Apr 20 -- At Sea
In addition to the sea day routine, we attended today’s movie, Still Alive, which concerned one woman’s descent into Early Onset Alzheimer’s. It was well-done but depressing. Following the movie, D went to cash in our Grand Dollars. With the cruise ending soon, CD Gene decided to have an early Grand Dollar Redemption primarily because he was running out of cash to throw at the passengers. Of course, there is still time to win GD at the assorted Trivia games, so we will probably be able to pick up more cheap ship stuff before we finish packing.
Apr 21 – At Sea
We followed the Sea Day Protocol again today with lots of reading, trivia and nothing. We ate dinner in the Canaleto specialty restaurant with the Starrs, the Shopshires and the Siferts, the regular gang. As soon as we were finished, some of us rushed to the theater to get seats for the performance by the Beatles tribute band. The songs were mostly familiar [they did the biggest hits several days ago but we skipped that one] but we both thought the ABBA group was better.
Apr 22 – Ponta Delgado, Azores, Portugal
We were supposed to visit 2 of the Azores before starting the final leg of the trip. The weather gods caught up with us again and the captain decided to spend 2 days docked in Ponta Delgado rather than try to send tenders into Horta in 15 foot seas. We have missed several ports in the past four months in the interest of passenger safety; we have no complaints.
Ponta Delgado is a quaint little town with white stone buildings trimmed in black stone. The sidewalks and many of the streets are also done in black and white stone. The sidewalks exhibit a variety of patterns while the streets often use the black-and-white motif to indicate the walking area in the absence of raised sidewalks. The streets are narrow once one leaves the waterfront and the hillside is dotted with churches. Higher up the hill are well-tended fields. The local economy thrives on tea, pineapple and tobacco in addition to tourism. The people are friendly and most seem to speak English. We certainly do not speak Portuegese.
The island is another volcanic cone which accounts for the black stone and black beaches. The slope from the volcano reaches right down to the waterline; breakwaters have been installed along the main thoroughfare at the harbor and the rest of the town rises above it. It is lovely to see but requires some exertion to walk around.
D went out today in search of more analgesic patches for MA’s back and, if possible, some local cookies. MA left the ship with him but decided to return to the ship before we had gone very far because she had not applied a patch or taken Tylenol. It was blustery as we left the ship and cool in the shade although D worked up a sweat on his journey. He followed a map provided at the terminal and eventually found one of the indicated pharmacies, but they did not have any pain patches. So as not to return empty-handed, he bought lidocaine cream “just in case.”
The staff at the first pharmacy gave him directions to another. They told him to go to the next set of stairs to the street above and then take the next set after that. The directions were simple enough but after he left the pharmacy, he could find no stairways to climb the hill. However, when he stopped to consult the map, he realized that he was at the right cross-street and had “merely” to climb several blocks to find the pharmacy.
Not surprisingly, it was right where is was supposed to be. The staff here was as friendly and well-spoken as at the first, but they, too, had no lidocaine patches. They did have circular ones designed to numb a much smaller area in preparation for insertion of an IV line. Our friend Barbara said the ship had gotten some for her when the larger patches were not available and that they worked well, so D bought some of these, too. They were better than nothing.
Now for the cookies. The pharmacy staff gave directions to a bakery and off D went. It would have too easy if they had sent him down the hill toward the harbor, so he began to climb the hill. The route wasn’t complicated – turn left at the corner and keep on going. When he thought he must have walked to Michigan, he asked a policeman who pointed him to the bakery just 100 yards farther up the hill.
It was a small bakery and the selection was more limited than in Cartagena, but D managed to find meringues and heart-shaped cookies half-dipped in chocolate. [As it turned out, they were not as good as the cookies from Cartagena, but they were much less expensive.] The transaction completed, D started down the hill and back home. On the way he saw a sign which he thought indicated a market, so he diverted and walked toward the cathedral. There was no market there, just outdoor seating for adjacent cafes. Disappointed, he returned to the ship in time for lunch.
The after-dinner entertainment was a one-woman show by a singer who paid homage to the best female vocalists of the 20th Century. Again, we knoew most of the music and thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Apr 23 – Ponta Delgado
Today’s adventure was a shopping trip to a grocery store on the main street practically across from the ship. On information Ken and Lois provided yesterday, we bought six one-liter boxes [yes, boxes] of red wine from Spain. At less than one euro per box, how could we not? We threw in a container of crackers which taste remarkably like Ritz. Even if the wine is terrible, some apples and oranges will turn it into a passable sangria. We’ll find out when we get home. Carrying the wine home reminded us of the time  when we bought 9 liters of olive oil in Florence and D schlepped them all over the city.
After lunch, D tackled the first round of packing and was able to stow all of our pillow gifts and purchases in our suitcases and the 2 small rolling bags HAL gave us. The timing was perfect because we ave been warned to secure items or put them on the floor tonight; the high seas the captain avoided in Horta will find us and we will rock and roll through tomorrow morning. To further emphasize the dangers, tonight’s dance show has been canceled for safety reasons and Into the Woods will be shown. We will probably watch it on television tomorrow because we will never make it until 12:30 or later.
We had dinner with Barbara and Roger tonight, rocky seas or not, and our waiters made sure our tempura vegetables were delivered to their table. We are going to miss being spoiled.
TOMORROW – The long trip home begins
Apr 24 – 29 Heading Home
Not all sea days are created equal, but they all bear a striking resemblance to each other. Eat, sleep, trivia, eat, trivia, sleep. There were other things interspersed:
Arthur gave his three-part lecture on de-mythologizing the Old Testament. He called it “The Bible: Fact or Fiction?” and tried to give rational and even scientific to explain some of the best-known OT stories. We have heard these talks before, so there was little that was new. D did ask him to draw an analogy between Jonah’s 3 days in the belly of the great fish after which he asked why God had forsaken him to NT stories [3 days in the cave, Jesus’ asking why he had been forsaken, etc.] but Arthur copped out and had the priest respond. Except that he didn’t offer anything except platitudes.
We had the last of the Cruise Critic meetings and it was difficult not to call out 2 members who tried to hijack the process by scheduling their own CC meeting. Despite HAL staff and D’s misgivings, the meeting was scheduled, a room was prepared and no one showed up. These 2 were involved in other questionable actions throughout the voyage, so we were not surprised, but we were disappointed in their manners and methods [in all things].
Team Trivia finally ended after almost 80 competitions spread over the 114 days. We all collected Grand dollars and then cashed them in for cheap ship stuff on the last day. By that time, the staff was not counting dollars, they were just trying to get rid of everything. We obliged but asked only for little things that we could cram into the luggage.
Even though we felt like the Vanderbilts in January, we still ended up with 3 more bags than we arrived with. HAL had given us rolling duffel bags into which we shoved “things,” but we ended up buying a third nylon bag from the on-board store before we found room for everything. The last night, we placed 8 bags in the hallway and still had to roll off with one more piece plus our 2 carry-on bags [and the computer]. It was a good thing we were not flying.
In summary, we saw places we never thought we would. We saw places we never want to see again. We met people we want to see again. We met people we don’t want to see. Ever. And, despite colds, flu, intestinal distress and back pain, we had a great time.