Monday, March 10, 2008

I Leave Today For 73-Day African Cruise

Between now and late May, this blog is going to be sporadic, not appear with its usual daily frequency. I fly out of Los Angeles today for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and will Tuesday board the Holland America liner Prinsendam on a 73-day cruise which will cross the Atlantic and then circumvent the African continent.

The cruise is longer than any other I've ever taken. It features 39 days fully at sea, and stops at Grand Turk Island, San Juan, St. Maarten, Madeira, Casablanca, Agadir, Dakar, two ports in Ghana, Togo, two ports in Namibia, three ports in South Africa including three days in Capetown, Reunion, Mauritius, the Seychelle islands, Mombasa for three days, Oman, two ports in Egypt and the Suez Canal. Malta, Tunisia, two ports in Spain and ends in Lisbon.

All this for the ridiculously low price of $38,000. I did not take the lousiest stateroom on the 700-passenger ship, but I turned down an upgrade to the truly luxury level which would have cost another $8,000.

At the end of this trip, which I pray I conclude in health, my goal of visiting 100 countries will have been satisfied. I'm pleased to say I'm far ahead of my children, who have been to just 33 and 30 countries respectively, some at their own expense.

This is not the longest trip of my life. In 2005, a year after retiring, I drove to Alaska and Canada's Northwest Territories, which consumed more than 10,000 miles of driving and lasted 84 days.

Holland America originally listed an itinerary for its African cruise which also included Libya and Benin. Benin, a small West African country, was dropped for no reason that was disclosed. Malta was substituted for Libya, after the Libyans raised visa difficulties for many of the passengers aboard.

Such hot spots as Mauritania, Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Congo, Angola, Somalia and Algeria are being skipped for reasons that will be fairly obvious.

Fabulous and quite expensive excursions are being offered, and I have signed up and paid for about 20 of them, leaving only Kenya to be decided later, depending on conditions when we get there.

Africa is a fairly unknown continent to me. I visited Kenya and Ethiopia in 1968 and Morocco in 1963 and 1996, but otherwise have not been in any other African countries up to now.

Those are the main details of the trip. My favorite cruises up to now have been a 22-day Antarctica cruise on Lindblad, a six-day cruise on a small Australian ship, the Roelen Endeavor, and a four-day cruise up the Rhine River on a German line, although I have been on two Princess cruises, from Los Angeles to Acapulco and from Tahiti to Hawaii, and other cruises from Hong Kong to Bombay, from Fort Lauderdale to the the Amazon, from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires, and from Bombay to Dubai.

Sometimes, I've found, the most luxurious ship, as rated by the travel magazines, is not the best. My last cruise on Silver Sea, from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires, was a little bit of a disappointment, although I still enjoyed it. I objected to the fact that when we reached Cape Horn, they never woke us up to tell us we were there, and I almost missed it.

Knock on wood, I've never been seasick on a cruise, although on rare occasions I have taken a seasickness pill as a precaution. I have a few pills of Dramamine with me for this voyage.

The food will be good, but, if experience is any guide, rather bland and not of the spicy kind I like. In the past, I've supplemented the cruise food with some exotic foreign restaurants at various ports. I've bought packages which will give me unlimited laundry and dry cleaning, and even will have an electronic copy of the International Herald Tribune delivered to my stateroom each morning. That's costing $2 a day.

I always anticipate a great deal my first actual view of the cruise ship I'm going on. That is quite a thrill.

Holland America graciously includes airfare to and from the ship, plus a free luggage service. Fed Ex picked up my luggage (100 pound limit) at my house last Monday and, if all goes according to plan, it will be in my stateroom when I arrive Tuesday afternoon. If it's not there, this trip is going to be off to a bad start.

I will be traveling alone, but know, at present, one couple who is going the whole way and anticipate making many new friends. A relative of one of my best friends here in California, who originally came from Malta, will meet me there.

Finally, let me just express hope that when I get back, and resume this blog on a regular basis, David Hiller is gone as publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, though I really do not expect either to happen.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your blog this morning because I have a Google alert set for the Prinsendam. It is my favorite ship of all and I have sailed quite a bit. I hope you enjoy your cruise.
Holland America is a meticulously run company so I will be very surprised if your luggage is not waiting for you!
Bon voyage and enjoy the Dutch hospitality.

Prinsendam Fan

3/10/2008 5:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All good luck on your trip--with hopes your health insurance extends abroad in case of any medical emergency. Up Universal Health Care to all people on the planet!!!

3/10/2008 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Alexandra said...

Safe sailing, Ken. I will look forward to your future posts. God willing, Obama will be the nominee by then.

3/10/2008 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Tim McGarry said...

Buen viaje, Ken. Have a wonderful time.

3/15/2008 7:44 PM  
Blogger Bernice L. McFadden said...

Pigs fly -- Obama got it! I hope you're having a wonderful time -- you're living my dream life.

6/06/2008 5:45 PM  

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