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My email reports from travel legs on the  MSC "POESIA"   2010/2011

Part 2 - Europe & Mediterranean
 


#41 March 6-18 2011

In the meantime we were two days at Sea -I played both times and get compliments from listeners right there or on the balconies who stop me when they see me either on board or ashore - this is very rewarding.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, I found a Starbucks where I sat for several hours "doing my thing" and of course saw only little of the place and this is unfortunately true of all the places we visit because frankly, after having first found a WiFi location and then sent reports, dealt with many emails etc., I am too tired and with aching back go back to the ship. So, if you are looking for a travelogue, you are at the wrong place, I'm sorry for that. This is really more of a diary which may well become too repetitive and boring to read and anytime some of you would rather opt out of receiving these logs, don't hesitate to let me know and be assured I won't be offended.

March 10: St. Johns, Antigua and here I had occasion to visit quite a bit of the picturesque town. In a passage, with stores either side, I found WiFi access and sat on the Scooter for over 2 hours. Returned to the ship around 1pm, went upstairs to the cafeteria for soup and salad and watermelon, then laid down and slept for half an hour or so.

After 4 went back to the ship's doctor to have a new opinion about my leg, which is not getting any better and worries me. He told me to finish the course of antibiotics I still have (4 days) and see him again for a review. Problem is of course that he may not be too familiar with the progression of an ulcer, which seems to have entered a different phase, but I'll spare you further details. And he nixed the Arnica salve, which I bought at a pharmacy in San Juan since the first was nearly finished. And several friends had told me of it's benefits!


March 11, Port Castries, capital of St. Lucia. I stayed in the large Terminal Building full of stores on two floors and was able to buy Internet access for $ 3. Later I went into the very unpretentious restaurant near where I was sitting to have some soup which was a long time coming and turned out to be a very small bowl of a green vegetable soup instead of the chicken soup they said it would be, with two small pieces of a roll on the side. When it came to pay, they wanted $5 for it which was a really outrageous amount for what I got and I told them so in protest. They immediately got huffy, said, "OK, it's free" and walked away. That was it. I hate to get ripped off.

March 12&13 : The first two of six days at sea and every night we lose an hour's sleep as we advance our watches. I play every day in the Atrium, have a much larger audience because my playing is mentioned in all 4 language fliers and get many positive comments. I try to include in the repertoire French, Italian, Spanish and German songs because of the international passenger list and this seems to be particularly appreciated. On the 13th at 11 AM is a VIP cocktail party where there are no less than 53 people, all having attained this status by having had multiple cruises with MSC. But when the Captain, Giacomo Romano, comes around (he, like everybody else, calls me by my first name), he says "you are our number one VIP". Big deal. The title did not come with any perks whatsoever.
The captain, along with most of the officers will leave the ship in Genoa on the 23. and be replaced by a new crew.

Like every day, I was in the Medical Center to have the Leg wound cleansed and newly bandaged and I cross my fingers that the situation may soon show sufficient signs of getting better that I don't have to leave the ship in Alicante on the 21. and enter a hospital for possibly an operation.

March 14: It's not to be. I must go to a hospital in Alicante on the 21st. Since the ship returns there every 8 days for some time to come, I am hoping that I can get back on after a week. Another snag in the ointment.

March 15/16: these days at sea I played the songs from 22 musicals, operettas and well-known films in two days and a total of 51 songs; the second session ended with "Falling in love again" from "The Blue Angel". I spoke about this 1933 film, (one of the first with sound) with a rather chubby Marlene Dietrich and the equally famous Emil Jannings. In the film, Marlene sings this song, the lyrics of which, literally translated, are these:

"I am geared for love from head to toe, /for this is my world, nothing else./ What can I do, this is my nature,/ I only can love, nothing else./ Men flutter around me like moths around a light,/ I can't help it if they get burned..."

The English version of the lyrics, "Falling in Love again" seems rather lame after the juicy German one! The film, a true melodrama, belongs today, after nearly 80 years, to such classics as "Casablanca" and will survive a long time.


Anyway, all this was very well received and laying on my bed after the performance with my aching leg up, I reflected on the many blessings bestowed upon me: My musical talent and ability to not only play at 94 without arthritic fingers, but also remember and play some 1500 songs by heart; a healthy and still well functioning mind (even though termed "dirty" at times by some ladies), as an extrovert easily make acquaintances and friends; despite various aches and pains being in pretty good physical shape, and finally, by demeanour and appearance not looking my age (as frequently told). All undeserved, I feel, because in my life there have been quite a few sins of commission and omission which I can no longer atone for.

March 17: Since the wound shows improvement, now my going to hospital in A. is to have Xray (or other imaging device) on the leg to see whether there is collateral damage which needs to be fixed before it can heal.

This means that if there is nothing, I can go back to the ship; otherwise I'll have to stay. In practice this means that at first I just go into town as I would normally, and if I have to stay in A., go back to the ship, pack a bag and then actually disembark, which is a major procedure involving immigration and accounting. So I am crossing my fingers .

Today is the sixth straight day of my playing in the atrium and I am very gratified how frequently I am stopped by people to tell me how much they enjoyed it - there are of course many listeners out of sight for me on the balconies on two decks above from where I am. I always have well known songs specific to various countries in my Repertoire and this is obviously appreciated, however there is greater emphasis on the American musical scene.
 

# 42    Mar 18-23, 2011

Arriving in Malaga on a Sunday, made it difficult to find a place open and with WiFi, but with both Penny and Carol helping to look, we finally landed at an open restaurant at the Plaza de la Revolucion where WiFi was available 1/2 hr at a time and both ladies could use my netbook to send emails and I stayed on, dealing with no less than 25 emails etc.  Despite my pleas not to, some people still insist on forwarding stuff which I mostly just delete.  Again I am amazed at the seemingly tremendous distance I can go on one battery charge!

Mar 21: Alicante. After the usual confusion because the Medical Center here had contacted MSC's agent to take me to a surgeon, which I objected to after my dismal experience in St. Thomas, I finally took the texi to the hospital and was most pleasantly surprised at their helpfulness and the doctor Oliver Pack who examined me.  Turned out to be German, living in Spain already 16 years, speaking fluent English, Spanish and who knows what else and made a   very competent impression.  He said there was no infection present and that I should stop taking the antibiotics. The x-ray which he ordered showed no lesions and except for a visit to a vascular surgeon on the 29th when the  ship returns here to further assess the situation at that time, the daily dressing of the wound will continue. I am vastly relieved and so are so many of my friends who have been concerned. Thank you all!:

Mar 22: Barcelona.  Realizing that I had forgotten my wallet, I had to return to the ship after a rather long way to the Plaza below. On the trip back, I got clipped by the self closing elevator doors in the Terminus building which caused quite  skin slash on my right arm - it doesn't help of course that now my skin is so  much thinner.  I looked in vain for an Internet cafe around the area where the shuttle bus had stopped, but the only one, a "Sport Bar" would only open at noon. But I sat for a while in a restaurant having a Bitter Kas (somewhat akin to Campari but non alcoholic), thinking that they had WiFi (called WeeFee here) - wrong!  So eventually, having driven down the famous La Rambla Avenue, I again returned to the ship with the wonderful bus (with an automatic ramp) for 3Euro, as we had to be back already by 12.30pm.
 
Last night at the "Farewell Cocktail Party", I sat for 2 hours with Carol; we had lots of talk and I 3 martinis. But, having devoured all of three olives,  I spurned the Gala night Menu of Lobster/Filet Mignon/Baked Alaska and just managed some smoked salmon and  a couple of small Spring Rolls, came to my cabin and ate the plain yogurt which I had in the fridge.  However, during the night I felt sick, upchucked several times and in the morning and until noon  had diarrhea (I am sure all this is of vital interest to you!!-:)) Of course this interfered quite a bit with the trip into town, since I had to urgently duck into facilities here and there ....But enough already! 
 
Tomorrow we'll be in Genoa and another few weeks of "back and forth" will begin - more next time!  Love and greetings to all!

 
#43    Mar 23-27, 2011  

Genoa:  A long Scooter trip into the old town -   no WiFi to be had, am told that Police had cracked down on places offering it because it had been "misused".  In the old town I found a small travel agency run by a nice Pakistani who offered me access o the Internet by connecting my laptop to his modem, but this didn't work; I then was able to access my email on one of his two computers and send out my Report # 42 in German which he had loaded onto a memory stick which then malfunctioned and for the longest time he tried to re-establish possibilities but failed and so the English Report was not sent.  After some 3 hours there, I returned to the ship - a pretty long drive in a  at a very busy city.

On board, absolute bedlam. Seems the ship is fully booked and, like everything else "arranged" by the Fort Lauderdale office, the fact that I would be at the first dinner seating didn't work and I had literally to scrounge for a seat which I then shared with seven Germans at a table for eight.  When the inevitable strawberries were set on the table, they all helped themselves right away, thinking that this was part of the dinner ... I then of course had to explain and they felt kind of sheepish but enjoyed the later champagne nevertheless. And of course now, that one has to buy bottles of Mineral Water instead of getting free water at the table, the Vouchers for that which I had been promised, didn't materialize.
Lots of pretty loud Italians, quite a few with unruly kids on board, and also many Germans. 

Mar 24 at Sea and a Gala Dinner with preceding Welcome cocktail party for all; the only one serving also martinis which I am always look forward to.  But, alas, this is the setup: First Dinner Seating is at 6.45 pm with the cocktail party for this being at 8.45pm.  Who in the world would want Martinis AFTER Dinner?  For the second seating it's much better- cocktails at 7 pm, Dinner at 9.15, which for me I find too late, that's why I opted for the first. You just can't win. I'll have my own drinks in my cabin.  In the afternoon I have a nice chat with Anna the cruise director who tries to explain the difficulties of arranging things differently, but obviously everything is still not settled because all times from meals to theater have been changed since we came to this side of the globe and also most of the staff so that a period of adjustments is to be expected.  On verra. Anyway, Anna and I get on very well.  I played again, but now only at 5pm and for the next 6 weeks or so there will always be only one sea-day.

Again another table where I eat: 2 ladies from Vienna, a couple from Poland, another, with a girl of maybe 5 years, from Germany.  Next table to us a couple with toddlers, maybe 1 year old, who crawl around the table on the floor and I am afraid tat one of the busy and fast servers my trip over them.  The Maitre d' tells me that next time in Genoa, a table for single travelers will be established, at which I will be sitting.

 
#44    Mar 26-31, 2011

Cadiz: I finally find the Cathedral, in front of which is a restaurant with WiFi.  It's very busy this Saturday morning - besides the many Tourists there are equally many Spaniards und there seem to be preparations for a Fiesta: They are building a Tribune and there is a Sound Truck present.   After a while I am joined by Rosalia, the singer with the Elite Band playing in the Pigalle Lounge and who knows me; she too has a netbook and invites me for a cappuccino.  Eventually I leave to find the ferreteria (hardware store) I am told is in one of the narrow alleys and while he has the right bolts such as I have lost on the scooter (they tend to loosen through the travel bumps and vibrations), the ones he has have a head which requires either a socket or small monkey wrench to turn. I wind up getting 6 of these and have  replaced the original ones under the seat and the backrest at the store with his tools - so now I have some spares which I can put with the Allan wrench supplied with the scooter. 
I discover that someone has unfortunately swiped my Canadian flag which I had on a little pole behind the backrest of the scooter and I have no replacement. I figured this would happen eventually. On the way back to the ship I pass a secluded little square with palm trees where I sit on a bench and have the sandwich I made this morning at breakfast and a yogurt.  Back in my nest at 1.30pm.

After Dinner I visit Angelica who is leaving on the 31. in Genoa for 3 weeks.  She is obviously very much in need of    a change and a rest from what now seems to be a less than enjoyable nightly performance with lots of people, many with kids,  having loud conversations and fun so that her music just serves as  background noise and is wasted. She tells me that she will be replaced "by a 63 year old woman" during her absence.

Mar 27 Lisbon.  We dock at Alcantara, a few KM away from the center of town. It's rainy and pretty cool.  After some time I find a road along the inlet which has one restaurant after another. It's Sunday around 10.30 and they all set up tables outside - I am told families come to eat here around 1pm.  I finally find a restaurant "Don Pomodoro" where I am told that I can have WiFi and I settle in with a Cappuccino at a table against the building and sheltered from rain.  I get back to the ship around 1.30 and meet Loretta who is as always sweet and very affectionate. She is also leaving in Genoa an may not return to Poesia.  Too bad.  I am giving her a CD and tell her that I'll look for her in my next life if we don't see each other again in this.
March 28:  I discover that we arrive in Alicante tomorrow only at 1pm and my appointment with the surgeon is at 11.45.  Allan, the new Passanger Relations officer replacing Alessandro, is most helpful and phones the hospital and is advised that the doctor sees his last patient at 12.30pm. Now Allan will phone tomorrow morning,  talk with the surgeon and see whether he would be able to see me about 1.45 pm.  Allan is really a very nice guy and I am most grateful for the help offered.

Gibraltar: We only arrive at 2.30pm.  After a long Scooter-Trip into town I settle down for a couple of hours in a WiFi-Restaurant and afterwards drive around. I had stopped at Barclay's Bank, thinking of buying some British Pounds but am advised that while the Gibraltar Pounds have the same value as the UK ones, they are not accepted in England.  So I don't buy any, especially since Euros are readily accepted here. Back to the ship towards evening.
Years ago, when we spent one of two Winters in Mojacar, Heidy and I came to Gibraltar on an extensive tour.

Alicante: The ship gets in earlier s expected, I am the first off it, take a taxi and make it to the hospital in time to see the surgeon - actually at about 1.10 only.  An older man, speaks no English (or at least doesn't let on) and I stumble over all the information he requires in my limited Spanish.  I have to take off my shoes, socks and pants and he examines my circulation per stethoscope at various body points, after having inspected the wound. He is very thorough, doesn't talk much except for instructions to the nurse who proceeds  to treat and cover the wound and then starts a long elastic bandage which eventually covers my leg from underneath the heel to below the knee.
Later I sit opposite him while he writes out instructions, we talk a little about them and about my year on Poesia and while he seems rather "remote", I actually elicit a smile from him which I find gratifying.  Anyway,  lack of good circulation seems to be a major problem and the Daflon tablets he prescribes, as well as the bandaging,  point to internal varicose veins.  He says that if it hasn't healed in a month, to see him again and once more it's a matter of crossing my fingers. Now, since I am wearing the bandage, I have more pain than before, but I think in a different place than where the wound is.  Tomorrow afternoon I'll have them do the new daily routine at the Medical Center.
At the hospital cafeteria I stupidly order a Paella, of which I can eat only a quarter and it also comes with a salad. To drink, I request a glass of milk, which arrives piping hot, with a small sugar bag on the side.  Amazing.  But I have WiFi and can do my thing.

Barcelona:  I decided that rather than taking the shuttle bus into town, I'll drive it - I estimate 2-3 KM, since I have a good sense of orientation and pretty much remember the way. It is of course always a bit of a challenge, because I am on sidewalks with lots of people, have to watch out for holes etc and ramps whenever I must cross streets. But I make it, and down the entire Ave.La Rambla in the eternal search for WiFi while looking at the scenery, also in some side alleys of the Old Town.  In a huge Book Shop on two floors I buy a dictionary for Spanish while in another bookstore they only had one for Catalan, spoken here generally, which is a separate language by all accounts. Hoping to find McDonalds, where I know I can get Internet but don't succeed. However, in front of a hotel I hit pay dirt for a little while and reply to some emails before winding (literally!) my long way back, because we have to be on board by 12.30 and I want to provide for the possibility  that the battery empties en route and there is delay in my return. But once again, I am astounded and very pleased with its performance as it still shows good charge when I reach the ship.  I am bushed and lie down for a bit before soup in the cafeteria.  I see in the program that I play today at 5 - guess it is considered a "sea day" because we leave at 1pm.


#45   March 31 - 02 April 2011

We are again in Genova. The chaos is worse than ever, since practically all passengers leave the ship here, as well as at least 50% of the upper personnel; the passengers and the personnel are replaced and we are dealing with about 3000 people! So it takes me a long while until I also can get ashore and another long while until I find the right way to the old town with it's narrow and somewhat romantic alleys and hidden little piazzas. I look in vain for that small travel office run by a Pakistani, but then, much further on, hit "pay dirt" when I find a usable signal in front of a church and can read and answer many emails. And then I see a barbershop and have my hair cut by a man from Morocco; he does a good job but charges me an outlandish 20 Euros, which I pay and later in the day I chastise myself for not even have protested - meek as milquetoast! But I know where this comes from: it's the vestige of my years in Germany under the Nazis when, as a half-Aryan, I was subjected to a great deal of demeaning and became very submissive. Part of my luggage.

Back to the ship and in the evening I sit again at my old table # 691, flanked by four ladies from France, Germany, Austria and England (but originally Russian) and she, Natascha sits across from me and somehow we have instant rapport. Champagne and Strawberries are greeted with glee and demand explanation which I give in three languages; I again am thinking for issuing a printed paper to pass around for the many occasions ahead of me.

After Dinner, Natascha and I sit in the Wine Bar, where Ireni replaces Angelica at the piano, plays very well but emotionless from notes. Natascha is very smart - a system computer analyst or something like it and she talks freely of her life; she has lived in England for 19 years, as has her mother who lives in the same village and in many ways is controlling her life. Natascha is also very attractive and very lively; of course I am smitten, but then 44:94 is no viable equation and that is the way things are these days, Cialis notwithstanding.

Ahead are five identical voyages: Genoa, Malaga, Cadiz, Lisboa, Gibraltar, Alicante, Barcelona, Genoa. Five Passenger exchanges, five new tablemates, five bottles of Moet&Chandon and 50 chocolate-covered strawberries.

April 1 - Sea Day, I play with lots of applause. Gala Evening, Natascha doesn't feel well and disappears from the Dinner Table. I call her later and we have a long talk, but this is no place for it. I look in on the cocktail party at 9.15 pm, have half heartedly half a martini and then go to bed.

April 2 - Malaga. Once again a long scooter trip to town - we are docked far away this time. From where I know McDonalds is I drive about 1 km to Calle Cervantes where I have found out the Canadian Consulate is and where I hope to find a couple of the small CDN flags they hand out to kids to wave on Canada Day, (mine was stolen) but when I finally find it on the first floor of a fancy building with ramps all the way up, it is only open until 1pm and I had the info that it is open also in the afternoon from 2-4 on weekdays. So back to McDonalds for WiFi - it's terribly crowded and noisy, but here you are with another diary page and fond greetings to all!

 

#46    April 3-9, 2011 

I am sitting in an outside restaurant under an umbrella  in front of the cathedral in Cadiz, it's a pretty cool and rainy day. I had a warming cappuccino and WiFi and just was able not only to reply to various emails but also Skype-phone to a bank in Toronto - for once it worked perfectly, quite amazing really.  But I am getting cold sitting here and   can't go inside - no room. So - back to the ship, through the narrow Lanes to the main road along the harbor front.

April 4, Lisbon. A beautiful and warm day - sat in "my" outdoor restaurant for a couple of hours, then drove  around  and made quite a few photos, only to accidentally erase all of them when I am back in my cabin - stupido! Oh well, I'll be back in 8 days ...

April 5: On the way to Gibraltar, we encounter winds of up to 106 KM/HR and very agitated seas. An announcement has been made advising to stay indoors and use the handrails since the ship lurches quite a  bit.  But in a couple of hours we'll be in the Strait of Gibraltar and calmer waters. Wrong. The high winds and rough seas continue unabated and it was just announced that we will not dock at Gibraltar because of the inclement weather, but continue on to Alicante, where we'll arrive in the morning rather than the afternoon as originally provided for.  Big disappointment for the people on this cruise. 
 
April 6: a beautiful, but cool day in Alicante, where I set off with my scooter only to realize too late that I forgot my wallet; so I continue to where the free shuttle stops, take it back to the ship, and then back to the city.  Getting old, after all, but chastise myself for forgetting.  I finally find the post office I am told is in a certain street and mail the letter and claim to the insurance company in the States, about the various leg treatments and am again glad that I took my printer which enabled me to send a letter as well.  Because medical insurance at my age turned out prohibitive in cost, always denied pre-existing conditions and always had limits of between 2 and 5 million dollars which I don't need, I had decided to find a company that sold me an accident insurance policy for a limit of only $ 10,000 which also included possible evacuation from the ship. So my leg situation, which is still ongoing, should be covered, being the result of my scooter accident, even though it happened some 5 months ago.  My "nose job" which cost over $800 is not covered and I am going to try and get at least a small amount back from the BC Medical Insurance.

For a long time I sat on a bench in an amazing park between two main roads, lined with huge old trees.  I was blessed with WiFi and could do my tasks. For lunch I had a banana and a yogurt which I had brought from the ship,later drove around on the road through another park and this was lined with lots of stalls, all seemingly selling the same types of souvenirs.  Residents of the city sat in the sun all around on collapsible chairs visiting - all very laid back. Got back to the ship about 2pm - tonight is Gala night again, so it's showering and changing into duds (but  to impress whom?) By the way, on the US side there was always lobster on the menu this night; here it is Jumbo Shrimps, complete with head, body and lots of legs,  troublesome and messy to get to the meat, but  g o o d!

April 7: Barcelona. It's a long way to Av. La Rambla, but it's well provided for wheelchairs etc and all street crossings have ramps.  Eventually I found Calle Ferran, on the corner of which is a McDonalds. It was still closed, but I had their free WiFi as I sat on the Scooter in front of their door. At about 9.45 am they opened; it's small inside, but there are two floors above and there is an elevator which is always operated by one of the employees since they had so much trouble with kids. For a couple of hours I sat comfortably at a table on the second floor and was the only one there - just great! And I didn't even buy anything since it was so early and I had a banana with me.  But because we had to be back on the ship by 12.30 as we'll be leaving at 1pm and it would take at least 25 minutes  over the big bridge, I left shortly after 11.
When I re-entered the Terminal building, I met Loretta (Immigrations-Officer on the Poesia) who is leaving tomorrow for a three month' holiday and again invited me to come along and stay in her apartment with her, of course also meet her family, and return to the ship in 8 days when it is again in Genova.  Even though this is a bit complicated for me to achieve - I'll have to officially dis-and re-embark, make arrangements with the medical Center so that I can do my own leg dressing and various other things to be set up. On the other hand, I feel that I just cannot pass this up, despite the fact that to get to Padova, where she lives, will take at least  6 hours by train (change in Milano).  So that's it.  A side trip and possible adventure I may report on in detail (or not).

I said good bye to my table, but Natasha wasn't there. Helga, from Vienna, really gave me the pips- she had a loud and high voice and talked like a machine gun (with seemingly unending ammunition to boot). Natasha I saw when I brought the rest of my mineral water to her cabin and knocked.  As I said -and this is boring by now - if only I could be 30 years younger!

April 8:  Genoa. Lots of disembarking. Had a coffee with Anna, whom I not only like but also admire very much.  She handles a multitude of tasks with aplomb and ease and despite the pretty much constant pressure, manages   to  always be smiling and welcomes me warmly.  A truly nice person and personality.

I then saw Loretta, who is all packed with lots of stuff in her office. We'll meet towards noon outside near the taxis. After a taxi ride to the  very old station which has no elevators down to the tracks which meant that poor Loretta had to schlep not only her own but also my stuff down two and up two flights of stairs; but first we got the tickets and then had to find out when and where since it turns out that signs are wrong or non existent, clocks don't work and neither do the automatic indicators of when the next train at this track is or where it is going. We sit on a bench surrounded by our belongings and still have to wait for another 20 minutes before we finally can board the train for Milano, where we have to change, hopefully get to the right track in time for the connecting train for Padova.
 
# 47   April 8 - 14, 2011

April 8   The train to Milano was packed and it was difficult finding a seat.  Loretta stayed in the entrance vestibule on a jumpseat because she wanted to guard her luggage, part of which, together with mine, was piled up next to me as well in the aisle between seats. So much stuff!  While the train reached probably 80KM/Hr, it stopped frequently in towns en route and took a little more than two hours to cover the 135 KM.  We found the right track in the huge and modern Milano Station and were lucky to have had reserved seats, because this train, too, was bursting at the seams, with people even sitting on the floor.  But it was a fast Intercity train and took just a little over 2 hours for the 200-odd KMs.  Next to Loretta sat Fatima, a young woman from Saudi Arabia who had lowered the black veil and her mouth, perfect teeth and  winning smile enhanced her pretty face. Next to me, and on seats across the aisle, two brothers, with whom she is on a two week holiday, going to Rome after Venice.

Loretta's father meets us at the station in Padova and, because of very heavy traffic this Friday evening takes a long way to bring us to the house where he and his wife live, where I meet brother Daniel and sister Alice, both younger than Loretta who is 46.  In this house we'll eat except for breakfast, and have WiFi, sometimes only sporadically. The parents, especially the mother, are very nice, have accepted me with open arms as one of the family and I feel quite at home.
Next 2 days, April 9 and 10, being Saturday and Sunday we mainly stay at home except for a trip to a very modern indoor shopping mall - there is need for resting after the long day, and then trying to bring a semblance of order to the masses of Loretta's things stapled up in one of the ground floor rooms of the parent's house - she realizes  that she has much too much stuff and is thinking of going to a flea market.  On the way back we stop at a flower shop and I buy a large and pretty bouquet for Mama.

Loretta's is a modern and very compact apartment which requires twice 18 steps for me to climb moaningly. It's one bedroom/bath, a sort of small storage room and a kitchen/living room where I sleep on a convertible sofa. Like in the parent's place, here too are lots of souvenirs and curios everywhere. A nice feature is the balcony which overlooks large fields on one side because this is actually a suburb of Padova.

Nothing happens this Monday, April 11; Loretta had to do a huge wash with the equally compact small washing machine in her bathroom which had to work many times to handle it all; Loretta hung the wash then on racks on the balcony. And in the afternoon she went to clean the apartment - not having been home for the last 7 months she has a lot of catching up to do in many directions, which include visiting friends.  But tomorrow we'll go into the city. Lots of WiFi trouble today which had Loretta arguing with the server on the telephone with lots of expressive gestures for a long time.  Since then however, it has been working!

April 12/13: The kitchen in the parent's house is the hub of activity.  While there is what would  be a living room, it, like some other rooms, seems never to be used (I have a nap there on the sofa in the afternoon).  But the kitchen does not look much like one, since all the doors, including the ones on fridge and dish washer, are of identical dark wood as the cabinet doors - this is also so in Loretta's apartment except that her's are white.  There is a rectangular table, a sofa and a large modern TV (there's another one in the living room, never used).  Went into town with Loretta on bus and "trenino", a very fast modern streetcar and visited a wonderful church and a market where I bought a cake for the table.  I will invite all out for a meal before leaving.

I have now decided to avail myself of the opportunity and for definitely the last time to go to Switzerland and have found train schedules on www.rail.ch from Genova/Bern and return and while I can buy the tickets on line, they are not available as e-tickets but would be mailed to a foreign country in this case Italy, since it would have to be sent to MSC's Agents in Genova to reach me on Poesia.  However, I just now saw that I can get the tickets here at the station for about the same price and have written down the chosen schedules from www.trenitalia.com so that I can tell the agent at the ticket wicket exactly what I want when I am at the Padova Station on the 16th before my trip back to Genova.  There is always a long line before one gets to the  ticket counter.

I had insisted that Loretta not come back with me to Genova which she wanted to do, but yesterday she went back to the station and bought her tickets to do just that, goaded apparently by her mother.  I feel very badly about this because it means almost 12 hrs on trains and its fairly expensive, but when I talked with the mother and also Loretta about it, they made it very clear that they feel absolutely responsible for my safety, regardless of how vehemently I assured them that there was absolutely no need for the chaperon.  They would say, "what if something happens to you en route? We would feel responsible".  Nothing I can do - so be it.

 
 #48   April 15-18, 2011

April 15: I had invited them all for a meal in a restaurant and Daniele drove us to a very nice pizzeria/restaurant quite far away. An obviously well known and up-beat place which had, besides dozens of different pizzas also a regular restaurant menu, from which I chose "Wurstel and French fried", hoping for a nice Bratwurst but it turned out to be a nicely presented but very pedestrian sausage. On the other hand, I had an "Americano" (Campari/Vermouth) cocktail which I savoured. The desert I chose was a Parfait, smothered with whipped cream and many types of berries, very good, too much and expensive (about $8). Anyway, a good time was had by all and I sure could get used to ending a meal with an espresso with a shot of Grappa in it as I also had at every meal in "the kitchen". By the way, thanks, Steve, for sacrificing more of your inheritance!

April 16: Papa drove us to the station to which also Daniele came to say good bye (before work, even on this Saturday). It was quite an emotional farewell all around and Daniele in particular seemed to find it hard to say goodbye. I certainly like him very much. There is no question that I was very glad to have Lauretta's assistance with the luggage up and down stairs and on the trains which were absolutely packed, I suppose specially so because of the weekend. Nevertheless, it involved a lot of walking which I am finding increasingly challenging.

In Genova, before taking the taxi back to the ship, we stood in line some 20 minutes for me to buy my tickets for the trip to Switzerland May 2-10 and I was very glad to have done my homework so that I could tell exactly train times and numbers I had chosen on line where I also had discovered special rates which reduced the entire return fare to about $108. The only drawback is the fact that with this fare, the system chooses the seat reservation and I don't get a window anywhere.

I still felt very bad about Lauretta's decision to bring me back all the way to Genova, despite my protestations that I am an experienced traveler and not the "little boy" she likes to refer me to. I told her that she should have had kids. Now she was faced with another 4-5 hrs. until she got home. We said good bye and I guess I'll see her again on board in another 3 months.

I took a taxi to whom she dictated the place it had to take me which resulted in my being grossly overcharged (15 Euro) for the relatively short distance to the dock and then I had to walk a long way until I finally came to the gangway into the ship where it turned out that I had been disembarked which was against the arrangement of a sort of "shore leave" for the 8 days. It, like everything else, took a long time to settle with much animated talks and telephone calls and finally I was met by the new immigration officer, brought upstairs to the reception and was re-registered and photographed and received a new cruise card. And then it felt good to collapse in my cabin again.

Of course I received a call from room service about the champagne and told them to deliver it to my table 691. But then I got an advice under the cabin door that I had been assigned a different table, heaven knows why. So I had to go down before dinner to get them to move the stuff to my new table 682. This turned out to be for 8 people. Next to me a Scottish couple, on the other side a French couple from Nice, opposite me a Californian woman of Italian descent and next to her a woman from Albania. Suffice it to say that Champagne, Strawberries as well as my usual speech were all suitably digested. On board there seem to be many younger people and a lot of kids.

Like always the day after Genoa at sea, I'll play at 5pm and it's a Gala dinner with the cocktail party scheduled afterwards - a truly stupid setup. However, I'll probably go for the martini anyway. A few days in Padua I was cold all day because the weather had changed and now my bronchitis is back and I cough my fool head off. Too bad. I have been told that there are some 900 kids on board (Easter holidays!). No wonder then, that when I returned from playing the piano this afternoon, someone had ripped off and stolen my nice ceramic name tag that had graced my cabin door.
 

# 49    April 18-23, 2011  

 
May 20, Lisbon:  I had put this on my cabin door:  " MISSING! Someone ripped off and took my ceramic name tag from my cabin door. I would appreciate having it back - it means more to me than to you!  Egon # 11141".
This morning before 8 am, the cabin steward caught me still in bed nursing my cold and brought the name plate in - which he just had found on the floor in front of my door. Luckily I have just enough of the thick double sided sticky tape left to refasten it. I guess some kid got hell from a parent (or not).
 
Yep, I have a full blown cold, blowing and coughing. Tomorrow in Gibraltar I'll get some more cough syrup and hopefully a good cold medication at a pharmacy. Sure want to cure this before May 2.
Meantime, my good friend Ruth, sister of my sweetheart Beatrice, has invited me to stay at her place in Bremgarten, a suburb of Bern and I am sure grateful for this because further searches for something available and affordable proved fruitless once again.  And sweet Sabine (niece of Annemarie Hahnloser) will, at her suggestion, make an appointment for me to see her husband Andreas, who is a cosmetic surgeon, to look at my leg which is still being treated and bandaged daily but does not show improvement. 
Yesterday in Cadiz it was cold and rainy and I got drenched, which of course is the ideal fundament for a  cold. Today in Lisbon it started out somewhat similar, but I really bundled up and then sat inside a restaurant nice and cozy with the loo right around the corner which was a blessing since when I ran out of lots of Kleenex, I could avail myself of lots of TP. There's always a rainbow somewhere.
 
April 21 and we have arrived in Gibraltar. It's raining cats an dogs and I may not be able to go out and have to wait for Alicante tomorrow.  The ships monitor, showing the ship's position, speed, wind, etc. and visible on the Cabin's TVs and many locations throughout the ship, also shows today's outside temperature which reads 146.C/295.5F. Guess we are going straight to Hell.
April 22 in Alicante, better weather but still cool. We only got there at 1pm and in the morning Anna invited me to meet the new Hotel Manager who is an attractive young lady from Finland and then were joined by what I took to be a senior officer who told me, when I ask for his function, that he was the captain (nobody had introduced him to me as such and he is only in his forties) .. anyway, I sank visibly and apologized but of course I was not familiar with the uniform insignia.  A very nice man and very different from the captain who left.  Then I went for my leg treatment to the Medical Center, where I had one of my awful coughing spells, which got the doctor  to listen to my chest, prescribe, sell and charge me for  a course of 12 tablets (2 daily) which also contain penicillin, and others to loosen mucus.  As I write this tonight at 11.30, I already feel somewhat better.
 
We only got to Alicante at 1pm and I took the shuttle bus into town and then went on to the park where I was last time. I finally sat down under one of those huge trees where I have WiFi. I was approached by a well dressed man who flashed what looked like a identity paper and said he was police and that they were looking for a white haired man, together with another person, who exchanged $2000 for Euros in one of the big hotels and it turned out that the Dollars were forged. He apologized but would have to ask me for identifications such as passport (which I didn't have on me, but a Canadian Citizenship Card) asked for driver's license and other identifications such as credit cards etc, which he saw in my open wallet. All the time he seemed to be on his cell phone ostensibly with headquarters and asked many other questions about being with a group etc etc.  By the time he finally was through and put the phone down he said something like "sorry for the inconvenience, but you understand, we must protect the public. It's OK now, you have been cleared" and gave me back a small pile of papers from my wallet, including the Bank of America Check Card on top and told me to go over to the next park, because they would be closing this one off now.  All sounded very plausible and I haphazardly put the stuff back in my wallet and took off.  
 
It was only when I got back to the ship an hour or so later that I discovered that my MasterCard and another Bank Card were missing and then suddenly thought of the fact that at one point during the "examination" he had asked for my pin which I refused to give and chastised myself for the fact that I didn't realize at that point what was going on.  There's an old Jewish saying: Ve get too soon oldt and too late schmart".  How very true.  I was extremely upset and agitated and could easily have had a heart attack at the realization of what had happened and then frantically started thinking of the necessary countermeasures. I finally found MasterCard's telephone number, rushed off the ship again half an hour before we were to return to it, only to find that there was absolutely no telephone in the entire terminal building.  Back onto the ship, I tracked down Allan, the new guest relation officer with whom I have a bit of a friendship going and he used the ship's satellite phone for me to cancel the MasterCard and ask for a new one to be sent to Olivia, whom I will see May 17 in Southampton.  Normally, a call from the ship costs 6 Euro/Minute - and my call was at least 5 minutes long - but maybe, just maybe, ... well, we'll see.  So much for Alicante.
 
In retrospect I see this episode as another classic example of my "unquestioning submission to authority" that had been hammered into me during the Nazi years beginning in 1933, and which I already referred to once before in my reports when I spoke of the day in 1939 when I left Germany for England and was taken off the train by the SS at the Dutch border.
    (to add this last sentence, I got up at 4.30 this morning, April 23, during a restless and thoughtful night.)

 

# 50 April 23 - 29, 2011

In Barcelona, I sat again in front of McDonalds working with my computer on my lap and waiting for them to open - I was almost an hour too early for that to happen at 9.30. In Barcelona, I have been warned frequently by passers-by who see me with my laptop - apparently there are many "grab and run" thieves and if that should happen to me it sure would be the end of a lot of things. It's a pretty dangerous life I am leading away from the ship, which includes the scooter drives, which often present challenging and hazardous moments. I do the best I know how, but can see the writing on the wall limiting the time I'll be able to cope with some of the physical aspects of my life, which includes walking.

By the way, I finally realized that the other card the crook took was the Bank card of Bank of Montreal, which didn't have my name on it but witch I used on ATM machines (of course with pin, which he doesn't have). I am sending an email to have it cancelled - was going to phone but this would have to be after 6pm because of the 9 hr time difference which made it impossible, also Easter Monday the bank may have been closed.

April 24, Geneva. I decided to scoot to the railroad station to check it out so that I'll know my way round there when I leave from Bern. But it was raining lightly and I eventually got quite wet. Then I was off in search of the post office, which I found but of course was closed - I forgot that this was Easter Sunday; I wanted to mail my letter of thanks to Lauretta's parents and this will now have to wait until Malaga on the 26th. I eventually found an internet hotspot, where I was able to work my mails, but in a very uncomfortable position because they had to use their computer cable to plug into my laptop (they have cabins for use of their own machines only).

But I got to realize another huge problem when I talked to my good friend Mandy at the Reception about my upcoming trip to Bern: While we arrived last time in Geneva even before the scheduled 8am, the clearance by the Italian authorities was only given about 8.45. My train leaves at 9.19 and it takes at least 10 minutes by taxi to the station and then some time to get to the right track. So now I'll talk with Stefanie, the new ship's immigration officer, to see what can be done such as my getting clearance right away when the officers come aboard, rather than having to wait until all has been checked. Wish me luck! It would be extremely complicated changing the ticket and advising everybody.
Now I just talked with Stefanie who assures me that I'll be cleared first and off the ship in time; she also will have a taxi waiting for me. Here's hoping.

I have been assigned a new table and the champagne was shared with the only other couple at the table the first night: Trevor and Du Toit, both men from South Africa and married to each other since 9 years. so the rest of the champagne was corked and served next evening, when the table was vastly enriched by two young and very pretty ladies and a young man, all from Australia: Daniel, Oralee and Bree, the first two 18 year old law students, Bree, the "oldest" (I guess 22) a personal assistant to an executive, whatever that means and they are all very nice.
I brought some of the strawberries to Angelica who just came back - nice to see her. But, just as in previous days, I was in bed by 9pm, still trying to cure my coughing. In the afternoon, before playing in the Atrium, I used an inhalation machine with medication supposed to clear bronchial tubes.
There are again a lot of kids on board and they are noisy and without concern for anybody else.

April 26: Nice day in Malaga, sat outside at McDonalds for a few hours doing my stuff. Again early to bed, after a small Dinner - just don't have any appetite these days.

April 27, Cadiz and a beautiful day. Unfortunately there was no internet access at my "usual" outside restaurant opposite the cathedral for some reason and I drove around until I found a signal since I could get no info on a possible internet cafe, and then just sat on the sidewalk on the scooter with the laptop on my knee (I think I'll write a song "with the laptop on my knee" since it happens so often). Got a few more things straightened out in regards to the trip to Bern and Olivia's visit to the ship, also learned from her that the address she had once given me was incomplete, so that I wonder whether the various mailings will ever reach her (including the Bank Cards!). And I stopped at a pharmacy and got another cough syrup to loosen this persistent hacking which drives me batty and hurts muscles in my back. I am determined to beat this before Bern.

And this afternoon I did a major restoration to the bowtie which I use with my cocktail suit; it had come unhinged and, as if an indication of the general state of affairs, was sagging badly. It was no mean feat, since I can use only one eye and this required very close work.


# 51  28 April - May 01, 2011

Beautiful weather in Lisbon, where I sat in "my" outside restaurant, had my cappuccino and WiFi. On the way back to the ship I just couldn't resist to buy a silly animated dancing cow for Beatrice which I knew would appeal to her sense of humour and in the Terminal building found a pretty kitchen towel with a bullfight scene woven in, to be added to quite a few acquired souvenirs to bring to friends in Switzerland. But fate plays tricks: when checking through security, I put the cow, the towel and my computer case in the big plastic container they supply and took these out at the other end, sitting on my scooter; because the towel was flat, I didn't see it because I was below line of sight and so I forgot it. Another annoyance (with me!) and loss of about $5.

Our restaurant table has become very animated and nice. The two married boys (50) get along with the girls and Daniel famously and there is much amusing talk and lots of laughter. I only can partake partially, because of some hearing loss which, although I hear the ambient noise loud and clear and bothersome, to understand words directed at me through it is often nearly impossible.

29. April, Gibraltar. Before getting there, I was invited by Anna for coffee and while I waited for her in her office, had a long talk with her sidekick, Claudia, who also is German. Anyway in these little meetings I learn a lot of happenings behind the scenes, jugglings for position and undesirable company policies.

It's raining and Allan said he would send me one of those clear plastic rain coats that come in a neat little package belying its size. After waiting half an hour for it and unable to reach Allan, I decide to go out, got wet and returned to the ship and at reception found out that someone had forgotten to send the raincoat up to my cabin. So now I was equipped for a long ride to a McDonalds, where I sat for a few hours inside, where there were dozens of noisy kids playing hide and seek while their equally noisy parents sat, yakked and ate. However, that's the price for free WiFi!

30. April, Alicante, scene of my "police" encounter 8 days ago. It rained again, but I found a McDonalds, had to sit on the Scooter though with the laptop on my knees. Unfortunately forgot my wallet and so could not buy items I intended for Berne. Maybe tomorrow in Barcelona. Getting old.

May 1., Barcelona. Yep, I found something to bring along and spent a couple of hours at my favourite McDonalds, but then had some difficulty getting back to the ship, because once aboard the shuttle bus onto which I drove over a retractable ramp, the ramp would not go back any more and eventually I, as well as a lady in a wheelchair, had to get off. This was already close to the time we had to be back at the ship and huge crowds were pushing and shoving at the next bus that came and it took some pushing of my own until I could tell the driver to put out the ramp for me, only to be told that this bus didn't have one! Meantime, there had already two extra buses commandeered and more crowds surged. He did put the ramp out and the lady in the wheelchair got on, but when I also wanted to, he wouldn't let me on, saying "One only wheelchair", even though on the way out, the lady and I were on the bus side by side going into the city.. Utterly frustrated, I, in the nick of time, got onto the next bus. These huge crowds everywhere, also in the cafeteria on the ship, are the worst aspect of this Odyssey and if I would do it again, I would chose a smaller ship with less passengers, like Holland America's "Amsterdam" with only 1800 as against Poesia's 3000+.

Incidentally, I am writing this entry from May 1 while on the train May 2, now just entering the Simplon tunnel at Iselle. At least now you know that I made it but will get details only in my next report.

# 52    2-4 May 2011

May 2: Everyone in the "upper echelon" on Poesia was most helpful to enable this trip to Switzerland and I was quite touched. Practically as soon as the ship docked in Genova I got clearance and that was before 8.30 AM. They provided Luigi (guest services) to come with me to the Station and had ordered a taxi, which however was waiting at a different place from the one where we looked for it, which caused some delay and extra running around, but there was a lot of time to spare until the train's departure at 9.19. Luigi knew less about the station than I (having cased it the week before) but at last we were at the right platform and I "dismissed" Luigi there, because there was no point of him hanging around for another 3/4 hour - I would be able to manage and would find the right car and someone to help hoisting my luggage up the 3 pretty steep steps.
This worked out OK. In Milano, the walk first from the long train to the end of platform No.19 to platform No. 3 and again down the long train to my car number was quite strenuous for me and took over 20 minutes; a very long distance and made worse by the huge crowds towing luggage and flitting into my path from all angles. But I made it (with 5 minutes to spare) and, while I had been assigned an aisle seat, was able to switch to an unreserved window seat which was very nice, except for a pretty rough type of a guy opposite me who was sleeping off whatever he did the night before and later on was caught by the control without a ticket.

Entering Switzerland has been a very emotional experience - I love this country and have probably more memorable times to remember than my many years in Canada; from the first time I returned there in 1948 to the 40 or more subsequent transatlantic trips to Bern; from the fact that both my mother, aunt and sister were living there to my getting to know one branch of the Koenig family already in 1948 even though I met my future wife, Heidy Koenig, only in Canada 15 years later, but then got to know the entire extended Koenig Dynasty in Switzerland. And of course I am fully aware that this will be my last time here.
Ursula and Emile met me at the station and it took much driving around Berne's suburbs until the right road to Bremgarten was found, where Ruth received me with open arms. She is such a dear person and unable to do enough for me. She is also very lonely since her husband died eight years ago; she still has not been able to let go and escapes into a great many different activities so as not to face the real issue. Since her husband's death I am the first man in her house and she has not allowed herself any close male friends, although I am sure she, being as attractive as she is, would have had many opportunities all along. So it seems to me that she lavishes on me all sort of pent-up expression of love.
And then came my darling Beatrice, Ruth's sister, whom I love dearly and she me. Suffice it to say that, were I younger, I would propose marriage or living together.

Next morning, May 3, very early, drove to the bus station with Ruth, took the bus to the Station, found a Passport photomachine, and had the necessary done for her to buy me a 7-day general bus/tram permit on all Bern routes as a welcome present - so sweet! But when we came to the office to get the ticket, I discovered that I didn't have my handbag - which this time did not include my Netbook, but my passport, bank books, about $ 150, and camera and since I knew that I had taken it along, thought that I must have left it in the automatic passport photo cell in the station.
It had been raining cats and dogs all morning and Ruth had given me another bag over my shoulder with a folding umbrella inside, which of course I took off to have the photo taken and I figured that I also had put down the notebook and forgot it. So poor Ruth, already strapped for time because she was supposed to be at work at the university by then, rushed back, went to the Lost and found, police, and asked around - nothing. What a calamity! Mentally I made all plans necessary, from filing a police report (only possible an hour later), calling the Canadian embassy, etc. and asked for divine intervention. Then Ruth did absolutely have to go and I, with umbrella over me, but partially under the arcades of the Altstadt, went to the main police station to make a report, however that, too, was only available for this purpose in half an hour but I was told that the police post in the station could also accept it. So back to there and it was a long and tough walk for me. They said that I first should file the report with the main Lost and found of Bern and if after a few days nothing was brought in there, a police report could be filed as a stolen item.

With my new permit, I took the bus back to Bremgarten Post, where Fernando and his wife Irene, neighbours and good friends of Ruth, were waiting with their car to bring me back to the house (which would be a 20 minute walk for me in the rain). But on the bus, I had an epiphany: maybe I had left the bag in Ruth's Auto, which she had parked at the bus station. So, when I got there, I looked in ... and could see it!! What a relief! What luck! Fernando phoned her right away at the Uni so that Ruth could breathe easier. She came home for lunch (normally she doesn't), brought a small Quiche and half a BB Chicken and made a salad - she really spoils me rotten and I am almost embarrassed. Then she was off to work again and Beatrice is supposed to come after her work around 4pm (which she started at 7am as an operation-room nurse) and the plan was that we go see Hans and Ruth Kern in Eggiwil. Now, close to 4pm, the rain has stopped and it seems to clear up somewhat.

May 4: I had an appointment at 11.45 with Dr.Tschopp (Andreas) who is the husband of Sabine Hahnloser; they have an apartment in the next house to where my sister lived and I got to know and befriended them several years ago; my sister however was close friends with Sabine's Grandmother who, so I understand, started the huge and priceless art collection for which the family is famous in Berne. Andreas, a cosmetic surgeon, has a praxis together with his father in a beautiful old villa, an ambiance which is unlike the usual where also operations are performed. Anyway, Andreas checked out my leg wound, which is actually at a point of healing; he cleaned it up and told me that it cannot heal unless I wear a compression stocking because my blood circulation in the leg is so bad.
Then he an Sabine invited me for lunch in a Thai restaurant and after that Sabine went with me into town to a pharmacy where I was measured for the stocking, was ordered and will be delivered on Friday.
In the afternoon I met my dear friend Gertrud Hofer, who is my age and was a colleague of my sister. Despite her arthritis pain she came into town to meet with me at a tearoom where we had a coffee and stayed for a while - she had a doctor's appointment.

 

# 53    May 5 -10, 2011

May 5:  Elise came to get me early and went with me to Migros and Denner where I was able to find and buy Napolitains (small chocolates with Swiss landscape pictures on the wrappings) and mini Toblerone bars, also small plastic bags into which Elise then helped me at her beautiful condominium to assort the chocolates which I shall bring to designated persons on the ship. Later I spent the afternoon with my sweetheart Beatrice and we went to have dinner in a well known restaurant where I fulfilled one of my wishes with "L
äberli u Röschti" (small pieces of liver in a cream sauce and the famous Swiss shredded potatoes), followed by a " Meringue mit Needle" - what a treat!

May 6. I went with Ruth and the mother of her best friend Corolla to her mother's home, actually a castle about 30 KM from Berne - what a treasure! The mother's (Gisela) husband had been a musician and obviously an avid collector of antique instruments, from Flutes to Lutes to mandolins and others, all decorating the walls, but the piece de resistance was a special edition of a Petrov Grand Piano which an ornate outside including curved and shaped legs with gold leaf, in beautiful condition and superb sound - a real pleasure to play. Later we sat on a balcony high above the village below, and overlooking the wide panorama of the Seeland.
In the afternoon/evening was the last time with Beratrice, because she was leaving next morning for France - she long ago made plans to attend a birthday party of a good friend to which she was invited, had made all travel arrangements and hotel reservations. But we spent a few special hours together at a restaurant after she came home from work.

May 7, a full day which started around 10 when Ursula and Emile picked me up and brought me to a restaurant in Ostermundigen (another of Bern's suburbs); to make it short - we wound up to be 13 people, all related to each other and to my wife Heidy who died 5 years ago. My brother in law Markus came with his partner Jacky from Zurich, another one, Heinz with his wife Alice from Biel and there were several nieces and cousins of Heidy. It certainly was nice to see them all again and my coming to Bern was also for them an occasion to see each other which wouldn't have happened otherwise.
The evening was quite special, since I was invited to a party of about 25 people in my honour at one of the beautiful Hahnloser Villas which are a cross between an art gallery and a museum, besides of course being just gorgeous. All walls are hung with paintings and all rooms are exquisitely furnished. The party was of course organized by Sabine, the superb food may have been catered and while it was buffet-style, lacked nothing of opulence and champagne and wines flowed freely, served by a white tuxedo and a female counterpart. Not surprisingly, there were several physicians and academics present with their wives, also the commercial attaché and his wife of the Canadian Embassy in Bern who has an apartment in the same house where Sabine lives. There also were quite a few children besides Sabine's own. I gave a little explanatory speech about my decision to live a year on Poesia and gave a few of the highlights, and, as expected, was asked to play the Bechstein Grand and this in itself was a treat for me. A true highlight of my visit to Switzerland for sure and not only did they bring me back to Bremgarten afterwards, which is a pretty long drive, but also presented me with the compression stocking they had in the meantime received, as a gift. I certainly felt very touched, honoured and humble in face of all the expression of love and friendship.

May 8: Mother's day and Ruth, her mother and I went to Erlach on the Neuenburger Lake, where she has what she calls a "camp"; it consists of a cute refurbished Gypsy wagon (stationary), a Pergola and several boats anchored at a small laguna and entrance to the lake itself, with grass in between. They have electricity and close by are all necessary facilities because there is quite an assortment of boats, from small to a few elegant yachts. Ruth made an excellent dinner in the early afternoon and several local friends came visiting. When it was time to leave, the battery was dead, because Ruth had forgotten to shut off the lights after a long tunnel. It was great luck to find one of the Sunday visitors who came with jumper cables and he was rewarded with a bottle of wine.

May 9: at 10am Hans Kern came to pick me up and bring me to Eggiwil in the famous Emmental, where he, his wife Ruth and golden Retriever Sky run a romantic Bed and Breakfast on one of the hills surrounding the village, where Steve and I had stayed in 2009 and befriended the owners; Hans is also an excellent professional photographer.
It was a gorgeous day and Hans took me there over some wonderful side roads with views of the Bernese Alps which always are a joy to behold and cause for a tear or two. Ruth had made a nice Rhubarb pie and we had coffee with milk, which had boiled over and the oven benefited from a thorough cleaning.
Back in Bern, more friends from out of town came for a short visit - she a teacher and former pupil of my sister, he a retired SwissAir pilot, 19-year old son who just opened his own art gallery in Bern and is already recognized as one of the future leading art connoisseurs and critics.

May 10: At 6.45, my good friend Elise came and brought me to the Station and eventually to the train. Saying goodbye to Ruth was not without emotion. I know Elise for some 20 years: she was sitting in the same row of seats on the plane from Alicante to Zurich when Heidy and I returned from several months in Mojacar, Spain, where we had rented a small apartment in the villa of English friends, and we have been in touch ever since. She's Norwegian but also Swiss by her marriage to her deceased but famous husband who wrote many books cataloguing flora and fauna of Kantons and country, richly imbued with his own photographs.
The train to Milan had to be taken on a detour because of some track repairs and lost 20 minutes or so of it's schedule, which meant that the connection in Milan to the train for Genova was lost, also for the young women next to me who traveled to San Remo, where she will be presented to the parents of her Italian boyfriend - the first step towards engagement. She's of course nervous about that but I can, with good reason, reassure her. Later on she helps me with my suitcase down the steep steps from the train and in the Milan station we take a train only one hour later to Geneva. There, I must negotiate two flights of stairs down and again up and this sweet girl hefts my luggage. Eventually I get a taxi, but not only is the return into the ship with all the people doing the same thing very slow and tiring, when I finally get to the point inside the ship where they check your board card and compare it to your stored picture, it turns out that I am no longer in the computer and have to wait standing there for someone to come whom the controller had called. When I had waited there 15 minutes with nothing happening, I just walked in and told the man to have them contact me in my cabin. I could however not open it, because the card no longer worked, but the room steward let me in. Anyway, it entailed a new registration and photograph at the reception desk, because I had been disembarked, like when I went to Padova a few weeks earlier. Complicated and a bit of a nuisance, but now it won't happen again until I leave the ship for good October 15.
Saw Mandy, who was about to leave to return to South Africa for several months, gave her, and Anna (Cruise Director), Claudia (Assistance) and Laura (Concierge) their little chocolate packages and now will go to see Angelica with hers as well as some Strawberries, which, together with champagne enhanced the Dinner table tonight where there are 7 Aussies with me, three couples and one lady - all older and not the types to excite me. But they are happy.

 

# 54: May 10 - 18, 2011

I distributed my little bags of Swiss chocolates and caught Mandy, my closest friend from the Reception just as she was leaving the ship to return to her native South Africa for several months; Needless to say, there were smiles all over and I also gave chocolates to my room stewards and the doctor and nurse at the Medical Center where I went to on the following day. I have decided to medicate and dress my leg myself from now on and got the necessary wherewithal from the nurse. The reason is that I have to remove and then put back on the compression stocking as well as the one I have to wear under it and all that takes too much time and also does not always fit in with the operational hours of the Center. It'll be alright, but handling the stocking (with rubber gloves on!) sure is a pain. Hope it does what it's supposed to do and the wound will finally heal up and close and I can go swimming again.

After a day at sea (I played again) I at last was able in Malaga to sent of reports Nos 52 and 53 on which I had worked whenever I could including on the train, answered a lot of emails and forgot to send some which I had prepared to send to some friends in Bern. Some good soul and reader of my logs on Cruisecritic.com sent an email urging me to use the ship's internet rather than chase McDonalds, but at about US$ 8.50/hr at the lowest rate, I'll rather chase, especially since I spend always 2-3 hrs on line.

On return to the ship at Genova, I had been assigned a new table, No, 676, where I am with 5 ladies and two men, all from Australia. One of the men is a double of Jimmy Durante. Of course we went through the usual champagne/strawberry ritual and afterwards I went with chocolates and two of the strawberries to Angelica who obviously was delighted to see me. I didn't stay and went to bed early. Looming large is the fact that I'll have to move on May 20 to cabin 12075 - something I knew and stewed about already before even starting this adventure but which I just was unable to have changed. But before that I am looking forward to the visit of my "kissin'cousin" Olivia Landsberg who lives in London, and after breakfast and a ship inspection by special permission, we'll go to her mother for Lunch. She is Sylvia, a dear friend who is the wife of my deceased cousin Peter, a noted Physicist who died a couple of years ago. Sylvia lives in a beautiful house with a large garden of her design (she was well known in this activity).

May 15 At Vigo, Spain, which I had never even heard of before. It lies North of Lisbon and is an important city, capital of Galicia. Right in front of the Terminal Building is a huge very modern shopping center, with most shops closed, because today is Sunday. However I found Wifi there and sent out some emails. In front of the building is a large open area with outdoor cafes and there also was a little flea market with maybe 10 stands; I found a little ceramic souvenir from Portugal for Olivia. Behind our ship is one of the competition, Costa, which looks of much older vintage than Poesia (which is only 3 years old).

May 16: I was interviewed twice tonight, once from a Lisbon team of travel agents, and once by the English Travel Channel which even was filmed and I'll eventually get a DVD of the take (will get them to send it to Steve).

May 17: The big day of Olivia's visit to the ship! We got to Southampton early, and so Laura, the Concierge, and I walked the long serpentine of ramps off the ship and into the Terminal Building where Olivia was waiting. This of course was the arrival section of the building, but because we would be going back on the ship we had to go to the other end which was the departure area. Laura had Olivia as her guest and obtained a special pass for her to enter the ship, but the English Security would not accept this and insisted that she must have a boarding pass (a plastic card) from the ship because, so their reasoning, that piece of paper Laura had could have easily been produced fraudulently. This caused a major upheaval and it took over an hour until this card was finally produced, heaven knows why. But we were helpless and I was really chafing at the bit and furious. I suspect that the guy that checked the boarding passes (British Security) was overly officious and, who knows, maybe held a grudge about the damn tourists, even though I learned that the security had been increased because of a bomb threat in ... Ireland. Anyway, we eventually came aboard, too late for breakfast in the restaurant which I would have much preferred for Olivia, but not too late for the cafeteria which now, a little after 10AM, was fairly empty and quiet. But before that we had stopped at my cabin and I received a big bottle of a 15 year old precious Scotch Whisky which Sylvia had hoarded for someone worthy of it (like me, no doubt) and got the replacement credit/bank cards and a lot of flags for my scooter and other paraphernalia of patriotic nature to entice people to emigrate to Canada which, with only 30 Million people could well do with augmentation of desirable foreigners.

After breakfast toured the ship on two major decks where all the Lounges are, from the impressive Theatre at the front of the ship, to the Pigalle Lounge at the rear, with the 3-deck Atrium in the middle; also of course deck 13 with the swimming pools and Jacuzzis. And then it was time to leave because Sylvia was expecting ut and another long serpentine walk which ended in the arrival section, but we had to go to the other end of the building (Embarkation) where Olivia had to deposit her passport as a guarantee that she would leave the ship; and then, to get to a taxi, back we went to the arrival section where we got the additional pleasure of having to walk to the very front of a long line of taxis - by this time I was pretty exhausted by all this running around. Sitting in the taxi was a great relief; it stopped en route at a super market where Olivia bought some roses for me to give to her mother, who was outside the house to greet us when we finally arrived at about 11.30am. So nice to see her again, as well as the 100year old house (which however does not show it's age and has all modern conveniences).

A scotch and soda calmed the bruised me and of course there was a lot for me to talk about of interest to them. Later we had a beautiful dinner prepared by Sylvia, I laid down for 15 minutes, then showed the photographs as slideshows from my Laptop and then it was again time to leave; Sylvia drove (excellently) and they dropped me at the departure section of the Terminal Building, where I sat down after requesting and waiting only 10 minutes for a wheel chair because I really was too bushed to negotiate those darn serpentines again. And so my day was a celebration, my scooter sports a Canadian flag and also a Flag decal on the battery under the seat, I started writing this, took care of the credit cards, had dinner, advanced my watch one hour as we have to, leaving England and now may, or may not, start to write all this in German so that, maybe, I can send it off tomorrow in Zeebrugge, because I am sure I won't be able to get off the ship in Kiel because it's the day I have to move to No. 12075.


# 55: May18-23, 2011

Zeebrugge was very cold and unfriendly and I cruised around a long time with my now proudly beflaged scooter until I finally found a spot where I latched on to a free WiFi signal , could send my reports and deal with 17 emails. But I had to be outside sitting on a bench in three-sided shelter at a tram stop and by the time I was through, I was thoroughly chilled. However I had checked into the very few restaurants and cafes I found open and none of them had Internet access.
Back in the cabin early in the afternoon, I found an invitation to dine with the Captain tonight - this will be my second time, but with a different chief. At the dinner, I was told that the present captain will leave in Copenhagen and that the former one, Giacomo Romano would take over again.

May 19: I had the second Scrabble game with one of our table mates, who is a math teacher in Australia. Beat her soundly both times and "taking off her pants" is a standing joke. Since she, as well as most at the table, will stay for another cruise, there will be rematches (only on sea-days). The rest of the day I spent packing for tomorrow's move, but in the afternoon played again in the atrium with gratifying public response.

May 20, Kiel. Needless to say, I didn't leave the ship today - moving, despite help I got from the room stewards, and the subsequent unpacking and stowing away was exhausting, not helped any by the fact that my new cabin is much further away from the ship's center where the nearest elevators are for either the cafeteria or restaurant. My back is very sore and I have to lie down for bit periodically. But now, 3pm, it's all done and I am glad that it's over.

May 21, Oslo: A beautiful place - at least the parts of the city which I got to see in my quest for a McDonalds, where I landed for a couple of hours in a very crowded place with lots of noisy kids - it's Saturday! On the way back to the ship I got lost and saw more interesting parts of the City. When we left Oslo in the evening, I sat for a long time in the cafeteria which was closed because it had been a Gala Night, as the ship was sailing down the Norwegian coast still in daylight, close to the shores of Fjords and islands with the scenery reminiscent of the Canadian coast going North from Maine to Halifax, as also the Inside passage from Vancouver northwards. However, in Norway's case, practically every citizen seems to own a little cabin, house or even villa in these seemingly remote places and I am told that every 5th Norwegian owns a boat. That figures.

May 22, Copenhagen: Cold and rainy. I didn't go far with my scooter, especially since I wasn't able to find a map of the city. Eventually found shelter in an underpass and was rewarded with WiFi right there. I've checked the itinerary and find that in the next few weeks, I'll be in Copenbhagen no less than 14 times!!

May 23, Kiel: A free shuttle bus to the center of town, where I found a cybercafe and where -besides WiFi, I had a Bockwurst with a nice crunchy roll and a glass of beer for lunch - a welcome change of diet! Then I drove around and eventually landed in a phantastic inside Shopping Center, found a barbershop and got clipped - figuratively as well as literally (In Canada: $13, in Kiel: about $ 25).
Big change of passengers as we start an 11-day cruise to Iceland tonight. And Giacomo Romano, the original captain, has returned from his vacation. And, while our first dinner seating had been at 6.30 pm, it has now been changed to an ungodly 5.30pm for some obscure reason. However, I've been advised, that the champagne will be delivered just the same and my Australian tablemates, who are staying on for this cruise, will be able to enjoy it and the strawberries for the second time.

May 24, a Sea-Day. And it was a rough one, with the ship lurching and groaning and people swaying and getting seasick. However, it didn't affect me nor any of my tablemates and we all met at the Gala cocktail party (unfortunately AFTER dinner), where I still absorbed two dry martinis. But now, only 8.30pm, I've decided to go to bed and read "Message for Murder" by Len Webster, who also made the correspondence of some 200 letters which I had with Lois Kepler in the 40's into the book "Snowflake Kisses".
The new Cruise Director, Nicholas, is impossible. His English, as well as his German, are atrocious and hardly decipherable, even if the volume he uses for his announcements would be reduced and thus not add distortion.
His assistant Claudia, on the other hand, is quite fluent in several languages but speaks so softly and at low volume that much of what she says gets lost.

May 25, Bergen, Norway's second largest city. Cold and rainy. Shuttle Buses are provided free to take people to the centre, but none equipped to take wheelchairs or me with scooter. A small Van with a rear ramp eventually takes me and after looking around the interesting city core, I land at McDonalds. Towards noon, I leave but find the road blocked to where I was to be picked up and had to drive around the block to get there, passing a huge outside stage with an orchestra rehearsing and huge crowds, When I get there, I find everything fenced off and the little square surrounded by a band on one side and crowds of people on all other, in the middle of the square a cheer section of schoolchildren who are obviously very cold waiting for a big moment.
From a nice couple next to me I learn that Norway's King and Queen are scheduled to arrive at 12.15! They did, were greeted by Bergen's Mayor and stood listening to several pieces of music, including "God save the King" before receiving a small delegation of girls in traditional costumes. And then they are off walking up the road to where the stage with the orchestra is and slowly the crowds disperse and I wonder how I'll get back to the ship since the Van was not able to come to the place to meet me. But as I cruise around I was caught by the (now female) driver of the van who had been looking for me and all was well. And this afternoon I was invited by Wilma and her sister Beverly for a glass of wine in the Grappolo Lounge (where Angelica plays evenings) and we had a nice little get-together.
 

# 56 May 26 - June 3, 2011

May 26, Torshavn, Capital of the 18 Faroe Islands. An amazing place and surprising in its diversity with about 20,000 inhabitants of the total Islands population of about 50,000, a self governing nation of the kingdom of Denmark. Very hilly and today very chilly too. Most of the islands are not inhabited, but those which are, are interconnected with ferries and even undersea tunnels. When you consider the remoteness of this location, to encounter this thriving city-town is an eye opener. I found a very modern coffee shop with WiFi , had a hot chocolate (which however cost me some US$ 8 !) because I was quite cold from driving around quite a bit, sent out # 55 and answered emails. Tomorrow is a sea day as we head for Iceland.

May 28 Akureyri, Iceland , (www.visitakureyri.is/en) located at the end of one of the largest fjords, with about 18,000 inhabitants, a ski resort in Winter with 7 ski lifts and 23 alpine slopes. An eye opener, especially the brand new community center, ultra modern, with a state-of-the-art theatre where there are concerts, theatre productions and films, conference rooms, a restaurant etc etc. And free WiFi and that's where I am writing this.

May 29: Isafjördur, Iceland. (www.isafjordur.is) It's a cold (40F) and rainy Sunday here in this town of some 4000 people, located at the end of one of the many fjords we have entered. Our ship is however too big to be able to dock at the existing pier and we are anchored quite far away and have been tendered in. After driving around, I have found the Tourist Office, which is housed in a building serving as the cultural center with theater productions and concerts. Again I get the impression of a vibrant community with a surprising level of cultural and social life. The cloud covered hills (or are they mountains?) with still quite a bit of snow seem to hug the town and may well protect it from some storms. There are many places of fame to visit from here, such as the bird cliff Hornbjarg with one of the biggest seabird colonies in the North Atlantic.
As I leave the Tourist office, I drive shivering to where the tenders land. It has begun to snow and there is a biting and icy wind. No wonder I can't get rid of this cough. The tender too is drafty with open entrances both sides, battling choppy seas and strong wind. Sure am looking forward to the warmth of my cabin. Later, I go to the restaurant for lunch and the "Manhattan Clam Chowder" is nowhere even close to it and the "potato gnocchi" are completely insipid - the heck with it.

May 30: Reykjavik, capital of Iceland with 170,000 Inhabitants (counting surroundings). A sunny, but cool day with an icy wind. A shuttle bus is available for 7 Euros - the city center is 2-3 KM from where we are docked. I opt to chance driving the distance and there is an excellent pedestrian walkway all the way, but once again I get pretty chilly. In the city I find the ultra modern library where I sit in warmth and comfort and with WiFi for a couple of hours before heading back - it takes me almost half an hour against the cold wind which penetrates my less than wintry clothing, although a wear a winter Jacket.
Once again I am amazed at the capacity of the Scooter battery which still is very much alive, and once again I am glad for the warmth of my cabin. Later in the afternoon, having found out that the outdoor swimming pools are heated, I went for my first swim again in many months, even with the compression stocking (as Sabine suggested), but did only 5 laps. In the evening I was surprised by the delivery of a present from Kristina - the book "The Little Prince" - she calls me "My little prince". She is very sweet. But I don't know what she sees in me.

June 1: Yesterday was a See-day and I played Scrabble and in the afternoon piano in the Atrium to a pretty large audience. During the night it was very stormy and there has not been any letup this morning. The ship if being tossed around and at times seems to hit a rock, that's how strong the waves are. As anticipated, it was announced that because of the weather we will bypass Lerwick, where we would have to be tendered. So on to Kiel.

June 3 : After another See-Day with Scrabble and Piano, we have come to Kiel and a beautiful, sunny day at last. My Australian Tablemates of the last 23 days leave the ship and me today and I shall miss them; we got to know and befriend each other. But that's the way it always is. And this morning I discovered that during the night someone again stole my nameplate off the cabindoor. This time I'll not get it back, since most of the passengers leave the ship here in Kiel.
 

# 57 June 3-12, 2011

These will be two identical trips of 11 days each: Kiel-Copenhagen-Trondheim-Honningsvag- Tromso, Hellesylt&Geiranger-Bergen-Kiel, all together 2926 Miles. I have no idea about the places north of Copenhagen and (sadly) have no map of the Skandivian countries (except Google, which I shall consult next time on line). In Kiel, I went swimming for the first time again at 7.30 am and did 15 laps. It turned out to be a lovely day and I drove all the way into town where I found a McDonald's but it required a mobile phone number to register and then you would get only one hour free Internet access. I got the manager to log me in and stayed one hour and later on my travels - I always try here and there - I hit on a free WiFi but had to work on my knees sitting on the scooter in the middle of the sidewalk. New tablemates - 2 Australian couples and one single man, also from there, plus a German couple who speak quite well English. So there was the usual Champagne toast and everyone was happy. And Angelica, as is my usual procedure, benefited by 3 chocolate covered strawberries.

June 4: Beautiful Copenhagen, a gorgeous day and I cruise around a lot in warm sunshine, finding WiFi in a park overlooking a small yacht harbour and sat there on a bench doing my thing , with my legs up on the seat of the scooter. I made quite a few pictures and will attach some of them.

June 5: One of 4 Sea-days on this cruise. I am listed in the daily program as "our special guest Egon" playing in the Atrium from 4-4.45pm. This morning it was too cold and the sea too wild for me to swim, even though I was ready for it at 7.30am. First gala night of this trip, but the big cocktail party always connected to it (the only one where you can get a martini instead of the eternal champagne!) is only some time after we've had our dinner - sure is a bad situation, but I'll have the martini just the same.

June 7: The ship seems almost taken over by Germans, but there are actually also quite a few Italians, Australians and I also met already 2 Swiss couples. After the second sea-day, for which I had prepared a different program for my playing, catering somewhat to the German majority, we are now approaching Honningsvag, but we just passed the North Cape, the northernmost point in Europe where the sun never sets, 600 Miles North of the Polar Circle on which there is a meteorological Research Station of which I made a Photo. From Honningsvag, where we will be tendered ashore and which lies 30 Km. South of the Cape on the island of Mageroya, excursions to the Cape are available all evening until late and we leave only at 2.30 am for Tromso, 178 Miles further South. This certainly is a special experience but because of the inclement weather, the midnight sun will not shine. Nevertheless, the Cape is a very popular destination and dozens of buses take tourists there - there is (of course!) a restaurant and even a hotel and a lot of history!

June 8: Honningsvag. After we were tendered ashore, the ship has now docked right in town and unloaded passengers which total that of the town's inhabitants! I went all through town on my scooter - it's quite hilly and has some very old and some very new buildings; the latter I discovered housing the library, where I not only was able to warm up in, but sat a long time comfortably and with WiFi, got to know Hege, the librarian, who spoke good English and has relatives in Vancouver. From her I learned that there is quite a melange of nationalities in Honningsvag - people from all over settled here after the war. Like I found in Iceland, here, too, there is an active social/cultural life, no doubt developed especially well due to the 3 months of darkness they have to endure.

June 9: On the way South to Tromso, we travel close to the rugged and mountainous coastline with its many fjords -quite a fascinating but forbidding landscape and not unlike the coastline going to Alaska from Vancouver on the inside passage. In Tromso, we park 4.5 KM away from the city center, so they say, and MSC provides shuttle service for 9 Euros which, for me, means about CAD 14, which I am loath to spend on this, so I spend an hour and a half cruising around. First in the entirely industrial area where we are parked, then, crossing a very busy highway (with the help of helpful motorists), I find a bicycle path which takes me through much calmer areas to the opposite end from where I started, but then I decided not to go on, because it was getting too late. So there, when I left the path, I had no choice but enter the very busy road at a roundabout with extremely (surprisingly so!) heavy traffic and waited in line with cars to enter it, which eventually I did too, again with the considerateness of automobilists, and was able to cross back into the industrial zone and eventually to the ship. Of course: during this tour of some 1-1/2 hours, I often stopped at likely spots and checked for WiFi, and while there were some unsecured ones, none let me in without their requirements. But I digress: before all this, in the morning, another Scrabble game with my 3 Australian friends (which I did not win), and then, after lunch, I realized that it was 70C outside with the sun shining and nobody was in the pool, so I swam 15 laps and sat in the Jacuzzi for a while before going on my safari (from which I had to first return to the ship to pick up my laptop which I had forgotten - Dummy!

10. June: Another Sea-day with Scrabble in the morning and piano in the afternoon. Going South along the rugged Norwegian coast with still snow covered mountains - very impressive and beautiful.

11. June: We have entered the truly spectacular Geirangerfjord, with towering mountains each side of the ship as it slowly glides along the sometimes quite narrow water channel - there are many waterfalls, notably the one called "Seven Sisters". In Geiranger, which has only some 250 inhabitants but two big hotels, quite a few stores and even a camping where I can see several motorhomes parked, we are tendered ashore and I find WiFi at the Information office. But then I set out with the scooter and drive up the road in serpentines to where I see the big hotel and a waterfall - it's quite a long distance and occasionally a steep ascent. I am again impressed with the scooter's performance. I take many pictures and a video of the waterfall and enter the Fjord Center in a modern building with lots of exhibits but also welcome toilet facilities. Gerainger is one of three Fjord Unesco Heritage Sites. I get a beautiful photo of Poesia way below in the Fjord, but also take a snapshot of a very large Photograph in the Center of no less than 6 Cruise Ships anchored in the lakelike waters in front of the little town - it's a very important destination for tourists who also come here by car or buses. Again I am reminded of places in Switzerland of similarity and beauty.

June 12: Bergen. Cloudy and cool, but not too bad for sitting awhile on the scooter with the laptop propped up on the steering column in front of McDonald's which opens only at 11 because it's Sunday. But at 10 they are putting some tables on chairs in front and I can sit more comfortably. Before getting here, I passed through the picturesque Bryggen Sector with its quaint houses and see quite a bit of this very lively city, Norway's second largest. Tomorrow is another sea-day (when I play scrabble again and piano for the 4th time this trip - (each with a different repertoire). Then back to Kiel and another 11 day trip to the North Cape.


# 58: June 14-25, 2011

In Kiel I lost my table/scrabble-mates and with some of them I became good friends and will miss them. I took the free shuttle bus to the Railroad Station and there, opposite to where it stops, is the Sophienhof, a huge inside Shopping center where on the first floor I found a cafe, part of a large book store, with free WiFi and spent a few hours. The Dinner table was empty except for myself, but I had been forewarned by Ivan, the Maitre d' that this would be so, because the people assigned to it only would get on at Copenhagen and I arranged that the champagne would be delivered the next day.


June 15, Copenhagen. And so it was. the 3 couples are from the state of Washington, from Australia and one from Monte Carlo as well as Bangkok - feudal residences in both places to go with the fact that she is a Marquise, (a title just below that of a Duchess), and is a "Dame Commander of Justice". She could be the daughter of her Thai husband and amazingly is also a Swiss from Solothurn. They have traveled the whole world and somewhere there must be a gold mine. Anyway, Champagne and Strawberries were duly appreciated by all and by Angelica who got her ration of three berries as well. I also had one.

The day in Copenhagen meant a lot of driving around because we were docked at another pier far away from where we had been last time and I wanted to get back to the bench in front of the little yacht harbour where I had sat last time and had free WiFi. I found it at last. but alas, the WiFi was no longer free. Eventually I went back to the ship and found free WiFi right there. I'm sure I drove 4-5 KM altogether.

June 16, At Sea: Scrabble in the morning, Piano in the afternoon. Then the General Cocktail Party with two Martinis, because this is the first Gala Night of this trip (one of three). But I also have an invitation to "Dine with the Captain" at 8.30 and this is labelled "en famille" because there are no other passengers invited. I am led to the Captain's table by the pretty hotel manager Kristina and the Concierge Laura. There are all the officers and the top echelon of the ship's management present and I get the seat of honour next to the Captain. In conversation with him, I find out that he is only 44 years old and I realize that, Ye Gawds, I am all of a half a century older than he is!! After the two hour affair I clink my wineglass and thank them all for having included me in the Poesia Family. And so to bed, perchance to dream ...

June 17, Trondheim: nothing too exciting; it was a little rainy and I didn't go far into the city, as there was WiFi available close to the pier. In the morning a very slow Scrabble game.

June 18, At sea, with one more slow Scrabble and afternoon piano - I don't blame you if you are bored at this point with my reports!

Today is the birthday of my wife Heidy, but also the date of her passing five years ago.

June 19, Honningsvag. We have arrived and it's a beautiful sunny day with the outside temperature at 1.30PM 56F (13C) and rising. We are at Latitude 70*57'00"N. The midnight sun will shine tonight and the ship is leaving only at 2.30 AM. But I will forgo the excursion to the North Cape to see it because it is quite strenuous, very late a night and quite expensive (over US$ 100). I'll see the sun in daytime - it's the same one! Now I am awaiting the signal that we can go ashore.

Once ashore, I drive up the main road to where I remember the library is, but of course it is closed since it's a Sunday. So I sit in front of the building on the Scooter with the laptop on the steering column and while the sun shines, I have to be in the shade to see the screen and there is a biting and icy wind which makes the 56F temperature feel like 32F. I have sporadic Internet access and do what has to be done but eventually, after driving around some more and taking a few more pictures, get back to the ship, thoroughly chilled, which I am sure does nothing to relieve my continuing cough spasms. Happy to get back into the warm cabin, load my photos into the computer and title them and now, after dinner, am writing these few lines. Before dinner, I had invited Allan, the Guest Relations Manager, with whom I am become good friends and we had a couple of drinks in my cabin and good conversation. He just turned 30, is a very bright and talented man from Honduras and speaks 5 languages well. He also is very helpful to me by reducing the service charges.

June 20, Tromso. this is the place where we dock at an industrial area some 4 KM away from the city center. MSC provides a shuttle bus which however costs 9 Euros which translates for me to almost US$ 14 I am not willing to invest. Instead, I had already reconnoitred the neighbourhood last time we were here and know that there is a large hospital way up on the hill facing us and that's where I drive to after crossing a somewhat hazardous main highway where there is no crossing. It's quite a drive uphill and once again I am impressed with the Scooter's power and stamina. I wind up near the personnel exit at the hospital and, as I expected, have Wifi. The usual routine: sitting on the Scooter with the laptop on the steering column. After a while, a young woman comes out and goes to her bicycle parked close to where I am and asks me in English whether I have Internet access. We get into a conversation, she tells me that she is a physical therapist and also offers to come with me to the main entrance of the hospital higher up, where I could be more comfortable. This we do and we have an animated talk about her life. Her name is Kristin and she's now on my mailing list. We only docked at 3.30pm and leave at 8.30pm. Around 6pm I descend the hill - it's quite a ride! -, again take my life in hand and cross the highway, re-enter the ship and am glad to lie down for a few minutes before dinner at 7.15pm which is very unusual (usual time is 5.45 for the first seating).


June 22, Geiranger. After another Sea-Day with the by now usual routines, we get to my favorite beautiful place in the Geirangerfjord. This time there are 3 cruiseships in the relatively small area in front of the town, which is bustling with tourists. I do my computer stuff at the information office and afterwards drive to the Campground where there are many motorhomes and trailers parked, most from Germany. It's a beautiful day and I once again think how nice it would be to live the nomadic life in a motorhome or trailer as we did for so many years in the past. But I guess it's not going to happen any more this time around.

June 23, Bergen. A van, specially equipped to take wheelchairs etc., brings me to the center of the city and once again I sit at McDonalds for a couple of hours with WiFi. Later I sightsee and enjoy the very lively scene of the main plaza with quite a few and very good musicians here and there, including an excellent brass quartet. I get back to the ship around 4 pm and have a date with Allan, first to have a drink with me in my cabin at 6pm and then go to eat at the fancy Obelisk Restaurant located at the stern of the ship from where one has a beautiful panoramic view, where one actually has to pay between 20 and 30 Euro for the meal. However, as a Black Card holder, I am entitled to eat there for free once on every cruise, a privilege I am using for the first time. The ambiance, decor and service are superb and so is the view as we slowly drive out the fjord from Bergen. But the fact that I have to pay for the mineral water in such a setting is to my mind petty and detracts from the otherwise beautiful experience.


June 24: Fourth Sea-Day with Scrabble and Pianoplay, which I finish with the German/Austrian "Sag beim Abschied leise Servus" and the international "Auf Wiedersehn". Had much Applause and was photographed at least six times!


# 59: June 25 - Jul 01, 2011

June 25, Kiel: Saturday is anyway a very busy one here, but this day especially, because it's going towards the end of a week of "Kiel Days", which tomorrow will end with big Fireworks. Off the ship, I have to wait a long time until I can be loaded onto the free Shuttle to the RR Station, because of dozens of people with their luggage, who have disembarked from our ship.

Eventually, someone lifts the Scooter up the three steps at the side door - there is no ramp and I am in, surrounded by luggage and people. I find my way to the Cafe at the huge book store (on two floors!) but get no WiFi, which nobody can understand. I search in "Help and Support" and see that some computers have a switch for turning WiFi on or off, others use a function key. This latter hits me like a brick: two days ago I fooled around with the "F" keys to find out what they do since I could not find information on that in the laptop and it took Allan to find that F7 would shut off the touchpad which, to me mysteriously, had stopped functioning. Now I tried several keys and hit paydirt with F9 which turned the WiFi on and I was in business, sending out reports and emails.

Then I phoned the Bank of Montreal with Skype (very good connection), because, when I received my new Bank Card in Southampton, I forgot to note down the new PIN which came with it and thus couldn't use it. After a lengthy procedure, I was able to install a new PIN, but when I later tried it on an ATM machine, it didn't work. Maybe it takes some time to activate und I'll try again next chance I get - otherwise I'll have to call again. I postponed the Champagne to tomorrow, because in Copenhagen we'll get new tablemates besides the very nice ones who came today, Andrea and Wim from Belgium.

June 26: Copenhagen. I went all the way to the Center of town, saw a lot, but found no WiFi. Wound up on a bench at the waterfront and was joined by a Copenhagener, Kim Bach, who turned out to be quite an interesting and highly intelligent and knowledgeable individual and spoke fluently English. He works for a tax department and is 49, was married for 4 years but has now found "the love of my life" which turns out to be a man. Obviously took him a long time to find out that he was gay. Returned to the ship around 1pm, went to the restaurant for lunch where they had Goulash and Spatzli on the menu, good, even though not quite authentic. Tablemates are from Metz in France (Alsace).

And in the evening there are, besides the ones from Belgium, two women from South Africa and a couple from Ireland who do not drink any alcohol and shunned the champagne which was enjoyed by everyone else, especially Rita (who doesn't like her name and didn't mind when I called her "Andrea" by mistake). On my way to the Pigalle Lounge I left 3 strawberries for Angelica on the piano - she was on a break. In the Lounge there was a one night stand of a 5-man Tyrolese Band who played lots of Polkas. Scottish, Waltzes and Um-Pahs and mostly older couples danced with abandon and often so fast that I was concerned that someone might drop with a heart attack. Of course there were mostly Austrian, Swiss and Germans present that evening, beer and hoopla in profusion but for me a refreshing change , at least for a while.

For a long time I wanted to remark on the new Cruise Manager who replaced the wonderful Anna. Every Morning I anticipate with trepidation his announcements which he starts in what I presume he calls English, with "Güüüüd Morning" and sounds just like Inspector Clouseau of the TV series. His pronunciation of foreign languages is simply atrocious and extremely hard to understand and, adding insult to injury, so loud, it's hurting the ears. Glad I got this off my chest.

June 28: Olden. It's raining cats and dogs. I am sitting in a Gasthus right in front of where the ship is docked and have not bought half an hour's worth of Internet for 7 Euros ( US$ +-10). I'll wait for Bergen tomorrow. But I have gotten to know a charming Australian lady who is also on Poesia with her son. In the afternoon the rain has stopped (for a while, only, as I found out) and I went ashore again and drove to the village. Were it not for the fjord, at the end of which the Poesia is parked and looms enormous, the landscape and "feeling" could be in any mountainous region in Switzerland. I'll be back here every 14 days five times and it will be especially wonderful on a sunny day.

June 29, Bergen - more cats and dogs and Rüno ,the driver of the shuttle to the city center tells me that this has been the rainiest year in a long time. However, I am comfortable at McDonald's and have been able to reply to a lot of emails. I was joined by Fernando Santos from Lisbon who is also on Poesia and knows all about me because of the fact that he is the producer of a web site called "Cruzeiros" which airs videos of cruiseships and life on them. Poor guy: while he was sitting with me, talking and having lunch, someone passing by stole his expensive camera and attachments, which he had on the floor beside him; apparently just picked it up while we were busy talking.

Last evening I invited Wim and Rita (whom I now call "Andrita" as a compromise) for a drink in my cabin and tonight we'll eat together at the Obelisk restaurant. But before this I asked Susan and her son Michael (the Australians I got to know in Olden) to my cabin and we had an interesting talk based on the fact that she converted to Judaism which of course opened me up with parts of my background.

June 30, Kristiansand: I drove around a lot, without a map, but more or less followed the city tour "trains" - a very beautiful place with lots of parks and fountains. While I found WiFi somewhere sitting on my Scooter, eventually I found my friend McDonalds where I spent a few hours before winding my way back to the ship after 2pm. We only leave at 8 pm.

July 1, Oslo: Another day of rain. We are docked 1.5Km away from the Center which I drove and found a nice McDonald's at Aker-Brygge at an inlet with many larger excursion ships and yachts. However, we have to be back on board by 12 noon, leaving half an hour later for Kiel. It's the last gala night and in the afternoon I am slated to play the piano again (didn't know about it until I saw it in the program!)


# 60 July 2 - 5, 2011

July 2, Kiel: Yesterday I learned that there had been 1000 Italians und 500 Spaniards on the ship - both factions pretty noisy and boisterous. And in the afternoon Laura phoned and told me that I was invited again to the Captain's Table which surprised me, since it's only a little over 2 weeks that I had the "honour".

The usual chaos with people disembarking and pushing with their luggage to get onto the free shuttle bus to the railroad station; I, too, take this bus and today was fortunate that I was standing just where the side door opened as the bus arrived, so that I could get on first with my scooter (helped by a kind soul) before the deluge. At my WiFi cafe in the Sophienhof Shopping Center I was able to Skype-phone the bank and reset my Bankcard PIN - a big relief! And "mys Schatzi" Beatrice phoned me on Skype also, what a wonderful surprise! And I had a real German Bratwurst for Lunch! Also, I fired off another letter to the hospital in Key West, to whom I had written before protesting their completely unjustified invoice for US$ 421; having received a reply reducing it to about US$ 168, I now asked them to cancel the invoice altogether. Let's see how that resonates. It was a very rainy day again and I feel sorry for the people just ending the 7-day cruise, because there was not one day of sunshine. I, on the other hand, have the luxury of many more tries!

July 3, Copenhagen: At last it's a sunny day and very warm. We are at a pier quite far from the city center, but there is free WiFi available and I spend some time doing my thing before setting off towards the city and eventually wind up at my favourite park close to where we had docked the first time here. It's Sunday, there are lots of people and tour buses, including my old friend "Egon's Tours". I also had the fortune of seeing Susan and her son Michael once more in the huge crowd that disembarked and was collecting their luggage which, marked with coloured tags, had been brought off the ship before and filled a huge tent . Last evening Susan had invited me for a cocktail and we sat a long time in the Pigalle Lounge which is at the rear of the ship, watched it slowly glide out of the harbour and talked a lot around her conversion to the Jewish faith and my connection to it through my father as well as it's effect on my life as well as on my non Jewish mother.

Fearing that I might run out of battery power because I had gone what seemed to me very far, I returned to the ship around 1.30pm after having a yoghurt and a banana brought along for lunch at the little yacht basin. I wish I could find a way to tell how many km/miles I travel.

July 4, At Sea: There are 44 nationalities on board, of which however only nine have more than 100 persons. Italy and Germany lead (over 500), Turkey, Spain, Russia and Denmark are next with over 200, France, Switzerland and Austria with over 100. Since I'll be playing this afternoon, I just made a repertoire to include as many of these countries with songs they (and I!) would know. And I just had a call for another invitation to dine with the Captain tonight - I am told that the new Hotel Manager (the one with the pretty girl friend) would like to get to know me. Oh well. I imagine I'll happily wind up conversing with her more than with him, because her mother tongue is English whereas he's Italian. I'll find out all about her for sure. But she'll probably sit on one side of her friend and I on the other. Another oh well. Incidentally, my tables mates Marlan and Angela Carlson from Corvallis, Oregon, were at my performance this afternoon and complimented me afterwards. Coming from them, it means a lot: he is conductor of a symphony orchestra and she an accomplished pianist.

(Much later): Well, the 2-hour Dinner went OK and was quite nice; I was seated with the Captain on my right and Melanie from South Africa, the companion (since 7 years as I found out) of the Hotel Manager; she is very pretty and he is very nice and has a good sense of humour. Opposite me an talian couple with a very spoiled but bright kid of maybe 7 years of age, and there were the various officers I had gotten to know before. While the menu is the same as for the rest of the peasants, we get white or red wine (or both) and impeccable service, with Sommelier, Maitre d' and headwaiter hovering and overlooking the table all the time, ready to move at the slightest provocation. The captain introduced me to his visiting daughter.

 

# 61 July 5-Sep 9, 2011

Juy 5, Stockholm. Overcast with an occasional sprinkle. I drive along the waterfront for over one mile (I guess) but come to a point where I know that I have to get to the road above it which comes over a bridge from the right and leads into a part of the city I want to go to. However, there is no way I can get up there. So I enter a light rail and subway station, hoping to find an elevator, but there are only stairs. Finally I talk to the nice guy at the subway ticket counter and he lets me through the stile because there is an elevator to the platform upstairs and there I find another one to the outside subway entry. I should have taken a few pics of the snazzy trains, but forgot, preoccupied as I was.

And, lo and behold, I spy a McD just across the very busy road and of course spend a few hours there, perched on a stool - not the best or most comfortable environment but filling the bill! Next time in this big city I'll reconnoitre the old town, which is across the bridge on the road I just crossed. And so, I find my way back to old Poesia and am happy for a little nap in my cabin at 2.30pm. But shortly after 3 I go swimming again, not the 20 laps I used to, but working up to it. However, the water is rather cool today and I warm up in the Jacuzzi. There are again lots of kids on the ship and in the afternoon to go swimming or in the Jacuzzi is not very enjoyable.

At 4.30 we leave and I stand at the railing on deck #7, watch and photograph the ship leaving, somehow always an emotional moment, especially with the beautiful music they play at that time over the system.

July 6, Tallinn, Capital of Estonia. From what I see driving around it combines the very old and the ultra modern very nicely. I roost at a fabulous Spa building with a stainless steel facade gleaming in the (sparse, but yet!) sunshine along with the two beautiful statues of nude maidens guarding the entrance. Of course I couldn't resist entering in the first place, to find free WiFi and comfortable places to sit at tables. There are 5 floors and four glass elevators; in the middle the large pools and I also see a bar at poolside; there are all the accoutrements of health preservation you can think of, from Saunas to Gyms to Yoga, but I also see large convention rooms on upper floors and what appear to be hotel rooms; as a matter of fact there is a hotel right next to the Spa and the two may be interconnected. And yes, of course there is a large restaurant. So I spend a few hours there but must wait a very long time until I can get to my email because windows has decided to upload four updates and takes its time doing it.

Later I drive into a part of the old town over rough pavements and teeth chattering cobblestone streets, return to the ship after 2pm, have a bowl of soup, lie down for a bit (oh, my aching back!) and then watch as we leave at 4pm and I once more experience the tear jerking musical moment on deck 7 as the ship backs away from the Pier. Andrea Boccelli sings "Con te partiro".

July 7, Saint Petersburg. It's billed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but they sure don't make it easy to see it! Turns out that, unless you have a Russian visa, you cannot: only passengers who have booked a MSC excursion can have the privilege because the company has a collective visa. The excursions are accompanied by a Russian "guide" who also is with you on shopping stops and no one is allowed to go off on their own. They last from 3-1/2 hrs to 10-1/2 and cost from 35 to 164 Euro. All of them are marked as "not recommended for guests with mobility problems". For me, since I'll be back here four more times, a visa would be the ideal solution because I then could strike out on my own, but I think a visa can only be obtained in the country where you live (yet to be checked out). Feeling somewhat like a caged animal I drive around the area on the side of the ship and beyond, which is all fenced in with obviously electrically charged but fancy looking - of course no WiFi anywhere. Overall, visions arise of conditions prevailing before the Wall came down. Deja Vu!

So I go swimming instead (good boy!) but it starts raining. After a little lunch I sleep a bit (we lost 1 hr each the last two nights and will gain them back the next two) and have invited Allan for a drink at 5 and discuss the matter.
(Much later): Allan and I had again a good talk, mostly about his future aspirations - he is much hampered by the fact that he is Honduran and would like to acquire a different nationality. As far as St. Petersburg is concerned, there's nothing that can be done and I'll probably just take one of the 3-1/2 tours to see at least some of it. But at 35 Euros, which translates for me to US$ 52, it ain't cheap. No discount even with the Black Card.

July 8, At sea on the way to Kiel. An uneventful day wich began with a relatively short swim (I left after some burly Russians brought the water to a boil with flailing limbs and raging testosterone). I played in the afternoon to a good but noisy audience (it always is last day before disembarkment), said goodbye to my tablemates at the Gala Dinner (every 7-day cruise has two and the second is always crowned with the Parade of ignited Baked Alaksa) and went to the cocktail party which again was scheduled for after dinner.

 

#62 July 9-16, 2011

July 9, Kiel: A beautiful day. We dock only at 10AM and I wait for most of the disembarking passengers to have gone before going ashore myself. So I go swimming early and am happy to report that I achieved my 20 laps.

A few hours at the cafe, sending reports and dealing with emails, but first I call my Sweetheart in Bern per Skype, whose birthday on the 6th I missed. I would like to give her as a birthday present half of the 7 day cruise price to Norwegian ports in the next few weeks - provided she shares my cabin (no other than financial considerations). It seems however, that (provided she accepts) it isn't easily done for "technical" reasons. We'll see and solve also this hurdle.

By the time I take the shuttle back to the ship, the weather has again changed and there are sprinkles of rain. I watch as we leave and record "the song"but the recording turns out badly, because of the wind blowing into the built in microphone and a vicious rain squall ends my endeavour. And, oh joy! Summer school holidays have begun and Poesia seems to be teeming with kids - tomorrow I'll find out how many there are on board.

July 10, Copenhagen. Start the day with 20 laps before breakfast, get off the ship close to 11am after many passengers disembarking here and drive to a cafe with Internet which I get even though the cafe opens only later on Sundays. Afterwards I drive around and still haven't found "the little Mermaid" which is such an important icon of Copenhagen. This is ridiculous and I must ask for guidance next time.

Back on the ship I get the breakdown of the 41 nationalities represented: Germany 495, Italy 272, Russia 262, Spain 203, France 185, Turkey 150, Switzerland 139, Austria 111; all others are from1 to 84. And there are 98 kids on board. Thank you.

In the afternoon I see my stepson Peter who has joined the ship for the 7 days cruise. He is with 60 years one year older than my son Steve und will be at my table at dinner which will see all newcomers.

Wrong! There's only one new couple (from New York) at the table, so with Peter and myself we are only 4 people. Ivan, the Maitre d', passes by an explains that another couple that was supposed to be seated with us decided to rather go to the second seating. So, since Peter doesn't drink, we three have most of the champagne and the strawberries are divided and Angelica gets her share also. Peter has booked a lot of excursions for the various places (he says about CAD$ 600 worth) so he'll see a lot.

July 11 Oslo: According to my itinerary this should have been a day at sea. I enquired about this and was told that only for this cruise the route has been reversed, but I cannot find out why.

After spending some time at McD, I set out and see a lot of the city which is bustling with traffic and people; in a big park there are people picnicking on the greens in warm sunshine and it's a nice and peaceful feeling. Not realizing how far I actually had gotten from the harbour, I had to stop a passersby to tell me where I was on the map I had - he was from Sweden, talked fluent English and was able to direct me. So, after stopping somewhere, sitting on a bench, I had the yogurt and banana I had brought along as my lunch and then got back to the ship about 3.30 and laid down for half an hour. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I did 20 laps again this morning before breakfast.

July 12 Kristiansand: Another beautiful day. Swimming in the morning was cut to only 10 laps because the water was very cold. From Peter I learn at breakfast, that they emptied all pools and jaccuzzis last night and refilled them, and that explains it. Drove into town, spend some time at McD, then roamed, saw a lot of new and excellent sand sculptures and finally went off the beaten path and up a big hill where on top I found 4 guns, pointed towards the sea, obviously used for ceremonial blasts and there also was a nice view over the city. Bless the Scooter! Never could I have done this without it and I am pretty sure none of the many tourists ever come up here. As a matter of fact, without the scooter I could never easily get into and around cities, be it for sightseeing or looking for WiFi and sure would have a tough time sending out my reports and dealing with emails.

July 13, Bergen: After my stint at McD's, I roamed around but was back at the ship shortly before 2pm. While having lunch at the restaurant, I was joined by Hans Hendrick, the MSC Port Agent in Bergen who told me that the local newspaper had been contacted by someone about me and would very much like to interview me and would I be willing? Ok, and later that afternoon it happened, but had to be done in front of the ship because the reporter was to board. A very nice guy of 37 years, speaking excellent English since he spent quite a bit of time in Toronto. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what he comes up with; he not only took still photos but also video for the paper's website. But I never could find out who contacted the paper in the first place. I suspect that it may have been my good friend Elise who is at this same date in her native country and actually just outside Bergen where we could have met today if better communications had been achieved.

July 14, Olden. This is one of my favorite places, a paradisaical area at the end of a long fjord. It's a village with maybe 300 inhabitants, on both side of the fjord are meadows rising up to high hills, some still with some snow; but further on there are high mountains. Time and again I found myself seeing the Emmental or the Niederhorn. After I had found a source of very slow WiFi, I took off and went up a road on the opposite side of where the ship was parked and quite high up found a bench, took some pictures of Poesia opposite, sat in the warm sun in utter stillness with the aroma of the meadows around and the gorgeous view before me. This was a moment of thanksgiving and I sat there for some 20 minutes, grateful to be alive. After I had coasted down again I continued further inland to where I had spied a church steeple - it is the Olden New Church, built in 1934, but there is also the old church dating back to 1759, and there have been others, notably a stave church mentioned in a document of 1308 and coins from the second half of the 13th century were found in the foundations of the existing church.

But back to this morning when I bravely got up to the pool deck shortly after 7am with the best intention of doing 20 laps, but, oh! the water was icy and immediately shrunk everything that was not already ... so it was the warm jaccuzzi. And after I had gotten back to the ship, I again went back up in hopes that I could redeem myself, but alas there were dozens of kids jumping into the pool or floating around with inflatables, so that, after my head was drenched with the splashes of the kid's jumps and my progress forward constantly impeded by others, I gave up after about 3 laps. The other pool was empty of people and I discovered why: it's not heated and just too cold, because up here night temperatures go way and in the morning the air was a cool 50F.

July 15, at sea: With the water in the pool close to freezing (at least that's what it felt like when I dipped into it), no swim again but soothing Jacuzzi. Now I am sitting in my favourite retreat, there where Angelica plays in the evenings, the wine bar on Deck 7; in the morning it's pretty peaceful here and I am hoping to snag an unsuspecting player with the Scrabble Box prominently displayed on the table. But there are few fish in the pond.

July 16, Kiel: This morning I finally found the pool heated again and was able to do my 20 laps before breakfast. Afterwards into town and "my" WiFi cafe, where next week I expect to meet my "kissin' cousins" Irene and Sonja, daughters of my deceased cousin Rolf, who will come to Kiel with their spouses Fritz and Karsten - all of these are good friends of mine and I look forward to seeing them. However I look forward much more to the prospect of having my sweetheart Beatrice on board, hopefully for the 7 day cruise beginning August 6; we spoke to each other today again with Skype and she is trying to switch some arrangement she had already made for that time frame. And Allen is trying to see whether this cannot be booked right on the ship under the special circumstances; normally bookings can only be made through travel agents. Wish me luck.


#63 July 16-24, 2011

In Kiel Peter tried unsuccessfully to book Poesia's next cruise (St. Petersburg), but the cruise is completely sold out, as also confirmed by Allan.

July 17 Copenhagen: Peter left here and will spend a few days in town before flying back to London and Vancouver. Disappointed that he was not able to stay for the cruise but also thinks that maybe it had to be this way. It's raining here and I find cover and WiFi in an underpass close to the Internet Cafe, but after sending out the reports and answering some emails, decide to go back. Somewhere I have to hoist the scooter up a curve; it's a round one and the scooter tilts as I lift the rear and only the right wheel gets up the curb - result: I lose my balance, the scooter tips over and so do I and literally land in the gutter. A moment of reflection on the wet pavement and as I struggle to get up, a passerby comes and helps. There are always angels hovering. Facit: another slight abrasion, this time on my left shin. Could have been worse. But in the morning I swam.

July18 at sea: No swimming again for several days, until the open scrape on my shin has healed a bit - never a dull moment! There are a total of 2909 passengers on board and those over 100 are: Germany 559, Italy 407, Austria 224. Switzerland 221, Russia 218, Denmark 192, Spain 173, France 132, Turkey 112. A total of48 nationalities are represented. Interesting! I am sitting in the wine bar as I write this, but the peaceful atmosphere is broken by the screams of kids playing a game with their father at one of the tables, and these go right through me. I move away. Of course the Scrabble box next to my Netbook on the table is prominently displayed, but there are no takers. Big success this afternoon with my piano playing - complete with selections for the most represented countries on board.

July 19 Stockholm : It's 2 Kilometres into town and I sat at McD's for couple of hours and then drove into the old town and lucked into the changing of the guard and marching band at the Royal Palace. Of course there were thousands of people for the impressive march - bys. I was really lucky to get there in the first place (by chance) and at the right time, also by chance. In the afternoon a Scrabble with Louise which I won.

July 20, Tallinn, Capital of Estonia with about 400.000 inhabitants. I am at the magnificent Spa building again, and even found a seat close to an electrical outlet and was glad that I took the adapter with me so I could plug the netbook in; the battery I have is getting old and does not charge more than about one third of the advertised 8 hours. Still trying to get Beatrice on board, but because she is at work I cannot reach her to know whether she has been able to switch dates in her vacation time so that she could make the Aug 6-13 Cruise; I also need her passport number and other information for this episode to come together.

July 21, St. Petersburg: I booked a 3-1/2 hr tour - there are excursions available lasting all day and I am sure there is that much, and more to see in this famous city. But I am not physically able to sustain one that long, and the prices are quite formidable, even my little tour is 35 Euros which is over US$ 50. By the way, I finally reached Beatrice; she can come from Aug. 6-13 and will send me the necessary information. I can only hope that now a booking can be materialized.

The bus tour was not bad; the Russian tour guide Victoria gave good commentary in quite passable English and I got quite a "feel" for this huge city of over 4 million people. But to get through the passport control at the port was an ordeal and I stood in line for 20 Minutes for that, finally facing a surly female officer who looked as if a smile would be too painful. Grateful to sit down in the air-conditioned bus and recover, also from the heat that prevailed. Wherever we stopped for photo ops there were literally dozens of tour buses and hundreds of people also and to get a clear view of the object to photograph was always a challenge. And the traffic - I really admired the skill of the bus driver as he manoeuvred the big vehicle, at times with only inches to spare. En route I saw not only lots of people going about their daily business but also many in parks and other green areas sunning themselves or picnicking. We got back to the ship just before 6.30pm; the drive from the city must have been all of 5 Miles and through residential areas with huge USSR vintage dreary looking apartment blocks. My tour was in the afternoon and during the morning the ship seemed all but deserted. However I played a couple of Scrabble games with Patrick, the professor of history (and won them both). He and his wife had been to St. Petersburg before and therefore stayed on the ship. By the way, there are again over one hundred kids on board, who not necessarily evoke joyful feelings as they run around with ear piercing screams. There seem to be large families, including the grandmother.

July 22, at sea: And I went again swimming this morning (20 laps) but my shin abrasion hasn't really healed completely as yet and I wonder whether I should wait again, or whether the salt water would be good for it. This afternoon I'll play again and also have once more been invited to the captain's table for tonight.

July 23, Kiel: Big day! I have the visit of two daughters of my deceased cousin Rolf who was a professor of chemistry at the Berlin university. They are Irene with Fritz and Sonia with Karsten who made the long 5-1/2 hr trip von Berlin to Kiel in their motorhome and we met in "my" cafe at the Sophienhof and spent the day together. It was raining and cool outside so the venue of this big indoor shopping center, teeming with the Saturday crowds was ideal. First however we took the shuttle bus back to the ship so that they could at least look at it from the outside while I went back in to leave the scooter in my cabin and pick up the four MSC slippers and daily programs in German I had collected for them; they not only brought a bottle of Scotch and some chocolates for me but also invited me for lunch. Last time I saw them was in Berlin before I went to Bern in 2009. I am very fond of them, as was my sister Suzanne; they are wonderful people.

We were informed that because of the tragic events in Oslo, we will go to Gotemborg instead.
 

#64 July 24-30, 2011

July 24 Copenhagen - a very rainy day which got me quite wet as I drove to the underpass at the end of the pier where we were parked and where I knew that I would have WiFi from the cafe around the corner which was open only at 11 since it is always a Sunday when we are here. So I sent out the Nos. 63, answered some emails and then returned to the ship to dry out - it certainly was a damp labour of love sitting there on the scooter with the netbook on my lap. At the table, apart from the delightful Lea and Bill Lane from New York, another couple - she from Turkey and he from New York. There was of course the usual champagne/strawberry welcome. I forgot in my last report to talk of a wonderful Danish couple, Lisbet and Mogens which had been at the table and were the perfect match to Lea and Bill but left in Copenhagen. They will however come to fetch me on the 11th for a little sightseeing around the city. I played two Scrabble games with Lea (which I won) and we had long conversations and befriended each other. Were she not married, I certainly would allow myself to fall in love with her.

July 25: I played of course today and had a fairly large audience, including Fernando from Lisbon, who joined the ship yesterday with his family for this cruise, apparently specially in order to interview me for the videos he produces and airs on TV. I will find out more about that. All I know is that he took many pictures and video of me while I was playing and I promised that I would contact him for an interview. He now has a brand new camera to replace the one which was stolen, but of course the photographs it held in its memory and on the cards which were in the bag are all lost. Tomorrow evening Lea, Bill and I will eat at the Obelisk and I hope that the weather will be nice because leaving the fjord will be a beautiful panoramic sight from where we'll eat at the stern of he ship.

July 26, Olden: Unfortunately it was raining and there were low clouds obscuring the mountainsides beside the ship. However, I drove to the village - about 1 KM+- and sat in the little cafe attached to the ICA grocery store, but the Internet availability was sporadic and very weak, so that I gave up after being able to send out only one email message in over two hours. Hoping for better luck tomorrow in Bergen. But I got to know the very nice owner of the pretty big store, who only has a Summer House in Olden but lives somewhere else.

July 27, Bergen: Again overcast. Went into town and sat for some time in front of McD, which only opens at 10AM, then went inside for about 2 hours, until the laptop battery died - guess I soon have to buy a new one, it only gives about half of the advertised 8 hrs use now. At a table not far from where I sat, I heard loud conversation in Swytzerdütsch, of course had to go over and talk with them, they are on a tour with others but not on a cruiseship. At 5pm Alan came for a drink and brought the good news that the booking for Beatrice can now be made, just as soon as I have paid the fare which was reduced 50% from the regular one. I am so happy to be able to tell B. tomorrow. And to crown the day, the sun came out and I think we face good days ahead.

July 28, Kristiansand: If you were in a place already a few times, to visit again is like a homecoming of sorts, especially on a beautiful warm and sunny day like today. At McD's I was able to reach Beatrice in her apartment because she had taken the day off. She goes first to Trier for a week's holiday and then comes by train to Kiel where I'll meet her at the station. Needless to say, we both look forward to each other (apart from the cruise).

July 29: Göteborg, Sweden: Because of the tragedy in Oslo, we came here but had to moor at the Container Terminal which is 10km from the town center, to which we were brought by buses; the cost for this was 12 Euros, but I for once got it for free. Meno Male, as one says in Italian. It's quite a city! The second largest in Sweden, with a 60,000 student university, 25 theaters and 19 Museums and an excellent infrastructure. The pulse of the city is strong and palpable, young and vibrant. Of course I found a very fancy McD's and after a couple of hours there joined the masses of people and got a real feel of the place, before taking the shuttle back to the ship.

July 30, Kiel: Losing my by now good friends Lea and Bill, the others from our table tomorrow at Copenhagen. This has been one of those "special" group of tablemates, interesting, amusing, intriguing and inspiring. Sorry our meeting was so short lived, but I know we'll stay in touch by email and I fully expect to see Lea and Bill again, either in New York or Miami.
 

#65 July 30 - Aug 05, 2011

July 30 Kiel: I met Lea and Bill outside the ship, went with them with the shuttle bus to the station and accompanied them to the train. Sorry to see them go. Spent time at "my" cafe and Skyped with Beatrice twice because she had a train schedule from Trier to Kiel which was very bad; I found 2 better ones on line and phoned her back and she'll let me know which one she takes. It'll all come together eventually.

At the table one elderly German brother/sister couple who tried to make conversation with Scott, who 20 years ago was for 10 days in Germany and did his best and of course I had to translate frequently. Anyway, I talked with Ivan about them and he'll move them to a better environment (after I had ascertained that they would prefer German speaking company). Scott and Gerri, Thomas and Dicl leave tomorrow in Copenhagen and there will be a new crop.

July 31 Copenhagen: a gorgeous day, warm and sunny. Parked behind us is the "Jewel of the sea" and looks nice. I make a little sightseeing trip before going to the Longeline Cafe but the WiFi is pretty weak and often cuts out altogether. But I manage to read and answer Beatrice's email and a few others, have a coffee which at DKK 28 costs much too much, and then set out at about 1, sit on a bench overlooking a part of the harbour and see a very large and clever sign on a building across the water which reads "C OPEN hagen", have my yoghurt and continue on past the little yacht harbour with some good sized boats and finally find the Museum of the Danish Resistance during the last war which is well documented and interesting. On the way I pass the Norwegian Embassy, in front of which is a big Tribute to the Oslo victims in form from hundreds of flower bouquets and some teddy bears - very touching. Back to old Poesia at 3.30 for a little nap and now it's close to 5 and I am looking forward to a drink but not to the Emergency Drill at 5.15 where, while I don't go to it, the announcements are ear splittingly piped into my cabin.

At the table a new mixture: A Danish Lady with grownup son, widely traveled and lives most of the time in Ohio but also in Montana above the Rhone Valley in Switzerland. A mother-daughter team from Brazil; the somewhat overweight but very lively daughter easily makes up for mother's lack of English. Lastly a couple from New Jersey with an also overweight son. I am curious how this will develop. In any case, the champagne loosened the tongues and helped a lot.

August 1, at sea: Dutifully swam my 20 laps and now I am sitting in the Grappolo d'oro lounge, with the Scrabble box invitingly displayed, but have little hope of snagging a player. Just got the Nationality breakdown of the 2700 passengers and predictably Germany with 617 is in the vanguard, followed by Italy (421). There are also 179 Swiss. After a 2-martini cocktail party and subsequent Dinner, I sat for half an hour at the balcony overlooking the atrium and did people watching - there was a steady stream passing by, partially because several stands of watches and jewellery were laid out. There was the usual parade of mostly uninteresting looking people, many overweight and even the occasional tank. As a man, I quite naturally concentrate on woman and in several hundred saw only two who could be called good looking. Never mind, girls: I am sure that, were you looking at the men, you would no doubt be able to match the score - with luck. By and large I love dogs.

Aug 3. Tallinn: Another beautiful day but I take only little advantage of it since the drive is not far to my very best WiFi location anywhere, at the big Spa building (with the pretty nudes outside) (statues, that is) where I even can plug in and sit in quiet and comfort with excellent WiFi for free. But paradise is not easy to come by: Windows invites me to download latest upgrade, which I dutifully agree to and what happens? It takes 20 minutes in the first place ("don't shut off your computer!") and when 100% has been reached, I am advised that the installation failed and continues to revert the downloaded files for another 20 minutes, during which I can do nothing but twiddle my thumbs and watch the world go by. And so it goes.

Later, back at the ship I go to deck No.7 to watch our 4 o'clock departure and hear Andrea Bocelli sing "Time to say goodbye" which always wells up within me, however, he sang and I welled, but we are not leaving. There are two Italian women missing from the roster. and while the ship waits for them, an ambulance drives up and I get to take a few snapshots of the proceedings down below where the poor Schmo is loaded into the ambulance and carted off. And still we wait until the two woman arrive, presumably with red faces and greeted by the ship's and people's whistles and we push off, over half an hour late. And so it goes again. Goodbye Tallinn.

August 4, 2011- St Petersburg. We arrive at 7 AM and will stay all of 12 hours. In the big man made and square harbour are two other cruiseships, but there's still room for more. After my swim I wanted to sit in the Jacuzzi in hopes to alleviate my constant back pain, but for the past 3 days it's so hot you could cook an egg in it - unusable. I spoke with a pool attendant about it and he'll pass it on to whomever. At the cafeteria had a very simple breakfast (some watermelon, cornflakes with milk and a yogurt) and then started the job of providing room for Beatrice, which continued after lunch (pea soup, half a hamburger and a few fries). Of course siesta in between and now, close to 5pm and a drink with Alan, the big suitcase is packed and ready to be stored but I cannot find the little keys for the lock and just will leave it as is. Yesterday evening I spoke to Ivan, the assistant maitre d', and he'll move me to a smaller table at one of the windows - this will be much nicer for Beatrice and also for me - the table I was at adjoined the preparation area of the waiters which, although separated by a screen, added to the high noise level which exists in the restaurant anyway and it also was situated right at a step up, over which people constantly tripped, despite two big signs.

August 5, at sea and just loafing after the morning swim. The suitcase has been stored somewhere and everything is ready for the great event. Everyone in the Reception (some 10 or more young women and men) are anxious to see Beatrice - it sure talked itself around among the staff who all know me that I will have female company. Like a small village really.

Once again I am invited to dine with the Captain tonight. While I assume this to be an honour, I also think that for MSC it is good PR because there will be other Repeat Passengers invited, but I am always the only one being aboard for an entire year.

The Dinner turned out to be with the Hotel Manager Angelo, with whom I am befriended, especially since we found out that his birthday is just days away from mine (only I am nearly 50 years older than he is). He and his Melanie sat to the right of me; to the left an Italian lady with a plunging and somewhat disconcerting cleavage who showed quite a bit of interest in myself until, in the course of the evening, my age became known - she then cooled down noticeably. Next to her a couple from Istanbul and next to them one from Mexico City. It turned out to be quite an interesting evening.


#66 August 6-14, 2011

August 6, Kiel: She arrived! Not only that, she, having taken an earlier train and then doing some sightseeing in Kiel, she was outside the station waiting for my arrival on the scooter! What a wonderful reunion! My plan to receive her with a red rose of course didn't materialize (neither did my dream to carry her over the threshold into the cabin!!). She established herself easily and in the evening, after considerable mix-up due to the general chaos prevailing the first evening in Kiel with many newcomers, we got a table for two at the restaurant. But tomorrow we'll have my new permanent table #620 near a window, for 6 people.

August 7, Copenhagen: The night went very well and we did not disturb each other. (darn it). But when I went to swim just after 7.30, it was pouring rain and I refrained. We had breakfast in the restaurant and then, around 11, went off the ship to await the arrival of Lisbet and Mogens who came a bit later because they did not know that the ship had docked somewhere different from the usual. As I expected, Lisbet and Beatrice got on like a house on fire and I was so happy to see these two dear people again. The rain had mostly stopped by then and we had a complete tour of the city, swarming with tour buses and people - there were at least 4 cruiseships in port. Eventually we went over 40km along the beautiful coast North to a little town whose name I forgot, but it's very quaint and there is a famous castle. We found a restaurant where I invited us all for Lunch. We got back to the ship before 4pm and this really had been a wonderful day with wonderful people whom I am so glad to know. In the evening we greeted two new couples at our table, one from Arizona, another from Utah who as Mormons do not drink alcohol which meant that the bottle of Moet only served four people. Naturally the strawberries were most welcome, also later by Angelica whom we visited on the way to the theatre where I left Beatrice and went back to the cabin to write reports and then go to bed.

August 8, at Sea. It was a wild night, not in bed but outside and the ship was a-rocking but we both slept well. There are a total of 2974 passengers from 45 nations aboard. Germany (799+) Austria (139), Italy (662) leading the pack, but there are also 210 Swiss. We went again to the Theatre and saw the production "Euphoria", highlighted with the instant-costume-change act which has become an international sensation.

August 9, Olden: I wanted to swim, but not only was the pool overflowing because it had rained heavily during the night and threatened more of it with everything pretty much clouded in; also the decks were awash and the water was too cold for me so that I just sat in the warm Jacuzzi for a while. After breakfast we did go out, I on the scooter, and went together to the village, a bit over one kilometer away. Some of the clouds had dispersed and we could see the lovely meadows and farm houses on both sides of the fjord. After some time at the WiFi spot at the ICA grocery store, we trotted back to the ship, had a banana each and shared a yogurt for lunch. This afternoon, while I write reports etc., she is on one one of the many offered excursions for 4 hours. Tonight we'll eat in style at the Obelisk and I fervently hope that the weather will have improved sufficiently that the long trip out of the fjord can really be enjoyed through the huge panorama windows which our dinner table will face. The ever attentive Alex is waiting for us - he is one of the star waiters. Five stars.

Beatrice is such a wonderful companion and such a joy to be with. Last night was a Gala Evening and we were dressed up which only enhanced her natural good looks; people probably think one of two things: either she is his daughter or he has money. Whatever. I am proud to be and be seen with her and love her. Does anyone know of an alchemist who could brew a 30-year-rejuvenation-potion for me?

10. August, Bergen: Beatrice made a big excursion and I my usual trip to McD's. I transferred a lot of pics from her camera to my computer and had to resize them all before sorting and labelling them - a long and somewhat tedious job.

August 11, Kristiansand: Unfortunately, Beatrice had a somewhat disappointing excursion which took her by boat up the coast to various other places, so that she actually saw preciously little of the beautiful Kristiansand, and on top of it t was also pretty cold. I of course was at my favourite McD's. But in the evening we ate at the Kaito Sushi Restaurant which was very good and once again I am enthused over B's spontaneity and enjoyment of every moment. We seem to "fit each other like a pair of gloves", have the same sense of humour and can laugh together a great deal.

August 12, Oslo: This time, the excursion Beatrice had was very good and she returned full of enthusiasm. I had my usual time at McD's after cruising the city for quite a while because we had landed at a different pier and I had to find my way. I was very happy to find an invitation to "dine with the captain tonight" because it was another new experience for Beatrice. Of course it turned out to be with the very nice hotel manager Angelo and his sidekick Melanie, two men with whom I only exchanged a few words but Beatrice had an animated conversation since they were on her side, and then we were joined by two German ladies who were just dying to find out about the relation Beatrice and I had (but wound up having to guess). It was a nice last evening.

August 13, Kiel: The usual chaos with 1600 passengers disembarking and we had to wait quite a while for her suitcase to appear. Eventually we made it to the station, put it in a locker, went to the Post Office and wound up for a little while at 'my' cafe, where then we said our good byes to avoid tear jerking moments at the station later. I sure will miss her presence for a long time to come, just as I do now.

On each trip there is a fantastic midnight buffet of which I attach pictures. The statues are carved out of ice or margarine.


#67 August 14 - 23, 2011

In Copenhagen, since in all the many times there I hadn't found a McDonalds, I drove to the Freeport, where we had docked previously several times and where I knew that there was WiFi available and I could sit down. The signal there wasn't very good this day (maybe because of the low clouds?) and on the way back I stopped in the underpass behind the Langeline Cafe, using their better signal, to finish several emails to be sent. Why not there in the first place? On Sundays, the Cafe only opens at 11am, I hate to have to spend the equivalent of US$ 7 for a cup of coffee there and sitting on the scooter in the dank and noisy underpass working does not appeal for any length of time. So there.

August 15 At Sea and a Gala Night with three martinis before dinner and an evening spent with the four Irish and the US couple from our table, notably with Irish Ann, with whom I danced - another non "cheek-to-Cheek" but "Cheek to Boob" event since she is much taller than I. Life is good. Of course I played in the afternoon as usual.

August 16 Stockholm: It must be boring for you to read over and over again that I went to McDonalds! However, if you want to read this, this is what I'll have to do unless you buy the ship and give me free WiFi. But I sent you a bonus in the form of a small album with pictures from the Poesia (it kept me busy!!).

I had a lovely letter from Lea who had blogged an oh so complimentary report on myself on her website and says that it already has been read by 1000 people. I'll have a lot to live up to. If you want to read it, go to http://open.salon.com/blog/lea_lane/2011/08/04/my_frisky_nonagenarian_soulmate_who_lives_on_a_ship   She is a pretty fantastic person with great creative talents in many disciplines and I feel privileged having had the opportunity to meet and befriend her. With luck, I'll meet her and her husband in New York end of September.

August 17, Tallinn: it's a beautiful and warm day and a shame to sit here in the fancy Spa doing computer stuff rather than being out in the sun! But on the other hand it would be worse ignoring the many friends who write to me. I just discovered that, from where I sit inside, I see one of the nude stainless steel ladies flanking the entrance; I see her from the side and admire her perfectly shaped breasts (sigh!). Ve get too soon oldt und too late schmart.

August 18, St. Petersburg: It's raining and I feel sorry for the many people who have booked excursions today! Since we had to advance our watches for the second time in a row by one hour, I only awoke at 8AM and then went swimming this morning in a comfortably warm pool but wound up missing breakfast with the restaurant closing at 9AM and the cafeteria at 9.30, but still got coffee. No matter. Then I sat and looked out into the dismal day and saw a lot of people disembarking; I imagine that most of them are Russians (we have 196 of them on board, also 758 Germans, 566 Italians, 228 Spaniards, 202 Austrians, 164 from France and 140 Swiss - altogether there are 46 Nationalities represented).

August 19, At Sea. Swam (20 laps), played a Scrabble game (won), played the piano (applause!), had a drink with Alan (2) and one after dinner in the Zebra Lounge with my tablemates. Thus endeth another day at sea.

August 20, Kiel: My tablemates all stay on to disembark tomorrow at Copenhagen. But over one thousand passengers leave here among the usual organized chaos and as many will embark. It's always a day to avoid being around. I had my swim before breakfast and later made my usual trip via the shuttle bus to the little cafe in the Sophienhof near the station, where Michaela, the pretty manager, supplied me with cable connection so that I could plug in my netbook and we had a long talk - she looks to me 20 years younger than the 47 she admits to. She even invited me to the cappuccino I had ordered. I'll get her a pair of MSC slippers for my next visit.

My tablemates and I had a last session after dinner at the Zebra Lounge. They really were a great bunch and we had quite a lot of fun (and flirting) - sorry it only lasted 7 days.
 

# 68 August 21-28, 2011

We moored at Freeport in Copenhagen and I had WiFi right there but forgot to send out my reports # 67, which I did only on August 23 in Olden (where I am writing this). Mysteriously and most annoyingly, both English and German versions disappeared from the Word Pad were I had written them; luckily I had already sent the English one and could therefore copy and paste it back, but was unable to find the German one which had not yet been sent and wound up spending most of an hour rewriting it. What a bloody nuisance. The computer must have had a bad hair day.

August 22/23: A sea day with Scrabble and Piano and my lovely Olden which at first was cool and still wet from overnight rains but later opened up to warm sunshine. However, I spent some 5 hours on the computer (and wonder why my back hurts!). On top of it, I was not able to swim this morning since the water was only 64 F and the air too cold as well. So I sat in the Jacuzzi instead, before leaving the ship for the 1.5KM ride to the village .

August 24 Bergen: Overcast and cool but nevertheless I get into the pool but am soon joined by a big burly guy who ploughs up the water with a vengeance, his big meaty hands slapping the water in an overhand stroke and repeatedly drenching my entire head. Can't help but think he must be Russian. Anyway, after 15 rounds I've had enough of it. Anyway, I am getting pretty chilled, the blood circulation could need a boost. Back in the cabin I put on a warm jacket and head down for breakfast. It's a dismal day with rain threatening. As I leave the ship, I am greeted by Erik Bjorns and his pretty colleague Catherine, he a photographer, she a journalist for the large (and old) Norwegian newspaper Bergen Tidende. I had met Erik before a few weeks ago and already had given him a small interview then, but now they are both here to do a big story on me, including video for their website and have actually managed to gain access to the ship from Bergen to Kristiansand (tomorrow) so that they can follow me around and I promised that I would play a bit for their production. Now they followed me all the way to McDonalds near the Fishmarket, Erik running ahead, his camera busy with stills and video - at one time he was even laying flat on the road to catch me approaching on the scooter. What a guy. More pics at McD's, where I dealt with many emails but left after noon in the rain to return to the ship, again with Erik running in front of me, taking photos. They'll get on the ship at 2pm and I told them that they can come to my cabin at 3 and that afterwards I would play in the atrium (unless there is already something going on musically). In my emails I found one from the CBC in Vancouver asking for an interview! That's what you get for notoriety.

They came to the cabin and took more pictures and asked more questions; then we went down and I played for them about 15 minutes in the Atrium which was filmed and recorded. They had an appointment with Alan at 5 and I suggested to him to bring them up to the cabin for a drink, but this did not work out because it got too late so that Alan came alone and we opened the new plus ultra bottle of 15 year old Glenfiddich Scotch which I had inherited from my deceased cousin Peter of Southampton, whose dear wife Sylvia I'll see again with her daughter Olivia when we get to Southampton September 14.

Since there was room for two more at our dinner table, I asked Catherine and Erik to join us and they blended right in. A few more pictures on deck #14 afterwards and tomorrow he'll wait, camera ready, for me to emerge at 7.15am going for my swim. He sure covers all angles of my life on board.

August 25, Kristinsand: Sure enough, at 7.15AM Erik was in front of my door, camera poised, and followed me to deck #13 and the pool which today was pleasantly warm so that I did my 20 laps, all and every move before and after, duly recorded by stills and video - this is going to be quite a production. Of course Christine also was there and she wants to "know more". If nothing else, Steve will in the end have a nice souvenir of myself, since I have been promised not only a PDF but also a printed copy of the entire production.

The two followed me all the way to McDonalds, taking more photos and Videos all the time and also came back with me to the ship when I left after 1pm. A final session in front of the ship and in my cabin and now they have left and are flying back to Bergen. His article about this episode, together with photos, will appear in the weekend magazine of the newspaper, but he also expects that other papers will pick up and publish it. Maybe I'll get the key to the city?

August 26-27, Oslo-Kiel: A lovely day in Oslo where I sat in the outdoor section of McD's for quite a while, did my work and enjoyed the sights in the harbour in front of me. in Kiel I was lucky in that I could get off the ship before all the crowds and was at "my cafe" already at 10.30 am. There I was joined by Jerry, whom I had met in the shopping center a week earlier; he is a Canadian who married a German and has been living in Kiel for the past 7 years. He is obviously happy to have met someone from his home country.


TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

I am looking for a kindred soul, footloose and fancy free, female (please) and maybe less than 70 years young, to join me on all or part of my next odyssey still in the planning stage. What I can offer (apart from "take me, I'm yours") is experience which comes with 94 years of age (not necessarily wisdom), not (so I am told) looking my age, fairly healthy in mind, body and intelligence, an outgoing personality, 4-1/2 languages, musical talent, scrabble wizard, always interested in other people, flirty and never uninterested in pursuing new adventures, including intimacies , but also considerate and adaptable. Since I am a MSC Black Card holder, an extra 20% off the cruise prices with them will also be extended to the person sharing my cabin and there are other perks (like champagne for every cruise). I am independent financially, which also should be my dream boat's status and I would expect an overall equal share of costs for whatever.

If this proposition applies and appeals to you, why not drop me a line at 44egon44@gmail.com , tell me a little about yourself and also attach a photograph like I am doing herewith. We'll take it from there and I will tell you then of the as yet highly tentative plans of travel and maybe suggest a meeting to ascertain our compatibility.

#69 August 27-September 04, 2011

August 28 Copenhagen: I sat for a long time outside the ship in an area of free WiFi, but it was very drafty and cool and I got thoroughly chilled. But I was able to send out the reports # 68. I hope you all appreciate the gyrations I often have to go through in order to do that! Anyway, when my fingers got numb, I quit and went back into my cabin, but later in the afternoon went out again and dealt with emails.

Next day at sea, I was "Swimming in the rain", the pool warm, the air cold and, having my hair wet with rain water, I got out after 10 laps. After breakfast I had a joyful reunion with Ann, the Cruise Director who has just returned from an extended holiday which included the engagement to her Italian boyfriend in Salerno. She is truly an amazing person with great talents in many fields, not to mention five fluent languages. And I, as well as dozens of other sufferers, am glad to be freed of the daily "Güüüt Morning" by the man who had replaced her. Two Scrabble games in the forenoon with two tablemates were won.

Three-Martini Cocktail Party - no hits, no runs, no errors. Back to the cabin after Dinner. Actually quite glad to have peace and to lie down, put the light out going on 10 pm. As I said, nothing exciting, unfortunately.

August 30, Stockholm: 20 laps, breakfast and the long drive (about 1.5KM) to Slussen, where McDonald's is located. There I spent over three hours dealing with 24 emails, but also plotting some more of the next episode in my life, so it materialises - time will tell.

August 31-September 3: Tallinn, St. Petersburg, a Sea day and back to Kiel: Ho-Hum. But Tallinn is a lovely and friendly city. I of course wound up in the nice Spa-Hotel where I have now been able to complete a tentative travel plan for next year, which will see me again on Poesia in March to the Caribbean and then transatlantic to Genoa from where I will (once again "for the last time) take the train to Bern, from where, after 10 days or so I'll take the train to Venice and board the "Musica" for 6 trips down the coast to Greece. Then, fly from Venice to Istanbul, stay there for a few days and on June 3 take the "River Princess" for a 31 day river cruise which ends in Paris July 4. If all this comes to fruition, it'll be a wonder.

The ship was as abandoned when I went swimming in the morning in St. Petersburg and I had the pool to myself. Most passengers who booked excursions had to be in several lounges already at 7.15am as the excursions took anywhere from 9 to 10 hours (and this is the only port where the ship stayed for 12 hours). But the crowds everywhere must be tremendous, since there are four ships in port, including Celebrity's Constellation and Holland America Line's Rotterdam and I know already from my first excursion a few weeks ago the long lines at places to look at. Not for me anymore, I'm afraid - I do have some limitations. So I had a real day of leisure and thoughts.

September 3, Kiel: since there were nearly 900 Germans on board and practically all of them disembarked here, there was a huge exodus which I again succeeded in escaping by being able, thanks to the staff cooperation to leave the ship ahead of the throng of people with their luggage. So I actually was at "my cafe" before 10.30 am and stayed until after 3pm; Jerry joined me for some time. I did more research and planning for next year - it's quite complicated to get connections in different ports with other ships on the same day so that the itinerary can be varied. I now have a rough outline but hesitate to make any bookings, partially because of the possibility, how ever remote, that I do find a travel mate. No bites as yet, not even a nibble. I'll wait until mid October.


#70 September 4-10, 2011

This is the last trip up the Norwegian coast before we start the return to New York. After my swim and breakfast in Copenhagen I sat a long time outside the Langelinie Cafe (still closed until 11 am), very windy and cool and a very poor and sporadic WiFi signal which barely and eventually enabled me to send out my reports but was highly frustrating as the Sunday morning wore on so that I could not reply to any emails any more and gave up. On my way back however, I stopped in the underpass behind the Cafe and "just for the hell of it" tried for WiFi and was surprised with a strong and steady signal so that I could finish my work. However, by then the battery was down to less than 10 minutes and I drove back to the ship, parked in front of the German "Aida".

At the dinner table I found 4 newcomers, a couple from France and another from California; Michelle from France spoke quite well (and lots) English, whereas her husband Miguel gave Michael, the American husband of Catharine, the opportunity to practice Spanish. So everyone was taken care of and the champagne helped no end. There are 1025 Germans and 150 Austrians on board; together they represent nearly half of the passenger list of 2540 and 42 nationalities.

September 5, at sea; I had to forgo my swimming this morning, because the water was too cold and even the jacuzzi wasn't warm enough. Writing this in the wine bar with the Scrabble Box prominently displayed; many people wander by but there are no takers. In the afternoon, I again play the piano in the atrium. And tonight is again the general cocktail party.
(Later) After three Martinis, I felt no pain and the Dinner was rather amusing. By the way, my piano playing was this time especially well received. Thanks for the flowers.

September 6, Olden: Certainly the place I like best. It's very much like regions in BC and around Kandersteg in Switzerland. In the morning when I went swimming, the weather looked rather "iffy" but thankfully cleared up later. I drove to the little cafe in the supermarket of the village, where I was greeted by the owners who hoped to see me back next year! I was able to do a lot of work, especially research connected with plans for next year, but also could send out some important emails.
You see everything on the ship: predominantly older people, many with canes, walkers or in wheelchairs, pushed or electric; at the other end of the scale are young couples with kids barely 6 months old either carried or in strollers; of course there are any number of older ones also. An astounding number of people are overweight, some grossly so (I mentioned before that once in a while you encounter a tank); men with belts below bulging bellies, women who can hardly walk. There is preciously little beauty to be found. On Gala nights, many people don't bother at all to dress up even a little, which reduces the atmosphere of the intended festivity greatly. That's the way it is.

Sepetmber 7, Bergen: What a day - it was raining cats and dogs, I couldn't swim and couldn't go out until after 10AM when the downpour had reduced to a sprinkle. I made it to McD's - about 1.5 KM, dodging lots of puddles (it's against the company's advice to drive in rain because splashes can cause a short in the motor or connections). However, all went well, even the drive back, this time in pretty steady rain. I had one of those thin plastic rain capes and it helped, but everything got pretty wet just the same. What one doesn't do for being in touch!

September 8, Kristiansand: This is really a nice place, a city with many picturesque areas and parks and generally conveying a real "laid back' atmosphere. And it sports one of the most elegant McDonald's I've seen (and I have seen many!!); as you can judge for yourself from the attached photograph I took of my roost, where I even could plug in to electricity! I also took another snapshot out the window of the street crossing. Unfortunately the water this morning was too cold to swim in since they had changed it overnight.

September 9, Oslo: But this morning the pool was again warm enough and I did my stint of 20 laps. I sure have to apply discipline to get up (with the alarm clock) 10 Minutes before 7am and go swimming. Why so early? Firstly, because at this time there are few people in the pool, if any, and I want to be ready to go ashore after breakfast, as we usually dock anywhere from 8 to 10am. By the way: next to the pool (but far enough away) is the smoking area where every morning I see lots of people with their java and cigarette (and smell it as I walk by). And on the side balcony above the pool many people are jogging or power walking and trying desperately to take off what they put on at last night's dinner. All these scenes increase in size as the morning wears on or until times of excursions, to be horded like sheep, following the shepherd who is holding up a paddle with a big number which matches the one pasted to your attire.

Anyway, it was a gorgeous but cool day in Oslo, autumn is definitely in the air. I sat first in front of McD's which opened only at 10, later inside, but quit early because we had to be back at the ship at 12.15pm already for departure at 13.00. I and seemingly everyone else came back at the same time and I had to wait some 20 minutes until I could garner an elevator to take me with my scooter from deck 4 to deck 12.

September 10, Kiel: Swim in the morning, cool air but warm water. After breakfast - and the waiters all seem to know my "usual": 1/2 Grapefruit, frosted flakes with cold milk, fruit yogurt, and are proud to recite it when I sit down. Sometimes, though, I fool them and have a 3-minute boiled egg (which occasionally is actually a 3 minute boiled egg), or bran instead of frosted flakes. Of course, I also have been known to have eggs and bacon. (all vital information for you, I'm sure!) Anyway, to come back to after breakfast: I prepared to go down to the exit and wait for the opportunity to leave the ship before some 1000 people who disembark this morning. Because they always let me in through a cordoned off area close to the exit, I succeeded and was actually in my seat at the cafe before 10.30AM - it was fast and easy, also with the shuttle bus which was empty when I boarded and burst at the seams when it left for the Station. All sort of middle and upper personnel also leaves here and is replaced, including the Captain and all his officers. The Captain came to me at the cocktail party for VIPs last night and very warmly and long shook my hand and said goodbye. I really got the feeling of "belonging to the family" because also others made a point of doing the same. The Captain will be replaced by the original one, Romano whom I also know.

Jerry came again in the early afternoon - he has lived in Kiel some 6 years, got to know his German/Canadian wife in Toronto where she had lived (married and divorced) for 20 years; his parents come from North Bay. You'll find a picture of us attached and also one of Michaela, the pretty manager of the cafe, who, when I left, presented me with a small gift of chocolates from her and the employees - how very sweet of them. And, she invited me to the cappuccino which I had ordered. I had become somewhat of a "Stammgast" since I have been there no less than 14 times! And so the long stay in Europe comes to an end with just a little bit of melancholy, as now we leave for overseas again, perchance to embark once more!

 

==========================================================================================

From: Bjørn Erik Larsen <bjorn.erik.larsen@me.com>
Date: 2011/9/10
Subject: you are the star at my paper
To: egon landsberg <44egon44@gmail.com>

Hi Egon. Hope everything is well ! Today we ran the story about you in the magazine, and you got the centerspread from wall to wall (and we usually don`t run images that big) ! You were a big hit, and everybody I know are talking about you. So now you`re not only notorious, but also famous ! At least in Norway. Too bad you don`t have any trips left here (at least on this cruise).

The link to the multimediastory is:
http://www.bt.no/husoghjem/P-flukt-fra-gamlehjemmet-2571326.html

Unfortunatly you have to install microsoft silverlight to se the videos, but it´s definitly worth it.

I´m also going to wright a small piece about the story on my blog (and do some in english as well, because I think there`s a lof of people who will read it). I´d very much like to show the picture you took of me on the ground in front of the car, if that would be ok with you, and you could email me it.

Hope the rest of you trip goes well, and you find another cruise to go on (and a wonderful companion). If you return to Norway, make sure you send me a messange. Perhaps I´ll come back and torment you some more :o)

regards, Bjørn Erik

==========================================================================================


#71 September 10 - 19, 2011

September 11, Copenhagen: While driving down to the underpass behind the Langeline Cafe this Sunday morning, I escaped a tremendous thunderstorm which broke out as soon as I got there. However, the Internet signal was fine and I was able to send out the reports and deal with emails. The problem I have is with my back, though, sitting on the scooter especially, working the laptop; but also sitting in front of the computer for several hours each day generally gives me considerable back pain and weakness so that I am always glad to be able to lie down. While the pool was cold enough for me to swim only 15 laps, today, September 12 (we are at sea), it was nice and warm but very agitated because we have 60km/hr wind and the sea is very choppy which makes the pool water swish lustily from end to end. I did my 20 laps however.

Later I visited with Ann, the sweet cruise director, got to know the very nice new hotel manager, was invited for a cappuccino and agreed to take part in the talent show to be held in the theater on one of the next few days. I also got the breakdown of the nearly 2400 new passengers which include 1205 English speaking ones from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and 1052 Germans; there are also 66 Swiss on board. This afternoon I'll play again in the atrium.

September 13, Zeebrugge: After an uneventful day at sea (of course I played and met new people who appreciated it), this morning the pool was freezing and so it was only Jacuzzi for me. We were moored in in industrial area pretty far away from anything and I took the shuttle bus to Blankenberge, which, surprisingly, does not have a McDonalds. I cruised around the town sightseeing und looking for an Internet cafe which I found to be closed for holidays until October 4. So I went into a hotel, where I bought 30 minutes Internet access, then I went further, stopped at an info booth which directed me to the local library where I found free Internet, but only for about an hour. Nevertheless, I was able to achieve most that I had to.

September 14, Southampton: Pool was nice, swam 20 laps. After breakfast went ashore over seemingly endless serpentine gangways from deck 7 down to ground level, found a taxi which took me to 118 Southfield Lane, where Sylvia, the widow of my deceased cousin Peter has a beautiful old (100 years) house. It was wonderful seeing her again (last time was in May) and her hospitality is legendary. Later we were joined by my "kissin' cousin" Olivia and we spent a few wonderful hours together, highlighted by Sylivia's culinary expertise - rack of lamb, no less!- revisited memories and a walk in Sylvia's large garden, a profusion of beauty. Not only did she pay for the taxi from the ship, but they also brought me back to it. I do hope that I may be privileged to see them both again in the future.


September 15/16 At Sea and Vigo: The at sea day saw me swimming, playing Scrabble and piano, the last with as much success as the former. Since there are 490 Australians on board, I injected "Tie me kangaroo down, boy" and "Waltzing Mathilda" in my repertoire and they whooped and hollered in appreciation.

Almost at Vigo on the 16th, swimming was impossible because the pool had overflown and was icy - so it was Jacuzzi for me. I was again surprised at the size of Vigo - it's a big and very important city. I had been here only once before on May 15, and remembered that just opposite the cruise terminal building was a big shopping center and that there, on the third floor in a cafe, you could have WiFi, which was true, but periodically it quit for a while. I had been trying frantically to order on eBay a refurbished instrument panel and have never before encountered a website so difficult to navigate after having made the decision to buy. I must have spent a few hours on this - it's completely disorganised to the extend that firstly they do not seem to have a safe site for entering Credit Card information, but the button "Pay now" leads nowhere. I sent them an email and they replied that I could pay by Paypal by pressing the Pay Now button - it still doesn't get there. So I had to give up for today; while the order is placed (to be sent to a PO in New York), they won't send it until it's paid, of course and now, Friday evening, I'll have to wait until Monday but while I hope that they will look after this even on a Saturday (when I'll be in Lisbon and have WiFi) I don't know when I'll next have the chance if this doesn't complete. What a bloody nuisance.

On my way back to the ship, lo and behold, I met another Travelscoot from Australia - the first one I've seen in my 11 months travel.

September 17, Lisbon: Oh Dear. A lovely late Summer day. I was offered a free ride on the Shuttle Bus into the city (normal cost 10 Euro) and took it in favour of going to my usual Internet cafe along the waterfront not very far from where we docked. A city full of life, especially today, a Saturday, and with several cruiseships in the port, hundreds of tourists swelled the local population. So eventually I wound up at a McDonald's, which I thought was the worst looking I encountered , although I couldn't go upstairs which might have been better than downstairs where I was. There were only some counters where you would have to stand to eat or, as in my case, do computer work, and that's what I did, my Scooter below and beside me and slightly back. All morning I tried vainly to pay with PayPal for the instrument cluster I bought on eBay for my car and was very frustrated and involved because of the difficulties I encountered. When I finally had to give up because there was no more time left on the netbook battery, I was ready to leave, only to discover that the small black leather bag in which I carry the netbook, was gone from the Scooter. It contained my passport, two check books and my camera, besides some papers of importance to me. Of course it was stupid of me to have left this in the Scooter, especially in a place as crowded as McD was on a Saturday afternoon and me being engrossed with my computer. That sinking feeling, that rush of blood pressure, the breaking out in cold sweat could easily have produced a heart attack. But seemingly out of the blue a couple from England, also passengers on Poesia, materialized, stayed and supported me throughout my attempts to get somewhere with the manager, a young woman, and some employees of which I strongly suspected one who was mopping the floor close to the scooter and which I had noticed through the corner of my eye. Again I remember the day in Bergen, when the bag containing an expensive professional camera of a Portuguese Producer was stolen, while he was interviewing me sitting at a table aisle end, with the bag at his feet. Also here I felt that this was an inside job, because the location was at the end of the aisle where a door, used by employees, was leading to kitchen and offices and was often used.

These good people, Stuart and Pamela Glasgow came with me all the way to the police station, bought me a coffee and stayed with me for almost 2 hours while I first had to wait because there were people ahead. In between we tried in vain to contact the Canadian or British Embassy or Consulate or the Lisbon Representative of MSC - Saturday! Finally, the report was made and signed, for whatever good it may do, and then Stuart came with me all the way back to the Shuttle Bus and the Ship, always most concerned about me all the way. En route we stopped again at McD's and he went in to enquire whether maybe someone had handed the bag in (maybe only less the camera), but no dice. It was a very long shot.


Stuart came up to my cabin with me and I phoned Allan who also came and we all had a drink, not to celebrate but to console! I was very glad to at least have made a photocopy of my passport and Allan will see what can be done - I am of course concerned about being able to going ashore in New York or Canada. Also Allan has again been very helpful in letting me phone the USBank to cancel these cheques and sending an email for the same to the Bank of Montreal. How fortunate I am to have such good friends, old and new. In adversity I am blessed. And Life goes on.

Subtle changes have happened: Tap water is available (was never in Europe) Cranberry, Apple and V8Juices (instead of anaemic orange or grapefruit juices), On a Gala night lobster appears again on the menu (was never in Europe either) and prices are given in both Euro and $$. Can coffee after dinner, as was offered in America, be far behind?


# 72 September 18 - 24, 2011

September 18, Ponte Delgado (Azores): I spent the whole day dealing with this latest calamity in utter frustration. But I did receive all the help possible through the ship's officers. The one dealing with immigration had been in contact with the MSC agent in the city after I wondered whether there was a Canadian Consulate, and found out what was required to get an emergency passport. He then arranged to have passport pictures taken to the size specified. But all this took many hours in the morning and by the time the picture had been taken, developed and printed it was after noon and the consulate would be closed until 2pm. It had then been arranged that the MSC Agent, a very nice man named Paolo with good English, bring me in his car to the consulate - as it turned out it would be his associate who did this and he stayed with me the entire afternoon, until nearly 5.30pm when I had to be back on board, finally with a emergency passport valid for one day only to go to the consulate in New York to get a new passport. But what a paper war and bureaucratic nightmare, which even included that they called all four guarantors which I had to list, in Canada, the US and Switzerland!! The main work was done by the very nice Portuguese but English speaking Irene, with my completing umpties documents and statements; the surprisingly young and also very nice consul came in only twice to check what had been done and apply his signature and seal to the final document (which cost 60 Euro). But he voiced doubts that I would be allowed to board the ship after I had left to go to the consulate unless I had a passport and, back on the ship, Allan thinks that I would have to disembark in Canada, because I would not be allowed to sail back to New York without a passport - this does not make sense to me at all, but I'll have to check into these situations. What an unholy mess!!

I had agreed to appear on tonight's Mega Talent Show in the theater and did, on the 9 o'clock show, playing a medley from "My Fair Lady" and wound up with roaring applause from an audience of at least 500 people. My dear friend Anna gave me a wonderful introduction and told of my staying on board for a year; finally she asked me to state my age and I said I would, after I had played. Then, when asked again, I said that if I stood on my head I would be 49.

September 20 to 24, 2011 : Four days at sea. I had a conference with the Immigration officer and Allan about the passport situation and the outcome was that I will talk with the US Immigration officers when they come aboard in New York on the 27th - it's the only way to solve the problem of my staying aboard the ship until October 15. It's because once the ship enters US waters, it is effectively in the United States, including passengers who all have passports and will have been cleared. Without passport, I cannot enter unless a special provision is made in my case. Let's hope for the best.

I played Scrabble daily with various people (always winning!) and the piano in the afternoons, but this is at a time when there is "Tea Time" in the Cafeteria and very many people feed themselves (again and again!) so that there are fewer who come to listen. Just the same, I get a lot of compliments, also from people I come across on the ship who will stop and tell me. It's nice to know that my playing is appreciated.

Meantime I cannot help but worry about the passport situation. I had planned to phone the consulate in NY to find out whether they are able to provide me with a new paspsort the same day if I provide them with the various required forms already completed, except for date and signature, when I get to them in the morning of the 28th. However, we arrive in Bermuda on the 24th which is a Saturday and I doubt that the consulate is open. Then I'll have to try it on the 27th from the ship. I also am concerned about my dear friends Lea and Bill who would come to meet me in the morning of the 28th and, depending on what happens when I talk with the US Immigration people on the 27th, I may have to cancel our meeting which would be too bad. So of course, being in limbo like this, I worry!


# 74 October 1-15 2011

October 1, Charlottetown: In Sydney I could only spend a little more than an hour in the terminus building with free WiFi because all that happened did take a lot of time, but I managed to send out reports # 73 and a couple of emails; however after that the system got overloaded with some two dozen dozen laptops going strong and when it became practically impossible "to get in an email edgewise" so to cyberspeak, I gave up.

And this morning it's raining. I am in the terminal building, where the young excellent dancers of the local dance school perform on a stage - anything from Irish reels to "Lollipop" - I remember this from last year. Right now they tapdance to the German "muss I denn zum Staetele hinaus". There is free WiFi here and I am connected and have an excellent signal but it does not work - I get the repeated message that the DNS is not responding. More frustration! Eventually I went back to the ship and after I dried out, went out again, this time with the thin plastic raincoat supplied by the ship, and with plastic shopping bags over my feet (which are exposed to the rain when sitting on the scooter) I set out for town where I was told WiFi was available. I found it, but realized that I was taking a chance driving the scooter in the rain and through large puddles, which they warn not to do, but everything went OK and I got a little over an hour computer stuff in before they closed - their clock being ahead one hour from the ship's.

I haven't been able to swim for a few days, because I took a piece of skin off my elbow when walking and brushing against a wall with the ship lurching in rough seas; it was bleeding quite a bit and I had to bandage it. Now I must wait until it has healed up a little before going into the pool again. Anyway, both arms show many bruises - seems that I only have to touch something to produce them - I am a real "Bruiser" so to speak!

October 2: Sea Day, found a very competitive Scrabble player who beat me by some 50 points but used some words I had never known, such as "Goy" for "clothing" but also others which she learned from the Scrabble dictionary. We'll have a rematch. In the afternoon I played again, like at every Sea Day and got a great deal of applause and compliments, also later when people met me somewhere on the ship - most gratifying!

October 3, Quebec: EUREKA! I HAVE A NEW CANADIAN PASSPORT!!

 

# 75 October 3-8, 2011

October 3, Quebec: The day of reckoning - and what a day that was! It started badly: while we docked even before the scheduled 8am time, it took over an hour until we could leave the ship because there was trouble with ramps being attached to the ship. This had me chewing at the bit and my nails, since I knew that the passport office would close at 4pm and I was afraid that there wouldn't be enough time for the new passport to be issued since it also was far away. How far? $ 35 worth by taxi, that far; it took nearly 1/2 hour. The passport office was located in a huge shopping center on the second floor and there were many people in line. When I finally got to the first check of the documents I had prepared, I was told that a) the application form which I had been given at the consulate at Ponta Delgado was not accepted because it was for Canadians abroad; I would have to submit a new one. 2) The photographs which were accepted at the consulate for the emergency passport would not be accepted here because there was a slight shadow on my cheek. 3) one of the new photos will have to be certified by a notary along with two of the forms and 4) I would have to supply four different guarantors - people who had known me for at least 2 years. I had my work cut out. But first I thought I better get some Canadian cash since the taxi ride took almost all I had but had to go in search of a Bank of Montreal wicket in an adjacent shopping center since I was unable to find an ATM here and I got $ 400 as I figured to pay cash for the passport, photographs, notary fees etc.

Then I found a photographer who wanted me to come back in half an hour because they were so busy; after more running around (limping, that is) I found another one on a different floor who was able to do it right away. Then I found a cafe where I sat and filled out the new application forms and found names, addresses and telephone numbers of four guarantors. Subsequently, after more running around in the vast center, I was directed to the 11th floor to a Notary who did all the certifications and then I was ready to go back to the passport office where an even longer line was waiting; at this time I was pretty exhausted and had to sit while waiting my turn to go to the precheck wicket, got a number to wait some more (but sitting down) until the number flashed on the LED Screen. But with more than 10 wickets open, this was not very long and I got to a pleasant young man. He asked me if I could possibly provide two more guarantors, just in case some of the others were not reachable, which I did. Then he informed me that for a same day delivery of the passport there would be an extra $ 70 charge - a total of $157, to be paid right then; I used my Bank of Montreal Check Card and for some reason it was "declined" twice, which just didn't make sense to me and I had to use my credit card. Later, in retrospect, I figured that it must have been because the daily withdrawal limit for the Check Card may have been $ 500 and, since I already had used $ 400, the $157 exceeded this limit. Anyway, I was given a receipt which was marked for delivery of the passport at 2pm. Then I went down and after much more running around found a restaurant with WiFi and ordered a soup at the counter. Suddenly I fell down - I must have had a momentary lapse of consciousness -, with my netbook, my wallet and briefcase flying all over the place, but nice people around helped me up and I was shaken badly but not hurt and luckily even the laptop survived. However, later in the day and during the night I felt the pain in my left wrist and hand of a bad sprain which will probably bother me when playing the piano the next day at sea. I really was weakened and very stressed at this point, but then I went back and got the passport which I kissed! ~ Went back to the cafe so send out a short report # 74 with the good news, found the right exit after more looking for it and was greeted outside by rain.

There was a bus station close by where I sheltered while trying unsuccessfully to hail a taxi; finally I decided to take a bus which would at least bring me into the center of Quebec , but the first one which I boarded I was told was going the wrong way and because I had paid the fare, I got a free ticket for another ride in the opposite direction. In town, I got off, still in driving rain, hailed a taxi waiting at a red light which was going to a client but the driver would call for one where I waited in a bus shelter. It came 10 Minutes later and brought me back to the ship, where I gratefully collapsed on my bed. Facit: Total cost of passport/camera loss and replacement: over $450, but much more in emotional anguish, stress and physical demand. In the end, all is well again and life goes on.

October 4, at sea: I played another Scrabble game with my valiant partner Ruth, who scored over 90 points, when she was able to put the seven letter word "Squired" on a double word, with the "S" increasing the existing word "pew" to "Skew" and the "Q" on a double letter spot - a rare and lucky break that of course killed me. Despite my damaged Hand, I played the piano in the afternoon, had lots of people and lots of applause and compliments, also later, when I would be recognized somewhere on the ship. But my hand did bother me and impeded my playing somewhat. In the evening I was invited to a special cocktail hour for VIPs and repeaters and thanks to my position was able to get a Martini instead of the eternal cheap champagne offered at these occasions.

October 5, en route to Halifax: My hand is quite swollen and I went to the doctor to have it looked at; since nothing seems broken, he said to do nothing but rest it as much as possible. We have a very rough sea and winds in excess of 130 KM/Hr. Because of the weather conditions it was just announced that we cannot dock in Halifax and that the ship would continue directly to Newport, RI, the next port scheduled for arrival day after tomorrow. Had another Scrabble game with Ruth, this time we came out exactly even. But I disallowed "tux" which she was going to place on a triple word score.

October 6, at sea: I do a lot of people watching again and have never in one place seen as many obese women waddling forward from side to side, or as many men holding up their belted pants below bulging bellies. Gross. Equally gross I find several men sitting at dinner in the restaurant with baseball caps on their heads; something you never see on the European side. I commented on this already last year.

October 7, Newport, RI: Here the weather was beautiful, sunny but cool in the morning and later afternoon. After a lengthy Immigration procedure I was finally able close to 10am to get onto a tender; we were anchored quite far out and it took a 10 minute ride to get ashore. As usual, soon after I stopped and checked for WiFi; there it was, free, from the Newport Harbor Hotel which I could see. Of course I drove there, went in and found not only a comfortable chair and table, but also an electrical outlet - what a blessing! So I worked for a couple of hours, also on getting some prices on my second tentative itinerary to start sometime in November, so God will. After that I made a tour of this beautiful town which must be a very favourite destination in Summer, judging from the enormous number of Souvenir shops and tourist traps and especially the equally large yacht harbour which reeks of affluence with lots of gorgeous yachts. Got back to the ship at 4.20 pm after circumventing long lines of passengers on shore waiting to get onto a tender - call it a Travelscoot perk. In town I was twice stopped by passing passengers and thanked for the piano playing and tonight, back on the ship it happened again several times. I am truly grateful and happy about this.

October 8, New York: Big exodus, and my last time here.


# 76 October 8-15 2011

It was quite a struggle to get out, because practically every one on the ship was either disembarking or going on an excursion. But I finally did and made my way to the branch of the New York library which I had found on September 27 which fortunately was open and I could do a lot of computer stuff and even had electricity. Sure is a great place to know! Back on the ship in early afternoon. In the evening, we were again eight people at the table (even though Ivan had promised only seven to make room for Steve on the 14th; I later on talked to Ivan's successor Hugo who will make adjustments. Anyway, new faces and the old champagne ritual complete with strawberries and my explanations. And Angelica got her share of berries. She wants Steve to bring Brandy - she misses her dogs so much.

Yesterday, I did see a man with a Lab on board - I thought it might be a seeing eye animal, but Angelica thinks that it was a police sniffer. Anyway, this was the first time I saw an animal on board, which are not allowed.
For some reason we were over an hour late leaving New York - I was out watching and took a few pictures which of course turned out too dark to really show the dramatic New York skyline.

9. October, at Sea: I returned the Scrabble game which I had obtained last October and then went to see Theresa who is the replacement for Allan (who left without saying goodbye) and ascertained that everything is set up for Steve to come aboard on the 14th, also that I am no longer debited any Service Charge.
A very successful and appreciated piano play and afterwards the "Martini (3) Cocktail Party" and Dinner, where they had moved one couple to another table to make more room for us and Steve.

October 10, Halifax: A beautiful day and I went swimming again in the morning but quit after 10 rounds because the water was cold and I got quite chilly. Then ashore, where I found WiFi in the huge shopping-center like terminal building and sat there until my battery was almost empty; then, looking for a plug-in, I took the elevator which brought me to the balcony skirting the place below. This was obviously also open at times, for there were many similar stands like below, but closed up. And there I found electric outlets, a chair and table and very subdued noise from below. I stayed until after 2pm and was able to achieve quite a bit, even with things connected to my future plans, but while the signal was good, the bandwidth seemed to be overloaded and it often took a very long time to connect to websites. Took a long route back to the ship and gained "a feeling" for the bustling city, but had forgotten to take my camera...

October 11, Sydney: This morning it was only 48F and the pool cold - so it was Jacuzzi for me. The sun was shining but there was a very cold wind. I tried to find out whether it is true that the transatlantic cruise in March is sold out, as Linda (Cori's protege who operates a travel agency) says, but have so far been unsuccessful It sure would put a crimp in my plans. Later, when I was ashore and had WiFi, I checked out Cruisecheap.com and they offered several cabins. But since I want specific handicap cabins, I will call them to see whether they can get one of these and will have to book right away, maybe even the few preceding cruises if I could have the same cabin. - Going ashore by tender was a rocky affair and cumbersome because of the many people. There was trouble with the free WiFi which kept going off so that I only could do the necessary. I then went into town, stopped by a drugstore for Ginger Ale which turned out to be 7Up and looked around, also in the museum. But I was pretty cold because of the wind and eventually got back to the ship at 3.30pm. We'll leave at 5. There is only one spot for Cruiseships to moor in Sydney and it was taken by Holland America Line - we had to be anchored out in the bay.

October 12, Charlottetown PEI: A nice day, but the pool was too cold for me and with only 48F I didn't even budge. On land later, I had good WiFi at the Terminal Building and, accompanied by the usual young and excellent tap dancers on the stage before me, did a lot of work pertaining to future plans which are taking shape and you'll get to know about them soon. Also went for a little spin around town. When I got back to the ship, a long line of returning passengers was waiting; since the morning, when there was high tide and I had a ramp to get ashore, now this was low tide and there was only one long ramp with stairs operative - they had to carry the scooter up while I navigated it step by step.

October 13, At Sea: 48F and a cold pool, so no swim - I guess that's it, period. Packing!! What a job. But by and by I'm getting there. Went to the Theater for a talk of disembarking procedures at Quebec - nothing new there. Anyway, as a Black Card holder I'll have to check out what "preferential disembarkation" means. In the afternoon my last piano performance with several people coming up to me to say thanks; after that a cappuccino and talk with my dear Anna. I feel sorry for her because of problems with her postings which would separate her from her fiance for some three months - hope she'll be able to straighten this out. I, as before, am concerned about her health because she is driving herself so much and is really under constant stress.

I have been invited to the captain's table tonight, and, in expectation of this to happen prepared a little speech in Italian which I intend to deliver. Here it is: "Caro Giacomo, caro Gianfranco, cari amici! Un anno e passato piutosto rapido. Ho visto tanti belli luoghi, incontro persone interessante and ho fatto molti nuovi amici. Questa sera voglio ringranziare Voi tutti per la Vorstra amicizia e Vi auguro per il futuro buona salute e fortuna. Spero che ci rivedremo in Febbraio del anno prossimo, quando posso forse retornare alla mia famiglia e alla mia amore la Poesia. Vi saluto!" Hope I can rattle this off without too many "er's" or having to look at the text which I wrote.

As I went down to the table in the restaurant to tell them that I will not be eating with them tonight, I was stopped by a man who was together with an another who was blind and a lady and explained that the blind man whose name I don't have, wanted absolutely to meet me, asked many questions and he was "so sorry" not to have heard me play. So that turned out to be the man I had seen with the Labrador und Angelica had thought that this must have been a Police Sniffer! The very nice coloured man was full of praise for MSC for the splendid assistance he was receiving.

The dinner with the captain was preceded by a big cocktail party in one of the lounges, when he introduced his officers to the public, talked about the company and future plans and then, as a complete surprise to me, called for me to come to his side and spoke at length about my year's stay on the Poesia and of course I, too, had to mumble something. The Dinner after this went very well and I believe my little speech was delivered fairly well and certainly received with appreciation.

October 14, Quebec: A long and lousy day. I spent some 2-1/2 hrs. on my scooter watching for Steve's arrival; not knowing from which side he would come I kept on traveling around in large circles. It was cold and very windy and I got very tired and chilled; finally, just when I was about to go back to the ship, we found each other; little did I know that he had left an hour later and had a lot of trouble finding the location of the ship. Of course he had no way of contacting me either. Anyway, after some more waiting for him outside the ship and me getting mad inside that his embarking was not better organised, eventually he could board with a visitor's pass and all was well then. Wonderful to see each other again! We had lunch, a little rest and a tour of the ship; later drinks in the cabin and dinner and now, half past eight, he is still reconnoitring and getting a feel of the ship and activities, but will be back soon I hope, because the scooter has to be folded and packed and put outside the cabin where already three pieces of my luggage are and there will also be three garment bags - a lot of stuff! All this will be transported down to a big tent during the night, where it can be collected tomorrow by us. I sure hope that then cars will be allowed in, not like today where Steve has to park in a commercial parking lot some distance away.

October 15, Quebec: It was quite an emotional farewell for many, starting with Gianfranco, the hotel manager, then Anna, the cruise director, Mandy, the concierge, Teresa, the new manager of guest relations and the many others with whom I had been in almost daily contact and who had become friends . The fact that I really had become a "member of the family" became quite evident and so the whole farewell was a bittersweet experience. Steve was of course introduced to everyone and for him staying on the ship overnight was a real eye opener and I was so glad that he could see all of the ship, eat the food and get a feel of life on board.

And then came the chaos with hundreds of people disembarking here - it took a long time until I was led through the immigration/customs procedure and until Steve regained his passport which he had to surrender when he boarded and then get the car - and on top of everything it was pouring rain. I had three suitcases (one very big), three garment bags and three shopping bags and there was a small case of Steve's; luckily a porter stayed with me and the luggage in a huge tent (where everybody looked for and retrieved their luggage) while we waited for Steve and when he came he helped load the car which fairly groaned but accepted it gracefully. And then we were off.

We got to my dear friends Rick and Fran's gorgeous house on Ile Brizard at Montreal just at 5pm and were warmly welcomed, heaving sighs of relief and gratitude. What a beautiful house with so many priceless treasures! And what wonderful friends! Did I tell you already last year that I've known Rick since he was a baby in 1942 and carried him on my shoulder in the apartment in Montreal where Margaret and her husband lived? That's friendship! He'll be 70 next year.

And then on to Ottawa where Brandy was beside herself to see Steve again, and we also picked up Joyce, who stayed with the dog at her friend's house - she is a good friend of Steve's and a truly wonderful person. And then the long drive to North Bay - another 4 hours, but all went well, and we arrived safely after over 800KM, but tired. And so ends an odyssey, but another is on the horizon. If you'll stay with me, I'll be with you again.

Follow the Second Going for the next chapters...

 

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      Egon Landsberg

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