ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Shopping, TRAVEL

Our First Day at Sea

Photo Won at the Art Auction

TRAVEL THERE: ENJOYING THE BOAT

There she is!  Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas.  On our day at sea, we explored many of her charms and suffered a few of her deficiencies.  Come along and see how it went.

Up & At ‘Em

First up, the gym!  I’m an early riser, so I take advantage of it to get in an hour on a stationary bike.  The gym on Vision of the Seas is nice, but quite small.  On this morning, pretty much every spot on the equipment was filled.

I got my hour in and headed back to the room via the the buffet.  I filled up my soda cup, got Bill some ice water and picked up a few pastries in case Mr. Bill was ravenous.

More Like Eggs Benedict Arnold

Breaking Our Fast

We enjoy the luxury of sit down service and convivial company, so we returned to the Aquarius Dining Room for our morning repast.  There is no assigned seating, so you get the luck of the draw in table mates. The luck of the draw in food was pretty marginal, especially their sorry excuse for Eggs Benedict.

We ended up at a table with a bunch of round dancers, who were nice, but only interested in their dancing, so we were relieved when a mother and her daughter arrived.  After a little chatting we discovered they’d been caught in all the flooding from Harvey and it was interesting to hear about their experiences.  They became our new cruise buddies and we enjoyed seeing them several other times during the week.

We went back to the room so Bill could wrangle with his computer and the market.  I took a shower and got ready for the day, in part by perusing the Cruise Compass and picking out the good stuff, like the Art Auction

My Free Gift

Champagne Art Auction

One of my favorite things at sea are the Park West art auctions. How can you lose if you’re spending your morning looking at art and hearing tidbits about artists and the art world, while you sip free champagne?  I’m probably not ever going to be bidding, but it’s relaxing, fun and interesting.  Bill doesn’t exactly feel the same way.  He’ll attend, probably more for the champagne than the art, but he sits there, giving me a running commentary on the dangers of buying art at sea, just in case I get the urge to lift my bidding card.

Were I to actually bid on something, it would be because I thought it was a pretty picture and I’d enjoy looking at it.  Occasionally I’ll say something complimentary about a painting and Bill reacts as if I’m considering purchasing a fake Mona Lisa and he demands to know which wall we’d hang it on.  It sort of takes the fun out of the dreaming, but I just shake my head in amusement and have another sip of champagne.

Beyond the champagne, there’s always a free gift of art.  This time a 7×7 seriolithograph by Yuval Wolfson.  If I had any space on our walls, I could frame it and hang it.  Instead it will end up in my scrapbook.  There was an extra bonus this time which will also find its way to my scrapbook.  To hold the audience’s attention, they also have drawings for Royal Caribbean chotkies, like t-shirts and water bottles.  To my amazement I won one of the drawings and I got two lovely 8×10 photos of the ship – one of which is shown above – and which will kick off my scrapbook of this adventure.

Winding Up the Day and Gearing Up for the Night

The auction lasted past the sit down lunch, so we were forced to go back to the Windjammer for a buffet lunch.  It was marginally better than the Embarkation Buffet, but that’s not saying much.

Usually we would have explored more of the boat, but on this trip, Bill had to keep an eye on the market, so we went back to our room.  I really can’t complain about the relaxation.  The room was comfortable, the sea was just outside our window and after catching up on my travel journal I did a little reading.

Come back next week and I’ll tell you about formal night.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Alex to Cairo with Detours

Farewell to the incongruities of Alex. McDonald’s Delivery Bikes at the Montazza

TRAVEL THERE: ROADSIDE DETRACTIONS

Our time in Egypt is coming to an end.  We are on our way back to Cairo from Alexandria.  We had a couple of detours, but made it in time to get on the boat for a family celebration.  Come along for the ride.

Alex to Cairo

After our visit to the archaeological sites in Carmous, we’d planned to take in another important historical contribution to Egypt’s culture.  The early introduction of Christianity to Egypt had an interesting by-product.  Egyptians eagerly embraced monotheism and added their own particular brand of devotion – monasticism.   Egyptian monastic aesthetes  led the the way in creating places for men and women to withdraw from the world and serve Jesus Christ.

That was the plan, but then there were the Good Friday massacres.  In response to these horrific bombings, the Roman Catholic pope was going to make a visit to Egypt – unprecedented in modern times.   This was good news for Christianity in Egypt, but it had some side effects.  One of them was the closing of the monasteries to outside visitors in the days leading up to the visit.

In true Egyptian fashion, we had to arrive at the gate of the monastery to find out they were closed, but it was a nice detour.  We got off the main road to travel through some rural areas and small towns on the way to the monastery.  It was the Muslim holy day and it was great to see all the white clad men in their caftans and turbans walking to their place of worship.  I rode along thinking about the juxtaposition of these two forms of worship.  Then we got to the gate and discovered what had seemed like such a tranquil setting was actually hiding the age old conflict between Christian and Muslim.

Our Potty Stop

So, we’d enjoyed the restroom facilities near Pompey’s Pillar.  I assumed I’d be able to visit the restroom again at the monastery, but we were turned away at the gate.  Religious differences aside, I needed a toilet.  Besides the obvious issue, I had another problem.  Women are supposed to wear long sleeves at the monastery and if they are wearing a skirt, it should be long and there should be no bare legs or feet.  In other words I was about to burn up.

Izzat didn’t seem real happy about finding a restroom for us to visit, but as always he assured us he would take care of our needs.  Did you ever see the movie Deliverance?  Well there was no river with wooded shores when we stopped at a roadside convenience store, but I could have sworn I heard the soundtrack playing – just not on the banjo.

I made short work of my wardrobe adjustments and potty stop.  Then I high-tailed it back to the car.  I think Bill and Izzat got some snacks, but I wasn’t going to waste any time.  Izzat was a perfect driver, but he was awful at finding restrooms.  I don’t think that was from a lack of trying, but a scarcity of facilities.  We’d had difficulty with this at both ends of the trip to Alexandria.

Cairo is up next and you’ll love The Pharaoh Cruise.  See you next week

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

While I Was Sleeping

TRAVEL HERE: VOOM DID NOT ZOOM

My first day at sea was ending, but Bill was unfortunately just getting started.  Not the best way to spend a cruise.

The Trading Day

Many people think that folks who trade stocks are sitting at their computers all day long, buying and selling, and there are traders who do that, but that’s not Bill.  He only makes a few trades a day, if any, at very specific times, mostly at the opening of the market.  What he does the rest of the day is research, testing systems and writing code.  In fact it’s what he does when the markets are closed that is the most important.

At the end of the day, when he knows whether it’s been a good day or a bad day, then Bill has to get ready for the next morning.  His systems will tell him whether there are any potential trades coming up, but he has to decide to whether to execute them or not.  He also has to be sure there is plenty of money in the accounts to make his purchases and he has to be very careful about his orders.  A careless click on the computer or the wrong wording in the order could cost him thousands.

Trading on the Boat

So, as I changed into my pajamas, Bill was firing up the computer to get ready for his morning trades.  Even sitting at his desk at home, this can take hours, according to what’s happening in the market.  On this particular Monday, the market had been taking a nosedive since the Friday before and Bill had both of his hands tied behind his back.  All he had was a laptop and a bad internet connection.  Usually he has multiple computers streaming information onto two huge screens and a rocket-face internet connection which he pays a premium for.

While our cabin was plenty big for sleeping, relaxing, grooming and changing clothes, it did not offer Bill  a perfect work space.  There was a desk-like area for putting on make-up, but it was not ideal for his purposes.  He was hyper-aware that he was just a few feet away from his sleeping wife, so he was trying to keep his movements and noises to a minimum.  He also had very poor internet connection and was suffering from the speed of the computer and the small screen.

Electricity everywhere and not a plug to plug into!

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning he decided he might have more luck with all of it out in the public areas.  He’d find a comfy chair somewhere near an electrical outlet, prop his laptop on his lap and finish up his work.  What he found was that comfy chairs were easy to come by, but electrical outlets were not.  He tried a little bit of everything, but as soon as he would find something that might work, one of the other twelve people wandering around the ship after the bars closed would come sit next to him and do something distracting – like argue with their girlfriend or clip their toenails or listen to music so loudly that even though they were using headphones, Bill could hear it.

Eventually, he was able to discern there were no trades that had to made in the morning, but that was only half the battle.  He needed desperately to do some more research, but it just wasn’t going to happen.  He crawled in bed for an hour or two, but no sleep was to be had.

Come back next week for our day at sea.

 

 

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Ancient Alexandria

TRAVEL THERE: KOM ASH SHUQQAFA, POMPEY’S PILLAR & THE SERAPEUM

We’d chosen The Cecil Hotel, because it was right on the Mediterranean and right in the middle of most of the things we wanted to see, but from my first  bits of research I knew I’d have to get to the neighborhood of Carmous somehow, because it was Ground Zero for the Greeks and Romans in Ancient Alexandria.  We scheduled Izzat, our driver to take us there on the way back to Cairo.

Kom Ash Shuqqafa

As I’ve complained about before, researching Egyptian attractions is an exercise in frustration.  You get fifteen dozen sites listing various things to see and do, but they all say the same things about them and what they say doesn’t give you much of a hint about what you are actually going to see.  The information about Kom Ash Shuqqafa let me know I really needed to see it, but I figured that out more from intuition than actual data. 

Part of the problem is that you have a hard time trying to guess what to Google.  Arabic words must be spelled phonetically and you have to guess which spelling has the most information.  Google is very good about reading your mind – until it comes to spelling, then it goes wacky.  Once I’d been to Kom Ash Shuqqagfa, I came home and found this excellent article on Lonely Planet which does a better job than I could describing it, but nothing this clear was available when I was doing my research.

Kom Ash Suqqafa is a catacomb – as in people are buried there, but that information doesn’t prepare you for what you will see.  Above ground there’s not much.  In the picture above you see some stone burial vaults, but that doesn’t begin to prepare you for the visual feast you’ll see under ground.  Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the catacombs so I can’t show you all the wonders.  The best I can do is tell you to imagine an elaborately carved dining hall and surround it with beautiful private mausoleums.  

The entrance to the catacombs is on the backside of a small mound.  The disarray and neglect of the surrounding ground could discourage you from entering, but press on.  Unfortunately, this is not a site for the physically handicapped.  Entry is via a spiral staircase – period.  The dead used to arrive by ropes, but no special effort has been made to be accommodating to anyone.  The staircase is a bit of a challenge, so be sure to wear study shoes.  Once down there, you’ll also need to watch your footing.

We thoroughly enjoyed this site.  It was a wonder of Egyptian ingenuity.  If you want to go, it’s really off the beaten path and you’ll need to make a special effort, but I encourage anyone headed to Alex to include this site.

Pompey’s Pillar & the Serapeum

This site was also under publicized, but totally worth it.  Once you’re there, it’s a little more tourist friendly than the Catacombs.  Pompey’s Pillar and the Serapeum are what’s left of an extensive Greek and Roman architectural dig.  Sometime ago they built a walkway around the site and added signage to tell you what you are seeing.

Pompey’s Pillar was not actually built by Pompey, but the misnaming stuck. It was built to honor the Roman Emperor Diocletian, but only the historians among us actually care.  The Serapeum was the name of a Greek temple of which only a single sphinx remains. 

The attraction was a perfect way to end our visit to Alex.  A very modern Egyptian neighborhood surrounds the ancient Greek and Roman site.  For awhile, these outsiders ruled Egypt, but time defeated them and now the Egyptians have won back their territory.  The site is on a hill and from there the view is great.

Enjoy these photos and join me next week for our trip back to Cairo.

 

 

Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Off to Dinner

Not Pear Chocolate Crisp

TRAVEL HERE: NICE TO MEET YOU!

Even though the Embarkation Buffet on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas was a disaster, it was still early in the cruise, so  I gave them a pass.  I blamed us for being so last minute and hoped better meals were ahead.  I was also interested in who we’d end up with for table mates.

Matches Made in Heaven

When it comes to our table assignments, so far we’ve been pretty lucky and thankfully, for this cruise, our luck held.  I’m not much on names, but Couple #1 was a youth pastor and his stay-at-home wife.  Couple #2 was a pair of coffee shop/truck entrepreneurs.  Couple #1 was on their first cruise to celebrate an anniversary.  Couple #2 seemed to be frequent cruisers.  He liked to gamble.

I happen to enjoy formal dining arrangements, a holdover from traditional cruising.  One of the big reasons is because I don’t like training a new waitperson for each meal, but I also like the opportunity to get to meet new people, even if though no one may become my new best friend.

We’ve been through a variety of seating arrangements, from formal, timed meals with assigned seating, to Norwegian’s Freestyle.  My least favorite was Freestyle.  We were traveling with friends, so we really didn’t miss the chance to meet people, but having a new waitperson every night was not so much fun.

Not Exactly Heavenly Food

I was looking forward to our first meal, because first nights at sea are traditionally lobster night.  Not on this cruise.  You could get lobster, but it was over there on the part of the menu where you had to pay a surcharge.  I like lobster, but not enough to pay extra for it.  Instead I had escargot for an appetizer, lamb shanks for my entree and a pear concoction for dessert.  It was a decent meal. 

The escargot was off the charts.  Not even the hint of a complaint in that department.  The entree was OK.  I would have preferred lobster, but nothing wrong with what I had.  Dessert was a disaster. If you ordered a Pear Chocolate Crisp, what would you think you were getting?  Well, probably not what I got – a row of mousse-y squirts with puree’ed pear in the middle of each squirt and a hardened chocolate decoration stuck in the center of the plate.

They really liked mousse-y, pudding-y desserts on this cruise.  Like the Chocolate Sensation they always had in the buffet.  It was kind of a chocolate fluff with a chocolate crumb crust.  If you saw my face while I typed that, you’d know how bad it was.  The Pear Chocolate Crisp was in the same category.  With their penchant for mousse and pudding you might think their Creme Brulee would have been good.  Well, it wasn’t.  It was better than the Pear Chocolate Crisp, but so runny that I would have been embarrassed to call it Creme Brulee.

Instead of beating you up day after day with how bad the meals were, I’ll do some summarizing here.  The Lobster Bisque was awful.  No cream was used in the making of that soup!  Campbell’s cream of tomato soup is thicker and at least as tasty, if not more flavorful.  Two guys at our table would order steaks cooked exactly alike, but only one of the steaks would come out with grill marks on it.  How did they even do that?  The carrot cake was so dry that you could have choked on it.  Each meal was an exercise in how not to cook!  What a disappointment!

As bad as what we were eating was, one of the ladies at our table required  a gluten-free menu and she was having a very hard time.  This was no fad thing.  Gluten made her sick and caused her hair to fall out.  She was not the kind to make a big deal out of it, the way I see some people do.  She was very gracious and appreciative of the efforts expended to accommodate her, but I noticed she would look hopefully at every dish delivered, give it a taste and then quietly push it away.

It was time for bed, at least for me.  Come back next week for the next chapter of our adventure.

DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Eating Good in the Alex Neighborhood

TRAVEL THERE: A FEW BITES

Yes, we did finally find The Fish Market Restaurant, but that’s not where we had lunch.  Let me tell you about our midday meal before getting to dinner.

Return to the Food Court

When Bill was finally able to drag me out of The Royal Jewelry Museum it was past lunch time.  Those big buffet breakfasts came in handy, but eventually you have to eat.  Bill recognized the neighborhood as being the one where the Four Seasons Hotel, Mall and Food Court had been and I found it on the map I was carrying.  We were only a few blocks away.  We’d been exploring new things for hours.  Something familiar sounded good.

We had a nice meal and did a little wandering around in the Four Seasons.  Then we headed outside to find a cab, because we were going to take a look at Montazza, one of King Farouk’s palaces.  Bill was quite excited by the prospect of visiting a favorite childhood memory, but it was a very different place than he remembered.

Montazza

Bill’s memories of Montazza were from the time when Nasser was still in power and it was still being maintained in its former glory.  Now the gardens are sparse and obviously not cared for.  I suppose they run the sprinklers to keep the grass growing.  A different class of people also seemed to be in charge.  Going to Montazza was a special occasion back then.  You dressed up and you behaved appropriately.  Now casually dressed people are spread out across the ill-kept grounds and they think nothing of getting up from their McDonald’s picnic and leaving the trash where it lies.

Still, we walked throughout the grounds and took these pictures.  There is a thin veneer of the former glory, but close inspection shows that everything is about to fall apart.  This is was a very sad visit.  Afterwards we took a taxi back to the hotel, but here’s some images so you can imagine along with us how beautiful it once was.

Snack Time

Remember when we’d gone back to Delices for ice cream the night before.  Well, while he was there, Bill bought some baklava.  I thought he’d eat if after the ice cream, but he didn’t.  I thought he’d eat it for breakfast, but he didn’t.  He waited until we got back from our museum adventures and had it as an afternoon snack.  Yep, that’s him on our balcony taking a selfie.

After snack time came nap time.  After some research we finally found out where The Fish Market was and planned to head that way.

Mitzergana

One Arabic word I know is mizergana.  I’m not sure of the spelling, but I know how to use it.  The evening we went to The Fish Market was mizergana.  Things were just broken and off.  Not anybody’s fault necessarily, but the finely-tuned engine that is our marriage wasn’t doing so well.  The plan had been to grab a taxi to the restaurant, but instead we walked.  I dressed for the taxi, so I wasn’t thrilled.

The Fish Market wasn’t quite what we expected.  Yes there were big ice tables full of fresh fish, but from the description of the place we thought that once you picked your fish, then they’d give you a wide variety of ways to cook it.  Basically you either got fried or grilled.  It was good, but not our vision.

Something else I didn’t expect was a mizergana tummy.  About halfway through the meal I began a series of restroom visitations.  I don’t know if it was the brisk walk to the restaurant, too much strange food or just par for the course.  Whatever it was, for the next hour or so I stayed in close proximity to a toilet.

Our visit to Alex was almost over.  I’d used Bill’s nap time to get us packed up for the road.  Come back next week and learn which attractions we saw before leaving town.

 

ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, TRAVEL

Dinner & a Show, But Not in That Order

The Masquerade Theater

TRAVEL HERE: WELCOME ABOARD SHOWTIME

Though he was still fighting the internet, my sweet husband put a good face on it and headed to the Masquerade Theater with me for the Welcome Aboard Showtime.  Live entertainment is something we really enjoy, but don’t often splurge on it.  It’s usually one of the highlights of our cruise.  Follow me to the 5th deck.

Getting There is Not Half the Fun

 Our least favorite space on any cruise boat is the casino.  The area is usually loud, and it also has lots of lights blinking, garish decorations and second hand smoke.  For some reason, the people who design ships think it’s cool to direct traffic through there.  We disagree with them, but apparently that doesn’t make any difference.

On Vision of the Seas going through the casino was just about the only way to get to the theater without going outside and when you’re all dolled up, outside is not preferable.  Those romantic shows you’ve seen, where a couple stands at the railing of a ship at the end of the evening, are lies.  Most evenings, unless you’re on a protected deck, the wind is enough to blow you and your carefully coiffed hair into the sea.

Bill probably didn’t even realize what kind of expression he had on his face as we walked through the casino, but I saw it.  It definitely said, “What have I gotten myself into?”  I was hoping the show would be good.

The Royal Caribbean Singers & Dancers

For fun lets call them the RCSD for really-can’t-sing-or-dance.  Well, there was one guy who was a pretty good dancer, but I’m not sure whether he was all that good or they were all that bad.  When he’d do a high kick, he’d almost smash his nose, but none of the others were anywhere in his league, so even that was distracting rather than entertaining.  The singers were consistently weak.  I know there are all kinds of really talented people out there dying for an opportunity of any sort.  Where were they all when it was time for Royal Caribbean auditions?

 The Comedy of Nery Saenz

The best part of that evening’s entertainment was that the RCSD were not the whole show.  The bulk of the time was devoted to a really funny comedian.  I’m not all that crazy about comedy routines, because usually they cuss too much, use foul language, depend on sexual innuendo and insult people.  This comedian managed to be funny without resorting to any of that.

The comedian’s primary shtick focused on how un-glamorous it is to be a comedian on a cruise ship.  He poked fun at himself and his husbanding skills.  You got the idea that while being away from home all the time was difficult, he really loved his wife and family.  He also had a show later that evening, so he’s probably well-versed in cussing, foul language, sexual innuendo and insults, but I didn’t go to that show and I’m glad I didn’t.  If only people 18 and older are allowed, I’m probably not going to enjoy it.

After the show it was time for dinner.  You won’t want to miss that, so come back next week.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, International, Libraries, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Books

A Sampling of Alexandrian Museums

TRAVEL THERE: HISTORY, JEWELRY AND MORE

Our second day in Alex began with the usual buffet breakfast and a quick cab ride to the Alexandria National Museum.  (No adventures this time!)

Ancient Artifacts

If you somehow landed in Alex and hadn’t yet figured out that Egypt is a country with very ancient roots, you should visit this museum.  It’s not as extensive as the famed Cairo Museum, but it is arranged in such a way that you can get a quick overview of Egypt’s history organized by deities.  If you’re just somebody like me that geeks out on history, well then you have even more reasons to spend and hour or so here.

Down in the basement is the Pharaonic section when Egyptians worshiped a pantheon of gods led by Ra, the sun god, and Isis, goddess of marriage, fertility, motherhood, magic, medicine and probably a few other things.  The main floor is devoted to the Greek and Roman eras of Egypt, when the Egyptian gods mixed and mingled with other religious traditions.  Many of the artifacts have, in fact, been fished out of the sea right there in Alexandria.  Our favorite floor was the top floor.  There Christianity faced off against Islam in a sort of duel by artifacts.  

Like many things in Egypt, if you visit this museum you’ll be on a constant seesaw.  One moment you are wowed out of your socks by an item you can’t even believe still exists.  Then you won’t be able to see into the next case at all, because the light has burned out.  It’s exhilarating, frustrating and totally unique.  Gorgeous white marble edifices with spectacular polished black granite floors and dust collecting in the corners.  It made me want to shake someone!

At this museum you can take all the pictures you want outside, but you are supposed to pay to take pictures inside.  Bill didn’t think he wanted to part with the coin, but once he got inside he couldn’t help taking a few pictures of the beautiful Christian artifacts.  They didn’t say anything right away, but when he left, they hit him up for the photography fee.  Since we had to pay to take them, I’ll share them with you.

The Royal Jewelry Museum

This trip to Egypt was so marvelous from so many standpoints I would be hard-pressed to pick out my favorite thing.  However, I can easily tell you the Royal Jewelry Museum is a strong contender for the position.  In fact, it is on my short list of favorite museums ever!

We took a taxi from the history museum to this gem of a palace. (Forgive me the pun, I couldn’t resist.)  It was immediately apparent this was something completely different from the previous museum.  Both buildings were magnificent, but the history museum was past its prime and showing its age.  It didn’t look like anyone loved it anymore.  The edifice holding the jewelry museum is pristine.  It’s well-loved and it shows.

The jewelry museum is in a lovely part of the city, obviously still home to the well-to-do.  An impressive rod iron fence guards the one-time palace.  The security procedure into the grounds is more than cursory, but it was very polite.  This is the museum-less-visited, competing with the well-known Bibliotheca and the official history museum, but I would like to see that change.  This is a rare and wonderful experience and if you go to Alexandria you should not miss it!  They were glad to have such obvious American tourists entering their facility.  So glad in fact they gifted me with a beautiful souvenir guidebook.

If this museum did not hold a single piece of jewelry, I would still say it is one of the best attractions I had ever visited.  The palace is just awesome – and I use the word in the traditional sense, not in the way it’s used to describe a hamburger.  I walked from room to room wishing I could live there or at least I would have had the opportunity to visit when Fatma Heidar herself called it home.  She was a several-times-great granddaughter of Mohammed Ali Pasha the Great.  I think she and I could have been great friends.

But there was jewelry, magnificent jewelry, in attractive cases spread throughout the elegant rooms.  The house looked as if they had only removed the furniture the day before.  It was easy to imagine dignitaries in gorgeous caftans and morning suits wandering around.  Among the treasures in the cases were items which once belonged to King Farouk I and his wife, the lovely Queen Farida.  Here’s a shot of my very favorite piece stolen from the gifted souvenir guidebook.  We saw it, but couldn’t get a good shot.

After a morning and early afternoon of touring, we were hungry.  Come back next week and find out what we did about it.

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL

No Vavoom in VOOM

TRAVEL THERE: GETTING CONNECTED

Royal Caribbean calls their internet service VOOM and it comes in two flavors – with and without streaming.  We call it FAIL in either flavor.

First Impressions Matter

After a disappointing Embarkation Buffet and Sail Away, we were getting worried about out cruise, but the boat was nice, our cabin was fine and we liked our cabin attendant.  All was not lost – yet.  We’d made a stab at having fun.  Now it was time to get down to business.  As I shared a few weeks ago, even though he’d tried to offload his business for the few days we’d be gone, it hadn’t worked and Bill was going to have to keep an eye on the market.  For that we’d need internet, so we made our way to Deck 5 to do a little business.

Literature I had read suggested there would be an internet cafe somewhere on the boat with free wi-fi.  There wasn’t.  Perhaps some of the ships have it, but not Vision of the Seas.  There were a few computers you could log onto and there was some limited internet access, but if you wanted to check your email forget about it.  Doing what Bill wanted to do would have been impossible.

Chasing VOOM

We went to the Customer Service Desk and they said we could just log-in and get internet ourselves or we could see the Internet Desk.  Since there were two different packages and he wasn’t sure which one he wanted, he went to the Internet Desk.  He also only wanted internet on two of the four days, not the balance of the cruise.

There was no attendant at the Internet Desk, so we cooled our wheels until they came back.  When she appeared, Bill really challenged her scripts.  Everybody is supposed to want internet for the whole cruise and she didn’t know what to think of Bill.  In the end, she also told him how to sign up online, because if she signed him up on his phone,he’d have to log out of the phone and then log back in on the laptop.  See when you sign up for internet you only get it for one person on one device – and they mean it.

So we dutifully went down to the room.  I finally started unpacking and Bill sat down to log in.  Soon I was unpacked and Bill was headed back out of the room, because what had sounded so reasonable at the Internet Desk didn’t work on the laptop in the room.  I stayed behind to finish unpacking and to start getting ready for the evening.

When he got back I could tell things did not go well.  The VOOM lady had offered to give him a refund when he told her how much trouble he was having.  I bet that was an interesting conversation.  She quickly got the message that a refund wasn’t going to cut the mustard and soon he was working his way up the food chain to find someone on board who could get him online.  They’d finally gotten him operational, but barely.  He was one unhappy cruiser.

Obviously, things were not going well on this cruise – and guess what!  The disappointments had only just begun.  Come back next week and we’ll go investigate a few other shortfalls.

DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

A Sweet Alexandrian Tradition

TRAVEL THERE: DELICES PASTISSERIE

After our five mile stroll from the Four Seasons to The Cecil, Mr. Bill was ready to get to our room and take a nap.  He suggested we forego whatever surprise I had in store, but I urged him to hang with me just a few minutes more.

Delighting Alex since 1922

Our balcony at The Cecil gave us a jaw dropping view of the Mediterranean Sea, but it also overlooked a lovely little park that filled the block next to the hotel.  In one of my visits to the balcony I’d spied people sitting along the sidewalk on the south side of the park, chatting over coffee and pastries.  Delices didn’t mean anything to me, but since they’d been around since 1922, I thought they must be doing something right.

With the front door to the hotel just steps away, I led Bill to my discovery and was he ever happy.  The pastry store fronts two different streets and inside is case after case after case of amazing looking pastries.  Bill’s desire for his nap disappeared completely as he wandered from case to case trying to decide which treat he would indulge in.  After narrowing it down to a few favorites, Bill gave me the final choice for something to share.  I chose the the chocolate treat above, of course.

Naptime

We took our treasure back to the hotel to enjoy and then Bill promptly went down for a nap.  I don’t do naps very well, so I used the time the way I usually did – updating my travel journal, catching up on social media (when there is wi-fi), doing a few crossword puzzles and reading.

It had been a long day for Mr. Bill.  Museums always tire him and the Bibliotheca Alexandrine had been a humdinger.  We’d had our stressful moments with the rogue hantoor driver and that wild taxi ride.  Then we’d walked five miles.  Quite a day!  Even though I don’t usually manage to take a nap, this time I eventually dozed off to sleep.

Late Night Stroll

When we woke up, we both wanted a little something to eat, but not a full meal.  Bill wanted ice cream and I reminded him Delices had ice cream.  We were out of that room in a flash!

I had on a snakeskin printed lounging set I’d gotten from my Aunt Edie.  It’s perfectly acceptable for wearing out in public, even though that’s not something I usually do.  I’ll wear it down to breakfast or perhaps put it on when I know we’re going to spend most of the day in the car on a long drive, but it’s not my go-to outfit for a stroll around a big city like Alexandria – especially when a peek outside tells me there are more people out and about than there had been during the day.  I  suggested I change clothes, but Bill insisted that all we were going to do was pop over to the pastry store.  I slid into a pair of canvas espadrilles and threw a windbreaker over my outfit.

Yes, we went right over to Delices.  Both of us got some ice cream.  Even though that’s not my usual snack, an ice cream cone sounded fun for our late night adventure. However, we did not immediately head back to the room.

Bill led me off down a side street full of action.  All the stores were open and the sidewalks were lined with pop-up vendors.  You could buy anything from toilet paper to an engagement ring along the street.  Crowds of natives wove between the stalls and the stores, laughing, talking and occasionally making a purchase.

I’d had a moment’s hesitation when Bill veered into the side street.  It was late.  I wasn’t dressed right.  I didn’t know if it was safe.  I could have made all kinds of excuses to scurry back to the hotel, but I’m glad we didn’t.  We got a look at the real Alex without any tourists (besides ourselves) in sight.

Water is a constant challenge in Egypt.  There’s the need to stay hydrated in the desert sun and heat, but you can’t drink anything out of the tap.  To meet this challenge every other store sells bottled water and on every block there’s a rickety wooden stand staffed by a burka-ed grandmother.  We opted for the grandmother every time that we could.  On our way back to the hotel we visited the grandmother we’d chosen to be our vendor in Alex.  We also bought a Coke Zero from her so we could enjoy a little of my nephew’s bourbon.

A sweet ending to an exciting day.  I’ll leave you with one final photo.  More museums are in store for next week.  Come back and visit me then.