After our 6 day crossing we arrived into Ponta Delgada, São Miguel Island, Azores, Açores in Portuguese. The Azores have been occupied by Europeans since the 15th Century. Although situated in the North Atlantic, the Azores have a mild climate due to the nearby passing, Gulf Stream. Portuguese is the official language. In all except São Miguel the dialect is very similar to the Portuguese spoken on the mainland. On São Miguel a very distinct dialect can be heard. But, to my untuned ear, it was all Portuguese to me.
Bill and I, along with our travel companions, Brian and Gary, had decided to avoid the bus tours offered by the cruise as a covid19 exposure management measure. The idea of being crammed into a bus with 60 others for any period of time was not appealing. Instead we booked a tour with a local taxi and it was just us and the fully vaccinated taxi driver. We planned a 4 hour circle tour that would get us back to the town with time for a walking tour.
Our tour stopped at a couple of vista points on our way up to the rim of the caldera of the long extinct Sete Cidades volcano.
After stopping at the Vista point, we headed to a tea plantation to sample some tea, and as it turned out, to buy a selection of teas from their locally grown and produced teas.
It was a short stop at the tea farm, then on to Furnas. Furnas is a village in the caldera of the eponymous Furnas Volcano. Approximately 1400 residents live in houses surrounded by various steam vents from the Volcano. In my opinion, where there is steam, there is most likely magma. I don’t think I would be comfortable living on top of a Volcano.
After our stop in Furnas, we headed down the mountain, making our way back to Ponta Delgada. Along the way, we made a quick stop at Lagoa de Furnas.
Our taxi driver did not have a polished presentation that a tour guide might, but he was informative and we saw the same things the big bus tours have and we felt much safer on our own. Once back in Ponta Delgada, we walked around town and then headed back to the ship. Bill made one last stop. There was a public swimming area in the bay and Bill took a dip in Atlantic waters.
After Ponta Delgada, we had two more days at sea. We both spent time in the Spa and gym. I had a massage and a manicure/ pedicure, while Bill hung out in the Sea Thermal Suite, with its steamroom, dry sauna and relaxation room. I also did one of the Spin classes. During the two weekcruise, I did 7 spin classes. It is my way of getting some exercise to offset, the alcohol and food consumed on board. We had the 2nd Celebrity Chic night during our transit from the Azores to Brest, France.
Most sea days are filled with food, spending time on the Retreat Sun Deck, in the Retreat Lounge or enjoying coffee at Café al Bacio. Even though we were eligible to use the suites only restaurant, Lumiere, we decided to book a 7 Night Specialty Dining package and experience all the dining options available, including Blue, the restaurant designed for Aqua Class Guests. As suite guests, we could also use that. Bill and I are in Aqua Class on a cruise this fall, so going to Blue was a preview of what to expect. We both like Blue and look forward to dining there on the fall cruise.
After our two sea days, we sailed into Brest, France. John was up early and caught some of the scenery as we sailed up the narrow channel to the harbor.
Our plan for Brest, was to again avoid the big bus tours, so Brian, Gary, Bill and I took the shuttle into town, walked around, did some shopping and visited the Brest Maritime Museum (Musée National de la Marine). Because of its strategic position, the Nazis created in the Brest area a powerful large fortified area, with pillboxes, bunkers and other fortifications, interconnected by communications. It was a well-organized defense, covered by minefields and barbed wire. All roads leading into the city from the northeast were mined. The forts of the Brest Fortress were also included in the defense system. Still clearly visible are the Nazi built submarine pens, which protected submarines under repair from being visible to flying over allied air patrols. Brest was liberated by Russian troops in operations in July and August 1944.
Although the military aspect of the museum was interesting, most appealing to me were the wood statues done by a long time wood craftsman, Yves Collet, hired in the 18th century to carve ship decorations. Over time he branched out and carved these amazing statues.
As we sailed away from Brest I took a black and white picture a the light house that I had taken a picture of as we entered Brest. On the way, I failed to notice the arch, clearly visible as we head out to sea.
After a quick sail across the English Channel, we docked at the Port of Portland, the seaport for the Dorset coastal town of Weymouth. Brian, Gary, Bill and I took the shuttle to town and had fish and chips at the Ship Inn, which has been serving since 1856. Naturally, we all ordered fish and chips and draft beer. Well, all except Gary, he opted for a Hendricks and Tonic. I can’t say they were the best fish and chips I have ever had, but they were very good, in a historic inn in a picturesque coastal village. It was worth the effort.
After returning to the ship, Bill went to the Thermal Suites, I went up to the Retreat Sundeck and Brian & Gary to take a nap. What Bill and I did not know was that Brian actually went to the ship’s infirmary. After a few tests, they recommended Brian leave the ship and have more tests at the Dorset Hospital. After further tests in Dorset, Brian and Gary decided to return to the United States. Bill and I are now on our own. As disappointing as that is, Brian made decisions based on what is best for him. We miss them both and know we will have future opportunities to travel together.
With that, I will close here. Next up, La Havre, Seebrugge and Amsterdam.