Tag Archives: bus

April 6 – Alicante, Spain

Yesterday was a sea day and there is not much to report. I did go to play one of the quiz games and Mr. Moustache and his friend were there, I sat with them. We only got 2 answers right and Mr. Moustache looked one up on his phone. I also played bingo, I did not win but it was fun. Carolyn was tired and stayed in the room dozing and reading.

Over all it was also a very frustrating (and then happy) day for me. On the night of the 4th, before dinner, I found a note canceling my Rome excursion, not enough English speakers. I was upset, mostly because Costa does not in any way let you know this is a possibility before you book. Tours get cancelled, I get that, but not for this reason. I spoke of my distress at dinner and after dinner we went to the show. The show was a mish mash of songs with nice costumes and even had a little mini Harry Potter skit. These shows offer a wide variety but sexily clad men and women seem to be a constant.

On the 5th, a sea day, I went to the service desk to complain. I was very upset. I told the girl I wanted her to know how I felt. I told her that I felt as if Costa does not want English speaking passengers. Nicky overheard and came rushing around the desk to lead me to a couch and sympathize with me. I know she understood my concerns, but I don’t think there is actually a way to explain to this cruise line how disregarded we feel. She made a few suggestions and comforted me, and Carolyn, who joined us, as much as she could. Carolyn said she would go into Rome with me, and my Facebook family sent me a slew of suggestions, but I was really unhappy about the entire situation. And then, my delightful table group changed everything! At dinner, Larry suggested we all get together and take a bus to Rome and hang out and see what we please. I was so delighted, especially since he came up with this idea partly to make sure I saw Rome. We agreed to all take the ship arranged bus and ate our dinner happily discussing it. Carolyn and I stayed for the show again and then went to our room, happier than we had been in the morning.

I want to be sure to be clear about this cruise line. The food is fairly good, though changes very little. And it is certainly abundant. Carolyn dislikes it more than I do, but we both love the ice cream. The crew are friendly and funny and helpful. The rooms and bathrooms are very well appointed. The public rooms are beautiful. The shows are fun and if you like to dance there are opportunities to learn and to dance constantly. The children have a lot to do and are very well looked after by the crew. There are several pools and millions of places to lie in the sun. The cities on the itinerary are fun and interesting and the excursions are very low priced. I feel as if I have made a really friend in Renata, a woman who works in one of the shops.

So, all that said, neither of us would use Costa again. We don’t like the disregarded feeling we get as English speakers. We don’t care for the multi language tours. We do not mind the fact that there are many languages on the ship, we have met many nice people who say hi in their native tongues and everyone participates in a bit of laughing sign language. But English is in such a minority that we feel excluded and as if we are not important or wanted. Perhaps this sounds complainy, but this is how we feel, we are enjoying everything as much as we can, we love our dinner friends, we adore our balcony and the crew is wonderful. We have seen many terrific cities and that is what we will mostly remember.

 

And now, today in Alicante:

Alicante was wonderful. We got into port about 1pm and our tour was scheduled for 1:30. We had slept very late and only got up and ready for lunch. I found and had sushi!!! They had smoked salmon sushi and gosh it was yummy. After lunch we went to our tour meeting spot. We were happy to know our crew member favorite Nicky, was to be on our bus. Irene and Bobbi were also on the tour with us. It was a German and English tour.

Alicante is a beautiful coast city, modern in many ways and yet still very different from home with beautiful architecture and tiled walkways. The promenade has a tile design to look like waves and it creates and optical illusion of higher and lower sections, even though it is flat. If you stare at the tiles it is very difficult to walk. Our bus tour drove around the city and then stopped near the city hall building. We walked around and ended up on the promenade. We were to have a taste of horchata and then be on our own for an entire 90 minutes. We skipped the horchata and headed straight for the shops. They were tented stalls all along this lovely walkway and the coast was just across the street. There were ice cream shops and restaurants also. We saw one ice cream shop that had a sigh that said it was the THIRD BEST ice cream in Spain. How hilarious is that?

We bought a few items and then had ice cream at an ordinary stand, I had coffee and chocolate gelato and it was delicious. We sat in the mild sunshine and really enjoyed our time. On our way back to the meeting place, we saw a very nice looking, shirtless young man painting a balcony railing. When I took his picture he waved and smiled. Continuing on, we stopped in a very American little ship and Carolyn bought a really nice scarf. Scarf prices here are so much more reasonable than at home.

Our bus group was on time, we are a smaller group than other tours, about ½ the bus is full. The bus drove up, up a hill to a place the guide called a fortress, and it is also called the St. Barbara Castle. The narrow road seemed to be about to scrape the sides of the bus, but did not. It was a little nerve racking. Once on the top, we began to walk along the fortress cobblestones. The age of this place is fascinating, I wish we had really old stuff in our country. The walls and ground show that it was all hand built. There were views in every direction of the entire city of Alicante as well as the mountains in the background. We came to a pretty area with benches and trees and Carolyn and others choose to stay there while the rest of us continued to climb up the fortress. In this area, there was a gull sitting on a nest at the foot of a tree. The spouse gull was nearby and when we got too close she would call out to him to protect her. We stayed a respectful distance and got to watch the two of them changes places so she could rest a bit and grab a bit to eat.

Further up the fortress were several statues along the way that were guarding the castle. They looked like archers and swordsmen and were fun to take pictures of. We also went in one room that had a beautiful mosaic wall made from shards of pottery found in the excavation of the area. I could not stop taking pictures of the scenery, the views were amazing and got more so as we climbed higher. On the top were cannons and by standing just so I was able to get a photo that looks like the cannon is aimed at our ship. The guide pointed out the bullring, another photo op.

Eventually we headed back down. I picked up Carolyn and we were all on the bus by 6. Going down the hill was scary, and the bus was crawling past the huge fortress gates.

We were soon back at the port and the busses were able to get very close to the ship, that had not been the case on our other stops. We passed a few gift shops and I was able to finally get some Alicante bookmarks. This is a city I would love to visit again, it is very beautiful, easy going with a lot to see.

By the time we got through security we went straight to dinner. Soon we were all eating and laughing and sharing our stories. Larry, when he ordered dessert, asked for the chocolate obsession WITH a scoop of ice cream, we all thought that was brilliant and as we gobbled it up, well, it was brilliant.

At dinner Courtney and Keyane told us they could not take the same bus because they had a Segway tour booked and the ship bus would not get to Rome on time. They got Andrea’s cell phone number so we can meet up when they are done. We picked Andrea because she and Emmett are currently living in Germany and we know her phone will work.

After dinner, Carolyn and I decided to skip the show, she is really tired and I have things to remember and write.

Tomorrow is a sea day and we will spend part of it getting most of our packing done. My plan is to put my little carpet in my carry on since it is folded small but still somewhat heavy. We also have a disembarkation meeting at 9:30 to explain all the procedures.

I was able to post Barcelona on Facebook and will add photos to the blog at home.

April 2 –Casablanca, Morocco

Our Casablanca tour was scheduled for 7:45am. We got up at 6:30 and time to get dressed and I made a quick coffee run to the buffet. We remembered our tickets this time and were soon walking down a very steep ramp to the port. A crew member helped Carolyn and I used my cane and went slowly. On our bus we had a young woman from Costa and a guide. Once again the tour was in German and English. The Costa member told me when I asked that the guide was telling all of us the same thing, but it took much longer to say in German.

We got off the bus soon after we got on and began to walk through a closed market area. The stench was bad and there were huge (no exaggeration) piles of trash everywhere. Our guide kept apologizing and explained that the people slept late on Saturday and it would get better. We did see people sweeping but it was still not great. This was again a Kasbah, and I think slum might be a better translation. We walked a long way with very little to see. There were some cats wandering around but no where near the amount we saw in Tangier. Also these were thinner looking. I did see some well taken care of dogs, I even saw someone grooming their dog in a park.

We came to a wider, more modern area of shops, but nothing really caught anyone’s eye. Then we went into an olive market. The smell was wonderful and the variety of olives was amazing. There must have 50 barrels divided into several stalls. There was no competition, the owners just sat and smiled as we browsed.

When we left the shop we strolled through stores with “set” prices. I wanted a children’s book for my collection and I really needed sunglasses. I had left mine in the room and it was a pretty sunny day. We continued walking and Carolyn found a terrific, leather bag that she bought and plans to use it with her carry on when we go home. I finally found a bookstore and bought a darling book about farm animals. It is of course in Arabic and opens right to left.

Back on the bus we went to see the Kings palace and an older palace that was now a city building. Again the tile work and lanterns are so amazing. We saw some of the inside and the courtyard before we went on our way.

Around this time the guide took us to a restaurant to use the bathroom. There were two, one was a hole in the ground and the other was a toilet with a broken flusher and no toilet paper. The smell was pretty bad, but one must do what one must do.

We next took the bus to visit the Mosque, it is the largest in the world except for the one in Mecca. It was a beautiful place and covered a large area. The current King’s father had it built to honor Mohammed and to employ the citizens. 26 thousand workers were involved the entire time. Part of it was built over the sea. We strolled around for a while and then went back to the bus. One of our passengers was lost, her husband and the guide and the crewmember all went searching. We lost about 20 minutes before the lost woman realized she was on the wrong bus and came looking for us.

We stopped for a wonderful, beautiful, delicious lunch in a Morroccan Restaurant. We sat at round tables but due to the language barriers we did little beside smile at each other and signal for the passing of food. The first set of dishes, set out for us to share were a variety of salads. There were shredded orange slices with a light flavoring of some sort, beets, cucumber with tomato, mashed olives and a tasty, soft orange colored thing. It was all yummy and we ate it with bread. Next they brought a large dish of cous cous with vegetables and a huge dish with chicken and olives. Everyone helped serve and pass food around. It was so good. I ate strange sauces and loved every bite. When all the food was gone they put a large platter of thinly sliced oranges with cinnamon in the center of the table. They also brought small, tasty almond cookies. There were 8 of us and they brought 8 cookies, but one man, large and pushy and rude took two, so someone did not get a cookie.

When we left the restaurant we drove through the “California” part of Casablanca, where we saw many beautiful homes, we also drove along the shore and saw McDonalds, with a big, outdoor beach seating area.

I asked the guide if we were going to see Rick’s Café from the Casablanca movie and he said yes. We drove by and stopped for outside pictures. Of course the movie was filmed on a studio lot, but it was still fun.

We were supposed to go next to a handicraft area but had run out of time. The bus dropped off two couples who wanted to continue to stroll around and the rest of us went back to the ship.

We had to take the ramp to walk up and a crew member assisted Carolyn, she looked very regal as she walked up on his arm. We went though x-ray, something we do each time we return to the ship.

Carolyn and I went back to our room to relax before dinner and we both napped. I did stroll up to the buffet to see if the ice cream machine was working. After asking daily someone finally told me it was by the “other” pool. I went in search, and found it, it is a vending machine. I got a Magnum bar for Carolyn and a drumstick for me. It was lovely. We also discussed our future tour plans and decided to book the tour of Lisbon for Monday but will do Cadiz on our own tomorrow. I also agreed it was foolish to not do the Rome tour and planned to sign up.

At 5:30 we went to deck 3 to await the 6:00 opening of the tour office. Carolyn walked over to the hospitality desk to get a copy of her bill. We are finding the billing VERY confusing and plan to go over it carefully before we leave the ship. As soon as someone got into the excursion line I got behind them and quickly behind me were another 20 people. A lady cut into the front, but the two people she cut off said nothing. I ordered for the Lisbon tour for each of us and the Rome tour for me.

Once this was all taken care of, we went into dinner. We did not know what the others were doing since we are in port until 10pm but soon Emmett and Andrea appeared and the girls a bit later. Larry and Linda had gone to Marikesch and did not get back. I had the special salted cod, a cheese plate and chocolate icecream. The cod was only so-so, very saucey, so I also got French fries, which I shared with Emmet. As usual, our group was the last to leave the dinning room, we all get along so well. Courtney and Keynae and Carolyn and I are going to taxi to Cadiz together tomorrow, we will meet around a 11 when the ship docks. Tomorrow is also the day Keynae will compete for the “VOICE OF THE SEA” contest and we will all be there cheering her on.

It is now 10pm and we are relaxing in our room. Carolyn is playing a game and I am typing away. I also downloaded my photos to the computer, but will post when I have a decent connection.

In our opinion, Tangier is more sophisticated than Casablanca and we all liked it better, but Barcelona, for Carolyn and I was the place we liked least.

Tomorrow – Cadiz, Spain

April 1 – Tangier, Morocco

We had called for a 7:30 wake up but what we got was a 6:15 wake up and we were rushing about before we realized the time. Our phones refuse to be on Morocco time so a wake up call seemed like a good idea. Oh well. We had time to get read and have a bite to eat and stroll over to Deck 5 to meet with the group. Unfortunately I left the tickets in the room so RAN back, went the wrong way and was gasping for air by the time I got back to Carolyn. She was chatting with Irene and Bobbi, sister-in laws who we enjoy talking to, when they are not bickering and sniping at each other. The four of us had our canes out as we walked a pretty long distance to board the bus.

On the bus we saw our dinner companions Linda and Larry. We sat behind them and enjoyed chatting now and then. Also on our tour was a very tall man, he had been the main reason we did not lose the tour in Barcelona, cause we could always see him, surrounded by his wife and kids. Also, Nicky, a Costa crew member was with us.

On the bus our guide began to talk, only in English, which was nice and he talked and talked. He used the word please as a punctuation mark, it was both funny and charming. He worked very hard at convincing us that Tangier is a very happy, diverse city where Jews and Arabs and Spaniards and everyone gets along. It was obviously important to him that we not be afraid and we go home to spread the word. He always pointed out the various religious buildings from synagogues, to churches to mosques. As I have always believed, when you look at these people, they are like us, with jobs and families and pets. Speaking of which, we saw at least 30 street cats. Unlike ours back home, they are not at all shy and lie in the sun and wander wherever they please. Most look sleek and well fed. I did see a dog on a leash but it was in dreadful condition and I quickly looked away. It was filthy and seemed very unhappy.

Tangier is a very pretty city, many white houses on hills, like in pictures from Greece. He kept comparing Tangier to California; the weather, the beaches, the American cars, the fancy homes of the rich, it was all California. We Californians were pretty amused.

Our first stop was the Kasbah. Unlike an Aladdin movie, this place is simply where people live, mostly poor people. He showed us the public fountain because most people do not have running water or electricity. This was picturesque and interesting and the walking was reasonable. I enjoyed this first time with my cane, not for balance, I was going pretty slow, but it was nice for up hill. I need to get a strap for my cane to put on my wrist.

Next we went to the Medina, the SHOPPING!!! Here was the part I both looked forward to and was afraid of, where the peddlers are in your face. It was fun, sometimes you had to say NO! in a loud, angry voice but mostly a few regular no and no thank you’s would suffice. I wanted to make a purchase from a peddler so I bought a bracelet for 10E and $2. I also bought a surprise for my sister Candy, so I can’t tell here.

But I must talk about Yasene (this is how he said it, spelling? No idea). He was always at the back of the group and became a personal guide for Carolyn and I. He never let us get far behind and he carried things for us and he was a darling. Yes, we know he gets cuts from the stores, but so what? He was incredibly helpful and kind. He made the trip perfect!

One of the nicer homes we walked past had been owned by Barbara Hutton and was currently owned by Margaret Atwood. We also passed a book shop and the owner was kind enough to step out so we could take a picture. They do NOT want their pictures taken. Yasene laughed and said just take it quick and rush away, but Carolyn and I did not bother people.

We stopped at a spice shop and one of the items was REAL Moroccan argon oil, I bought some as well as some Orange Blossom oil and a spice to stop snoring. The spice shop man also showed us a spice that takes off 10 pounds in 20 days, but I don’t think anyone bought it. Carolyn also made some purchases, but they are a surprise.

We then walked through a food market, lots of olives and skinned animals hanging from the racks. I saw, for the second time that day, a tall pile of very large, round breads, about the size of a medium pizza. “I want that” I said to Yasene and he bought it for me, called it a present. It was delicious, I offered it to many on the tour and we tore of hunks and munched as we walked. I could live on that bread, mmmmmmmmm!

The next stop was a very large store that sold a wide variety of quality items and accepted credit cards. Upstairs I was tempted and splurged on the purchase of a lovely Moroccan carpet, Carolyn who is familiar with these carpets knew it was authentic and that the price was very low compared to what it would be in the states. They packaged it in the most amazing way, it is heavy but so small and a young man sewed the package closed with a big needle and string. That alone was fascinating.

By now we were pretty tired, we had walked a long way and were “attacked” by peddlers every step. Irene said NO in a way that really sent them scurrying. I began saying “I don’t like it” to everything I was shown, that made the peddlers sad.

The money thing was odd because the peddlers will take anything, dollars or Euros or whatever. We had no need of Moroccan money.

We finally got back to the bus, after almost 3 hours, but we were not done. We exchanged a fond goodbye with Yasene, and tipped him very well. He had been carrying all of our purchases and handed them off to the tour guide so we did not need to carry them to the bus. Such a great guy. He seemed to know everyone we saw and when I asked him, he said everyone knew him, he was like coca cola. He also said he is a friend of Rick Steves and is in his books. (Every time we briefly lost sight of Yasene, Carolyn was sure he was off selling our stuff, but of course he was not).

We went on a drive through the “Beverly Hills” of Tangier to admire the beautiful homes. We saw camels by the side of the road but they were only there for tourists and we did not stop. A lot of this drive was along a beautiful coast line, off the Atlantic. We could see the Rock of Gibraltar in the distance. We had a very brief stop at a high point for pictures but the ocean looks pretty much the same from everywhere. Unfortunately my camera ran out of battery, darn me for forgetting to charge it, and though Carolyn still had some battery life in her camera, it is not a fast shot. I missed some photo ops but it had worked most of the time.

Our next stop was a cave that Hercules built, or so they said. It was a steep downhill with a climb to come back so Carolyn stayed in a small side place and watched some drummers. The cave was especially interesting because it had the ocean water of different countries that had flowed into it. Depending on where you stood in the massive cavern, you were in a different country.

Our final stop was a beautiful hotel called ________. Out by the pool they had real Moroccan tea for us and cookies. The tea was warm and very sweet, I loved it. The cookies were ok but they were gobbled up. There were also very nice, western style bathrooms for us. We sat around a lovely pool and enjoyed the respite. If I were to stay in Tangier, which I doubt I ever will, this is the hotel for me. The big downside is the strong smoke smell, but they probably had smoke free rooms for westerners.

And then, back to the ship. The guards at the harbor gate actually looked under the bus with mirrors before they let us through. In spite of this the busses are not allowed too close to the ship so we had a long walk. My carpet is very heavy and I was glad to get to the room and drop it.

Carolyn and I went to the buffet, which they had kept open because the busses were late. I had a drumstick and a few potatoes and Carolyn had a salad and we both had a few bites of pizza (bleh). The ice cream machine is still broken and though we should be grateful to avoid the calories, we are not! Then goodness for ice cream for dessert and I brought jujubes which we both snack on.

Carolyn is in the room, on the balcony reading and enjoying the sunshine. I went to the internet café to send yesterdays blog. I am now sitting in a salon where there is usually dancing. While I type they are playing quiz games. The first was a geography one and then a cute on where they showed pictures of people in traditional costumes and the participants need to guess the country. Sitting near me are two men I waited in the long excursion line with. They speak no English and I no French but we became friendly anyway. They are playing the game and I guess along with them.

Tonight, after dinner, we are done! We need to rest up for Casablanca tomorrow and I need to download our photos.