Jay's Internet Log

Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 1 – Flying and Arriving

by on Nov.04, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

For the first time, we didn’t have to wake up super early to fly out to start our vacation. Instead, our first flight was at 1:48PM from Hartford to Philadelphia, where we got to wait for about three hours for our next flight, which brought us to my favorite city in the world… Venice, Italy.

I have somewhat of a soft spot for Venice, as I lived here for two months in the summer of 1997, where I studied the unique engineering of the city’s sewerage system. My project ended up winning WPI’s President’s IQP award that year, which was a nice bonus.

Upon arriving, it was raining, which is something that I rarely saw here in the summertime. We took a bus from the airport to one of the two areas in Venice where cars are allowed, Piazzale Roma. From there, it was a 5-10 minute walk to our hotel, but this walk contained two bridges, which were difficult to cross with all of our luggage!

We took a little walk to grab a few Panini, and then through the Gheto where I lived so many years ago. We are now back at the hotel and are going to take a nap as travelling has finally caught up with us. I hope to get out a little later on, and also hope that the rain stops soon! It doesn’t matter though. I get cold chills just being here, and it feels real good.

For dinner, we decided to test out a little theory of mine; any hole in the wall in Italy serves better Italian food than the best Italian restaurants in America. We headed towards a pizzeria in the old Gheto, just a few steps away from the apartment I stayed in 16 years ago. I remember this establishment because I walked by there many times and saw the 2+ inch-tall pizzas that they made.

These were thin-crust pizzas with vegetables stacked high above. Unfortunately, they appeared to be closing down, so we headed down Strada Nova and picked the next place we found. Strada Nova is a street that I’ve walked hundreds of times, as it was between my apartment and WPI’s Venice Project Center. We sat in the back of a tiny trattoria and ordered some meals. Mom and Dad both had lasagna, Heather had gnocchi, and I had penne with Bolognese (ground beef & tomato) sauce. We ordered a half-liter of house wine, and we were all blown away by how amazing this food was. At one point, we watched the chef preparing pizza in the back, and it was surreal.

After dinner, we strolled further down Strada Nova in the rain, and then returned to our hotel via Vaporetto (water taxi). We were all exhausted from travelling, and quickly fell asleep.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 2 – Venice, Italy

by on Nov.05, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Heather and I woke early, and still not quite on the local time, we were adjusting nicely. We met up with Mom and Dad on the first floor of our hotel for their complimentary “breakfast”. I’ve seen these before while travelling through Europe, and they aren’t anything over the top, but always enjoyable as the customs are vastly different from those in the US. I had a croissant with butter and jelly, and some orange juice. They had Nutella to spread on everything, but I’ve never been a fan.

I had one goal for today, and that was to film Royal Princess as she navigated the Giudecca Canal towards the cruise ship pier in the northwestern part of Venice. I had spoken with a Princess representative on the phone a few days prior and was told that the ship should be arriving around 1PM, so after breakfast, we boarded a Vaporetto and headed towards Piazza San Marco, in hopes to time everything correctly. The boat we got on was packed like a can of sardines, and we got off early near the Rialto Bridge and walked the rest of the way.

Piazza San Marco is always busy, and there must have been at least 5000 people there at 11AM, if not more. Heather, Mom, and Dad went into the church, but I was not allowed in because I had a backpack on. I watched as the Italian man at the gate stopped numerous men with backpacks, but seemed to allow all women with backpacks through. I found it a bit comical.

While inside the church, they ran into other people who hoped to film the ship arriving. They said that at 1PM, the tide was supposed to be covering the square with 6 inches of water, and if you should know one thing about Venice, it’s that you don’t want to come into contact with the water (For those of you who don’t know, the water is full of raw sewage). We boarded another Vaporetto and crossed the Giudecca Canal to the Zitelle stop, almost at the end of the Giudecca. From here, we had a perfect view of Piazza San Marco, and there were no more than 20 people there, all locals.

We found a small coffee shop and had a few drinks and a bite to eat. I figured that if the ship was to be at the pier at 1PM, it would be coming through at least an hour beforehand, and sure enough, at just about noon, I saw Royal Princess for the first time, towering into Venice. I quickly set up my tripod and captured some amazing footage of her passing by the Doge’s Palace and San Marco! They had Italian opera music playing that we could hear from shore. This was the second time I got cold chills on this trip, and it put us all in a great mood!

Now that my primary objective had been fulfilled, we decided to head off towards Murano to see some glass. We took another Vaporetto over to the small set of islands north of Venice, and it was a nice scenic ride. Dad was under the impression that we’d see lots of glass being blown, and funny enough, that was the same impression I had so many years ago. Unfortunately, Murano is filled mostly with shops selling the glass, and very little actual public glass blowing. We saw some, but Mom and Heather had the most fun here looking in all the shops. After a few hours, we left and headed back to the hotel.

For dinner, Heather and I went by ourselves over to Campo San Margherita, which is a square where the bar used to be that I frequented while living here. We chose another random restaurant and ate there. It was again excellent, though not quite as good as the first place. We had gelato afterwards and walked by the “library” from the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie. We continued to walk all the way home, through most of Venice. It really brought back some great memories for me.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 3 – Venice, Italy – Boarding Royal Princess

by on Nov.06, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Royal Princess will spend the day lying quietly alongside her berth, Maritima 18 Terminal Isonzo.

We awoke and had breakfast, much like yesterday, then got our luggage ready to go. We had to check out of our hotel at noon, and then walk over to the pier to board Royal Princess. I wanted to show the family one more staple of Venice beforehand however; the Rialto vegetable and fish market. Every day but Sunday, vendors set up a vast market that can only be seen to be believed. The goods are all as fresh as can be, and the whole place is full of locals getting their daily groceries.

We walked back from Rialto towards the hotel; a walk that I’ve never done before, and came across an accordion player in one square. He walked around us and played beautiful music, which I’m happy that I was able to film.

Upon arriving back at the hotel, we quickly grabbed our luggage and walked over towards the ship. We had to take a monorail, which I’ve never seen before. The growing number of cruise ships is probably the reason it was built. While I’m on the subject, I might as well talk about this a bit more.

When I spent a summer here in 1997, I saw maybe 1-2 cruise ships a week, and these ships were around 1000 passengers each. Today there were two ships in port, each with 3000+ passengers, and yesterday there were four or five large ships. The cruise industry is taking over here, and it’s visible in many areas. Tourism has grown significantly, with new shops opening up on Strada Nova that just wouldn’t have made it years ago. This road used to be filled with shops geared towards the locals, such as butchers and wine shops. These shops are still present, but scattered among them are touristy shops selling Murano glass, masks, and post cards. A small part of me was distraught over this, but the world is constantly growing around us. I also saw new Vaporetto stops popping up in odd places, and the boats were extremely packed full of tourists. I can see why some locals are petitioning against these cruise ships.

We checked in and boarded Royal Princess. I’ve been waiting for over two years to be aboard this ship, and she is quite beautiful! Of course, I’ve found a few flaws with the ship design and execution, but overall, she’s quite astonishing. This is the third incarnation of Royal Princess. My parents have now been on all three. The first was christened by Princess Diana in 1984. The new one was christened by Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge just this past June. This is my 12th cruise with Princess Cruises. We generally look at itineraries on smaller ships, but booked this one because we were such big fans of Royal Princess II which was sold to P&O and renamed Adonia. That stands as my favorite ship of all time. As soon as we got to our room, Heather reminded me that we needed to go to the spa to sign up for The Enclave.

This was our planned first stop anyways, but I had forgotten. We visited it with Mom, who decided it wasn’t for her, but we both were able to get in. Heather also booked a hair and nails appointment, and I a haircut. This isn’t important now, but it will be later in the trip, so I thought I’d mention it. We then walked around the ship for a bit before dinner. I had prime rib and Texas chili. Both were excellent. After dinner, Heather was beat so Mom, Dad, and I walked around the running track a few times to work off the heavy meal. We then parted ways and decided to meet up early tomorrow to get a few last things seen in Venice. I checked out the on-demand television and went to sleep. I then awoke around midnight and am now writing this up, though I’ll stop now. I’m looking forward to getting this trip started tomorrow as we leave at 5PM, but on the other hand, we’re leaving Venice, which is never fun in my book.

[UPDATE] – It appears as though the Italian government may be stopping large ships from navigating the Giudecca Canal in the near future.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 4 – Venice, Italy

by on Nov.07, 2013, under Gaming, General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Today with confirmation of all passengers and crew onboard and with all of our presailing checks complete, Royal Princess will let go her lines and maneuver slowly off the berth and commence navigating slowly through the narrow, shallow canal network. The Venetian Lagoon stretches from the River Sile in the North to the Brenta in the South, with a surface area of around 212 square miles. It is around 8% land, including Venice itself and many smaller islands. About 11% is permanently covered by open water, or canal, as the network of dredged channels are called, while around 80% consists of mud flats, tidal shallows, and salt marshes. The lagoon is the largest wetland in the Mediterranean Basin. Once clear from the lagoon breakwaters we will disembark our pilot and commence our transit south-eastwards across the Adriatic Sea, towards the Strait of Otranto on the way to our next Port of Call, Messina.

Sleeping last night was rather difficult. We were onboard the ship, but it wasn’t moving, so it felt strange. We got up early, had breakfast, and departed for our last day in Venice. I had a long list of things I wanted to get done. We took a chartered boat from the pier over to San Marco where the four of us took a 30 minute gondola ride. It was really fun, and our gondolier came very close to hitting multiple bridges, but never did. I kept looking for sewage outlets in the canal walls, but the tide was too high to see many of them. For those who don’t know, the sewerage system in Venice consists primarily of plumbing that goes into a storage area underneath a building (think of a compost heap) and then into the canals. After our ride, we walked around a bit and Mom and Dad headed back towards the ship. Heather and I took a Vaporetto up to the train station and did a little shopping.

We then headed back towards the amazing restaurant that we ate at on our first evening, but before that we stopped at a small wine store that I frequented when I lived here. This man has a winery and his store consists of a handful of barrels on the wall. You bring him an empty water bottle and he fills it with his wine. Each type of wine costs a different amount, but most are in the range of 2 Euros per liter. I remember it being great wine, and after buying it, Heather took my photo with the man.

We had a very quick bite to eat at our favorite Venetian restaurant, then walked back to our hotel because I had forgotten to give their key back, and they were very appreciative. We then took the monorail back to the ship and boarded. Luckily they didn’t find or care about our wine so we’ve now got 3 liters in our refrigerator!

Another few hours passed and we were ready to set sail. I found a spot where my tripod would sit nicely and after the required muster drill, I went and set up the tripod. The ship slowly left Venice through the Giudecca Canal, and I got quite a spectacular shot of the departure. It always makes me emotional leaving this city, but our adventure is just beginning.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 5 – At Sea

by on Nov.08, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Throughout the day Royal Princess followed a southeasterly heading across the Adriatic Sea. In the early evening we altered course to the southwest and rounded the “heel of Italy”. We shall be following a southwesterly heading for the majority of the day before altering to the northwest for our scheduled transit of the busy Messina strait which separates Sicily from the Italian mainland. Around 12:45AM tomorrow morning we shall be taking the pilot that will guide us through the strait and towards Messina Port.

Today we are at sea, and we slept in until 9:30AM. It was nice as the ship was moving and we needed our rest. We had breakfast in the buffet as we were too late for the dining room, but we found a nice little outside nook to sit in where it wasn’t packed full of people.

We really didn’t do a whole lot today other than lose a raffle and relax. I moved some files off my video camera onto the external drive and wasn’t able to see them as separate files, so I walked around the ship to see if I could use someone’s Windows machine to look at my files. Thinking back to it, this was rather comical, firstly because about 90+% of the people onboard don’t use anything other than tablets, and the few laptop users I found were hesitant to let me hook a drive up to their computers. I eventually was able to find them by searching a bit more on the Mac. We’re about to get ready for formal night tonight.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 6 – Messina, Sicily, Italy

by on Nov.09, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Early this morning the Royal Princess made her final approach towards the entrance of Messina Port where the Captain swung the ship around and docked Portside too. Once all pre-departure checklists are satisfactorily complete and our local pilot is on board we set out from Messina Port into the strait. After the transit is complete the pilot will disembark and Royal Princess will alter her heading to the northwest to pass by Stromboli, one of the three active volcanoes of Sicily. Royal Princess will then continue on her northwesterly heading paralleling the coast of Italy during the night. Early tomorrow morning we will pass between the island of Capri and the town of Sorrento to enter the bay of Naples.

We’re now back on board and the ship has left Messina. We had a wonderful tour of Taormina today. Our original tour to visit Mt. Etna was cancelled because the ship had to leave the pier earlier than they had planned. We took a 45 minute bus ride from Messina to Taormina and then followed a tour guide. The new thing with tours is that they give you a little walkie-talkie and they talk to you in an earpiece. It sounds horrible and should be done away with until the technology works better. Our tour guide knew this and decided just to stop every now and then and talk to us in the old-fashioned method. [Note from the future – This was the worst one. The rest of them will all be better] She took us down a main road that was packed full of tourists. We ended up at a Greek theater and took some photos. Mt. Etna, an active volcano that has erupted 26 times this year, was in the background.

Clouds covered much of it, but it was still visible. Once we got in to the theater, the tour guide cut us loose and told us to meet her near the starting area. We got some gelato and a few souvenirs and made our way back. We then got to sit on our bus for 30 minutes while we waited for a few people who happened to get lost.

Once we got back on board the ship, Heather and I got some cheeseburgers and pizza and took a short walk. We then went to The Enclave. This is the one thing that Heather wanted to sign up for prior to our trip. It’s a handful of different aromatherapy steam rooms, showers, stone beds, and one large hot tub that rains on you. It’s quite amazing and they only allow 40 people to sign up for it, so that’s the first thing we did upon boarding a few days ago. Today was my first time there, and it was very relaxing.

Tomorrow, we have a tour leaving at 7AM, so we will be getting up at 5AM, meaning that we won’t be doing a whole lot tonight!

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 7 – Naples, Italy

by on Nov.11, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

After transiting the Messina Straits late last night, Royal Princess altered onto a northerly course to pass by the volcano Stromboli on our port side. Continuing on this course we navigated between the island of Capri and mainland of Italy to enter the Bay of Naples early this morning. Royal Princess will embark the Naples pilot before proceeding inside the breakwater and coming alongside the berth. After departure this evening, Royal Princess will follow the outbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme which separates the traffic entering and leaving the busy port. Once clear of the Bay of Naples, we will round the southern coast of the island of Ischia, before setting a series of northwesterly courses towards our next port of call, Civitavecchia.

Today we awoke at 5AM and grabbed a quick breakfast in the buffet upstairs. We met at 7AM to begin our daylong tour. We boarded a bus and took off towards Sargento.

Driving through Naples, we could see Mt. Vesuvius towering in the background. This is a dormant volcano that last had a minor eruption in the mid twentieth century. In 79 AD however, it decimated much of the area, burying Pompeii in 25+ feet of ash.

Once we arrived in Sargento, we boarded a small boat, big enough to fill our busload of people. We took a 45-60 minute cruise of the Amalfi coast, headed towards, well, Amalfi. We spent a few hours walking around this small coastal town and admiring its shops. Amalfi is known for its lemons, and Heather and I split probably the best lemon cake I’ve ever had, and I’m quite a fan of lemon cake! This was a sponge cake with a ball of vanilla ice cream in the middle. It had light fluffy whipped icing and we decimated it in about 1-2 minutes. We also found a nice ceramic painted goat for our display case at home.

We took the boat back to Sargento and boarded our bus again. We ended up in Pompeii and had a nice lunch in a restaurant across the street from the ruins. It consisted of some pasta stuffed with spinach, carrots and string beans, and a thinly-sliced sautéed piece of chicken with a big glob of mozzarella on top. We also had a bunch of wine because Mom and Dad didn’t drink any and they put a bottle on each table.

After lunch, we walked through the ruins of Pompeii. These were discovered in the 1700’s by farmers who found statues in the ground while digging. Little did they know that an entire town was buried underneath! Today, there is still a large amount of the town buried under the ash, but what’s uncovered is quite amazing. These ruins were the second most visited in the world last year behind the pyramids in Giza. They are the only place on Earth that can depict what life was like in 79AD, the year Mt. Vesuvius buried them all. We walked all around them, seeing shops, homes, theaters, and even brothels. We then had a few minutes to shop for souvenirs and headed back to our ship.

Upon getting back, somehow my key stopped working, so I had to get a new one. We then had dinner and watched a port lecture on TV about tomorrow’s port. It’ll be another really long day, so I’m headed to bed now.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 8 – Rome, Italy

by on Nov.12, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Throughout the night, Royal Princess followed various northerly courses along the west coast of Italy. Early this morning we will alter our course to the East before making our approach to Civitavecchia harbor. Civitavecchia has been the principal port for Rome (some 40 miles away) since the thirteenth century. It is also a long-established ferry port for Sardinia. The port is approached from the South-West through a Traffic Separation Scheme and entered north of Antemurale Colombo Head. Once all pre-departure checks are complete and all passengers and crew have been confirmed onboard, Royal Princess will slip her moorings, exit the port, and head towards Cannes, France.

We docked in a port named Civitavecchia, which is as hard to pronounce as you may be thinking right about now. We boarded a bus and took a 1.5 hour ride in to Rome. Our first stop was the Coliseum, where gladiators fought each other as well as tigers and lions. The animals also fought themselves for the people and emperor’s pleasure.

After an extensive tour of the Coliseum, we were dropped off at a hotel to have lunch. We had rigatone with marinara sauce and some amazing veal. For dessert, we were given some cold lemon cake, but it paled in comparison to yesterday’s lemon cake.

Our next stop was quite amazing; the Vatican museums. There are over five miles of hallways here, but the tour takes you through just a few of them. These are some of the most amazing halls full of art that I’ve ever seen. I was here close to 20 years ago, and the only difference that I noticed was that there are a LOT more people here now. It was nauseating trying to navigate in a group of 50+ through thousands of other people, most of them in groups themselves. At the end of the tour, we arrived at the Sistine Chapel, which is a spectacle to see. Michelangelo painted both the ceiling as most people know, but also one of the end walls. This was much later in his life when he did this, when he was in his 50’s. He painted the ceiling starting at age 33.

After making our way through the museums, we walked through St. Peter’s Basilica, which is the largest Christian church in the world. Our tour guide kind of rushed us through here, and we didn’t get to touch St. Peter’s foot, or see the marks on the floor that show the sizes of other large churches. It’s still quite incredible, and we were able to see some beautiful mosaic pieces of art. After this stop, we had a few minutes to shop and then boarded our bus back to Civitavecchia and got back on the ship. We were hoping to sail by Giglio to see the Costa Concordia, but as of this writing, it’s dark out and I can’t see any islands out the port side, so I’m going to guess that we’re missing it. Tomorrow we have another long tour, so it’s bedtime again!

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 9 – Cannes, France

by on Nov.13, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Throughout the night we steamed on predominately westerly courses across the Ligurian Basin passing 30NM North of Corsica. In the early hours of the morning we navigated south of Monte Carlo and also 1.2NM South West of Isles De Lerins. Eventually we rounded the coast into the Golfe De La Napoule where we dropped anchor some 0.6NM south of the Cannes Harbour Breakwater in depths of around 21 Metres. We then prepared our tenders and commenced tender operations for you to explore the delights of Cannes and the South of France. In the Evening we will weigh anchor and follow south-westerly courses across the Gulf of Lion to our next port of call, Barcelona.

Today was the third day in a row that we’ve been signed up for a 9 hour tour. I said this just to convey the thought that we’re really tired! We woke up this morning at 6AM instead of 5AM because our tour left an hour later than we’re used to. It felt good to sleep in.

After breakfast, we met Mom and Dad at the Princess Theater and were then told that everything was being pushed back at least 30 minutes because the locals wouldn’t let us get off the ship yet. Luckily, this was the extent of the wait. Cannes can’t hold a ship the size of Royal Princess, so we had to tender in. I always like using the tenders, and this ship has some brand new ones that are much more stable than the old ones. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to film the trip because the shore excursion lady was in a bad mood.

We boarded a bus and headed off towards the highway. Our first stop was an unscheduled stop at a bathroom because some ladies on the bus had to use it. Dad and I took this opportunity to take pictures. I was filming the city when I noticed a ship that looked almost exactly like Pacific Princess. It was definitely the same model of ship, and it’s our favorite.

The next stop was the Casino of Monte Carlo. I’ve been here a few times prior, but only gone in once. The first time, I was just 18 years old and the age limit was 21. The second time, I came with some of my college friends while travelling through Europe. This time, they’ve turned the Casino into a museum before 2PM, when it opens for gamblers. This is the most extravagant casino in the world, and they have a martini that costs 150 euros. Luckily, they allowed us to photograph and film the entire floor, which I wasn’t allowed to do previously.

We then took our bus to “The Rock” which is where Prince Albert and his whole family live. We had lunch up there and it was amazing. It included some really great French fries, even though we technically weren’t in France!

After lunch, we visited the cathedral, which houses Princess Grace Kelly’s grave, along with all the other royal family members who have passed away. A man was sitting outside in a Bentley, but throughout the day, I saw no Rolls Royce’s, which saddened both myself and Dad.

We then headed to the Prince’s Palace and took a short guided tour. They’ve turned part of the palace into a museum of sorts and you can walk through it in about 20 minutes. Dad and I then walked to the edge of the cliff and took some photos. A group of people were having way too much fun there, so I filmed them. They were climbing all over the stacks of cannon balls and were just plain being goofy and having fun. I enjoyed it. We then walked back towards the shops where Mom and Heather were spending some time and the security cops started blowing their whistles at us. A few motorcycles turned on blue blinking lights and took off. A few seconds later, a Lexus again with blue blinking lights emerged from the Palace and drove right by us. It was Prince Albert, and he waved at us all standing there. I was very happy that I had my camera recording at the time, even though you can’t really see all that much.

We took our bus back to Cannes and boarded a tender to head back to the ship. I was able to get up on top of the tender and record a bit, but nothing that I’ll be able to speed up like I usually do for the movie.

Mom and Dad decided to have dinner on the top deck tonight, so Heather and I ate in the dining room by ourselves. After dinner, we planned on watching a movie on the TV, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen, as it is 9PM and we have another tour tomorrow morning, albeit shorter and a bit later in the morning.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 10 – Barcelona, Spain

by on Nov.14, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Upon heaving anchor last night Royal Princess swung the bow and proceeded out of the east anchorage of Cannes. Royal Princess then set south-westerly courses passing south of islands such as Isle Hyeres and then Toulon on the mainland on our starboard side, another famous destination in the south of France. Royal Princess then crossed the Gulf of Lion towards Barcelona, eventually hugging the Spanish coastline before altering to a northerly heading and proceeding into the inbound traffic separation scheme where we embarked the local Pilot. Once all passengers and crew are onboard we will ship the gangways and proceed into the outbound traffic separation scheme and disembark the pilot as we say goodbye to our last Mediterranean Port.

We awoke fifteen minutes before our wake-up call this morning. This may be because we’ve been used to waking up at 5AM and 6AM, and today we got to sleep in until 7AM. I went out on the balcony and saw that the sun was about to rise, so I grabbed my cameras and headed up to the top deck at the rear of the ship.

I set up there and waited for a beautiful sunrise. We must have been underneath an air traffic lane as large planes flew just over our heads. It was really cool.

We had a short, four hour tour today. We boarded a bus and headed to a lookout above Barcelona and got some great views of both the city as well as the ships in the pier.

We then drove through the city being shown some of the sites of Barcelona and then stopped at Basílica de la Sagrada Família. The last time I was in Barcelona was 1994, and we tried to get to this church, but never made it. I was determined to get there this time, so I signed us up for this tour. It was breathtaking. This church was started in 1882 and still is not complete. In fact, they were working on it while we were there today! We walked through the church taking photos, and I look forward to comparing them to photos of the church the next time we visit. We then walked through the basement of this church, which has been turned into a museum. It shows how Antoni Gaudí designed the geometry of the church, before computers were invented.

We then came back onboard and had pizza and cheeseburgers. They were awesome. Heather and Mom went and had tea while I walked up onto a nearby drawbridge and filmed both our ship as well as the P&O Ventura, which is the same model as Crown Princess. Later in the day, Ventura sailed right by our stateroom, and it was quite a spectacle.

For dinner, I had tandoori chicken and lamb. We’re going to watch a movie. It’s called The Heat and is supposed to be funny.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 11 – At Sea

by on Nov.18, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

During the night we continued to navigate southward passing west of the Spanish Balearic Islands and through the Canal De Ibiza, a stretch of water that separates these islands from the Spanish East Coast. During the day we will continue to navigate along the East of Spain eventually altering course to starboard onto a westerly heading rounding the coastline. Late in the evening we will transit the Straits of Gibraltar, the busy stretch of water that separates Spain and the African Continent. The distance between the two continents measures less than 8NM in parts and can get very busy with ships transiting from Northern Europe, the English Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Our wake-up call never came in today. The Lotus Spa called at 7:30 however to remind Heather that she had a nail appointment at 8:00. She went down there and sat for 20 minutes, but was then told that someone else named Heather took her appointment. This was not a good start to our day.

When she came back, she told me that they fit her in at 2:15, though begrudgingly so. We went to breakfast and spoke with another couple who told us that we should talk with the purser’s desk. After having some blueberry pancakes, I explained what had happened to the purser and she said that she would speak with the spa manager.

I had a haircut/facial/shave/scalp massage which was quite nice. Afterwards, I was told that the spa was going to give Heather a complimentary massage because of the mixup in the morning. She was happy about that! We got dressed up and had formal pictures taken before having duck for dinner.

We started watching Red 2 in our room before falling asleep. At midnight I awoke and saw that we were passing through the Strait of Gibraltar. I grabbed the camera and headed up to the aft top deck and filmed us passing through. There wasn’t much to see as it was the middle of the night, but it was fun to watch.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 12 – At Sea

by on Nov.19, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Royal Princess continued on a westerly course across the Atlantic Ocean to her next Port of Call Funchal, Madeira.

Today was much more relaxing than yesterday. I woke up and Heather had gone up to the top deck. Once she returned, we had breakfast. They were serving JB’s French Toast and we both tried it. This is possibly the highest-calorie breakfast that’s served on Princess ships. They take thick bread, encrust it with Corn Flakes, and then fry it. Only bacon scores higher as a breakfast food for me, but both together is amazing.

We spent a little time walking around the ship and looking over photos from earlier in the trip. For lunch we ate up at the buffet and had Kung Pao Chicken and Thanksgiving turkey. Both were excellent.

After lunch, we sat and watched a lecture on the Titanic sinking… just the thing to get us prepared for a transatlantic crossing!! The talk was very good, though Heather was a bit depressed by it.

After the talk, Heather took a nap and I went to the gym. Afterwards, I woke her up and we both went to the Enclave to sit in the steam rooms and hot tub. We then had some wine and then dinner. I had chicken chili and a steak. We’re now sitting and waiting for a comedian and after we’ll probably head to bed as we have to get up early for our last port of call tomorrow morning… then it’s seven straight days at sea before arriving back in the US.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 13 – Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

by on Nov.20, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

During the night we followed our South-Southwesterly courses across the Atlantic Ocean. During the early hours of the morning we will pass 3.1 nautical miles north of the island Deserta Grande which is surrounded by a large coral bank. We will then alter course to starboard to a northerly heading towards the port of Funchal. Once alongside we will land the gangways for you to explore the beautiful island of Madeira. Once all passengers and crew are onboard we will ship the gangway and depart from the port of Funchal, initially following southwesterly courses to avoid any bad weather from the North and commence our trans-Atlantic voyage to Port Everglades Florida, which is some 3455 nautical miles away.

I don’t quite remember where, but I spoke with some fellow passengers who have visited Madeira before. They said that there wasn’t really much of anything there, and it was somewhat of a waste of a port. I wholeheartedly disagree. This place is amazing, and the people were very warm to us and appreciative that we were there.

Heather and I ate breakfast up on the top rear deck as the sun rose. Of course, I filmed it, so I spent more time making sure that people weren’t in my shot than actually eating. Madeira is a very hilly island, which I’ll speak of later. From what we saw, it didn’t look all that large, but the mountains went up into the clouds.

We had a fairly extensive tour today, but it was a nice short four-hour one. We boarded a bus and headed off to the botanical gardens. Our tour guide said that this wasn’t the best time of year for the gardens, but they were nice to walk around. We saw all sorts of fauna and I even saw a songbird, but when I called for Heather to come see it, it flew away.

Our next stop was down the mountainside, so we boarded the bus and headed down. Parking a bus on these steep hilly roads looked very difficult, and even boarding the bus was tough to do. Everything was on some sort of angle. We got to our next destination, which was a cable car terminal. This reminded us of skiing, as we were about to get on a gondola, just like at the ski slopes. We took a fifteen-minute ride to nearly the top of one mountain. From there you could get a nice view of the city and the ship as well. We stopped and bought a few souvenirs and then headed to a nearby square where we were given some free time. Heather and I climbed a few hundred stairs to get to a local church. Here, we climbed even more stairs up to the top of the bell tower, where we found the best view all day. The stairs inside the church were very difficult to climb, and scary to descend. Once we met back up with the group, Heather tried on a few locally-knitted parkas or sweaters… I don’t really know. She found one that she liked, but it stank horribly, so we passed on it. I felt bad because the men working in this store were very nice and we ended up not buying anything from them.

Our next task was to get to the bottom of the mountain. We stood in a line for about 20-30 minutes while others took their turn. We were going on a toboggan ride! There’s no snow here. The toboggans are made of wicker baskets with wooden rails underneath them. They hold two passengers and two local men push you down the extremely steep roads. Cars are also using these roads so it really gets your blood circulating! This is a tradition of the island, and these men love their jobs. At the bottom, they jump in a van and drive up to the top again. They also love smoking cigarettes, as we saw them all smoking when they got back to the top. This was an exhilarating ride and one that we’ll do again if we ever make it back here!

Once at the bottom, we shopped a bit and Heather found a parka/sweater thing that didn’t smell nasty, so she bought it there. We boarded our bus and headed back to the ship. There’s a replica of one of Christopher Columbus’ ships near where ours was docked. Mom and I went walking a bit later but it started to rain, so we never made it to the replica ship.

At 10:15PM, the ship was putting on a water show. This ship is fitted with fountains that sync up with music and lights, and I wanted to capture the show on video, so around 10PM, I went up there and set up the tripod. It wasn’t as impressive as I thought it would be, but it was nice. Heather was asleep, so I went and sat in on the mentalist’s show. It was entertaining, and I really don’t know how he does it unless all his marks are working for him. After his show, I walked around the ship a bit and headed off to bed.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 14 – At Sea

by on Nov.21, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

After departing Funchal, Madeira Royal Princess swung her bow to starboard and commenced her Atlantic voyage to Port Everglades, Florida. Once clear of the breakwater we set southwesterly courses to avoid the larger swell from a low pressure further north. We will continue on this course through the night and during the day at sea.

I slept in today, all the way to about 8AM. We changed our clocks again last night as we’re getting closer to the US. Heather and I had breakfast and when we returned to our room, the purser’s desk had left a few messages. Our flight home doesn’t leave until 7PM, and we’ll be kicked off the ship around 9AM, so we’re looking at quite a long stay in the airport. We tried to get our flight changed, but when we went down to the purser’s desk, they said that it would cost $500 per person, so we decided to stick with our original plans and sit in the airport!

For lunch, we tried out Alfredo’s, which is a pizzeria in the middle of the ship. After this lunch, we’ll be going back again. It was fantastic. Heather had a calzone, and I had a personal pizza. We also had some amazing minestrone soup

At 2PM, I watched a few bartenders throwing bottles around. It was pretty cool, and very funny when they dropped them. Heather took a nap and I wrote up yesterday’s entry.

After dinner, Heather went to bed as she wasn’t feeling well. We’ve both had sore throats for a few days, but it kicked into high gear today and she was beat. I’ve never been on a cruise with more coughing people. Some are just inconsiderate about it too, such as coughing as soon as they get into a crowded elevator. I watched the movie “Now You See Me” up on the top deck on the large screen. This is a movie I’ve been wanting to see but haven’t been able to. I enjoyed it, but the ending could have been better.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 15 – At Sea

by on Nov.22, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Throughout the night we continued on our southwesterly course through the North Atlantic Ocean. We then altered onto a westerly heading shortly before sunrise.

Heather was up at 5AM today, as she still wasn’t feeling very good. I’m now congested, but other than that doing fine. We went to breakfast and I had a bunch of fruit.

I then walked up to the gym and every single treadmill was being used, so I jumped on an elliptical machine. I dislike these, but made the best of it. Afterwards, I changed and went down to the Enclave to unwind. I took the G10 in the underwater case and freaked some people out. I told them that I was trying to get a short video of the Enclave empty, hence arriving so early. I think they still thought I was going to film them.

I had lunch with Mom and Dad today at Alfredo’s, as Heather was getting her complimentary massage. Today’s pizza was good (Hawaiian), but not as good as yesterday’s (Margherita). I’ll go back to the Margherita tomorrow.

I’m now sitting and waiting for a movie to start. We’re going to watch the Will Smith film After Earth. I’ve heard horrible things about it, but wanted to see it, and don’t want to have to buy it, so this works out.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 16 – At Sea

by on Nov.25, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Throughout the night we continued on our westerly course through the North Atlantic Ocean.

There’s not much to say about today. Heather’s never been sick on a cruise before, but she’s got something nasty. There are a lot of people on this ship that seem to have little regard for others, and thusly they’ve been coughing heavily all over everybody. This is how Heather (and myself to a much lesser degree) got sick.

For lunch, the four of us visited Alfredo’s again, which has to be the best thing about this ship. The staff there are all very happy and friendly, like we’re used to on the smaller Princess ships. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes into lunch, they put on a Martini making demonstration in the atrium just outside the restaurant, so instead of relaxing classical music playing, we had Ai! Ai! Ai! and yelling and screaming.

We spent most of the afternoon in our room. Heather slept and I played Picross for a few hours. After dinner, we all went up on the top deck and watched The Lone Ranger on the big screen. It was really fun.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 17 – At Sea

by on Nov.26, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Throughout the night we continued on our southwesterly course through the North Atlantic Ocean. We will continue this course throughout the day.

This morning, we awoke and saw many clouds. We went up to the buffet and the floor was like an ice skating rink. I even saw a larger old man slip and almost fall, but he was able to keep his balance. We didn’t see a sunrise as the clouds were so thick.

After breakfast, I went to the gym for a bit, then attempted to go up to the walking deck, but it was closed due to high winds. The walking deck is poorly designed in that it’s great to walk on while in port, but there are no wind dams, so the crosswind is extraordinary while at sea. Instead of walking, I headed to the Enclave where I met up with Heather again. A few maintenance men came in while we were there and I spoke with one about the sauna not being hot. This sauna is beautiful. It has heated seats and even heated walls. The problem however is that they are pumping in cold air to it, so the air is never hot or even dry, and I was told that it was working as designed. The other rooms in the Enclave are amazing though.

I decided to see if I could get Heather up into one of the outdoor pools, as the rocky sea today would probably make them fun. We headed up to the Retreat Pool and saw that the whole area was blocked off. I looked outside and saw bartenders there and even a woman in the hot tub. A security officer eventually came up and called someone to give us access, so we went swimming and it was a lot of fun. We then sat in the hot tub with the woman for 20 minutes or so and talked about past cruises.

We again had lunch at Alfredo’s, then Heather rested while I went to a talk about how cruise ships are made. It was very informational, though we were told that small ships probably won’t be made in the future. This kind of bummed me out.

For dinner, we decided to go to a different dining room. Our old waiter Florin from Royal Princess II is on this ship, so we wanted to have dinner with him tonight. It was really nice, as was dining in a different room.

After dinner, we watched Iron Man 3 on the big screen and are now waiting to watch a comedian. I hope he’s better than the singing one we sat through last night. We only made it about 10 minutes into his performance, but were both wondering how he was able to keep an audience. We were definitely not the first ones to leave last night. Well, as I said earlier, I hope tonight fares better.

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Mediterranean MTA 2013 – Day 18 – At Sea

by on Dec.05, 2013, under General, Mediterranean Maiden Transatlantic 2013, Vacation

Throughout the night we continued on our southwesterly rhumb-line track sailing across the North Atlantic Ocean and the mid-Atlantic Ridge. We will continue on this course throughout the day.

I think Heather is starting to feel better today. We both slept in until about 8AM. I went to the gym and saw on the news that the Red Sox won the first game of the World Series by a large margin, so that was a nice start to the day.

I met up with Heather in the Enclave, and then we had some breakfast up on the top deck. For lunch, we all went to Alfredo’s yet again and I took the video camera. Mom and Dad left lunch early to go watch a lecture.

Heather decided to take a nap, and I went to watch a movie called The Kings of Summer. It’s about three teenage boys who decide to build a house in the middle of the woods. It was excellent.

After dinner, Dad and I went and stood above the Skywalk to watch and film the sunset. Afterwards, the movie was starting on the big screen so we sat and watched White House Down. Dad really enjoyed it.

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