Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday, Saturday, June 12-13, 2015 – Venice, Italy – Sunny – 86F

Interesting Note. Around the year 900, Venice, in an effort to improve its standing, the city decided to bring back a notable Saint to protect the city.  Two individuals from the city traveled to Egypt and stole the body of St. Mark.  The remains were smuggled past customs by covering it in pork (keeping the Muslim officials away).  St. Mark stands today as the symbol of Venice.

Voyage Note – We switched rooms – now in 4128 Aft/Midship – this room does not get music from the Queens Room.  The QV staff was extremely receptive to our needs and executed the move seamlessly.

Friday – Sunny and warm – 84F

The weather is a welcome change from the last few times we have been here.  Generally, we are met with either very cold weather or heavy rains. 

There was no narration during the sail in but it was spectacular nevertheless.

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Venice Marina

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Old Custom House and Santa Maria della Salute

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Piazza San Marco Sail By

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Bridge of Sighs

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Looking Back at the Grand Canal

The Queen Victoria is docked at Terminal 117, the outermost terminal. Getting around is still pretty easy since there is a people mover nearby that takes you to the Vaparetto Station.

Both of us are on the same tour today - “Venice Lagoon, Gondola Ride,and Murano Glass Factory”.  We boarded a large tour boat directly from the ship’s pontoon for the tour of the lagoon.  We have two tour guides, both Venetian girls, Francesca and Monika.  They both speak good English but with heavy accents.  It is difficult to determine what they are pointing out in the lagoon – understandable due to the many islands big and small that populate the Venice Lagoon. 

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Our Venetian Water Chariot

There are several ships here today and we got a good view of them from the launch.  Included in the flotilla are the Splendor of the Seas, the Norwegian Jade, the Costa Mediterranea,

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Saga Sapphire and Costa Mediterranea

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Azamara Journey

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Queen Victoria Docked

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Sega Sapphire

an Aida Ship, an MSC Cruiser, the Sega Sapphire,  along with the Azamara Journey (who seems to be on the same itinerary).

Our launch stopped at San Giorgi di Maggiori – a magnificent church and museum just across the Grand Canal from Piazza San Marco.

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Ellen, the Grand Canal, and Piazza San Marco

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Our Long Boat Awaits

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View from the boat landing at San Giorgi di Maggiori

We stopped for about a half hour before getting back on the launch.

Our next stop was the Gondola Station, where were divided into small groups for our gondola ride around Venice. 

There is a Guggenheim Museum in Venice accessible by boat (pictures below) nearby.  You won’t find that everywhere.

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20150612_Guggenheim museum (Small)

The gondolier didn’t say much (probably a good thing) but he did keep the ride smooth.  There was no narration so we did not really know where we were or where we were going.  I was asked to sit in the front alone to balance the weight of the gondola.  Good thing or bad thing, not sure?

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It was just beautiful on the gondola – smooth and warm.  Not a lot of speedboats whizzing buy creating wake.

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After the gondola ride (which was fun), we re-boarded our big boat for the short ride out to Murano, one of the islands in the Venice Lagoon.  Murano, of course, is the home of Murano Glass, fine quality glass items known the world over.

We were given a choice of staying with the tour in the Glass Factory or checking out Murano on our own.  We had seen glass factories before and it was hot in the building so we opted to wander around the area near the factory. 

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Find Ellen on the Bridge

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Campo Santo Stefano and 19th Century Clock Tower

Before we headed back to join the group, we enjoyed gelatos in the patio area of one of the island’s restaurants.  The gelato was good but you had to eat it pretty quickly in this heat.

The tour boat dropped us off at the pier opposite Pier 117.  It was a fair distance to our terminal building and gangway from there (folks with mobility problems would have struggled).

After dinner, we went to see Fly Right again.  This time, they were joined by the Singers and Dancers doing a tribute to the music of Sting.  It was an excellent show.

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Fly Right and the Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers

On the reading front, I finished S.J. Bolton’s, “Now You See Me”, a modern day Jack the Ripper Copycat killer novel and the first book in the Lacey Flint Series.  I liked it (many plot twists).  I started “The Fifth Heart” a mashup involving Sherlock Holmes and Henry James (yes) by Dan Simmons.  The two characters, fictional and semi-fictional were amusing but I wasn’t hooked.  I may pick it up later.  Instead, I started “The Keepsake” another Rizzoli and Isles novel by Tess Gerritsen.  This one involves an Egyptian mummy so immediate hook.

Saturday - Mostly Sunny - 84F

We walked into Venice from the Cruise Terminal – we were looking for the Jewish Ghetto Area but wound up exploring the smaller streets of the city.  It was too hot to walk more than a couple of hours before returning to the ship.

We were told that about 1100 new passengers embarked in Venice.

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Basilica di San Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

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Chiesa di San Rocco

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Grand Canal – Toward Piazzale di Roma

We got some pretty good steps in today.

After dinner, we went to see tonight’s headliner – Mark Donoghue – Violinist/Guitarist.  Entertaining show. 

After the show, we went to the Commodore Lounge to hear Clarolyn, who finally let me take her picture.

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We got great seats and watched the sail out.  Venice is very interesting at night – lots of lights that make it look quite a bit more modern that it appears during the day.

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A very nice stop in Venice.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015 – At Sea – Party Cloudy – 80s

It is – boringly – another wonderful day at sea.

After grabbing a mocha decaf latte (still looking for the right formula), Ellen and I attended an art lecture at 10:00 AM - “History of Impressionism” – in the Connexions Lounge.  It was a very interesting lecture given by one of the curators of the art displays on board.  I had a bit of trouble with his Brit accent but I got most of the information.

At 11:00 AM, I went to hear my opposite number, Peter Quantermaine, give a presentation entitled, “Selling the Sea – Classic Maritime Posters”.  Interesting topic…

After feeling like a regular passenger for a few days, it has now come down to getting to work.

My first presentation, “The Whitechapel Murders”, is scheduled for 12:15 – 1:00 PM in the Royal Court Theater.  I got there a bit early to make sure all the AV worked and to greet some passengers.  I am in my new lecture uniform (dark coat, tie, and gray slacks).  Some passengers have arrived early.  We asked one of the techs to take a picture of us and it turned out pretty good.

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I was introduced by Alex MacDonald (Assistant Entertainment Director). 

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The talk was revised to be an opening talk – previewing the rest of the series – and providing some technical back ground, as well. 


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“The Whitechapel Murders"

The talk went well – the theater is huge and interacting with the audience is difficult (they are so far away you can’t hear their comments).  However, the turnout was good for a first talk – around 200 people based on the occupancy of the theater.  It was a good start.

We got some lunch in the Lido Restaurant (buffet).

As always, and especially during nice days, we are on the open deck reading and relaxing.

Tonight is Formal Night, so golf shirts give way to shirt, tie, and jacket.  We even saw some guys turned away due to the dress code in the Britannia Restaurant.  The dinner again was excellent.

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Post-Dinner Sunset

We attended the Production Show - “Victoriana” – in the Royal Court Theater.  Although the costumes were great and the singers most enthusiastic, the songs and dances were clearly Anglo-centric and we did not recognize any of them (the audience did and loved them).

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We finished off the evening in the Commodore Lounge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 – Dubrovnik, Croatia

Port Background.  Dubrovnik is located on the Adriatic Coast of Croatia (Dalmatian Coast). At one time, Dubrovnik was the capitol of the wealthy city-state of Ragusa (a powerful rival to Venice).  During the Balkan War in 1992, Dubrovnik suffered heavy bombardment – today, the damaged city has been rebuilt and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is one of the best remaining medieval walled cities.

It’s another beautiful day – this time in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Queen Victoria is docked at the Gruz Cruise Port in the shadow of the very interesting Franjo Tjudman Suspension Bridge (sorry no picture).   The cruise port is only about a mile from Dubrovnik.

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View from the Port

Both of us are on the same tour today - “Dubrovnik, Dominican Monastery, and Walking Tour of the Old City” plus free time.  Our plan is to meet up during the free time portion of the tour to check out Dubrovnik on our own.

I boarded my comfortable bus – not overly crowded so I was able to get a window seat and take photos.  Within minutes we were passing by the Old City Walls – recall that some of the location shots for “Game of Thrones” are shot here in Dubrovnik.

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The Old City Walls

The bus continued past the city (on our way to a scenic stop) and I could get a good view of the ubiquitous red roofs of Dubrovnik.

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The highway followed the coastline south of Dubrovnik.  There are a few homes nestled in the slopes.


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As we continued, we passed by a large island, Lokrum.  The name means “bitter fruit”.  The island is popular with the locals – it has some nice eco sites, a castle, and a small salt pond (a miniature Dead Sea).

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Lokrum Island

Lokrum Island is only about 600 meters from Dubrovnik (although it looks further away depending on the viewing location).  Looking back along the road we just drove on, we could get a great view of Dubrovnik – the marina and the old city.

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Dubrovnik from the Highway

The bus turned around and headed back to the city.  Our first stop was the Dominican Monastery.  The Dominican Monastery was started in the early 13th Century and the current structure completed in the 14th Century. 

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The Courtyard of the Monastery is very scenic.  Our two tour groups met up in the Monastery so I was able get a nice picture of Ellen.

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The Courtyard and Ellen

There is a sculpture in the monastery’s church that has a connection with Chicago.

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Ivan Meštrović is a Croatian sculptor, who is also known for his statue of “Spearman”, a native American on horseback, in Grant Park. 

After our visit to the Monastery, our tour proceeded down the main walkway, the Placa or Stradun.  At the end of the long street is the famed clock tower with its animated figures.  Striking the bells are Maro and Baro, the zelenci (green) twins (turned green by the effect of the salt air on the bronze).  They came out but I did not hear any bells ring.  There is also an astronomical clock on the tower.

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The Clock Tower at the end of the Placa

The Main Square was our next destination.  This square is home to the Custom’s House (with its Venetian look), the Rector’s Palace, and the Dubrovnik Cathedral.

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Rector’s Palace

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Custom House

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Dubrovnik Cathedral

At this point, we were on our own, complete with a rendezvous time at the Ploce Gate.  The shops were interesting but it was a hot day and some nice gelato sounded very good.  We did some comparison shopping and wound up in an interesting “Soda Fountain” type place (the girls working there were all dressed like they worked in a Fifties soda shop).  Our gelatos were a bargain at 1.25 Euros and they were delicious and huge.

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Enjoying a Gelato in Dubrovnik

As we waited for everyone to gather at the meeting spot, we got some nice shots of the harbor and Adriatic.

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Soon, we were back on the ship.  We were able to get a late lunch/snack and spent the rest of the day reading (it was warm on the deck with no breeze so we found a nice. cool spot inside).

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Kindling with a View

After another nice dinner, we opted not to see the show tonight (Flautist – Suzanne Godfrey) but catch some of the entertainers around the ship.  A very nice way to spend the evening.