Ed’s Crystal Cruise Blog – Part 4

Istanbul!  As we gaze out from our balcony we can see the Blue Mosque and the many spires of the many mosques in Istanbul.  We were just here in June and since this is Sunday and the Grand Bazaar is closed (seems odd to me as all the other stores are open), we decide to walk from the port to the Taksim Square area.  That in itself was fun, walking the local streets of the area and up, up the many stairs until we get there.  I’m never too worried about getting lost as the area seems decent and the people we have asked for directions are all willing to help.

This bustling square and the many, many shops along the main street which goes for several blocks is jam packed with locals and tourists alike.  We are not shopping for anything in particular although I need a new sports jacket, so we pop in and out of stores with little in the way of purchases.

A stop at a lovely seafood restaurant for lunch means that Karen can have a glass of Raki, a licorice flavoured liqueur very similar to Ouzo and I opt for a very nice glass of Turkish wine.  You never hear much about the Turkish wine industry but they have some surprisingly good wines.

A few more stops and I am awarded with a new sports jacket…$75CAD so reasonably priced but it’s always fun to be able to say you bought this in Istanbul and that in Rome and these in Venice.

Back to the ship for our farewell dinner with the friends we made on board the ship and to finish packing.  We have to have our luggage outside our door by midnight and we are mostly packed, so time for a cocktail before dinner.  After another amazing supper, we head out to the piano bar for a last group goodbye.

We don’t have to get off the ship first thing in the morning as our flights to Romania are not until 18:30 but everyone is off the ship by 09:30.  We were dreading having to sit around the airport for that long but instead Crystal Cruises took us to a very nice hotel where we lounged in comfort with refreshments and snacks for a couple of hours before heading to the airport.

As it was, it was a gruelling wait at the airport because Tarom Airlines does not provide check in and gate information until 1.5 hours before departure.  That meant finding a place in the main terminal to sit around with all our luggage for about 2.5 hours.  Not the best situation but with a good book and a bit of patience, we endured.

Never having flown Tarom Air before, I was happy to see a reasonably nice 737 was our aircraft.  Off to Bucharest, Romania.  If you didn’t know, Romania was where my father was born and we had decided that since we were that close, we wanted to visit his little village of Cogealac, a 2 hour drive from Bucharest.

Bucharest itself is a fascinating city with a great deal of history. Having emerged from Communism only in 1989, it has been a long road back to democracy.  It seems there are more cars than people in Bucharest and the traffic is of epic proportions.  There are an amazing number of beautiful heritage buildings in Bucharest however they are in desperate need of repair.  The good news is that we saw a great deal of construction going on, but they have a long way to go.

We took a walking tour of historic Bucharest while there and also went out for a traditional Romanian supper where the restaurant was in a very old brewery and they provided entertainment of traditional dance.

However, the main reason for our trip here was to visit Cogealac.  We had hired a driver and translator to take us there.  The scenery was very typical of Saskatchewan with a great deal of farm land and quite flat.

While I won’t bore you with details of the village, there were a couple of highlights for us.  My father’s home is no longer there, but the house of a good boyhood friend across the street was still standing and the people living there now invited us into their home so we could see the house and even offered us coffee…they were genuinely happy to see us.

We had wanted to bring back some local wine for my dad and upon asking around, we were directed to another house.  The gentleman there took us down into an 80 year old root cellar so we could taste his wine.  It was not something we could bring home but he insisted on pour us a sample of his wine into this dusty old tumbler from an old plastic container.  I wish I could say it was amazingly good but actually, it was amazingly bad but despite that, he told us about his house and when he came to Romania from Bulgaria and was again, extremely friendly and happy to talk with us.

After a local lunch of homemade sausage and cabbage (which were very good) we went to the Mayor’s office.  I had in mind that I would like to see the records of my father’s birth.  I expected some resistance and because he was born in 1925, thought it would be down in a dingy old basement in boxes somewhere if they even had them.  To my surprise, she simply opened a cabinet pulled out the ledger for 1925, asked for his birth date and found it within minutes.  They even photocopied the page and I brought it home for him.

A quick stop in Mamia, a seaside resort beside Constanta for a look around, a short city tour of Constanta and a stop at a store where I did buy a couple bottles of Romanian wine to bring back for him.  It was truly a wonderful experience visiting Romania and walking in my father’s footsteps.  I know it means a great deal to him.

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Ed’s Crystal Cruise Blog – Part 3

Neflion, Greece – Didn’t know much about this port other than it was in the Peloponnese, so we decided to take a tour.  This stop was a great and very pleasant surprise.  Our tour first took us to Mycenae ruins, which was very interesting and our guide was extremely good (it was the same guide we had in Athens) at explaining the culture and what has been discovered here.  It’s a very large site and the weather is exceptional today.  Below are a couple of pictures we took at the site…

 The area itself is very green with many orchards of oranges and thousands of olive trees.  The olives are just now ripening and I suspect this will be a very good crop year.  From here we went up to the Palamidi Fortress which was built by the Venetians in 1714.  The fortress is in amazing condition and once our guide explained all of the history and purpose of the fortress, we were able to wander around the expansive area and take some great photos.  The smaller fort (Bourdzi Fort) on the island at the bay entrance was used in conjunction with city fortress and they actually used a huge chain between the small fort and the town entrance to keep invading ships at bay.

The balance of our time in Nafplion was spent wandering the old port town, exploring the many shops, squares and tavernas. This is indeed a very quaint town and we would love to have more time exploring the area.

Next stop – Mykonos!  This was one of our favourite islands the last time we cruised the Greek Islands.  The whitewashed buildings and the winding roads where we could get easily lost are all still the same.  The 5 remaining windmills add to the charm of this amazing island.  The weather was not the best being cloudy and overcast and some rain showers but it didn’t dampen our spirits as we ducked into the small shops selling their wares.  However, our experience was a little disappointing as we had to fight the crowds that the 5 cruise ships in port inevitably create…didn’t they know this was out island for the day?  Mykonos was also a little dirtier than we remembered but it is the end of the tourist season and I suspect they will spend some time sprucing it up for the next season.  All in all, we highly recommend the island for anyone in the Greek waters and our biggest tip would be to find that perfect little taverna early before all the best seats are taken!

This cruise is very port intensive and our next stop was Kusadasi, Turkey.  Best known for the magnificent ruins at Ephesus, it is the area where the Virgin Mary spent her last days and passed away.  The Ephesus site is only 10-15% excavated but what they have so far uncovered and reconstructed is breath-taking with its marble roads, the 2 storey library and of course the 27,000 seat amphitheatre.  The amphitheatre was used for many concerts right up to about 5 years ago but the last 2 concerts (I think Sting was the last) with their loud music and the vibration created, actually cracked the foundation.  No concerts are now allowed and repair work has been going on for 5 years.

It is a wondrous place to visit and although we have visited before, it still takes our breath away!

Kusadasi is also known for another great feature…SHOPPING!  With its many streets lined with shops selling jewelry, carpets, leather goods, purses, watches, knock-off clothes and other “genuine copies,” shoppers can have a great time here.  Be aware, the vendors are aggressive although very friendly for the most part.  They love to negotiate and enjoy doing it.  Many of the people we know on board came back with leather jackets (including us) that ranged in price from about $100 -$300 depending upon the quality of the leather and the style chosen.  Hard bargainers got some great deals but the quality is superb and we know we will enjoy our jackets for many years!

Today is a day at sea…finally!  We love these sea days to get caught up on things like writing this blog, a good book, a dip in the pool or maybe a golf lesson.  There is so much to do on board we sometimes forget the ship is every bit a destination on its own.  Our last stop on the cruise is Istanbul tomorrow.

Ed’s Crystal Cruise Blog – Part 2

Croatia – seeming to be the new and upcoming tourist destination, this compact little country has much to offer its visitors.  We started our tour by leaving the charming city of Dubrovnik and heading inland to the beautiful valley of Konavle.  It was here that we visited an old mill called Mlinica Dvori where the traditional production of flour using a system of watermills on the river Ljuta still functions.  We were met by the owners and staff sporting traditional clothing and serving some traditional liqueurs and a style of grappa.  All very interesting.


After the old mill we stopped at the gallery of a local artist, who surprisingly, was much more interested in talking about old traditions and silk production than selling her works of art.  Again, very interesting and well worth the stop.

Then off to the old town of Dubrovnik, one of the most beautiful towns we have experienced.  Unfortunately the weather was not in our favour and while we wanted to walk the 2km of the old wall, rain started to fall and we limited ourselves to the town itself.  It was amazing to see how well the town has recovered from the devastation it saw in the early ‘90s in the war against Serbia and allies.  A warm and fiercely proud city, Dubrovnik is a beautiful survivor.

The next stop on our cruise was Corfu and our first stop in Greece.  Since it was a national holiday, our shuttle bus dropped us off at a different spot than normal, except we didn’t realize it.   Not that it mattered much except at the end of the day, we had some trouble finding our bus back to the ship.  Good thing we left relatively early so we had plenty of time although it did cause us to do quite a bit more walking.

Corfu has 2 old fortresses – an old fort and a new fort.  Given where our bus dropped us, we visited the new fort which was relatively deserted but in very good shape.  We wandered around for about an hour or so but as a result we missed the parade the town put on for their national holiday.  None the less, we walked around the old town quite a bit looking in the many tourist shops and finally landed upon a restaurant located in a 500 year old building.  My calamari was quite good even if the house wine was clearly home made.

Next on our list of ports was Argostoli, Kefalonia, Greece.  We opted for one of the ship’s tours today and were very glad we did.  We spent most of the day in the countryside which is very mountainous and the roads are very windy… just wish we had rented a motorcycle for the very winding roads 🙂

Several stops on the way but the 2 big highlights were Melissani Lake and Drogarti Cave. Melissani Lake was an underground lake whose dome fell in several years ago.  We were rowed through this lake (not very big) while the Greek boat man explained a  bit about the lake and sang to us.  Quite neat.

The Drogarati Cave was huge and although it seems that some of the stalactites and stalagmites have been broken off, it is still very impressive.  The deep recesses are some 200 feet down from the cave’s ceiling.

Today, we arrived in Athens.  Although we have been here before, we were excited to go back to the Acropolis and view the Parthenon and other antiquities there.  It is amazing to think that there are still structure standing from the 5th century BC.  They are continuing to do quite a bit of restoration at the site but apparently they will complete their work in the next 2-3 years.  Despite some scaffolding and a crane or two, it takes your breath away to imagine building such impressive temples back then.

Ed’s Crystal Cruise – Majestic Majesties – Part 1

Arriving in Venice is always an experience. You have a couple of choices to get onto the island from the airport. You can take a bus transfer to the main land entrance and then a vaparetto (water bus) or a water taxi from there. We opted to transfer by vaparetto from the airport to the nearest stop to our hotel. At 15 Euro per person, this is much less than a water taxi which would have cost 110 Euro for both of us. You have to purchase the ticket in the airport before you go to the dock.

There is a long walkway from the airport to the dock where you pick up your boat and having a lot of luggage is not a good idea. Plus, if you are taking the vaparetto, you have to be prepared to lift it on and off the boat. This may be a good reason to take a water taxi plus you don’t have to endure an hour and a half boat ride on the vaparetto! Arriving at the closest vaparetto stop to our hotel, we still had to walk up and over a couple of bridges hauling our bags along the way…hmmm, maybe the water taxi would have been better as it would have dropped us off right at our hotel, the Westin Europa Regina.

The hotel itself was beautiful, right on the Grand Canal and the room was large and inviting. Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up with several bites.

The evening of arrival was a wonderful experience wandering some of the streets of Venice ending in San Marco Piazza and having a lovely dinner there.

Surprisingly the piazza was not very crowded. Check out this little video of the gondolas:

The next morning… more of the same. We have been to Venice a couple of times now and actually spent a week here a couple of years ago, so we have been to most of the major attractions. Just roaming the streets and watching the bustle of the city was what we wanted. Some people are often intimidated with the seemingly lack of structure to the city…it is very easy to get lost in Venice but it is also very easy to stumble across the way back. We love finding little nooks and crannies and the treasures they hold.


We opted for a water taxi to the port to board our ship (70 Euro) but it took us right to the dock and it was easy. Crystal Cruises does a marvelous job of embarkation and within 10 minutes of arriving at the ship we were shown to our stateroom. The ship is absolutely gorgeous and the staff are very friendly and accommodating. They have staff from around the world and it is interesting to see where they are all from and they do like to talk about their homeland.

First, a quick tour of the ship to familiarize ourselves and then get ready for dinner. The food is truly amazing and we have great dinner mates.

The ship spent the night in Venice so we have one last opportunity to visit. What a difference from yesterday! Today the city seems jam packed with tourists and you can hardly find a quiet spot. This video will show you what I mean:

We dodged and weaved our way through the crowds ending up at the Rialto Bridge and a quick tour of the fish and produce market…very interesting with every conceivable type of fish and seafood you can imagine.

But enough of the crowds…found a great little restaurant along a canal with lots of atmosphere and a good wine list.

The sail away from Venice was very interesting as a tug boat pulls our ship along the Grand Canal past San Marco Piazza, the Bridge of Sighs and other great sights.

We are working on this cruise as Vacation Vignette Hosts and as such we hosted our cocktail reception for the group. About 22 passengers in total and all are very nice. Our reception was at the front of the ship on Deck 12 with our own little “balcony” so we could watch as we came though the Grand Canal – awesome.

Today is a day at sea so we can explore the ship and take in some of the activities…so far we have found the golf clinic very interesting…

The great thing about Crystal Cruises is that it is all-inclusive, so the wines at dinner, the cocktails during the day, the specialty coffees, the golf instruction, the lecturers, the movies, the entertainment, fitness classes…everything is included. Luxury at its best!

Ed’s Barcelona and Crystal Cruise

On-board Crystal Cruises, Crystal Symphony – Part 5

Our last port of call and one of our favourites – Bordeaux!  Unfortunately the weather is the worst we have seen for the entire cruise…cool and rainy.  We are docked right in the middle of the old city and so can literally walk off the ship and start exploring the city.  As well, there is a wonderful river walk that extends a long way on either side of the ship so walking, jogging, or bike riding is very easy to do.  In fact there are rental bikes right across the street which you can use and drop off at any of the bike stations and there are lots of them.  A small video of our view when we are docked in Bordeaux – http://youtu.be/xwDKR6A2m2k

However, this first day in Bordeaux (we are here for 2 days) is spent with a car and driver we hired to explore the St. Emilion area and the town – a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The cost of the driver/guide is 425 Euro for the day but we shared him with another couple from our dinner group, so the price was not too bad for Bordeaux.  The rain held off while we visited, toured and tasted at two separate Grand Cru wineries Chateau Franc Mayne and Chateau Fonplégade.  I have been on many, many winery tours but found both of these very interesting.  These two wineries I have not heard of before but with some 800 wineries in the St Emilion appellation alone, it’s hard to know them all.  So much great wine and so precious little time  🙂

Chateau Franc Mayne

Chateau Fonplégade

St Emilion

We had a great lunch in the medieval town of St Emilion and we spent some time wandering the cobblestone streets and poking our heads into a variety of shops and wine stores with a couple of tastings along the way.  We just have to come back and spend a week or two in this area.

Day 2 in Bordeaux was very relaxed.  Today, it did rain a bit but it did not prevent us from walking on the riverfront where we did some shopping and then through the old part of town, where we enjoyed the sights and bustle of a Saturday shopping day.  Due to the rain, we didn’t rent the bikes which we did the last time we were here and thoroughly enjoyed.

Instead of meeting our group in the dining room for dinner, we first met at one of the couple’s stateroom for appetizers and to sample some of the wine we bought in St Emilion.  They are in a penthouse suite, so we had lots of room and they had arranged for some great appetizers for us.  As we cast off to leave Bordeaux, it was fun and somewhat fitting that we toasted to our time here with some nice Bordeaux wines, some wonderful food and some great friends that we have met on board.

Our ship, the Crystal Symphony docked in Bordeaux

Enjoying fine wine in Bordeaux!

Fun at the piano bar…

So, my recommendation for those that cruise, would be to try a larger table for dinner and meet some new people.  We usually request a table for 6 or 8 and we have met some wonderful people over the years.  I know the cruise lines try very hard to match at least age groups and it is wonderful to make new friends.

On-board Crystal Cruises, Crystal Symphony – Part 4

Lisboa! (or Lisbon as we know it).  We had a fabulous shore excursion Thursday of parts of Lisbon but even better, we got out in the countryside for a wine tour and tasting.  We were the hosts on this tour for our group and we were very pleased with everyone in the group – great people and very friendly.  We enjoyed a wonderfully scenic coastal drive back from the vineyard before heading back to the ship.  Here are a couple of photos of the day…

Jose Maria Da Fonseca

Ed and Karen’s wine tour group

Crystal Symphony

After our day in Lisbon, we set sail for a new port for us, Oporto in Portugal.  This is the centre where Port wine is produced and our tour today took us to one of the many different Port houses…Ferriera.  Not one that I have personally heard of before but very enjoyable tour and a nice tasting after.  As many of you know, I love Port and so bought a bottle of 2007 Vintage Port here.  Unfortunately, I will lay it down in the wine cellar for as long as I possibly can but at least 5 – 10 years before enjoying it.

Port House Ferriera

Cheers!

From the Port House of Ferriera we boarded a boat and had a wonderful water tour of Oporto from the Douro River.  It was a very hot day so being on the water and seeing the city from the river was a very nice way to do it.  It seems very evident that Portugal is suffering economically and Oporto seems to have been hit quite hard with many empty buildings and quite a few of them are in disrepair.  None the less, we enjoyed Oporto a great deal and would love to have had more time exploring it.

We did not take the tour bus back to the ship but instead opted to wander the old part of the city.  They have some spectacular old buildings and the shopping was very affordable.  And yes, I did manage to buy another bottle of Port…my suitcase is going to be much heavier coming home and another new suitcase may be in the cards before we leave to come home.

Oporto

Oporto

On-board Crystal Cruises, Crystal Symphony – Part 3

So we have been to a few ports of call since my last blog…Valencia, a day at sea, Malaga and finally yesterday, Tangiers.

We did a bicycle tour in Valencia and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The city has many bike lanes, even through the old part of the city and the pace was very manageable.  A couple of pictures appear below.  There was a river running through the centre of the city but because of bad flooding they diverted the river and made the old riverbed into a beautiful park where we spent much of our bike ride going through.  While the old city is of course very historic and beautiful with its old city gates and wonderful cathedral, what was really refreshing was their City of Arts and Sciences, a very futuristic centre with great modern architecture.  It truly reminded us of the Sydney Opera House area.

Bike tour in Valencia

City of Arts and Sciences

Us at the City of Arts and Sciences – never far from Canadian red and white!

During our first day at sea, we held office hours for our group if they had any questions and also hosted a cocktail reception for our group to get to know each other.  It was a quiet day and the weather has been cooperating marvelously.  We had requested a table of 8 at our dinner seating but only the 6 of us have shown up so we are requesting they change the table setting and size for the 6 of us.  We have GREAT table mates, a couple from Victoria, BC of all places and a couple from just outside Washington, DC and we all get along marvelously to the point we have been getting together after dinner and have had a night of partying!

The entertainment last night was a great singer who has played in the London performances of CATS, Evita and many more.  She was excellent and a high point of the entertainment so far, although I must admit the comedian the night before had us in stitches too.

After the relaxing day at sea, we arrive in Malaga, Spain.  Karen and I have been here before so we spent most of the day on board ship.

We did decide to go into town but because it was Sunday and at their siesta time, most of the shops were closed.  We walked around the Cathedral and the old town and headed back to the ship through a very lovely park.

Cathedral in Malaga, Spain

Yesterday, we spent the morning in Tangiers, Morocco.  Having never been to Morocco, I only had visions of an exotic port of call with a massive central market full of goods that you bargain hard for under flowing tented stalls.  I expected bearded old men smoking hookas/water pipes drinking sweet teas and an aura of mystery around it.  I expected too much.  What we found was an interesting area that seems very run down but to their credit there is a lot of construction and restoration.  The people were very friendly and there were a large number of people trying to sell us various wares as we walked through the Medina and Kasbah areas.  I was disappointed in the market particularly as we were herded into a commercialized store where we knew the guides were getting their kickbacks.  We did buy a couple of things as souvenirs.

The best part was the stopping for some sweet tea and pastries in a traditional style of restaurant although they did try to stuff 4 or 5 busloads of people into the place.

Traditional restaurant in Tangiers, Morocco

Tangiers, Morocco

I am happy we had the chance to visit Tangiers but next time, I think I will skip the organized tour.  It does make me want to visit Casablanca at some time though.

On-board Crystal Cruises, Crystal Symphony – Part 2

Our first day on board the Crystal Symphony was like reacquainting ourselves with an old friend.  We cruised with her through the Panama Canal a year and a half ago and even many of the staff are still the same.  Having said that, we still have to remember where everything is and how to get to all the rooms.

We are Concierge Hosts on board with a group of about 30 people, so our first couple of days have been arranging for a cocktail reception, meeting the ship’s staff, printing our letters for all our guests and calling them individually to introduce ourselves and the services we will be offering.

Despite all that,  we have met the people we will be dining with this cruise (we chose a table of 8 and a main seat dining option of 6PM so we will be dining with the same people for the entire cruise) and although the two nights there have only been the 6 of us, we seem to have hit off well.  One couple is from Victoria, BC of all places and the other couple is from Washington, DC.

I have uploaded a short video so you can see what our stateroom is like…not huge but very comfortable.  Check it out on You Tube at… http://youtu.be/j4zFSJol_mA

We spent most of the day at Palma de Mallorca on Mallorca Island (part of the Baleric Islands) off Spain today and it was a fantastic day for warm temperatures and sunshine.  We didn’t do much there other than visit the incredible Cathedral (see pictures below) and walk around the old town.

Cathedral exterior

Inside the cathedral

Some interesting shopping as well.  Mallorica is well known for their pearls.  We have a daughter getting married this summer and some pearls would look fantastic with her wedding dress, so Megan, I hope you like them!

Lovely fountain and to the right is our ship – the Crystal Symphony!

A very relaxed day followed by an hour of circuit training and a stretch class in the gym…just a little bit of exercise to try to keep off the pounds.   For dinner tonight (a formal night) I started with some fresh oysters, followed by caviar and lobster for my main course – decadent yes, but hey, portion sizes are reasonable and I only had fruit for dessert.  🙂

After dinner, it is time for the on-board entertainment which was just OK tonight.  I think things will improve during the cruise, although the guy in the piano bar was awesome and could play and sing just about anything you could throw at him.

Life at sea is fantastic…highly recommend it to everyone!

Barcelona

We have spent the last couple of days greatly enjoying the wonderful city of Barcelona.  Although we have been here three or four times before, every time we come we remark how much we like the city and all it has to offer.  This time we are seeing the city via the Hop On/Hop Off city bus tours.  It’s a great way to travel around the city seeing the sights and the price is fairly reasonable – 30 Euro each for a two day pass.

Hop On/Hop Off bus tours

We spent quite a bit of time at Sagrada Familia yesterday enjoying the interior of the yet to be finished church.  They are estimating another 20 years of work to finish this Gaudi miracle of architecture.  If you know any of Gaudi’s work, this is a magnificent church and because of all the cranes, at the church site, it is impossible to get a really good picture.  Instead, click on this link and find out more about this beautiful building… http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/

Inside the church, although it also isn’t done, you get a real sense of what the architect was trying to accomplish.  My Blackberry Torch video is on YouTube here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJOYh9-ftVU&list=UUsVdXF6U1SfMQaDpsh0nffQ&index=1&feature=plcp

In addition, we have stopped at another building of Gaudi’s (I guess we are fans)…it’s an apartment style building.  A couple of pictures appear below.

Gaudi apartment

Gaudi rooftop view

The Gothic Cathedral and the Gothic area were wonderful to roam around in, as was the beach area and the famous pedestrian street La Rambla.  Another little video here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5Cl4JazHdI&list=UUsVdXF6U1SfMQaDpsh0nffQ&index=2&feature=plcp

On another note, the food and wine has been spectacular and reasonably priced.  Dinner for the two of us last night was under 40 Euros including a very reasonable bottle of wine (only 12 Euro J).  There are so many restaurants, cafes, bars and outdoor eateries; you can hardly decide where to go!

At the cafe – what a view!

We will be getting onboard the Crystal Symphony today to start our 12 day Mediterranean Cruise featuring many ports in Spain, Portugal and France…watch for some highlights soon.

Ed’s Regent Cruise Vacation Vignette – Last Thoughts

After an eventful and very enjoyable 2 days in Bordeaux, we are on the move again with a day at sea.  It’s also a pretty full day as some of our group need help changing transfers and wanting miscellaneous information.  The day is overcast, windy and cold and the Captain has cancelled the Gala lunch on the pool deck.  But hey, we are hardy Canucks and so after lunch, decide to brave the cold and went for a dip in the hot tub.  Cold outside but toasty in the water…the only problem was the spray we would get off the pool as it sloshed around.  We were the only 2 crazy people on deck and it felt like we had our own private area.

Good day to get caught up with my emails and some reading.  Unfortunately, my Blackberry is still not working and I know there are some emails that I have been waiting for.  Will need to have a serious talk with SaskTel when I get home.  Managed to get a lot of my work completed though and that means I can relax for the next couple of days.

We head out to the Compass rose restaurant again tonight.  The menu is always varied and the quality excellent so we never have to worry that we will go hungry 🙂  The dining room has anytime dining so we can go for dinner whenever we want.  We usually ask for a shared table so we have been dining with mostly different people each night and it has been great meeting people from across the US, the UK, Australia and a couple from South Africa.  Our usual dining time is about 2.5 hours and is a highlight every day as we like to live to eat and not eat to live.

Compass Rose Restaurant

The entertainment was a bit of a let down after the exciting show last night.  A female singer who wasn’t at all bad but not what we were hoping for as this is the last show of the cruise.  It did at least put me in the mood for sleep.

Our last day of the cruise since I don’t count the day of disembarkation.  Because of the tides, we are not docking in Honfleur, France but instead at LeHavre.  Tours have not changed and we are off to Historical Rouen for the afternoon.  Very picturesque village with an obligatory beautiful medieval church that takes your breath away but what is unique about this village is the half timbered houses in the village.  Although severely damaged during WW2, they have done a very nice job on rebuilding and restoring the town.  Well worth the 1.5 hour drive there and back.

Rouen, France

As I mentioned, no show tonight although they did arrange for the 2 main singers of the main show to sing some songs with the full band in the Horizon lounge.  We have gotten to know some of the singers and dancers on board over the last 14 days and so it is nice to go listen to them again.  Also nice to say goodbye to some of the people we have met on board and to some of our group.

Disembarkation day is never my favourite day.  Not so much that we have to get off the ship but because they want you off as early as possible which we understand because they need to ready the ship for the next group.  But really, being out of the stateroom by 08:00?  Off the ship by 09:30 when we have a 15:15 flight from London?  It is a long bus ride from Southhampton to London Heathrow airport – about 1.5 hours and not inexpensive.  The ship’s transfers were $139USD each.  But, as luck would have it, neither of us could sleep in and we easily met the deadlines.   Three hours at Heathrow are a bit of a drag but we have used Aeroplan points and are flying Business class which allows access to their lounge…a much better alternative to sitting on a hard chair for that long.  The Air Canada business class seating was excellent with their lay flat pods.  We actually slept for a few hours.  The meals and service were very good.  Our connecting time in Ottawa was just over an hour but given the size of the airport, that was no problem.  I must say, connecting through Ottawa was so much nicer than having to go through the much larger, much busier Toronto hub.

That’s it for my Regent Seven Seas Cruise blog.  We can highly recommend them for the discerning traveller and if you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us.

Ed Buchholz