Floating

Thank you for all the encouraging emails and comments. Satellite internet on the ship is very expensive and very slow. So we have been on a an economically imposed internet fast. If someone spends 80% of their lives focused on their computers/handsets i.e. school, money, relationships, emotions etc, doesn't it make their virtual life what they consider to be their real life. There are many instances where virtual activities are more desirable then their real life counterparts. I find the whole concept of perception and reality very interesting. Because even the physical data that gets sent to our brains do not match exactly our perception of reality. For example if you look at the actual signals produced by the retina they are not very close to what we "see". So if you can't even trust the physical signals provided by your body, what can you trust? Anyway, it's been hard not being able to get online as much as I want to. When I finally do get a WiFi connection it's like a breath of fresh air. WiFi connections are available everywhere, but the routers are often saturated, making it impossible to connect.

We just arrived to Amsterdam. In the past 5 hours, we took a ship to a bus to a subway to a train to a bus to a plain to a train to a bus to a Hotel that isn't floating. However we are getting on another ship in two days. In the last two weeks we've been in Barcelona, Marseilles, Cannes, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Naples, Pompeii. We missed the Cannes film festival by two days.





Pompeii


After spending 16 days on a luxurious ship it was hard to make a transition to hostel living. One week at a hostel in Barcelona and our solution was to jump on the nearest cruise ship. In fact we went a little crazy and booked three different cruises. Cruising offers us housing, transportation and food for one low price. We feel like we are cheating a little, but we don’t care. It’s a way to travel to new places and take our hotel with us. By picking the cheapest staterooms and planning our own excursions we’re able to stay within our budget. The first two are Mediterranean cruises and the third visits Northern Europe.

We visited Napoli and Pompeii yesterday. Pompeii was covered in volcanic ash 2000 years ago. The ash preserved the city, freezing it in time until excavation started in 1748. It was great wondering around the city and imagining my life as an ancient. The world’s new religion is technology and I’ll be the first to praise, but I’ve always wondered if technology really makes our lives better or is it just a distraction.


That’s Mount Vesuvius in the background. It had a much taller peak before the eruption. Now it has two peaks and a giant creator. If I make it back to Pompeii I’m going to go up there.



Pizza

Growing up in NYC, pizza was the predominate food of my childhood. Since then I’ve been kind of a pizza snob, quick to turn my nose up at any pizza that isn’t comparable. Napoli is the birthplace of pizza. So I’ve always wanted to try it. It was different than NY pizza; but I would say just as great.  There are actual laws in Napoli governing how the pizza can be prepared. They have to use a wood burning oven and they can only use a certain kind of dough. The sauce and the mozzarella are too heavy for the bread. You have to use a knife and fork.





Spain


I've been stuck inside with a cold for the last couple days. Tara is out shopping for a dress on La Ramblas. I've never been a big country music fan, but George Strait never sounded so good. Maybe I'm already missing home a bit.

Like most of Europe, Spain was sectioned off into many kingdoms. It makes it so every city is distinctly different from the other. No rows of big box stores here. We visited Malaga, Cartagena, Valencia and Barcelona.

When our ship finally arrived in Spain, we were very happy to know we would be touching land everyday. We only had 16 hours on land for the previous 12 days. The first place we visited was Malaga. It's the epicenter of costa del sol. Europeans come here to vacation. It's a small laid back city with a beach type atmosphere, kind of like San Diego. I've never seen so many beautiful people in one place. Even the street sweepers where good looking. The topless beaches made Tara a little uncomfortable. They didn't bother me at all. We had smoked sardines and prawns on the beach. They looked like shrimp to me, but they called them prawns.



Cartagena is naval port without the charm of other Spanish cities. Kind of grey. It even rained that day.

Valencia is a medium speed city with an easy attitude. I wouldn't mind living here. There was an emphasis on arts and culture as well as modern developments.


Barcelona is a city where everyone walks very fast and makes minimal eye contact. Like New York or Munich. I call them anonymous cities. No one can be bothered to slow down and be personable or find out about anyone else. Some people thrive in this environment. It just makes me tired. Growing up in New York I understand this single minded focus. In a city with so many distractions you have to put on blinders, otherwise you won't get anything done. We've been here 5 days now, so I'm starting to get in the groove. However I prefer laid back strolling cities like Valencia.

We were in Barcelona on their labor day. There were protests all over the city. Lots of hammers and sickles and punk rock.


I've only experienced a very small sampling of Spain. Salamanca, Segovia, Ávila are places I would like to visit in the future. I wish I were here on a day when there was a bull fight. It would probably disturb me and I would never go again, but I would have liked to see it once. My impression was that people are more interested in the upcoming Bruce Springsteen concert then bull fighting.


Bull Fighting Ring


What strikes me most about about Europe is the comfort people have with each other. Strangers look at me and talk to me with a familiarity I'm not use to. Old ladies are walking around Barcelona in the middle of the night without fearing for their safety. Why are people here less willing to commit acts of violence. Is it because most share a national brotherhood and the United States is a melting pot that hasn't quite congealed. Or is it because the US is still in it's adolescent stage of development being only a couple hundred years old. I don't know the answer, but it's refreshing to let my guard down for a minute.


Ship

There are two kinds of people. One kind believes everything is going to work out for the best and the other worries and agonizes over every detail. I'm the kind that worries. The ship was a human terrarium where all my needs where taken care of and most of my wants. Nothing to worry about, food, shelter, safety, entertainment etc. Someone can determine how I occupy my time if I like. They even censor the news that's broadcast on the ships closed circuit TV network. So no one sees anything that might disturb their cruise buzz. Isn't this what heaven is supposed to be like. All of your needs are taken care of and everything is perfect. If someone grew in a sheltered environment where nothing bad ever happened, would they still suffer. Is suffering contingent on external factors or is it inherent? Could they go to guest services complain that they aren't as happy as the people look on the commercials?

Seasick

I didn't know if I was going to have motion sickness. This was my first cruise and I had committed to a 16 day Atlantic crossing. I imagined the horrors of being sick for that long. The ship does not turn back for any reason. On my first day I was looking for it with every step I took. I felt myself getting nauseated and realized I was fighting the sway of the ship. I relaxed into it and let the sway move me and the sickness subsided. I actually enjoyed it after that. I think the rocking activates the pleasure centers linked to the inner ear's vestibular sense. Not only do we rock babies but adults like it too. I've been sleeping soundly 10 hours every night and I stay slightly intoxicated with somnolence throughout the day.



Service

The customer service is insane. I have never seen anything like it. They treat you like your the King of England ready to send them to the gallows for any wrong move. Every time you pass any crew member they give you perfect eye contact and a proper greeting. They always offered an intelligent solution for any question I had. It's amazing and creepy at the same time. They are on the ship for 8 months at a time, away from their families. They work 7 days a week 16 hours a days for not much money and I never saw any sign of discord. It seams that the "me" phenomena has not reached people from developing countries yet. They still work for the greater good and are not as concerned with being individuals.



The ship was a good way to avoid jetlag and see a few cities for about $60 per day per person.

New Orleans, Louisiana
At Sea
At Sea
Nassau, Bahamas
At Sea
At Sea
At Sea
At Sea
At Sea
At Sea
Ponta Delgada, Azores
At Sea
At Sea
Malaga, Spain
Cartagena, Spain
Valencia, Spain
Barcelona, Spain