Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012 – Valletta, Malta – Sunny – 91F

Distance from Catania to Valletta : 121 Nautical Miles

Local Information:  People have been living on Malta since the year 3000 BC.  Valletta is the capital city of the small independent country of Malta – a country consisting of three inhabited islands (Malta, Gozo, and Comino) and two uninhabited islands.  Malta has a population of almost 400,000 people, 300,000 of which live near the harbor area.  The city of Valletta is named for Jean de Valletta, the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John.  Valletta was able to fend of the Ottoman Turks in 1565.  The city is named after him for this military achievement.  The city is highly fortified and is reminiscent of an ancient Greek or Roman city.

Valletta from Ship (Small)

Valletta from Ship 1 (Small)

Valletta from the Ship

We are both on Tour today: “Blue Grotto Boat trip and Marsaxloxx”

My tour guide is Glorianne and she seems pretty knowledgeable. 

Valletta on tour (Small)

On our way

Terrace farming (Small)

Terraced Farm in Countryside

The bus trip to the Blue Grotto is only about a half hour (Malta is only about 25 by 11 km so everything is close.  It is best to be out of Valletta this morning as a state funeral for ex-prime minister, Dom Mintoff, is taking place around Noon.

Our first stop is above the Grotto at the Viewing Area.

Blue Grotto from vew spot (Small)

Blue Grotto from above

H and E Blue Grotto OVerlook (Small)

We are here

The non-functioning oil derrick is still sitting out in the sea.

Non functional oil rig (Small)

One of the two uninhabited islands in the Malta chain is seen below.  It is just a rock but technically an island.

Island 5 in the Maltese Achipelago (Small)

After 10 minutes, the bus headed down to the Blue Grotto and parked in the lot.  The Grotto boats were still a ways down the hill.

Down to the boats (Small)

Down to the Boats

At the bottom of the hill, a constant stream of small motor boats (6-9 people per boat) was coming and going.  We hopped on and we were on our way to explore the natural rock structures - Wied iz Zurrieq – and the blue tinged waters of the grotto.

On our way (Small) 

Heading out…

The Grotto is also a “beach” and swimming area (next two photos).

the beach at the grotto (Small)      beach at the grotto 1 (Small)

The tour of the rock formations consisted of meandering in and out of the caves.  Some of the water in the caves was a deep blue and very clear.  The next set of photos are representative of the things we saw.

E on the boat (Small) Blue Grotto (Small) E and Blue Grotto (Small) Blue Grotto 1 (Small) Blue Grotto 2 (Small) Blue Grotto 3 (Small) Blue Grotto 4 (Small) Blue Grotto 6 (Small) Blue Grotto Viewpoint (Small)

The View Point from the boat

The climb back up the hill was a pain considering the heat.  The antidote – local brew.  Any beer is good when it is hot – no exception here.

 Sipping the local brew (Small)

The tour continued on to Marsaxloxx; (Marsa = “harbor” in Lebanese; xloxx = “Southeast”) or Southeast Harbor.  The last time we were here it was a Sunday and everything was closed except for the restaurants.  It didn’t seem all that different today since there are few shops in the area.

E at Marsaxloxx (Small) H at Marsaxloxx (Small) 

Marsaxloxx Harbor (Small)

While waiting for Ellen’s bus to arrive (they were hunting down a missing passenger), I had some nice quiet time with free WiFi at the Southeast (reference to “xloxx”) Restaurant.  The waitresses – all decked out in freshly starched black and white - were very nice and let me use their seats and shade.  The place is very high tech – you order off an iPad and there is a wireless call button (below) to call for a waitress.  Cool.

High Tech Call button (Small) 

Waitress call button

From Marsaxloxx, the bus headed back to Valletta.  Some folks wanted to get off at the city entrance (marked by the WWII Monument shown below) but most of us went back to the pier. 

WWII Memorial near Valletta gate (Small)

The sail away from Valletta is always scenic (shots below).

Valletta from Ship Sailaway 1 (Small) Valletta from Ship Sailaway 2 (Small) 

While we were eating dinner, the ocean suddenly turned into a lake.  I was able to capture it from our dinner window seat.  It didn’t last long but it was very interesting to behold.

The water got smooth (Small)

The seas turn totally calm

My first talk,“The CSI Phenomenon” was scheduled at 5:00 PM prior to the ship’s departure - attendance was light (maybe 25 people).  Only half of the passengers are English Speaking so that may have something to do with the low turnout.

After dinner, we caught David Deeble in the theater.  He’s a comedian (pretty funny) and “body juggler” (balancing stuff on his face and body).  Overall, he’s very entertaining.

The deck party - “Celebrity ROX” – started at 10:45 PM (who needs sleep anyway?).  On the way to the party, I got this great shot of the Solarium all lit up for night time.

Solarium at night (Small)

The pool deck was all decked with blue lighting for the party  Celebrity ROX.  The show also set up screens for multimedia displays throughout the show as well as live camera feeds of the audience.

E Pool Deck (Small) getting comfy before the show (Small)

Getting Comfy before the show

Once the singers and dancers came out, the show was all noise and dance.  The dancers were their usual entertaining selves but the decibel level got to the point where we had to give up our prime seats.

Celebrity Rox (Small) Celebrity Rox 1 (Small)

Celebrity Rox 3 (Small)

Celebrity ROX

Hard to sleep after all of the noise.  Seas are still smooth.

Pedometer: 4873 steps; 2.31 miles; 239 calories

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