Trip Start May 07, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

May 15, 2005
Somewhere in the North Atlantic - Kim

After so many bad reviews from my friends I was not sure how Dave and I would take to 17 days on a cruise ship. Well, we are halfway through and so far it has more than met expectations. I've been needing rest and I'm getting it. We had a small experiment back in March with a weekend cruise to Cozumel on Carnival. I think it was good preparation for what to expect. However, a transatlantic crossing has a special feel to it that is very different from the typical cruise. The people tend to be a lot more experienced with cruising for one. There is less frenetic activity as you has so many more sea days. The eats are similar. There is a parade of food that is doesn't stop unless you make it stop. We've been doing breakfast and had managed to limit ourselves to a simple bowl of cereal with fruit. This morning we were back in the dining room. Dave had to try the eggs benedict. Formal breakfast is treated a lot like dinner with multiple courses if you wish. I think we've managed to make it to tea every day. There is a buffet tea called "Casual Tea." We also made it to formal tea where you are expected to dress up. There is a quartet playing and waiters will bring you scones, sandwiches, and every kind of dessert imaginable. It all sounds like quite the nightmare for those trying to watch calories. I've been compensating with eating less bread. And I've drawn the line at dinner. They also have something called a "Midnight Buffet." There are usually themes. I'm glad to skip those but I admit a slight hesitation upon hearing about the Chocolate theme one night. I've asked them to substitute veggies for pasta whenever possible. We no longer do every course. I'm happy to skip the soup and just have salad and the main entrée. Also, throwing in a brisk walk after each meal along with a regular workout is helping. I'm back into doing yoga again. I had to miss those last few months in San Antonio unfortunately. The pillow chocolates are getting hoarded for a later time. I think we'll still be casualties of the bulge when we get off the ship for the last time in Rome but we've managed to keep it to something respectable. I overheard one guests say he had gained 16 lbs and we are only half-way through the voyage!

There is so much to do and so many people to talk to on the ship that it all seemed to eclipse my original goals of learning Italian and simply relaxing. Actually, the Italian is coming along splendidly. We have made through 7 lessons from our Pimsleur series. I can say simple things like "I would like to eat now." Ha! Just the phrase I need after all of this food. I made it to 2 lectures from a 5 lecture series on cruise ships. A Scottish fellow wrote a book called "The Only Way to Cross." He is an expert on cruise liners with a huge collection of slides and an excellent public speaking demeanor. He does not hesitate to share with the audience everything on cruising history including disaster stories on the Titantic and the Lusitannia. Maybe it is because you don't really feel like you are sitting out in the middle of the North Atlantic on a ship that such topics do not disturb. As I write this I'm sitting in the library above the shopping mall. Except when I'm outside I mostly feel like I'm hanging out in a nice hotel.

We are about a day's journey away from the Azores. Ponte Delgado will be the port of call. The bikes were great fun in Nassau but we've opted to set them aside for these island excursions in favor of a car. We keep hearing how mountainous the terrain will be. For the Azores we will be renting a car with a couple. Paul assures us we have nothing to fear with his driving on winding mountain roads. There is the promise of some Calderas. In 3 days we will be stopping in Funchal on the island of Madeira. Again we've opted to see the entire island by car. We are going in with a different couple - Peter and Jim - and hiring a driver to do the waterfall tour. It should cost the 4 of us about 90 euros with a driver. We've had lunch with these two and borrowed a book they've written. They seem to have quite the life traveling the world to promote their book. It is a little too far out to plan but we are thinking Gilbraltar is the place we will scuba dive. There are a number of interesting wrecks. Ville Franche is very close to Monte Carlo. Even with the Grand Prix going on we'd like to chance a visit in that direction once we hit the French coast.

Relaxing is great on board and the ship rocks you to sleep at night. But truly the best part of traveling by cruise ship are all the wonderful people you meet. Socializing is easy over meal times. If you choose to dine formally you will be seated with a different group over breakfast and lunch. Dinner is constant with the same people. At our dinner seating we are joined by Uve from Sweden and Judy & Lisa from Canada. This is Uve's 35th cruise! We have found the RTW trip and traveling by bicycle has opened us up to more people and experiences. Just about everyday someone new is coming up to us and saying "Aren't you that couple who is traveling around the world?" We just smile and make a new friend.
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