We booked this cruise because we had fallen in love with the ship and the crew on our fall trans-Atlantic cruise on this ship. We wanted to come back to the Ryndam and whoever said 'you can't go back' was very wrong. This cruise was even better than the first time.
To start our holiday we flew with WestJet from Moncton to Tampa - a good flight. Comfortable seats and excellent in flight staff.
We have had this cabin for four cruises now - the fall trans-Atlantic, the spring trans-Atlantic, the round trip from Barcelona, and the Barcelona to Dover trip.
We were offered an upgrade to ocean view for part of this last vacation but did not take it as we are very comfortable in this cabin. It is in an ideal location as far as we are concerned. It is a comfortable size and had loads of storage room. It is quiet and about midway between the atrium and the stern elevators. There is a laundry room just down the hall - but not close enough to be noisy and we only have to go a few steps to go out onto the promenade deck and walk around or sit on the lounge chairs. We have the advantage of a 'balcony' that covers both sides of the ship that way. We like being reasonably close to the atrium as we can play Sjoelen when we like as well as take advantage of one of the large desks there to either work on the computer or play cards.
Ponta Delgada is a great place to visit at the end of an Atlantic crossing. It was our first port of call. We have been here many times and thoroughly explored the city as well as toured around the countryside on past visits. This time we just wanted to get on land for a few hours and stroll around. There are several churches that are interesting to visit, we love the pretty patterned streets, and it was lovely to see flowers in bloom - having left winter behind at home. We stopped in a few shops and picked up some odds and ends, visited one of the churches and enjoyed our walk.
Seville is listed here as it is possible to visit there from our port of call - which was actually the lovely old city of Cadiz. For some unknown reason - Cadiz is not listed as a port of call. We have been here before and thoroughly enjoy the city.
The first thing we did on leaving the ship was walk to the pick up site for the Hop On Hop Off bus. We have not used the HoHo before and this time we did. We went all around the full route and then back the second time and got off the bus at the Cathedral. There are great views of the city from the top of the Cathedral - as we discovered on our last visit here. This time though we decided to stroll down past the Cathedral and over to the mercado (market). Along the way there were a variety of little shops and also other sellers with stalls out on the street. Dave picked up a lovely mirrored compact for me and the seller engraved the back with my name while we watched her. A lovely souvenir of our visit there. At the market we strolled around looking at different stalls of fruit and vegetables and meat and fish and eventually found a stall selling Tapas and next to it a seller of wine and cheese. We purchased our lunch and sat on a bench in the sunshine enjoying our feast. What a lovely memory! After our lunch we strolled back to the Hoho bus stop near the Cathedral and boarded it to take us to the Botanical Gardens and alighted there to stroll in the Gardens for an hour or so. Back on the bus and to the main part of the city where we had boarded and we strolled around the different squares taking pictures all the way. When we had started on the HoHo bus we passed the port and could see "The World" docked there. That is the 'apartment ship' whose residents vote on where to travel to next and go where the action is. We have seen it before at Greenwich - it certainly gets around. Eventually we headed back to the ship. There are some lovely self-guided walks around Cadiz and it is well worth many visits - not bypassed as just a gateway to Seville.
Barcelona is an old and familiar friend after many visits here. This time we decided to re-visit some old favourites here. Normally we would take a shuttle through the port and then walk on foot - but Dave has had foot problems since leaving home. This time we took a taxi from the port to Santa Maria del Mar (the Cathedral of the Sea. This is a wonderful church - very simple and elegant - but also interesting because of how and by who it was built. The longshoremen of the 13th and 14th century had a hard and dangerous existence. There were not docks and equipment - men rowed in little boats our to ship and physically loaded it into the boats to row ashore. These men decided that they wanted a church of their own near the sea. The went to Montjuic and hauled the massive stones down from the mountain on their backs to build their cathedral. It is a testament to their faith and devotion as it was definitely a labour of love to build. In Barcelona - this is a cathedral well worth a visit - and it is easy to walk through the Gothic Quarter to get to it.
After our visit there - we headed back towards the Gothic Cathedral - stopping on the way at a small cafe for a drink and a snack and to sit and rest and 'people watch'. When we reached the Gothic Cathedral we visited it again and then explored all the market stalls in the square by the cathedral. Certainly all sorts of items at a wide variety of prices for sale. We then headed off to the big market at the foot of Las Ramblas. We have purchased goodies there before and had thought of trying to find some sugar-free Catalan chocolate When we found that the price was $30 for a pound of it - we lost interest. I do love seeing all the beautiful fruits and vegetables there at that market.
We strolled down the remainder of Las Ramblas to the Christopher Colon statue. For those who did not know - it is possible to take an elevator inside the statue and have a fabulous view over the city for just a euro or two. We headed back to the shuttle and returned to the ship - very content with our adventures.
Monaco is an easy port to visit as one just walks off the ship and starts exploring. We headed up the hill to visit the Palace area. We had a lovely time exploring down some little side streets and looking at different gardens. We finally managed to find the Monaco cathedral open (it was closed the other times we were there) and we visited it. The botanical gardens are lovely and we spent some time strolling through them, photographing statues and flowers. Having been here before we have seen the racetrack and the casino and opera house and did not re-visit them this time - although they are something for first time visitors to the area to enjoy.
Florence was another place we love to visit. Actually we had a private tour to Pisa and Florence arranged. We had a marvellous time -- first a visit to Pisa and an hour or so spent at the Field of Miracles -- seeing and exploring the Leaning Tower, the Baptistry and the Duomo there before heading to Florence. Our driver/guide Elizabeth was wonderful and took us first to Michelangelo Square where we had a terrific view of Florence and the Arno River. Then it was down to the city to see the Duomo built in three different colours of marble. Then we went to Piazza della Signoria to see the Palace/fortress of the Medici and the Uffizi next to it. We got lunch at a restaurant, sitting outside looking at the palace and afterwards walking around taking photos of the wonderful statues there. Then we walked down to and across the Ponte Vecchio where Elizabeth picked us up again and took us to Santa Croce to see the church with the magnificent memorials to Michelangelo and Galileo, and Marconi and dozens of other famous Italian architects and sculptors and authors. Amazingly the smallest and most insignificant plaque was in memory of the greatest of them all -- Leonardo da Vinci. We had a wonderful time in Florence and Pisa thanks to Elizabeth of Romeinlimo.
Another place we love to visit. It is so easy to walk around enjoying the sights and there are great shops with even nicer prices. Dave bought a new strap for his watch and I got two lovely Italian cotton skirts - one in brown and one in blue - at a shop where I had purchased a black one the last time we were here. At a hair under 10 pounds each(British currency here) they are a wonderful bargain. We love strolling the streets here - there is always a lot to see and we enjoy talking to local people as well. We were very lucky on this visit to see a parade at noon in honour of the Royal Engineers. Marvellous band and red uniforms and then the veterans of WWII marching along with them. That always brings a tear to my eyes.
There are excellent liquor prices here in Gib too and my husband was pleased to be able to purchase a bottle of his favourite scotch at about half the price it would be at home.
We have been here several times before - for the first timers I recommend visiting the war time tunnels and seeing the Barbary apes and just enjoying the atmosphere. There are loads of pubs and lots of restaurants offering great fish and chips and full English breakfasts and they will give you your first taste of England that way.
La Goulette -- Tunis
Another private tour here and thoroughly enjoyed by the six of us who experienced it. First we were taken to see the ancient ruins of Carthage. Our first stop at the ruins was in an underground room where the first born children were sacrificed to Baal. We saw the tiny sarcophagi that the ashes of the babies were put into. The Romans were here after the Phoenicians and we saw wonderful remains of the great aquaducts and cisterns that brought and kept water, and remains of great buildings. A former convent is now a museum with wonderful Roman artifacts. We learned a lot about modern Tunisia too -- it is not just another North African Muslim state but is very open and welcoming with Muslims, Christians and Jews living side by side in harmony. We visited the city of Sidi Abu Said and had a walking tour of this lovely spot. Beautiful homes and lovely beaches. We stopped for a mint tea and opposite was a man selling copper plates and beating names into them for purchasers. Some bought plates with their grand children's names but I wanted one with the city name -- as a souvenir. We headed then for Tunis and stopped at a restaurant there for a lovely lunch. Dave and I ordered salad and were not disappointed. We had enjoyed Moroccan salads in the past and this Tunisian one was every bit as delicious -- along with the local liquor which was similar to Ouzo and Raki. We had a short tour in Tunis and a walking tour through one of the Souks where Dave purchased a little camel with an elaborate jewelled saddle as a souvenir of our day there. Prices in Tunis are excellent and with the wonderful climate and such great prices -- it would be a lovely place to have a longer holiday sometime
Lisbon is another lovely city with a lot to offer. It is easy to get around both by walking and by the hop-on hop-off bus service. The city centre is a great area to explore but so also is the area along the Tagus River - starting from Belem, to the Maritime Museum, Jeronimos Monastery and the Henry the Navigator statue. There are lots of churches to visit, interesting streets to explore (especially in the Al Fama district) and lovely parks. Nice restaurants abound and I love going into a local bake shop and just pointing at something I want to try. This is a city where one can especially enjoy sailing up the river and back down again as always something interesting to see from the ship.