In this blog I will share photos from several ports that did not receive blogs dedicated to them. After the photos, I summarize my thoughts and lasting impressions of the world cruise.
Monaco is the smallest country in the world after the Vatican. Monaco appears to be home to more money than anywhere on earth, including Dubai, my other example of ostentatious wealth. Fifty percent of the world’s yachts regularly dock here. Ninety percent of the world’s yachts visit Monaco at some point. Money is flaunted here. There is no middle class. The “common laborers” all commute into Monaco from neighboring Nice, France, which itself is quite prosperous.
Our visit was focused on architect Antoni Gaudi, whose unique cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, begun in 1882 is still not finished. Gaudi died in 1926 when his visionary work was only one quarter finished. The Spanish Civil War and World War II interrupted construction. Modern construction techniques and computer-aided design have resulted in progress, though ten more spires are to be built under Gaudi’s original vision, to represent Jesus’s apostles. Many European cathedrals were constructed over several centuries. So the Sagrada Familia fits the tradition and is now considered the world’s largest unfinished Catholic church.
The Abbey of Montserrat is a famous monastery which is home today to over seventy monks. The site has been regarded as holy for over a thousand years. However, Napoleon’s army destroyed the monastery during the French invasion. Then in the 20th century Spanish Civil War many monks were murdered. Today, the monastery stands as a symbol of Catalan culture and has been a source of resistance to the Spanish government in favor of Catalan independence.
We visited the small city of Eltze when the boat docked in Cartegena, in the rich agricultural province of Murcia. Spain. Eltze is home to a unique garden of palm trees from around the world, as well as an ancient fortress and cathedral.
We visited the city of Braga while the ship was docked in Porto (which we had previously visited). Once again, we viewed a fortress, a cathedral, and a charming historic “old city.”
Our ship docked in Portsmouth, located about an hour’s bus ride from the ancient stone ruins of Stonehenge. There are no written records to describe the original use of the stones. Yet clearly there was advanced knowledge used in its design which is precisely aligned to the sun’s rays on the summer solstice. It is surrounded by ancient graves and other ruins which are still being excavated.
I started writing my blogs from the Viking world cruise in order to simply share my experiences with those who might be interested but unable to embark on such a trip themselves. New that we have left the ship at the end of the cruise, I will try to sum up my impressions and experiences.
Several people have asked “What is a world cruise like?” A long cruise differs from shorter cruises in several aspects. On a long cruise, there is the possibility of getting to know a number of fellow passengers on a very personal basis, through meeting them repeatedly over time and deepening the relationships. This would be impossible of the typical short cruise lasting a few weeks at most.
On our world cruise, Viking did perhaps the best job in the industry in controlling the potential spread of covid among the passengers and crew. Every passenger and crew member was given a PCR test every day to identify anyone testing positive. In the event of a positive test, that passenger or crew member would be quarantined, confined to their cabins until they could test negative three days in a row. Additionally, each passenger wore a tracking device, allowing the identification of people having potentially being exposed by logging the physical proximity of each passenger during the course of each day.
The Viking world cruise necessarily included many “sea days,” including nine consecutive days at sea as the ship crossed the Atlantic from South America to Africa. Many activities were offered on a daily basis, including bridge, chess, yoga, dance lessons, as well as enrichment lectures by eminent experts in their fields, including scientists, historians, and retired diplomats. The educational content presented by the enrichment lecturers was important in providing context, history, and information about each of the ports we visited.
Every evening there was an entertainment event, usually a concert by a guest artist or a group production by the resident musicians, singers, and dancers. The special guest entertainers included musicians, comedians, and magicians. Each entertainer would typically present two shows during a two week residency on board. The ship’s resident band was an instrumental quartet plus two singers, all of whom were Filipino. The resident singer/dancers, two males and two females, were all British, all of whom had impressive theatrical experience. They presented a number of special musical shows throughout the cruise.
There is also the passenger experience that is probably unique to each individual. It is quite a change from normal life to suddenly have no responsibilities or jobs to do. In the case of Susan and myself, we had transferred ownership of our company, Healing Healthcare Systems, to our three top employees who comprise our Leadership Council. After thirty years of building and running our company, it was a drastic change to no longer be involved in the day to day work of the company. We have had the chance to assess how we want to spend our future, absent the responsibility of managing our company. That future will no doubt include additional cruises.
Why can the cruise lifestyle become addictive? Our cabins were cleaned by our stewards several times a day. Any used towel was immediately replaced. Our beds were made with clean sheets every day. There were four restaurants on the ship, offering a variety of cuisine choices. Wines and beers were included at every meal without extra charge. (We stopped drinking wine at lunch. Drinking wine midday necessitated too many afternoon naps.) Room service was available around the clock. In other words, it was impossible to get very hungry ever during the cruise. The ship’s television system contained movies, television series, news channels, and TED talks. The enrichment lectures and evening performances were broadcast live on the in-room television, so one didn’t need to necessarily attend the events in the showroom.
The long cruise, and particularly the sea days, offered the chance to catch up on reading, writing, and other activities that one never seems to find enough time for in daily life at home. We were able to regularly visit the health club and spa, though we didn’t use the swimming pools or get as many massages as often as many other passengers did.
There are some aspects of the cruise that are less than ideal. For example, most ports are visited for a limited time, usually a maximum of twelve hours, docking in the early morning and sailing in the evening. Though the cruise excursion department offered several tour options, including one free tour at every port, there was often the feeling that the short port visits yielded only a superficial experience. There are many ports that I would like to revisit for a longer time. Some ports were wonderful, whereas others (for example, Saudi Arabia and the Cape Verdi Islands) were not as receptive to tourists as other ports. Something that disturbed the peace was the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It’s hard to ignore or forget the traumas being afflicted on Ukrainians and, even as we enjoyed the decadent cruise lifestyle.
Visiting ports around the world by cruise ship is an insulated experience. We are mindful that most of the people we meet will never leave their home countries, much less have the possibility of traveling on a world cruise. Unfortunately, many countries are victims of their history and geography. By history, I mean the legacy of wars and invasions as seen in the fortresses, walls, ruins, and battlefields that are constant reminders of the past. By geography, I mean the adverse environmental conditions that afflict so many countries, particularly those with exploding populations. For example, Egypt is a country of over a hundred million people. Yet, only seven percent of Egyptian land is arable, that is, suitable for agriculture. Thus, Egypt has been forced to import large amounts of wheat for bread, mostly from Ukraine. Now that source has been suspended and Egyptians are likely to go hungry from the wheat shortage.
In conclusion, I hope this blog, together with my many blogs during the course of the cruise, have informed and entertained my readers. There is so much more I could discuss and report, but then I would have been composing and editing my blogs in all my spare time. If anyone has any specific comments or questions about any of our cruise destinations or experiences, don’t hesitate to send me a personal email message. My extensive travels throughout my life have led me to consider myself a “citizen of the world” as opposed to just being an American. I have friends and acquaintances in many foreign countries. Each one has a unique story to tell. They have all contributed to enrich my life experience. So to all I say, Happy Trails!
Robert PetersonMay 17, 2022 at 8:54 pm
Dallas and Susan: Thanks for sharing your journey. It is a big planet and for most of us it is impossible to see but a small piece of it. My travels outside of the US have been limited to the Far East, parts of Europe and Mexico and Central America. Nevertheless, like you, I treasure the experiences.
Thanks for sharing.
M. TippettMay 17, 2022 at 10:45 pm
Thank you for your perspective as your sailed with Viking. Your fotos have been outstanding! Thank you also for the comments in your blogs. It isn’t easy to compose “prose” if visiting a port a day or more.
Christine SzymanskiMay 18, 2022 at 12:36 am
Thanks for summary. It helped me imagine what being on the cruise was like and answered questions I had. thanks for taking the time to share.
Shelley BuckholdtMay 18, 2022 at 1:29 am
So well done, Dallas! The photos were fantastic, so was your text. My thoughts of the cruise are still processing, but I concur with most of your observations and summaries. You forgot to mention the integral contribution you and Susan made to our experience!
Thank you again for my CD! So unusual to fall in love with new music on the first blush, but I did with your album!
Best to you and Susan. I hope our paths cross again.
Henry Ettman and Rosalyn SchultzMay 18, 2022 at 4:09 am
Rosalyn and I have thoroughly enjoyed your blogs and wonderful photos Dallas.
Thanks ever so much for sharing your world travels!
Hopefully our more limited travels will bring us out your way so that we’ll see you and Susan again.
Albert FichterMay 18, 2022 at 8:10 pm
Great work, beautiful professional photos and interesting comments. Try to find a publisher for a book!
Kathy MartinMay 19, 2022 at 8:25 am
Scott BrennekeMay 19, 2022 at 10:33 pm
Hi Dallas; Just a quick note to say thank you for keeping us all so well informed of your and Susan’s most interesting travel itinerary. I have enjoyed each of your well written blogs and accompanying pictures. Now that I too have just retired I look forward to traveling with my husband while we are still able. Alaska will probably be next year then on to places across the pond. Have a safe trip home.
Dennis DayeMay 21, 2022 at 1:53 pm
Thanks for the updates! :)
James Arthur SchneiderJune 13, 2022 at 7:08 pm
Magnificent!! Love to see you guys soon. Enjoyed jamming with you in Hotlanta. Jaimoe and I hope to see you soon! Playing B3 and harp (Mississippi saxophone); 2nite at the local Blues Dive. Played with Chuck Leavell there before he went to tour with the Stones. Joja needs your energy! Y’all come back now yhear! Peaches are now in season. Followed by figs and muscadine scuppernong!