World Cruise 2013 - Part 6

Sandy and Mike were on Holland America's Amsterdam for almost 4 months as they sailed all the way around the globe. This was their route.

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Leaving Capetown, the Amersterdam headed up the west coast of Africa for a stop in the relatively new (1990) country of Namibia, formerly part of South Africa. Mike and Sandy had wondered why the ship would be two days at this un-heard-of place, but were pleasantly surprised. The little town of Walvis Bay was neat as a pin, had a cute waterfront, and the drive out of town passed some of the huge local colony of flamingoes and revealed the garnet (used in sandpaper) that washes up right out of the ocean. This is a part of the world where desert sand dunes are found right next to the ocean -- a pretty amazing sight. The drive included lunch on top of a sand dune, and some "thrill rides" up and down the sides of the huge dunes.

On the second day, Mike and Sandy took to the water. The "adventure" began immediately, as the tour company didn't have a dock, and Sandy had to "walk the plank" just to get in the tour boat. Once out in the lagoon, two friendly pelicans made an appearance right by the boat, and then a big Cape Fur Seal surprised the whole group by actually jumping up into the boat. The tour passed hundreds of floats of an underwater oyster farm, and discovered a stow-a-way on the boat before coming to an area where hundreds of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins were playing. On the way back to the dock, the boat passed a huge colony of seals, one of several in the area.

Once back on the ship, Mike and Sandy enjoyed a concert by a children's choir from an orphanage in town -- passengers on the ship had earlier made donations to this program.

Continuing east towards Brazil, the ship stopped at two volvanic islands out in the Atlantic: St. Helena (made famous as the exile location where Napoleon died), and Ascension Island, largely occupied by the UK military and old NASA satellite tracking installations. On St. Helena, the town reminded Mike and Sandy of small towns in rural England -- except for Jacob's Ladder, originally built to get supplies to a cliff-top fort, but now traveled mainly by tourists. Once past the outer cliffs, the interior, where Napoleon lived, is surprisingly lush -- here's a room in his house, and his original tomb. (His body has since been moved to Paris.) Part of the fun here was the transportation -- an open-top mini-bus, built in 1929, that got plenty of stares as we drove about the island.

Ascension Island was a washout, as seas were too rough for our tenders to safely take us in to shore, so we just circumnavigated it, took a few pictures, and headed on for Brazil.

Thoughts started to turn towards the end of the cruise as Mike and Sandy headed across the Atlantic towards Brazil, where two ports awaited. The first, Fortaleza, was entirely unremarkable, except for parts all over the dock from Vestas, a Finland company, for large wind turbines being put up around the area. The second port in Brazil, Belem (Portugese for Bethlehem) was actually about 75 miles up a river that's part of the Amazon River delta. The width of the river reminds one of the Mississippi, but most amazing was that the muddy water coming down river extended hundreds of miles from the river's mouth out into the Atlantic.

Our last South American stop was in French Guiana (not to be confused with nearby Guyana,where Georgetown and its KoolAid-drinking cult were located). We anchored just off-shore at the Devil's Island prison (featured in the book and old Steve McQueen movie "Papillion"). The island doesn't look too bad from the dock where our tenders brought us, but the crumbling old cell blocks are rather forboding (unlike their cute current caretakers!). Just across the water from Devil's Island on the mainland, but too far away for a good photograph, are the main satellite launch facilities of the European Space Agency.

One last stop rounded out the trip -- St. Lucia, a cute Carribbean island near Barbados and Martinique.

4 months, 22 countries (double that many ports), almost 38,000 miles -- all on a floating 5-star resort. Can Mike and Sandy cope with their "normal" life, where there are no cooks, waiters (or 24-hour room service), maids, laundry service, entertainers, and activity directors at their beck and call? We'll see! They both think this was a great adventure, but awfully long, and they won't rush to repeat a trip of such length.