Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Our Last Day of Cruising

TRAVEL HERE: A DAY AT SEA

For me, travel is usually about going somewhere.  I’m interested in seeing wonderful things and doing things I’ve never done before.  But this cruise was a little different.  It was supposed to be about relaxing and indulgence.  Maybe that’s why I resented the poor food quality.  Our last day really was a day devoted to relaxation and we had a good time.  Join us as we enjoy the ship.

AM Less Than Routine

I started the day in the gym and then returned to the room, so Bill could join me for our sit-down breakfast in the dining room.  That was an event!

The focus of the day was on chocolate, so I ordered the chocolate pancakes, but was delivered plain old buttermilk pancakes.  I’m usually the last person in the world to send something back, but I didn’t want to waste calories on just any pancake.  If I’m being bad, then I wanted to be exactly the bad I have chosen, not the bad someone else chooses for me.  However, that was merely a blip on the screen of the morning event.

As part of the chocolate extravaganza they were calling breakfast, a waitress came by with a tray of chocolate shakes.  That’s not usually a part of my breakfast, but I thought I’d try one.  Before I could take my first sip, there was a huge clatter.  The tray and most of the glasses were on the floor and many of the glasses shattered.  Infinitely worse was that most of the shakes ended up all over the man at the head of the table.

I would like to give big kudos to this guy.  I would have jumped up and screamed.  This man didn’t make a peep.  He merely stood up, wiped away as much as he could and then walked away to change.  WOW!  When he came back, he took his seat and finished his breakfast – also without a peep. More WOW!

His wife was a little more chatty.  While he was away we learned this was the first “real” vacation they had ever taken.  Always before they’d used their vacation to do good works.  She didn’t indicate whether their trips had been humanitarian and/or faith-based, but it doesn’t matter.  How amazing for them to give of themselves in that way!  What’s sad was that this cruise had not allowed them to enjoy themselves the way it should have.  She didn’t complain about the food or the mediocre quality of the entertainment.  She only said they’d had a lot of trouble and only that morning they’d finally been moved to another cabin.  (She didn’t say why and when asked she didn’t want to discuss it, but I’m thinking bedbugs or mold.  What do you think?)

The Balance of the Day

So, after our exciting breakfast, Bill wanted to give the rock-climbing wall a shot.  He’d loved rappelling when we were on Norwegian, but this boat only had the climbing wall.  Still, Bill suited up and gave it a try.  He made it pretty high up the wall, higher than anyone else did while we were there, but didn’t get to the top.  I pointed out that he’d chosen the toughest part of the wall to climb – it actually leaned outwards, but he couldn’t be convinced to give it another try.

Next up was some pool time, but we didn’t want to fight the constant noise and party next to the main pool.  Instead, we found our way to the Solarium pool and did a little relaxing.  I’m not a big swimmer, but I did enjoy some time in the hot tub.  Then I did a little poolside lounging.

At lunch we had the pleasant opportunity to reconnect with the nice lady we’d enjoyed at the first breakfast and this time she was with her husband.  We enjoyed their company so much that we were the very last people left in the dining room.

Then it was time to get our bags repacked.  We’d have to put the big bag out before bedtime.  When that was done, I washed my hair and spent some time relaxing, while Bill battled the stock market.

The final show may have been the worst entertainment of all.  This was a tribute to Broadway, but I’m not sure how much honor it showed to that wonderful institution.  They did the opening prologue to Cabaret, but opened the curtain on songs from Chicago.  I found that disconcerting, but not as bad as using the lyrics from famous Broadway songs with mediocre melodies.  They weren’t even bad arrangements of Broadway tunes, just a totally different song with the famous and familiar words.  It was also the production with the worst prop-dropping and zigzaggedy, uneven lines.  What a disappointment.

I don’t have to tell you that dinner was mediocre or breakfast downright bad.  The disembarkation went pretty smoothly, but we did seem to be in the line with all the troubled documentation.  (Why hadn’t that been caught embarking, rather than at the end of the cruise?)  Soon we were on our way home and were we ever glad to be heading back.  Usually there’s a little regret, but not this time.  We just wanted off that boat and back into our home!

As I write this final blog about this cruise it’s early March.  The previous week I had finished up with the posts about Egypt and they will take you into August, but right this minute I can’t guess what I’ll be writing about for my Monday blogs.  We’ll just have to see what kind of adventures I will get into.

 

 

ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

We Won the Love & Marriage Game Show

TRAVEL THERE: ONE OF LIFE’S MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENTS

On Tuesday night when we saw the Perfect Couple Game Show, they mentioned they would be having a Newlywed-type Q&A game on the following evening. Bill suggested we should try out for it and I thought he was crazy, especially after I had seen what they put the Perfect Couples through.  They mentioned the game again at the Elton John Tribute show and Bill was even more adamant about participating.  I thought there was no way they’d choose a couple of oldsters like us, so I didn’t worry too much.

Killing Time 

We mentioned Bill’s desire to be in the game show at dinner time and our table mates promised to cheer us on if we did indeed end up as contestants.  We had some time to kill before the show once dinner was over, so we took the opportunity to visit some of the places on board that we hadn’t yet seen. 

One of the biggest disappointments was the Viking Crown Bar.  The Bar was the highest venue on the ship and was reported to have the best views.  The specialty sushi restaurant was up there and  I also saw they had late night disco action up there.  It was a beautiful bar and the view was amazing, but there was virtually no one up there enjoying it.  We can’t say whether the disco party heated the place up or not, because by then we were always in bed.

Reporting for Duty

After a little more strolling, it was time to get to the Masquerade Theater so we’d be considered as one of the contestant couples.  Some of the couples who were interested in this game show had been contestants in the Perfect Couple Game the night before.

The Love & Marriage Game had a twist.  One couple was a pair of newlyweds honeymooning on the boat.  Another couple was chosen because they had been married longer than anyone else in the theater.  There was stiff competition to fill that middle spot.

Bill and I stood in a line up of prospective couples and they had all the couples give one other a big kiss to demonstrate how much in love we still were.  Bill wrapped his arms around me and laid one on me.  To make it more fun I wrapped a leg around him.  The crowd went wild and we were chosen to be the middle couple.

The actual game was exactly like the Newlywed Show.  First they took the guys backstage and asked the women the questions.  When they brought the guys back out, Bill and I got every question right. Then they sent the women backstage and asked the guys the questions, but whereas the ladies’ questions had been pretty tame, they heated it up for the guys questions.  We missed one that time – something about what feature the guys had been attracted to when they first saw us.  I answered, “My butt,” because that’s what Bill has told me for years.  He’d been a little bashful about answering so specifically and had said it was my whole body.

Then they asked a question which was not something I really wanted to talk about on a stage, in a theater full of people, so I’m certainly not going to discuss it in print, but we got it right.  They made a big hoopla about us winning, but when they brought out our gifts, the other couples got the same thing, so there hadn’t been a real prize for revealing our deep dark secrets.  However, we were certainly celebrities on the ship for the rest of the cruise.

Then as we were about to leave the stage, they wanted our room number so they could deliver a DVD of the event to our cabin.  Oh, no!  I realized they had recorded the game and there was no end to the people who might watch it.  Then they said they’d be showing it on the on board information channel.  They did, because I watched- and no I won’t be posting the video!

One day left!  Come back next week and see how we spent our last day at sea.

 

ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Formal Night on Vision of the Seas

TRAVEL THERE: PUTTING ON THE RITZ

I love dressing for dinner.  It’s not required on most cruises anymore.  They discourage you from wearing flip flops and tank tops, but pretty much anything else goes.  Even on formal night dressing up is optional, but I dress up every evening and on formal night I pull out the stops.   

Free Champagne!

The Captain’s Greeting

I can only imagine how much the captain hates formal night.  He has to get all dressed up, spend an hour or so shaking hands and taking pictures with skads of people he has no interest in and then he has to get up and make a big welcoming speech.  It was probably fun the first hundred or so time, but he does this week after week after week!  He probably realizes that most of the people are just there to get the free champagne.

Then after he makes his speech he has to introduce his management staff and let them make their own speeches.  How would you like to take the top management out of your organization to entertain a crowd that just wants free champagne?  Yeah, who’s running the boat – right?  It was almost impossible to hear what they said, but as long as the trays of champagne wandered around the room, they had an audience.

Happy Birthday, Anniversary and Everything Else

Since this cruise was to celebrate Bill’s birthday, our travel agent asked which evening we’d like commemorate the occasion.  I chose Formal Night.  Bill’s birthday wasn’t the only celebration at the table.  The Youth Pastor and his wife also got feted for their anniversary.

Our table mates were a blast, so we were grateful for the delightful company.  The food continued in it’s mediocrity.  This was the night of the lousy lobster bisque and I followed it up with a steak.  Nothing to write home about.  One more meal down.

Another Show, Another Disappointment

For formal night the entertainment was Boogie Woogie Wonderland, which was supposed to highlight the music of the seventies.  They were a little loose about hitting their target.  The seventies were my boogie woogie wonderland, but I have no idea what inspired some of the costumes they wore.

The songs they chose to highlight were among some of my favorites, but the voices just weren’t up to the challenge of the music.  Overall, it was an entertaining show, but it just came up short in the quality department.

Awkward!

To top off our night, after the show we headed to the Some Enchanted Evening Lounge for The Perfect Couple Game Show.  We were expecting a “Newlyweds Game” knock-off, but instead got the Embarrassment Olympics.

When we arrived Adult Karaoke was still going on.  There was a group of drunken bridesmaids dominating the room whether they were on stage or not.  I was glad when the spectacle was over.

Instead of a Q&A of martial habits, The Perfect Couple was a series of party games designed to embarrass people who were unwitting enough to volunteer to be contestants.  Why pay entertainers when you can get passengers to entertain everyone with karaoke and awkward feats of skill.  We made it through a few rounds, but when they started with tennis balls in men’s jeans, we decided it was time for bed.

Come back next week for sure, because we arrive in the Yucatan and enjoy a marvelous shore excursion.o

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Cruising the Nile Like a Queen

TRAVEL THERE: THE PHARAOH’S DINNER CRUISE

Moksen, my nephew Bassem’s new father-in-law, invited us to be his guest on an early Nile Dinner Cruise.  He’d enjoyed our hospitality on a visit to the States and was eager to return the favor.  He returned the favor in spades!

An Early Arrival

Since we’d allowed plenty of time to visit the monastery during our trip from Alex to Cairo, we were early to the cruise.  Izzat entertained us a little by driving us around the elegant neighborhood near the dock of the boat, but that didn’t take very long and we really didn’t have time for anything else.  Hence we arrived at the boat long before anyone else – and what a boat!

I’m telling you Cleopatra would have been thrilled to take a cruise on this boat.  The photos really don’t do it justice, but the boat was covered in gilded pharaonic decorations.  The waiters wore the same garb as Cleo’s servants would have worn.  All that was missing was getting fanned by ostrich plumes and I have a feeling if I’d asked for it, they would have been able to comply with my wishes.

An Excellent Meal

If you remember any of the details about my nephew’s wedding and reception, then you know that no expense was spared.  This dinner cruise was similar – the best of the best. 

While we waited for our party, I checked out the restroom facilities and they were much improved over our roadside stop.  Then we wandered around the boat checking out every elegant detail.

Before long Moksen and his lovely wife Shahira, first on the left side, were coming aboard and the party started.  It was a huge, delicious meal and I was thrilled to be with my family once again.  

Once we’d eaten our fill (and a little bit more) we all wandered outside to enjoy the view from the decks.  Our hosts had invited us to the early cruise – about 2:30 – and this allowed us to see Cairo in all it’s daytime glory.  I’m sure the evening experience is romantic, but I would not have traded our daytime views for anything.

I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to enjoy this amazing trip.  It seems as if every time I travel I say, “This was the trip of a lifetime,” but each time it seems true.  From family tours of historic American sites when I was a child to wandering through the English countryside in my twenties to the Danube Cruise I took in 2016, they are all singular experiences many people never get the opportunity to enjoy.  This trip was no different.  Each day was an absolute wonder.  It has taken over a year to share it with you, but it is finally drawing to a close.  Only one more full day to share and then we’ll have to see what our next adventure will be.

Enjoy and come back tomorrow for our return to the Fairmont.  The second time around was a little more problematic that our original stay!

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Accommodations, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

Embarking on Adventure

A Chilly Sail Away

TRAVEL HERE: EMBARKATION, LIFE BOAT DRILL & SAIL AWAY

Once we were aboard, the first thing we did was go to our room to drop off our stuff.  It was fine.  Plenty of storage, enough room not to trip over each other every moment and by some sort of miracle, more than enough hangers.  That hangers part was most amazing.  Then it was time to eat.

The Embarkation Buffet

Theoretically, this meal should be a showcase of all the good things to come.  This buffet gave us a preview of what to expect in the upcoming cruise – we just didn’t want to accept that reality.

Travel is a learning experience and I never learned about the embarkation buffet until I took the cruise with my bestie back in 2015.  She made sure we took advantage of the culinary offering and I was wowed.  Can you say seafood and lots of it?

The Embarkation Buffet on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas was just a mess.  Yes, we rolled in there at the last minute, but it looked as if no one on the staff had even looked at it for a few hours.  We wandered around and around and around looking but not finding anything that appealed to us.  We were hungry, no meal since breakfast, but it looked like they had just taken all the leftovers from the previous cruise and slapped them out on the buffet tables.  It was bad.

We picked up a few items that were the least bad of the bunch and tried to make a meal of it.  It was about 2:30 and the buffet was supposed to be over at 2:45.  Bill decided to go back for some bread and I went to check out the desserts.  We were too late.  Everything was gone.  At 2:35 Bill asked a member of the crew, “What time is the buffet over?”  The answer, “2:45.”  Obviously, not exactly.

Life Boat Drill & Sail Away

Next up was the Life Boat Drill and that was fairly painless.  Our SailPass Card had our location on it.  There was fantastic signage and helpful crew all the way along.  We stood on the deck a few minutes and then it was all over.  We wandered the boat a little, getting our bearings and then it was time for the Sail Away.

Bill loves the Sail Away.  Some of our favorite moments on cruises happen then.  Like when we sailed away from Budapest or Kauai or Miami.   This was not one of our favorites.

I’ve already mentioned how ugly Galveston’s port is and there is really nothing Royal Caribbean can do about that.  They really couldn’t help the weather either.  A little foggy and misty.  Lots of wind.  Sort of miserable actually, but we gave it a brave try.

However, they could do something about volume – as in the volume of the music.  Everywhere we went on deck was LOUD!  Someone needs to explain that louder is not better.  A poor singer is only made worse when you turn up the volume.  Bad weather does not disappear because you turn up the music.  This tendency to blast away everyone’s eardrums was not limited to the Sail Away.  It was one of my biggest complaints about the whole cruise.  If there was a microphone and a speaker, whatever was being amplified was too loud.

Perhaps we could have stood the weather if the music hadn’t been so loud or we could have put up with the loud music if the weather had been better, but we couldn’t tolerate both.

And then there was my glasses.  I was still traumatized from thinking I had lost my sunglasses in the embarkation madness.  Standing on deck fighting the wind as Bill looked over the railing, I decided to take a look at the day’s schedule to find a better place to enjoy the Sail Away, but first I needed my glasses.  I frantically started looking for them and soon I was telling Bill I had to go back to the room.  He asked what for and I said I needed my glasses.  As we stood there discussing it in less than pleasant tones, I realized my glasses were actually on my face.  You’ll notice I realized it, instead of the person who was looking at me.

That little crisis over, we headed inside for a better vantage point and found the Park Cafe.  I scored a Chocolate Chip Cookie and it was pretty good.  Bill got a cup of coffee and it wasn’t so good.  I had been trying to discover where one got one’s cup for the soda program since I got on board, but I wasn’t having much success.  The cup was supposed to be in our cabin, but just as I had run into on a past cruise – it wasn’t.  Finally, a female crew member, who was supposed to be selling the soda program, took pity on me and gave me one of the cups she had.  Finally, a little Diet Dr Pepper!

We eventually gave up on the Sail Away and then went to talk about wi-fi privileges.

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

An Alexandrian Adventure

We were in no mood for another hantoor tour!

TRAVEL THERE: STARVING , DAZED & CONFUSED IN ALEX

The smallest things trip you up when traveling – like landing at the Library of Alexandria mid-day.  If there were vending machines in the Library we didn’t find them.  There was no coffee bar.  We found a sorry excuse for a gift shop, but all they had were tacky souvenirs.  We were about ready to eat a few books.

Where’s the Fish Market?

Instead of just finding the closest place to eat, Bill decided our next stop should be The Fish Market, a restaurant recommended to us by several people as the best food in Alexandria.  So Bill started a campaign to find this marvelous place.  There was one small problem.  No one knew what he was talking about.

One of the first people he asked directed us to go back towards Fort Qaitby, where we’d visited earlier in the day.  He was all ready to head that way when I pulled out my phone and showed him the directions he’d gotten would take us, not to a restaurant called The Fish Market, but to an actual open air fresh fish market in the old part of the city.

So, he tried another tack.  The people he was talking to were confused by his inquiry.  Most thought he wanted to buy fish and directed him to various grocers in the area.  Finally, he found someone who would listen long enough for him to explain that he wanted a restaurant where you were able to pick out your fresh fish for cooking and then have it served to you at the table.  Bingo!  Someone knew exactly what he was talking about.  They said they didn’t know if the name was right, but there was such a restaurant in a mall that’s connected to the Four Seasons Hotel.

Bill was beaming.  He decided we’d grab a cab and head to the other end of the Corniche where the elegant Four Seasons Hotel was the anchor of a popular mall.

Terror in a Taxi

Bill hailed a cab and negotiated the fare.  We headed off with the beach just over our left shoulder.  We anticipated a short ride along on the main drag.

Suddenly, there was a big traffic jam due to some construction.  Our driver left the main drag and headed off away from the beach.  I’ve already told you how scary it was when we got off the major thoroughfares in the hantoor.  I really wasn’t paying all that much attention to our taxi driver or his vehicle until he started taking short cuts through parking lots.

Remember those terrorist I was worried I’d run into in Dahab?  Well, suddenly I was afraid they’d found me in Alex.  I realized the noise on the radio was actually some sort of political rant.  Of course, I couldn’t understand what was being said, but the tone is the same all over the world.

Then I took a look at our driver.  He had the same beard and crazy look every terrorist on the television seemed to have.  Hanging from the rear view mirror were a selection of Islamic prayer beads.  Please understand.  I don’t think every Muslim is a terrorist, but I was beginning to think the one driving our car was.  There were a number of decals on the windows and none of them looked like they were devoted to a prophet of peace.

We had no idea where we were.  He’d made so many turns since leaving the Corniche I couldn’t even guess where the beach might be.  I started to think about the fact that this was our first day in Alex and it would be a few days before anyone expected to hear from us again.  What could happen to us before anyone even realized we were missing?

When I was young, my favorite Bible verse was, “What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee,” a verse from Psalms.  The rational person I walk around as most of the time was pretty sure everything would turn out OK, but that person who thought Dahab was the end of my line was quickly taking over.  I had forgotten about the verse on the way to Dahab, but suddenly, it was on my mind.  I began to repeat it silently.  Rational me thought everything would be OK.  Irrational me wasn’t taking any chances.

Before too long, my friend the terrorist was back in familiar territory.  His detour had taken him around the construction and he was about to turn right onto the Corniche.  Part of me felt a little silly, but I was reminded how fragile life can be.  All of us are one careless decision away from tragedy.  Keeping that in mind makes each moment sweeter.

Soon we were getting out of the taxi and heading towards the mall.  Would The Fish Market Restaurant be inside?