Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ponta Delgada, Azores in Portugal – November 18, 2015

After three days at sea we are happy to see land.  We are up early and showered and dressed early and we go to the dining room for breakfast.  We are told there are no tables for two when we enter.  But when I look in I can see at least a dozen tables for two.  I really dislike sitting at large tables for breakfast cause it can take so much longer to be served and we are on limited time this morning.  I inform the hostess politely that we can wait – and low and behold a minute later a table appears.  I am sure she is told to discourage tables of two – which I bet she hates doing cause she knows the truth.

Caesar is serving us, and his assistant Julia – great naming pair. 

I ordered eggs and sausage and hashbrowns and Bernie got pancakes.  Now many of you may remember the issue with pancakes and Bernie, they are never hot when he gets them, in fact they are not even warm enough to partial melt the butter.  But this time they are piping hot and my eggs are cooked perfectly.  It was a great breakfast and again the Island Princess’ food is top notch.

Today we have a tour with friends (8 in total) with FestiTour and Antonio.  Antonio started this business a few years back and he was waiting for us just where he said, past the sliding doors.  A short walk to his van and we all pile in.  

We were to be 8 but one husband has that dreaded cough/cold that is going around and has stayed on board. 

The van is very comfortable, but we are 7 and I don’t really know where we would of comfortably put the 8th person.

Sadly the weather is cloudy with fog in upper areas Antonio informs us and visiting the craters/lakes formed from the volcano would be fruitless because we won’t see a thing.  

We trust him to take us where he wishes, but he does promise to see later on if it improves.

Our first stop is a pineapple plantation – who knew that they grew pineapples here but they do.  These are the smaller sweeter pineapples which we often find in the Caribbean. 

Antonio discusses the island and the areas as he drives; however he is quite soft spoken and I can barely hear him and I am right behind him.  I know those in the third row only heard about half of what he said.  So my only advice for him and the tour is get a mic/speaker system for the van so everyone can hear.

We are now on the North Side of the island and we stop at a beach.  Black sand beaches are the norm because of all the volcanos.  Today it is quite windy and there are two surfers out there. 

that large crowd is a Princess excursion.

The second largest town on the island is Ribeira Grand City and their town square.  Here we encounter two Princess shuttles (or I am hoping two groups because they were huge). 

We make a few more stops and especially enjoyed the waterfall stop.

We start making our way towards one of the craters but we encounter fog along the roadway and Antonio checks in with us and we agree that this would be useless.  We can’t see anything in front of us on the road, we certainly won’t see anything up on the edge of the crater.  We just have to come back I say.

Back down and Antonio finds a nice little picnic area and he sets up his picnic basket.  Table cloth, wine glasses, wine (red, green and white), cheese sandwiches, biscuits, and more.

This is perfect!  We start enjoying the food and drink while Antonio works as a gracious host making sure we all get something of everything, especially the wine.  Make sure to try the green wine that is unique to Portugal and very fresh and fruity.  This is the wine that our friend – also named Antonio shared with us one dinner.

After about an hour stop we are back on the road heading back to Ponta Delgada.  He drives around a bit showing us the different sites in town.  This is quite a large city with everything you could want and is very busy during the summer months with tourists from all over but especially the mainland.

Antonio drops us off right at the port gate at 3:15 (all aboard is 3:30).  So in all we have been with him for six hours and we really enjoyed the day.  Sure it didn’t go exactly as planned because of the fog but sometimes you have to throw out your plans and go with the flow. 

I can highly recommend Antonio and FestiTour to take care of you when you visit the Azores.

We notice another person is medically getting off – oh rough place to be getting off.  I am sure their medical services are great here but you are quite a distance away from Europe or North America.

Once on board we sit out on the balcony reading, enjoying wine and reminiscing about the ports we have visited.  It is hard to believe our next stop will be Fort Lauderdale in a week.  Everyone is all aboard and we actually drop the lines and we are heading out about ten minutes early.

This afternoon we watch the movie Mr. Holmes in the cabin and enjoy a short nap.  Around 7;30 we shower and head to the Anytime Dining room for dinner.

This is only our fifth time dining in the dining room this entire voyage.  And really I haven’t missed it mainly because the Horizon court is so darn good.  But it is nice to be back and we are sat at a table for two right near the entrance to the galley.  A bit noisy in there – I can hear singing and plates but it can always be worse – I could be the one cleaning those plates.

I start with a Moroccan Chicken Soup (very good and lots of flavour), a salad of greens and beets, and my entrée is a Falafel with humus and pitas.  LOVE IT – I love that there are more unique meals offered.  You can only eat steak and chicken so much on board.  

For dessert I had the Vodka Lime sorbet and again very flavourful and refreshing.

We don’t take too long to dine and we enjoyed seeing everyone in the dining room again.  Maitre D’ Jacques is a consummate host.  You see him all over the dining rooms checking things and even seating passengers at times.  He is a real hands on Maitre D’ and it is nice seeing him out and about.  He comes over and says hi and we both discuss our day in Portugal.  Upon leaving we finally run into Moises the head waiter that is married to Janice.  He just got on in Barcelona and we introduce ourselves.

After dinner the ship seems very quiet – it is just before 10 pm and we wander around a bit and then end up seeing a bit of the game show “are you smarter than a crew member”.  We decide to check out the comedian Scott Wyler in the Princess Theater.  I know we have seen him before but we still laugh at his jokes.  He is quite funny.  I especially liked his joke “I was told I would have a suite when I got on the ship, when I got to my cabin I commented where is my suite?  The cabin steward pointed to the chocolate on the pillow – there is your sweet sir.”

Tonight it is quite windy, the seas are moderate but the wind is causing the ship to bounce and sway and there is definite movement.  I am sure this could be an issue for some.  So far we are good and we are managing quite fine.

I will also add that we did get a health advisory notice in our cabin today.  There are a lot of people with colds and coughing on board.  The form advises you to seek medical attention if you are suffering with symptoms especially if you are older.  It also advises you to sneeze into a Kleenex or arm and then to dispose of it and to wash your hands.  

Key here is wash your hands.  But all of this is normal when you confine people to a ship for such a long time.  No different that kids at school spreading their colds. 

Again the clocks go back an hour tonight. It is enjoyable having that extra hour many nights in a row and they are spreading it out nicely.

Now we have six sea days in a row!  The longest we have ever had was five but I am sure we will enjoy each and every one of them.  Lots of activities are planned.

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