Daily account of Azamara Cruise UAE-India-West Africa-South Africa December 9, 2019 to January 28, 2020
July 4, 2020
Our Azamara Cruise December 9, 2019 to January 28, 2020
Toronto to Dubai to Mumbai to Cape Town to Toronto.
We met a low key but effective cruise salesperson onboard Azamara Pursuit in January, 2019 who tried to whet our whistle for another ship board adventure. That's this one, or rather two going back to back from Dubai UAE to Mumbai India to Cape Town South Africa in 35 days. We'll spend several days in Dubai and then visit Doha Qatar, Sir Bani Yas, Muscat Oman, Abu Dhabi UAE and dock in Mumbai. We'll be overnight in Mumbai and then visit Cochin India, Victoria Seychelles, Praslin Seychelles, Mombasa Kenya, Zanzibar Tanzania, Maputo Mozambique, Richards Bay South Africa, Durban South Africa, Port Elizabeth South Africa and Cape Town South Africa. In total, if all goes well we will be away from our beloved Port Credit for 50 days.
August 15, 2019 The plan has begun, not the least of this is preparing to pay for it. One third of that is done and we wait for final numbers that may come this month for the second leg from Mumbai to Cape Town. We've looked at hotels in Dubai and believe we'll use Fairmont Dubai at 50% increase to the normal but with plenty to recommend it for the three days pre-cruise from December 14 - 17, 2019. We'll need a visa for anything in India and I have a website for an online purchase. We've selected several shore excursions from Dubai to Mumbai and they are in the basket at this point because Terryl will have some quality advice provided by Tony Taylor, an Air Canada friend, whose knowledge is legendary.
August 27, 2019 I visited three websites to purchase an e-visa for our four days in India. On the first one the application was thorough in that they wanted one's parents detail as well as the traveler. I thought that was a trifle overkill but I proceeded to complete the document and submit it. There's the rub; and I needed to call them if I needed help. After the usual 25 minute wait Mike picked up my call. I thought his manner was rough but he reluctantly walked me through his company's process. The form didn't reveal the cost so I asked what it was; he didn't know and put me on hold. Another long pause without the elevator music and he reappeared saying $360.00 for my application (he didn't even know about Terryl's) which would have followed. With that information I thanked him and hung up. I looked at the other two companies and went with iVisa.com for $235.00 for the two of us. They tell me that I'll have my visas in two weeks. Additionally the next confirmation came through and the money has been spent.
September 26, 2019 and the Visas are in hand. Azamara Cruise Line has sent the check-in link for the Dubai - Mumbai cruise and we have completed that process (which is decidedly more customer-friendly than some others we've observed on theirs as well as other companies). Terryl's suggestion that the crew hotel in Dubai could be our best bet. She may have a point; so we wait to get the hotel name from friends who have enjoyed that experience. We plan to be in Dubai at least four days before the ship embarks her customers on December 17, 2019.
October 20, 2019 and the dust has settled on our Vienna trip (see it on its own blog post) in which a good time was had by all, as they say. And now we are to concentrate on these final arrangements: flights to and from Dubai, from Capetown to Dubai, and a hotel in Dubai and Capetown.
November 11, 2019 finds me and Terryl dealing with pneumonia for the fifth day. I have it and she cooks and makes me as comfortable as possible. There is a post dealing with this unique (never occurred before) sickness for me. The final plans such as a hotel in Dubai and CapeTown, plus a flight back to Dubai to meet our plane to Toronto from Dubai have not been finalized. The only question is: will I be well enough to do the trip? I hope so, additionally, this possibility has not been mentioned in conversation with Terryl. Full Stop.
On November 26, 2019 the flights from and to Toronto with the hotel in Dubai called Movenpick Jumeirah Beach are reserved. We'll get J class seats (as of this date there are over a hundred seats available with twenty up front), and our hotel for December 10 - 13 is secured in the beach area which is within walking distance of several interesting places to visit. (There will be more on this when we are right in the middle of the action in December.)
It's December 1, 2019 and the final plans are in place. We will be staying at a small hotel in downtown Cape Town from January 21 to January 27 and then fly on Emirates from Cape Town to Dubai on January 27 and on to Toronto on January 28, 2020 with Air Canada. This wraps up the news for this post; we will be creating new posts for the specific aspects of this journey as outlined in the first paragraph. Thank you dear readers.
After a wonderful Boeing 787 flight on AC56 (in J we are happy to say) we landed in Dubai and sailed through customs, baggage, duty free with ten bottles of wine, and a taxi to Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Every male or female service person treated us with extraordinary kindness, respect and dignity. This vacation has gotten off perfectly and after a good night's rest we breakfasted in a nice little outdoor restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. Everyone has suggested that a Hop on Hop off bus as the start - something we usually do in most cities.
Today's ride features Dubai's Skyscrapers of which I hope my Apple 8's camera will do justice to this phenom all started just a few years ago and continues to flourish. You'll see a few cranes here and there.
Dubai people, camels and things December 13, 2019
UAE was nothing but rolling sand dunes.
"Forty-seven years after its establishment in 1972, the UAE has become a shining country filled with soaring skyscrapers and architectural marvels. And the country owes its thanks to the remarkable ruling families of the UAE! The royal families of the UAE that serve as the country's rulers have built this brilliant place from the ground up, and are admired for their grace and dignity, hard work and charity. They also rank amongst the world's richest royal families - and some even have a massive fan base on Instagram." (The preceding was written by MyBayut.)
Of course these wonders would never have been without their oil. While riding along on the Hop-on Hop-off bus the narrator casually mentioned that 40,000,000,000 (billions) barrels of oil held in reserve will run out in the year 2040. Furthermore the UAE is ranked within the top Financial Markets in the world along with London, New York and Hong Kong; and its Tourism business is booming internationally; here's a factoid, at one point 40% of all the Cranes in the world were in Dubai and its immediate surrounds.
As we continue our journey we find the service people are friendly and effective. Bartering is ingrained in their system. A little advice on this is to start at 50% of the asking price -- (which is very difficult to achieve because the object is to warm you up to the point of buying, and then you still need to drag the asking price out of them) -- and then finally agree to buy it at slightly more, or less, than that.
I must add that the police are not in evidence here; there are people employed to help one in all manner of needs. We were leaving the huge Dubai Mall and wanted a taxi -- there was one idling by the curb and we approached him with a question, and with his answer he said get in quickly. He could see an attendant of some kind was approaching him and he said that his picture was taken by this fellow. The three of us were in the wrong place so he asked us to leave his cab. (Which we did.) The fines are serious: if you run a red light and an accident occurs the fine is 30,000 AED ($10,000.00 Canadian and loss of licence). I hope we didn't get him in trouble.
Dubai all sorts December 15, 2019
With two days left on our tour of Dubai UAE the question raised is, what next? The answer is more of the same. In doing so, Terryl got quite a scare when purchasing some jewelry with her debit card. A salesperson presented the adjusted cost and accepted her card, but returned it with this comment: EMPTY. She tried it again with the same result and as might be the case Terryl thought the worst: HACKED. And yes, once again these people were concerned and helpful without question. Together we called the Canadian Bank and after forty-five minutes we were talking to a lady in Regina who advised that her money was still there. The next day it was the same result. However, when we visited a CitiBank establishment she was able to get plenty of cash using the same card. A pleasant young man gave us his explanation and off we went. No problem...if it happens again she will use my card. What?
Dubai 16, 2019
By the way the weather has been perfect all week at about 26 Celsius with mostly sun and a few wispy clouds. Apparently the temperature can get to the mid 40's during the summer, but that doesn't stop the people from coming here. They had 15,000,000 come in 2018 and they spent $28,000,000,000.00 on the beach, in the sky, on the dunes, in the hotels, in the massive malls and on the golf courses too.
After a few hours at the Emirates Golf Club having breakfast, hitting range balls and chatting with staff members we taxied back to our hotel to get ready for lunch. What a life.
What a pleasant day at the golf course, walking around Jumeirah Beach district and closing with Happy Hour drinks watching a Cricket Match and a dinner on the Promenade.
Last night in Dubai December 16, 2019
Outside the Souq vendors are in their shops ready to help you buy their wares. Inside the Souq these mostly young men are all over you with their precious jewels, herbs, textiles and assortment of foods and other items. This kind of shopping at first is entertaining however, one must know that this activity is the way their living is earned, and, they have been doing this for a very long time. I believe they also enjoy bartering with their shoppers; they never want you to walk away without a sale; moreover when the sale is not complete there are no hard feelings that I could see. This is a fascinating place in Old Town Dubai.
And of course back at Jumeirah Beach we have the Bentleys and Lamborghinis all parked and in full view. So long Dubai, I think we'll be back.
December 18, 2109 Leaving Dubai onboard Azamara Quest
December 17, 2019
After a seamless check-out of the Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel our baggage handler loaded our stuff into a Meter’d Taxi (he made a strong suggestion to avoid the black limo type) driven by a grandfather whose home was in Sudan, he asked if we would like some music and if it might be from his country? Our answer was of course; and off we went on a major 12 lane highway to the Port of Rashid. The ride took a little longer than I expected, but only cost $33.00 Canadian.
99.8% of all shipping arrives and leaves from the Port of Rashid which I swear goes on and on forever. One may think that with its size that there could be a problem finding our ship. We passed the Queen Elizabeth 11, the Jewel of the Seas and several others when we found the big A for Azamara docked and ready to board. We paid our friend from the Sudan and he helped the attendant load our stuff on to a cart destined for delivery to our balcony cabin 6075, after which we entered the terminal for registration. Terryl was amazed when the documents prepared for this trip came out of my case in the order requested by the staff who register us and welcome you on board. She said that this amazed her, and I said, ‘It’s a steep learning curve that has evolved over the twenty odd cruises we have enjoyed over many years.’
On board our first encounter is with Alina from Odessa south of Ukraine who is a totally engaging young woman with an entirely unique haircut and a small tattoo of an airliner on the inside of her left upper arm. And of course my beautiful Terryl strikes up a conversation after I asked if she was an Airline person prior to her work on the Azamara Cruise Ships. Her answer is no, along with a confession that she just loves to travel. Terryl’s connection with Alina was instant. I’m guessing we’ll be looking for this young lady to pour our drinks on many of the next 35 days of this voyage to Cape Town, South Africa.
I’m sitting on my balcony at 15:10 on December 17, 2019 which is approximately 3 hours after boarding the Azamara Quest. I’m inhaling another gin and tonic after two Budweisers and two Champagnes and sampling a plate of cheeses, Pad Thai, and a breaded chicken that thoroughly if not completed met my needs when a tug boat pulled up along side the Monjasa Performer Monrovia ship nestled along side the Quest. After several minutes I look again and there she goes. This is a beautiful cargo ship that has set sail from Dubai to ports certainly unknown to me. My thought as she leaves her birth is that I know so little about this industry and shipping in general, and, that it’s probably too late to learn any more. Dennis Casassio, Daniel Loyd McDonald and Steve Ellis, son of Norm and Jeanette Ellis come to mind. These guys know something about this Industry: perhaps a word or two from one of these gentlemen to another in a position to get another started in an industry is all it took. Perhaps it helped to establish them in a position of authority. I like to think it so, just the way I was introduced to Duncan McGregor in 1963.
I’m sitting on my balcony at 17:00 on December 18 with a slight rumbling of our ship’s motors and a gentle push and guidance by a perfect little tugboat and off we go to Doha, Qatar.
The Birj Khalifa driving through the top of this photo at 800 + metres is very visible
Doha, Qatar and the North, December 19, 2019
Our body clocks are still discombobulated: it’s 04:45 and we’re wide awake. However, the Insider and Azamara never disappoints with access and service such as the self-serve in the Windows Cafe with all types of specialty coffees, juices, fruit and cereals. It’s done, I’m eating, drinking and in front of the MacBook Air typing away with Terryl propped up watching her favourite of many world wide channels presented on board: this one is on specific wild life - lions, antelope, elephants, water buffalo, and others - all roaming in Africa and looking for water and food in their habitat.
I had not made any pre-arrangement for an excursion while in Doha, Qatar and I see one that looks interesting. They call it The North of Qatar with a duration of 7 hours showcasing their rich traditions such as pearl diving, the ruins of Zubara Fort an ancient fortress for a fascinating look at archeology in action. The other offerings are a wild ride through the dunes described as a roller coaster sensation, and strenuous too. We don’t need any more back pain. It also describes hanging out in tents and carpets covering the desert perhaps a little like the Bedouin. They offer a trip into Souq Waqif and a museum for 4 hours.
Voila, Ship Excursions opens on schedule and we are on; we’ll meet our fellow travellers on Deck 5 in the Cabaret Lounge at 08:45 and off we go. The Apple 8 is fully loaded and ready for action.
Photos to follow when I can coincide the transfer of photos from the iPhone to the MacBook Air because both devices need to be connected to the Internet. Azamara's offering allows one device at a time. I'll need to get the iPhone on Rogers Roaming and the MacAir on Azamara simultaneously.
Stay tuned, and thank you.
December 21, 2019 Abu Dhabi and the Grand Mosque
December 20, 2019
Here’s an odd fact: on the way from Dubai to Doha, the clocks go back one hour, and from Doha to Sir Bani Yas the clock goes forward that one hour. And these are very short distances between places. Odd, I thought.
Today we are anchored off Sir Bani Yas which is primarily a wild life sanctuary with half of its area set aside for conservation. Azamara is using their Tenders to float the passengers back and forth. Terryl and I have decided to take a pass on this man-made island sanctuary and hit the gymnasium for a first workout in Azamara’s beautifully outfitted and handsomely designed facilities. This was one of my commitments because I just wasn’t doing it at home. My ‘Sport’s Medicine Doctor’ had recommended Physiotherapy and/or Accupunture to relieve some of my issues and concerns for which I did receive 5 sessions of Accupunture as well as a few exercises from a chiropractor named Neil. His treatment is all well and good but I really don’t think there’s anything like old fashion gym work, especially for me.
I’m now in Azamara Quest’s beautiful Library which is on the top deck occupying the width of the ship and a depth of thirty-five feet and completed by comfortably padded chairs, deep coloured wooden tables, soundproofing carpets below painted-coffered ceilings and of course, numerous walls of books and materials housed in mahogany shelving. A perfect place for doing exactly this.
It’s about 12:20 and Terryl and I will meet at 13:00 for a small little drink, perhaps a tidbit or two and discuss the tour, of which there are several options, that we will take while in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. Its feature is and probably always will be their Grand Mosque boasting over 80 domes, four 350-foot-high minarets, and 100,000 tons of white marble rising above manicured gardens. This sacred place will accommodate 40,000 faithful. The rules upon entering are strict with regard to appropriate dress and use of cameras. One small consideration newly minted is that one’s shoes may now be left on when entering the Grand Mosque.
December 21, 2019
Last evening was delightful. Both of us had deliberated over the Shore Excursions options and marked the ones we wanted. In Abu Dhabi it’s today at 13:30 for the ‘Grand Mosque Visit’ and on December 23 it’s ‘Panoramic Muscat’ in Muscat, Oman at 08:15; and then in Mumbai, India on December 27 at 09:00 it’s ‘Mumbai on the Move’ when many of the passengers will disembark and head for the airport.
We met a nice couple before dinner who originated in Scotland for Roger, and China for Ilia. They now live and work in Bahrain and had plenty of information about their working and social lives as ex-pats. We will be sitting down with them at dinner sometime soon. Our meal in the Discoveries room was delicious, the entertainment in the Cabaret featuring the songs by Stephen Millet was very nice - Stephen also subs as Assistant Cruise Director - and we ended up in the Living Room listening and dancing to the Fancy Triplets, three young women singing and playing saxophone, guitar and keyboard.
And today all passengers were asked to pick up their passports, leave the ship and surrender them to the UAE customs. At that point one could go about their activities in Abu Dhabi. Our trip in Abu Dhabi will start this afternoon at 13:30 so we passed through the terminal building and went back on board for breakfast.
December 22&23, 2019 in Muscat, Oman
December 22, 2019
Our tour to the Grand Mosque was exceptional in that it is perhaps the most important thing that one must see when visiting the sister city to Dubai, and that is the capital city Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Our driver took us through tunnels and over bridges that appeared to be quite new, and as is the case, spotless. He detailed the area’s relevancy to the Ruler's master plan as well as its Islamic religious dominance of their population which is 20% by birthright, with the expats running at 80%. He talked about the young adult when getting married is given a significant amount to have the wedding of their dreams, a full amount of money to buy their first home, and a few additional contributions to get their young marriage off on the right foot. We are amazed at what appears to be factoids about their country. They don’t pay taxes, but if they can afford to give 2.5% of their earned or inherited net worth, it is a one time only donation to charity, and their medical plan is also their birthright and paid by the rulers.
And again the cranes on buildings being constructed are many in the city centre and blossoming in the outskirts. The bridges and tunnels are already built to handle the growing population - the expats are doing the grunt work and the well educated Emirates are calling the shots. In every business activity controlled by foreign investment there are mandated locals working in the administration office of these firms: it’s the law.
The weather at this time of year is in the mid 20’s Celsius, and higher than the mid 40’s in the summer. For us I’m sure their summer conditions would be unbearable, but for now, the air is warm, the sky is blue, the Azamara Quest is the place to be.
Last night we partied at the White Night event with a fabulous buffet on the pool deck topped off with Crepes smothered in sweets and cognac, and had an early night to sleep-in while we sail toward Muscat, Oman for our docking on December 23, 2019.
December 23, 2019
We arrived within minutes of our schedule and hustled up to the Windows Cafe for a nice breakfast of Pancakes and Fruit for me, with eggs and fruit for Terryl. Jamie dropped by and apologized for missing our cocktail and dinner engagement the other night; he was bushed and took a nap and slept right through the appointed hour. Totally understandable, and we had another nice chat with this 81 year old practising Physchiatrist from New York City before heading to the gangway and our Oman Tour Guide who had us for the next 4 hours.
The capital city of Muscat, and the country of Oman is a well run Muslin empire whose current ruler is Sultan Qaboos the son of the previous ruler who relinquished his crown in 1970. Sultan Qaboos has ruled for 49 years and if he can overcome his recent illness will celebrate 50 years as the supreme religious and governmental leader of Oman in 2020. Once again oil and gas is 90% of their GDP with tourism and editable dates completing their working lives. Earlier we talked about the citizens loving their leader. Sultan Qaboos is no exception; for an example, when he was younger and healthier he would ride through the villages tossing money out on to the streets for any and all to use as they wished. No strings attached, just like their current practice of giving plenty of money to their citizens for marriage costs, home purchases et al. Remember, they have no income tax payable by the citizens and their medical and educational costs are born by the government, and the government is Sultan Qaboos. Our tour guide tells us that everyone loves this man who has no children to pass on the Royal Paton. So when the time is right he will appoint a member of his collective family such as a cousin or a nephew. [Two months after our cruise docked in Cape Town we heard the news that Sultan Qaboos passed away; his funeral was attended by many world leaders because he was a respected, confident and accomplished man loved by his people.]
We are back on the ship after seeing the outside of their Grand Mosque, a certain Palace that Sultan Qaboos uses for guests, an incredible Opera house, a Souq (unfortunately with water running down one of its pathways from a broken water main), but just in time to get some jewelry to die for and two additional Pashminas for incredibly low bartered prices. The sellers enjoy this system just like the rest of us foreign shoppers.
December 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 2019 leaving Oman and arriving in Mumbai, India
December 24, 2019
Last night was an amazing evening compliments of Azamara Cruise Line that bussed us to Muscat's huge new Convention Centre by the Airport. Once again Captain Filip greeted us as we entered a magnificent auditorium to hear a five piece authentically Muslim band, followed by fourteen piece brass band, both playing their favourite works to the delight of all who attended. In a little over an hour we drove to the ship where the party had already started with more food and music and drinks to be had in several venues.
Today Terryl and I shuttle-bussed it back to the Souq to purchase a few little goodies and immediately were at a loss to find the store of choice: a gold shop with our ears, necks and wrists begging to be adorned. Alas, I gave up and walked out of the Souq with the guidance of many vendors, and when seated with a drink Terryl went back in and then, came out fourty minutes later claiming no success once again. Now we're on the ship - have had a nice little lunch with refreshments - and preparing for the sail away at 17:00 and of course, the party to follow. In about sixty-four hours we'll dock in Mumbai, India.
December 25, 2019
Last night, Christmas Eve, Terryl and I agreed to meet Jamie for a drink followed by dinner at the Discoveries Bar and Dining room. This time he was there and we easily launched into another spontaneous and lively discussion about life, illnesses, family and cruising. Jamie is the same man we had drinks with very early in this 11 day cruise to Mumbai. When we stood to announce our readiness to dine Jamie says, “We’re five for dinner please.” Terryl and I looked at each other with surprise that we were now five. These two additional gentlemen were not; Jamie had prearranged that too. So off we go and when seated Roberto and Alfredo introduce themselves as did we. They are originally from Cuba and have been living together in Miami for twenty years. And of course they were pleasant and well spoken with their cuban accent still in evidence. The food was wonderful and the service was even better. Just before the main course was brought to our table Jamie excused himself and said he was a little tired and was going to his cabin. The four of us finished the dinner together and departed as friends.
The show last night was a little like an old fashioned Bing Crosby family gathering with all kinds of performers on stage singing, playing guitars and telling Christmas stories until well into the night. We were tired by 23:00 and went to our cabin just before midnight.
This morning a beautiful Christmas Brunch was laid out in the Discoveries Dining Room where we enjoyed Crab Legs, Lox, Lamb Chops, Fruits and so much more all presented beautifully under an Ice Sculpture slightly higher than head high. Another start to an Azamara day at sea where the temperature has been a steady 25 degrees Celsius and sunny since we landed in Dubai fifteen days ago. Many of our fellow passengers will be disembarking and heading for the Mumbai Airport on December 28, but not us, we have 38 additional days before we fly to Dubai from Cape Town, South Africa on Emirates Air and then to Toronto on Air Canada.
December 26, 2019
Last night was one where both of us were tired - we really wanted to be alone together - and had a very light dinner on the outdoor Patio which is always a delight. I had an appetizer of Carpaccio artistically prepared especially for me, and Terryl had a tiny piece of chicken providing the energy required to take the elevator to our cabin. There is a music only channel on our Television that did the trick and we were asleep in no time.
This morning we got up at 08:30 just in time to get dressed and out on the Pool Deck to see (with special glasses provided by Azamara) the complete Solar Eclipse, an episode that lasted two hours with the maximum effect visible at 09:15. The Deck was full of passengers with a staff member describing the visual effect in technical detail. I did take several photos but could or should have made iPhone settings, if possible, to get the most dramatic effects.
Professor Chuck Richardson lectured at 10:00 on ‘Mumbai: Gateway To India’ complete with his photographs yielding a valuable precursor to our visit scheduled for December 27, 2019. His delivery was as expected dotted with explanations of population, poverty, working children, and of the very wealthy going about their business in the fastest growing GDP in the world, even ahead of China. The Professor discussed India’s political scene before and after India’s independence from Britain. But most importantly his focus was on their working children who should have been in school, along with the working adult poor’s need for employment which keeps them using ancient tools instead of modern equipment. Why? If new equipment requires one person to do the same task as ten then what would the replaced nine do to earn a living? This is a direct opposite thought process that is used in North American and many other areas in the world. He also instructs that the 80% Hindu population is quite happy doing what they do because the real rewards in life come to them in the after life. Full Stop.
From 14:00 for an hour in the Cabaret the entire singing and dancing team entertained us with fabulous and familiar songs from Broadway Shows. They were terrific and this their penultimate show was performed to a packed house who truly appreciated an extraordinary performance.
December 27, 2019
This is the day we dock in Mumbai, India at 07:00 and make ready to enter this amazing stand-alone Metropolis of 22,000,000 people. Terryl’s recollections going back to the 1980’s are well known - and they are not pretty. Memories of children with limbs broken and bent begging in the streets, others stealing from your pockets, crushing crowds continuously moving, men lying in the streets, and even dead babies lying in the gutters, and a certain unpleasant smell emanating from everywhere was constant. Terryl recalls gifting pens and little trinkets to give to the little ones, and to one crippled child she and her fellow Air Canada friends gave a set of crutches one week only to find they had been sold to buy food the following week. All sad but true.
Our tour this morning entitled ‘Mumbai on the Move’ declared that things have changed somewhat in fourty years. I recognize that a four-hour bus tour only skirts the heart of a major city like Mumbai, but it was enough for Terryl to state with certainty that Mumbai really is on the move. All of India’s GDP is the fastest growing in the world, even faster than China. The streets are much cleaner, we saw only one man lying down in the street, only one or two children begging, and lines of children walking in formation in school uniforms. We saw much of what has not changed too: prepared lunches arriving by 11:00 via bicycle messenger by the thousands, dozens of men pounding other people’s laundry in cement tubs and then hanging it out to dry in the sun. Both occupations have survived modern process and procedure for decades. One theory is that why replace employment with machinery that only costs more money for electricity, and most importantly, puts men out of work. We were told that more young Indians are receiving better education now more than ever, and that the divorce rate for ‘love marriage’ is going up and up while ‘arranged marriage’ is staying as low as ever.
We toured Mahatma Ghandi’s home (now a museum) to view photographs, letters and events that form and speaks to his incredible life in service to his fellow citizens. Of course there are volumes written on Ghandi: one letter above all that caught my eye was Ghandi’s letter to Adolph Hitler beginning:
“Dear Friend…Friends have been urging me to write to you for the sake of humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that any letter from me would be an impertinence…” How wonderful and humble can one man can be?
This evening Jamie dropped by the Spirits Bar and jumped into a last drink with us. Of course he had a few stories, one fairly risqué, mostly about his time in Leavenworth Prison (as a Doctor, not an inmate), which prompted me to launch my 1960 Cincinnati Workhouse Prison escape with John McCusker (you know that one I’m sure) along with its trials and eventual outcome. On leaving us for the last time he handed Terryl a piece of folded paper and stated, “Oh, here’s a message for you.” I opened it and read his name, telephone and email address in Washington D.C. What a class act: Jamie’s way of saying I want to see you again.
That evening we exchanged emails with the Ainslie couple from Vancouver, and the Boyer couple from Dallas, friendly people indeed, and one of the ladies was a former Air Canada flight attendant. How good is that.
December 28, 2019
This morning approximately 440 passengers disembarked - we were two of sixty continuing on to Cape Town - and approximately 600 coming aboard for this twenty-four day cruise to Cochin, India, two stops in Seychelles, (Kenya has been cancelled due to internal unrest and conflict), stops in Tanzania, Mozambique, and four stops in South Africa with final disembarkation in Cape Town. The crew, including navigational, service and administration is not changing. (It’s nice that we know many of them by face and name now.)
We have returned our last, and received our new room keys, in a seamless process identifying us as back-to-back passengers to begin enjoying the day on board. Terryl and I discussed taking another tour of Mumbai today and decided against it after speaking with fellow passengers who had visited what they call the ‘slum’ area yesterday. After hearing their comments Terryl said, “After 40 years this part of Mumbai has never changed.”
December 29, 30, 31, 2019 Mumbai to Cochin (or Kochi), India
December 29, 2019
We sailed away from Mumbai last night at 17:00, this visit provided a whole new look into a fascinating culture, one that simply survives in millions of lives, and another where their lot is improving through education and adoption of Western ideas and concepts put into practice.
Terryl made an inquiry at the Spa for which she was invited to participate in a lucky draw. The Gym area, next to the Spa, was crowded and after a few comments extolling the virtues and relaxing feelings their work provides, the first lucky number was pulled and 6075 (our cabin) received a $75.00 treatment. My arms went up and a loud noise of some kind covered the room. Terryl’s name was on the card and she was thrilled and gave a warm and respectful thank you to all those present.
This morning we are cruising south toward the tip of India and will dock at Cochin, India tomorrow morning. The sea is calm, the pollution is gone, the food continues to be excellent along with super service by attendants who know our preferences and react accordingly. Read, relax, enjoy is the name of the game for these 38 hours sailing to Cochin.
December 30, 2019
Last night we had a drink with Teresa and Tracy Boyer in the Living Room on Deck 10 facing south as we cruised to Cochin. Terryl had met them the other night and invited them for a drink. For one hour the conversation was constant and lively detailing many adventures on the high seas including a robbery at gunpoint in Mexico City. This is not a pretty story; They and their luggage were followed from the airport and pulled over by a look-a-like police vehicle, and with a gun forced into the side of Teresa’s head, were frisked, and verbally accosted while their personal possessions as well as the contents of several luggage bags were taken and loaded into their vehicle. Their passports were not taken. Why? Because these criminals wanted their targets to get back on a plane asap and not report the crime to the real authorities. The Boyers are well-healed, retired for 11 years and have a home in Dallas as well as Mexico, and as of last night have spent the last 99 days on board the Azamara Quest as she travels the world.
This morning, while docked in Cochin we have cleared Indian Customs (again) and will begin a tour entitled ‘Walk the Broadway Market followed by sundowner at Taj Malabar Hotel’ this afternoon at 16:45; this will take us well into the night and then back to the ship. Currently, we are having a cool drink onboard.
December 31, 2019
Let’s begin with last night: at 16:45 outside the terminal the bus attendants came to find us, because we had not picked up our #10 chest sticker prior to leaving the ship. (I need to tell you that our instructions did not include that little detail - incidentally, the first time this has happened on this trip with Azamara.) So off we go into the city of Cochin or Kochi which ever you prefer, that is teeming with motor bikes, Tuk Tuks (three wheel motorbikes with room for two passengers in the back), buses, few private cars and loads of people with some on the move and others hardly moving. Our Tour guide talks and then the microphone quits, he taps it and he’s off again. His is giving us some of the history of Cochin and the 28 states in all of India. President Modi runs the show but he needs help to do his job for 1,400,000,000 of his fellow citizens, (only China is greater) and he does this with 28 Prime Ministers where some states are richer than others. Hundreds of years ago spices were the number one product India exported around the world with Pepper being the largest and most profitable for India. Today, it’s still the most popular among the dozens and dozens of spices India grows and ships everywhere. Our tour included a few stops, and what I concluded to be about a one mile walk through the narrowest of streets filled with vendors politely selling their goods. For me it was difficult to keep up with him holding his sign over his head, as I continued to drip with sweat while side-stepping the pot holes and loose slabs of worn concrete. Terryl asked, “Are we going to stop and shop sometime soon?” Of course, we’ll do whatever you ask was his reply. In due course no other one person, especially me, really wanted to shop in this local. The end of our tour was a stop at The Taj Malabar Hotel, a quite luxurious hotel on the water with a comfortable sitting area by the water, and nicely dressed waiters serving a nice cold local beer that made my day. After a pleasant rest stop we were back on the ship for a late dinner in Windows Patio.
This morning after a little breakfast we left the ship, and before we passed Immigration a nice young man reached over a small barricade and called, “Gary and Terry I’m here waiting for you.” We went out to greet him and hopped on his Tuk Tuk and headed for the Old Town past Jew Country (no kidding, it’s still called that even though all have left for Israel and other parts of the world over the last century or more). We were driven to three shops, very nice shops, where the prices were higher, the selections were greater, and the service was friendly with kind words like, “I’m not trying to sell you anything, I’m just doing my job.” After the third shopping stop the driver asked if we’d like to shop for spices, or, if we’d like to go anywhere else in Cochin (all for the same price of $15.00 US). We had been with him for two hours by this time, so we thanked him and asked to go to the ship.
At 13:45 I’m sipping on a cold beer and writing this copy. Tonight is New Years Eve and we don’t have to ask about this evening’s entertainment because the Azamara Quest has it all laid out in the dining room first, followed by the countdown extravaganza around the pool deck and its’ bars, and a fabulous sail-a-way after midnight toward Seychelles with fireworks galore.
January 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2020 from Cochin to Seychelles
January 1, 2020
It’s 12:45 (my body clock says 14:15) and I’ve recovered quite nicely from Azamara’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza beginning with a fabulous meal shared with Gloria (New York City) and Brian (London, UK) whom Terryl had been speaking with earlier and happened to have our third martini with at the Discovery Bar. The four of us were dining late by appointment and Terryl suggested we ask for a table for four. They agreed enthusiastically. Gloria declined the first table offered and accepted the next and settled in overlooking the passing ocean below. Again, the food was sublime and our conversation was agreeable. Gloria and Terryl were non stop and joined Bryan and myself on a few occasions to quickly return to their topic of choice. Tonight was the second time Trump (Donald J) entered any conversation on the entire trip. Brian knew his current British events, Canadian and much of the USA’s as well. He likes Boris Johnson and would have voted Trump if he’d been a USA voter. Brian articulated interesting points of view on these and other democratic leaders from several additional countries. We were the last group to leave the dining room at 23:30 to go to the Pool Deck where the music, dancing, fireworks, and sail-away from Cochin had begun. It was a party that many passengers and crew enjoyed without question. It was ‘hoppin’ up there! And again Terryl and I were the last to leave at 02:00 January 1, 2020. For me an incredible end to another very fine year I’ve been blessed to have lived.
The New Year Brunch began at 09:30 with the centre of the dining room filled with foods from around the world: crab legs and claws, fruits of many kinds sliced before your eyes, cheeses, eggs prepared any way you wish, lamb chops, pickled herring and much more, all served with as many Mimosa’s and Specialty Coffees one could possibly ask for.
I’m writing this in the Drawing Room where it’s quiet, and soon the Gym will beckon because I need it badly. I had promised myself to faithfully work out everyday, and as of now, I’m running at five days out of the fourteen we’ve been on board the Azamara Quest which is four days more than Terryl; but then she really is in much better shape and condition than me.
Ten minutes on the bike at level 6, three sets of squats against a flat wall, three sets of arm-chest pushes and shoulder lifts with hand weights slightly heavier than last time and I was out in The Living Room enjoying an iced Sparkling Water (no beer today until much later) after a fast 40 minutes in the Gym completing workout #6.
Azamara has a cruise/golf package about once a month on at least one of their three ships whereby they coordinate their cruise with a Golf Specialty company for a package deal consisting of five or six golf games with all the arrangements made at each of the different golf courses included in the itinerary. There is one on this ship starting the day we dock in Cape Town. The price at this time is discounted significantly for the 11 day cruise from Cape Town and back at five fabulous South African courses. Gary Player and Ernie Els are behind at least two of them. I thought about it, and then said no because we had sight seeing planned for the seven days we are in Cape Town. Maybe another time.
January 2, 2020
The highlight last night was in the theatre where Tom Seals played Boogie, the Blues and forty-fives minutes of fantastic piano and songs entertaining a packed house. Tom dresses plainly to say a lot about his presence, however he has a kind of Elton John appearance without the feathers, hats and wild eyeglasses. And when asked about it post show he said, “Many have said that I should introduce something along those lines.” I bought his CD and will have it in the car when we are home. He’s a great entertainer that should be heard by any that like his brand of music. At the end of his performance he ripped into The Flight of the Bumblebee with his right hand and Boogied with his left - a fascinating sound that requires plenty of talent and practice I’m sure.
Yesterday was also a slow day for us, and a great deal slower for many passengers who partied hardy the night before last.
We continue on 210 degrees south west for the second day (it’s four days from Cochin, India to Seychelles) under pleasant warm conditions. For breakfast this morning Terryl suggested we might take a table in the sun, when Sundeep one of our favourites said don’t do it and added that we might be okay for a few minutes but in the sun it was to hot to enjoy our meal. Sundeep is quite young and comes from India, Terryl hugs him and I give him the closed fist hand shake recommended by Azamara to avoid passing on little buggies (of the bacterial type between passengers). He will be tipped (and so will Ihor) even though tipping is included in all of Azamara’s cruises as a matter of policy: one of the many attributes that attracts us to this cruise line.
January 3, 2019
Yesterday at 14:00 Chuck Richardson’s lecture The Intriguing Indian Ocean was all about those Tectonic Plates on the move over the life of this planet’s billions of years. This movement changes everything - albeit slowly - and it continues under our current Climate Change issues today. Among other things the warm waters of the Indian Ocean are moving into the Atlantic Ocean and the fish will go with it. I suppose this occurrence is not commonly spoken of, nor are the shifting plates causing Earthquakes and Tsunamis a hot topic. We are caught up on our Carbon Footprint and Plastic containers that will take 200 years to disintegrate, and the melting ice that will begin to eat away at our shorelines causing millions of citizens of many countries to move inland where the oceans have not gone….yet. In my view, Scientists and even Mark Carney the former Auditor General of Canada, and soon to be former money guru of United Kingdom are right: we had better do what we are capable of doing to protect our citizens and the planet, and to do it now. But will the politicians yield to their growing scientific knowledge and guide the world’s people at this time as the Tectonic Plates move a couple of inches and Earth’s inevitable change?
Today we continue to sail toward Seychelles under wispy clouds, blue sky and blazing sun at a temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Terryl will spend her Spa winnings on a nail fill at 14:00 and I will read and stay in the shade.
Terryl has made friends with Captain Filip’s wife and six year old daughter and we will soon have dinner with Nicola and Marianna while Filip drives the ship, makes the announcements, and generally is everywhere doing the job that he is very good at. Captain Filip also picked two of my photos for first prize in the Funny and Christmas categories. In acceptance, I did not mention the grand prize winning category on our Antarctic cruise in January 2019. I owe much to the Apple iPhone and the crew at Apple Store in Sherway who hooked me on photography and the digital process.
January 4, 2020
On cruise vacations one meets people; some you take to right away, and some you don’t along with others, whose names are never exchanged. Last night we bumped into Sandy and Cathy Aitken - right awayers - in the Discoveries Bar where we enjoyed a couple of drinks and lively conversation until one of us suggested we get a table for four. Sandy and Cathy are Scottish from Chapelhall, Airdrie which is east of Glasgow. They are over 60 years, own and run a B&B highly rated by Trip Advisor, and Cathy has a medical condition similar to Terryl’s that has them discussing remedies and a host of other issues almost nonstop. Sandy and I enjoyed talking politics and sports including plenty of golf until The Royalty subject came up, and then the four of us jumped in. It was fun and informative and the evening flew by.
Elton John’s music by the Quest singers and dancers rounded out the early evening. Unexpectedly, Terryl said let’s hear a little music in The Living Room and before we even sat down I started to dance and Terryl quickly followed and the room came alive. She still dances as well as ever - and loves it too.
January 5, 2020
A select group of Azamara guests were invited to a specially restaurant Prime C for a brunch hosted by Captain Filip and several of his Officers and Crew. We were greeted by our hosts and taken to our table and a Mimosa for two was there in an instant with coffee a few moments later. The food was distinctly sumptuous with variety, beautifully displayed and served by excellent waiters. A great start to our day.
We are crossing the Equator at 16:00 today with a ceremony planned on the Pool Deck. This is day four of our At Sea experience and will dock tomorrow at 08:00 at Seychelles. People say this is a magnificent place on Earth, one that you will love and never forget.
We arrived on schedule in Seychelles on a gorgeous morning under a blue sky filled with the most unusual cloud formation: all white with abundant coverage and an almost wall-like abrupt finish off the coast of our arrival in the Port of Victoria. Terryl has arranged a meeting with Gloria and Brian to hire a taxi and drive around to the tourist’s highlights and then luncheon at some swanky spot to be determined.
Seychelles is a country made up of 115 islands with a population of 95,000 citizens with 85% of them living on one island Mahé; and of course the capital (Victoria) is here as well. The temperature ranges between 24 and 32 degrees Celsius all year long, and the drinking water is safe.
Down the gangplank we go to face only three gentlemen offering tours in their air conditioned vehicles. I spoke with the first and his English was excellent and spoken enthusiastically about his Mahé Island. Somehow our focus was redirected to another man whose price was $25.00 less, and he was selected for our tour. On the trip he spoke infrequently and incoherently about the sights we were seeing, and at the same time he wanted to please and did his best while the air was turned on and off too numerous times as requested by the ladies - mostly the other lady in the back two seats while her escort was seated in the front. We saw one of their beaches which was as clean as a whistle with turquoise coloured water going out for 100 yards before it turned blue. And there are too many beaches to mention here. Mahé appears to be about 60 minutes from east to west, of wild turning roads going up and down hills that pass small houses and snack shacks on one side and another one that has ritzy hotels commanding the best views of their magnificent waters and mountainous terrain filling the island’s centres. A look at two Tortoise displays with signage proclaiming 200 year old animals was delightful. These are pet-able creatures who are fed and kept captive just for people like us.
Mahé greets its visitors with four giant windmills indicating they’re doing their part dealing with Climate Change. The island is clean and appears to be well managed by those who call the shots 4 degrees south of the Equator.
Creole is their first language but of course English is taught in their schools as well. They claim that Seychelles is one of the riches of African Countries - and that they are the happiest of people living on the African Continent. Our driver mentioned that this and that and the other are all paid for by the government, and furthermore when he retires he receives a 450 Euro pension for life.
January 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 2020 Seychelles to East African Coast
January 6, 2020
Azamara Quest left Mahé Island with a bang last night; they did it with a huge party that began with a fabulous Buffet dinner on the Pool Deck complete with local musicians and dancers that performed well into the night. Everyone seemed to be dancing except Terryl and me: we were bushed from the tour we had throughout Mahé and hit the sack by 22:00.
Today, once again the sun rose in a majestic sky with billowing clouds overlaying the island of Praslin, and we were on the tender by 10:00 sharp. After a fifteen minute 100 passenger tender ride and an Azamara arranged air conditioned bus (the temperature had to be 88 degrees F) for another 15 minutes we were on the pristine beach that put our Maché Beach into second place. At this time I cannot include photographs of sights we have seen, sensational water colours from beach sand, turquoise water, slowly developing light to darker blues that melt against the tropical skies of this Paradise. But in time both of my Apple devices will simultaneously have my photos magically jump via the cloud from camera to Mac (where I am right now). Suffice it to say that Praslin Island deserves the excellent beach resort reputation it has, and by us, one that it truly deserves. This beach had it all including shade, and no one pushing drinks down your throats either. www.tglf.ca has the prose and pictures we have alluded too.
We will begin sailing towards the second stop on the African Continent at 15:00 today. The weather promises to co-operate with no Cyclones or Tectonic Shifts in the forecast.
January 7, 2020
‘Big Red’ Meghan Murphy was on our tender yesterday afternoon - and on stage last night in a heavily sequin red dress belting out show tunes made famous by Ethel Merman and Barbara Streisand. When we spoke with her on the tender I asked, ‘are you the advertised entertainer tonight?’ She is a Chicago native traveling the Cruise circuit and loving it; however, getting to Seychelles by air had her missing connections here and there, and this time one of them lost her luggage. Her show stuff is never checked in, just like our medicine, and she was able to perform last night, and did it beautifully.
This morning we are on course 240 SW ploughing through smooth seas for the entire day with a few appointments, one being at 14:00 for Chuck Richardson’s Lecture Destination, Dar es Salaam which is our first stop in Tanzania, and another in the Cabaret Lounge at 20:15 with Stephen Millett and his song stylings. The rest of the day will be spent r.w.e.d. Reading Writing Eating Drinking and a little gym work for me.
Dar es Salaam is a translation of Cosmopolitan House of Peace where 4.4 million people live. For interests sake Lagos has 21 million and Cairo has 20.1 million as the largest cities in Africa. The Germans invested in this land through a company called German East African Company only to lose it to the British after WW1. The British used Indian labour at low low labour costs and over time the Indians have become affluent in this city of Dar es Salaam. The politics at one time leaned toward socialism but since the 1980’s Capitalism has directed their lives. 61% are Christians and 41% are Muslims. The language is Swahili spoken by 350 million with dozens of dialects trailing behind. John Magufuli is their President and is up for reelection in 2020 with a platform on anti-corruption and anti-family planning.
China has been their largest trading partner for the last three years because they want their rare minerals to make computers. Pretty smart those Chinese eh?
All the above is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson who said, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening mine.” And of course, Mr. Chuck Richardson who is paid by Azamara to travel the world talking about what he has learned just for people like you and me.
January 8, 2020
We met Ron and Bonnie from Vancouver Island last night, actually we had met on December 28, 2019 at the Spa’s draw for free services during this voyage. Bonnie’s name had been drawn one minute after she left for the rest room. ‘You must be here to win’ was their reply, so I said she was just here a minute ago and I think she should have it, don’t you? They gave it to Ron and he remembered me which led to a lively conversation about our lives and country.
A fascinating rainbow circled the sun yesterday afternoon for an hour or more, and Captain Filip, during his daily ship’s status report, spoke of the process of water forming into crystals circling the sun to create such a magnificent image a few degrees south of the Equator.
Today, we continue sailing to Dar es Salaam under cloudy skies and continuing warm air over smooth seas.
At 14:00 Chuck Richardson lectured on Zanzibar a semi autonomous part of Tanzania with Stone Town forming the other part. And yes the tectonic plates were at work 14 million years ago to split it off the mainland and form the islands. Stone Town attracts the tourists, possibly because it was a big part of the Slave Trade operation where these poor native souls where made to march carrying Ivory Tusks and other items from their homelands where all would be sold including themselves in the city of Stone Town. Oddly enough the greatest slave trader was an Indigenous native named Tippu Tip (1832 to 1905) who owned the most slaves. Today an Anglican Church is also built on the sight of The Slave Memorial in Stone Town.
Freddie Mercury of Queen was born in Zanzibar in 1946 and the city has appropriate places acknowledging his life, where Swahili is spoken, child mortality rate is 21% and life expectancy is 57 years. Take note of the spikes on some of the ancient large doors; they’re there to stop the Elephants from crashing into and knocking the doors down.
January 9, 2020
We are in the city of Dar es Salaam, home of 4.4 million people, docked, breakfasted, down the gangplank, and on a complimentary bus to the swanky Hyatt Regency Hotel by 10:00. This is our meeting place for Azamara’s passengers who are on their own (without an Azamara sponsored tour) in Dar es Salaam. After a little discussion with an attendant who fronted a taxi system we were on our way to Tinga Tinga Indigenous Art Centre about a thirty minute drive revealing some of city centre, the shore line with its huge sand bar, apartment buildings with laundry drying in the 85 degree Equatorial sun, and all in an air-conditioned cab for ten dollars per person including an hour’s wait and the drive back to the Hyatt.
Every Artisan we met and spoke with was courteous and politely invited us to view their art, take photos of their art, and, if were wished to include their faces in our photographs. The art was poignantly African: large and small, framed or rolled, sculpted or painted, but most of all, impressive and artistic. Facebook will see several pieces on a post later today. Unfortunately we couldn’t purchase a piece or two due to our lack of their currency, or the exact amount in USA dollars for which there was no change available from these charming, industrious and friendly people. For us we met only delightful and courteous artists who live for their work. But of course Trade and Barter are in play and important to their wellbeing. Perhaps our next stop in Tanzania will have us prepared to purchase and bring something home. The photos are visible on www.tglf.ca
January 10, 2020
Early in the morning several little boats manned by Zanzibar’s young people buzz by our ship waving in a welcoming way: this was a nice start to our two days in Zanzibar and Stone Town. We enjoyed a quick breakfast and off the ship we go to ride the complimentary bus into Stone Town where the usual characters are waiting to offer tours to the high points of interest for $20 dollars. Again we decide to hoof it just a hundred yards to, guess what, more locally made paintings, sculptures and the like that tourists need to see, and then bring home the stuff. We passed the Tembo Hotel and decided to enter the lobby and pass through to the beach where guests were swimming, sunning and generally enjoying the scenery and the hotel’s amenities. Along the shoreline about twenty yards in we found lounge chairs, tables and chairs, and benches under massive trees with huge leaves which, in a matter of minutes, protected us from the rain that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Terryl was invited to join a young man who was waiting for his parents and a planned tour. He was a lawyer who studied at the University of Toronto and lives in Vancouver. A delightful person who was eager to know more about us and why we were in Zanzibar. His mother had lived here; she and her family were revisiting for the first time in over 40 years.
The temperature was in the high 80’s, and with sweat dripping off my nose Terryl suggested we return to the ship and take another run at Stone Town tomorrow. But for today, we passed and photographed Freddie Mercury’s home (of Queen fame), and visited numerous craft shops, dropped into a small bank to break a few larger dollar amounts into smaller ones, and really enjoyed talking and joking with Stone Town’s citizens. And we’ll take a little taxi for the big tour as planned for tomorrow.
Both Stone Town and Zanzibar are semi autonomous cities in Tanzania with Stone Town being the early home of The Slave Trade out of Africa. Back then an Indigenous character named Tippu Tip (1832 - 1905) owned and sold more of these poor souls than anyone. We were also told that Swahili is spoken here, and to never eat their street food.
January 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 220 Tanzania to Maputo
January 11, 2020
After last night’s Ribeye Steak grilled perfectly in the Patio dining area, two Vodkas with a splash of triple sec and lime juice in the Den we hit the sack.
And this may hold some interest for you: I used the ship’s ATM yesterday to acquire USA Dollars for various reasons. The bills popped out as usual. Late last night I was informed that my USA Visa card had been shut down by RBC. Azamara asked if I would call the Bank in the morning and sort it out. A call to the number on the back of the card put me in conversation with a person in one minute, who, after a few introductory questions, determined that the ATM transaction in Zanzibar, Tanzania was suspect (perhaps by an automated process). Within a few minutes the card was reactivated. This is not meant to be an advertisement for RBC…only that I read it as a positive attribute for the protection of my credit when abroad. I also learned, coincidentally, while reading Matt Ridley’s book, The Rational Optimist is and I quote: ‘Whereas it takes a handful of steps to set up a business in America or Europe, that to do the same in Tanzania would take 379 days and cost $5,606. Worse, to have a normal business career in Tanzania for fifty years you would have to spend more than a thousand days in government offices petitioning for permits of one kind or another and spending $180,000 on them. Little wonder that a staggering 98% of Tanzanian businesses are extralegal.”
This morning we decided to relax on board, read more of Ridley, and enjoy a luncheon BBQ by the pool and make ready to sail toward Maputo, Mozambique at 17:00 with all systems go.
January 12, 2020
Another beautiful morning awaits us, then a surprise, Captain Filip announces ‘whales off the Port Side’ and passengers and crew head for the sighting. Terryl saw them but I didn’t.
Last night a very funny Comedian/Magician entertained a packed house while using several passengers’ necks to insert swords and other instruments to regale his audience. One of the necks belonged to an Aussie and the other to a Teacher who corrected his ‘Barbara and I’ to Barbara and me’ and got a great laugh for her work.
We are at sea all day and have selected a few items of interest to attend: a lecture on Maputo, Mozambique; a Jump, Jive and Swing brand new group of singers and dancers; a Wild Jewels enrichment seminar supporting foundation benefitting Kenya’s young people; and finally an Opening Night Party at 22:30, all of which will be time well spent.
January 13, 2020
We have some information and history of Maputo, Mozambique (the Capital of a Healing Nation) to share. We dock there on January 15, 2020. Let’s start with the population of 1.1 million with an area surrounding at 14 million. The current President is Filip Jacinto Nyusi elected in 2015, with their last President Samora Machel dieing in a plane crash in 1986 that appeared to be caused by opposing political views coming from South Africa.
In 1974 a military coup had overthrown the Portuguese dictatorship of Marcelo Caetano to achieve Independence - which they were not ready for - and in two years there was a civil war in which 1 million people died. Frelimo forces ran the show with the backing of the Soviet Union with a peace agreement during the fall of the Soviet Union. Today the country has evolved into a more Democratic-Socialist process of government.
Back in 1791 the Portuguese took control with a rather superior attitude over the Indigenous who were forced to live outside the city in a slum named Mafala. The governing Portuguese built a state-of-the-art Railroad system and Station (in Maputo) in 1916. [Take note that poorer countries lack quality, and have fewer Railroad Systems in the world according to 2020 statistics.]
Gustave Eiffel, designed and built all Tin and Steel houses here - can one only image how hot they would be under the sun’s heat.
Perhaps Jose Craverinha (1922 - 2003) is their hero who was a great athlete in his day, as well as the poet of Mozambique.
All land is the property of the state; one can own the building but not the land it sits on. And of course this hinders investment and promotes a lack of building maintenance with the state taking the building when the lease expires. All of this has made Mozambique into the second poorest country in the world; corruption is rampant, and slums and dumps are significant in Maputo.
Lastly, when the Cyclones hit the flooding is severe without the necessary infrastructure, but still, there is the odd Luxury Hotel peaking out of all of this.
Today is another sea day, however, Azamara has put on a display of Procedures, Processes, and day-to-day activities in all departments, all miniaturized throughout the Theatre this morning. Very interesting, indeed.
January 14, 2020
Last evening was a major treat for Terryl and me; the invitation to dine with Captain Filip and his wife Nicola was formalized and in our mailbox asking us to meet with his four additional guests in the Mosaic Cafe at 18:15 for a little sparkling wine and our first toast. The Captain and his wife look like they just stepped out of a movie scene; he is as handsome at 6’5” with a neatly trimmed black beard and black uniform as she is stunning in a beautiful one piece white snuggly fitted jumpsuit and long blonde hair. The evening was wonderful, the food and wines were superb, all served in Discoveries Dining Room with flawless grace by attentive staff over a period of three hours when we made our final toast to our fellow travellers, and to Azamara for the honour bestowed on each of us.
Today is another sea day before we arrive in Maputo, however, a medical emergency for one of the passengers was announced, and that we would be upping our speed to get additional medical attention in Maputo.
Furthermore with our current information - as well as new particulars not to be written here - we have decided to stay on board when we arrive in Maputo. Several days ago we had applied for Visas at a cost of $50 each to travel in Maputo and other parts of Mozambique. I doubt that we will get a refund; they need the money more than we do.
We’ll learn a little more about Durban, South Africa this afternoon, and this evening there is another swanky dinner for all of the guests hosted by The Officers of the Azamara Quest.
January 15, 2020
And another major treat for Terryl and me; last night we were guests of The Ship’s Officers and dined in Discoveries Dining Room with Adele who has worked his way into a management position with Azamara Cruise Lines. He’s a fascinating man whose birthplace was Casablanca - (the movie with Bogart and Bergman) - that brings in the tourists with Rick’s Place and other establishments almost as famous. Adele is a talker and five years away from retirement; he had plenty to say on every question, but especially on the one that asked, ‘When on the tour of the inside’s working departments, do you see the living quarters?’ His answer was quick and decisive - No, and for all the right reasons such as privacy for people who are front and centre for most of the day and night. Again, the food and wines were superb and delivered flawlessly by Tin (yes Tin), a skilled waiter just like Adele once was, and has trained Tin to be.
We are docked at Maputo, Mozambique this morning with Visas paid through the ship’s internal system, however we’ve decided not to go ashore for the eight hours we are here. Maputo does not have a good reputation. There is more corruption, crime, uncleanliness and other undesirable traits explicitly expressed by several authorities on board. So the plan is to get a full tank of gas and get on our way at 15:00 and boot it to Richards Bay in South Africa. We will sail right under a massive bridge built by the Chinese not so long ago.
January 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 2020 Richards Bay to Cape Town
January 16, 2020
With a wake up call at 06:00, room service breakfast at 06:30, and my walk to the Cabaret to see South African Immigration officers at 07:30 and be ready to board my bus to the Game Reserve, everything stopped cold.
Captain Filip is on the horn apologizing for the Pilot’s helicopter being a little late, additionally, that the Immigration Officers were a going to be little late, and he also stated that, ‘what can you do, this is South Africa?’ My read on all of this not a fault of Azamara's…so be calm, get in the line and relax. Many of my fellow passengers followed a different thought, and after a few abrupt words to line jumpers here and there we all left 1.5 hours later than expected.
My tour consisted of a two-hour air-conditioned bus ride to the Game Reserve, a two hour 4X4 (ten-seater) ride through 230,000 acres of mountainous waist-high grassy land with indigenous trees and plants to munch on - for the animals of course, and a two hour ride back. We saw White and Black Rhinos (they are the same greyish colour depending on the soil and water in their habitat), gigantic Cape Buffalo about the same colour as the Rhinos, Wharthogs slopping in a water hole’s mud and, two different breeds of Antelope and lots of birds, some of which eat the parasites right off the Rhinos’s backs. Others saw Zebra, but no one mentioned Giraffe, Lion or Elephant to make up the Big Five.
Terryl did not wish to do this tour because she’s done it before on real Safaris that went on for weeks.
My guide was a rather muscled young woman with eyes like a Hawk after having done this work for 17 years. She’d quietly yell out ‘Wharthogs at ten o’clock.’ Quietly because she didn’t want to spook the animals or us in the back seats. This reserve is not a zoo; everything is all about nature, predators and prey, water and food and seasonal mating. I have photographs shot over and around the shoulders of fellow passengers, but with the right cropping I may have some good stuff to show you. Please see them on www.tglf.ca
We arrived back on the ship at 15:30 (1.5 hours later than planned), and for any who were hungry the main Dining Room had remained open.
January 17, 2020
Last night after an evening meal Terryl and I found a front row seat in the Cabaret to hear an Aussie play a Guitar and a Didgeridoo, both instruments backed up by Igor’s five-piece orchestra. Bruce Mathiske’s music was marvellous, however I was pooped from those six hours doing the Game Reserve and couldn’t wait to get back to our room and hit the sack.
Today we have docked in Durban, one of South Africa’s largest cities. We hopped on the Shuttle Bus to a centre complete with the usual shopping, and things like sea world and other family amusements all reasonably close to one of their dozen coastal beaches. Our idea was to use a local bus for a three hour tour of the city, but after a half hour taxi ride getting to the bus we decided to nix it and return to the ship. Around 15:00 three monkeys climbed the ropes and boarded the Azamara Quest and went straight for the Navigational Deck and take control, to no avail. These little guys are a common sight in and around Durban.
At 19:00 tonight we will be on an Azamara sponsored complimentary tour to Durban’s Cultural Centre for cocktails, a Zulu original dance exhibition, a few nice words by Captain Filip and Cruise Entertainment Director Ernest, and then the half hour ride back to the ship. At 22:00 The Quest leaves for Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
For several reasons upon visiting the venue for the Zulu presentation the decision was made to host the event on board. It was a smash hit. The dancers and music makers were incredible as they moved about and thumped hell out of a dozen drums. Along the way, delightful young girls painted warrior-like images on faces of willing passengers: me included. I have a close-up of my mug which just might be my top personal photo for 2020. And then I thought you would prefer to see Alina.
January 18, 2020
Today is a sea day where there will be a lecture ‘Rounding The Cape’ at 14:00 and another appearance by Bruce Mathiske who we hope will be playing his own guitar and didgeridoo at his 20:15 performance. On my last post I failed to mention that his instruments did not catch up to his flight, and that he borrowed a guitar from Igor’s trumpet player, and, found a Didgeridoo in Azamara’s music vault. Of all the good luck, his instruments have been found and are being shipped to Cape Town just like the rest of us.
This afternoon at 14:00 we’ll have a lecture on Port Elizabeth and Cape Town provided by Chuck Richardson who, in forty-five minutes gives only the broadest strokes of their history with some present day evolvement as two of South Africa’s major cities.
“In 1814 the British take over peacefully, and the Dutch were rounded up and sent out of Cape Town to go east in Africa where the Xhosa, principally Indigenous lived. The British demand that Dutch is not to be spoken. Gold and Diamonds were the drawing card to South Africa. Cecil Rhodes organized De Beers in 1830 and pulled three tons of Diamonds (equal to 14.5 million carats) out of one mine in 1873.
The most famous present day African is Nelson Mandela who had been a terrorist, was jailed and finally released February 3, 1990 to spearhead anti-apartheid protests and in four years apartheid was eliminated by the African National Congress (ANC) and took power. Life is so much better today where Port Elizabeth’s population is 1.3 million, with whites at 9% of the population. Still, half of the total population lives on $5 per day.
Cape Town’s folded mountains, Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Signal Hill, and Lions Head highlight its unique topography. During Britain’s hey day in Cape Town the Indigenous were allowed to own a total of 7% of the land. I’ll close with these comments: South African penguin are unlike Antarctica’s and are declining in numbers, Right Whale can be seen, Ostrich are common, Architecture is of course principally British and Dutch, Stellenbosch makes great wine and the waterfront is a safe place to be.
I’ll find out about one of my primaries when we get there: that’s golf of course.
January 19, 2020
Last night our friendly Aussie Bruce Mathiske played brilliantly, and during a pause in his music he alluded to several conversations he’d had around the ship. Wouldn’t you know he was asked why he only wore socks, without shoes, while he played. “It’s because I didn’t want my constant toe tapping to be heard by my listeners.” Makes sense to me.
Azamara displayed a chocolate fountain, a dragon sculpture in chocolate with trays and trays of chocolate goodies for everyone as they left the Theatre.
Today we are in Port Elizabeth and docked. We decided to take the shuttle to its drop off point and see the sights. Frankly, it disappointed us: their were few people there and the crafts and art didn’t do it either. The WiFi was terrific and I cleaned up a lot of business on the computer, at which point we left and returned to the ship. Of all the warnings we have heard, there have been no incidences, until today. Two of our acquaintances, while walking down a street where met by a Security-dressed person who told them he had free tickets for them. He asked them to follow him, they did and when they arrived at an ATM two additional persons arrived on the scene and told them to insert their card and to do the obvious…both of these older people starting screaming and successfully ran away from these crooks. We’re told that Cape Town is much better than the other South African cities that we have visited. Let’s hope their recommendation holds water.
Tonight another party called ‘The White Night Party’ begins right after ‘The White Night Buffet’ at 20:00. Clearly, everyone is asked to come in White Clothing. I’ve got a long sleeve silky white tee shirt which will fit right in.
January 20, 2020
Last night the aforementioned White Night Party rocked. First, a fabulous meal, second, 12 locals dressed in Native Costumes sang and danced up a storm, and then the Entertainment Team took over with two hours of red hot music that were meant to dance too. They were terrific, the energy they have and with most of us dressed in something white amidst floating white balloons the night flew by as the seas bounced us around even more than the music.
This morning had to come, we are sailing around The Cape of Good Hope in choppy waters, all having been forecast with a recommendation to take the patch that helps with sea sickness. Terryl was talked into taking one - I didn’t think I would need it, and so far so good.
We’ll be packing up tonight, and when morning comes we’ll leave the ship and taxi to Mount Sierra Apartments in Cape Town. I hope we like it.
Cape Town, South Africa January 21 - 27, 2020
We came down and checked into our very comfortable one bedroom apartment that was fully furnished, fully equipped and met our needs perfectly.
January 22, 23, 2020
We are off on The Hop On Hop Off bus (this is routine for us in any new city) and from the city centre on the Blue Line head southeasterly on Rhodes Drive (could this be Cecil Rhodes the dude who started De Beers and his world famous uncut diamonds from South Africa in 1844?) and around Devil's Peak past Kirstenbosch and their National Botanical Gardens to our first stop. Hop on the Purple Line to Groot Constantia Wine Estate established in 1685. 763 Hectares of land were granted Simon van der Stel, and with slave labour he established this place which today is the quintessential South African Winery making 25% whites and 75% reds all in French made Oak Casks with Portuguese Corks - no screw caps or boxes sold here. Terryl and I enjoyed a tour of the estate and of course, a wine tasting that excited our palates and our knowledge all supplied by Jacques, who really knew his stuff. The tour of the wine making and storage was given by Victor who was attentive, a little funny and a wealth of information. I asked about one of Terryl's favourites: an unoaked Chardonnay? And he replied oh yes, but we never make it at Constantia. Our casks are all French Oak. Here's a link if you wish on South African Chardonnay
We continued on along the southern coast past Hout Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton, Bantry Bay, Sea Point, Three Anchor Bay, Mouille Point and off at Victoria and Alfred for some food and walk-about (shopping). We are going back to Camps Bay tomorrow.
And so we did get off at Camps Bay and did a little walk-about and then sat down for a cool one. We are across the street from a magnificent sandy beach reaching 100 yards into emerald green water. On our side of the street there is one café after another and all of them appeared to be prospering on a sun-drenched gorgeous day. However, we had plans in Victoria & Alfred waterfront and off we went to buy some tickets to the Nelson Mandela Museum (and his prison for years) for January 25, 2020. The museum wanted to see our Passports and said in no uncertain words, bring them with you on the 25th or you'll be denied boarding for the sail over to Robben Island. We had a full day and this cough that came out of nowhere, except that Terryl had it for a week, is wearing me out; we hopped into an air condition newish taxi and told him that Chantal (of Mount Sierra apartments) wanted him to treat us very well. We were in his cab for twenty-five minutes, Donat from French Guiana is his name, and the cab fare was 850 Rand ($8.50 Canadian).
January 24, 2020
Up bright and early with some OJ, coffee and fruit for breakfast, and down to the lobby where Chantal asked what’s up today. She called Donat for us and the three of us went to A Gem Store operation, secretly displayed in their driveway, and let them know we were here. The buzzers went off and in we go with Donat waiting for us while we looked at R250,000 (that’s $25,000 Canadian) diamond rings and necklaces for twenty minutes. Terryl simply stated that she wanted to think about it for a day or two. Of course I said okay and we politely excused ourselves and proceeded to the front door and out to greet Donat. Because of my nagging little cough I thought better of playing 18, or even 9 holes on Rondabosch golf course but that didn’t stop me from going there, entering the pro shop, buying the Tee Shirt, asking for a right handed 7 iron, going to the driving range, hitting 5 balls with my new Adam Bazalgette grip and swing, and in 25 minutes we went to the parking lot and hopped into Donat’s car and left to go to the magnificent Mount Nelson Hotel, only two blocks from ours.
This place is steeped in tradition and old world style, comfort and tried and true service. We casually walked in and with Terryl at the helm they were all over us with an escort showing us around inside and out. I finally sat down in a nicely shaded easy chair while Terryl cruised with a camera in hand. When she returned we ordered a glass of local Chardonnay and beer: both were fabulous with some nuts, olives and chips served complimentary.
Our next stop was Tom’s Mozambique and Portuguese Restaurant just up the street from Mount Sierra apartments. This was lunch consisting of 3 glasses of South African white and a shared plate of Seafood & Spaghetti. We loved it, and all for the cost of R250 or $25.00 Canadian. Life is good down here. I hope you have felt that as you read.
This evening we ate at Café Paradiso only 50 yards north of our luncheon. We were served by a lovely young lady named Memory. We hit it off instantly when I said I love your earrings. In a flash Terryl starting talking about earrings to match her necklace purchased in Durban that she just hasn’t been able to find. Memory said that she was going to a shopping area that has just what she’s been looking for. Here’s the deal: she is working Sunday between 09:00 to 16:00 and Terryl will see her and buy those earrings from her no matter what. Pretty nice I thought.
January 25, 2020
We have an early morning rendezvous with The Nelson Mandela Museum which will include a water ride to Robben Island where he was imprisoned for a long time. We can’t wait to see this valuable piece of South African history.
Donat picked us up and delivered us on time to see a brief moving picture of several of the former inmates including Nelson Mandela. The Tour at 11:00 was a sell out. While we were in line an attendant came to me an invited me to jump the line and take a seat; at first I said no thank you, but two minutes later I was in his offered chair. We boarded a rather large Catamaran and ploughed through calm water for thirty minutes, disembarked, and loaded into one of several buses to start the tour. As we drove a fine young man spoke and referred to us as my Good People over and over again. This place, Robben Island was discovered in 1488 and has had many uses; the most important was to lock away undesirables such as Lepers and Criminals. We passed by the Leper Graveyard with numerous comments from our guide and continued right around the island pointing out building after building and their place in the order of things over all of its history. All of this was labeled Part 1 of the Museum Tour. Part 2 started when we left his bus and were introduced to a former prisoner who had spent 18 years on Robben Island. He stood before all 60 of us and told of the detail involved in sleeping, eating, labour in the Lime Quarry, toilets, punishment and silence; and silence was most important for Political Prisoners who were the last group of inhabitants. The Real Criminals had far better treatment than the Political Prisoners. Nelson Mandela served 18 years with much of it at hard labour in the Lime Quarry where his eyesight was significantly damaged. We saw the tiny cells with a 1/4 inch thick mattress to sleep on, the bucket in the corner, and nothing else in these cubicles. We entered an open sky surrounded by four concrete walls that prisoners and their visitors lined up to talk to each other for ten minutes. They were ten yards apart as well. Additionally our guide mentioned that much of ‘A long Walk to Freedom’ was written between these walls by the one man who is exalted, praised and above all, the man who gave South Africa back to its rightful owners. That man, Nelson Mandela, and the people he encouraged to follow him, had used peaceful means - despite the blows and mistreatment they endured for hundreds of years - to bring about the democracy and well being that we see today.
Africa is all sorts of people from far away and original coastal regions, and with the migration of Africans from the interior to feed the Slave Trade, the coast of this great continent is now heavily populated. The Continent of Africa lost 25,000,000 men, women and children caused by the Infamy of the Slave Trade. The people that we have met on our journey are kind, friendly, fun loving, and go over the top to please. I said that to two black men that we were talking with, and one of them said straight out, “It’s in our blood.”
January 26, 2020
Today is the penultimate day in Cape Town and we wanted to do something relaxing and enjoy some fine wine and food. We were in Donat's cab heading to Cape Grace Hotel for a little look around during the noon hour. It is spectacular, with its Dutch roots and architecture in full display: attendants holding the doors open with a big hearty welcome, and two receptionist in place to answer any questions one may have. Terryl asked for a little tour before asking for the nightly rate. The receptionist happily took us around and when we returned to her desk, she hesitatingly discussed the rate with questions like the type of room required and when that would be because the rate depends on seasonal requirements. Basically it was from 9,000 to 15,000 Rand per night. Divide those numbers by 10 to have the equivalent in Canadian Dollars. We thanked her for her help and information and quietly left this beautiful place right on the Waterfront.
Only 100 yards away is a Food Experience place that looked enticing. All sorts of different foods by different vendors in a pleasant lively atmosphere was a good start when we dropped into a Sushi Place with the various coloured bowls circulating on a moving platform. We ate two dishes costed at $10 Canadian, enjoyed it and continued to explore. We stopped for a drink at Gingha restaurant and bar with outdoor seating and umbrellas. We spent three hours having cold ones and a little food; it was perfect and Terryl excused herself for 30 minutes to buy those exclusive earrings that will be perfect with her African styled hanging necklace. (Memory couldn't find just the right pair no matter how much she tried.) All is good and we left for Lord Nelson's Hotel and a final look at their beautiful huge Nassau Pink Verandah leading to a lovely garden and more sitting areas for their guests. It was the end of a perfect day.
January 27, 2020
It's another weather perfect day in Cape Town with temperature around 22C, an approximate temperature for their winter time. We have been on this journey for 49 days and I'm a little tired; we know that we have seen and learned about parts of the Globe that I had thought I would never see. Now if all goes as planned and prepared for we’ll be on an Emirates flight this evening at 18:25 and land in Dubai at 05:55 on January 28. We have a booking in the Dubai Airport's ‘sleep and fly’ for 7 hours only, and then find Terminal 1 for our Air Canada flight at 23:55 arriving in Toronto at 06:05 on January 29.
When I’m in my chair in Port Credit with my Cozy Desk and a hot toddy and biscuit in hand I’ll start to think about our trip and attempt a summary of sorts. But then, is a summary necessary?
Perhaps we’ll be on another adventure while the snow flies in PC.
Thank you for your interest; you've made my day.
We are indeed in our chair with Cozy Desk on July 4, 2020 reflecting on the specifics of our trip. All of the above has been copied, without photographs, from my website www.tglf.ca where I posted all of the above on a daily basis. Some said they enjoyed following our journey on Facebook and that they enjoyed my style of writing as well. To that I credit my days of study at Arthurs-Jones as well as York University and the zillion books I’ve read in the last 75 years.