We were curious to see San Juan again. The 2017 Hurricane season was very damaging to Puerto Rico and the repairs are on-going! Ironically, just a few days ago, a contractor managed to knock down a critical power-line and wipe out the electricity! Happily, power was restored by the time we arrived and Old Town San Juan looked as lovely as ever! The buildings had been cleaned and many were newly painted. Although lots of street signs were missing, the overhead electric wires were firmly replaced and in working order; the roofs were repaired; everything was neat and clean!
This was our last port-of-call for the 2018 HAL World Cruise! We’ll be home in a few days and must now get busy packing up for the disembarkation! Thank you for joining us on this adventure. We love to hear from you as we travel; and it is our sincere hope you find these destinations as interesting as we do!
It was the Portuguese who settled the island of Santiago in 1462. Antonio da Noli discovered the island and built a garrison in what is now Cidade Velha (Old Town) but was known then as Ribeira Grande. It was transcontinental slavery that made Ribeira Grande the second richest city in the Portuguese realm. Praia, which means “beach” was a coastal community about 9 miles away. So, when French pirates attacked Ribeira Grande in 1712, the inhabitants moved to the plateau above Praia. Today, Praia is the capital of Cape Verde.
We found Praia to be charming and more Mediterranean than African. Many of the buildings date to the Portuguese era, the sidewalks are decorated with the signature Portuguese designs, and although U.S. dollars are accepted and English is widely spoken, the music is exotic and reminds you there is an African influence.
We took the ship’s shuttle up to the plateau and spent the entire day walking around, shopping, visiting the sites and enjoying the local brew!!!!
We are now on our way across the Atlantic and will arrive at our final port-or-call, San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Thursday. The party is almost over.
Dakar was an interesting port. Situated on the Cap-Vert peninsula, it has been an important trading location—starting from Goree in the 1500s and later from the mainland when the railroad was built in 1906. Today, it is the capital of Senegal. Because we chose to visit Goree, we didn’t see much of the city itself. Our short excursion to the Pullman Hotel took us across pot-holed, dirty, sand-filled sidewalks where the locals elected to walk in the streets instead. We found the smiling local folks to be charming. If we ever return, we’ll try to spend more time exploring the city.
Meanwhile, here are photos of the lovely island of Goree:
Next, we will visit Praia on the Island of Santiago in Cape Verde.
In 1816, Captain Alexander Grant (by order of the British Colonial Office) established a military post on Banjul Island. He renamed the island St. Mary’s and named the settlement in honor of Colonial Secretary Henry Bathurst. The settlement was meant to suppress the slave trade out of Western Africa and, also, served as a trade outlet for the merchants who were ejected from Senegal when the French took over. Eventually, it became the capital of the British colony and protectorate of Gambia. With Gambia’s independence, it became the national capital. The name was changed to Banjul in 1973.
This is a very poor country. The people are very nice and look happy but we wonder what it is like to live here. Our guide, was a port guard who took the day off to earn extra money as a guide and driver. Four of us hired him for 4 hours and paid him U.S.$80.00 for his services. Not only did he perform as a guide; he was our protector as he fended off over-zealous hawkers and (no doubt) potential pickpockets!
This experience was eye-opening and thought-provoking!
In 1955, oil was discovered in Angola. But the country did not emerge from its decades long civil war until 2002. Ever since, the country has witnessed an economic boom. New construction is taking place everywhere! This is very much a place in transition. Once called “The Paris of Africa,” the current energy of entrepreneurs, engineers, financial experts, and workers from all over the world remind many of those long-ago times. Unfortunately, the boom has rocketed Luanda to “World’s Most Expensive City” status in recent years. That is why the contrast of the have to the have-nots is so stark. As a cruise ship tourist, we all had a pleasant stay. But one wonders, “What is it like to live here?”
Since leaving Cape Town, South Africa, the Cruise Line has been warning all passengers about the safety and security concerns of the upcoming ports-of-call. Apparently criminal confrontations and armed attacks occur on a pretty regular basis. We are receiving written instructions on how to stay safe; we get lectures on where not to go; we are encouraged to travel in groups; we are told how to behave, what to wear, and what to look out for! But the incongruity is when we actually disembark in a port—it looks as safe as any other port we’ve ever been to! Walvis Bay, Namibia is a case in point.
We arrived in Walvis Bay on an overcast morning. The cruise line provided a shuttle from the port to both the brand-new Dunes Mall and the Walvis Bay Lagoon. We usually disembark around 10:00-10:30am, so we decided to visit the Mall first. We shopped for souvenirs (there were none—this is a typical mall meant to serve the local residents’ needs. The most popular stores were the supermarket and pharmacy!) So, after enjoying coffee at the Mug & Bean Café, we hopped on the shuttle and went out to the Lagoon. The homes we passed along the way were lovely. We actually joked that everything was so neat and tidy this must be a community of expats from Germany! And that turns out to be true! This is a very attractive area for German travelers who love the warmth of the sun and the refreshing blue sea!
We had a great time in Walvis Bay. Now we’re on our way to Luanda, Angola!
This is not our first visit to the African continent. We have visited Morocco many times; seen Tunisia and Egypt; but we have never ventured beyond the Mediterranean facing countries. Until now!
We began our African adventures in Maputo, Mozambique but very quickly traveled to the border and crossed into South Africa. After several magical days on Safari, we wound up in Cape Town for 3 days of sensory satisfaction! Cape Town is a beautiful, sophisticated city. The MS Amsterdam sailed into Duncan Dock Berth D. From the aft deck, we had a stunning view of Table Mountain along with Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, and Devils Peak. The cruise line provided a shuttle from the dock to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. This is a huge shopping and entertainment area next to the harbor. There are lots of shops and restaurants; the Cape Wheel; the Marine Museum; the Aquarium; and the Water Shed where artisans and craftspeople produce and sell their creations. From here, ferries go to Robben Island where political prisoners like Nelson Mandela were once incarcerated. Nobel Square is located here and the statues of South Africa’s 4 Nobel Peace Prize recipients are on display. As a matter of fact, on our last day, Desmond Tutu and his wife came aboard for a ceremony honoring him with Holland America Line’s First Shared Humanity Award 2018.
Table Mountain is an interesting visit. The cable car floor rotates 360 degrees as it swiftly makes its way to the top. Obviously, the views are breathtaking! Once atop the mountain, you can see the Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean all in one long visual swoop! There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs at Table Mountain: periodically, the clouds will drop down and appear to be a tablecloth draped over a table. If you happen to be on the mountain when this happens, you MUST stop moving; sit down; and wait for it to lift!!!!
On our last day in Cape Town, we toured the Stellenbosch wine region and visited some wineries to partake of their tastings! The Amsterdam had already introduced us to several wonderful South African wines. The cruise line had bought $27,000.00 worth of wines for us to sample! There were numerous on-board tastings and several sommelier dinners. I came to love Ernie Els, Big Easy Chenin Blanc! We both loved Doolhof Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Pinotage from Wellington, South Africa!
But most interesting was our visit to the de Waal Winery. That is where we learned about Pinotage. In 1925, Prof. Abraham Perold, viticulturist at the University of Stellenbosch, created a variety of grape he called Pinotage by crossing Pinot Noir with Hermitage. Sixteen years later there were enough vines to produce grapes for an experimental barrel of Pinotage wine. C.T. de Wall, a winemaker and wine taster of note at the Stellenbosch University, was Perold’s choice to create that barrel. Today, the de Waal Winery is home to the oldest Pinotage vineyard in the world. Decanter Magazine has rated de Wall’s “Top-of-the-Hill Pinotage” as one of the Top 10 South African wines! We sampled this wine. It is smooth with a medium body. It has plum and prune flavors with hints of dark chocolate and a touch of spice. A very elegant wine.
Next, we will visit Walvis Bay, Namibia. The African adventure continues.