. They had a very profitable day with most of the passengers paying Euro 2 each way.

The town itself is picture perfect in white paint and blue trims. Some reds in some areas but predominantly Greek blue and white. Everything has a coat of white paint on it - including the trees and the laneways. And all of it is extremely well maintained. We did not see one area that looked down at heel. And the place is so clean !! No discarded rubbish, no graffiti, no piles of rubbish on the street. It is a pleasure to walk around.

A HUGE amount of jewellery and clothing stores accompanied by the usual tourist souvenir places. I do not know how they all pay the rent. But I do have to say that the fitouts for all of the stores is of a high standard and the goods being offered are presented so well.

Plenty of cafes and restaurants although most of the restaurants offer larger portions of food rather than snack type food. We had to go a fair distance to find a place that offered sandwich type souvlaki or giro. We have not been very hungry at lunchtime (no doubt because of how well we are fed aboard) but all we wanted was a light snack. So did everyone else - and we ended up with a chicken and a pork giro, and had to sit on the front steps to eat it. Life is hard !! (First world problem).

Eventually back to the ship in good time for departure at 6:00pm.

Dinner in the Michelangelo Dining Room and we joined one other couple – Beverley and Bernie. Bernie was an older Vietnam Veteran with obvious health (and other) issues. Graeme and I chose not to reveal our past and the evening proceeded with Graeme, Kathy, Roz and I playing cat and mouse so that we were not exposed as past defence people.

This 14 day cruise is in fact 2 x 7 day cruises – something that helps us move up the Loyalty chain by adding to the number of completed cruises to move us up to the next level with Princess. Roz and I only have two more cruises after this one to move to the highest level - Elite - which brings the greatest prize of Loyalty of all – free laundry !! We already get free internet but laundry is the coveted bonus that cruisers want so that we can enjoy life without having to spend time competing with others for a washer or a dryer !!

On to the final show in the theatre for this cruise – Encore – in which the Crown Princess troupe of singers and dancers, a guest Soprano, and the ship’s orchestra present a night of entertainment. We have to say that this show was absolutely one of the very best we have seen in 15 cruises that we have done. The costuming, the sets and the music were fantastic. I only wish we were allowed to record the performance.

The soprano – Nadia Eide – is a world class Scandinavian singer and her performance in this show was a step above the ship’s entertainment crew – and that is not to say that the crew singers were not good.

Admittedly, the items presented were the popular songs. As you know, I am not an opera fan but the classical songs presented were of such a high standard that you could not help but be impressed. So good.

Show over and a small nightcap and chat as the guests of Graeme and Kathy in their cabin.

A most enjoyable day had by all.

Tomorrow is Athens. The ship arrives at 4am and our plan is to take a free walking tour and then do some independent exploration.

17,000 steps today.

Saturday 26 May 2018 – Athens

The ship docked in Athens at 4am this morning, very quietly – but in the berth furthest away from the area I wanted us to dock. Instead of the 500 meters to the Piraeus Metro station we were last time we visited, we were 3 km away.

No onboard walk this morning as we had to get on the move too early for a 9:15am start of the walk in Athens.

Took a cab to the Piraeus Metro station (Euro10) and caught the train into Thissios station – about 25 minutes down the line. Being old folks (over 65s), we were able to get the reduced fare of Euro 0.60 each, one way. The ticket lasts 90 minutes from sale and can be used on all forms of public transport for that time. A 24 hour ticket costs Euro4.70.

We got off at Thissios station and joined our guide at a little church near the station, as previously arranged. About 40 people had turned up so they split our tours into two groups – ours led by George. George apparently had studied and has qualifications in archaeology and he proved to be a font of historical knowledge on Greek mythology and history. He provided an entertaining 3 hours of commentary on the slopes around the Acropolis – most of which we will never remember but I know it sounded good and was interesting at the time.

At the end of the “free” tour, participants usually give the guide a tip, which we did along with all the others.

The tour ended in Monastraki Square and by 12:30pm, we were all hungry. We should have taken the time to go further from the square but hunger got the better of us and we went to one of the nearest ones. But we had a good lunch of souvlaki skewers and a Greek salad for about Euro 12 – so that was not too bad.

Graeme and Kathy had not visited the Acropolis before so they headed off on their own to do that while Roz and I explored a wider area around Plaka than we had done on the last visit. Mostly all rubbish but there were several retailers with quality goods which we could have bought, if we needed them. We didn’t !!

A sorbet lemon ice to ease the heat and a coffee in a modern café (service was not modern though – took forever !) saw out the afternoon.

We reunited with Graeme and Kathy and sourced a couple of bottles of wine to take back on board – new cruise – new entitlement to take a bottle each back. The wine cost us about Euro 10 per bottle compared to the USD$35 per bottle (plus 15% service charge) on board so it is worth doing.

Took the 0.60 cent ride back to Piraeus on the Metro and caught another cab back onboard.

Had to wait until the lifeboat drill was over for new arrivals before the bars opened again. Apparently about 600 got off in Athens and another 600 joined for the next leg of the journey to Barcelona.

(Late) 5 O’Clock Wine O’Clock drinks had in the Wheelhouse Bar and dinner was taken in the Michelangelo Dining Room again. Roast beef on the menu tonight – not too bad.

A bout of Trivia in the Explorer’s Lounge – we played but no win – and we called it a night.

Another relatively early start tomorrow morning with an 8am departure from the ship on a tender to Santorini. The ship is too large to go alongside anywhere so we have to be tendered ashore again. Apparently there is a chair lift that needs to be used to get to the top of the cliffs and then we are going to do a 5 hour tour to Oia, Fira, and a winery .

14,000 steps today.

Sunday 27 May 2018 – Santorini

Smooth sailing overnight and a 6 am arrival at Santorini under its towering cliffs.

The promise of a fine day and warmth ! In fact it reached around 27 degrees but we had some cool breezes in the higher parts of the island.

Getting off the ship in a tender is always an uncertain art. On some ships, it is well organised and most passengers can get off in a reasonable time. On others (and we have been afflicted by some) it can take up to an hour or hour and half to get off. In Santorini, on this ship, we were off within 15 minutes. The seas were a little choppy in the tender but not a problem.

There are three choices for getting to the top of the cliffs to reach the first town of Thira on Santorini.

· Walk up the steps to the top – some 3000 steps

· Take a donkey up the steps

· Take the cable car

The latter was chosen at Euro 6 per person, one way. We were told the cable car can often be the preferred choice and could be crowded but today Crown Princess was the only cruise ship in port and we moved very quickly to the top. We were subsequently told that on 30 May, six cruise ships are scheduled. It will be chaos once all those passengers access the modes of transport.

We had arrived about 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled meeting time with our guide so we took a gentle walk in some of the laneways. Very few of the shops were open so a coffee was in order and we had one of the best coffees we have had in Europe, so far. Good coffee, fast wifi, good service and a clean toilet !! What else did we need for the day ?

10 am rolled in and we met our guide Magda and so began the best day we have had on the cruise so far.

We had booked with a firm called Greek Travelling for a “Santorini Exploration – 5 hour tour of Santorini” at a cost of Euro 68 per person. It turned out to have been a good choice.

Magda the guide and Pablo the driver made a good team – as well as the Mercedes Sprint 12 seater van – with only 6 of us in it !

Mike and Liz Nordstrom from Adelaide had joined us for the day – they turned out to be excellent touring companions and we enjoyed their company.

The tour took us the length of the island with full and detailed commentary throughout. Of particular interest were the townships of Megalochori and Oia.

Roadways were narrow and the driver had a job navigating them with larger buses and cars trying to pass in impossible restricted roadways.

Part of our tour took us to a winery and, of course, the wine tasting were excellent along with some cheese and biscuits.

The town of Oia was the highlight of the day with its ordered, marble streets and every square inch developed as rooms or a hotel. The streets were crowded but it was bearable, compared to what will be the situation on the 30th with 6 cruise ships in. Oia is very much a place I could spend a short holiday in.

We had lunch in an elevated dining room taking advantages of the Aegean Sea views.

The tour, the guide and driver, the organisation, the comfortable ride and the island itself made this the best day we have had on the ship so far an we would thoroughly recommend the company and Magda in particular for a tour of Santorini.

All too soon, the tour was over and the rest of the afternoon as spent wending our way around the streets of Thira. The retailers basically had the same stuff but some had well designed linen clothing.

We made our way back to the ship by tender but Graeme and I chose to walk down the steps and compete with the donkeys – only took about 20 minutes – but involved competing for space with the donkeys, avoiding their “business” on the steps and avoiding slipping on marble stones. But we made it !

Back on the tender and onboard by 4:30pm. We took the punt and headed for the laundry to get washing done. Free machine available so was able to get our load washed and dried.

Predinner drink taken in the Explorers bar and then on to dinner in Michelangelo dining room. We struck it lucky this time with two couples joining us - one from the USA and the other from the UK. They were good company.

The final event for the night was to go to the central piazza where the soprano from the Encore show the week before was performing. She did a number of classical favourites again, drawing a large crowd.

We were all feeling a bit weary after a day on the road so it was back to our cabins for a night’s rest.

Tomorrow is a sea day – so no pressure to do anything at a fast pace.

Too late to upload the photos I got today. Will do so that tomorrow.

15,500 steps today.

Monday 28 May 2018 – At Sea

A magical Mediterranean start to the day at sea. Absolutely calm, clear skies, warm and just totally pleasant.

Walked for 45 minutes, did a small gym session and had a calming coffee before heading back to the cabin and getting coffee for us both.

A sea day so it is a lazy start to the day with no fixed agenda other than to relax.

We have had two sessions of trivia today – well attended and enjoyed by those who were there. Nobody actually wanted to win because the prizes were so awful – big foam thumbs worn on the hand. Other days, the prizes have been a bottle of wine or a Princess Cruises diary (whoopee duck !)

Attended a lecture on photography. The photography department tries hard to remain relevant – but has difficulty do so printing out literally thousands of photos of everything from getting on the ship, getting off the ship – at each port – photos for formal nights, photos at dinner etc etc. And then they want people to buy them. I think anyone who is on their second cruise has lost the enthusiasms so the remainder must make good recycled material.

A light lunch in Horizons as we are heading to the Italian specialty restaurant tonight – Sabatini’s. Caught up with Stu and Sheila from our first couple of tours and had a good chat for an hour or so.

5 O’Clock Wine O’Clock in the Adagio Bar tonight – new one for us – only found it today ! Proved to be a nice, quiet and well appointed area – much nicer than the Wheelhouse Bar has become.

Our dinner was at Sabatini’s Italian restaurant just next door to Adagio’s. this dinner was the best we have had on board yet. The food was well cooked and presented and the service from Ivaka from Serbia (in an Italian restaurant ??!!) was excellent. Ate too much of course but it was good to have an enjoyable dinner.

Did not have the opportunity to share a table tonight as the booking was just for the four of us. We look forward to see what the dining table might bring tomorrow night.

The show in the Princess Theatre was themed “Sweet Soul Music”. Again, the costumes and the sets were outstanding – they really do have a very professional lighting, sound and background LED display and the outfits are all of a high standard. Unfortunately, the theme missed its mark with the selection of music and the ability of the cast to carry it out. Compared to the last classical show, it did not hit the mark.

We wind our clocks back and hour tonight as we sail back West – Yay !! and extra hour of sleep.

Got all the ironing done – the laundry is empty at this hour of the night.

Back to Kotor tomorrow. We arrive at 7am and depart at 3pm – short visit. We will go ashore and will visit the Old City and if we are feeling energetic enough, will climb the stairs behind the Old Town to the fort above – about 3,000 steps we are told.

As this was a sea day, only 11,000 steps around the ship today.

We are all still well and enjoying the cruise – but it is fast coming to an end on Saturday when we reach Barcelona.

Tuesday 29 May 2018 – Kotor

A stately and quiet sail down Kotor Bay to Kotor again this morning, arriving slightly early at about 6:30am. A beautiful, warm, tranquil and glass smooth surface to the waters in the bay. The transit overnight was generally motion free but a few bumps at times.

This was the second visit to Kotor on this cruise for us. As explained before, this is in fact two cruises each of one week – so we got Kotor once on each leg. Last week, we took a tour with Milo of the area surrounding Kotor town. This time, we just visited the Old Town and aimed to climb the mountain behind to the fort which overlooks the town and the bay.

We got off the ship straight into a tender at 8am and were ashore within 10 minutes. This gave us the advantage of starting the climb while most of that side of the hill was in shade.

Entrance fee is Euro 8 per person, there are no toilets on the track and the track is in various states of repair. Take your own water or buy cold beer, soft drinks or water from locals helpfully located at strategic points on the climb to help thirsty tourists – at a price. The higher you go, the higher the mark up – good business !

The fort was apparently built between the 9th and the 19th centuries, by people as diverse as the Byzantines and the Venetians.

The Castle of St John is reached by climbing 1350 steps and rising about 250 metres above the town. The climb takes about an hour (half and hour down) and is a challenge. We were glad we started it early, in the shade and while it was still relatively cool.

There is a narrow set of stairs on each section of rock and concrete between switchbacks about every 100 metres. Loose rock and stone lie alongside the stairs and on the stairs making both ascending and descending a little dangerous.

Forget workplace Health and Safety rules – they don’t exist. But, wonder of wonders, everyone seems to make it up and down the hill, in a wide range of appropriate and non-appropriate dress and footwear, without incident. The PC Brigade in Australia would have a field day, close down the track and declare it a green zone, fit only for lizards and the many cats that inhabit the area.

Kotor is a cat haven with many references, souvenirs, themed clothing and even a Cat Museum (Renee eat your heart out).

The view from the top is spectacular and is worth the climb. Today was an amazing day to be there and to get good long views from the top. On our first visit here a couple of years ago, it rained heavily on the day, making the track too slippery to try. We even had to get off the streets as water was literally ankle deep during the downpours.

Having conquered the hill, we had a well earned coffee and a bottle of coke (only for medicinal purposes of course to restore energy and salts). We then walked the laneways and squares taking in the sights. The Old Town here is much like those in the rest of the islands we have visited. An old town, contained by what was then a defensive wall, old buildings with modern interior fitouts and retailers with clothing, souvenirs and jewellery.

Surprisingly, very (very) few men’s shops in any of these places – Graeme and I were most disappointed and intend writing to the various City Fathers, pointing out this short coming in the age of equality and discrimination. We think men should be equally exposed to the joys of shopping so they can also walk away with that “feel good” moment in our otherwise droll and dull lives !!

Last tour was the markets outside the city walls where fresh fruit and vegetables were on sale as well as a number of mini deli like stalls – all offering a good range of cheeses, salamis, olives, local wine etc. We tasted and grabbed some cheeses for our drinks session later in the day.

Back on board around 2pm for our 3pm departure and a light lunch to replace the energy spent ashore.

4pm Trivia in Club Fusion – but it’s a worry. This is becoming an obsession because we are enjoying ourselves so much !! No-one takes it seriously and the prizes are crap – but it is a diversion. A time filler and everyone has fun. Next bastion will be the Bingo if we are not careful !

5 O’Clock Wine O’Clock was in Kathy and Graeme’s cabin with eh cheeses we bought and the wines we bought in Athens. It’s a hard life but someone has to do it !!

A quick stop off in the Wheelhouse bar before back to routine and dinner in the Da Vinci Dining Room. We had an interesting couple at our table tonight – Reg who was and American, now living in the UK and married to Sue who was a New Zealander and also living in the UK. Good conversation and good company.

After dinner, we made it back to the Wheelhouse bar where Duo we playing good music and another stop off at Explorers and Club Fusion as we made our way back to our cabins.

Good night out !

13,000 steps today.

Tomorrow is Messina in Sicily but we do not dock until 12 noon and have to be back on board by 7:30pm. We have a tour with Sicily Life to Messina Highlights, Taormina and Castelmola.

Wednesday 30 May 2018 – Messina

Another smooth night at sea and a great coolish dawn still at sea in transit to Messina. A good hour’s walk on deck with Graeme, some gym work and a coffee to start the day.

Latish breakfast to compensate for the fact we would be getting a late lunch and then onto the morning Trivia competition. We lost …..again.

We were all ready and waiting when the Captain gave the word that we were clear to go ashore after arriving in Messina at 12 noon.

Our guide Alessandro was waiting for us with a car and we took off for the day’s tour we had booked with Sicily Life. Alessandro proved to be a personable bloke who gave us a good run down on the history of Messina, Taormina and Sicily. His accent was a little hard to understand – I mistook “cemetery” for “seminary” on one occasion. My question “Is it still occupied ?” took a little unravelling.

The order of places we visited were Naxos, Castelmola, Taormina and then back to Messina.

Naxos is a highly seasonal holiday area for Italians that was originally established by the Greeks. We have just missed a bullet in that the Italian school holidays start on Monday so we were not over run by rug rats !

Castelmola is a small township of a thousand people perched high above Taormina at about 600 metres. Taormina is at 250 metres. The views are amazing, particularly of Mount Vesuvius which sat n the background steaming away from the largest crater. Also seen from Castelmola are the remains of an Arab castle just below. Apparently, there has been significant influence in food, architecture, some customs from the Arabs.

Taormina is a large tourist town with a Greco-Roman arena to its credit. The streets were packed and that made it all a bit uncomfortable. We had lunch at a small café and then found the ruins of the arena nearby. The arena is still in good condition (what is left of it) and some famous artists (like Sting) have come to the town and played to large audiences.

The drive back to Messina took about 40 minutes in the later afternoon and we visited the largest cathedral in the city. It is stunning and is a combination of Arab and Norman architecture.

Our tour ended back on the pier at 6pm and we headed to a bar for refreshment before returning to our cabins and showering. It had been a hot day with temperatures reaching almost 28 degrees C.

None of us were particularly hungry due to our late lunch so a small snack was had at about 8pm in Horizons Bar.

Tomorrow is our last tour on this trip – we dock in Naples at 7am and will be visiting Sorrento, Pompeii and Positano. We have yet to meet our travelling companions but we know they are the Ericsson group from Virginia USA.

18 400 steps today.

Thursday 31 May 2018 – Naples

A quiet night of transit between Messina and Naples arriving at about 7am. Incredible number of seagulls around the bow of the ship – obviously waiting for the pickings as the ship stirred up the local seafood.

The Captain did a great job backing the ship into the pier allocated to us. A relatively small space, other ferries moving and he had no problems putting us alongside.

We joined “The Ericson Group” today. Two brothers and their wives from Atlanta, Georgia and Washington DC. Loretta had organised the trip and we were heading to Sorrento, Positano and Pompeii.

We were met at the pier by Nunzio who was our driver and guide for the day. We were in a comfortable 8 seater Mercedes Transit Van.

Traffic in Naples, Sorrento and Positano in particular was a nightmare all day but it is what it was and we had to be patient.

First stop was a Limoncello factory where we tasted a few versions of the drop again – straight, crème and the grappa. The latter was firewater at 44% alcohol !! Fortunately, we only had little tastes.

Then on to Sorrento where we had an hour walking the city centre. Lots of linen and souvenir shops but a curious absence of many jewellery shops ! The most interesting thing we saw was a funeral – huge display of flowers, a long tolling of the bells and police escort. Must have been someone important, we think.

The next port of call was Positano. Traffic into this area was stop/start and it took well over an hour to get to the drop off point. Everyone else must have had the same idea as it was wall to wall tourists. However, we managed to walk from the start of the main shopping area (lots of linen) right down to the waterfront – complete with its pebbles and black sand.

It is definitely a pleasant place to visit but I could never see us staying there. The streets were full of people and it was difficult to push through the crowds. Only the dedicated were on the beaches.

The photographic scenery however was amazing with hotels and apartments hanging off the sides of the steep cliffs with a range of colours that made it very attractive.

Lunch was taken high above Positano in a family run Italian restaurant. We were offered the Euro 28 per person all inclusive smorgasbord of food but none of us felt like a full meal and settled for shared pizzas – which were very good.

Last stop (and most entertaining) was a visit to Pompeii (Euro 15 entrance fee). A registered guide was allocated (Nunzios’ mate) – Paolo by name - and as camp as a row of tents. !!

But as it turned out, Paolo was most entertaining and knowledgable and had a wicked sense of humour, which he shared freely with us. Of course in a couple of hours, we only scratched the surface of the full story of Pompeii but we were given a good overview and saw some incredible sights.

Roz and I visited Pompeii 10 years ago and it appears they have done a lot to improve access and presentation of the site since then. Paolo brought the story to life with a unique and energetic way of presenting the information. Most enjoyable.

End of tour and a surprisingly fast drive back to the ship arriving at 5:30pm. Another long day on the touring road and we were glad to be back on board.

We had dinner with a charming young couple from California (Ace and Stephanie) who were on their honeymoon. Ace had recently completed military service with the Marines. Stephanie was an nurse – and they both were interesting to have t the table.

We headed for the last production show in the theatre – “Magic to Do”. This was apparently a new production for Princess ships – but in our opinion, they have totally missed the mark and we thought it was the most boring bit of theatre we have seen at sea. It was neither magic or musical and we pulled the pin after about 15 minutes.

Only 11,500 steps today due to the amount of driving.

Sea day tomorrow and then disembarkation in Barcelona on Saturday.

Will upload photos tomorrow.

Friday 1 June 2018 – At Sea

Still a very calm passage at sea. Some slight movement I suspect when they change course but other than that it is plain sailing. A slightly cooler day and overcast to start but the skies cleared as the day went on.

Up early at 5:30am to hit the laundromat to catch up with our washing before going on to the next episode in Barcelona. Even at that hour, I had to wait 15 minutes for a washing machine – but I got one and then followed with the drying. It was only 7am by that stage so I got the ironing up to date with the dry washing too. Washing and drying cycles USD$3 each – pretty cheap actually. The biggest problem is getting a machine as there are only 2 washers and two driers for our whole deck – about 60 cabins.

Breakfast done and on to the first Trivia session for the day. Did well but not good enough.

Roz went to have her hair cut – USD$59 onboard but well over USD$100 in Washington so good deal if no further hair cutting is needed. I filled in time having coffee with Graeme and chatting with other passengers who we had come into contact with during the cruise. One couple is doing 6 weeks on this occasion, with repeated dockings at Rome, Kotor, Athens and a few other ports – more money than they need – obviously !

A light lunch in the Salty Dog Grille near the pool – essentially hamburgers, tacos and hot dogs. We chose the burgers and they were not too bad actually.

Post lunch – time to start the packing as we have to have the cases out by about 10pm this evening.

Another Trivia session at 3:15pm and then Graeme and Kathy came to our cabin for early 5 O’Clock Wine O’Clock to finish up the bottles of wine we had in our cabins.

Dinner for the last time in Michelangelo dining Room and we ended up with a lovely couple – Brian and Judy – from Bowen. They had been tomato farmers and have been retired for about 13 years. Really nice and great people to end our dining experience with.

Final packing and the cases are now in the corridor ready for pickup and transport to shore tomorrow morning.

All good for a “seamless” departure tomorrow – our disembarkation advice indicates we are off the ship at 8:15am tomorrow morning.

We are taking a half day tour of Barcelona with the Ericson group that we were with yesterday. We will be dropped off at our respective hotels at the end of the tour. Not staying in the same places as Kathy and Graeme are continuing on a 2 week tour of Spain on Tuesday ending in Madrid. We leave on Wednesday for Washington DC, via New York.

We have enjoyed cruising with Kathy and Graeme and meeting peoples various in our travels and at dinner. That is the essence and enjoyment of our cruising – meeting people and seeing new places. People always have an interesting story – some personal, some related to their experiences.

Just watching the relationships between couples is particularly enjoyable. It is incredible how much is revealed over just one dinner – and I am sure they have the same experience and observations of us ! The advantage of cruising is that we get a world wide exposure to various nationalities.

The ship has not been the best Princess ship we have been on. The food is not very imaginative and has been repetitive, staff are generally young and have not been trained very well, the entertainment has been either lacking or somewhat underwhelming (with some exceptions – the soprano early in the cruise being the standout). Each ship is different and depends on the senior cruise staff to provide the leadership and training for their staff members. We think that has been lacking on Crown Princess and that will be reflected on our survey response after the cruise.

Equally, some things have been done well and I will respond accordingly to those issues – their tender service ashore has been one of the best we have seen, the cabin steward (Brando) has been good, and all staff have been friendly and polite.

It has just been the little things that have not gone as they should have that have taken the edge off the ship performance. But in the greater scheme of things, we have enjoyed ourselves and I guess that is the bottom line.

We are looking forward to another visit to Barcelona and will try to find some new adventures on this visit.

Only 5,500 steps today being onboard for the day.

Saturday 2 June 2018 - Barcelona

Woken early at 5am as the ship was moving into its berth in Barcelona. Much engine revving and cavitation of the props to get us into position. Then comes the noise from the pier as forklifts start their work to move stores and baggage on and off the vessel. Add in the clanging of the gangplank being put in place on the concrete pier and the noise of people rising early to et off the ship. It was not a very restful night !

Very overcast but a spectacular sunrise as the sun reflected off the clouds.

Off the ship at 8am and we waited with the Ericsons for our morning tour of Barcelona tour operator- who appeared at about 8:30am. the disembarkation process was excellent. It appears a new wharf has been built with a cruise terminal. Everything was new and the progress of the ship was seamless, easy and well done.

We had a very comfortable Iveco transit van from Barcelona Day Tours with a driver and a tour guide, both of whom were good. the tour was an introduction to Barcelona, once over lightly, and we visited the Olympic Games site from 1992, a now defunct bull fighting ring, Mount Juic fort, several Gaudi designed houses, Sagrada Familia and Parc Guel, also designed by Gaudi. The man was prolific and you really have to wonder what sort of mind he had to be able to design in such detail - he was a genius. unfortunately, he came to a sticky end being killed by a tram when he was 73.

We were dropped at our hotel - Citadines La Rambla- at 1pm and the room was ready so we were able to move straight in. After settling in we met with the Woolnoughs who are staying at a nearby hotel and did the La Rambla stroll. We stopped off at La Boqueria, the fantastic market in Barcelona, visited the Tourist Agency, and got into the back streets in the Gothic Quarter. Fortunately, with our previous visits to Barcelona, we were able to stroll around without getting lost.

A visit to the Carrefours Supermarket which is conveniently straight across the road from our hotel to lay in breakfast supplies. The hotel wants Euro12 per person per day for breakfast- would have cost us - a total of Euro 96 for the four days we will be here. We covered that for Euro 29 including a few extras ! Lay down misere !!

We met for dinner at 6:30pm and wandered aimlessly looking for a likely venue, which we eventually found on an upstairs patio overlooking the passing parade of Saturday night strollers. Reasonable dinner had and then on to a tapas bar that Graeme and Kathu had found this afternoon where a couple of Sangrias were consumed.

Time to head back to the hotel as it was nearly 10 and there was still some light in the streets. Very different to the situation at home.

A good day getting off the ship, on the tour, visiting a couple of sites and dinner.

18,000 steps today - no wonder we are a bit weary.

A non descript day tomorrow. Kathy and Graeme have to relocate to the hotel where they join their tour. The forecast is for rain of up to 50mm through the day so it might have to be an inside venue to stay dry.

Sunday 3 June 2018 – Barcelona

True to the forecast, the day began with overcast and threatening skies. By 10am, showers had started and by 1pm it was fair tumbling down – putting a dampener (pardon the pun) on our touring and walking activities.

Today was to be a “gentle” day anyway so that we could all get over the faster pace we had set on the ship with daily tours. But we had anticipated being able to do a bit more than we achieved today.

We had a slow start with a sleep in and a late breakfast around 9:30am. Graeme and Kathy had to check out by 11am and they moved their luggage to their new hotel to join their tour (Claris Hotel). Roz and I took the hike to their hotel (about 1.5km) to get some exercise and we had the first of our morning coffees with them nearby.

Sunday in Barcelona is truly the day of rest. All the big stores and many of the smaller retailers also close. Only the supermarkets and cafes / restaurants seem to be open. And that is the case. Much reduced traffic on the roads and generally less movement. Add in the rain factor and we had a quiet Sunday in downtown Barcelona.

The Tourist Office had advised us there was a flea market at St Antoni that might be interesting. So we took a cab there and the driver dropped us right at the market place. Huge crowds looked encouraging but as we got closer, it was obvious the market was very specific in its theme.

Men, women and children – literally by the thousands – on the footpaths (in the rain) and in the nearby market pavilions – swapping football cards !!! Barcelonans obviously do not have enough to do on a Sunday to be out and about swapping cards.

As we did not have any cards to join the throng, we departed on foot (in the rain) and headed back toward La Rambla area.

We passed through an interesting area of Arab influence in the neighbourhood of Raval. Halal butcheries, many pastry shops and many shops with Arab writing on the signage. Just had to stop and get a taste of the pastries to take back to the hotel to have with coffee.

A quiet lunch in the backstreets of a salad and ham baguette and coffee and around another corner we came across a flea market in one of the many squares in Barcelona. And it really was a flea market – lots of second hand clothing and junk. But interesting to see it all.

By the time we got back to La Rambla, the rain had set in so we retreated to our hotel room with Graeme and Kathy and chatted for an hour or so before they left to finally get into their room (which was not available until 3pm).

They have a tour dinner on tonight and a tour of Barcelona tomorrow morning so we may not get to see them until tomorrow evening when we embark on a 5 hour Taste Barcelona Tapas Walking Tour with them.

The Taste Barcelona Walking Tour is a small group of 8 including the guide, 5 tapas bars for tapas and a different wine at each, five different areas of Barcelona and an explanation of the culture and the foods and wine we are experiencing. Looking forward to it !

The rain continued to fall – we read and checked emails for the rest of the afternoon and then headed to our favourite Sangria café – Moka -just two doors up from our hotel. They make them from scratch and are the best we have had in Barcelona.

Then back to a vegetarian restaurant we enjoyed last time as well – Vegetalia. And another good meal.

We had to walk that off so just headed off into the wild blue yonder and came across the end of a religious festival in front of Barcelona Cathedral. Lots of colour and music and some large than life figurines. Not sure of the significance but they looked good. The church hierarchy was in evidence blessing the assembled masses.

Back onto La Rambla and wandered down to the Columbus Column at the bottom end - past all of the dining n the LA Rambla, all the trinket shops and the African sunglass, and skyrocket men.

By this time the rain had stopped and it was quite comfortable walking.

Back to the room at 10pm.

For John – 14,500 steps today

Monday 4 June 2018 – Barcelona

The day dawned without a cloud in the sky and brilliant sunshine – and it stayed that way all day. The temperatures reached a very pleasant 23 degrees and even into the evening, no extra jumpers or coats were needed.

Again, a slow start to the day but nothing opens before 10am anyway. Woollies had a morning tour of Barcelona so we just got out on our own for a morning coffee and a baguette toast and strawberry jam at about 11am and wandered some streets we had not visited.

A visit to La Boqueria to get some fresh fruit for Roz’s breakfast – incredible range available at just Euro 1.50.

Met up with the Woollies and found a café for a light lunch and then the ladies had shopping time. Joy and happiness !! ☹

Woollies went their way we went ours at about 3.30pm and we got ready for the Taste Barcelona food tour we had booked.

On this occasion only the four of us on the tour – could be up to 7. Roz and I had done this tour 2 years ago with Paul Morris and he was our guide again.

The tour is not cheap at Euro 105 each but it is a great way to experience Barcelona tapas with a knowledgeable guide and high standard food and drinks.

We met at the University at 5pm and he took us to 4 establishments to have tapas and a selection of wines. The first three places were full on food and the last a taste of Cava – the Spanish version of champagne.

The standard of food and drink were as we remembered it and by the third establishment, we were stuffed ! Paul also gave us a quick history lesson on Spain, of the culture and explained each of the tapas dishes and wines we were having. The four districts we visited were also quite different.

End of evening and we bade farewell to Kathy and Graeme after two weeks of travelling with them. They are heading off on their Spain bus tour at 8am tomorrow for two weeks. We have one more day here and then fly to Washington DC via New York on Wednesday.

The forecast for tomorrow has considerably improved from rain all day to late afternoon showers so we are likely to travel by train to Sitges, a small coastal town about an hour south of Barcelona. We have not been there before so worth a look !

For John – 14,500 steps today.

Tuesday 5 June 2018 – Barcelona

Last day in Dodge City. Instead of the bleak overcast and raining forecast, we had overcast with patches of blue and the day turned out to be dry and very pleasant.

We had a slow start to the day again – no need to rush – but Kathy and Graeme had to be on the road by 8am on their bus tour.

The aim today was to visit Sitges which is about 45 minutes south of Barcelona by rail.

We had previously visited Tarragona, a bit further south, two years ago and thought we would look at Sitges which is an old fishing village on the coast and is apparently a gay centre in Spain.

Our observation on the streets when we arrived was that was correct. What gave it away was how many men’s shops there were in town with (very) colourful clothing combinations – particularly the fetching boxer shorts and leather accoutrements !

After using the Metro to transfer from Licieu Metro Station in LA Rambla to Barcelona Sants (Euro 2.20 per person, per trip) we took the R2 Sud Regional train from Barcelona Sants (Euro 8.40 return per person to Sitges).

I had found a suggested walking tour route online from a previous visitor and we started off using that as a guide. Once in the general direction however, we found our own way around the laneways and streets.

Very much a seaside holiday resort with a lot of vacation holiday rentals. A lot were closed up as it appears they have not come fully into the holiday season yet. Our Taste Barcelona guide, Paul Morris, said the schools and universities go on holidays from the end of this week until the second week in September – a long break !

As mentioned above the ratio of men’s shops to women’s was considerably higher in this town than others due to the gay population. Many same sex couples walking the town adorned with ear rings, impossibly short shorts and muscle shirts – and that was just the girls !....................................................... (only joking !!).

Interestingly, previous inhabitants had taken off in the 1800s for the Americas and ended up in Cuba. When they returned, they felt the need to impress their fellow Spaniards and built huge homes – some of which I have provided as photos.

It is all very grand in a decaying sort of way as most of these houses are now well over 100 and sometimes over 150 years old but the money does not appear to be being spent to maintain them in their grand fashion. A real pity as the streets are quite picturesque.

The beach front has its usual complement of cafes and restaurants offering a wide range of seafood, in particular. The sandy beaches have a dull grey sand rather than our pristine whites and are set up in the typical European style with rows of umbrellas and sun lounges – no doubt available for a fee.

A light lunch was had in one of the cafes, a final turn of the town and we headed back to Barcelona arriving here around 4pm. Roz still had a couple of streets to visit for review of shopping needs (nothing purchased – win !!!!!).

Back to the room to start the packing routine as we have an early pickup at 6:30am tomorrow morning.

To dinner at a restaurant adjacent to our hotel and it turned out to be a good place for a feed. The waiter was sure he had seen Roz before (and he had on Saturday last when Kath and Roz were checking out the menu) and he was very kind with the pour for the glass of white wine for her. A “tower of beef fillet” and a “shoulder of lamb” (small) were consumed – the food was well cooked and we enjoyed the meal.

On departure, we were offered a Baileys (Roz) and a grappa (me), on the house. Very kind except the grappa was rocket fuel at 44% alcohol – but how could I be unhospigable and refuse the king gesture ??!!

Had to walk dinner (and the alcohol) off so took a final turn around the back streets and arrived back here at 9:15pm.

On the move at 6:30am for the transfer to the international airport. 10:00am in the air for the 7-8 hour flight to New York arriving there around 12:30pm NYC time. We intentionally allowed a 5 hour layover before catching our flight to Washington DC just in case our Barcelona / NYC flight was delayed.

We arrive Washington DC a bit after 7pm their time. Adrian is picking us up and we are off for the third phase of the holiday – time with the family in Maclean, Virginia. Obviously looking forward to seeing the grandchildren.

When we get to the USA, we will have better SIM cards with more data and phone calls available as well as Adrian’s wifi. So hope to be more communicative once we are there.

A reminder that I will be switching to the USA blog on arrival over there. This will be the last entry on this site. The link for the USA portion of the trip is:

USA - 6 June - 28 June 2018 -

John – 17,500 steps today.

Additional photos below
Photos: 509, Displayed: 91


21st March 2018

Trying this page
21st March 2018

Yes that looks like it works
13th May 2018

Looking forward to hearing all about your travels
15th May 2018

Your eats tour sounds very interesting
17th May 2018

Finally Italy
Enjoy the cruise, looking forward to the next installment.
20th May 2018

All up to date so look forward to early morning read tomorrow.
22nd May 2018

Loving your cruise blog, keep it up. 👏😄
24th May 2018

Armchair travel
Enjoying the commentary & photos.
28th May 2018

Loving your cruise blog, keep it up. 👏😄

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