Sent from on board the Rotterdam in port in the Canary Islands
The ship trip begins!
Itís a holiday today in Morocco, the commemoration of the march of November 1975 when 350,000 Moroccans marched in peace into the Sahara to reclaim the southern provinces from Spain. We have been placed on a temporary holiday from our vacation, not in commemoration of anything. Bob became ill last night after dinner and this morning was too sick to take our 13 hour shore excursion to Rabat and Fez. In order to get a refund the infirmary had to confirm he shouldnít travel. They did, and that meant that as his cabin companion I had to be pulled from the tour as well. We are currently confined to our cabin for a minimum of 24 hours. His food intake is limited to water and clear liquids, like broth or jello.
It wasnít clear how the shore trip would actually work. We were originally scheduled to be on the bus and underway by 10am in order to return to the ship by 11pm. The ship is due to depart at 11:30. Due to fog and other conditions I could see from the thermal spa (which is directly under the bridge) we didnít actually dock until 10:30 and no one was allowed to leave the ship until 11:15. Obviously elements of the expensive and extensive trip would have to be curtailed anyway in order to meet the departure schedule. So perhaps weíre not missing as much as we might have. Either way its very annoying, particularly for Bob.
I spent the morning working on record liner notes for Jean Dantonís new CD of Robert Schumannís Dichterliebe (in the new version by poet Elizabeth Kirschner that Jean premiered last year). It will be something of a kick to see the notes with their signature including "Casablanca, Morocco" but it wonít relieve the annoyance of being deprived of what is probably our only opportunity to see this part of the world. Well, thatís life. As the dock area is completely enshrined in fog on a very overcast day, I canít even get a decent photograph of the city from here. Itís as though we never came to Morocco at all.
5:30 on 11/6
The first tour bus just returned to the ship and I got up to look at the faces of the people getting off only to see them through the blurry lines of rain water accumulating on the window. Just as in Fatima two days ago, weíre caught in a rain pattern that is highly unusual and unanticipated. At least being confined prevents any more wet shoes, stained hats and muddy pants cuffs. Bob has slept most of the day; I got him up to eat some beef bouillion and stretch his legs, but the sleep is clearly what he needs most. Iíll have to see what the evening brings.
11:39 on 11/6
Weíre away from the dock. I suppose everyone returned safely from their trips ashore. We ate in the cabin, watched movies (Me), slept (Bob). A hard day, most unsatisfying. Still, itís over now.
At 9:45 the health department cleared us for full activity again. Bob is bitter but resigned. I found the day, ultimately, peaceful and restful and was looking forward to this first full day at sea. We attended an informational meeting, took care of some business, including getting fifteen free minutes on my time plan for the Internet. We also discovered the horrible secret of this ship, perhaps of this cruise line. While most cruises are touted as "all-inclusive" which hardly ever includes liquor or shore excursions or shop purchases - this one is anything but. A bottle of water for your room costs $1.15. Coffee in one lounge starts at $1.50 but you can find it free in other lounges. Boarding photographs cost $19.95 while other pictures cost $15 or $10.95 - it "depends upon the event" we were told. Everything on this ship costs more money. Itís as though they are not passenger-oriented any longer but rather are focused on the pass-through consumer concept: GET THEM WHILE YOU CAN AND GOUGE THEM FOR AS MUCH AS THEY CAN AFFORD. Itís a pity, really, for the ship is pretty, if laid out strangely, and the staff couldnít be nicer. After a mediocre lunch in the restaurant we spent 90 minutes in our private spa - the Thermal Suite. Most refreshing and tonight is the first of three formal nights aboard, so its free champagne - we think - and wear the tux. We may even try the show after dinner and see what this line has to offer in the way of onboard talent.
11/8 - 12:09AM
Now we know. Letís just say ten people, a six piece band, three techies, a stage manager and a loud click track presenting an hour-long non-stop trainwreck about Monte Carlo survived two consecutive shows with a break of an hour and a half and so did we. If the ghost of Edith Piaf doesnít wreck this vessel tonight it will be a miracle.
We took a leisurely stroll around the deck - yes, we finally found a deck you can actually walk on around the circumference of this ship - well almost all the way around. There was a moon, delicate waves, very few people and no noise. It was a lovely preamble to an accidental gathering on Deck Two with our four Vantage "hostesses" where I revealed my background and Bob revealed his. All agree that the cruise industry is not what it was two years ago. Our fellow passengers, many of them anyway, concur as well.
Our room steward left me a gorgeous swan made of towels on the bed. Something I had to photograph.
Weíre in Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands by six. I will try to send out this section - no photos, and move into the next phase - island visits over the next six days.