Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 80 - Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Monday, March 31

After a good night's sleep I awoke about 7am and could just see the outline of some hills through the fog so I went back to sleep.  Got up around nine and watched the morning show.  One of the lectures I wanted to hear was on yesterday at the same time as our Meet and Greet so I watched it on the TV.  I grew up enjoying musicals and the lecture was on the impact of Rodgers and Hammerstein on musical theatre.

When the shore excursions first came out, I thought I would do the trip to Hanoi but did not book it.  I am very glad I didn't because it was an 11 hour tour (it is three hours each way to Hanoi) and I just don't have the stamina I once did.  There were no other tours that appealed so I decided that I would walk around, take some pictures, and go back to the ship.

By waiting until 10:30 tours had left and those eager to get ashore had already taken the tender so I could go to deck one and get right on (I was the last one on and then we set off).  About five minutes across the bay and we got off on what had once been a ferry boat.  On shore there was nothing much but a few hotels.  I had seen some interesting buildings from my balcony so I thought I would walk a little along the waterfront and then return.

After walking for awhile I met Lynn (same dinner table) and she said she had been to the market  and showed me the beautiful beaded bag she had bought for $4.  She said it was about a mile and it was a hot walk (the temperature was forecast for about 77F/25C but the humidity had to be close to 95%).  I decided to give it a try.

I walked slowly, took some interesting photos, and watched out for the bugs.  Along the water there were some bugs that were about two inches long and swarmed in groups.  Ugh!

Finally got to a little town with small stores, caf├ęs, and a huge open-air market.  Stall after stall of items made here.  Since most had about the same things for sale it was hard to choose from whom to buy.  At random I chose one run by a young lady who fanned me while we were negotiating.  I ended up purchasing seven items (using the bundling method Frank likes so much on American Pickers) for $42.  I wish I had brought more money with me!  Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to do more shopping at our stop tomorrow.

Started back and stopped at a little cafe that had umbrella shaded tables and bought an icy can of Coke.  Got to talking with a couple from the ship who were at the next table.  The cafe owner came over to talk with us (and try to sell other things) and finally asked if we wanted to share a taxi back to the tender for $1 each.  Talk about an offer I couldn't refuse!

Came back and had lunch in the Lido and then took my purchases back to the stateroom.  Walked around the ship to get some pictures of Ha Long Bay from different viewpoints.

Sat in the World Voyage lounge and worked some on the blog and did a little knitting.  Then it was time for trivia.  Today's was really hard unlike yesterday's - I only had 7 out of 20 correct.

I finished the dreadful book I had been reading and returned it to the library.  I found a Ruth Rendell Inspector Wexford mystery that I had not read.  Checked it out and then went up to deck nine to be prepared for sail-away.  Started reading my new book and quickly became engrossed in it.  Read it until the light went.  Tours have been late getting back because the 6:30 sail-away did not take place until 7:45.  One of my dinner mates said the long Hanoi tour was two hours late leaving the ship due to immigration problems.

Tonight's show was a Beatles tribute band,  Beatles Experience.  They played the popular hits of 1962 - 1966.  At the end Amanda Reid (the entertainment director) announced we would be late getting into port tomorrow.

the "dock" for the tender

street scene

very little traffic

street scene

large, modern hotel (we were told that the Chinese like to vacation there)

street scene

street scene

shopping area

cell phone store

house boat

house boat

near the ship

People begging to those in the tender

note the dog on the boat

Smooth sailing until next time!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day 79 - At sea

Sunday, March 30

Fell asleep right away last night and slept well.  Woke up just after 9.  Watched the morning show (Laura "Sunshine" must have taken the weather with her as there was no weather forecast).

I was actually hungry for breakfast and had a Cumberland sausage and a blueberry muffin.  Then off to the Commodore Club where I renewed my soda card.  Worked on posting the blog while waiting for our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet.  We had ten people attend including a couple of people who embarked yesterday.

On the noon announcements the Captain finally gave the news that our stops in Egypt (Sharm El-Sheikh and Sokhna) have been cancelled.  I don't think many people were surprised - some disappointed but since most cruise lines cancelled their Egyptian ports months ago, hardly unexpected.  I had decided almost a year ago that I was not getting off the ship in Egypt anyway.  For me the good news was that we will be docking in Haifa, Israel.  As I have not been to Israel I am looking forward to it.  The actual schedule will be given to us later.

Lunch in the Lido and then I read for awhile in the World Voyage section of the Garden Lounge.

Then down to our Needlework/Knitting group.  We had about ten present, half of whom just embarked yesterday.

4:15 trivia was next.  It was the easiest one yet and I had 15 out of 21 correct.

We passed through a shipping lane going into the Gulf of Tonkin, so I went to the Commodore Club to watch.

Formal night tonight (we don't have many left) and the Black and White Ball.  We had seven present for dinner.  Went to the show.  It was Allan Stewart who was billed as a singer, comedian, and impressionist.  He has been on TV in the UK as well as theatre.  The audience went wild for him.

We turn our clocks back an hour tonight so extra sleep!

Smooth sailing until next time!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Days 77 and 78 - Hong Kong

Friday, March 28

I woke up early to watch the sail in but it was foggy and couldn't really see anything so I went back to sleep (first night I slept the whole night in the bed).

Woke up again around ten, watched the morning show and got ready for the day.  We are docked right beside the Star Ferry.  When you exit the ship you have to walk through this huge shopping mall called Harbour City.  It is supposed to have over 3000 shops and is a maze of stores.  Every high end name brand seems to have a shop here.  Sometimes people have to queue to get into the shop.  I saw this as we went by the Prada store.

When I finally found my way out of the maze (after having at least ten people ask me if I wanted custom made clothes) I was approached by a woman selling tickets for the hop on hop off bus.  I bought a two day ticket.  I rode around Kowloon today and will do Hong Kong Island tomorrow.

After riding the complete circuit it was time for a comfort stop and lunch.  I walked back to Harbour City.  The comfort stop was easy but finding a place to eat was not.  There is no "food court" where you can get various food with plenty of seating.  Instead, the restaurants are spread all over the huge complex and many of them had only a few seats.  Finally I found a burger place (no, not McDonald's).  I had a big burger, fries and a Coke.  They were very tasty but quite salty.  But the very best part was they had free wifi!  I spent almost two hours there!

After getting totally lost in the shopping mall, I finally found my way back to the ship (I could see it every once in awhile but could not get to it).  Had an orange juice and then to my stateroom for a few minutes with my feet up.

I was going to do the night bus tour but it was not included in the price of my ticket and I was too stubborn to pay extra for it.  So back to the ship, had a Pepsi and then back to my stateroom to work on the blog.

At 8:30, there was a Chinese folkloric show.  They did a number of dances, had a dragon that lit up, and some magic acts.

I then went to the Farewell Trivia (today is the last day of this segment of the World Voyage).  There were 25 questions - 5 each in five randomly generated categories (Literature, Movies, Sports, Geography, and Pot Luck).  I only had ten correct.

Time for a late snack (I was still pretty full from my late lunch) and then an early bed time.

Saturday, March 29

Well, the early bed time did not work out.  I was coughing, could not get comfortable, and my hip ached from walking.  Bed to sofa and then back to bed (propped up with a new configuration of pillows).  I finally fell asleep sometime after 12:33 (the last time I looked at the clock).  Moved back to the sofa around 3:30 and back into bed around 6:30.

Got up around 9:00 and was on the Star Ferry going to Hong Kong Island by 10 (the ferry only takes seven minutes).  Took the two Big Bus tours around the island.  As soon as I got on the first bus the rain started.  Around 11:30 the sky got as dark as night and it was very eerie.  A short thunderstorm came by and and then the sky lightened up but the rain persisted.

Unfortunately, I don't have any nice pictures of Hong Kong because of the weather.  Hopefully, I can come back again sometime (and have better weather)!

By the Star Ferry terminal I finally found a souvenir shop so I could pick up some things and spend the rest of my Hong Kong dollars.

Came back to Kowloon on the Star Ferry and then back on board for a late lunch in the Lido.

There was a vacant washer so I popped my things in.  When that was done there was an empty dryer, so another fairly painless washing experience (it's just boring waiting around for your clothes).

Up to deck 9 around 7:30.  There had been a number of people being called to complete the immigration process (for those who boarded in Hong Kong).  It got to the point where names and stateroom numbers were being announced.  Evidently everyone finally showed up (I would have been so embarrassed) and we sailed out just after 8 pm.  The buildings were beautifully lit and it was a gorgeous sail-away.

Seven for dinner tonight including two new ladies - one Australian and one Danish.  The show tonight was the introduction show so I gave it a pass.

Advert for the new Spiderman movie

Nathan Road

Advertising signs that span many of the roads

line to get into Prada

Star ferries with Hong Kong Island in the background

Folklore show




on board the Star ferry

a sampan

a mini grocery store

folklore show

location of the turnover of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese

Smooth sailing until next time!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 76 - At sea

Thursday, March 27

Slept well and woke around 6 am and switched to the sofa.  Awoke at 9 to a sunny day with calm seas.  Decided to sit out by the pool.

Watched the morning show as I got ready and was out by the Lido pool by 10:00.  While I was getting ready some clouds came in.  By 10:45 it was rather overcast.  I decided to read one more chapter in my book before going in.  By the time I finished the sun was out and the sky was a bright blue.  It got hot quickly even though it was only supposed to be about 72F/22C.  I did some swimming and had the pool to myself most of the time.

Came in about 12:15 and went to lunch about 1:15.  It turned very hazy again - I am not sure if it is weather related or the typical Chinese smog.

Sat in the World Voyage section of the Garden Lounge for awhile before going to Needlework/Knitting group.   We had about ten present.  One of the ladies brought her knitted dolls and animals that she is donating to the "Country Fayre" that will be held the last segment.  The detailed work was amazing.  We had to say goodbye to a few who are leaving in Hong Kong.

Then it was time for 4:15 trivia.  I've been asked how the trivia works.  You can play by yourself or in groups of no more than six.  There are usually twenty questions but sometimes multiple answers will increase that (for example, one question recently was to name the states that meet at the four corners - it was one point for each correct one).  The winning team gets a stamp in a prize booklet that is redeemed at the end of your cruise.  I don't know what exactly the prizes are.  Today's trivia was hard and I only had 8 out of 20.  Do you know the British inventor of the World Wide Web or the original name of a Snickers bar?

Time for an ice cream before a brief nap on the balcony.

The show tonight was a variety show with two performers I missed when I was sick - Pingxin Xu, a dulcimer player and Rebecca Nelson, a singer.  They were both very good.

Nine of us for dinner tonight.  Early night so I can be up to watch the sail in to Hong Kong.

Smooth sailing until next time!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day 75 - Xiamen, China

Wednesday, March 26

I had difficulty getting into a comfortable sleeping position so did not fall asleep until about 1am.  I was able to sleep in the bed for six hours before switching to the sofa.  Slept until just before 9am when I awoke and saw a skyscraper sailing past my balcony.  That was strange because we were supposed to dock at 8am.

We were just pulling up to the dock.  I watched for about an hour and then realized I was still sleepy so back to the sofa for another hour of sleep.

Watched the morning show.  Then it was time for an early lunch before my tour.  Saw Hilda and she is doing better.

I had chosen "Leisurely Xiamen" because it did not have much walking while I am still recovering (not overly fond of lots of walking when I am at my best).  We had received a note yesterday letting us know that the guides were not professionals so don't have great expectations.  Turns out our guide (English name Sarah) was a darling graduate student with very good English and a great tour guide.

We went to see Bailuzhou Park and saw the Egret Goddess statue (the egret was supposed to have founded Xiamen).  We saw a number of beaches.  There were a number of locals walking in the sand but I did not see anyone swimming (one of the areas had lots of trash in the water).  We also saw a  variety of places in old and new Xiamen and ended on a shopping street, Zhongshan Road.  I didn't buy anything (other than a Coke at McDonald's) but it was interesting looking into the old style, tiny stores and the larger, glitzy ones with western brands, such as Calvin Klein and Esprit.

It was a very warm day with a high predicted for 84C/29C.  I was amazed by the number of people walking around the city in sweaters and jackets!

We returned about 5 pm and I had a snack.  Then sat on the balcony for awhile watching people go and come.

Five for dinner tonight.  Went to the show (a comedian/impressionist, Paul Martell and his singer wife, Jane Scali.  They were pretty good.  After the show it was sail-away time (11:30) so I went up to deck 9 by the Lido Pool.  A very quiet sail-away.

Electronics for sale

Egret Goddess statue

on the beach

Department Store

Shopping street


Interesting vehicles

Another department store

Fast food

view from my balcony

more fast food

Wash day

Street art

dumplings for sale

a small store

another store

Smooth sailing until next time!

Day 74 -At sea

Tuesday, March 25

I slept really well last night although most of it was sitting up on the sofa.  I have finally gotten back into my normal "sea day schedule".

Up just before ten and watched the morning show.  It is cloudy and fog is increasing.

By eleven I was sitting in the World Voyage section of the Garden Lounge reading my book.

At 12:30 I moved to the Lido for lunch.  Finished my book, so I stopped by the library to return it and get a new one.

Time for a short nap before Needlework/Knitting group. I hadn't been in over a week and we picked up some new members in Japan (about twelve present).

Then to the pub for 4:15 trivia (13 out of 20 correct).  Time for afternoon tea after trivia.

It's good to have my routine back!

Tonight was a formal night, the Parade of Chefs, and the Masquerade Ball.  It is also the night when they have a choice of Beef Wellington or lobster (among others) and Baked Alaska.  The Beef Wellington was fantastic!

Watched the dancing for a few minutes.  The show was a repeat so I made it an early night.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 73 - Shanghai, China

Monday, March 24

Shanghai is the fourth largest port in the world.  It has had very close ties with the western world, being the second Chinese port opened to foreigners.  I spent a couple of days there back in 1988 so I have not purchased a shore excursion.

I had another restless night.  The first half sitting up on the sofa and the second sitting up in bed.  I did not cough as much, however.

I woke up at 8:22.  It is overcast with a hint of sun peeking through once in awhile but it cleared up during the morning.  Temperature highs predicted to be 63F/17C.  The shuttle ride into town is over an hour and I debated whether to actually go.  Since I was feeling better than yesterday, I decided to go into Shanghai.

As a chance to have a wander it was not very good.  The shuttle indeed took an hour and five minutes (as promised) to get us to the Silk Museum.  The Silk Museum, however, is not close to anything.  it was more than a mile walk to the Bund or other interesting areas or a taxi drive away.  I looked through the silk museum (most things were very expensive).  I spoke with some CC friends who had been to Shanghai on Cunard a few years ago and they said the shuttle stop was at the Bund (the waterfront area with many western style buildings dating from the early 1900s) then, which was very convenient.

On the other hand, the hour-plus ride gave an interesting overview of the changes since 1988.  High-rise buildings are going up everywhere.  The western influence was seen all over.  Many names like Gap, Marks and Spencer, Subway, Starbucks, Haagen-Dazs, and McDonalds can be seen.  Clothing has come a long way since 1988, too.  Back then, even in the cities like Shanghai, you would see many men in the Chairman Mao style jacket and pants and women in the sarong style dress slit up the sides with slacks underneath.  Although I'm sure in the countryside these may still be common, Shanghai is definitely 21st century clothing.

Probably the most amazing difference was the number of cars.  In 1988 almost all the cars (and there were not that many) were either taxis or government, black, boxy cars.  Today, there are many privately owned cars.   Yes, there are still a number of bicycles and motorbikes (and there are special lanes and traffic signals for them) but the roads are packed with cars and you can see new parking areas everywhere.  Surprisingly, there were a number of Buicks, some  Cadillacs along with VWs, BMWs, Mercedes, Peugeots, and the Japanese brands.

Returned back to the ship about 1:30 and went to lunch - my appetite is back!  Sat out in the sun on deck nine for some time.  Then I was going to take a nap but decided to work on the blog instead.

Bumped into my dinner companion who had to fly home last week for her father-in-law's funeral.  She had just returned on board.

Went to 4:15 trivia and did poorly (only 10 out of 23).  Went to the library to try to find another book but nothing appealed (I still have about 75 pages in my last one).

Sat on my balcony for awhile until the clouds increased and the temperature fell.

Only four of us for dinner.  Afterwards, I went up to deck nine for sail-away (there were about six of us out there).  Came back and watched us sail through all of the ships going in and out of the harbor.  I then turned on the TV to hear the sad news that Malaysian Airlines announced that MH370 was lost beyond doubt.

Old and new Shanghai

Some of the new buildings

along the Bund

TV tower

wash day

fast food

the front of a bank

close up of the decoration on the bank - not sure what the "sweet" has to do with a bank

old style street sweeper

Smooth sailing until next time!