The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Monday, April 27, 2015

April 25, At Sea

Saturday, April 25 - Day 81 - At Sea

We are continuing up the West coast of Africa today passing some 245 nautical miles off the coast of Liberia and some 205 nautical miles off Sierra Leone. Guess that we are far enough away that it won’t count as a visit on the immigration health forms we still have to fill out on this trip.

This morning we both have Eggs Benedict, our favorite breakfast! We are running a little late this morning, but have no plans other than to begin the final proof of the blog from the beginning and to make files of best pictures for each day for the picture book Carolyn will put together of the trip. We walk outside to get back to the forward elevators. It is still quite humid this morning but not as bad as yesterday.

Back in the room we decide to begin the process of cleaning up the blog starting at the beginning in preparation for putting the book together. Dick works on proofing the reports one more time and Carolyn begins making files of pictures to use for each day.

About 1PM Carolyn goes down to the Grills lounge on our deck and gets some sandwiches then orders chips and cookies from room service. We can’t eat three big meals a day no matter how good they are.

The sea has been oily calm all day and the balcony is in the shade now so Carolyn adjourns to the balcony to read...mmm... sleep for the afternoon. There is a cool breeze across the deck and it is very know the rest of the story. Dick reads, naps and plays computer games in the room.

About 6:15PM we decide to try the lounge that is just for the Grills passengers for cocktails. It is really nice; don’t know why we haven’t gone in before. After a couple of cocktails and nibbles we adjourn to the dining room for a pleasant meal. Dick has a lemon sole dish and Carolyn has the always available spaghetti which is very good.

As usual, after the pleasant meal with good attentive service and chatting with our British neighbors we head for the room and never, never land via our starboard side walk in the twilight. Sunset tonight is 7:53PM.

April 24, At Sea

Friday, April 24 - Day 81 - At Sea
Sun rise is at 7:21AM, but it is still very dark. It rained off and on all night, still looks like rain, and is very humid this morning another day of air you can wear. This is to be expected though since we are right at the Equator and will actually cross the yellow line at 1PM. Today we are still sailing northwesterly and will pass some 650 nautical miles west of the Gulf of Guinea.

We go to breakfast at the usual time. Then walk along the promenade deck to the forward elevators. It seems much shorter than taking the aft elevators and walking forward to the room on our deck! Guess it is having something to look at that makes it seem shorter. Our fitbits tell us it is about 800-900 steps for the return trip.

There are three talks today, but they don’t appeal to us. Carolyn is well into the books she got yesterday from the library and Dick has found a book on the Boers that he is enjoying so we plan to read in the room today.

The crossing ceremony is at 12:15PM today so Carolyn goes to get some pictures. She does this one time for each of the ships we have been on. Being high noon and within 45 minutes of the actually crossing it is bloody hot, humid and a burning bright sun! Fortunately it is short and sweet. Back in the room we take Jack out to see the yellow line and to feel the bump as we cross at 1PM. The Captain blows the horn to celebrate the event. The Queen Mary has several horn sounds and he blows the whole range as we cross....neat. We order a sandwich from room service for lunch today.

The rest of the afternoon passes by as we read and nap....what a life! It is another informal night to night, we prefer this to formal. The menu doesn’t appeal to much to Carolyn so she has a fruit plate as a starter and the tempura shrimp part of another "always available" starter as a main course with a baked potato. Our waiter now asks if we want a potato with all the trimmings since we have asked for this most nights. Dick has an Indian dish and we both have cherries jubilee done table side for dessert. Sunset is at 7:24PM and we do our evening walk in the twilight for the first time.

April 23, At Sea

Thursday, April 23 - Day 80 - At Sea Sunrise today is 7:06AM. We cross into the Western Hemisphere today for the first time since crossing the International Date Line on February 21st; another little sign that our trip is nearing an end! We will also pass 740 nautical miles to the east of Ascension Island during the day.

We are up and to breakfast at the usual time. Dick works on the computer and reads and Carolyn explores the ship. The pain in her knees and feet is mostly gone and she wants some pictures. Dick did this the first morning. Then we adjourn for lunch and have a nice conversation with the British couple beside us.

Carolyn plans to go to the lecture by Ian Brown on Brink’s Mat Gold Bullion Robbery, but the theater is packed, not a seat in the house, so she spends the afternoon getting the pictures sorted while Dick gets caught up on the reports. Then she struggles with the slow internet to get all the back posts published and after buying some more internet time we are up to date. The rest of this section of the trip should be easier to do and take less time since we are on the ship. There is not too much happening and really no pictures.

It is very humid today and is miserable out side; plus it looks like rain. The balcony is not too appealing so we both stay inside.

The Grand Staircase

It is another formal night tonight so the menu has some special things, one, snails in garlic butter, Dick’s favorite and lemon soufflĂ© for desert which we both like. In between these two items we have a wonderful rack of lamb done to perfection with baked potatoes with all the trimmings! Pleasantly stuffed we waddle to bed inside the ship since when we peek out it is raining.

April 22, At Sea

Wednesday, April 22 - Day 79 - At Sea Sunrise is at 6:45AM. Again, after an early night, Dick is up and out to the coffee bar for his morning fix and Carolyn wakes around 8AM. Breakfast is good as usual. We continue our northwesterly track leaving the Angolan coast and passing 750 nautical miles from Saint Helena off our port side today. This morning we go to the 10AM lecture by Dan Wilkins on "Our Place in the Universe". He has a very strong British accent and at times is a bit hard to understand, but it is an interesting talk on the development of the universe, probably more so for Carolyn than Dick. He talks about the many advances that were made in the 1960's when Carolyn was working for the astronomer at UT who was conducting experiments out at UT’s Davis Mountain Observatory.

Next up is a talk by RT. Hon. Lord Howard of Lympne CH QC, "Three Weeks that Changed the World, Churchill’s first three weeks as Prime Minister." Dick heads to this one and the theater is packed. Carolyn passes and goes to the library to find some reading material. She also explores the ship a bit and finds the wonderful aft pool on deck 8.

We get back to the room in time to head to lunch. Dick has a salmon starter and a small piece of grilled salmon as a main. Carolyn has a bowl of minestrone soup and a pasta dish. The soup and the pasta are excellent but very filling. After lunch we go to the theater to see a musical murder mystery - "Murder of the Master Mariner at Midnight on a Misty Monday in the Mid-Atlantic with a Mayan Machete." It is a funny part play and part game show based on a Sherlock Holmes Murder Mystery. We don’t do so well on the game part, but we do enjoy the fun.

Back in the room, we again pass the afternoon napping and reading on the balcony....such a hard life!

The sun sets at 6:29PM and we are off to dinner. In the dining room things are settling into a routine, the waiters know what we like and we have gotten to know the people sitting near us so there is a lot of conversation among those of us at the tables for two, a very good set up....we can be alone if we want or participate in the on going conversations with those around us. Dick has a Spanish dish, seafood paella which he thought was good, but the Spanish lady at the next table said it wasn’t really. Carolyn has a nice vegetable plate since she had such a heavy lunch. We both have Banana’s Foster prepared table side for another good meal.

After a very pleasant day we are off too never, never land as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

April 21, At Sea

Tuesday, April 21 - Day 78 - At Sea
Sunrise today is at 6:29AM. Today is the first of seven sea days and 3,800 nautical miles to our next port in Grand Canaria. Through the day we will sail north westerly along the Namibian coast. The day is sunny and pleasantly warm. Dick is up and at his coffee bar for his morning fix about 7:30. He goes back to the room and reads his Kindle until Carolyn wakes about 8AM. This suite is very nice with the sitting area at one end and the bed at the other. There is enough room that he doesn’t disturb Carolyn.

We head to breakfast about 8:30. The staff is beginning to know what we like...Carolyn a starter of fresh strawberries and Dick a plate of salmon with all the trimmings. The service is smooth and understated...things just happen...a very nice way to start the day.

We both have great intentions of getting out and enjoying what the ship is offering, but we both wind up staying in the room working on this blog and the pictures. After yesterday we are way behind again. We took over a 1,000 pictures and from what Carolyn is seeing on the first pass we got some good ones! Good...that was a bit of a stressful day!

We go to lunch about 1PM, then spend the rest of the afternoon reading and napping on the balcony. This is usually Carolyn’s thing, but Dick joins her this afternoon. We are "POSH" on this cruise...port out to Africa and starboard back to England...the cabin always has morning sun and afternoon shade making it pleasant on the balcony in the afternoon. We have very nice reclining lounge chairs with pads and covers and a large balcony so it is very inviting.

It is another formal night so we dress a suit for Dick and silk top and slacks for Carolyn and head to dinner about 7PM. Dick has shrimp in an ouzo sauce and Carolyn has the grilled lobster, part of the surf and turf main. They put two lobsters on her plate to make sure she has enough. They are a good size, very well done and tasty. Dick helps finish off the second one. We have crepe Suzette for dessert made table side which is soooo good. So far the food is wonderful and the service is very good. We are very pleased with the Queen’s Grill. Sunset is at 5:59PM so it is dark by the time we get back to the room and sleep is calling.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 20 - Walvis Bay, Namibia

Monday, April 20 - Day 77 - Walvis Bay, Namibia

Dick is up at 4:30AM not having slept well and sees the pilot boat come alongside. At this time it is clear but when he looks out again, it is very foggy but we are creeping into port. Carolyn is up a little before the alarm goes off and, once dressed, we head for a continental breakfast in the King’s Court. By a little after 6AM we are in line to clear immigration and are among the first 30 or so to go through the make-work process. Supposedly they want to match your face with your passport but the man checking us never even looks up form stamping and writing. We could have been anybody and he would never have known our passports were false. But we are done and they even started about 10 minutes early so not too long of a wait.

Back to the room for cameras, etc. and we are on the dock at 7AM but, as usual, no driver. A man calls the gate to see if he is there but he is not. Showing extreme patience (NOT!), Dick heads off to walk to the pedestrian gate with Carolyn trying to catch up and he is not there either. Dick pulls up Carolyn’s email on his cell phone and, sure enough, we have an email from 7PM last night with all the particulars of where we will be met. These arrangements have only been made and paid for since last August! Surely they could have gotten these details to us in a more timely fashion especially since Carolyn had reconfirmed date and arrangements with them by email on the 18th!

What do we do now.....well we begin to walk back to the ship but we are stopped by a port guard and told our driver is on the way and he does pull up within a minute or so. Profuse apologies; he was held up getting his permit to enter the port. We won’t ask why this can’t be done in advance!

So, we are off down the very misty coast with Burger, a descendent of South African Boers. His great grandparents fought against the British in the Boer war and then migrated to Botswana and then Namibia. He and his parents were born in Namibia.

Our goal is an area known as Sandwich Harbor some 28 miles south along the coast and whatever wildlife we can find. We pass the lagoon and see a large flock of pink flamingos and are told that most of them are now gone to their winter quarters in Botswana. In the summer their can be as many as 60,000 of them along the shore of the lagoon!

We pass the salt works where up to 2,000 tons of industrial salt are harvested from the sea by evaporation each day! Now we are on soft sand and our 4-wheel drive Range Rover is essential if we are to make any progress. We make steady, if bumpy, progress through the dunes and down to the beach where we can drive on the hard, wet sand at this low tide time. it is still a very misty morning. We see various birds and even scare up a sleeping seal.  

Eventually, after driving up onto a narrow very rough rocky ledge that looks like it could shred the tires, we reach the area where dunes up to 600' high come right down to the beach and after some more miles we reach Sandwich Harbor.  The sand is very red in places due to the garnet crystals mixed in the sand.

Sandwich Harbor is now a broad shallow bay known for the birds that summer here. In the late 1800's through the early 1900's it was actually a harbor used by the mining operations along the coast, but has long since silted up. But, where is it? Now all we see is a broad bay and one or two small, very deteriorated and dune covered buildings where the dunes meet the beach. We are here at the wrong time for the birds, but scenery is other worldly with the monster dunes coming almost straight out of the water and the many small lagoons with some birds around. This is a place that is meant for beach combing and watching the world go by, but unfortunately Dick is not a beach person and the sand is very soft and it is a little cold for Carolyn and her achy knees.

We go a little further south in search of birds and then turn around because it becomes a no admittance bird sanctuary and, by the way, "the beach past here has areas of quick sand." Just so you know!
Carolyn had declined to do any dune buggy type riding in these high dunes but before we know it we are off the beach and heading into the high, SOFT, sand of the dunes. The sun has broken through the mist.  It is fun and the views are spectacular for a few minutes and then we get stuck for the third time. Burger tries all the gear shift tricks, lets air out of the tires twice finally down to one bar or 14 pounds, digs the sand out from in front of all four tires (several times) and we finally get moving again. We are way off the beach with no cell phone service! Not a comfortable feeling, but we are moving again for about 100 yards when something in the very hot engine decides to set up a squealing howl! Burger and Dick agree that that does not sound good. Open the hood to find nothing noticeably wrong. At least all the belts are in place and the fan is turning. The howl begins to diminish and soon goes away. Carolyn, who had told the tour provider no dune ridding, Dick and Burger all agree that it would be best to return to the beach ASAP which we do. On the way out of the dunes we spot a pair of ostrich. Even though we see lots of foot prints we don't actually see any other animals, but it is obvious that the dunes are full of wildlife!

This little experience has put a damper on our enthusiasm and the ride back toward Walvis Bay is quiet and a little strained.  We spend some time at the salt works now that the mist has cleared and then Burger offers to show us the seal colony out by the lighthouse. Too stupid to know better, we agree and head off on a 15 mile drive down the beach in very soft sand only to find we can get no closer than 500 yards from the seals. BFD!!!

Carolyn is in need of a restroom and we stop at a lodge built on the point by the lighthouse that the English captured from the Germans while it was being shipped Kenya as WWI started and was then installed here. Burger talks to the manager and Carolyn is allowed to use their facility. Don’t ask why this lodge is here or how it stays in business. On the way we stop at the old railway loading dock for the lighthouse. Next we stop by an old ship wreck for a photo or two of the Queen Mary and up a little ways for some flamingoes and then on back up the beach to the salt works and back to the lagoon. Much of the salt produced here turns pink as it dries and in today’s light the pink color reflects up into the low clouds and turns them pink as well.

Lunch is included in this deal and we stop back at the lagoon to eat a tuna salad lunch and take photos of the flamingos. 

Burger is a nice guy and we enjoy visiting with him but this day has not turned out as asked for and planned and neither of us is a "Happy Camper." At our request, Burger takes us into Walvis bay proper and helps us look for a Jack pin. During this time we find some huge pelicans playing around. He then takes us back to the ship, using his morning pass to drop us quite near the gangway.

Back in our room, we discover that Dick has gotten grease all over his pants; one of two pair he has for the rest of the trip. This whole deal is going down hill fast since the ship’s dry cleaning machine is out of order and the repairman will not be here until the ship reaches Southampton on May 3rd!

Blog writing time. Picture downloading time! Cooling off time! Wonder what is for dinner? Will the ship sail at 5PM as planned or will they fail to find the woman missing from a ship’s tour? Heard that little story coming back onto the ship. Tour returned one short. How does that happen?!!

Answers...the women is brought back to the ship and reunited with her furious, the ship does not sail on time, they announce we are leaving then a few minutes later they announce we are delayed because the turbine went off line and has to be restarted....we go to dinner and have beautiful tasty rack of lamb finished table side and baked potatoes with all the trimmings. We polish this off with cream brulee and key lime pie. We cool off by writing a letter to the tour group about the less than wonderful day. Mainly pointing out we paid for and expected a full day tour and if they had done what Carolyn originally asked for we would have been perfectly happy. The Sandwich Harbor tour was fine and quite scenic, but was not a full day tour like we paid for, We will see if this results in any action on their part.