North Atlantic Crossing - Rome to Lauderdale, October 2018

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November 5th 2018
Published: November 4th 2018
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North Atlantic Crossing – Rome to Fort Lauderdale, October 2018

My next ocean experience begins with crack-of-dawn Delta flights across country to New York, and then over the pond to Rome, where I plan to spend a few days, rediscovering the Eternal City. Being autumn, kids are back in school, the majority of “ugly tourists” have departed for home shores, and I feel as though I have the city to myself. I had a long 6-hour layout at JFK, but thankfully my arrival and departure gates were in the same terminal and the Delta Sky Lounge was right in the middle. It’s been updated a lot since I was last here a few years ago – looks good, the drinks are cold, and the food selections are varied and delicious. Sure beats sitting on those rock-hard plastic seats out in the terminal with the hordes of locusts (aka fellow passengers). Just another uneventful 8+ hour flight has me landing at Fiumicino just after 10am and despite being able to sleep for a couple of hours sitting upright, I still feel exhausted and frazzled, obviously I’m getting old. Once feet down on terra firma, with Italian customs and immigration behind me (literally a no-brainer, as everyone was flying thru the automated passport control in record time), I took the short walk to the Hilton Rome Airport Hotel, the only one situated on airport grounds and attached to the airline terminals via covered walkways. They had me in a lovely room just a few doors down from the lounge, but all I could think about was a cold shower and a few hours horizontal on the very inviting king-size bed. Having stayed here on previous occasions, I find it extremely comfortable, convenient when arriving by air, and very close to the main highway to Civitavecchia (approximately 50 miles north), Rome’s cruise ship terminal. They also offer an Executive Lounge which while useful, is not what I would term fantastic or even great as some lounges are, but just okay overall. Still it works for me. They offer a complimentary shuttle into central Rome (approximately 20 miles away) every day – that works great for my planned sightseeing adventures.

Rome of course has a HOHO tour bus system and while not overloaded with attraction stops (8 in all), purchasing tickets online gives a variety of options to include world-renown attractions which would normally cost more if bought separately. There is the classic 24-hour pass for $32.83, a standard 48-hour pass for $36.35, and a new 72-hour one for $41.04. What is new and different these days with HOHO in Rome, are four 48-hour passes of varying prices, which include a choice of: (1) skip-the-line entrance to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, (2) audio guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, (3) the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, or (4) an all-inclusive ticket to all of the above. It’s rare to have so many choices on the HOHO bus anywhere. Having visited Rome on several previous occasions, I’m happy with the basic 24-hour ticket which covers the central city, with plenty of opportunities to step off and wander off down interesting-looking streets and into ancient squares – you never know what you will find in Rome, that’s for sure.

This city also boasts the oldest metro system in Europe, opening in 1955 with three lines: A, B and C, comprising of approximately 37 miles of track and 73 stations. Trains run every 7-10 minutes and operate from 5:30am to around midnight 7 days a week. Vending machines and booths are available in all stations for ticket purchases, with the best deal being the 72-hour unlimited pass at a cost of $44.00. Although Rome airports are not directly serviced by the metro system, all trains and buses departing from Fiumicino Airport to the city center will stop at Termini Central Train Station, where you will find the major metro station from which to catch all metro lines in all directions. To reach the Vatican Museums, Cipro metro station is the closest but not necessarily the most convenient, especially if you arrive when a long line to the entrance has already formed. To avoid having to walk to the end of the line and extended waiting, try visiting in the afternoon or midday. Metro line A has many major attractions within walking distance: Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain. Use metro line B for Ancient Roman sites. It will carry you directly to the Colosseum with nearby Roman Forum and to Circo Massimo which is close to the Caracalla Baths.

A short introduction:

It once ruled the western world, and even the partial, scattered ruins of that awesome empire of which Rome was the capital, are today some of the most overpowering sights on earth. To walk the Roman Forum, to view the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Appian Way, the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, the Spanish Steps and of course, the Trevi Fountain (toss a coin in the fountain to ensure your return) – these are among the most memorable, instructive and illuminating experiences in all European travel. To see evidence of a once great civilization which no longer exists, is a humbling experience that all tourists should have. Thrilling too are the sights of Christian Rome, which speak to the long and complex domination by this city, of one of the world’s major religions. As a visitor, you’re constantly reminded of its extraordinary history.

It’s important to remember that Rome is not just a place of the past, but one that lives and breathes and buzzes with Vespas in the here and now. Take some time to get away from the tourist hordes to explore the intimate piazzas and lesser basilicas in neighborhood back alleys and side streets; indulge in gastronomic pursuits and stuff your days with cappuccinos, pizza, trattorias, wine bars and gelato. Rome is so compact that without much planning, you’ll end up enjoying both its famous monuments and its simpler pleasures. Walk these Roman streets, and the city will be yours for eternity – however, I’m taking the bus! The weather is certainly cooperating. Bright sunny days, mercury hovering around 70f and refreshing cool breezes, makes for a perfect sightseeing climate.

On my last night in the Eternal City, the gods on high decided to give me a resounding sendoff with a magnificent storm, complete with booming thunder, torrential rain and a lightning display rivaling any July 4th fireworks celebration. Impressive it was, enough so that I stepped outside under the awning of the hotel, to watch Mother Nature demonstrate her power…you go girl! LOL

After my final Hilton breakfast the next morning, I checked out and headed back inside the airport terminal where I had arranged to meet a small group of friends, to take a shuttle to Civitavecchia. The place was a zoo – chaotic crowds in terminal 3 and when the shuttle driver collected the group, we took a strange detour to the parking lot, I have no idea why. We finally piled into this 9-seater van around 11:30am for the hour-long trip paralleling the Tyrrhenian Sea – always a delightful drive and a beautiful clear, sunny day to do it in – before arriving at the luggage drop-off section at the port. Well worth the 28-euro price with enjoyable company along the way. The usual chaotic check-in procedure commenced (nothing close to the efficiency I had experienced at the Vancouver dock last month), but some 50 minutes later, I was finally getting my welcome flute of champagne at the gangway entrance – here we go, my next ocean adventure begins. The Celebrity Reflection was built in 2012 with a refurbishment completed just this year, carrying 3,046 passengers and a crew of 1,250. She is of the Solstice Class of ships and is identical to the one I sailed on earlier in the year, to Australia and New Zealand. Enjoying the Concierge Class of cabin once more located on Deck 10, I immediately head that way to drop off hand luggage and start getting settled in. Being a much newer vessel than the Millennium, the cabins are larger and are far more comfortable – I really like having my king size bed located adjacent to the balcony. Now I can keep this door open all night and go to sleep listening to the waves crashing below, with salty brine air invading the entire room. If this doesn’t make for a great night’s slumber, I don’t know what does.

After last night’s storm the air has cleared, and we are gifted with bright blue skies, brilliant sunshine and a stiff breeze – perfect for watching our departure from my balcony just after 5pm, as the Reflection slips her terra firma bonds and heads for the open sea. It’s sunset when the ship’s horn sounds with night-time clouds slowly creeping in from the east, but I’m looking west across the Tyrrhenian Sea, the lowering sun blazing a golden trail across the water’s surface, as if pulling the ship onwards towards the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, just over the horizon.

There are certainly some characters aboard this voyage, that’s for sure. My first “vision” of idiocy occurred on my way to dinner the first night. What do I spy but some ditzy blonde of indeterminate age (think “mutton dressed as lamb”), pushing a small baby stroller in which a white ball of fur with two black eyes is staring back at me thru the mesh cover! There is no way on god’s green earth this could constitute a “support” animal in any shape or form, but here it was – reminded me of an extra-large powder puff with feet…. too funny. Then of course my imagination runs wild – does this overblown poof of fur ever walk unaided? Thoughts to ponder, boggles the mind. Another first came later during the theater show …. I sat next to a man with a Labrador eye-seeing guide dog, a beautiful animal who lay under his master’s seat for the entire performance. I doubt however that the dog appreciated the lackluster comedian any more than I did – another not-funny individual who obviously thinks he’s hilarious. Why do I attend these boring shows? One of these days the light bulb will illuminate, and I’ll know better than to waste a good hour I could have spent in the Martini Bar.

As is my usual routine, I begin my Pro/Con list for the cruise. So far, it’s swaying to the negative side (no surprise there) when I discover no toiletries in the cabin bathroom, just as I’m about to step into a much-needed shower. Thank god I had extras in my luggage (I wasn’t a brownie in my youth for nothing), or it would have been double-deodorant time to get thru the remainder of the evening. Next up was trying to get seated for dinner. I had requested to share a table of 6 or 8 people, after all who wants to eat alone? I sure don’t. It took three attempts before the restaurant staff got it right – this does not bode well for the next two weeks. To top it all off, the service was so slow I half expected dessert to show up around 3am the next day…….my feelings towards cruising drops by degrees on each trip I take. Once again on the negative side, the following morning’s breakfast resulted in my not getting half of what I ordered, and it took two requests before I did – can we say remedial training here? So far, its 3-0 in favor of the negatives …. stay tuned for updated totals.

Just before 7am on morning 2, rattling of chains and the slight bumping against something solid awakens me from a deep sleep – we have docked in Barcelona, Spain. Another fabulous day on tap for those going ashore – I’m not – I’ll be in this glorious city for at least a week next month – pointless to spend a few short hours here, when I’ll be exploring it in-depth very soon. As the ship is virtually empty, I enjoy some quiet time and catch up on my Kindle reading for a change…. nothing like a good book while relaxing in a comfy deck chair, with feet propped up on the balcony and watching the world pass by.

As I was preparing to depart the ship for a planned sightseeing trip of Cartagena the next day, I found out what had caused all that chaos at the Rome airport a few days ago. Apparently, that morning a bomb scare had been called in and all taxi/shuttle drivers had to make detours to their vehicles without telling any of the passengers what the problem was, for fear of creating total panic. I have no idea if it was real or not, haven’t heard any further details, but it all leads to having an interesting day. See the fun and excitement you can have when you travel……..LOL

The Reflection slid into her docking site just before 10am and once we were cleared to disembark, I made my way down to the dock, to the small tour group I was joining for the day. Located approximately 40 miles from the coast, is our first sightseeing stop, the city of Murcia. This region is a major producer of fruits, vegetables and flowers for the rest of Spain and Europe. Wineries have developed in the region as well as a thriving olive oil industry. Murcia is mainly a warm region which has made it ideal for agriculture, with a climate very similar to southern California. However rainfall levels are very low and water supply is a hot subject since, in addition to the traditional water demand for these crops, there is now also a water demand for the booming tourist economy.

A little bit of history:

The territory, which is today known as the Region of Murcia, has been inhabited by man for over 1,500,000 years, and this human presence has been a constant factor in the development of the Murcian landscape since the remotest prehistory period. The first evidence of man’s presence dates to the Neanderthal and Cromagnon periods, with abundant archaeological finds from Neolithic times onwards. Iron age remains speak of a certain level of progress leading to the development of agriculture and the domestication of livestock during the Iberian period, and later intense commercial activity with the presence of Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian settlers in permanent conflict with the native people. This place really has it all - numerous remains and archaeological sites which include rock-paintings in cave-shelters dating back to the Iberian period; the splendour of Roman antiquity with its urbanistic refinement and penchant for the theatrical; Visigothic cities, Arab medinas, Christian castles, watch-towers, churches and temples, civil and military constructions...what more could a visitor possibly want?

Murcia has the impressive Cathedral Church of Saint Mary which dominates the Plaza del Cardenal Belluga, just a short walk from the river. It is the only cathedral in use in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cartagena. Individual enclaves line the interior walls, each protected by solid iron bars to prevent folk like me from getting too close to the precious contents. Stunning stained-glass windows throw mesmerizing patterns onto the floor as sunlight enters, casting light and shadows throughout this magnificent structure. The Christian king Jaime I the Conqueror took this city during a revolt which lasted from 1264 to 1266 AD. Despite an existing pact with Muslims living in the city that prevented the destruction of any mosque, the king took the Great Mosque to consecrate it to the Virgin Mary, a custom he put in place when he conquered any settlement. However, it was not until the 14th century that construction of the existing cathedral would begin. In 1385 work on the foundation started and in 1388 the first stone was laid. Another six years passed until construction continued, and finally the cathedral was completed in October 1467. The cathedral continued to evolve until the 18th century, demonstrating a variety of artistic styles. The interior is mostly Gothic with a very Baroque style exterior façade. The heart and entrails of King Alfonso X the Wise are buried under the main altar, as he had indicated in his will, as a gift and proof of his love to Murcia and in thanks to the fidelity that the city had showed to him.

In 1854 AD, the Cathedral suffered a terrible fire that destroyed the High Altar and the choir stalls. The repair work resulted in the creation of a new neo-Gothic altarpiece, and the commission of a majestic organ. Under this organ, 16th-century plateresque chairs from the Monastery of Santa Maria de Valdeiglesias were installed, thanks to a donation made by Queen Isabel II.

By lunchtime, the temperature had risen to the high 70’s with a cloudless blue sky and blazing sunlight – time to re-board the bus and head back to the coast and eyeball the port city of Cartagena. Possessing one of the finest harbors in the western Mediterranean, Mastia (as Cartagena was known in ancient times) was first conquered by a Roman general called Scipio Africanus, in 209 BC. It was then “re-founded” in 228 BC by Hasdrubai, a Carthaginian general, who used the town as a stepping-off point for his conquest of Spain. Later, Cartagena thrived as a part of the Roman Empire, and Romans considered this location as very relevant to their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. It remained important until it was sacked by the Vandals in 435 AD. Well, I don’t plan on conducting any sacking today, but I do intend to explore and discover.

This naturally deep and sheltered Mediterranean port surrounded by five hills, has long been coveted as a trading center and seafarers’ game-changer. And yet this city of awesome ancient treasures is one of Spain's lesser-known tourist havens. Today, there’s a pedestrian-friendly and pleasant metropolis of approximately 220,000 people that both exuberantly celebrates its past and exudes a forward-thinking spirit. Cartagena's wealth of archaeological sites draws visitors to explore its notable yesteryear - many Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine and Moorish ruins remain, (including a genuine Roman amphitheater), making it one of Spain's most fascinating age-old jewels. Its universities, restaurants, bars and parks packed with people, are signs of a thriving economy and lively future. I spent a very pleasant hour relaxing under a gigantic Australian fig tree in one of the many quiet and shaded squares, tucked away down hidden back alleys. People watching is the major free entertainment around here.

Sunrise is this region of the world isn’t until 8:35am, so when we docked in our third Spanish port of call – Malaga – I was disoriented, thinking it was still the middle of the night. Hard to revved up and going when the mind is still begging for a few more zzzzzzzzz’s. But with fresh-brewed coffee just a few decks below salvation was in sight, I just might get both eyes open after all.

Malaga, the southernmost large city in Europe, lies on the Costa del Sol - some 80 miles east of the Strait of Gibraltar, about 95 miles due north of the African continent, and considered the gateway to the Andalusian countryside. If you think the Costa del Sol is soulless, you clearly haven’t been here. Loaded with history and brimming with a youthful vigor that proudly acknowledges its multi-layered past, the city that gave birth to Picasso has transformed itself in spectacular fashion, with half a dozen new art galleries, a radically rethought port area and a nascent art district called Soho. Not that Málaga was ever lacking in energy (like that would ever happen) - the Spanish-to-the-core bar scene could put bags under the eyes of any insomniac, while the food culture encompasses both Michelin stars and tastefully tatty fish shacks (my personal favorite). This is where you come for tapas washed down with sweet local wine and stay in a creative boutique hotel, sandwiched between a Roman amphitheater, a Moorish fortress and the polychromatic Pompidou Center.

A little bit of history:

Phoenicians founded the city as Malaka about 770 BC, the name probably derived from the Phoenician word for “salt”, because fish was salted close to the harbor. Following a period of Carthaginian rule, Malaka became part of the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was ruled first by the Visigoths and then by the Byzantine Empire from 550 to 621 AD. Finally in 711 AD the Arabs arrived, and the region came under Muslim rule. The famous Arab traveler Ibn Battuta, who passed through around 1325 AD, characterized it as "one of the largest and most beautiful towns of Andalusia, uniting both sea and land, and is abundantly supplied with foodstuffs and fruits". He praised its grapes, figs, and almonds, "its ruby-colored Murcian pomegranates have no equal in the world." Another exported product was its "excellent gilded pottery".

These days, Malaga is a preferred seaside resort, boasting some of Europe’s finest beaches, where Brits, Germans and other North European citizens, bronze their pasty-white bodies during summer vacations. It is also home to some of Islamic Spain’s most impressive palaces, including the Moorish Alcabaza and Gibralfaro……and who hasn’t heard of the Alhambra……without a doubt, the finest examples of building construction under Muslim rule.

The city has three major annual cultural events, to which thousands of tourists flock every year. Kicking off the yearly celebrations is Holy Week, which has been observed for the past five centuries. Processions start on Palm Sunday and continue until Easter Sunday. Images depicting scenes from the Passion are displayed on huge ornate floats or thrones, some weighing more than 11,000 pounds. Next up is the August Malaga Fair when the streets are transformed into traditional symbols of Spanish culture and history, with sweet wine, tapas, and live flamenco shows. The day events consist of dancing, live music like the flamenco, and bullfights at La Malagueta, while the night fair is moved to the Recinto Ferial, consisting of restaurants, clubs, and an entire fair ground with rides and games. And finally, the Malaga Film Festival is dedicated exclusively to films produced in Spain and is one of the most important festivals in the country. It is held for a week in March or April.

Since that fierce storm back in Rome a week ago the weather has been simply marvelous, but all good things must come to an end. While the sunrise had held promise of another late summer day, it was obvious by mid morning that it wasn’t to be. Clouds gathered in abundance over the city and slight rain squalls began. Certainly not cold, but the heavy grey overcast made for a dull and gloomy day. I elected to ride a shuttle bus from the ship to the Plaza de la Marina port gate (5 euros for a round trip ticket), to look around the town in the morning hours, but after a couple of hours spent browsing and sightseeing, I called it a day and returned to the ship. Tonight bidding adieu to Spain, I’ll sail between the “Pillars of Hercules”, passing the Rock of Gibraltar to the north and Tangier to the south, before entering the open waters of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Now I’m enroute to Tenerife, some 1,015 miles southwest, with the voyage paralleling Morocco’s west coast. No telling what the ocean has in store, but I fully expect it to be much different after the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

My final Spanish port of call is in the Canary Islands, located just 62 miles west of Morocco at its closest point. This archipelago consists of seven main islands: Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. On this cruise I’ll be visiting the largest and most populated of these, Tenerife, which is considered the striking (and slightly saucy) grand dame in the archipelago family. Attracting over 10 million visitors a year, the island’s most famous southern resorts offer Brit-infused revelry and clubbing, combined with white sandy beaches and all-inclusive resorts. But step beyond the obvious tourist spots and discover a cultured and civilized island of extraordinary diversity. This potpourri of experiences includes tropical-forest walks and designer shops, dark forays into volcanic lava, a sexy and sultry Carnival celebration that’s second only to that found in Rio, and a stash of museums, temples to modern art and creaky old colonial towns to satisfy any visitor’s taste. But above all else, this is an island of drama, and nothing comes more dramatic than the snow-draped Pico del Teide, Spain’s tallest mountain.

A little bit of history:

Before the arrival of humans, the islands were inhabited by prehistoric animals such as the giant lizard, the Tenerife and Gran Canaria giant rats and giant prehistoric tortoises. The earliest known human settlement in the islands date to around 200 BC, by Berbers called the Guanches. It is believed the islands had been visited by Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, but it is King Juba II who is credited with discovering the islands for the Western world. According to Pliny the Elder, Juba found the islands uninhabited, but found "a small temple of stone" and "some traces of buildings". Juba dispatched a naval contingent to re-open the dye production facility at Mogador, in what is now western Morocco, in the early 1st century AD. That same naval force was subsequently sent on an exploration of the Canary Islands, using Mogador as their mission base.

My day begins just as dawn was breaking in the eastern skies….to the west on the horizon, I could see land fast approaching, but also a fat-ass dark array of clouds indicating heavy rain… Story of my life, miserable weather when ports of call are awaiting my arrival…. I’m doomed I tell ya, doomed! The cloud cover appeared to lift somewhat during breakfast, but as I made my way to the disembarkation deck, the skies opened, and it poured down. Heavy mist enveloped the docks, a stiff breeze was blowing the rain almost horizontally….I beat a hasty retreat to the lounge to wait it out. Finally around 11am sunlight burst thru the cloudy skies and I decided to take the free shuttle bus into Santa Cruz (the capital city) and look around. Being Sunday much was closed, but the usual tourist areas were busy, as two large cruise ships were in town. Located on the eastern tip of Tenerife, Santa Cruz is home to one of the most historically important harbors in the Atlantic Ocean. The city rapidly developed in the 19th century, as fleets bound for the Americas would regularly stop here, helping to firmly fix this destination on the world map. Today, it is a vibrant and cosmopolitan hive of activity, full of interesting places to visit, attractive architecture, great shopping and an abundance of excellent restaurants. The harbor is a gateway into mainland Spain and a final stop-off port for cruise liners traveling to the Caribbean. Tenerife’s biggest claim to fame is that it was the last island of the Canaries to be conquered, and the one that took the longest time to submit to Castilian troops, as the Crown of Castile attempted to annex the island around 1464 AD. Resistance to Spanish conquest lasted for a total of 32 years, before it was finally subdued in 1496 AD. It’s second claim to fame, it’s the only island of the 7 to have two airports – north and south.

As always, my most favorite way to get around a new place is the HOHO tourist bus – yes, Tenerife has one, but with the “iffy” weather today (according to the local forecast, it would be the wettest day of this week), I decided to nix this option – hardly surprising. I did check it out however and with a ticket costing $25.53 per person, a steal of a deal for what you get. The actual open-air top deck bus tour consists of 15 stops, covering the most emblematic places, of tourist and commercial interest, in wide coverage throughout the city’s interior. Combined with these buses, there is a tourist train which makes a 5-stop circuit around the tourist points of interest, paralleling the ocean most of the time. Culture is alive and well in Santa Cruz and among the riches on offer are the Auditorium of Tenerife, Parliament buildings of the Canary Islands, several La Laguna University faculties, not to mention the exciting shopping area in Plaza de España (Square of Spain) on the seafront, which leads up to Plaza de la Candelaria (Square of Candelaria), where you can buy international brands at tax free prices. In addition, the tourist board is in the city center, and here you can collect maps, street plans and other information. All of these are within easy walking distance or via the HOHO buses. One goodie this town offers which I really like, is free Wifi just about everywhere with a reasonably strong and stable signal. Considering many of the ship’s passengers do not purchase the onboard Wifi, this is a god send for them. This port of call is especially important for internet connections, as we begin our 3,454 nautical run across the Atlantic Ocean to the USA later today – no more emails for you guys, until we enter American waters in 7 days! LOL

Every year in February or March, Santa Cruz turns into party town with the arrival of carnival. For weeks the streets and plazas are transformed into one big festival – and they really know how to celebrate here! People come from all over, dress up in colorful costumes, take part in the parade and sing and dance until the early hours. It really is a great time of the year to visit this exciting capital city, with an annual celebration considered one of the largest in the world. The weather really didn’t improve much the entire day. Short rain squalls would blow thru occasionally and the heavy overcast would lift somewhat, but the dark, cloudy skies never cleared. Everyone had to be back on board by 4:20pm, so by mid afternoon I was ready to call it a day. It had been an interesting - albeit warm, muggy and wet – day, however the standard afternoon champagne and snacks were calling my name……. adios Tenerife, until we meet again. Once we cleared the harbor, it was obvious we were now in deep ocean and not a protected breakwater. Waves were much higher, temperatures dropped, and the ship started to rock and roll – with no terra firma for the next 7 days, no doubt I’ll be holding onto corridor handrails when moving around.

Let’s talk about the ship and life at sea without any upcoming ports of call. It’s so easy to fall into a natural rhythm during these “at sea” days, where nothing is strictly scheduled (i.e. shore excursions) …. more of a “come as you are, if and when you feel like it” attitude. The Daily Planner is crammed with onboard activities from multiple sets of trivia, to wine tastings, to movies and lectures, or simply do nothing at all. I get the most entertainment out of people watching and with the 3,000+ warm bodies around here, you never know what you will see next. There are times when I’m convinced on a floating God’s waiting room (similar to Florida only on water), with so many of the passengers in their “golden” years, pushing walkers, using scooters or canes or just shuffling along… can only hope there are coffins available as some of these folks look as though they won’t see another sunrise! I would put the median age around 67, but many are much older. Quite a few are using this repositioning cruise as transportation from Europe back to the USA instead of flying, others just love the multiple consecutive sea days, and a couple I met took this voyage to jump up to the next level of Celebrity’s Captain’s Club loyalty program. Whatever the purpose, the vast majority are “dyed in the wool” committed, avid cruisers and can’t imagine doing any other type of travel.

It's Halloween – I’m halfway across the Atlantic and the weather is “all in” for this holiday, with dark grey ocean, lighter grey skies, mist and not a speck of blue sky or sunlight anywhere. Wave height is in the 4’ – 5’ range and the captain promises higher tomorrow with plenty of ship movement – whoopee - not. The crew went all out to decorate the grand foyer area on deck 3, with dozens of carved pumpkins and multi-colored gourds, skeletons, ghouls, skulls, bats and blood covering the entire curved staircase between the 3rd and 4th decks. Around the Guest Relations desk, more Halloween decorations and some of the passengers are wearing party headwear and costumes. There is a Halloween-themed party in the same area at 10pm this evening. Assuming I finish dinner in time, I’ll stop by to see what’s going on.

A little excitement to brighten the day: around noon a couple of days later, the Captain announced over the ship’s PA system that a medical emergency had occurred requiring hospitalization of a passenger, and we were hauling ass to Florida at top speed – at this point of the cruise we were about 1,000 miles east, making it impossible for a helicopter to make an evacuation. This will have us in Port Everglades a day early before the ship makes a U-turn and heads back out to sea. We docked just after noon on our final cruise day, with three ambulances and a fire truck awaiting the two patients (apparently another passenger suffered some heart problems, and also had to be evacuated). It took the EMTs less than an hour to board the ship, secure the two people to gurneys and have them transferred out into the ambulances, before we cast off and headed back out into the Atlantic. We will still dock as scheduled at 7am tomorrow morning - always something happening around there, that’s for sure. Then its disembarkation time and I head to the airport for my flights home. It will be good to see Las Vegas again. I have a few days at home before I fly again…….stay tuned for the next adventure…..cheers…….

Additional photos below
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13th November 2018

Reflection- North Atlantic Crossing
Enjoyed reading your article. Met you on the ship and can’t wait to continue following your adventures.

Tot: 2.645s; Tpl: 0.112s; cc: 9; qc: 35; dbt: 0.0722s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb