We left March 29, 2008 for what we hoped to be a wonderful adventure aboard a cruise ship. Although we are experienced travelers, this was our first cruise. Due to Joann's motion sickness, we never really thought a long ocean voyage would be something she would enjoy. However, we decided to give it a try.
Our adventure began in Ft. Lauderdale. We boarded the MSC Lirica and after making three stops in the Caribbean, headed across the pond to Portugal, Spain, France, England and Amsterdam.
Disembarking in Amsterdam, we traveled to Belgium and Paris. After spending two days in Antwerp and three days in the City of Light, we flew back to the US.
Stayed tuned to discover if we survived the ocean crossing!!!
Monday, May 5, 2008
Our flight from St. Louis to Ft. Lauderdale via Memphis was on time and without incident. This being our first cruise, we were not sure of the check in procedures. We had read online reviews about check-in problems and delays. However, we were picked up at the airport and transported to the ship terminal without any problems. Our check-in procedure was smooth and efficient, and we were in our stateroom within one hour of arriving at the ship terminal.
We set sail from Port Everglades about 7:00 PM on Saturday, March 29, 2008.
Our second night at sea was the first of four formal nights. It was a cocktail reception hosted by Captain Romano.
We are finding our way around the ship, and surprisingly, not experiencing any motion sickness.
After 2 days at sea, we arrived at San Juan our first port call. The ship docked at pier 1 about 7:00 AM. We disembarked around 9:00 AM and found the visitor center close by. We obtained maps of Old San Juan and learned of free transportation to the historic forts. "Free transportation" was the key phrase.
After leaving San Juan and cruising all night, we arrived at Antigua about 9:00 am on April 2, 2008. Antigua was a British procession before gaining its independence. It doesn't seem as prosperous as San Juan. We hired a taxi to drive us around the island. That is recommended if you want to see the island in a short time. Eric, our driver was very friendly and knowledgeable.
We arrived in Martinique about 7:00 am on Thursday, April 3rd. after leaving Antigua and sailing all night. Martinique is French speaking and residents hold French citizenship.
Again, we hired a taxi to tour the island. We found taxis to be an excellent alternative to guided tours provided by the ship. They are less expensive and the drivers are as knowledgeable as tour guides. We were given all the time we wanted to explore. We visited the Balata Gardens where the picture of the flower was taken.
The next 6 days were at sea. We left the calm waters of the Caribbean and headed northeast across the Atlantic Ocean. The seas became less calm and as we left the Tropics, of course the temperature became cooler. These days were spent on ship sleeping late, taking part in ship activities and of course, enjoying the food and drink.
After six days at sea we arrived at Funchal on the Island of Madeira. With the help of a tailwind we made port 12 hours ahead of schedule. This gave us more time to explore the Island. Our Captain made the local news when he docked the ship in heavy seas rather than spend the night anchored off shore.
Our second European port was Vigo, Spain. We arrived at 9:00 am on Saturday, April 12th. We spent the day in Vigo exploring the narrow streets and exquisite architecture. In each city we visited we mailed postcards to our three grandsons. It became quite an adventure to buy postcards, address them and find a post office to buy stamps and mail. We became quite adept in indicating what we needed to the postal clerks.
We arrived in Dover on Tuesday, April 15th. 2008. Dover Castle sits high above the harbor and provides a magnificent view of the surrounding area. The Castle, of course, dates back to medieval times but also played an important part during World War II and the Cold War. It was here the evacuation at Dunkirk was planned. During the Cold War it was a secret British installation. The white cliffs of Dover are spectacular.
We arrived in Amsterdam Wednesday, April 16th. 2008. This was our port of debarkation. From Amsterdam we began our land tour to Antwerp and Paris. The Captain and crew gave their farewell cocktail reception. We said good-by to our wonderful servers and cabin stewards.
Bastogne was another of the highlights. It was an all day bus ride from Antwerp to Bastogne to visit the World War II city made famous by the 101st. Airborne Division. Their refusal to surrender and subsequent rescue by Patton's 3rd. Army spelled the beginning of the end for the Germans in the Ardennes and the Battle of The Bulge. There were two Battle of The Bulge veterans on the trip.
Here is a 90 year old Battle of The Bulge Veteran