Sunday, March 31, 2013

Our 115 day World Cruise, day85, at sea!

Today is Easter Sunday and Irwin and Sandi were not at coffee.   Sandi is still not feeling well.  Vicki and I had a nice visit while having breakfast and watched all the people coming and going from Starbucks.  After we finished we went home for an hour and then headed out to Mark and Tami's.

We went to Fry's and got the things we needed for the relish tray, stopped at QT and we were on our way.  Tami started her new job this last Monday and she is working like crazy trying to have everything ready for the launch tomorrow of the new program at United Health Care called United Military and Veteran's Services.  Luckily we had some time with her and she was able to eat her dinner before she had to go back to work!

                                                    It is  really going to be  nice having dinner  with the family!

                             Vicki is having a talk with Mark, who is an OR nurse and he is telling her that she may have to be in the hospital for a few days after she has her procedure.  To say the least , she is shocked and not a happy camper!
          It is fun being here.  The pool looks beautiful...too bad the water is too cold to get into it!   It is suppose to be 88 degrees today!                                                                                  
                                                             It sure does look inviting!
                    Vicki is busy and we are enjoying watching the windmill behind her! lol!
                                  Everybody is busy on their iPhones and computers and they are allApples!
      I am not on the phone nor do I have an iPhone, Nana...but I will in June!  Aaron is my grandson!

This is Joshua, my other grandson and I think he is doing homework....and contributes to the conversation every now and then!
Rodney  is Mark's cousin and he joined us today for dinner.  He took some beautiful pictures of butterflies, with his iPhone 5!

Where we did not go today...but the Amsterdam did!           

Pictures of the day!  Taken yesterday by Kween Karen!





  Postcards from Paradise!

 Day at Sea
Today was a good day for being laid back and relaxed. The seas turned a bit rough with the winds picking up making deep swells. Of course with the winds blowing strong, the temperature cooled down somewhat. There were a few morning showers too. It was good walking weather and if you paid attention, you could watch the flying fish and some occassional dolphins flipping around the ship.

With yesterday's long tour, we got behind in the downloading of photos. So today was the perfect time to update everything. We sort of watched a movie, catching it in the middle, then starting at the beginning. They run continuously every two hours all day, so you can piece them together.

In the meantime, we tried to figure out a way to locate a new lens for our camera. We asked our port guide, Barbara, about the possibility of finding a photo shop in Richards Bay. She suggested that she could email the port agent, who should know where we can find one. Our biggest obstacle now is the fact that it is Friday, and Good Friday at that. The start of a long holiday weekend is upon us, so we can only hope for some news by tomorrow or Monday. Anyway, it was nice of her to offer to help.

Two lectures were given in the Queens Lounge. One was all about geckos, chameleons, and lemurs in Madagascar, delivered by George Sranko, a new speaker. The other talk was given by Lawrence Kuznetz about NASA. Barbara also spoke about things to do and see in Richards Bay.

Because of the high winds, we did not bother going to the pool this afternoon, at least not to sunbath. We did visit with friends while munching on ice cream cones outside. As luck would have it (or not), we both have a touch of the sniffles. We hesitate to take any medications for it, because we have started the anti-malarial meds. Worse comes to worse, we may be in for some sleepy periods during the day.

At dessert time tonight, friends Bill and Leta celebrated his birthday, even though it isn't until Sunday. Oh well, we all joined in the song and wished him a happy 80th. With that, they came over to our table and offered us their "birthday cake" which was really a very large keylime pie. Our waiter plated it up and served us the delicious treat. Good thing our Aussie buddies happened to visit, because they helped finished the pie up. While we were over-indulging, our waiters brought our desserts we had ordered. We'll have to walk 20 miles tomorrow!!

Looking forward to seeing the lemurs tomorrow in Nosy Be in Madagascar.

Mary Ann & Bill

 At Sea

This was our first of two sea days as we make our way to Mozambique….  It was a perfect day for sitting poolside.  I visited with friends, read and began packing for the big safari that we have coming up.  Day after tomorrow, we leave the ship in Maputo, Mozambique and head for Sabi Sands in South Africa for 3 nights at Cheetah Plains reserve for safaris.  Then we will fly to Port Elizabeth to go to Amakala Game Reserve for two nights and again, safaris.  We will return to the ship in Cape Town, South Africa.  I will bring my computer and try to blog as much as possible.  If not, I will catch up when I return to the ship.  In Cape Town, we plan on doing a Great White Shark cage dive…. Scary stuff.  I am so excited for the African adventure to begin….

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Our 115 day World Cruise day 84, Nosy Be, Madagascar One of the best days yet!!!! I have been waiting to get to Madagascar for a long time and the wait was certainly worth it…… Corrine & I went on a tour of Lokobe Natural Reserve of Nosy Be with Aart, Ellen, Del & Linda. We were looking for Lemurs, chameleons, snakes and whatever other creatures came our way and we weren’t disappointed. We travel by van to Ambatozavavy village where we walked out to a boat for a short distance because of low tides and headed for Ampasipohy village where we would enter the reserve. Talk about low tides, they had to push the boat off sand bars and for quit a distance before we all had to get off. We walked probably close to a mile through knee deep water, ankle deep water and muck to get to the shore. The trip was certainly worth it. What an amazing day seeing all the wildlife. Some was very unique like the miniature chameleon that I took photos of in Aart’s hand. The lemurs were fabulous and the colorful chameleons were stunning. It was a great, great day!!! Oh, by the way…. Took a lot of photos so this is part 1 of 2 parts. Posted by Jeff Farschman at 11:56 AM Email This

We have been getting really lazy.  Today Sandi and Irwin did not come to coffee as Sandi did not feel well.  Today was the first time we have seen Sally and George since the 15th of February.  They went on a cruise and both of them have been recovering from illnesses .

tomorrow we will be at Mark and Tami's for Easter dinner.  Hopefully I will take lots of pictures and everyone will have a good time.  I think the pool is too cold for anyone except the dogs! lol!  We will be eating around 1:::00 so we will be home before dark!

Rosine seems to be getting better and that is a good thing!

So long for now as I wander off to my favorite chair and call for room service!  Hey  Vicki, bring me my food! lol!                                
                                               It was good to see George and Sally today!          

Whee We did not go today...but the Amsterdam did!                                                                                     

 Nosy Be, Madagascar 

Postcards from Paradise!
 Nosy Be, Madagascar March 30, 2013 Saturday

Nosy Be, our port of call for today, is an island 5 miles off the northwest coast of Madagascar. It happens to be Madagascar's largest and busiest tourist resort also. This volcanic island has an area of 120 square miles with its highest peak being Mont Passat at 1079 feet. We happen to be visiting in the hot and rainy season (November through April), while the rest of the year is cooler and dry. We can say for a fact that today was a sunny scorcher, as well as humid. However, we lucked out and it never rained. The ground was damp from recent rains, but not as muddy as it could have been. Being isolated from the rest of Africa, Madagascar has a unique mixture of plants and animals, found no where else in the world. We would have the pleasure of seeing some of the flora and fauna on our adventurous tour today.

The Amsterdam arrived to the commercial center of Nosy Be called Andoany or Hell-Ville as the locals call it. The ship was at anchor, so we were required to take tender boats to the ferryboat landing area about a mile from the town's center. Having never been here before, we opted to book a tour called "Nosy Komba: Isle of Lemurs", which would provide us an up close and personal view of the famous furry residents. With only three tours being sold, we found out that this excursion had 280 people booked on it. Oh boy, this island will be crawling with that many folks we're afraid. 

Usually when we come into a port, we go to the promenade deck to take photos. For a moment, we thought we were in the Amazon, where native dugout boats with young fellows and girls had rowed alongside the ship, greeting us, but also looking for handouts. You would not believe the stuff people were tossing to them. Pillow candies, small room lotions, of course, but also items of clothing like socks, shoes, t-shirts, even underwear! In the past, we have seen this same thing happen where some of the locals were hit by coins or heavy things and got injured. So we expected to hear a warning from the Captain to stop throwing stuff overboard. Just as we started taking photos, who should show up right next to us, also taking pictures, was the Captain. Guess he found nothing wrong with this, as long as no one got hurt.

One good aspect of taking a tour in a tender port, is the fact that we did not have to wait in line to get ashore. Paid tours get priority. We joined up with Martha, who had been here on a previous world cruise, but wanted to be guaranteed to see the lemurs too. Bob, her husband, went to the national park to see the animals in the wild and have a seafood lunch. Our group was split into smaller numbers, 10 of us, to board the charter boats once we reached the shore. Our group was number 7, and we were quick to access the small boats from the bow, with a lot of help from the locals. We were each handed a life vest, which really gave a lot of color (orange) to our photos as we sped towards the nearby island of Nosy Komba.

We had a "wet" landing at the village of Ampanngoriana...wet meaning that we had to take our shoes off and walk in the shallow water of the beach to access the village. What the source of the streams of water coming downhill from the rustic houses on shore was something we probably did not want to know. Once we got the shoes back on, we decided we weren't going to take them off when going back. Naturally, we could have used our aqua shoes that we left at home...... duh. Anyway, this village looked like it was from the distant past, with huts made from wood and roofed with woven traveler palm leaves. They were basically for sleeping, because the kitchens were outside. Kitchen is a long stretch of the word, since all they had was a long table with buckets of water and basic simple cooking tools. The women were cleaning fresh fish or preparing and cooking food over outdoor pits, fueled with charcoal from burning wood. There is no electricity on this island at all, we were told. Like we said, primitive. Our guide told us that many babies are born here, but not all survive due to diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Most of the kids do not go to school regularly, because few qualified teachers will come here to teach.

On our way up to the Black Lemur Sanctuary, we must have passed a half mile of houses where they displayed their souveniers for sale. Our guide said we would be given ample time to shop after the animal visit. The hike was basically a stone path and stairway that led straight uphill to where a handful of lemurs resided. We found them lounging in the trees, and soon realized they were not exactly wild, but handfed pets, more or less. How do you tell a male lemur from a female one? It was color. The smaller male was totally black, while the larger female had shades of brown in their dense coats. They were easily coaxed out of the tree limbs to be fed small bits of bananas. Some even jumped on the shoulders and arms of the tourists, lured there by food. Naturally, a tip was expected. The same went for the boa constricter that the guests wrapped around their necks, tortoises, and the ever-changing colored chameleons. We did get great photos, despite the fact that it seemed like 200 people were crowded up there at the same time. There was no doubt in our mind that the villagers greatly benefited from protecting this small group of lemurs for us to see so closely.

We slowly made our way back downhill, and past the souveniers being offered for sale. Not really for sale, because these villagers would not bargain less than 10%, just like our guide had informed us. As for us, we did purchase a large tablecloth, handmade here, that had many lemur designs in it. Hope when it is washed, it will still fit our dining room table at home. At least they were definitely made on this island, since we watched the ladies, young and old, at work embroidering them, while sitting in the sand or leaning on their houses. By the way, the local money is called Ariary and it takes 2,200 of them for one US dollar. Lucky for us, they gladly accepted US dollars.....quite glad as a matter of fact.

We had been handed a drink voucher, which was most appreciated since the heat of the day was again draining. We opted for the quart-sized beers and had no problem finishing them. There was a tableful of fruits to go with the drinks, but with the many flies dancing on the plates, we chose to pass on it. A continuous traditional show was being performed by some of the younger children among the seated passengers at the open-air snack bar. We must have been the last of the guests coming down from the top, because few if any chairs were left. So we walked to the end of the beach, where there was a strong breeze, thank goodness, and enjoyed our beers while sitting on the volcanic rocks.

By 1pm, our guide gathered group 7, and reboarded the uncovered boat, the same one we took over. But this time, we left our shoes on, deciding that getting cut by broken glass, beer tops, or sharp coral could possibly lead to some nasty infections. The speedy ride back to the main island of Nosy Be was refreshing, this is, until we arrived to find two local ferries had blocked our only exit out of the boat. By now, all of the 20 or more boats, had lined up to disembark their passengers. Much yelling was going on between the boat drivers and the guides as to who was first. It obviously was not us. We were first in line, but kept falling back when the small boats had to move and make way for the ship's tenderboats. Remember we had no roof for shade? By the time we finally got off (over 30 minutes later), we were all fumigated by the gas engines, and toasted , especially those who were lily white with no sunscreen.

Now the biggest problem was the line, which was a mile long by now, because all the land tours had arrived at the same time. No way were we going to wait in the blazing sun for an hour to board a tenderboat. Other wise guests also left for shade and or beer too. We decided to hike up the road to see what was there. You know what we found? A long road of souvenier stands selling tons of interesting stuff. We ended up bargaining for t-shirts, another round tablecloth, and a couple straw-made lemurs, chameleons, and a turtle. All you had to do was sit down in the shade, while sharing a soda, and wait for the girls to come to us. That's when the bargaining got good, and you had lots of choices.

On the ride back in the tenderboat, one gal told us that a man had collapsed when his local boat reached the shore of Nosy Komba. He had to be rushed back to the ship. We have not heard any further news, but hope he is OK. See, we told you the heat was oppressive.

All aboard time was early at 3:30pm, so we had to get moving. The line was still long, but it was moving OK by now. Thinking our buying spree was done, we found that buying a wooden mask from one of the local canoe guys at the tendering station on the ship was a good deal. So we hung back and bargained right from the tenderboat opening. It was so good getting back to the cooler ship. We quickly changed to go to the aft pool and cool off more. Much to our surprise, no one was in the water. Why? Well we found out soon enough when we jumped in, and found the water to be well over 100 degrees. We simply got in, and got out fast. Hope this pool gets dumped tomorrow, or there will be lots of complaining.

Staying through the sailaway, which was late due to a crew tour getting back late, we left the island at 4:30pm. The best part of leaving was picking up the sea breeze once again as we headed south towards Mozambique. It was really a memorable day spent in Madagascar in many ways. Our friends that took different tours were also pleased that they got to see the animals, or go snorkeling in the waters abundant with tropical fish and coral.

Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill Restaurant. This probably was not the best evening for us to go there, since we had spent such a full day hiking in the heat. But we had already postponed the reservations twice, and did not want to lose our "freebie". The service was fine in the beginning, even though the restaurant was not even close to full capacity. We certainly did not enjoy the extra attention that the table next to us was receiving, such as extra this or that, even freshly ground pepper offered. Why, we don't know, or maybe we do. Sounded like these folks were frequent guests, where we were the "freebie" guests tonight. By the time we were finished with our bone-in rib steaks, baked potatoes, and mushrooms, (we did our own pepper) we sat and waited almost 1/2 hour for the waitress to come back with the dessert menu. We and some other guests near us must have disappeared into the woodwork or something. We gave up, and decided we really did not have room for coffee and dessert anyway. We simply left as the staff wished us a good evening. Certainly not up to par with the usual dining experience in there.

What was a treat, was watching the night sky filled with lightening.

Two days at seas will be great now.

By the way, we do hope that we can locate a suitable lens for our Canon SLR camera in Richards Bay, since we are still getting the "error 99" code which disables the camera completely.

Bill & Mary Ann

 It looks like Jeff had a good time in Madagascar. 

One of the best days yet!!!!  I have been waiting to get to Madagascar for a long time and the wait was certainly worth it……  Corrine & I went on a tour of Lokobe Natural Reserve of Nosy Be with Aart, Ellen, Del & Linda.  We were looking for Lemurs, chameleons, snakes and whatever other creatures came our way and we weren’t disappointed.   We travel by van to Ambatozavavy village where we walked out to a boat for a short distance because of low tides and headed for Ampasipohy village where we would enter the reserve.  Talk about low tides, they had to push the boat off sand bars and for quit a distance before we all had to get off.  We walked probably close to a mile through knee deep water, ankle deep water and muck to get to the shore.  The trip was certainly worth it.  What an amazing day seeing all the wildlife.  Some was very unique like the miniature chameleon that I took photos of in Aart’s hand.  The lemurs were fabulous and the colorful chameleons were stunning.  It was a great, great day!!!  Oh, by the way….  Took a lot of photos so this is part 1 of 2 parts.