January 17, 2016 Sea Day

Our cabin staff does a great job of keeping our cabin in shape. We have beautiful white bed linens with a large white comforter, white bath towels and bathrobes. They make up the room in the morning while we are at breakfast and tidy up again in the evening while we are at dinner. At night we get a towel animal of some variety left on the bed along with two chocolates and a room service menu for breakfast. The ship is in excellent condition and is well appointed. Our clothes are either shrinking in the ship’s laundry or they are already becoming tight from all the good food. We hope to get more deck walking exercise when the weather improves. Sweating out the fat in the sauna isn’t working for Kent.

On this day we attended a port talk by KK on the next two ports of call; Piraeus and Iraklion, Greece. Lunch was enjoyed in the dining room before an afternoon lecture on Russia and the 1991 Coup.

The evening’s dinner was a Gala Dinner, meaning that it was a more formal occasion when the women dress in nice gowns and some of the men wear tuxedos. We elected not to bring our tuxedos this trip so we wear suits and ties instead. The menu on these nights is a bit more luxurious with shrimp cocktail, prime rib, lobster and escargot or something similar. On most evenings you have a selection of a hot or cold soup, a couple of appetizers and a salad to start. For the entrée you can select from pasta, a beef, a fish or a vegetarian dish. They are all accompanied with a vegetable of some type and maybe a potato. Desserts always include several choices like a cake, ice cream, a sundae, fresh fruit, crème brulee or a fruit crisp.

The entertainment after dinner was a variety show with the comedian juggler and the guitar player that had performed earlier in the week.

January 16, 2016 Valletta, Malta

Malta Grand Harbor

Malta Grand Harbor

Malta-Valletta Street

Malta Street

Malta-Harbor Front Shops

Malta Harbor Front Shops

Malta Church Interior

Malta Church Interior

The rain seems to be following us and today was no exception. Our tour this morning was called the Legacy of the Knights referring to the Knights of St John that came to Malta in 1530 and stayed for 268 years. The knights were a Christian group that transformed this once sandstone island into a flourishing island with a mighty defense and a beautiful city coveted by much of Europe. We traveled by bus to the city of Vittoriosa, once the capital of Malta, to explore the old city gates, the beautiful narrow streets and the gorgeous ornate churches and knights’ houses. Many of the churches are elaborately decorated with gold leaf ornamentation, hand painted ceilings, elaborate altars and many tombstones.

Napoleon and his troops landed here in 1798, ending the Knights’ rule of the island. Many countrys held control of the island over the years before Malta achieved its independence from the UK in 1964 (although British forces remained on the island until 1979). The island is located only about 50 miles from the southern tip of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. It is considered one of the smallest and most densely populated countries with 450,000 inhabitants (and 300,000 cars) on an island of 122 square miles. Malta’s economy is dependent on foreign trade, the manufacturing of electronics and textiles and limestone resources. Malta is a popular tourist destination due to its warm climate, recreation areas and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Valletta is the capital of Malta with a population of only about 9,000 in the historic city high atop the ocean cliffs. This is a city of Baroque buildings from the 16th-century onward, although much of the island was heavily bombed during the war and has since been rebuilt. From the port you can take an elevator up about ten stories to the old city with beautiful views out over the harbor.

Most of the narrow city streets are lined with four story buildings facing the sidewalk and many have balconies with either wrought iron railings or enclosed wooden balconies protruding out over the sidewalks. The old city is only about a ½ mile in length and is surrounded by water, high cliffs or deep waterless moats built into the sandstone hillsides. Nearly every building is constructed of the local sandstone. The sandstone is very soft so many of the building facades are weathered and in need of re-facing. Most of the sidewalks and streets are made of stone as well. The city is very beautiful, even on a cool (a high of 55 today) and grey day.

We stopped into a coffee shop to get out of the rain and had a taste of two local delicacies called galletti and ġbejniet. These are small flaky pastries filled with cheese or sweet peas. We also tried a honey ring that is a pastry ring about ten inches in diameter filled with a mixture of chocolate, ground nuts, dates and honey. It made me think of a fig newton cookie and was not very sweet. We looked for, but couldn’t find the fried date-filled brownie as those shops were closed.

After dinner with Tom (London) and Joakim (Berlin) we enjoyed the evening’s entertainment: another piano concert by Naki Ataman. This performance was a collection of 20th century music with many familiar pieces.

January 15, 2016 Sea Day

This morning, KK, the location guide, gave a talk on the port of Malta that we will be in tomorrow. She gives general information on the ports apart from the shore excursions that are offered on the ship. This is great information for those who are interested in exploring on their own, or if you have additional time in port after your shore excursion.

We attended a special luncheon, including champagne, for mariners in the main dining room. After lunch Werner Salinger gave a lecture on President Putin and his efforts to make Russia great again.

Mark attended another watercolor painting class while Kent went to the gym and the sauna.

The entertainment on this night was an award winning Latin and Spanish guitarist by the name of Vincenzo.

January 14, 2016 Sea Day

This morning was a Holland America Mariner award presentation ceremony for guests who have reached milestones in travel with the cruise line. Kent and I received silver medallions for having reached over 300 days of travel with the cruise line.

The afternoon included a lecture on the upcoming shore excursions in two ports we will visit in Greece. We also attended a lecture on the European Union and the upcoming referendum in Britain about getting out of the EU. Werner Salinger, the lecturer, discussed the absorption of the flow of immigrants, the long-term survival of the EU as well as other aspects of the union. He believes that Britain should remain a member of the EU.

The evening’s entertainment was a young (27 years old) standup comedian who is also a juggler by the name of Jon Udry. He has a very dry sense of humor that took a little getting used to but in the end it was a good show.

January 13, 2016 Malaga, Spain

Malaga Harbor

Malaga Harbor

Malaga Bullring

Malaga Bullring

Malaga Cathedral

Malaga Cathedral

Malaga Main Shopping Street

Malaga Main Shopping Street

Malaga Waterfront

Malaga is located on the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea approximate 60 miles east of the Strait of Gibraltar and 80 miles north of Africa. The population is about 800,000 in the metropolitan areas and is the sixth largest city in Spain. Malaga is known as a tourist destination due to its location on the Costa del Sol or Coast of the Sun where they have mild winters, warm summers and 300 days of sunshine a year.

Pablo Picasso, the famous painter and sculptor, was born in Malaga, as was the actor, Antonio Banderas. The family of Pablo Picasso gave the city of Malaga a collection of his paintings that are now housed in a wonderful museum here.

Kent and I took a short panoramic tour of Malaga that took us on a drive through the city to see the highlights before dropping us in town to explore on our own. From high atop the surrounding hillside, we could get a great view out over the city and the harbor. We drove by the bullring that is still in use today; and yes, someone still has to die in the bullfight (man or bull).

Malaga is a city of contrasts, with both old historic buildings with beautiful wrought iron railings situated next to sleek modern buildings. The old historic district is mostly pedestrian only and the charming meandering streets are filled with shops and eating establishments. Most are small unique shops rather than the major worldwide brands you find in every city around the world today.

We visited the Carmen Thyssen Museum housed in a beautiful 16th-century city palace. The collection focuses on Spanish artists of the 19th and early 20th-century. The collection of paintings, depicting everyday life and landscapes, were very impressive. The museum is very modern, beautifully clean, and well illuminated and the art was well presented.

We stopped for lunch at a small bar in the old historic district where we had fried calamari, ham and cheese croquettes and shrimp in a dish of garlic oil with bread. Most of the tapas items on the menu were priced at four to six euros per plate. Soft drinks were considerably less at one-euro-fifty, compared with three euros in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Still the size of the bottles is considerably smaller than you would find in the US.

We wandered along the botanical gardens with lush tropical landscapes, shady paths and ornamental fountains before exploring the beach. In 1972, Kent had studied Spanish and lived with three old ladies in some part of Malaga close to the beach. He wanted to find things that looked familiar. Unfortunately, many things have changed since then, including his memory, so nothing much seemed familiar to him except the bullring. He was happy to visit Malaga again and to relive those old times, including playing the castanets!

The evening entertainment was a gentleman by the name of Naki Ataman who is a wonderful pianist. He takes you on a tour of 19 countries through a visual slide presentation accompanied by him playing the piano non-stop for one-hour.

January 12, 2016 Gibraltar, British Territory

Gibraltar Casemates Square

Gibraltar Square

Gibraltar Harbor

Gibraltar Harbor

Gibraltar is located on the Strait of Gibraltar near the southern tip of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. The small British territory is only about three miles wide and ¾ of a mile wide. It sits at the nine-mile wide mouth of the Mediterranean Sea and is connected to Spain by a sandy isthmus about one-mile wide. The population is about 30,000 residents. Britain has maintained important air and naval military bases here since it became a British territory in 1704.

Today there is a fairly large port where cruise ships stop to visit the Rock of Gibraltar, which is a 1,396 foot tall rock formation. Living on the rock is a population of Barbary apes, a type of tail-less wild monkey.

In 2006 the territory approved a new constitution giving them full self-government with the exception of the military, which is still controlled by the British. They now create their own laws independent of Britain.

We did not arrive in Gibraltar until 4:00pm, so it was mostly a quiet day on the ship, but the weather is warming, and it is sunny at last. In 2000 we had visited the Gibraltar rock on another cruise and had the opportunity to see the wild monkeys and the tunnels running through the rock since World War II.

So today we wandered into town, about a 20-minute walk form the ship, where we found a busy pedestrian-only main street. The shops include many British pubs, fish and chips eating spots, souvenir shops and some clothing and perfume shops. We visited an old cemetery just outside the walled city before taking another route back to the ship. Onboard there was a local Flamenco show giving us a taste of Spain, our next port. After dinner we enjoyed the music of Miss Lorraine Browne, a wonderful singer who has a great voice.

January 11, 2016 Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon - Kent, Brenda and Cory

Lisbon – Kent, Brenda and Cory

Lisbon-Arco de Aguasto

Lisbon Cable Car

Lisbon Cable Car

Lisbon Marsipan

Lisbon Marsipan

Portugal has a long history having recorded civilizations as early as the 7th century BC. The Romans occupied the region for more than 250 years, followed by the Arabs and Berbers from North Africa. In 1147, the Muslims were expelled by the Christians, and by 1256, Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom of Portugal. Great explorers like Vasco de Gama and Magellan once called Lisbon home. Portugal is surrounded by the Atlantic on the south and west and Spain on the north and east.

In 1986 Portugal joined the EU and quickly modernized as a European travel destination. Today Lisbon is the capital and largest city in Portugal with a population of 550,000 people. The entire metropolitan area comprises about 2.8 million people.

This morning our dear friends Brenda and Cory greeted us at the ship. Brenda was a high school classmate of Kent’s in Charleston, Illinois. Brenda and Cory moved from California to Portugal about two years ago and now live in southwestern Portugal along the Algarve coast. We found a small coffee shop where we could sit and catch up over a cup of coffee. As we wandered the hillside alleys of the Alfama district we sampled the locals’ favorite sweet, the egg custard tart (Pasteis de Nada). Small flaky pastry shells filled with an egg custard and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. The Alfama district is an area of the city that survived a devastating earthquake, tsunami and subsequent fire in 1755 that killed an estimated 30,000 residents.

We took the local cable car on route 28 (a tourist attraction) for a short ride around some of the seven the hills of Lisbon to have lunch at one of Brenda and Cory’s favorite Italian restaurant. After lunch we walked some of the local shopping avenues (Rua Augusta, just behind the Arco de Rua Augusta) and explored a large cathedral, The Church of Santa Maria Maior.

We joined Kathy Spicher (2013 World Cruise) and her traveling friend, Carol, for drinks in the Crow’s Nest and guide commentary as we sailed from Lisbon. Dinner in the main dining room with Tom Marcantonio and Joakim (pilot from Sweden living in Berlin) was followed by a performance of a group of five Ukulele-playing young men from Liverpool. They sing, as well as play, five totally different types of Ukulele’s. We had seen them on another cruise and we enjoyed their performance once again.

January 10, 2016 Sea Day

This morning was a port lecture on the next several ports of call and the places and things to explore on your own. This was followed by a lecture on six types of sea turtles around the world. In the afternoon we enjoyed a lecture on world globalization. Issues reviewed included how the west interacts with the rest of the world as it pertains to world transportation and cargo, as well as our carbon footprint.

The weather today continued to be rainy and the seas were still rough. Many folks stayed in their cabins, as they felt a bit seasick. Those who ventured out and about the ship staggered along as if they had had too much to drink.

In the afternoon Kent went to the gym and the sauna while Mark took a watercolor painting class where everyone in class painted a windmill in an open field.

The evening’s entertainment was the first Broadway-style show by the Rotterdam cast of singers and dancers. The show was called “a la Mode” and was a trip around Europe with a few familiar songs and a few new songs. The cast was good at singing and dancing but it lacked sparkle and was a bit bland.

January 9, 2016 Sea Day

As we headed towards Lisbon, Portugal, the seas were rough and it had been raining on and off throughout the night. Navigating around the ship was difficult as the ship rolled from side to side and you did a little dance trying to keep your balance.

We enjoyed a lecture on the world’s ocean by a guest speaker named Harry Strong. He talked about how the ocean is one large body of water and how trash, chemicals, over fishing, etc., effect the entire ecosystem of the ocean.

The afternoon included a complimentary wine tasting for Mark and a lecture on the history of globalization and economic and political power shifts in the world for Kent. Kent visited the gym and sauna while Mark attended a lecture on the foods and wines of Spain by a chef named Paulette Mitchell.

Dinner this evening was a gala or formal evening where folks wear there nicest dresses, tuxedos or suits. The entertainment was a young man named Ruben Vilagrand from Spain who is a mime, comedian and a magician. He presented a unique magic show without using his voice. He performed traditional rope tricks, vanishing and reappearing wine bottles and a variety of never before seen tricks.

January 8, 2016 Southampton (London), England





Southampton-Stonehenge sunset

Southampton-Stonehenge sunset


We arrived in Southampton about 10:00am where we had to present ourselves in person to the local immigration authorities.  Mark’s reputation has preceded him, so they wanted to check him out personally!

Southampton plays host to about four million visitors a year and is the largest city in Hampshire. This port is considered the cruise capital of Eastern Europe. This is the port where the RMS Titanic last made port prior to its collision with an iceberg. Mark took a tour to Stonehenge while Kent toured the town of Winchester and the Winchester Cathedral.

Stonehenge is believed to have been constructed 5,000 years ago, but it continues to be a mystery as to who built it, or for what purpose. There is a new visitor center where we learned about the believed construction methods of this unique stone structure. They have many multimedia displays showing how they believe the area developed over time. Many burial mounds, ridges and embankments and a unique alignment to the solstice surround the stones. The entire complex is now a part of the English Heritage organization that manages and maintains the site and visitor center.

Winchester is considered the center of English history and was the ancient capital of England around 828. Winchester Castle, once home to the Domesday Book, held The Round Table, closely associated with the legendary King Arthur, for over 700 years. Winchester College, founded in 1382, is believed to be the oldest continuously running school in England.

Winchester Cathedral dates back to the 7th century, although the current Norman building only dates back to the year 1079. Its bishops were men of extreme wealth and power and used those resources to develop and adorn this great cathedral. Jane Austen is buried in the Cathedral. The Winchester Bible is there and is the finest of all the great 12th-century Bibles, illuminated in gold and lapis lazuli.

After the tour, there was time to shop on the Winchester High Street to buy chocolate!

Back onboard the Rotterdam we were able to connect with friends we met on a world cruise in 2013. They are Dennis and Robert from Cambria, CA, Tom from London and Kathy from College Station, PA. The evening’s entertainment was a comedian by the name of Paul Adams from England. He was quite funny and had some excellent observations.