Life at Sea

We are getting closer to home; ship staff want our departure information, clocks are spinning backwards at a dizzying speed and the ship is speeding along at 18 knots.  We are scheduled to arrive in NYC on time Saturday. Here’s how I spent my Sunday.

It’s a good time to tell you about our shipmates, but please keep in mind that generalities are tough when three different groups of passengers have thoroughly mingled.

The original group of 600 departed NYC after numerous cruise trips had been cancelled due to COVID: the “COVID pause.” Many of these 600 were anxious and impatient to get back to sea, booking additional cruises this year to feed that hunger despite the continued danger of COVID.   About 300 of these original travelers were replaced in Reykjavík by equally anxious “experience-seekers” who kayaked, hiked, and/or dined in cool places during our brief stops. Most of that 300 left the ship in Le Havre, too impatient to handle all the upcoming sea days.

The 300 or so who boarded in La Havre included some who had been touring Europe for weeks on their own, others whose primary interest was just being on the ship, and some who were using credits from previous trips or adding trips for their loyalty rewards. 

Most of these travelers are frequent travelers with 40 or more cruises under their belt.  Conversations typically start with “Where have you been before?”  Passengers arrive and mostly stay in couples (friends, partners, grandparent/grandchild). Most are repeat cruisers (as in 40 or more cruises under their belts.) We didn’t try to socialize at first; telling our COVID story wasn’t good conversation when COVID was roaring through the ship, and Bob’s cough has been disruptive until recently. We learned that in this COVID time, most socialization is on buses or in small-group ship activities. In the dining rooms, tables of four or six are the exception; large tables remain empty while 2-person tables fill quickly.

A few of the stories we’ve heard are just plain sad: “My husband and I were planning this trip together. He died of COVID, and I decided to come anyway.” “My mother just died; we had planned to come together. My family said I should come to honor her.” “I was asked to accompany a 90+ year old; he bought a 2-year suite ticket for us and died on the ship after just a few months.  I am finishing the trip.” Some passengers have portable electric wheelchairs, many have canes, there are both deaf and blind passengers on board and some who are clearly demented.

Oceania Insignia has a laundry room, used by all who don’t get free laundry with their upgraded room choice.  Always busy, the laundry room is the source of great gossip. “Two men got into a fight on an earlier cruise about whose turn for the dryer was next and were subsequently disembarked from the ship.”  “There were 30 or 40 or 50 or maybe 100 COVID cases earlier in the cruise.” “There is no COVID on board now.” None of that may be true.

Dress, except at dinner, is more like COVID comfort than Country Club casual: shorts, t-shirts, sandals. Folk “dress” for the dining room and specialty restaurants with slacks, shirts and shoes and occasional jackets or fancy shawls and tops. Hardly any jewelry.

Maybe tomorrow, we can touch on food.  Or maybe I’ll just read another mystery on the deck….As I finish this blog, a diversion from my original “aging” blog, do let me know if you have questions. Once home, this will all be in the past.

Lunch on the outdoor buffet restaurant as we left Lisbon. It was a beautiful day.

Porto City, Portugal – One of tomorrow’s top ten cities?

It would be sooo easy to write the marketing copy for Porto City (as the locals call Oporto). First, I must acknowledge that I know nothing about Portuguese economy or politics…but all of the ingredients for a favored tourist spot are already in place:

Great historical attractions: Forts in beachfront settings, the well-known tiled homes and churches (and lesser known tiled interiors in public buildings).

Modern architecture and street art.


Quirkiness.  What other European town has both a bookstore where one must stand in a very long line to get entry tickets and also a 16th century jail graced with a huge statue of a favored author holding his nude mistress?  (It seems that JK Rowling did some writing in the bookshop and it’s been mentioned in guidebooks as a “must see.” The statues portray a couple who served time in the jail for adultery: he on the nicer third floor; she relegated to the less nice 2nd floor.

Stunning beaches.

I love this photo, so you are seeing it twice. This time, notice the beautiful wide public beach.

Of course, there are a lot of tourists taking pictures already….

Looks like a tourist to me!

Porto City is famous as the home of Port Wine, almost an afterthought for this marketing list.  Given that red wines give me instant migraines, we didn’t even pursue a sip. The story we were told about the development of Port by a British fellow (who fell off his boat after a Port Party on his estate and drowned because he had a money belt filled with gold. Seriously….) is just one example of a longstanding bond between the UK and Portugal.  Clearly, the UK is heavily invested in Portugal still. 

Tomorrow, Lisbon and Sunday (Sept 4) the Azores.  Then it’s due West for five 25=hour days to NYC.  We should be totally disoriented to time and place as we leave the ship on Saturday the 10th and grab the train home.

Not sure of the most descriptive word for this news…

We encourage you to contribute your thoughts on the best response (use the comments option, please, and I will share your responses) to today’s news that Bob’s COVID test was positive. He is now in quarantine, still in his own lovely room with balcony, reduced as I have been to room service and no visitors. As with me, he has no loss of smell or taste, no fever, just a cough and cold. He will be in quarantine during the entire time we are in Reykjavik, meaning that he will miss two whale hunts. Ironically, I have hopes that I will be released from quarantine on Monday morning and free to take the cultural tours we had planned (I have NO plans to take those whale hunts!).

We are bummed. So close and yet so far. I can’t say we’re surprised; again, this is a risk we knew about. The good news is that this cruise is 46 days long, and we have completed only 12 or so days. Lots of time for the cruise to go as we planned. Both today and tomorrow are sea days again, and their loss is far less impactful. Still….help us find the right word, would you? It will help to share these feelings.