Still, and seemingly forever, at sea on Saturday, March 26, we saw a lot of people at the desk but it was pretty much all chit-chat.  We still need waivers from a couple of people, both of whom say they have signed them.  They just haven’t delivered them.  

The ship has been pitching and rolling, but its stabilizers are very good and we are all fine.  This is the view from the window behind our desk:

The water line goes all the way up the window and disappears, too.  It’s impressive to watch.

My email brought the menu from our Funchal tour guide, which I shall be pleased to publish in tomorrow’s newsletter.  Today, it was all logging and blogging. 

We had Happy Hour and then we all went to dinner in the dining room.  A lot of our people were at that Happy Hour, because it was the best yet and the word was out.  We finally got to see Michelle Montuori and she’s great.  She got a lot of people up dancing.  The dancers from the show were available as dance partners and our Cruise Director, Peter Roberts even sang.  He made a very good Beatle.  The after dinner entertainment was George Clancy again, and this time I stayed awake.

On Sunday, March 27, we were supposed to be in Punta Delgado, but that was not to be because of the weather.  The captain is concerned about damage to this pretty ship and its lovely passengers.  So, on we sail.  When we finally get to Funchal, we will have been 9 days at sea. 

I Played Bridge again in the afternoon.  T’was fun.  Happy Hour was small and we had a nice dinner with Pat and Mike and Pat and Toby for dinner.  We saw the pianist, Linda Gentile, again after dinner.  The bloody clocks moved forward another hour. 

Forever at sea on Monday March 28, we had more office hours, where a lot of small unreportable things happen, all pleasant enough.  And we got a newsletter out focusing on the tour. 

We had a nice lively happy hour and dinner with Pat & Mike and Pat & Toby at Jacques, Chef Jacques Pepin’s signature restaurant on board.  It was absolutely delicious and I made a total porker of myself.  I had a cheese soufflée, followed by onion soup gratinée, roast beef and chocolate mousse for dessert.  A very good chocolate mousse, I might add, darkly.  We took in the Broadway show in concert, while downing a club soda, in an attempt to settle that lot.  It worked, more or less.  We had to be up early next morning.

Tuesday, March 29 was the date of our Distinctive Voyages Shore Excursion in Funchal, Portugal.  Our 49 people who were coming on tour all made it into Jacques between 7:30 am and 8:00 am and we were ready to go off.  We weren’t meeting a bus.  We were meeting seven Land Rovers, with seven nice young driver/guides.  There was an 8th Land Rover, containing TrueSpirit’s manager, and a film crew with a drone.  They had photographed Marina coming in to port and were coming along to get more shots of our tour. 

Off we went.  Our first stop was the “Skywalk” that had struck fear into my travelers when first they read the tour description.  It turned out to be a piece of cake and it had excellent souvenirs.  Standing on my balcony overlooking Peel St. is scarier. 

It didn’t take long for the reason for the four wheel drive vehicles to become apparent.  This is mountain goat country.  These two little guys were right beside the road posing for us, as we wended our way up into the mountains. 

There had been a lot of rain and the road, which wasn’t very wide in the first place, was washed out in a couple of places.  Our drivers had to get out, scope the lay of the land and maneuver appropriately.  One lady, in my jeep, had her head buried in her lap and came up muttering “I want my money back”.  My instant reply was “You already have it.  It was free.”  That happened early on in what turned out to be a fabulous tour.  She and everyone else was very happy with the tour.  The reviews are great.  Our new supplier has definitely scored. 

Our second stop was a tiny little enterprise that made honey.  They had a wonderful deck to look out from and the best honey most of us had ever had.  Some of it was inside dark chocolate and it was to die for.  This is a new enterprise and very small.  They didn’t have any for sale.  We would have cleaned them out if they had.  Maybe someone else did that yesterday. 

On we climbed through the terraced vineyards, placed wherever they could be.  Take a look at this: 

Up near the top was the winery and they had quite a bit or wine for us to taste.  We were very happy when we left there.  Lunch was another room with a view.  It was a revolving restaurant, with both sea and mountain views.  The food was good and the wine flowed freely there too.  Too bad I am barely drinking anymore.  Not that I can when I am working, anyway. Got a lot of pictures of happy people, though.  As usual, I got my pictures during the salad course. I never touch the stuff so it’s no hardship.


We piled back into the jeeps and proceeded to Madeira to taste — you guessed it.  About 6 kinds of it, no less.  TrueSpirit had more to show us, but I had to remind them that we were due back at the ship at 4:30 pm to sail at five.  It was a wonderful day, and, when I went through ship’s security at 4:45 pm, there were only 4 passengers still out.  We certainly made the most of that port. 

Believe it or not, we were at Happy Hour at 5:30 pm, and there were a few people with us.  We only wanted a buffet dinner after that day, and a couple of them joined us.  I had the lightest dinner I had had yet, mostly sushi, and was up a good part of the night digesting it.  It happens.

Back at sea on Wednesday, March 30, I sent a thank you email to TrueSpirit and got a reply back that they were so happy to have had our “enthusiastic and joyful group”.  I like that we are referred to that way. 

It was a bit of a zoo at the desk because Oceania was having a County Fair, which should have been held in the pool area, but, well, the weather there was far from cooperative.  The Captain announced that we were now going to miss Marseille, too, because of it.  That’s three ports cancelled.  We have been at sea 12 days and only seen 2 ports.

I stayed at the desk and finished a newsletter to send around with the comments cards, which Tricia duly delivered.  We had a nice Happy Hour and dinner at Toscanna with Pat and Mike and Pat and Toby.  I liked Toscanna a lot.  We went to the show, too.  It was Dimitris Dekavallas on the Spanish Guitar.  Go figger. 

On Thursday, March 31, we docked in Malaga, Spain. This is only the second time we have been on shore, and the third time for the ship.  We had skipped the first day on the private island in the Caribbean.  Malaga is a nice city and I can usually have a lot of fun just walking around and taking the Hop On Hop Off Bus.  The six of us, Pat and Mike, Pat and Toby, Tricia and I did exactly that.  The plan was to ride all the way around and those who wished could get off at the ship, while the others went off seeking adventure.  The others turned out to be just me and it wasn’t my best decision.  I had chosen the downtown stop I wanted to get off at on the first round and, when it came around again, I duly alighted. 

It was raining lightly but not so’s you’d notice under the spreading trees that lined the boulevard.  Not until the sky really opened, that is.  It poured.  I made a run for the Santander Bank because I needed Euros anyway. 

The cheapest way to get local currency is to stick one’s debit card into a local ATM, and Santander is the big Spanish Bank.  The ship was offering Euros for $1.17 US plus a 5% fee.  I expected to do better.  Not quite.  Santander’s rate was $1.20 plus a 7 euro fee.  On 100 euros I would have been better off with the ship.  So, I took out 300 euros, just to make it worthwhile.  I’ll be able to use them in the summer.  It will be interesting to see what the rate is then.  Some days I am more brilliant than others.  Some days I should stay in bed.

Strolling around downtown in the pouring rain is not my idea of a great time, but I still wanted my churros y chocolate.  I got back on the HOHO bus and got off at Il Corte Ingles, Spain’s big department store, where I used to buy shoes for Elvon.  It made a nice rainy afternoon browse.  I went to the Café on the 6th floor for my churros but you can’t have them until five pm and I had to be back on board before then.  I settled for Iberico ham and eggs and very greasy potatoes, which repeated for hours.  I did get my cup of hot chocolate, though, and it was wonderful.  Spanish hot chocolate is like warm dark chocolate pudding.  Unctuous is the word that comes to mind.  It’s my treat whenever I am in Spain.

I was back to the ship by about three-thirty.  We did Happy Hour and dinner in the dining room, saw the show, a repeat performance by Chris Ritchie, and called it a day.  

Still at sea on April 1st, no one noticed it was April Fool’s Day.  Not a soul.  I always used to like the mixed up rugs with the days on them in Holland America’s elevators, but Oceania didn’t mark the day and no one said a word. 

It was quiet at the desk, just social calls from passersby.  I wrote one more Newsletter to remind my people that there is money to be won for filling in the Comments Card and that we are having a Farewell Dinner on the last night. 

Happy Hour was good again.  It’s always the same core group but the ones that come like each other and it’s a nice way to wind down the day.  We ate at Polo Grill with Pat and Mike and Pat and Toby.  The service was better but the wow was gone the second time.  Jaded, we are.  Dimitris, the Virtuoso Guitarist was back on stage and that was a nice end to our day. 

April 2nd was another sea day.  It was supposed to be Marseille but the weather has kept us offshore here, too.  The Mediterranean in bad weather is more of a chop, where the Atlantic was large swells.  Marina rode both out admirably, but she wasn’t going to try docking.  More’s the pity because we were really looking forward to our stop in Provence.

So there were more office hours.  A couple of women traveling together came by for a fun chat.  They have a cousin on board who actually found himself a girlfriend.  There is hope.  More hope for the guys than for the gals, by the numbers, but hope, none-the-less.  I updated the tally of Comments Cards in, printed and cut up entries for the drawing.

Happy Hour was fun and the show was great.  I love the all-singing, all-dancing production numbers.  This one was called “Dancin’ Fool”, so you can imagine. 

Sunday, April 3, we docked, in Monte Carlo, across the harbour from the Yacht Club de Monaco, like we were supposed to, for once.  I had one phone call to deal with, from a passenger who had heard that when a ship misses three ports, there might be some insurance compensation to come I the form of trip interruption.  She wanted a letter on Oceania letterhead, describing that had happened and naming the ports.  I emailed the Executive Concierge and she was happy to comply.  I wonder if it worked. 

The weather wasn’t perfect but it was acceptable and I was taking a couple of my people to the YCM, as promised.  I had a couple more takers earlier on, but they decided it was too much money to just spend on Brunch when they could give it to the Ukraine.  So, the three of us walked over to the club, past the grandstands for the Grand Prix, in various stages of completion and the mega yachts.  We took pictures of each other on this exclusive spot. 

Then we went in to Brunch.  It was wonderful, not as wonderful as pre-COVID, where the food was on display for ogling and photography, but still wonderful.  We were served our oysters on the half shell, lobster, smoked salmon, sushi, sashimi, carpaccio, multiple salads (not me) torchons de foie gras, on and on.  And those were just the starters.  We partook lightly of the main courses and saved room for dessert.

Yes, I really ate the four of those.  I was in heaven.  It was a Champagne Brunch, of course and the Moet et Chandon flowed into our glasses from jeroboams, throughout.

And I learned something important.  The last time I brought people here for brunch, there were eight of us.  The club gave us a private room and charged us about $250 each.  This time we were seated in the main restaurant, and charged about half as much.  It was even more fun, too, as we could watch the fashion parade that was the buffet line.  The little boys in $300 shirts and $800 shoes, were particularly endearing.  Their fathers were in jeans and $2000 sports jackets.  You can just imagine what the women were wearing, just for brunch at the club, you know.  My numbers are probably low.  I don’t shop in those places much.  I did buy myself the YCM silk scarf for $200, though.  I’ll have it for the rest of my life and it’s red and white. 

After all that food and champagne, it’s a good thing we were walking.  I didn’t even have time for a nap because there were phone calls to return about dinner tonight and the drawing to arrange.  There were at least twenty people in Horizons for Happy Hour.  I was running back and forth to the Dining Room with late dinner reservations, etc.  In the middle of it all, we made the lucky draw and it was won by a person who “never wins anything”.  Luck changes. 

Seventeen people come to our Farewell Dinner.  I had consommé and a baked potato and the lady who had come to the YC with me had a couple of French fries.  We were pretty done in.  Tricia was fine, of course.  She had gone touring with Pat and Mike and Pat and Toby, our original friends from Santa Rosa.  We are all friends now.

On Monday, April 4, we disembarked in Civitavecchia, port for Rome, Italy, and that’s the next installment.