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Posted by pzack 03:45 Comments (1)

Gibraltar

  • GIBRALTAR**

Date: *31st May 2015

  • Weather:* Mist and Haze at first, then clear and sunny 25c no wind.
  • Latitude: *36 deg. 9 min. N *Longitude: * 5 deg. 22 min. W

To start this blog off, a few days ago on the (29th) and 40 miles off the coast of Algeria, at 10 o`clock am we had a bit of an maritime incident. We started to feel the ship leaning to one side, then it went back the other way, and this continued to do this for a while, so it was out on deck to see what was going on. Also we noticed a near-by tanker making some strange manoeuvres by circling around us, come to find out that either us or the tanker had spotted an up turned kayak in the water, so as per maritime law it is the duty of ships in the area to do what they can to help any -one in distress. Bringing our ship more or less to a stand- still we were all able to see the Kayak, as it went by very close to our shipside. It was then the captain made an announcement to say that craft was part of a beach rescue boat that had blown out to sea, as they could read some letters written along the side of it relating to a resort. They could not see any -body in or around the craft, so it was crisis over and we and the tanker continued along our respective route .

Our stop in Gibraltar was a half day one, and with the delay in leaving Corfu it was changed from a morning to an afternoon. Some people were a bit concerned as to what would be available during our stop-over as it was a Sunday, but the captain had been assured by P&Os agent that 80% of the town would be open, this sort of situation often arises during a cruise but it doesn`t seem to make a lot of difference.

The approach by sea from the Mediterranean is always a good sight, but not this time because from the time we had woken up to our arrival at the rock there was a thick mist all around us, and with no wind it was an eerie situation. But just as we were off Europa Point, the southern- most point on the rock the sun started to break through. This was good, because we had had information the previous day that “ Queen Victoria” the Cunard liner was leaving as we were arriving, being that Cunard and P&O have the same parent company a sail pass was arranged between the two ships, this is always a nice treat, as when you`re at sea it`s always good to see another ship or a piece of land. But on this occasion when the two ships passed with everyone out on deck waving there Union Jacks and the singing of “ Rule Britannia” , “ Land of hope and Glory” ( a touch of the last night at the Proms”) which made for a good atmosphere for our arrival, Plus the Gibraltarians love it when we do it.

For our run ashore we walked from our berth to main town, which is about ¾ of a mile. You first arrive into a big square full of pavement cafes, and you are at the bottom of Main street, Gibraltar is a duty free port so there are lots of choice for the likes of Jewellery, cosmetics, cameras and alcohol. We didn`t want anything particular, so it was a gentle amble through the street window shopping. On our walk in we had noticed how hot it was, and this was confirmed by a flashing sign with the temperature on it saying 25c, I know this doesn`t seem that high but with no breeze around it made it feel hotter. So our next stop was a street café with a shaded courtyard to have a cool drink, then suitably refreshed we walked back to the ship at a slow pace.

This is always a sad occasion when you`ve completed your last port, but still we have to remember there more days to come on our holiday. So for a pre-dinner drink we went to the “Crow`s Nest” bar which gives you a fantastic view of what`s in front the ship. So tonight we had the coast of Morocco on one side and the coast of Spain on the other as sailed out from the Mediterranean out into the Atlantic, so with a Gin & Tonic and a cocktail pianist playing what else could you wish for on your holidays!!!!

So folks this will be my last blog on this cruise, so I hope you`ve enjoyed the journey with us.

Bye for now Colin & Angie

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Posted by pzack 08:35 Comments (0)

Corfu

  • CORFU

Date: *28th May 2015

  • Weather: *Early cloud, some looking Threatening, clearing later to give a sunny day 24c
  • Position: *Latitude 39 deg. 38.0 min. N Longitude 19 deg. 54.1 min. E

We were berthed at their harbour about a mile from Corfu Town itself, and since being here a couple of years ago they have built a new quay , which can take a further two ships. From our position you could see across the water the Greek mainland, and further up was the coastline of Albania. As with most Greek ports the ferry traffic is very busy.

For us again we went ashore independently by taking the shuttle bus, which dropped us off on the edge of Corfu town. The Venetian influence from their early history is very apparent with tall houses and narrow streets, the streets which took you up into the town were very busy, with all types of retail goods for sale, from the tacky to the designer goods. In amongst the designer gear there were genuine fur coats, of all colours and designs, we asked the question to one of the shop owners that sell these coats,” why in such a hot climate do you have them for sale?” and the answer was, the Russian people who visit Corfu on cruises love them. They must like them a lot, as they are very expensive!! Another thing which stands out is the amount of jewellers there are, again they must be making a living to all be here. While we were in and out of the narrow streets, we ended up in different squares, and in a couple of them, the “Bougainvillea” was out, it looked a picture. There seemed a real buzz about the place, with the shop keepers all sitting outside their shops, and chatting to each other across the street, until someone comes along and looks at their shop, then they are up and after you, but it`s still all in good fun. One of the narrow streets has a fine looking church with an impressive tower.

We then came out of the streets and onto the “ Spianada” which is their name for the Esplanade, on one side of it is a place called the “ Liston” which is a copy of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, with its covered arcade and arches. This is a good point to pick up horse drawn carriage if you wanted to take sightseeing tour of the town. In front of this esplanade was a big square, which includes the cricket pitch, a legacy left from the British, (games are still played most Sundays in summer). Between the Liston and the edge of the cricket pitch were a long string of pavement cafés all covered with large umbrellas, one of these cafés was our next stop, some Iced Tea the order of the day for both of us, after cooling down we prolonged our stay with an Ice-cream sundae, very nice too. While we were having our break, the silence was broken with sound of local music, and it turned out to be a wedding party, walking, on their way to the reception, with musicians in local costumes, the bride and groom with all their guests it made for an unexpected surprise and as they passed by everyone stood up and clapped.

So with our refreshment stop over we made our way slowly back through the streets to our shuttle bus pick up point, although we knew what to expect during our stay here it was an enjoyable stop, not too rushed a nice chilling out day!! Our departure was delayed by some 4 hours, for during our stay here the wind had really got up, and according to the captain our bow and stern thrusters ( which pushes the ship sideways off the quayside) could not handle that wind, and keep the ship safe.

We steamed overnight and our intended course took us between the Toe of Italy and the island of Sicily through the Messina straights. We duly arrived in the straights at 10.30 in the morning, it`s quite an exciting quick dash through, with a view of Mount Etna the active volcano on Sicily, we were lucky and saw the snow- capped peak. Another thing to look out for are the local fishing craft, they are about 30 odd feet long quite narrow and fast with a very tall mast, they use the tall mast as a lookout point, as this mast has a crow`s nest. The water in the straights runs quite fast, which suits a fish which I think is the Sword fish, and this is what the fishermen are after. So the man up the mast spots the fish and off they go chasing and catching it, they hope ( it`s a bit like the old whaling ships, “There she blows”).

So with last night`s wind all gone, we`re now with good sailing conditions and the sun shining it`s onward to our last port Gibraltar.

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Posted by pzack 08:05 Comments (0)

Dubrovnik

  • DUBROVNIK

Date: *27th May

  • Weather: * Sunny all day, 24c
  • Position: *Latitude 42 deg. 39.9 min N Longitude 18 deg. 4.8 min E

The city of Dubrovnik ( Ragusa in earlier days) is situated on the Dalmation coastline of the Adriatic Sea at the southern end of Croatia. Although the Old City is small, it is one of the most famous places in the world, and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Dubrovnik has had a long and often dramatic history, including the early 1990s when the city was badly damaged in the war following the break-up of Yugoslavia.

We sailed in through the small islands which are all the way along Croatia`s coast, into a deep water estuary where the cruise ships berth, and these berths are about 3 miles from the walled city itself. When you look over the ships side you have the quay-side, and then very steep hills/mountains. Cut into one of these mountains is a coastal roadway with a very impressive road bridge, and on the other side it is more residential with the buildings leading down to the water`s edge. Most of these houses look fairly new, and with their creamy/ white stonework and terracotta roof tiles which are set amongst well established trees, it really does look a picture. It`s an excellent place for messing about in boats, with all those islands and sheltered bays.

We`ve been to Dubrovnik a few times now, and again it`s a place you can never tire of. We caught the shuttle bus from the ship to the bus terminal just outside the Medieval gate (Pile Gate) which leads into the city. As we neared the bus terminal we passed some roadside houses, and the outside walls of these properties were still peppered with bullet holes from their recent war, just a reminder of what things were like. You enter the old town by crossing a wooden draw bridge over the moat below, and the massive ramparts which protected the city are facing you. The ramparts are complete, and if you feel so inclined you can walk all the way around, you can access this walk by sets of steep steps, which are at different places, one of which is just inside the city entrance. You are then on the “Placa” with its cream stone pavements, which have been polished to a high degree by centuries of use, and the number of visitors this city receives these days.

Just inside the wall you have two fantastic sights to see, one Onofrio`s Great Fountain and the 14th century Franciscan Monastery. Every few yards are little narrow side streets, on one side they are steep, which lead up to the outside wall and on the other further into the city. But no matter which side you chose there were small cafés and bars in all these side streets. At the far end of the Placa you have quite a few things to see, straight ahead is Orlando`s pillar and the clock tower, to your right a Baroque church ( St. Blaise) and on your left Sponza Palace. You can now go through a big arch, which is a good place to get some shade. After passing through the arch it then opens up onto their harbour, with many types of pleasure craft all after your business. This spot is very picturesque with many boats in the marina and harbour, but also the nearby mountains. As we walked along the quayside the water is SO clear, it makes you feel you want to jump in, in between the boats which were tied up little shoals of small fish could be seen. The walkway around the harbour leads you to another of the Medieval defences of St. John`s Fortress, and when you have gone as far as you can, you have a view of some of the offshore islands. Another of Dubrovniks attractions can be seen from here it is a cable car, you join it just outside the city wall and goes to the top of one of the nearby hills/mountains, we are told it gives you fabulous views of the coastal island`s both north and south­­­, but also a bird`s eye view­­­­­­­­­ of the city. This is a good place to stop and take in the atmosphere as there are many fine pavement cafés, all with plenty of shade. Back through an arch at the opposite side of the harbour, and you are then faced with their Cathedral, which was replaced in 1667 after the first was destroyed by an earthquake.

Using the narrow streets and following the flow of tourist, we made our way back to the top end of the city, but before we reached the top, we found a shady café and soaked up the atmosphere, this was another such place where you could hear many different languages being spoken. Their local currency is the “Kuna”, we were told before going ashore that the Euro is widely accepted, but I would say it was the reverse, there are several Bureau de change available but some local shops who will change money only change Euros to Kuna but not the other way round, so if you are coming here be prepared. So now we came out of the city, took a last look at the city walls and take our bus back to the ship.

We took a late lunch and then retired to the promenade deck on board to soak up the view and with the sun sparkling on the water it looked a picture!

Dubrovnik and the surrounding area has a lot to offer, so if you get the chance to come it will not disappoint. The early evening, 6.00pm was the time for our departure, we sat out on deck to watch us leave, and with the sun still shining and its rays striking in particular the road bridge, but also the hills and mountains it made for a glorious sail away. When we were a couple of miles out to sea the view back to the land was fantastic. Something we will always remember.

So with a good forecast of calm seas and good weather, Corfu is our next stop.

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Posted by pzack 03:45 Comments (0)

Koper

  • KOPER **

Date: *26th May

  • Lat: *45 deg. 33.0 min. N *Long: *13 deg. 48.3 min. W
  • Weather: *High cloud at first then bright and sunny 21c

This was our first visit to Koper and Slovenia, were berthed in Slovenia`s only commercial port right next to the old part of the town. Again seeing it was our first time there we decided to just go ashore and explore. We arrived at 8 o`clock but we took a latish breakfast at 9.30 and then got our things together for our visit ashore.

There was no big terminal building but a modern walk through one with all the necessary things for the security when coming back onto the ship. The tourist people on the quayside seemed well organised and very friendly supplying us with the maps.

We took the water front route towards the town, during our walk in we passed 2 groups of young kindergarten children in a walking train, it was amusing just to watch them. Passing a busy marina and lido area we were onto a harbour side promenade, the sea was absolutely flat not a ripple on the water. Although we had not long been ashore it was a good impression that we were getting for the place, all walk ways were good and flat, gardens were well-kept and streets very clean.

We passed some more gardens plenty of pavement cafes then it was their open air market with all the local produce and freshly caught fish. With the sun shining it was time for an ice-cream stop, again it was very nice and a good price, two good size cones for 2.8 euros.

Up now into the older part of town and Koper has a lot of history especially connected to the Romans and the Venetians. You are soon in and out of small narrow streets one of these brought us into Tito square ( named after the former Yugoslav president), on one side the Praetorian Palace, once the seat of Venetian power. Right opposite the “Loggia” which was used as a debating house for the townsmen, and in between the cathedral with its square bell tower and highly visible throughout the area. Now exiting through an arch into a narrow street which is today full of small shops but in previous times was where local craftsmen worked, as we continued down it opened up into “Preseren square” where can see the “Da Ponte Fountain” and the only remaining city gate the “ Muda gate” from the 16th century.

Going through the Muda gate you bring yourself onto one of the main roads of Koper, and we both remarked there seemed to be a bit wealth in the area with many nice cars and the surrounding hills full of modern housing and also the local people very well dressed.

We now made our way back to the ship, and we can really say that we`ve enjoyed our visit to Koper and would certainly like to come back again.

With a boarding time of no later than 3.30pm as we had a long way to go for our next port, Dubrovnik in Croatia we sailed out into a flat calm sea, what a good stop!!

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Posted by pzack 06:15 Comments (0)

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