The 2010 Mediterranean & Atlantic Explorer Cruise, Main Page

This is the front page for our journal of our Europe trip and trans-Atlantic cruise on Holland America’s ms Prinsendam from October 26 through December 1, 2010.


The 2010 Mediterranean & Atlantic Explorer Cruise, Part 9

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

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Nine

November 22 (Monday, Day 28, At sea) –


Snookums woke up and read in bed while Filbert showered and went to breakfast. Snookums fell back asleep and finally got up for good around 11:30 AM. Snookums loves sea days! While Snookums was being lazy, Filbert went to the “Christopher Columbus: A Man and His Dreams” lecture by historian Dave Levesque. He thought it was pretty good.

The ocean was pretty choppy and there were a lot of white caps and it was cloudy and in the high 60s.

At 5:30 Snookums went to the gym to teach Fran, one of her dinner tablemates, the machines. Snookums and Fran started with 20 minutes on the bike and then hit the weight machines and finished with floor work. Fran is a retired Ph.D. nurse and was a professor prior to retiring. Fran enjoyed it and said it was the first time she had ever sweated. She said that teaching and writing don’t work up a sweat. She wants to work out with Snookums every afternoon.

More after the jump . . .

November 23 (Tuesday, Day 29, At sea) –

Filbert and Snookums ordered a room service breakfast. Filbert ordered his hot water and Snookums ordered a sunshine parfait (micro-diced melon mixed with fruit yogurt layered with Greek yogurt and granola). The ocean was like glass. At 10 AM Snookums watched the movie “SALT” with Angelina Jolie and really liked it. It was very improbable but kept her interested until the end.

The six of us from our dinner table met at Pinnacle Grill for lunch. Filbert and Snookums had enough Pinnacle Grill coupons for six people to have free lunch so we all went. (It normally costs $10 per lunch.) Neither the food nor the service impressed us, but it was free and an experience so no one minded. In fact, we all got free drinks since the waiter screwed up the hamburger order. The hamburger was supposed to come with bacon and the four that ordered it didn’t get it. Oops! And, the water glasses were empty frequently and the rolls were scorched and… (Snookums ordered the bistro steak with bleu cheese and was very impressed with it.) Anyway, it was a good time since Gary brought his computer and showed everyone pictures of his model train room at his house and he also showed us pictures of the Navy cruiser that he drove in the early 70’s, the U.S.S. Belknap.[*1] (He did NOT drive it into that aircraft carrier.)

After lunch Snookums took advantage of the sunny day and read on the balcony for more than two hours before going to the gym. Filbert went to the 2:30 PM lecture, “American Voyages Before Columbus”. Filbert enjoys Dave Levesque’s lectures.

It was formal night and Snookums and Filbert had already decided not to go to the dining room and went to Lido instead. Snookums had French onion soup and chocolate cake and Filbert made a salad from the salad bar. Neither of us was hungry.

After our light dinner we watched “Iron Man” in our cabin. It’s about a super hero and stars Robert Downey Jr. and even Snookums liked it. We got to turn our clocks back an hour, too.

The last sliver of sunset, Nov. 23

November 24 (Wednesday, Day 30, At sea) –

Snookums woke up and went to breakfast while Filbert lounged around before he went to eat his high protein instant oatmeal. Then he went to the “Art and Science of Navigation” lecture while Snookums read her book. The seas were still glassy (i.e. no whitecaps) but the swells were larger which made walking an uphill and downhill experience.

We met Gary and Charlotte in order to go to the Mariner lunch together. The four of us sat at the same table and wore our medals signifying 100 days on Holland America. Filbert enjoyed his free red wine while the three others ordered soft drinks. We each got a Delft tile, too, which is the normal HAL Mariner “gift”. The tile has King Neptune on it and Snookums said that we already got it on another cruise.

Snookums sat on the balcony, in the sun, for about two hours and read her book before going to the gym. Filbert went to the gym, too. After five minutes on the bike, Fran realized she forgot to take her beta-blocker so she decided that she needed to stop the workout and Snookums definitely agreed! Snookums stayed and got in a full hour workout and her heather gray t-shirt was soaked by the time she was done.

Dinner was uneventful until the cake was brought out to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary celebration. Our 6th wedding anniversary was in mid-October, but Snookums’s rule is that if a birthday or anniversary is within one month of the cruise, then it gets celebrated on the ship. Everyone had already eaten dessert and then the anniversary cake was brought out. It was a nice square cake covered in white frosting. Everyone wanted a piece and it was mostly frosting (i.e. whipped cream or mousse-like frosting) with a ¼” thick layer of cake in the middle of the two thick layers of frosting. The thin layer of cake was slathered with peach preserves and it was pretty good. No one minded the waiters singing since the cake was so good. Each birthday and anniversary cake that we’ve been served has been different.

Today’s daily program showed a breakdown by country of origin of the 780 passengers, which is a full load. 72% of them are from the U.S. and 23% are from Canada. Way to go, North America!

Sunset, November 24

November 25 (Thanksgiving, Thursday, Day 31, At sea) –

We enjoyed a room service breakfast and got ready for the 11 AM New World Faire where each department on the ship (housekeeping, dining, casino, shops, photography, shore excursions, bar, etc.) created a game for the passengers to play. At the end of an hour, the top winners would win HAL prizes. Filbert and Snookums went to the shore excursion office and kept playing “Travel Trivia”. Filbert always requested a hard question in order to win three bucks and Snookums went for the easy ones to win two bucks. At the end of the hour Snookums had 27 bucks and Filbert had 16. The top buck winners had 180 and 170! We think they combined bucks from other people since the lines were all very long and the most you could win at any one booth was three bucks. Oh well. We had fun and learned. Snookums was embarrassed by one of the questions she missed: “The Strait of Gibraltar connects the Atlantic Ocean with what sea?” She KNEW she knew it but was stumped. Yep, the answer is “Mediterranean Sea” and that was where we were for the majority of this cruise. Oh well… She did know the date of summer solstice (June 21) and she did know that the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were in Iraq and she guessed Petra about some Jordan question and was right.

After lunch Filbert attended “The Golden Age of Piracy” lecture while Snookums went to the front desk to get our invoice. She saw that our canceled Naples port caused a refund of $7.90 in port taxes and our canceled Sardinia anchor gave us each another $0.10 in a port tax refund! We would have rather had the ports. After that she read and slept.

The waves started getting worse around 4 PM and the wineglasses on our shelves fell over. We were supposed to be able to watch American football starting around 3:30 PM but the satellite wasn’t getting much of a signal. We did see parts of the Detroit Lions/New England Patriots game but the satellite finally went dead with about 10 minutes in the game. (We haven’t had CNN since Monday.) At that point there was only a 7-point difference in the score. The final margin of victory was around 25 or so, based on the newspaper.

Snookums went to the gym and was the only passenger there. Fran never showed up. A crewmember came in later, but that was it. She rode the bike and hung on since the ship was really rocking and rolling. Even riding a stationary bike is interesting when the ship is bouncing all around.

The dining room was decorated for Thanksgiving. The turkey dinner sounded good, but Snookums ordered the salmon with a crab cake. She has eaten at least ten Thanksgiving dinners on ships and has always been disappointed so this time she decided to not risk it. Filbert decided to go for it. The turkey dinner WAS a winner (and the salmon was excellent, too), but it was interesting that the cranberry-orange relish had kernels of corn in it. The menu even said that, but no one believed it. But, it was homemade cranberry-orange relish that had large chunks of orange in it and kernels of corn. Hmmmm. Filbert had the traditional pumpkin pie for dessert and it was normal, too. (On his first cruise in 2004, he ordered traditional pumpkin pie and it was pumpkin pie with a layer of rhubarb custard on top. It was very tasty, but it was certainly not traditional!) Snookums had the chocolate pecan pie and thought it was heavenly, including the perfect crust. Snookums told the rest of the table that she was going to order another piece from room service as soon as she got back to the room, but she didn’t. She figured that Thanksgiving is the day to stuff yourself and she wasn’t stuffed so that’s why she was going to do it. But, she took a handful of buttermints on the way out of the dining room instead and didn’t call room service. It was a nice Thanksgiving, even with all of the motion on the ocean.

Snookums had to sleep on her stomach or back, and not on her side, since the ship was listing so much from side to side. When she tried to lie on her side, she would roll with the motion of the ship. She slept fine throughout the night other than when the deodorant fell over and woke her up.

November 26 (Friday, Day 32, At sea) –

We survived the rough night and woke up when the captain made a special announcement at 8:30 AM. He said that the waves and swells were at their worst around 3 AM when they were 18 feet and that things were going to slowly get better as the day went on. The storm in Cape Hatteras came south as expected and even though the captain tried to go farther south, he could only go so far south without going through the Panama Canal. And, we do need to dock in Ft. Lauderdale on Monday!

We got up and had breakfast in Lido. Snookums saw some flying fish and that has been the extent of the sea life we’ve seen on this cruise. We weren’t surprised, though, since we hadn’t seen anything on our two prior Atlantic crossings.

Snookums went to the 10 AM galley tour. She’s been to the galley tours on every ship she has sailed and it still amazes her how small the kitchens are in order to churn out enough meals for 780 passengers. She noticed that the computer printout for tonight’s dinner estimated the following entrées from the nightly specials: 165 pot roast, 150 red snapper, 140 pork chops, 70 pheasant, 25 asparagus risotto and 20 manicotti. Then there were the estimates of the entrées that are always available (rib eye, salmon, chicken). The chef knows from prior cruises what entrées are the most popular and more of them are prepared.

76 food/beverage service staff (restaurant managers, waiters, wine stewards, etc.) serves the 780 passengers the food that is produced by 68 galley persons (chefs, bakers, cooks, dishwashers, etc.). These galley persons also produce the food for the 464 crewmembers. 120 gallons of ice cream are eaten each week and Snookums made sure to eat her fair share. She was especially fond of getting a scoop of vanilla ice cream and then putting a ladle of tart triple berry sauce on it.

After the galley tour Snookums decided to read her book in bed. That was at 11 AM. She woke at 1 PM when the captain made his daily announcement but fell back asleep until 2 PM. She missed lunch so she called room service for French onion soup and a grilled chicken sandwich and continued to read. Filbert played his computer game, Civilization IV, all day. Snookums went to the gym around 5:30. (Fran was a no-show.) It was a very relaxing day, albeit rocky and rolling!

Around 3 PM we started getting live television for the first time since Tuesday morning. We watched the Louisville/Rutgers football game followed by the #24 Tennessee (Snookums’s alma mater) vs. #7 Villanova basketball game. (Tennessee upset Villanova by 10 points!)

The water started smoothing out around 4 PM and we were thankful for that. Neither of us got sick during the rough seas, but as Filbert stated, “Calm sea days are more fun than rough sea days,” and that is definitely true. It is “interesting” to walk up steps and really have to work on lifting your leg high enough to get to the next step while the ship is rolling or listing at the same time causing you to walk uphill.

The highlight of Phil’s day was that he spotted a freighter around 4 PM. This was the first ship we had seen since Monday or so. We are NOT alone on the Atlantic!

Beer of the trip: Franziskaner Weissbier–a Munich beer the Spanish seemed to be fond of. Filbert really liked it, too.

At dinner we found out that everyone spent a slow, relaxing day and it wasn’t just us. Even Gary didn’t attend any lectures and he usually goes to all of them. It was a day for reading and napping. And, our table ordered two of the pot roasts, two of the pork chops, one ribeye and one grilled chicken breast so we didn’t fit the historical numbers that well.

For those of you wondering what there is to do during a day at sea, the following activities happened between 11:00 and 3:00 today:

11:00 – Spice of Life with Pinnacle Grill Chef, Culinary Arts Center
11:00 – Bridge Instruction (First Time Players), Half Moon Room
11:30 – Team Trivia Challenge, Ocean Bar
12:00 – Single & Solo’s Meet for Lunch, La Fontaine Dining Room
1:30 – A New Window to Your World, Digital Workshop
1:30 – Country Line Dance Class, Showroom at Sea
1:30 – $20 Blackjack Tournament, Casino
2:00 – Duplicate & Party Bridge, Half Moon Room
2:00 – Spa Secrets: Younger Looking Skin, Greenhouse Spa
2:30 – The Exploration & Settlement of La Florida lecture, Showroom at Sea
2:30 – The Art of Towel Folding, Culinary Arts Center
2:30 – It’s All Geek to Me, Digital Workshop
2:30 – Wii Sports Challenge, Stuyvesant Room
3:00 – Afternoon Tea, La Fontaine Dining Room

November 27 (Saturday, Day 33, At sea) –

Filbert ordered room service hot water for his high protein instant oatmeal and Snookums went to La Fontaine for the corned beef hash. (Snookums loves corned beef hash.) It was homemade, but was served on top of marinara sauce. And although it was mostly corned beef and not many potatoes or onions or green peppers, the corned beef was kind of tasteless. So, it was a good effort on HAL’s part, but if the corned beef doesn’t have much flavor, neither will corned beef hash.

Filbert went to the lecture on the evolution of ships while Snookums updated the journal. The seas were glassy and smooth and the temperature was around 75. There were flying fish, too.

We ate lunch outside since it was so nice. After lunch Filbert went to the lecture given by Captain Schoonderbeek on the history of Holland America Line. He is HAL’s company historian and has written several books about HAL and has over 15,000 photos on passenger ships. Some of these photos are now adorning the corridors of several HAL ships, including the newest one, ms Nieuw Amsterdam. While Filbert was learning the history of HAL, Snookums enjoyed reading in the sun. Unfortunately, she now has a farmer’s tan since she was wearing a polo shirt.

Snookums went to the gym, too, and came back completely drenched. The seas were so calm that she used the Stairmaster and really worked up a sweat.

We dressed for formal night and wore our Mariner medals since Gary wanted everyone to. Fran forgot to wear hers but we let her eat with us anyway. Both Filbert and Snookums ordered the surf ‘n turf (lobster thermidor and a filet mignon). The traditional parade of baked Alaska occurred at the end. But, glow sticks just aren’t the same as flames!

The dinner table

We didn’t attend the chocolate buffet at 10:30 PM. Instead Filbert used some of his remaining pricey Internet minutes and listened to his SDSU Jackrabbits convincingly beat Eastern Illinois University while Snookums read her book. The television was on, too, and we watched OU beat OSU in football. And we got to turn our clock back one more time.

Taking pictures of sunsets
Sunset, November 27

November 28 (Sunday, Day 34, At sea) –

We woke up around 6 AM and Snookums stayed in bed while Filbert got up and went to breakfast. Snookums fell back asleep and woke up to her sunrise parfait and donut. Filbert attended the Champagne Crew Farewell (i.e. the “mandatory” disembarkation lecture) in order to have some champagne and then stuck around for the 11 AM lecture on The West Indies and the American Revolution. Snookums read her book.

After lunch we went ahead and packed and sorted our clothes for one night in Ft. Lauderdale as well as one night in Manhattan, KS. The weather forecasts are polar opposites for these two locations. Filbert also sporadically checked on the SDSU women’s basketball game at Middle Tennessee State while Snookums filled out the cruise surveys and other end-of-cruise paperwork. (SDSU women lost convincingly.)

Filbert read his Kindle and Snookums enjoyed the steamy balcony and evened out her mild burn from yesterday. Since she was already sweaty, she went to the gym for one last sweatfest. Then she did the only load of wash on this vacation since her wet clothing probably wouldn’t have dried by Monday morning. We were able to watch two live football games, too, which was nice.

Prior to dinner we used up Phil’s three final cocktail card punches by getting a double Manhattan and a virgin strawberry daiquiri. As of this cruise, HAL has gone away from the punch cards and implemented a debit card for discounted beverages. So, Phil’s card that he bought on a prior HAL cruise needed to be used this cruise or it would have no longer been honored. No problem.

We said goodbye to Fran and MaryEllen at dinner. They were good tablemates.

November 29 (Monday, Day 35, Ft. Lauderdale) –

Our towel menagerie

We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before leaving the ship around 9:30 AM. We collected our luggage, along with Gary and Charlotte, and called for the hotel shuttle and it came in about 20 minutes. We checked into our rooms early for $10 more, but it was worth it. Filbert immediately logged on to the free Internet and also turned on his radio while Snookums unpacked for the night and rearranged some things in the suitcases. Around noon we left to explore the Walgreen’s next door and the Publix grocery store across the street. We ended up buying lunch at Publix’s deli. Filbert had a sub sandwich and Snookums ordered a rotisserie chicken dinner and we took them back to our hotel room. Gary and Charlotte ate in the fast food Chinese place next to the Publix.

Around 2:00, Snookums went back across the street to the nail place for a $20 pedicure (versus $45 on the ship). It’s a rough life…

Gary used his computer and watched FC Barcelona defeat previously unbeaten Real Madrid 5-0. When we were in Barcelona he toured the FC Barcelona stadium and had a photo taken with Messi, FC Barcelona’s star player, so this was extra special for him to watch it.

The four of us went to dinner across the street at Pancho’s, a Mexican and Cuban restaurant. Filbert ordered the palomilla, a very thin marinated top sirloin. Snookums ordered the ropa vieja, shredded beef cooked with peppers, tomatoes, onions and spices. Both of us got fried plantains and black beans, too. Gary ordered an appetizer of guacamole and then had the seafood enchiladas. Charlotte had the fish tacos. Both of their dishes featured local fish. We all really enjoyed the food and when we have another cruise leaving from Ft. Lauderdale, we’ll be sure to stay at the Sleep Inn in Dania Beach since it’s across the street from this great restaurant (and also very convenient to a Walgreen’s and a Publix for cruise beverage needs).

After setting our alarm for 4 AM, we went to bed.

November 30 (Tuesday, Day 36, Flying to Kansas City, MO and driving to Manhattan, KS) –

We woke up at 4 AM and caught the hotel shuttle to the airport. We easily made our 6:35 AM flight to Tampa. We had a 40-minute layover in Tampa and Snookums bought a carton of milk and enjoyed the boxes of Raisin Bran she brought with her from the ship. Our flight to Kansas City landed 15 minutes early and it was snowing!!! Okay, so they were just flurries and didn’t accumulate, but snow is snow. We got our luggage and jumped on the rental car shuttle to pick up our Avis car.

After getting our $43 Town Car, we headed for Manhattan, Kansas. Two and ½ hours later we checked in to the Fairfield Inn Manhattan and did a quick online lunch search. We decided to go to the Little Apple Brewing Company and we were very happy we did. Filbert enjoyed a flight of six of their beers and a bleu cheese burger and Snookums loved her pulled pork sandwich and German potato salad. The German potato salad, though, was more like skin-on mashed potatoes, but it was still very, very tasty. After lunch we drove by Bramlage Coliseum and found a liquor store to buy some Tallgrass Brewing Company cans of beer. (The Little Apple Brewing Company only sells its beer in kegs and ½ gallon growlers.) We made it back to our hotel and had time for a much-needed nap.

We got to Bramlage Coliseum at 6:45 and our name was on the pass list so we got in for free. We found our front row seats, on the court, but decided to sit with the other South Dakota State University fans a few rows back. The Jackrabbits took a six-point lead into halftime but ultimately lost by five in front of 2,700 mostly purple fans. The women led until 2:18 to go, but somehow Kansas State came back and won.

December 1 (Wednesday, Day 37, Driving home from Manhattan, KS) –

We decided to wake up early and hit the road in order to get the Town Car back to the Independence Avis office by 10:45 AM to make our 24-hour limit. We got home around 9:30 AM, unloaded, turned on the water, plugged things in and then returned the car. After flying to Zurich and then to Stuttgart and then to Athens and then cruising to Ft. Lauderdale and then flying to KC to drive to Manhattan and then finally driving home, we were definitely glad to be back!!

The 2010 Mediterranean & Atlantic Explorer Cruise, Part 8

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

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!

Issues almost nobody really cares about

Has anybody noticed that nobody really cares one way or another about “Don’t ask, Don’t tell?”

It’s a completely manufactured issue. Manufactured by Democrats, I’m afraid.

The original policy is Bill Clinton’s. He was, if I recall correctly, a Democrat. It has now been rescinded by a utterly, completely, totally Democrat-dominated Congress.

Mission Accomplished.

The 2010 Mediterranean & Atlantic Explorer Cruise, Part 7

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

Text by Snookums, Pictures by Filbert

Part Seven

November 16 (Tuesday, Day 22, Barcelona, Spain) –

Mercats de Barcelona

We got off the ship at 9:30 AM and took the shuttle bus to the Monument Colom. The forecast was for a sunny day and around 55 degrees. We walked to the nearest metro station and paid €1.40 each for a metro ticket. We got on and rode for 15 minutes to Avda. Diagonal which is one of the main streets in Barcelona. We decided to just walk a lot today so we walked from Av. Diagonal to Placa de Catalunya and then down Las Ramblas to the shuttle. During our 4-hour walk we stopped at El Corte Ingles department store to use the bathroom. Its basement had a full grocery store so we looked there, too. Later on in the walk Snookums went in a bakery and bought a €0.80 cookie that was about 4 inches across and very flat and kind of looked like pie crust or a very thing sugar cookie. It had pine nuts sprinkled on it and was glazed with a clear glaze that tasted like citron. It was okay and like nothing she had seen before. Further on in our wanderings we found the “Mercats de Barcelona”. It looked like a temporary building (but it wasn’t) in the empty lot next to the hospital and it housed all sorts of independent food vendors. Lots of locals were buying the meats, fish, and produce and Spaniards certainly like tripe based on the number of butchers selling it. We bought a can of some kind of fish (salted cod?) for a Christmas present.

More after the jump . . . When we got hungry we decided to try the restaurant that we had dinner at when we were here three years ago. It didn’t open until 1, though, so we kept walking. (It was 12:30.) We decided to stop at an outdoor tapas bar, Pastitu, off Las Ramblas and next to Boqueria Market, one of Barcelona’s oldest food markets. Pastitu didn’t have any English menus, or even pictures, but Snookums went up to the counter when she saw something waiting for the waitress to deliver to a table and managed to find out it was the €3.90 tortilla Espanol listed on the permanent menu. She ordered that and really enjoyed the three pieces of toasted baguette that had a tomato squeezed over it, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt flakes. The bread surrounded a piece of potato and cheese pie that was very rich. Filbert ordered the €10.90 calamari from the daily special menu. We knew that it was calamari, but didn’t know what the other five Spanish words meant. It ended up being lightly battered and fried and was delicious. Four other tables, out of the six occupied, also had it after Filbert had already ordered it. There were at least fifteen special tapas of the day but apparently calamari was the most popular one. One man, eating alone, ordered three different items – calamari, mushrooms and mussels. Another table had two men at it and they ordered a total of five dishes. We know that tapas are “small plates” but five of them seem like a lot and they sure aren’t cheap. But, we really liked the food and enjoyed eating with the locals.


Back on the ship Filbert listened to his short-wave while Snookums read which really meant she fell asleep for a couple of hours. It was a tiring day in Barcelona.

November 17 (Wednesday, Day 23, Cartagena, Spain) –


We docked at noon and got off the ship shortly thereafter. It was overcast and drizzly but we didn’t bother with umbrellas. We walked down the pedestrian-only shopping street (Mayor) and walked by the beautiful City Hall. After about two hours we found ourselves near the Roman Theatre ruins so we decided to go up to see it. Above us was the Conception Castle and we climbed the steps up to it and its wonderful views of Cartagena. We didn’t bother paying the €3.50 entrance fee and just walked around the grounds and finally walked back to the ship to dry off. (We were in Cartagena in 2008, too, on a cruise but somehow never managed to find the historic part of Cartagena so today’s visit was kind of a first for us.)

Pathway down from the castle

We went to the ship’s tea around 3:20 and enjoyed the little sandwiches, sweets, scones and piano music. Snookums even drank her first pot of hot tea (apple and cinnamon). She doesn’t really like hot drinks but thought that this was almost like hot cider.Snookums went to the 4:00 crafts session to make a lanyard for her sunglasses. She couldn’t figure out how to finish it so she asked Charlotte to finish with her beading expertise and skill.

November 18 (Thursday, Day 24, Malaga, Spain) –

Today we docked at Malaga, Spain. We had breakfast around 9:30 and then walked outside to see the temperature in order to figure out what coats to wear for our day of walking around. We saw Gary and Charlotte sitting by the pool so we joined them and talked about plans for the day. Charlotte said her knee was bothering her and she had no intention of leaving the ship (she was beading, too, while outside by the pool). Gary didn’t really know what he was going to do and Filbert wasn’t too thrilled with climbing up another fort, cathedral, etc. Next thing we knew, it was 12:15 so Snookums realized that she wasn’t going to get off the ship, either! Plus, the ship offered a $17 per person round-trip shuttle for the two to three miles from the ship to the city. Therefore, it was kind of easy to say “no thanks” and to not get off the ship. $17 for a couple of miles?!?! Surely a taxi would have cost less, but we didn’t bother to find out. Rather than getting off the ship, Snookums ended up taking a 3-hour nap and Filbert read.

We spoke to a couple that didn’t get their luggage in Athens (and only two of their four bags have reached them so far and they won’t get their other two bags until back in the U.S.) and the man said that they’ve been on 108 cruises! They are probably in their 70s or so and Gary went over to talk to them to get the scoop. They’ve gone on a cruise every month or so since 1995. Wow! That’s a bunch of cruises and Snookums and Filbert have a long way to go to match that number.

November 19 (Friday, Day 25, Cadiz, Spain) –

We got off the ship and walked around for three hours. We were in Cadiz in 2005. Filbert remembered it but Snookums did not. Its population is around 125,000 and it is an island. It is full of beautiful cathedrals and buildings. We walked through the central market and saw HUGE lobsters and lots of sausages for sale.

La Boutique de la Carne

Jerez, famous for its sherry bodegas, is 22 miles away. Therefore, we had to buy some sherry for a Christmas present along with some Andalucian mackerel and sangria. We also bought some Caffeine Free Coke Zero for Filbert at Carrefour (a French chain supermarket). We haven’t even seen that variety of Coke Zero in the U.S. We also saw the largest ham selection we’ve seen to-date. By the time we got back to the ship around 1 PM, it was probably in the mid-60s and very sunny.


After lunch Snookums watched two movies (The Rainmaker and Searching for Bobby Fischer) while Filbert read on the shady balcony while wearing two jackets.

November 19 (Friday, Day 25, Cadiz, Spain) –

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!

Next: Sledding down a hill!

Dear Republicans

We will let you live, politically, for a little while longer.[*1]

We still do not trust you, however. You have the next two years to earn back some small measure of trust from the American People. Your task is to:
Reduce the size of the Federal Government;
begin to balance the Federal Budget;
bring Medicare and Social Security into actuarial sanity.

Do those things, and we will let you retain your political lives beyond 2011.

As for you Democrats . . .

Discover religion, and then pray to whatever deity you find that we might be merciful. Because you will not be forgiven for what you have done to this country.

You will not be forgiven.

Make no mistake . . . while I have voted Republican in the past, my allegiance is not to the Republican Party. My allegiance is to the American people–ALL of the American people. The Democratic Party has long ago betrayed the American people in its quixotic quest for some utopian world that will never be (ruled, of course, by the mandarins of the Democrat/liberal persuasion, naturally). The Republican Party, while suffering from a more garden-variety and venal corruption, has retained–in my opinion, of course–a connection to the real world which the Democratic Party has long ago dispensed with as being banal and inconvenient. The Republicans have always been merely the “Stupid Party.” In the long run, this may, strangely enough, be the thing which saves them from the political death the Democrats have now so richly earned for themselves.

But neither of the two major American political parties are essential to the continued existence, health, safety, and happiness of the American People.

You Can Both Be Replaced. And maybe both of you should be.

Beware the wrath of the American people. You do not own this country. We do. It is well past time that the American people reminded you, in your K-street lobbyist offices and Congressional staffer watering holes and New York newsrooms of this simple fact. It is our country. You simply work here.

And for what you have done to this, the greatest country ever in the history of humanity, You will not be forgiven.

Wrong about power

Democrats. They’re monomaniacally focused on Rich vs. Poor. Rich people are bad. Selfish. Undeserving of their wealth. Thieves. Poor people are poor because the rich have oppressed them. Remove the oppression and everyone will have all their needs and wants met. (This is, parenthetically, straight from communist dogma. But let’s let that go for now.)

The problem isn’t Rich vs. Poor. The problem is The Powerful vs. The Rest Of Us.

Too large a concentration of power–regardless of what form that power takes (money, political power, information power, force of arms–any kind of power) is both intoxicating and inexorably corrupting of those who wield that power.

We see the sorry result of too much money and political power with the current United States Congress, which only thirteen percent of Americans currently approve of.[*1] The Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid-led, Democrat-dominated 111th Congress is, by popular sentiment, the worst Congress ever–well, the worst since Gallup has been asking the question, anyway.

The key concept and unique brilliance of the American Way over all previous political systems ever tried by humanity in history is (or was) the dispersal of political power as widely as was humanly possible, while still holding together a single political unit. Ever since the American Revolution, those who lust after political power have steadily re-assembled the various elements of political power again into a single, unitary government–the exact result the American experiment was intended to prevent. (Bonus question: “Who’s being ‘un-American?'”)

The same people who are so vehemently shouting for the redistribution of wealth, for the rich to “pay their fair share,” should be asked “what about the redistribution of power? What power are YOU, the politically powerful, going to give up to those who have none–the common people, the regular citizens, the people who get up, go to work, and come home every day, just trying to get by in life? What about them?”

Money is not the only form of power. Remember that the next time a Democrat decides to demagogue the “rich vs. poor” issue.