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  • Yes, Athena does look nice.The are a couple of interior photos on the Grand Circle website, and more here.

    And please, please dear Captain, no more apologising about your photos - believe in and take pleasure in your own creativity, whatever others may think.
    ... and keep sharing them (as long as it's somewhere where I can see them, because I like your photography, I believe in you and I always want to see what you'll get up to next!)

    So as to not get too OT here, I've made a post in the photography section.
    I have TWO more Serenissima cruises to catch up and post in Serenissima's thread! I do miss Cpt. Padjen now though.

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    • Once again Seagull, lovely series of images with great impressions from the ship, docks and buildings in these great areas.
      Thank you for sharing this with us on this forum.
      Best wishes from
      Bengt Domben

      Comment


      • Seagull
        Seagull commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you Bengt. It sounds as if you might be ready for the next cruise! Here it comes!

    • A cruise aboard MS Serenissima - "Islands of the Azores"
      2016 April 17 - 26



      I had enjoyed a couple of nights pre-cruise in Lisbon before the Azores Airlines flight to the largest island of the Azores archipelago, São Miguel, where Serenissima was waiting at the port of Ponta Delgada. The flight takes around two and a quarter hours, which may surprise you if you have only seen the Azores mapped in a little box right next to the Portuguese coast! - go play with Google Earth instead! These volcanic islands are some 1500km away on the mid-Atlantic ridge and the nine major ones are spread out by 600km in a roughly northwest-southeast direction.

      A common misconception is that Madeira is in the Azores - it isn't! It also has microclimatic differences, and is more 'developed' for tourism. The big cruise ships frequently combine both these destinations in their itineraries, with just one port-call in the Azores at Ponta Delgada. Occasionally the medium-sized ships also visit Horta on Faial island, and I see that Fred Olsen's Boudicca intends to include a third Azorean island, Terceira, this coming September. But small Serenissima planned to visit all the nine islands, although in the end Santa Maria eluded us in adverse weather.

      The gulf stream blesses the Azores with a mild climate year round, but for sure it can be windy. This volcanic landscape is richly lush and green, testimony also to the likelihood of cloud and rain as well as sunshine. I had appropriately packed oudoor clothes as if for an April field trip back home. The demographics of the cruise guests was subtly different from my previous Mediterranean cruises, and I soon spotted several blue Fram jackets and encountered others who had travelled in Norway with Hurtigruten! For the first time I was also aware of some Serenissima repeat guests {and there would be even more on my recent cruise this year).
      The only complaint I heard was from some elderly ladies (of the admirably sprightly and tough breed familiar from my field trips for the north of England Geological Societies) who thought a hike not long and energetic enough!

      On this cruise we had, instead of one Guest Lecturer, a number of naturalists with various specialisms who accompanied us on excursions and contributed to the presentations and a lecture in the manner of the team on Hurtigruten's Explorer Cruises. Local guides placed local life in its cultural and historical context. I had not expected that each island would have such individual distinctive character, which made every day an adventure and delight.

      Again I will be only be posting photos of the ship in this thread, but so as to entice you into accepting it as a fully-fledged entertaining Trip Report, here is a map of the islands of the Azores as depicted in a charming and quirky example of the traditional embroidery of the islands!

      Comment


      • Days 1&2 - 17/18 April 2016 - Ponta Delgada, São Miguel island.




        I'm just about to embark Serenissima, and as you see she is not the only cruise ship in port!



        From this view of AIDAvita at lip level you have probably deduced that I am back in 'my' cabin 424 on Deck 4




        Across this harbour wall quay was a more appropriate-sized ship mate, a tug, Tsavliris Hellas (IMO7518965)

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        • The following morning AIDAvita had been replaced by AIDAluna which was stern to stern with Serenissima. I had to go up to deck 6 to have any chance of fitting her in a photo! She had departed by the time we returned in the late afternoon. The full day excursion of São Miguel, the largest island of the Azores, was wonderfully varied - a hike with views of the lakes in the crater of the Sete Cidades volcano, local lunch at Furnas with visits to the botanic gardens and to the area of hot springs, geysers and fumeroles, and coastal views on the return to Ponta Delgada.






          Serenissima departed before dinner for the 139 nautical miles sail to the island of Graciosa.

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          • I find it truly mesmerizing that such an old coastal steamer we all know so well are now on the move to exotic ports throughout the MED and the world.

            The former Harald Jarl has certainly had the opportunity to see the world at retirement from the cold Norwegian coastline.

            Do you leave a mark in your cabin each time, to see if it's still there when you return... ( a gum under the table or a tiny pencil mark on the wall )?
            With best regards from Jan-Olav Storli

            Administrator and Owner of CaptainsVoyage.
            Main page: http://www.captainsvoyage.com
            Old forum: http://captainsvoyage.7.forumer.com/
            Join us: Save the "Kong Olav" on facebook

            Surround yourself with positive, ethical people who are committed to excellence.

            Comment


            • Seagull
              Seagull commented
              Editing a comment
              No I haven't left my mark It has been so impossible for me to commit to booking so far ahead when a cruise is first announced that I have twice had other cabins, but I will always regard 424 as ‘mine’.

          • Day 3 - 19th April 2016 - Vila da Praia, Graciosa island.


            Approaching our next island!




            I needed an extra layer and my blue jacket to venture out onto the observation platform that morning, watching the pilot boat arrive in the choppy sea.

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            • All prepared on the foredeck



              It was a slow carefull approach in those squally conditions. The ship now has to to turn into the calmer waters on the left of the photo to dock alongside on that quay which connects with the lighthouse on the rocks. The broad quay looks as if it is only a narrow strip on this photo, being so wet from the rain showers and reflecting the emerging blue sky.



              View showing the white buildings of the town and the green hills beyond

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              • Serenissima is reversing in towards the quay.



                After what has already been a hugely enjoyable morning, I have time for a quick breakfast before going ashore for an excursion.

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                • This was my immediate favourite photo at Vila da Praia, showing Serenissima and the lighthouse, but there would be even more fantastic opportunities to photograph the ship in her surroundings later that afternoon!

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                  • The morning excursion was delightful and also energetic, for the highlight for me was the descent (and the return climb!) of a spiral staircase of 183 steps deep into a lava cave within a volcanic caldera.
                    That, and the morning’s quick breakfast, made me hungry and ready for the ship’s buffet lunch - and as I had my camera with me I can actually share it with you!

                    I don't think I mentioned earlier in this thread that there was a major change aboard Serenissima between the time of my Istanbul to Venice cruise in September 2015 and this April 2016 Azores cruise. In order to bring the ship more in line with their three popular flagships Island Sky, Caledonian Sky, and Hebridean Sky, Noble Caledonia had, through the same staffing agency, brought in Filippino crew in the hotel department. This has worked out very well indeed with a greater engagement with the cruise guests. Food-wise, there is no longer the same reliance on the freezer - I recollect returning from the abundance of a Sicilian market to lunch dessert offerings of defrosted gateaux and a bowl of tinned fruit. Now the chefs produce varied desserts daily and also bake their own bread, as well as scourcing local produce where appropriate.




                    In addition to the normal hot and cold buffet choices at lunchtime, the Filipinos have introduced the great idea of serving a lunchtime daily special which greets you at the table near the enrance to the dining room. Today they had been shopping and had a selection of Azorean local produce.

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                    • There is always a huge selection on the cold buffet table, always appealingly presented - today arranged around a display of vegetables in the manner of a market or harvest festival and sometimes with adorable fruit carvings. I was instantly drawn to the tray of tomatos stuffed with prawns …ummm yummy.

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                      • Then there are the hot choices (though the tureen of delicious soup seems to have escaped my camera).

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                        • Always lots of fresh fruit and a mouthwatering selection of deserts.



                          Smiles from Arnold and Williie...


                          ...and Maitre d'hotel Renato with my travel mascot Sea-troll

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                          • The food looks really yummy! I'm so glad that the crewing change has been positive, even though some likely had to go to other companies.

                            On one hand I understand the stories behind, but at the other hand, I also understand the need for uniformity between several ships. There is also the cost aspect behind every operation, there is no way of getting by it.
                            With best regards from Jan-Olav Storli

                            Administrator and Owner of CaptainsVoyage.
                            Main page: http://www.captainsvoyage.com
                            Old forum: http://captainsvoyage.7.forumer.com/
                            Join us: Save the "Kong Olav" on facebook

                            Surround yourself with positive, ethical people who are committed to excellence.

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