Friday, April 17, 2015

Funchal, Madeira

We arrived in Madeira this morning, had breakfast, and went ashore around 10 AM.  We had booked a bus tour for the first 3.5 hours and got to see quite a bit of the island, getting out in a few locations to look around and take photos.  At the end of the bus tour, we stopped for a little wine tasting, then Mom went back to the ship on the bus while the rest of us wandered around town for a few more hours.

 Coming into port
Funchal is the largest city, the municipal seat and the capitol of Portugal's autonomous region of Madeira.
Looking down from one of the steep hills the bus took us up.  The roads are narrow and winding.  I'm pretty happy we didn't try to drive them ourselves.
 Mom's friend Barbara and Rich's sister Vesta
I wouldn't want to fall off!
Madeira is known for it's beautiful flowers and they were everywhere!  I have more photos for another day, but here's one rather unusual looking bloom.
 I loved the colorful houses and roofs.
I'm sure it was partly because a cruise ship was in town, but we saw many individuals in traditional dress, selling wares, performing songs and dances, and posing for photos.
Like this!
Yellow bike, yellow flowers
Funchal has a population of 111,892 people and has been the capitol city for over five centuries.  The name is from the Portugese for "fennel" and means "a plantation of fennel," after the first settlers noticed an abundance of wild fennel.  We did not see fennel, but were surprised to see lots of bananas growing everywhere on the hillsides.
Madeira wine is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif to sweet wines more often used with desserts.  I can't say I am too crazy about the taste but I don't think we were given "the good stuff" to try.   :)
Mom at the wine store where we had a sample.
More tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


We met up with our fellow travelers in Ft. Lauderdale, though Mom and Barbara had lots of delays and didn't get in till 10 at night. Thank goodness they did not schedule their flight on the day of the cruise or they might not have made it!  Did some laundry, had fast food for dinner since we didn't have a car and the hotel had no restaurant; there were a few fast food places within walking distance so we had to be satisfied with that.

Bye bye Ft. Lauderdale
Up the next morning, April 9,  and shuttled to Port Everglades to board the Celebrity Constellation.  We'd asked for "pier assistance" for Mom after being told it was quite a long walk from the dock onto the ship so she hopped into a wheelchair and an attendant whisked her away quite quickly, leaving the rest of us in the dust to hurry up and catch them.  Very nice for Mom to have that perk as it allowed all of us to board quickly and easily, hurray!

Our cabins were not ready yet so we spent an hour or so having some lunch on the buffet and ran into our friends Judy and Dennis, who were on our Australian cruise a couple of years ago. We've kept in touch and knew they would be on this cruise--lots of fun to see them again!

Dennis and Judy
It's been busy and enjoyable so far. We've had sunny, warm weather, everyone is super friendly and nice, and there's lots going on!  This is a Transatlantic cruise so it's mostly sea days but we haven't been bored at all.  Here are some of the things one or both of us have done in just a few days:

*worked out at the gym most days (Rich more than I!)
*taken a tai chi class
*spazzed out in a line dancing class
*attended lectures on various subjects related to the cruise
*attended a hilarious version of "The Newlywed/Not so Newlywed Game" with passengers as the contestants.  Let's just say it's probably a good thing Rich and I didn't volunteer because the questions were pretty obscure and I am not sure how well we would have done.  :)
*listened to several musicians
*watched a comedian/juggler (who was pretty darned funny)
*watched singing and dancing performances
*struggled through an origami class
*enjoyed a cake decorating demonstration
*read books
*sat outside in the sun
*went swimming
*ate too much!
*played team trivia daily
*took photos
*met new people
*chatted with staffers
*and more...
Barbara and Mom soaking up some rays
Cake decorating demonstration
Our fun Cruise Director, Alejandro, from Argentina.  We had to get a photo of him for extra points in trivia but he didn't realize I was behind him and just thought he was posing for Rich.  :)
Part of the ship
Desserts, desserts, and
more desserts...
We've enjoyed getting to know our room attendants Jennifer and Devin, who do a great job and are so pleasant every day.  We also have the same waiters most days, Anthony from India and William from Jamaica. They are super and we love chatting with them at meal time.  I know this has to be a tough job  and I appreciate such wonderful attitudes.  I'm not sure I could handle being away from home for 7 months at a stretch and working EVERY DAY--no days off! And having to be happy and pleasant to all kinds of grumpy people. I am striving never to be grumpy on this ship.  Well, not to the staff anyway! haha
Origami creations  :)
Part of our trivia team: Rich, new friend Donna, Barbara, Mom
Mom and William
Brenda, Anthony and Barbara

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Rich and Jane's Big European Extravaganza

Yes, we are off on another trip!  Back in the fall, we decided to book a cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Rome.  After looking at the dates, we realized there was another cruise a week later, going from Savona to Stockholm.  Wowie, could we do both, with a week in Rome in between?  Yes, we could!  The first cruise is on Celebrity and is a repositioning cruise similar to the one we took to Australia a couple of years ago: mostly sea days, but a great way to get to Europe (and super inexpensive compared to some!)  The second cruise is on Costa, infamous for  running aground off the coast of Italy awhile back, and the captain abandoned ship while there were still passengers on board...I think there was also a Costa ship that caught on fire a few months later. So we will see how well this one goes. haha

My mom and one of her friends, and Rich's sister and one of her friends decided to join us on the first cruise and the week in Rome.  We left Unalaska on April 4, just to give ourselves a cushion in case we had bad weather at home or other delays that would prevent us from getting to Florida on time.  Of course, since we built in extra days, we had beautiful flying weather and no problems so we are just chillin' out in Ft. Lauderdale till we leave on the 9th.

In Anchorage waiting for our flight to Chicago.

After a six hour flight, we arrived in Chicago at 5 AM.  Neither of us could sleep much on the plane.  I am getting too old for these all nighters!

Then Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale, another 3 hours of flying.  Arrived in Florida at 10:30 AM and luckily our hotel let us check in early.  We were pretty jet-lagged and I had a bad headache from no sleep so we took at 4 hour nap, which threw us off even more.  Walked around a little bit and got some dinner. Watched two movies, "Selma," which I loved, of course, and "Birdman," which was interesting but odd.  Then we couldn't fall asleep till 6 AM! Crazy!

The next day we met up with Rich's friend Kevin, who used to live in Unalaska and worked with Rich. They hadn't seen each other in 12 or 13 years. We had a good time chatting and enjoyed Korean tacos and Bao buns for lunch before we said our goodbyes and Kevin dropped us off at our hotel.  It was fun to meet him and I know the guys had a good time catching up.

Today we are finally on a decent schedule and went to do some pre-cruise shopping.  We walked part of the three miles to the mall and then caught a bus the rest of the way when we decided it was pretty hot and Rich was about to get a sunburned head without a hat on.  My Alaskan husband has no suit, nor even a decent jacket for dress up nights on the boat or for any special occasion, so we splurged on a nice jacket for him and enjoyed talking with our sales guys all about Alaska, Sarah Palin, and who can or cannot see Russia from their house.

Caught the bus back, had dinner at the hotel, came back to our room and the TV remote did not work.  We called to see if we could get a different remote and the maintenance man came up to fix it.  After going back and forth a few times, he came to the conclusion that it was not fixable and would probably have to trade out the TV.  It was already late and we didn't have to have the TV so we told him no worries and they could just exchange it tomorrow after we checked out.  The front desk called us and told us they were comping our dinner. Score!

All of our fellow travelers arrive tomorrow and we are planning to do some laundry and a little more shopping before leaving on the boat on the 9th.  Internet is pricy onboard so I will probably not be posting much here but will be updating on Facebook and Instagram if you want to follow along.  Has anyone ever used the app "1 Second Every Day"?  I thought I would give it a try--it's just what it says, you video one second each day and in the end you have a quick little movie of your trip.  One second is really fast so it will whip by but I thought it might be fun.