Patmos, Greece An Article in Milieu Magazine

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Recently, I picked up the Fall 2018 issue of Milieu Magazine.  This is the 5-year anniversary issue and is simply chock-full of interesting articles!  One, in particular, captured my attention.  It was in the travel section.  Written by Charlotte Di Careaci with photography by Miguel Flores-Vianna, it transported me to the fall of 2015 and our very first visit to the amazing Greek island of Patmos!

Milieu Magazine, Fall 2018, 5th anniversary issue.
Milieu Magazine, Fall 2018, 5th anniversary issue.

Located in the Aegean Sea, Patmos is famous because John of Patmos, who wrote the Bible’s Book of Revelation, did so, here, sometime around 70AD.  The cave where John received the Revelation is located between the capital city of Chora and the port city of Skala.  The Cave of the Apocalypse is open to the public and has made Patmos a destination of pilgrimage.  In 1999, Chora, the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, and the Cave of the Apocalypse were all named UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The port city of Skala as seen from the Aegean Sea.
The port city of Skala as seen from the Aegean Sea.
The road from Skala to Chora.  The Cave of the Apocalypse is along this route.
The road from Skala to Chora. The Cave of the Apocalypse is along this route.
The Monastery of Patmos built c. 100AD uphill from the Cave of the Apocalypse.
The Monastery of Patmos built c. 100AD uphill from the Cave of the Apocalypse.

Today, Patmos is a destination paradise for travelers seeking solitude, beautiful beaches, awesome mountain cliffs, amazing monasteries & convents & churches.  Oh yes, the architecture is enchanting!  We have visited the port city of Skala.  Our short visit consisted of strolling the narrow streets, sipping coffee in welcoming outdoor cafes, shopping charming independent boutiques, savoring the seafood, and gazing, in admiration, upon the sites!

Walking the streets of Skala.
Walking the streets of Skala.
Windmills on a hillside above the town.
Windmills on a hillside above the town.
Seafood is the specialty!
Seafood is the specialty!
Wonderful cafes are everywher!
Wonderful cafes are everywhere!
Boutique shopping in Skala.
Boutique shopping in Skala.
One of the more than 300 churches on the island!
One of the more than 300 churches on the island!
The charming port city of Skala.
The charming port city of Skala.

Reading this Milieu article took me back to that most pleasant port -of-call.  We look forward to returning, someday!  Meanwhile, I thank talented people like Ms. Careaci and Mr. Flores-Vianna for awakening the memories that bring the sights, smells, and emotions of travel back to the forefront!

Rotterdam, Netherlands Day 2

2018 HAL Voyage of the Vikings

Monday, August 6, 2018

 

I must confess, day 2 in Rotterdam was consumed by all things SS Rotterdam and Holland America Cruise Lines.  We had ended Day 1 coming aboard, checking-in, dinner & drinks, and a little wandering through the public rooms before settling down in the cabin.  We had a comfortable room:  sitting area, desk space, king-size bed, TV with some English language programming, and a really nice curved-glass enclosed shower.  We slept well under feather duvets with the porthole windows open to catch the breeze.  But we did find the mattress to be hard as a board!  This has been a problem that pops up frequently in European hotels.  Could it be we’ve grown old, soft and stiff?

We awoke on day 2 to a bright, warm, sunny day.  After breakfast on the outside Lido deck, we took the Engine Room Tour and then followed it up with the Bridge Tour and Ship’s Tour.  Roger, of course, loved all the mechanical details; I was more interested in the history and design aspects.  It was all fascinating!

And I have pictures:

Model of the SS Rotterdam as she looked in the 1950s.
Model of the SS Rotterdam as she looked in the 1960s.
2 (640x360)
This is the type of whimsy you usually find on a Disney ship. It may look real, but this is a scuplture of a crewman painting the hull! The 4 windows above the painter belong to our cabin #6002.
3 (640x345)
We booked a catagory of cabin billed as former Officer’s Quarters. This is a view of our cabin, #6002. The middle door of the hutch folds down to form a desk. The chair will do double duty at the desk.
A view of the siing area.
A view of the siing area.
5 (640x360)
The sleeping area. I’m certain the officer who had this cabin did NOT have a king sized bed!
The end of day libation in the First Class Ambassador's Lounge.
The end of day libation in the First Class Ambassador’s Lounge.
Dinner in the Lido Restaurant
Dinner in the Lido Restaurant
Look at that photo on the wall.  Doesn't it look like Pat Sajak and Vana White!
Look at that photo on the wall. Doesn’t it look like Pat Sajak and Vana White!
Breakfast on the Lido Restaurant deckside.
Breakfast on the Lido Restaurant deckside.
10 (640x360)
This is the promenade deck and that window at the end is the old purser’s office which is now the Ship’s Tour office. It is conveniently located just outside the gift shop!
Starting the engine room tour.
Starting the engine room tour.
12 (640x352)
The engine room tour on the SS Rotterdam. All those white pipes are encased because they contain asbestos. Those red stripes are to remind us that care should be taken to not disturb the casing!!!
Starboard Propeller and Spare
Starboard Propeller and Spare
Stabalizer Shaft
Stabalizer Shaft
Engine Room Controls
Engine Room Controls
The engine room crew quarters.
The engine room crew quarters.
Starting the Bridge Tour.
Starting the Bridge Tour.
Fire Control
Fire Control
Communications
Communications
Navigation
Navigation
Bridge
Bridge
Captain's Quarters
Captain’s Quarters
Bridge officer's quarters.
Bridge officer’s quarters.
Foredeck
Foredeck
1000' of Anchor Chain
1000′ of Anchor Chain
All too quickly, the adventure comes to an end and we must depart.
All too quickly, the adventure comes to an end and we must depart.
Back we go on the water taxi.
Back we go on the water taxi.
Back to the New York Hotel Water Taxi Landing.
Back to the New York Hotel Water Taxi Landing.
Back to the MS Rotterdam.
Back to the MS Rotterdam.
31 (640x360)
This time, our end of day libation is on the Lido Pool Deck of the MS Rotterdam during our sail away from Rotterdam.
And we wave goodbye to the lovely city of  Rotterdam.
And we wave goodbye to the lovely city of Rotterdam.

 

We are now on our way to Dublin, Ireland

Holland America Line’s MS Prinsendam SOLD!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Holland America Line has announced the sale of the MS Prinsendam to the German travel and cruise company, Phoenix Reisen.  The Prinsendam has been chartered back to HAL and will continue its planned itinerary through July 1, 2019.  At that time, Holland America will absorb the remaining Prinsendam voyages into those of the Rotterdam, Veendam and Volendam.

I’m writing this post because we have traveled aboard the Prinsendam many times and have a deep and enduring fondness for this unique ship.  She is known as the “Elegant Explorer” for her classic style and intimate size (she carries a total of 835 passengers.)  The Prinsendam can enter and explore ports that larger ships cannot.

We first sailed aboard the Prinsendam in October, 2009 to the Mediterranean and Black Seas (then repeated and expanded the experience in 2015); in 2011, and again in 2013, we sailed the Baltic Sea, North Sea and Kiel Canal; the most amazing cruise EVER was the South America and Antarctica adventure in 2014.  Our last voyage aboard the Prinsendam was in 2015.

 

Here is our photo tribute to a grand vessel:

San Juan, Puerto Rico

2018 HAL World Cruise

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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!

We awoke in San Juan to a bright and sunny morning.
We awoke in San Juan to a bright and sunny morning.
Old San Juan looked as lovely as we remembered.
Old San Juan looked as lovely as we remembered.
3 (640x322)
It’s an easy walk off the ship and into town–which is, literally, right across the street.
Columbus Square
Columbus Square
5 (640x357)
A tiny park across the street from both San Juan Bautista Cathedral and the El Convento Hotel. Love the old tree!
The San Juan Bautitsta Cathedral, containing the tomb of Ponce de Leon.
The San Juan Bautitsta Cathedral, containing the tomb of Ponce de Leon.
7 (640x330)
The El Convento Hotel was once the nunnery of the Cathedral. Today, it is a lovely hotel and restaurant across the street from the Cathedral and just up the hill from Pigeon Park and the Chapel of Christ the Savior.
Looking towards La Forteleza, the Governor's Residence.
Looking towards La Forteleza, the Governor’s Residence.
Looking towards the Governor's Residence at the end of the street.
Looking towards the Governor’s Residence at the end of the street.
10 (640x344)
The San Juan Gate. There are five gates in the Old City Wall. This gate was used by Spanish dignataries. They would enter the city and then walk up the street to the Cathedral and thank God for their safe arrival.
Shoppping in Old Town.
Shoppping in Old Town.
12 (640x360)
Looking at Harmony of the Seas on the pier as she prepares to depart San Juan. We will follow her out a little later.

 

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!

See you, again, next time!

Praia, Ilha de Santiago, Cape Verde

2018 HAL World Cruise

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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!!!!

1
On the dock in Praia, Cape Verde looking at the city before us. The original “Praia” is on the coast and the fortified city is on the plateau.
Taking the shuttle up to the plateau.
Taking the shuttle up to the plateau.
Seen while on the shuttle to town.  Talk about great posture!
Seen while on the shuttle to town. Talk about great posture!
Looking back at the MS Amsterdam.
Looking back at the MS Amsterdam.
6 (640x452)
The cannon along the old fortified city wall looks like it’s aimed directly at our ship!
looking down to the coastal part of the city.
looking down to the coastal part of the city.
The Church
The Church
Interior of the Church.
Interior of the Church.
The Presidential Residence
The Presidential Residence
Walking through town.
Walking through town.
The colorful market!
The colorful market!
Everything looked good!
Everything looked good!
The people were very nice!
The people were very nice!
15 (640x467)
As we entered the square, we found a concert taking place! We quickly snagged a table and spent a lovely time sampling the local brew and enjoying the music! Morna is the music of Cape Verde. Sounds like an Argentine tango with Cape Verdean lyrics.

 

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, Senegal

2018 HAL World Cruise

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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:

On the dock in Dakar, Senegal.
On the dock in Dakar, Senegal.
2 (640x360)
The Ferry Terminal (but you must exit the port at the cruise dock and re-enter at the Port Authority)
Waiting to take the ferry over to Goree Island.
Waiting to take the ferry over to Goree Island.
4 (640x478)
Boarding the ferry to Goree Island along with lots of schoolchildren wearing their school colors.
5 (640x479)
Boarding the ferry–but look at the boat behind us–Its name is “BEER”! Now those must be party peope!
6 (640x360)
On our way to the island. Goree is infamous as a slave trading center and many of the old buildings are still there as is a museum. But the island, today, is more an artists’ colony with many artisans living and working there.
7 (640x479)
Goree Island was settled by the Portuguese in 1556. This is the old fortress which now houses the museum.
8 (640x464)
Entering the “House of Slaves” built in 1776. But by that time, the island was under French rule.
9 (640x480)
The “House of Slaves” is where the “product” of people was stored. Ships approached from the sea and the slaves were transfered though the “Door to Nowhere” also known as “The Door of No Return”
10 (640x480)
As many as 25 people would be cramped in a cell of this size. The slot at the back was for food delivery.
Door of No Return
Door of No Return
12 (640x472)
The view, from the sea, of “The House of Slaves” (the pink building with upper story columns) and the infamous “Door to Nowhere” visible just above the water line.
13 (640x479)
This sculpture is from the Martinique people and celebrates the abolition of the slave trade on Goree Island in 1848.
14 (640x473)
Today, the island is a colony for artists. Its streets and old buildings are charming.
The Church
The Church
17 (640x348)
Monumenat to the history of Goree Island presented to Senegal by the United States.
Passing some Baobab Trees as we return to the harbor.
Passing some Baobab Trees as we return to the harbor.
Back at the harbor.
Back at the harbor.
Waiting for the ferry.
Waiting for the ferry.
Passing a fishing boat as we return to Dakar on the mainland.
Passing a fishing boat as we return to Dakar on the mainland.
Back in Dakar, we took the shuttle to Independence Square.
Back in Dakar, we took the shuttle to Independence Square.
From Independence Square we walked to the Pullman Hotel.
From Independence Square we walked to the Pullman Hotel.
Pullman Hotel
Pullman Hotel
The end of day libation.
The end of day libation.
26 (640x360)
And we return to the MS Amsterdam where the provisions for our upcoming Atlantic crossing are being loaded.

Next, we will visit Praia on the Island of Santiago in Cape Verde.

Banjul, Gambia

2018 HAL World Cruise

Monday, April 16, 2018

 

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!

It is our custom to start a port day by taking photos from the aft deck.
It is our custom to start a port day by taking photos from the aft deck.
2 (640x470)
In Gambia, you can see all the main sites without ever leaving the ship! Arch 22 was built to commemorate the military coup of July 22, 1994, when President Jawara was overthrown and replaced by Yahya Jammeh, also replaced in 2017 by Adama Barrow.
These are the twin minarets of the King Fahad Mosque.
These are the twin minarets of the King Fahad Mosque.
4 (640x466)
We disembarked the ship and looked for a taxi. Most of our cruise mates were taking organized ship’s tours.
5 (640x479)
One of the bridge guards introduced us to a driver (a port employee earning extra money on ship day). We walked across the bridge to the police station, loaded up into Seedy’s vehicle, and set out for Kotu Beach.
Seedy and his car for our trip to Kotu Beach.
Seedy and his car for our trip to Kotu Beach.
7 (640x480)
As we were exiting the port gate, we saw about a dozen of these carts coming in. This is merchandise, from all over the island, that will be set out at the dock for a pop-up market!!!!
8 (640x463)
As we left the port area, we passed Dobson Street, an old neighborhood with distinctive buildings buit by the Portuguese. It was a bit of a disappointment. The buildings are there, but in disrepair. So sad.
Dobson Street
Dobson Street
Markets set up along the road to Kotu Beach
Markets set up along the road to Kotu Beach
11 (640x360)
This is a very poor country. the people are very nice but the living conditions look challenging.
Schoolkids playing soccer without a soccer ball.
Schoolkids playing soccer without a soccer ball.
School girls carrying no books.
School girls carrying no books.
Ahh, ther's always another mosque!
Ahh, ther’s always another mosque!
15 (640x480)
Arriving in Kotu Beach where we find a commercial district set up to provide services for the condo dwellers. There’s a supermarket, gas station, restaurants, and lots & lots of vendor stalls!
Vendors are selling wood carvings, jewelry, fabrics and clothing.
Vendors are selling wood carvings, jewelry, fabrics and clothing.
Kotu Beach
Kotu Beach
Walking along Kotu Beach.
Walking along Kotu Beach.
Enjoying the local brew at Sailor's Beach Bar.
Enjoying the local brew at Sailor’s Beach Bar.
Eye-catching wall mural.
Eye-catching wall mural.
Even the stonework is lovely!
Even the stonework is lovely!
Leaving Kotu Beach and heading back to the city.
Leaving Kotu Beach and heading back to the city.
Approaching the port.
Approaching the port.
Entertainers on the dock to see us off.
Entertainers on the dock to see us off.

This experience was eye-opening and thought-provoking!

 

Our next port is Dakar, Senegal.