After revisiting Budapest and Vienna, the remaining stops on The Majestic Rivers are in Germany and are all new for us. Today we did a walking tour. Vantage has divide us into three walking groups: the regular walkers, the active walkers, and the gentle walkers. We have chosen the active walkers. It doesn’t mean we walk faster, but we cover more territory which must mean (since all groups take the same time) we spend less time in a location and get less information at each site.
Today was the only day of our cruise with no scheduled port stops. On an ocean cruise we would call that a “sea day”. I guess we should call this a “river day”. Our cruise today was on the Danube through the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its architectural and agricultural history. There are many vineyards on its hills. Following are pictures of some of the sites in the valley. As you can see, it was a gray day with occasional drizzle.
We spent two weeks in Vienna a few years ago so these two days on this river cruise were nostalgic for us. We even managed to see something new.
We booked the Vantage Travel Majestic Rivers of Europe for mid August many months ago. Our flight to get there was from Wilmington, NC to Atlanta to Amsterdam, and to our destination to start the cruise, Budapest. For the last few months, the restrictions due to COVID have been greatly relaxed. That worry was replaced with near daily alarmist articles about the drought in Europe making river cruising dubious, flight cancellations throughout Europe and the US due to staffing shortages, and lost luggage – particularly in Amsterdam. We soldiered on despite these worries, but did decide to do a little cross packing in case only one of our suitcases made it to Budapest. No worries! Our first two flights arrived early, our flight from Amsterdam was only 15 minutes late due to a baggage handling staffing shortage, and both our suitcases made it to Budapest.
Today we took a tour of Crystal Cave with a ride through some of the wealthier areas of the island. All tours in Bermuda have been in a taxi van holding either four or six passengers. Our driver and guide today was Nolan, the same guide we had yesterday. While you would never guess it to look at him, he told us he is a great grandfather. The only problem was that we heard most of his stories yesterday. Like most of the people of Bermuda, he is very friendly. As one example of this friendliness, when we were looking lost in town, an air conditioner repair man stopped his van to help us find what we were looking for.
On Friday, we went to Horseshoe Bay Beach near St George’s. On Saturday morning the ship relocated to Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda.
There are a lot of beautiful ocean views in Bermuda. During the tour today, Susan announced that she would like to move here. She claims she wasn’t serious, but stay tuned.
Our first port was Saint George’s Bermuda. It was the first permanent English settlement in the Western Hemisphere and the third settlement after Jamestown, Virginia and Cupids, Newfoundland. According to the historical signs here, Saint George’s was successful from the time of its founding and Jamestown struggled. It was only due to aid provided by Saint George’s that Jamestown ultimately became successful.
One of the first things you notice here is that the houses are a variety of pastel shades and the roofs are almost always white. The island of Bermuda has no public water system, so everyone relies on the rain for their source of water. The roofs are designed so that the rain water drains down through a downspout into a large underground tank under the house. The roofs are scrubbed every two years with bleach and given a fresh coat of whitewash. The whitewash contains lime which helps to purify the water. Water is pumped from this tank throughout the house. Water used in the kitchen is filtered. In times of drought, it is possible to get truckloads of water delivered to your tank, but it is very expensive.
On July 4th, we left Wilmington on a flight to New York City to board the Oceania Insignia for a one week round trip cruise to Bermuda. Each of us had in our possession an airline boarding pass, a cruise ship boarding pass, a passport, a COVID vaccination certificate, a Bermuda travel authorization and a negative COVID test certificate taken not more than 48 hours before embarkation of the ship. With all the talk about airline cancellations and delays, our flight left right on time and arrived early. Since our ship embarkation was the afternoon of Tuesday, 05/Jul, we had to have our COVID test done on Sunday afternoon. We could not find a rapid test site in Wilmington, so we opted for a proctored home test. We bought the tests on line and they arrived the next day. We booked an appointment for our test at 4:04 PM. This company had at least two time slots spaced eight minutes apart, 24 hours a day. At the appointed time, we entered the waiting room via the app and were soon joined by our proctor. He never said where he was located, but he said it was four in the morning (which meant it had to be in Asia) and we could hear roosters crowing in the background. He watched us swab our noses and then put the four drops in the test device. He then left us and had us send him a picture of both devices in fifteen minutes. There was a QR code on each device, which I presume was tied to us. Five minutes after sending the picture, we had the PDF of the certificate we needed to board the ship. It was really relatively painless.
Those of you with really good memories, may recall a post titled Old Baldy from September of last year. In that post we talked about our tour of Bald Head Island (BHI) with a group from Del Webb. If you want to review the history of the island, you can search for the “Old Baldy” post using the search icon in the upper right of the page. I ended the post saying that we enjoyed the island so much that we were already talking about our return. This week we made that dream come true.
We rented a VRBO on the island with two other couples from Del Webb, Maryann & Paul and Nancy & John. The home was beautiful and surrounded by dense, old growth forest. As part of our house rental, we were able to have a temporary membership in the Shoals Club during our stay. The weather was mostly sunny with temperatures in the low 70’s, but very windy. As a result our time at the beach and pool at the club was limited, but we did enjoy a wonderful dinner on our last night. There are no cars or trucks on the island (other than for construction), so we explored the island on the golf cart included with the rental.
The period before lent is Carnival time in many Latin American countries. This is traditionally a time of exotic costumes, fancy parades, and heavy drinking leading up to the somber period of Lent. In San Miguel the weekend before lent is known as Cascaronazos and lasts from Saturday to midnight on Tuesday. So how do you celebrate? First, you head to the Jardin, the garden in the center of town.