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The 2010 Mediterranean & Atlantic Explorer Cruise, Part 8

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The 21-Day Mediterranean & Atlantic Explorer Cruise (And more!), October 26-December 1, 2010, Holland America Prinsendam

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Eight

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November 20 (Saturday, Day 26, At sea) -

Filbert ate breakfast while Snookums read in bed. She ultimately decided to get up and went to the gym. After lunch outside on the back of the ship, Filbert read on the balcony, with his back to the sun, while Snookums read at various locations around the ship. At 5 PM Snookums attended the Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz movie, “Knight and Day”. She was glad she didn’t pay to see it. (But the ship’s popcorn was very good!)

We turned our clocks back an hour before going to sleep which left us with five more hours to gain before docking in Ft. Lauderdale. No jetlag for us!

November 21 (Sunday, Day 27, Funchal (Madeira), Portugal) -

We woke up and got ready for our shore excursion that Gary and Charlotte did the last time they were here and insisted that it was great and that they were going to do it again. Of course we had to do it, too! We took a bus for a short tour of Funchal, population 120,000, and got off at the cable car place. We boarded the cable car for the 10-minute, 2-mile scenic trip up to the town of Monte and had about 30 minutes to explore Monte.

Cable car
More after the jump . . .

The sleds at the top of the hill

The tropical garden at Monte
Snookums and Gary hiked the 68 steps up to the Nossa Senhora do Monte, a hilltop chapel while Filbert and Charlotte stayed down below. Then we all walked to the basket sleigh place.

Carros de Cesto Tobogan
This was the highlight of the tour. In the old days, farmers would take their produce down to the markets in sleighs since Funchal is very hilly. Now tourists can take rides in these sleighs.

Gary and Charlotte were not quite ready
Filbert and Snookums got in their sleigh and their two “drivers/pushers” started pulling them down the street before jumping on the back of the sleigh to steer and brake it. (There was NOT a steering wheel/tiller or a brake. Just two men wearing identical thick leather boots with smooth bottoms.)

Our adventurers and their drivers
Everything was great until Snookums realized we were on a city street as a car came towards us in its lane.

Oncoming traffic
But, the guys had everything under control. After about five minutes, we were at Livramento and our sleigh ride came to an end. It was a hoot!

We had another 15 minutes to shop at the single souvenir store and Snookums bought an embroidered kitchen towel. (Madeira is known for embroidery and Madeira fortified wine.)

We all climbed back in the bus for the rest of our tour. We went to Pico dos Barcelos, which was a lookout point that offered a fantastic panorama of the whole of Funchal city, its bay, harbor and the surrounding hills. By now the rain that had been threatening all day finally started to spit and the top of the cable car route was shrouded in fog/clouds.

Funchal and flowers
Our tour’s next stop was The Old Blandy Wine Lodge for Madeira wine tasting. Each of us was given the medium dry variety and then a coupon to use on one of the other three varieties. Snookums, Gary and Charlotte don’t really drink so Filbert ended up with enough coupons to get all four varieties – dry, medium dry, medium sweet and sweet.

Madeira, four types
Filbert bought three bottles and the price came to €29.80, which was pretty remarkable considering we had €30 left in paper money. We didn’t really need to spend all of our paper euros since they would keep for our next European trip, but since we used up all of the paper euros Snookums went ahead and gave all of our remaining coins to the tour guide as her tip. (Don’t worry, it was a normal tip since euro coins include €1 and €2 amounts.) We had about 20 minutes left until we had to get back on the bus for the ride back to the ship so Snookums and Filbert found a local grocery store and bought more Coke Zero and Coral beer, made in Madeira. Snookums also bought some pomelo marmalade made in Madeira for a Christmas gift.

The four of us got back to the ship with the intention of Snookums, Filbert and Gary walking back to town after lunch. However, while we were eating lunch outside on the back of the ship, under cover, the rain started coming down much heavier and we decided that we didn’t need to go back to Funchal. But, it was a great last day on land before having seven days at sea.

Snookums and Filbert were invited to a cocktail reception hosted by the captain and the hotel manager before dinner. We had been invited to this type of cocktail reception on prior HAL cruises but it was when we were in the next category up of suites. We figured we got invited to this one since we were put on a list of some kind due to our nice letter that we wrote to the CEO after our September, 2010 Alaska cruise. In any event, Filbert enjoyed his free red wine and Snookums enjoyed her Sprite Zero. (The ship is out of Caffeine Free Coke Light.)

We went to dinner and found out that Gary called the front desk asking why he and Charlotte weren’t invited to the cocktail reception and was told that it was for 4-star Mariners (a frequent cruiser level). Well, Snookums and Filbert aren’t 4-star Mariners, either, and he told the front desk this. He was called back in 30 minutes and was told that they should have been invited, too. We all think that this really does prove that Snookums and Filbert were only invited due to being on some “list” and the front desk didn’t want to ruffle feathers so Gary was told that he and Charlotte could go, too. (Although the cocktail reception was happening while he was making the call so it wasn’t too convenient for them to go.) Gary and Charlotte didn’t want to go, but it was the principle of the thing. Both couples have almost identical numbers of days sailed with HAL (and both couples are making 4-star status during this cruise) and both couples have the same cabin type. So, why did Snookums and Filbert get invited and not Gary and Charlotte? We thought it was pretty funny.

Next: Rough seas, a landing, and basketball!