Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Our 115 day World Cruise, day 101,at sea!

Today is cold and dreary.  We came home from coffee and decided to put on our jammies and call it a day.  We stopped at in - Out burger for some comfort food and now we are ready to settle into our chairs and cover up with our blankies. So off I go to settle in!  I think it will be 70 degrees!

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

Pictures of the day!  from Kween Karen, Jamestown

Postcards from Paradise!  Jamestown
 Jamestown, St. Helena April 15, 2013 Monday

St. Helena, a big volcanic rock in the middle of nowhere in the South Atlantic Ocean, was our port of call today, and an interesting one at that. The entire island is only 47 square miles, with peaks jutted up as high as 2700 feet. Only a little over 4000 people live here. What views one sees from that high up are spectacular of the deep blue ocean in the middle of nowhere, 1200 miles from the nearest landmass. And it was for the reason of its isolation, that the Emperor Napoleon was exiled to this rock for the last 6 years of his life (1815 to 1821). It was here, at the Longhouse, that he and his servants lived a nice life, although far removed from his beloved France, until he died of natural causes on May 5, 1821.

The last time we were here in 2009, we had taken a tour to these historical sites, finding them well worth the time and money. As well as Napoleon's Longhouse, we saw the Jonathon Plantation House, the Governor of the East India Company's residence, a Georgian-style building erected in 1792. Today is it the home of the current governor. Jonathon, a reportedly 178 year old tortoise lives on the grounds there, along with a few female tortoise friends. Anyway, at that time, we think we paid about $70. each for the ship's tour. In town, a local charitable society was selling tickets for a 2 hour tour of the houses and grounds for around $35. each. Good deal. Even better, was the price seven of our Cruise Critic pals paid for a more inclusive private tour that took in every site. It cost them $20 (including a $5. tip). Best deal of the day. Will store that bit of useful info for our next visit here.

Our arrival time had been slated for 11am, although Captain Jonathon had gotten us here sooner. Since the ship's tours had remained the same times, we were able to get priority tendering at the aft exit on deck one. The line of folding chairs had been set up, three thick, all the way down the narrow hallway of the tender boat exit. We had a short wait before the President's Club, deck seven, and 4 & 5 star Mariners loaded up into a waiting tender.

In the daily newsletter, there was a safety reminder for this morning's ride to shore. We were told to accept the sailor's help in boarding the boat, as well as hold on to the boat's handrailings. That tells us there have been accidents with less able guests. Then, right before the transfer began, an announcement was made saying only able-bodied folks could go ashore today, since there would be 13 steep steps from the concrete landing. That meant no wheelchair or scooter-bound people, unless they were capable of hauling the chairs or scooters off the boat and up the stairs by themselves. Made sense to us, because it is dangerous. We have seen broken arms and legs with the regular guests on previous trips. So you can imagine our surprise when we saw two such chair-seated ladies way up the top of the hill, shopping. Guess they cannot be totally denied for fear of litigation. As it turned out, sometime in the early afternoon, a man did fall, requiring an ambulance and a ride to the hospital with a broken ankle.

We spent the day wandering through the Archway that led to the Grand Parade, or city square. From there we visited the Castle Gardens, Anna's Place, St. James Church, and the bottom of Jacob's Ladder. This cliffside stairway has 699 steps, straight up from the seaside to a cliff 900 feet high above the town. It was originally built in 1829 for the soldiers to haul ammunition and supplies to the garrison atop Ladder Hill. The locals say that the ladder breaks your heart going up, and breaks your neck going down. We can testify that it kills your back going up and destroys the knees going down! We did it one way in 2005, and would not repeat the hike. Whether or not you actually accomplished the climb, you can purchase a certificate at the Museum at the base saying you did.

The Museum was the first place we stopped for t-shirts. Knowing that their supply is limited, we wanted to get the best choice for style and size. Besides the t-shirts and printed handbags, some local jewelry, books, and common supplies are sold here in a variety of tiny shops and stores. The best attraction are the small niches where cafes, bars, or restaurants serve the best cold beers, wines, coffee, and sandwiches. Pizza, our choice for lunch, was not available today, since the only pizza shop was opened on weekends only.

After slowly hiking all the way uphill to the only hospital on the island, we made our way back down to stop at the Consolate Hotel for a rest break and beers. The place was crowded with guests, but we found a perfect spot at a table with our buddy from Australia. Finally, we had a chance to catch up with Sir Pat, a former tablemate from the 2011 world cruise. He's got quite a following of passengers, since he has been sailing frequently of late, taking numerous HAL ships everywhere. He is also sending us his blog with photos, so we have not missed anything in his adventure here.

After taking far too many pictures, we decided to walk back to the pier. We were intercepted by a pier worker, who said we had to wait for the shuttle to take us past two pieces of huge machinery that were operating on the dock. Must be a safety precaution. So we had 10 minutes to cool our heels in the small terminal with a few other guests before the bus arrived, almost full. Three seats for empty, and we found them for the 2 minute ride. At least the waiting tenderboat driver did not keep us bobbing at the pier long. Half full, we left for the ship.

Cheeseburgers and fries drew us to the Pool Grill, then we retreated to our room to download the pictures. Sailaway came at 5:30pm, and by the time we joined it, the sun was starting to set on the island. It was much prettier with the golden hues of the sun turning the volcanic cliffs the same color. With the sun down, it actually turned rather cool. It had been a very warm day in the canyon where Jamestown was located. Up high in the tree-covered hilltops, it was much cooler according to Mike and his group, who had the affordable tour there today. We think a nice day was had for all, but for the one man who broke his ankle.

Dinner was fun, but all of us were pretty exhausted after a day on St. Helena. We headed our own ways shortly after 9:30pm, either to go to the show,a multi-instrumentalist, Anne Rayner, or to enjoy music and more wine in the Crow's Nest. We had a date with a room movie and catching up on reports.

We had a notice that tomorrow at 2pm, we would need to put the clocks ahead. What? That makes no sense........

Mary Ann & Bill

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