This is a report on our trip in April of 2012

Before you read my boring writeup you might checkout Deb's presentation on Shutterfly.
You don't need to sign up just click on "View photo book".
Be sure to view the book at "full screen" - hopefully in full HD wide screen.
It can be a little slow coming up.

You can skip to the Rome report.

A few months ago we ran into a teacher friend of Deb's at Oakridge mall. He mentioned he had just gotten back from a transatlantic cruise and really enjoyed it. I said I didn't really care much for cruising but Deb does. He said this cruise was different. He said that after a few days you settle in to "ship time" and it becomes very relaxing. You aren't worrying about getting off at the next port and what you are going to do. It sounded interesting so I put it on my "bucket" list.
   A few weeks later we got an ad from Holland-America cruise line, who we had taken for out Alaska cruise, offering a thirteen day transatlantic cruise for $600 each. What? $1200? That's less then $100/day. You can't stay in a nice hotel for that price and this included food and entertainment! I was a bit reluctant but Deb kept giving me the old arguments - "you can't take it with you" and "if you don't do it now when will you do it?".
   So we signed up and did a $100 per person upgrade so we could have a balcony Still a deal. I couldn't seem to find reasonable airfare home so I contacted CSAA (AAA) travel department and they booked the cruise plus airfare plus a night in Fort Lauderdale and transfers at a very reasonable price. Seeing we had recently been in Rome and felt we hadn't done it up completely we requested the flight home to be a few days later so we could have four nights in Rome.

So on April 13th we flew to Fort Lauderdale through Dallas/Fort Worth. We arrived late in the day, got to the hotel, checked in, had dinner and went to bed. Next day we were up, got on the shuttle and headed for the port.
   The port was rather amazing. There were at least five other cruise ships loading up. We got on board very smoothly and were in our cabin by about one. We had lunch on the Lido deck and waited for our 5pm sailing time.

The ship Eurodam (Link) seemed to me to be exactly like the Oosterdam (Link) we had taken on our Alaska Cruise. Everything was located the same, the bars and areas were the same names, the dining rooms, auditorium and Crow's Nest bar were all located the same. Deb said there were some differences. It did have a Rembrandt theme and was decorated differently then the Oosterdam.

The room was small but adequate. We had a balcony which we went on every day. I liked the shower and the low flow toilet was just fine. We moved in like it was home thanks to Deb.

We had lifeboat drill which took forever because people didn't show up. After hike around the ship and a nap we went up to the Crow's Nest, which is the panoramic view bar on the eleventh level forward. We had a drink and waited. Five o'clock passed, six o'clock passed. Other ships left. Then finally we took off. I guess a couple hours on a 13 day cruise isn't going to make much difference.

So off we went. Deb had set us up for dinner reservations at 7:45 each night at a table for two. But we were pretty hungry so at seven we went to the dining room and were seated at a table with several other people. It turned out pretty nicely. They were all friendly and we had some good conversations. The food was excellent. I couldn't decide what to have for dessert so I had two desserts. Dinner ends at just about nine o'clock, just when the entertainment has their second show so away we went. We were pleasantly surprised at how good the entertainment was.

I could see we were going to run up a rather large bar bill. Between the Crow's nest, wine with dinner and perhaps a drink at the show it didn't look good. Actually there were happy hours pretty much from 4:30 onward someplace on the ship - $1 off the price of the drink and another drink for $1. Seeing the drink price was about $6.95 it was pretty reasonable but we are talking 13 days.
   The killer was wine with dinner. It was nearly impossible to have a bottle of wine for less then $30. The wine was about 3x what you would pay at a store for the same bottle. We usually had a couple glasses and had them put the bottle away for tomorrows lunch or dinner.
   We had pre-ordered some gin and champagne for the room, as well as roses and balloons. You can bring your own wine and drink it in your room for free or pay a $20 corkage fee in the dining room. Many people had a glass of wine in their room before dinner. We didn't have any way to buy wine or bring it on board as we have on some cruises.

The first few days were pretty rough. The captain called it a "confused Swell". The whole ship was sort of yanking around. It was tricky walking down the long hallways as well as across expanses like the Crow's Nest. Sleeping didn't seem too bad. I heard many people were sick. Other people who had sailed a lot said it was "nothing".

I notice in my notes I mention our cabin is "squealing" as the whole ship twists and slams. Luckily we are near the middle of the ship, the people on the ends really have some motion. In the auditorium which is forward on the lower levels we could hear and feel the ship slam into the waves.
   The swimming pools are set down in a basin like thing to catch the water that sloshes out when the seas are rough.

By the way, as we were getting ready to go to the ship we met a couple in their eighties who said this was their 93rd cruise. We met others who were over 100 cruises. The joke is it's cheaper then a rest home. The average age on this cruise was considerably higher then my seventy years. I think the oldest we met was a 95 year old gentleman. We also had lunch with a 94 year old gal from the UP in Michigan. She was a character and quite sharp.

I could go through a day by day listing of everything we did but you would die of boredom so here are some things.
- There were daily lectures on various topics. We attended one on pirates. We also went to ones telling about the various ports we were going to see.
- We did not take the ships tour because it was $150 per person. We did take the galley tour plus a second galley tour where we picked up our lunch.
- We took a computer class on modifying photos using some new Microsoft application. Guess you need version 7 or 8 plus Office to access it.
- We often had three o'clock tea. They had various themes but all included desserts.
- We stopped by the piano bar. This guy was better then on the Oosterdam but still a bit peripatetic, fast and loud. I couldn't take much of that though he had a loyal following which made getting a seat difficult.
- We walked around the promenade deck (deck 3) when it was open. It seemed to be closed a lot when it was windy, rainy or rough seas.
- We had breakfast in our room every day.
- We ate lunch in the dining room everyday.
- There were three formal nights. Professional pictures were encouraged.
- About three days out some people came down with some virus. After that no salt and pepper shakers, no bread basket and we were cleaning our hands very often.

As we got away from the mainland we lost touch with TV services so the tv had movies and stuff produced on board such as reruns of lectures. You could get DVD's for free to watch, we didn't.

The cheapest internet package was $100 and up to $300. We opted to skip it. Besides there was no internet for several days.

Every day or so we lost an hour. It would jump from 2pm to 3pm. From Florida we need to lose six hours. That is nine hours from California. The cruise guy would offer to buy you a drink if you stopped by his desk at 2:30.

April 22, Sunday we arrived in Funchal on the island of Madeira Portugal. Many people took various tours but we decided to go into town and just wander around. Buses were provided for a fee to take you into town. We opted to walk in on our own. We did see a reproduction of the Santa Maria setting off. One thing we needed to do was to get some Euros before we got to Italy. I'd been told the ATM's near the port might be empty because it's a big holiday weekend when we arrive.
   We hiked around and found an ATM pretty quickly. We walked past an old church, wandered down some side streets, saw some art on the walls and an art gallery. We stopped to try the Madeira. Madeira is a type of fortified wine like port. It comes in various degrees of sweetness. We tried the semi-sweet. It's always nice sitting outside having a drink and watching the passing scene. We met one of the ships pianists and his partner. After this we took the very long cable car ride to near the top of the mountain. Very spectacular views.
   When we got to the top we found the famous basket-sled rides. People get in these baskets and guys slide them down the hill for miles to the bottom. I guess it's pretty exciting and the thing to do... we didn't.
   We got back on the cable car and rode down. This time we had the guitar player from the ship's Crow's Nest with us. Nice guy and very talented.
   We found where they were setting up a parade. I think it's the parade of flowers. We looked at the parked floats for a while. Here is a cute girl in her folk costume posing for everybody. We then nipped over and had a less sweet Madeira before hiking back to the ship. The pathway was very crowded because people were lining up for the parade. We saw a sailing regatta from our balcony. We then went to the Lido deck and had some pizza for lunch.
   The ship left for our trip through the straits of Gibraltar and on to Spain. The ship passed Gibraltar in the middle of the night and we were told the only thing we might see would be some lights on land.

April 23, Monday. A day at sea. We attended the "what to do onshore" lecture, a cooking demonstration then a tour of the galley, a buffet lunch, the Crow's Nest, dinner and show.

April 24, Tuesday. We arrived in Malaga Spain. Our first goal is to climb up to the Castle of Gibralfaro which was built in the 11th century. We started by passing through a rather beautiful garden. On the way up were breath taking views and a breath taking effort. The castle was quite amazing. How did they do this so long ago? (more pictures)
   We hiked down and wanted to visit the Alcazaba Fortress but felt we might not have time. Our goal is to visit the Picasso museum. He was born and raised here. However, after he left he never came back because the dictator Franco didn't like him.
   The museum was rather minor but a nice presentation. We enjoyed it.
   After the museum we sat outside where I had a crummy beer and Deb had a glass of so so Sangria. We hiked around a bit more then sat down and had another beer and Sangria on a little square facing an interesting building. A lady came by singing opera and other songs. She was terrible. I gave her fifty euro cents. We then hiked back to the ship fairly early.
   Leaving port three tour ships had a horn honking contest. I think we won.

April 25, Wednesday. Today we pulled into Alicante Spain. We joined another couple for a taxi ride up to the Castle Santa Barbara on the hill. It was pretty amazing with, of course, spectacular views. It felt very reconstructed. As I understand it there was an accident that set off a storage of gun powder and destroyed much of the castle. Many people below were killed as the rocks and debris fell on the city. We spent quite a bit of time hiking around here. 
   They built a rather long elevator directly into the rock for public access. We rode it down and walked quite a distance out to the street. We then walked into the city itself.
   We checked out the city hall and the church of Saint Nicholas. Here is a rather strange statue of Mary and Jesus. Looks like Mary is at the end of her rope and Jesus is struggling. Don't ask what the dog has in his mouth. We sat down at an outdoor place and had a rather large, sumptuous and expensive lunch.
   We hiked back along a great promenade - Explanada de Espana. It's lined with palm trees and is paved with marble floor tiles making a wavy pattern. Beautiful. The locals walk it in the evenings. Then back to the ship.
    We had happy hour, dinner and show.

Apparently another day at sea which allowed for another breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner and a show. 
    The ship changed the planned course and went between Corsica and Sardinia to get to Civitavecchia the port for Rome. We didn't see a thing because we passed through the straits at night.

We read on our Kindles. I finished the "Hunger Games" trilogy, played some solitaire and used it for note taking as well.

Here are some nice Rob and Deb pictures.
Some nice people from Quebec.
Back of ship pictures - one, two
Nice sea shot.
Good ship picture.