Neptune is 2.9 billion miles away. The probe is 12.1 billion miles away – so much, much further. Even so, signals **only** take 20 hours to go from us to them. In general, an observer needs to be several **light years** away to see some interesting constellation changes.
Our amazingly long distance probes aren’t even a single “light day” away from us. Never mind a light month or a light year. So the constellations look nearly identical even that far away.
Constellations look the same from other planets in our solar system –
It was the last day of our trip. Day 16. Tuesday, April 19th, 2022. Today was the day of our flights home.
My mother, my sister, and I all had valid plane tickets. We all had negative COVID tests in hand.
Mom and Jenn were flying Delta from Fiumicino (Rome) Italy direct to Atlanta, to connect there, departing at 1:15pm. I was flying Lufthansa from Fiumicino to Munich at 12:55pm. We were leaving out of the same airport, nearly at the same time, but from different terminals.
We spent the morning cleaning the apartment, finishing the packing, and so on. I took the trash and recyclables to the bins on the street.
Soon enough the van was at the door. We locked up the apartment and brought down our luggage. We tucked ourselves in to the van. We always masked up in every cab throughout this trip, if I hadn’t mentioned that. He drove us over to the airport.
I was dropped off first. I said my goodbyes to Mom and Jenn. Now I was on my own! I felt my “aloneness” very strongly. I imagine part of it was being surrounded by Italian-speaking people and Italian-language signs.
I found my way in to the Lufthansa check-in spot. There were only a few people in line. The clerk spoke English. My main luggage bag checked in without a problem. I was wearing a cloth mask. She pointed at my mask and said I needed to wear an official N95 one on the flight. I had some in my carry-on and said OK. She pointed me off toward the gate.
There was a long security line, so I snaked my way through that. People were not social distancing, but everyone had a mask of some type on. Many were NOT N95 masks – many were blue surgical style masks.
I went through the xray machine.
Next, there was a small shopping area, and then the room opened up into a big waiting area. There were banks of monitors with flight details. My flight was on the fifth screen, in time order, and an actual gate hadn’t been assigned yet.
I found a seat with nobody around it and waited. It had a Euro-style plug outlet and a USB outlet right by the chair.
Time passed slowly but surely. I texted Jenn to keep track of how she and Mom were doing. There was a public use piano near me that would randomly be played by people – sometimes well, sometimes not-so-well.
Jenn texted me that she and Mom had a bit of an adventure. They were sitting in a row of seats with two empty ones alongside Jenn. The seat immediately next to Jenn had a sign on it in essence saying “do not sit here / do not move this sign” – i.e. for COVID reasons. The airport was trying to maintain social distancing.
A woman and man came over and eyed the seats. The woman plunked down in the two-away seat and indicated the man should sit next to her, i.e. next to Jenn, in the “do not sit here” seat. He pointed at the sign. The woman grabbed the sign and tossed it onto a ledge.
Jenn looked at the man. The man asked Jenn if Jenn minded if he sat next to her. Keep in mind that Jenn is PROBABLY COVID POSITIVE. Jenn showed great restraint and simply said to him “the signs are there for a reason”. The woman grumpily stood up and muttered “Unfriendly people!” Mom snapped back, “not getting SICK people!”
I bet that woman would have sung a different tune if she’d gotten COVID and ended up in the hospital …
My own experience was quiet. Nobody came anywhere near me. Another twenty minutes passed. Eventually the monitor assigned a gate for my flight. I headed down the hallway.
It turns out the gate area was quite a ways away from this initial ‘holding area’ and that there were lots of shops / restaurants / etc. in the gate area. I could have come to this deeper area and waited in more comfort. That’s all right.
There were very strange sculptures along the way … just what is this?
There were more public pianos and things like public foozball tables …
Eventually I got to my gate area. It was a hole-in-the-wall corner gate area with only about half as many seats as they needed. Lots of people were standing, jammed together. It’s just as well I only got here near the loading time. The people getting off the previous flight had to wiggle their way through us.
Finally the crew started loading us by group number. Occasionally they’d point at someone’s mask, say it wasn’t a N95, and tell them to go to the local shops and buy themselves a proper mask. You’d think after the first person or two was sent away that the rest of the passengers would check their masks. But no, even deeper into loading, passengers were still being sent off to buy a new one.
I was probably in the last group to load. I was very happy to have a paper boarding pass from the Lufthansa desk person. Paper boarding passes make me happy. I just don’t trust an electronic one. What if your phone dies?? I know, I’m a dinosaur.
On board, we all had N95 masks on and wore them the entire flight. This was a short hop just from Rome to Munich. I texted Jenn until they had us switch our phones to airplane mode. We were barely in the air (reasonably speaking, 1:15 flight time) before it seemed as if we were coming down again.
The connection time between this plane landing and the next plane taking off was fairly tight – and the gates were seemingly at the opposite ends of a large terminal. So the moment we were able to leave our seats, I grabbed my carry-on and started a fast walk.
It turns out even though we were staying within the EU, from Italy to Germany, that Germany still wanted us to go through a customs-type check. They had two main lines – one for EU people and one for the rest of the world. A US couple stood at the junction point staring baffled at the options, wholly unsure of what to do. I had to explain to them what the EU line was about.
Apparently many people around me also had very tight connections because there was a lot of grumbling around me in line about why this was happening. Fortunately, the customs people seemed to understand this. They were very quick and efficient in getting us through. Then we were off at our fast walk again.
But wait, up ahead there was yet another bank of security people. This one was split into lanes by flight. There was a particular lane for my Munich-to-Boston flight.
A middle-aged woman from behind us went barging up through our Munich-to-Boston line, going past everyone else on our flight, panicked that she’d miss her flight (i.e. the flight all the rest of us were on). We let her past. The security person wearily told her to take a deep breath, that she wasn’t going to miss her flight. The woman got processed through. Then the rest of us in line got processed.
I continued my fast walk to get to the actual gate. When I got there, it was empty of passengers. I guess our straggling group from Rome was the last set of passengers due on board. The crewperson quickly processed me. With great relief, I stepped onto the plane. I was in the near-very-back of my section, on the right-side aisle (window seat) with a young man also in my row. The crew closed the doors very soon after that. An attendant told the young man that the row behind us was wholly empty, and he moved back a row. I dramatically said goodbye to him :). He responded in kind. Both of us had an empty row for ourselves for the long flight which, all things considered, was of course a good thing.
I could at last settle in. This was the last leg, quite a long flight. I had a solo row. Maybe I could even sleep.
It turns out the man who had been in my row was a vegan. Because I was now the only person in “his” row, and he no longer was, I kept getting vegan meals. That was quite fine. They were tasty. Vegan lasagna, vegan salad, etc. He got vegan food, too, so I wasn’t “stealing” his food.
It turns out I wasn’t sleepy – maybe too much adrenaline – so I ended up watching Gladiator :). The Roman Colosseum and so on. And then the Russell Crowe Robin Hood, to keep the theme going.
The woman in the row in front of me kept trying to leave her mask off after eating (i.e. while watching a movie), and the airline attendant would come by and gently remind her to put her mask back on. I’ll note that in the US on this very day, Tuesday, a ruling decided that US flights no longer required masks. Apparently on my mom and sister’s Delta flight the passengers were happily taking off their masks and deeply breathing in the communal air.
Lufthansa was having none of that.
Finally we landed in Boston. I was in no rush on this end so I let other people race and scramble to get off the plane in case they had connecting flights. Then I got off. The security line was fairly quick, to process us. And then it was down to the luggage area to get my bag.
There was no set customs process. Random people would be chosen out of the stream to go to a side area and talk about their baggage. I saw an officer stop a young man with a duffel bag. I walked right through without anyone stopping me. Then it was out to the pick-up area, where I was picked up by Bob. And then in the blink of an eye we were home! Home home home! :).
I tested myself for COVID with my home kit. It came out negative. I tested myself three days later, just in case I picked COVID up somewhere along the travel path. I was still negative. I had no symptoms of anything. So I was 100% clear from start to finish. I’m very grateful for that.
My mom wasn’t feeling well the next day, and she then gave her cold to Len, but thankfully they both tested negative for COVID. It seems she got some sort of a generic illness from someone in her travels, but it wasn’t COVID. I call that a win. They healed up soon.
Jenn, of course, tested STRONGLY POSITIVE for COVID once she got home. Not even mildly positive. A bright strong line showed up instantly. So it really seems as if she was positive when she was evicted by the Golden Tulip on Saturday and she was positive when she got her ‘cleared for flying’ test Monday at the Golden Tulip.
Jenn self-quarantined at home, and after a few days the COVID test was only weakly positive, and then a few days later, negative. She made it through the end of her illness in comfort.
I’m amazed I never got COVID throughout the days of Jenn and me sharing a room both on the Oceania Riviera as well as in the Rome apartment. Our twin beds were right next to each other, and we shared a bathroom. We were only apart the one night she was at the Golden Tulip.
All in all, the Spain-Italy cruise and vacation was a lot of fun. I loved seeing the architecture at the Alhambra, the volcanic landscape on Lanzarote, the raptors, the churches of Rome, the opera dinner, and much more.
The Oceania Riviera definitely had “COVID issues” in a number of areas. They had new staff who didn’t quite know what they were doing. Our cabin person had to be gently reminded to bring us the breakfast form, when to do room maintenance, and so on. Oceania had in place poor procedures for handling health situations, for example how food delivery should be handled to a COVID-positive room.
There were a number of passengers who were quite cavalier about safety protocols, which undoubtedly led to COVID spreading easily amongst people. That is hard for the staff to deal with. At the same time, Oceania’s crew actively didn’t tell passengers that COVID was loose on the ship. People might have paid a bit more attention to their actions if they didn’t feel completely safe in a “COVID-free bubble”.
It will be interesting to see how travel changes in the coming months, as COVID continues to mutate and become even easier to catch – but hopefully at the same time becomes less dangerous to its victims. I think one of the key lessons in here is to absolutely have travel insurance, because you never know which day might bring an abrupt change to your plans.
In any case – spending two full weeks of fascinating travel with my mom and sister – priceless!!
We were now at Monday, April 18th, 2022. This was our last full day in Rome, Italy. We would be flying home on Tuesday. That meant that we were required to get a proctored COVID test today. Well, we could get one Tuesday morning, but it’s better to be prepared.
As things stood right now, Jenn had tested positive on the Oceania Riviera on Thursday, when Mom and I tested negative. Jenn had been taken Friday morning to the Golden Tulip hotel in Rome. Saturday morning they’d tested her and said she was negative.
Perhaps Jenn was actually now negative, Mom and I were still negative, and everything would be good. We could all test negative today and be fine.
Or perhaps Jenn was still positive but had only tested negative at the hotel for some reason, and had infected the other two of us, and we’d now all be sick. We could all be stuck in Rome for another week or two in a COVID hotel somewhere. Our apartment contact had let us know we could have this apartment for a few more days (i.e. nobody had rented it right after us). However, I’m not sure she meant it was available for two more weeks, or that she’d be happy with us hunkering down with COVID in here.
And how would we eat?
In any case, we had to find a COVID test.
I woke up Monday morning to find Jenn and Mom were awake and a little tense about finding a place to get COVID tested on Easter Monday. They’d been trying to contact a local hospital, it seemed. I’d done a bunch of research before we began the trip and all the posters had said it was easy to get tested at a pharmacy. I wasn’t concerned about the process.
I came out to the living room and tracked down the local open pharmacy. Unfortunately, when I called them, all the recorded answering prompts were in Italian. I WhatsApped our apartment contact (who of course speaks Italian) and asked her to please call that pharmacy to confirm they were open and doing COVID testing. The woman responded promptly, did so, and said that we were all set. The pharmacy was indeed open and was doing COVID tests. It was just a short walk away. Everything was fine.
While I was doing that, Jenn contacted someone at the Golden Tulip hotel. It turns out, since Jenn had stayed there, that the hotel would be happy to do tests for all three of us. So we could also just walk to the Golden Tulip and get the tests done there. We had two easy COVID testing options.
After some discussion we decided to go with the Golden Tulip option. After all, they had cared for Jenn and given her the negative test on Saturday. That way we would have all the testing done in one place and keep everything Oceania-related. It might mean if we tested positive that we would have more of a direct contact with the Oceania hotel and have more support with any next step.
The walk there would take about a half hour. We decided on a plan to walk fifteen minutes, eat lunch at a restaurant Mom liked, and then finish the walk to the hotel.
While we were having all of these discussions, Mom teased Jenn and me for being so optimistic about everything. And I’d respond by saying, “Look! We even get to walk by a big pretty park! It’ll be lovely! It says it’s a sanctuary!” And Mom said something about elephants, so now I started talking about being near an elephant sanctuary and how delightful this was.
It was also time to start electronically checking in for our flights. Jenn and Mom were all set. My flight was a strange mixture of United and Lufthansa. So far I’d done everything from the United side, but the flight home was wholly Lufthansa. I tried using my normal logins from United but it had trouble finding the Lufthansa flight. So finally I just created a new account directly with Lufthansa. From there I could see the flight but it was in some sort of a hold status.
I couldn’t reach our US-based travel agent (it was still early in the US). Jenn suggested I try calling her contact at Oceania Travel who had been helping her while she figured out her COVID flight change options.
It took me a try or two, but I found someone at Oceania to talk with.
It turns out when Jenn had been taken to the Golden Tulip with COVID, Oceania had NOT cancelled Jenn’s flight. Instead, they had put a hold onto MY flight. So MY flight was the one which was now invalid.
Oceania said they’d need some time to sort this out. They said they’d call me back shortly.
This was sort of funny, because people often comment on how Jenn and I look like sisters. We’d joked about us sneaking Jenn off the ship pretending to be me, or Jenn flying home using my passport or so on. And then here they did actually SWAP us for no good reason at all.
In any case, at this point I had two challenges – the upcoming COVID test and the lack of a flight home :).
Still, one step at a time. It was time to head toward the Golden Tulip and get some food along the way. We departed in beautiful weather for our walk.
Even the graffiti here was in support of Ukraine. Cheez is apparently a well-known graffiti artist.
The walk had some stairs and went through some residential areas. We couldn’t see into the “elephant sanctuary” as it was behind buildings, but I knew it was there. I waved to my elephants.
Soon enough we reached the half-way point and the Tempio de Mecenate, a lovely restaurant with a patio. We sat under the canopy. It was beautiful weather and relaxing.
Jenn and Mom both got giant (to me) uncut pizzas.
I got fettuccini with porcini mushrooms. When I want comfort food I have pasta. I admit that in the back of my mind was still lurking this looming COVID test. If any of us tested positive, we could be back in turmoil again. Plus I didn’t have a flight for tomorrow.
I didn’t want to make phone calls while away from the apartment wifi. Bob had warned me continuously that roaming phone calls were REALLY expensive. Somehow $25/minute stuck in my mind. I wanted to avoid that if at all possible. So I just kept waiting for my phone call from Oceania.
Finally we were done with lunch and ready to move on. This area of Rome is where Mom had stayed in the past, so she pointed out all sorts of sights to us. For instance, she’d stayed in this building:
Finally we were at the Golden Tulip hotel. They have a small lobby. The front desk person asked us to sit at the far right-hand side of it and wait.
While we waited, Mom and Jenn prodded me to call Oceania again. At the same time, Bob warned me in our texts not to rack up phone bills. I finally explained to Mom and Jenn the $25/minute cost issue and they eased up. But I gave in and called anyway to touch base with Oceania. They said they’d call me back. I got a call ten minutes later. They were still working on it. So still no news.
It took quite a while before the hotel doctor came out. He asked if he could test us right here in this lobby. We said sure. The swab was only in my nostril for maybe one second tops. Then we waited some more.
At last he came over and gave Jenn and Mom their negative-results paperwork. Mom heard him talking on the phone with someone about ‘negative’. The paper was an 8.5×11 piece of paper which folded in half then in half again to form sort of a booklet. It had all of the patient’s identifying information on it, plus details about the test, and a QR code. The front said it was a “EU COVID Certificate”.
But I didn’t get one.
We waited and waited some more. I of course was feeling a bit stressed. Finally I went over to the front desk. It turns out he’d gotten the final email and just hadn’t checked it. I was negative too. He printed my certificate.
Now all three of us had negative certificates in hand. We could fly out. Those of us with plane tickets, of course!
We walked the same route back, looking into rolling luggage for Jenn. Her luggage was already overstuffed and she needed more room to make it home. We found her a nice luggage from a street vendor. I liked how many shops had a place by the door to clip dogs, so the dogs could wait outside while the owner looked around.
We stopped in a church on the way home. It was quite lovely. I felt a little uncomfortable, though, being in there on Easter Monday when services were being held. I enjoy visiting churches during non-service-hours, but when people are in there listening to their mass, I feel ‘out of place’ with visitors walking around and making noise and so on. So I sat on a pew until we left. I had a pretty view.
Soon enough we were back in the apartment. Back to the wifi. I called Oceania again. They said they had to coordinate with Lufthansa – it was technically someone at Lufthansa who had to release the hold, as it was a COVID hold. So they were waiting on Lufthansa.
We waited. And waited. I did my Monday tarot card drawings. The card I drew for myself was the Six of Cups about working together with a trusted partner. It represented me and Jenn figuring this all out and finding solutions.
Finally two hours later I got the call. Everything was now set. The hold had been cleared. I could breathe again :).
At this point, I discovered that the cost for my roaming phone calls was 25 CENTS per minute. TWENTY FIVE CENTS. I was adding enormous stress to my life for TWENTY FIVE CENTS. I was worrying about making critical phone calls because of TWENTY FIVE CENTS. I admit that now I threatened to the universe that I would kill Bob for making me worry about phone call costs in the middle of all of this. Then I would resurrect him and kill him again. I have a feeling I was releasing excess stress at this point :). I would not kill Bob.
We all had tickets home. We all had negative COVID tests.
Did we believe the negative tests? I’m not sure I did, but it also didn’t seem fruitful to go running around to pharmacies getting additional tests specifically trying to DISprove them. We could do our very best to stay masked and socially distant until we got home and then take fresh tests there. As I mentioned, the entire experience was feeling very surreal.
I was still feeling perfectly fine, so I had no symptoms. Neither did Mom. Jenn was feeling better.
I believe by this point Jenn had heard from other patients that they had left (been kicked out) of the Golden Tulip, found another place to stay, didn’t feel well, and gotten tested by another location. They’d tested positive again. So we didn’t have warm and fuzzy feelings about the negative tests from the Golden Tulip.
I’ll also note that it turns out the Golden Tulip did not charge us for our COVID tests. They probably put it on Oceania’s account since we were doing this as part of the overall cruise process. So we ended up saving about 90 euros by going with the Golden Tulip.
We decided to stay in for the evening and eat through our ample leftovers. We had pizza to eat, wine to drink, tea, Easter bread that our apartment people had left for us as a present, and more. Plus packing to do.
My teen class was from 11pm to 2am Rome time. By that point Jenn and Mom were asleep. I put on my headset, fired up the class, and changed my name to Lisa Shea the Silent :). I ran the entire class without verbally talking. I just typed in things to the teens. This is a writing support group so they all have a blast sharing news with each other, so the three hours went quite smoothly and they had fun. By the time 2am came around, I was exhausted and ready to sleep.
So today involved a fair amount of stress for me, but with patience and determination we got through everything. We were now all wholly set to fly home Tuesday morning. We had negative COVID tests. We had tickets. We had our cab ride all set up. All we had to do Tuesday morning was finish packing, finish cleaning the apartment, take out the trash / recycling, and climb into our cab.
Here we were. Sunday, April 17th, 2022, and it was Easter Sunday. We were in Rome, Italy. My mother, my sister, and I were all together again, and we were all testing negative for COVID. Jenn was feeling better. We could all fly home together on Tuesday. Our world was settling down.
We’d been warned before the trip that the entire city of Rome could shut down for Easter, and that no restaurants could be open. We’d planned ahead with reservations a local nice-quality restaurant, Contrario, for a midday Easter meal. As it turns out, quite a number of restaurants were open, so we needn’t have worried. Still, it was wonderful to have a place all chosen and set.
Just after noon, we arrived at Contrario, just a few blocks away. They had even reserved a delightful ‘wine nook’ area for us to sit in. It was wonderful.
I wore the earrings and necklace that my godmother Steph had bought for me on our trip to Kiev. Thank you Steph!
We had a leisurely, delicious, quiet meal. There were other people in the restaurant, but it wasn’t crowded. It was just perfect for Easter. The three of us were together. The wait-staff was attentive. All was well.
Once we were finished, we walked the short distance to the Colosseum and recorded a short “Happy Easter” video there for our friends and family back home. Then we headed back to the apartment.
Jenn and Mom rested. The weather was beautiful, and there hadn’t been crowds out, so I decided to explore. I changed into another Etsy Ukrainian t-shirt and went back over to the Colosseum. I video-called my god-sister Kris, who was just waking up in US time. I gave her a virtual tour and chatted with her while I walked around. It was great fun.
Here’s the Etsy shirt, the Ukrainian flag done with butterflies.
On the way back to the apartment, I stopped in at the ice cream shop on the corner. I sent a photo to Jenn asking if she’d like an ice cream delivery. She said yes :).
Our apartment even had a pretty poppies painting in the living room. I’ll have to try to paint that. We think of Ukraine when we think of fields of poppies.
I did some more work in the living room for the afternoon.
Finally it was time for dinner. We decided to go casual for dinner, and chose the Ristorante Volare around the corner. Again, like the others, there was no checking of vaccine cards or anything else. The servers wore masks but, once seated, nobody else did.
The menu was fairly extensive. Jenn ordered one type of ravioli. I ordered another type with completely different insides. The waiter seemed to be saying there was only one ravioli. Maybe the second one was sold out? In any case, Jenn and I both got the same ravioli flavor and it was fine. And Jenn even got to have creme brulee for dessert, which she enjoys.
So our entire Easter from start to finish went incredibly smoothly. Jenn, Mom, and I were together. There were plenty of open restaurants. The streets weren’t crowded. The weather was stunning. It was restful and relaxing. Just what we needed.
The one and only item on our task list for Monday was to find a pharmacy to each get a COVID test done. The requirements for flying on Tuesday were that the COVID test had to be done within one full day of flying. So we either had to get tested on Monday or, in an emergency, Tuesday morning. We of course preferred Monday. The pharmacy right near us wouldn’t be open on Monday, but others in the area would be. The tests cost about 30 euros each and would take about 20 minutes to wait for results. You had to take a ‘proctored’ test – you couldn’t just self-test.
So the two questions were, could we find an open pharmacy tomorrow to do the test, and would all three of us test negative? If one or more of us did test positive, we hoped Oceania would still honor putting us up at a hotel and feeding us. It could be they’d claim at this point we were all negative ‘after the cruise’ and any new positive test would be our own responsibility. That situation could be tricky to navigate. If we tested positive, who would we even call to find somewhere to stay? Hopefully the pharmacy would know. How would we get all our luggage to this new place? These were all questions we hoped we wouldn’t have to figure out.
For now I was grateful that everything was fine and on track. We would tackle Monday when Monday came. We headed to bed.
It was now Saturday, April 16th, 2022. Mom and I woke up in our rental apartment on Via Marco Aurelio in Rome, two blocks away from the Roman Colosseum. Jenn was a short distance away, COVID-positive, at the Golden Tulip hotel. The future was unknown. All we knew was that Mom and I still had our return flights set for Tuesday.
The only remaining time-specific activity was that today we had three tickets for the Basilica di San Clemente, to see their catacombs. The Basilica was only two blocks away from us. This medieval church is extra-special to us because it holds the tomb for Saint Cyril. Saint Cyril and his brother Saint Methodius were both high-up in the Byzantine church. They were entrusted to go to Moravia and help with with Christians there. The Slavs had no standard written language at the time. The two saints realized that there was no good way to write the local Slavic language using existing Greek or Roman letters, since Slavic had more sounds. So the brothers invented a new language, Glagolitic, so that locals would have their own written language. They then translated religious texts into this written language.
Over time Glagolitic became Cyrillic. So in a way these brothers helped this region read and write in their own language and to hold on to their own identity.
Even in modern times, Pope John Paul II would come to this church to pray for this region.
Anyway, we were really looking forward to this visit. As we got ready, Mom told me that she had a dream that I refused to eat pizza for lunch again and wanted a salad instead. I found that amusing :).
Just as we were about to think about walking over to the Basilica, we heard from Jenn. This is where our tale goes from just strangely bizarre to a bit surreal and maybe even dystopian. Apparently the hotel tested all their COVID patients from the Oceania. Somehow Jenn was now testing negative. I believe other patients were testing negative as well. The hotel didn’t want to use much-needed rooms for negative patients (and feed them). So they were in essence kicking Jenn out.
Was this great news? Suspicious news? In any case, action had to be taken. Jenn got a cab and came over to the apartment. We got her into the second bed in my bedroom. She chose to rest rather than come see the catacombs. So Mom and I headed over to the Basilica.
The Basilica had a strict no-video-no-photography rule in the catacombs. They were interesting. There were pagan items alongside medieval items. There were carvings and wall paintings. The church above did allow photos. It was quite beautiful inside.
After we were done, we swung by a small grocery store to get supplies. I saw a salad and had a strong craving for it. So I gave in to Mom’s dream. I also took a selfie for my shirt. I like to promote Etsy creators. (the mask and earrings are also from Etsy).
Back at the apartment, we ate on the small patio overlooking the internal courtyard area. Salad. Yummmm.
Mom and Jenn napped while I caught up on work in the living room.
Eventually everyone was up and interested in dinner. We decided to eat at one of the local restaurants, Pasqualino al Colosseo. It’d been around since 1956. They seated us inside by the door. This was our first ‘regular restaurant’ indoor meal in Italy. There was no request for vaccine cards or anything.
I was still craving a caprese salad, so I ordered that, and then fettuccini with porcini mushrooms. When the salad came, it was a nice size for everyone to share.
We thought about dessert, but we had trouble flagging down a waiter and Jenn was getting tired. So we sent Jenn back to the apartment while Mom and I went to get her some tea and other supplies. I found the tea area and sent Jenn a photo of it.
Jenn asked for the collection next to the Frutti Misti box. Mom looked at that collection, decided it wasn’t really what Jenn would want, and got the other collection instead. It turns out Jenn did in fact want the box Mom had chosen. So they have a psychic connection :).
Soon we were all back in the apartment, together again. It was after 9pm. Jenn was tired but feeling a bit better. That was good. We had nothing at all planned for Easter Sunday, besides having a Sunday meal, so hopefully we would take it slow and easy for the remaining few days. That way we would all be rested and ready for the long flight home on Tuesday.
I believe by this point Jenn had checked with Oceania about her flight home and was told her flight was all set. So there weren’t any worries about the flight. As long as we all still tested negative on Monday, Jenn would simply go with me and Mom to the airport on Tuesday, as we had initially planned. Everything would work out smoothly.
Disembarkation day after a long cruise can be a mix of emotions. It’s a sad farewell to the ship and its floating lifestyle. It’s an eagerness to explore the port city for a few days before heading back home. But on Friday, April 15th, 2022, we had a much more mixed set of emotions.
When we awoke, the ship was approaching Civitavecchia, Italy. I was now sleeping in my mom’s cabin, which was fortunately right next door to my sister. My sister Jenn was now alone, having tested positive for COVID. She was going to be taken to the Golden Tulip hotel in Rome to start a who-knew-how-long period of quarantine. Then she’d be flown home. In the meantime, my mom and I would go to our rental apartment in Rome to enjoy Easter Weekend by the Colosseum. We were flying home Tuesday.
Normally I would have put my luggage out the night before so I didn’t have to deal with a big, heavy bag and the packed-to-the-gills elevators as people tried to leave the ship. However, this ship was less than half full. Also, quite a lot of people were staying on for another leg. I figured the elevators would be less stuffed than usual. Keeping my bag with me would make logistics much easier. My mom decided the same.
So just before 8am we both left her cabin for the last time. Oceania had asked for an 8am clearout, even though the ship wouldn’t be docked by then. We went up for breakfast in the grand dining room. The traditional announcements started sounding, along the lines of “Please, people, we are NOT cleared for disembarkation yet. Please stop standing around the exit area!!” :).
I had thought that Oceania might try to get all the COVID people off the boat first. Jenn was prepared. She was packed and ready to go early. Staying in her room, of course. But nope, she just sat and sat while they started to finally let people disembark.
Mom and I didn’t rush, but eventually we went to the elevators, and there was room for us on them, which is a rarity usually. Then we walked off the ship for the last time. We walked down into the terminal and right out the main doors.
My mom had been expecting a long complicated line with customs and such – but this is the European Union. We began in Spain. We ended in Italy. We never left the EU. There were no customs and no passport checks to worry about. No COVID tests here. No forms to fill out.
So now we were standing outside the terminal – with no benches – and our taxi wasn’t going to arrive for another 2 hours.
Fortunately the terminal people let us sit in chairs just inside, for a while. I kept texting Jenn. Nobody was telling her anything about the status of her transportation. The room cleaning guy kept trying to come in and she kept telling him she wasn’t able to leave yet. She tried calling down to the front desk. They said for her to just hold tight. The ship started doing fire door tests and other activities. She sort of felt forgotten. The only saving grace was we knew there were other COVID patients on board and the chance of Oceania forgetting about ALL of them was slim.
Down at the terminal, it seemed that a new group of crew members were being brought on board. Then the terminal area was wholly empty. Mom and I were asked to leave our seats as they locked up the building. So now we had to stand (no benches) out in front of the building in the pretty much empty parking lot.
Finally our taxi guy showed up. We explained about Jenn not coming with us. He seemed a bit panicked about the COVID news but we reassured him that we were both tested negative. I can’t imagine what his reaction might have been if we’d tried to bring COVID-positive Jenn with us in his car for an hour drive to Rome. Probably a “sorry, find someone else.”
So we waved goodbye at Jenn’s room, I told her I’d keep texting her, and the taxi headed out.
Luckily, only shortly after that, Jenn’s transportation arrived. Oceania brought all the COVID patients along with the spouses down to the parking lot. There was even an Oceania crew member following behind Jenn with an “air blower” to disperse her COVID germs (?? would that make things worse??)
In the parking lot, there were two vans. First the Oceania team put spouses together into a van. Then, when they realized that there were both COVID and non-COVID people involved in this trip, they rearranged things and put the COVID infected into one vehicle and the non-COVID people into another.
This is where Jenn realized that many of the other people had no idea where they were being taken, what the plans were, or anything. So the patients all shared text numbers and started sharing whatever information they knew. The vans set into motion.
Now finally I could see her dot on the map ‘following me’ and that was reassuring. We were all going to Rome. We would be not too far apart from each other. We could figure things out when we got there.
The spring landscapes were lovely. Our driver was nicely chatty. The ride passed smoothly.
Our apartment rental was a few blocks away from the Roman Colosseum. There was a bit of confusion – our contact had forgot her phone in the car so when we kept trying to call her she didn’t answer. When we got to the apartment, it just happened that another resident let us in to the lobby. Mom figured out which apartment it was and knocked on the door. It turns out our contact was inside, cleaning the room, and apologized for not having her phone on her.
We were able to put our bags in there and then headed out to find lunch.
Mom found a place with a cheap pizza lunch special, so we sat at the outside patio. Each of us was given a huge (to me) pizza which wasn’t pre-sliced, so it was an adventure eating it. As you might have figured out by now, I tend to have a small salad for lunch usually, so this was a bit of a departure. I think I managed to eat about half of it.
Jenn was now safely at her hotel. Again, she was not too far away from us, which was good. The patients weren’t told much but they were now acting as a team. One patient managed to get a photo of the wifi password. Another patient managed to get a photo of the QR code for the hotel menu. They were told they could order off the normal menu with a limit of $100/day for food. Each patient (or couple) was brought to a small room. Not a luxury cabin, but certainly far better than many reports of quarantine hotels that I’d read about.
So they were all settling in, which was good.
Mom and I went back to the apartment and got settled. Soon it was time for our evening dinner plans.
Mom loves a local opera singer, Paola Alonzi. Paola puts on small, intimate, amazing food-and-opera dinners overlooking the Piazza Navona.
The taxi stand was right next to the Colosseum, just a few blocks away. The police were blocking off the entire Colosseum.
It turns out the Pope was going to walk this route in just a few hours. So here we were, staying by the Colosseum, and just as we were leaving, the Pope would be arriving.
Our taxi had to go the ‘long way around’ because of all the police barricades, but finally we arrived at the Piazza Navona. It is truly a beautiful area. This is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi crafted in the 1600s.
Our event was being held on the third floor of the building. Unfortunately, the elevator was out of service. So we had to walk up a long spiral staircase for three floors to get to the area. We were a bit early, so we were asked to sit in an elegant room with the fountain view. Then, as the time grew closer, we were brought to a patio for Champagne.
There were only four couples for this dinner. We were next brought into a room with a pianist.
Here’s the selection of songs. Some were solo-singer and others were duets.
The food was delicious, and after each course we would hear a few beautiful songs right there in the room.
Finally the evening was at an end. It was probably 11:30pm. We decided to walk back to the apartment, about a half hour. Rome was gorgeously lit at night. The entire walk was lined by stunning architecture.
In due course we were back at our apartment. We knew Jenn was safely in her hotel. We knew she was being cared for. Tomorrow would be a fresh day to figure things out.
It was time to sleep.
Ask with any questions!
I’m not sure you can see them, but there were two separate buildings on this one street both flying the Ukrainian flag. We saw quite a number of Ukrainian flags throughout our trip. It was heart-warming that so many people were supporting Ukraine. It’s also worth mentioning that we’d been warned before the trip that it might be impossible to find an open restaurant in Rome over Easter weekend. We prepared ourselves for having to just buy food and cook it in the apartment. We found quite the opposite – there were a TON of restaurants open and eager for customers.
The day before disembarkation is traditionally the sad day on a cruise. The day when everything is coming to an end. Sure, there might be activities going on, but in the back of your mind you always know that it’s the final day.
In this case, things weren’t quite as sad, though. It was Thursday April 14th, my sister’s birthday. We were going to celebrate at Toscana’s tonight. Also, like many of the other cruisers on this particular voyage of the Oceania Riviera, we weren’t going right home. As you might recall, the vast majority of people on the ship were repeat cruisers, probably because they were the ones chomping at the bit to cruise again as soon as restrictions lifted. So a fair number of them had booked back-to-back cruises and were going to just keep on cruising for another week or two. Another large group of them were going to hang out in Italy for a while to enjoy Italy before heading back home. So there were only a smaller proportion of people who were planning to wake up Friday morning, go right to the airport, and fly home.
For those people planning to fly Friday morning, they needed a COVID test done today to be legally able to fly. Italy itself didn’t have any COVID test requirements for entry, but the airports did have COVID test requirements to fly. So Oceania offered free early-morning testing only to those people about to fly tomorrow morning. My mom, my sister, and I were going to stay in Italy through Easter weekend, so we weren’t part of the testing round, which took place early morning Thursday. Instead, I woke up, wished my sister a happy birthday, grabbed some pieces of fruit for breakfast, and then headed down to my 9am art class.
We had the usual group of 8 or so people in the class, all happily working on shading and contrast and so on. The room is a big one, with room air filters to handle the charcoal and such, and there is plenty of distancing there. We all wore masks all the time. It was one of the safest places on the ship.
A strange announcement came over the intercom. They called out the names of six or so people and asked those people to please call reception. Soon, two of the women in our class were on their phones texting their husbands. It turns out both husbands had tested positive for COVID. We soon realized that after the tests had been done, the ship had first called peoples’ cabins to try to find them. Those who were in their cabins, Oceania told them to stay there. Those who were not in their cabins, the paging began to track them down.
Both women in class were NEGATIVE. Even so, they were being told to return to their cabins (with their positive-testing husbands) and to hunker down there. There was joking about the women simply abandoning their husbands so the women could continue to enjoy their trips, but the women of course loyally said they’d go and face this together.
Some people in the art class were quite surprised there was COVID on the ship. They felt, since we all came on testing negative, the ship would remain a ‘safe bubble’ until the end where we were all still negative. Given that we had all sorts of port calls throughout the trip, with people going on shore and mingling with locals, that ‘bubble’ theory seemed a bit naïve. Also, given how actively people on the ship were mingling and talking maskless with whoever happened to sit near them, it’s no surprise that as soon as one person picked up COVID on shore that it spread throughout the ship.
At the time we didn’t know it, but there had been COVID on the ship during its previous voyage. So it’s also quite possible that contaminated surfaces or such were simply waiting for us in our rooms when we arrived on board.
In any case, the two women gathered up their drawings, said goodbye to the rest of us, and headed down to their cabins to join their COVID-infected husbands.
I texted my mom and sister to let them know the situation. Others in class were texting their partners. So word was spreading on the ship – but the ship crew themselves never said ANYTHING to passengers to let them know they might want to be extra cautious right now.
Once class was over, I headed back to our cabin. One of the woman whose husband had tested positive was the woman who had sat next to Jenn for the second half of the trolley ride yesterday. Again, that woman was negative. It was highly unlikely that she was so-low-positive-to-be-testing-negative while at the same time that she was high-positive-enough-to-be-infectious.
Still, Jenn was thinking about the way she’d been sick a few days ago – unable to go with me on Lanzarote’s volcano tour. She wanted to get tested, to know either way. This was our last chance for a free test. Once we landed on Italian soil, the only way to get tested was to track down a local pharmacy with a testing option (during Easter weekend) and to pay about 30 euros for a test to be done.
Jenn called down to reception.
Reception wasn’t keen to test her. Jenn had to make the case that she’d sat next to a known close-contact-COVID person (the art class woman) and that meant she SHOULD be tested. Finally, reception agreed to send up a nurse to test me and my sister. They would do Jenn with a PCR test and me just with the swab test.
The medical person came to our room. They asked Jenn questions about her symptoms and so on. They did a full test on her. For me, they barely stuck a swab in my nose for zero-point-five milliseconds before they were done. Back in the states, a swab involves gently swirling the swab for fifteen seconds around each nostril in the lower nose to get a full sample. So I was a bit iffy about their testing protocol for me. It was as if they didn’t really want to get a positive result.
This was about 11am.
I asked if I should remain in the room, and they said no. They’d contact us eventually with results. That must have been what they did with the people they tested in the morning.
Jenn chose to stay in the cabin. I was starving, and I’d not had symptoms at all, so Mom and I went to the main dining room for a quick salad lunch. After that I went back to the cabin. Jenn and I ran some laundry again (the laundry room was empty), to prepare for our days in Rome, either way. Free clean laundry could be quite important, at this point.
The ship was being decorated for Easter, which was in three days.
It was 4pm tea time. I was very iffy about going to a ‘maskless social event’ before I knew my status, even though I felt healthy. But this was the last chance to say goodbye to the two friends we’d spent time with during the cruise. So I stopped in briefly and wore my mask the entire time, to say goodbye to them and to let them know the situation.
Now it was 5pm and time for the final art class. I always sat in the back corner, away from people, and everyone ALWAYS wore their masks. The room has strong air filters. So I felt OK going in, so I could get my artwork and any final notes the teacher had. I had barely gotten to the art room when I got the text from Jenn that she’d tested positive and that they wouldn’t tell Jenn my results. Since I wasn’t being paged we assumed I was negative, but it was better for me to come down to the room to be sure.
I told the class the situation, gathered up my items, said goodbye, and headed back to the cabin.
It took some tracking down, but I finally was able to contact someone to determine that I was negative. Doctors came to check Jenn out for her various vitals. At no point did they suggest to her anything about medication / antivirals other than I believe a generic headache kind of pill.
Our current travel plans were to disembark in Italy at Civitavecchia, take a prearranged taxi the hour or so into Rome, and stay at a rental apartment there until Tuesday. Then we would fly home. Now we didn’t know when Jenn would be free to fly.
Oceania said if she wanted that Jenn could still take the normal taxi we had ordered (???) to the Rome apartment we were renting and just hang out there with us as a quarantine (???). Didn’t they think the taxi driver and the apartment rental people might be concerned about having COVID-infected people in their vehicles and rooms without any real warning?
Jenn said, no, if the alternative is you provide a free hotel room, I’ll go with that. That would ensure she had somewhere past Tuesday to stay if need be, and food. It also ensure that they would be actively engaged in terms of figuring out the new flight home and such (which we’d booked through Oceania).
Jenn likes to ask a lot of questions (I say this in a good way). Through her prodding she found out the name of the hotel they’d be putting her into – the Golden Tulip in Rome. This is where they’d be taking all the COVID patients who opted for the Oceania hotel choice. She got other details, too. The ONLY reason she knew any of this was because she kept asking. The other COVID patients had no idea what the plan was. When the other patients woke up Friday morning they had no idea where they were going to be taken. Jenn had to tell them all in the van where they were going and what the situation was. Some thought they were staying in Civitavecchia rather than being taken to Rome. Communication to patients and family members was *horrible*.
So at this point Jenn was very stressed (as you might imagine). She couldn’t go to Toscana. So I called room service and asked them to please deliver down Jenn’s birthday dinner, so at least she could eat it here. They refused, even with Jenn having COVID and it being her birthday. They said she could only order off the normal room service menu. I did finally get them to agree to send down her birthday cake.
It seems the Oceania policy would still be to let me roam the ship, which I found baffling. I’d been in Jenn’s cabin right alongside her for nine days straight. In any case, I didn’t want to leave Jenn for her birthday dinner. So Mom went up to Toscana alone. Jenn and I ordered room service and had her birthday dinner with cake there in the room.
Let me note that it didn’t seem like they told room service at all that there was a COVID patient in the room! We tried to stay away from the delivery person, but he simply delivered the food as usual. We had the same issues with the cabin crew which happily tried to do cabin cleaning things while we were in there. There absolutely needs to be more communication within the crew so the crew knows to take stronger precautions when dealing with known-positive COVID patients – both for the crew members’ health and also for the other passengers those crew members next come in contact with.
Jenn was worried about me catching COVID the longer I was in the room with her, so we asked reception if I could be moved to another room just for the night. They said no, there were no rooms available (????). This seems really bizarre. The last thing they would want was to RAISE their COVID rates by infecting even more people. But I talked to Mom and moved into her room instead, which also was concerning, since she is at-risk health-wise.
Now we had Jenn alone in her cabin and me and Mom in the cabin next door. We did not have any paperwork at this point about our tests. Everything was verbal.
I had a teen class to teach at 9pm ship time, so I did that in an abandoned area near Baristas. There was absolutely nobody around me as I taught it, so no ‘contact’ issues. The WiFi failed near the end of the class. I guess I’m grateful that it survived until the last ten minutes, so I got most of the class done.
Then I went back to Mom’s room.
So the situation on Thursday night was that we knew we were all going to Rome. Jenn would go with the COVID-infected people in a van, handled by Oceania. Mom and I would take our pre-arranged taxi to the apartment in Rome. The two locations in Rome were fairly close to each other. We all had phones with tracking dots, so we could know exactly where each other was. We would stay in touch. If Mom and I had to fly out first, and then Jenn flew out once she was cleared to fly, Oceania would take care of rearranging her flight and housing her / feeding her until then.
So we settled into this new normal. Jenn’s symptoms were mild. She would be watched over. Oceania would shepherd her through the next days. We assumed she was on the tail end of her COVID infection and should be fine shortly.
If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you know the way time strangely works. When you start the cruise, it seems like you have a vast number of days to explore the world. Then, in the blink of an eye, you’re already on your last port of call. How did it happen?? Where did the days go?
On the Oceania Riviera cruise, Day 10, on Wednesday, April 13th 2022, was our last official full port day. Then we had one more day at sea before we landed bright and early on Friday morning in Rome, Italy.
Our plan for Cartagena, Spain was to take a trolley to see all the major sights. By the end of a cruise often we are exhausted and burnt out. It’s good to wind things down a bit by this point. The trolley tour seemed a good idea.
We didn’t land in Cartagena until afternoon, so I got to enjoy a morning art class. We had lots of fun with shading. Then I enjoyed a delicious salad in the buffet. Soon it was time to gather for our trolley. Only Jenn and I went on this one.
The trolley was a road-driven series of connected “carts”. They had full well-worn glass windows, so they weren’t great to see out of, and each bench seat was about four people wide. Jenn and I went to the very back where we had the best chance of a window seat. We lucked out. She got the very back seat with a window and I got the seat right in front of her.
I suppose it was good that there weren’t any “must see photos” on this driving tour. The streets and alleys were very similar to other Spanish towns. They were pretty, but I vastly prefer walking the streets myself so I can pause and arrange an angle. With the drive, and the less-than-clean windows, one sort of had to just point, shoot, and hope for the best.
This view shows you the trolley itself as it comes around a corner.
About half-way through the drive we reached an overlook. We got out there to spent twenty minutes taking photos and videos from the overlook. We really hadn’t gotten that far from the dock.
From here we could see a really pretty Roman ampitheater. Hmmmm. If we had walked the town we could have visited it. A lesson for next time.
On the other hand, there were wild (tame, I suppose) peacocks wandering around the overlook. One of them became very fond of my sister. I got quite cute video which I’ll load shortly.
A couple decided they’d rather walk back than take the tram. That meant my sister was going to have the whole back seat to herself – but instead one of the other passengers sat back there with my sister. The passenger was one of my fellow art class students. So the trolley meandered its way back to the dock.
We had our 4pm classical music with tea. Then dinner in the Grand Dining Room. Today was “Taste of Russia” – with Chicken Kiev which is from Ukraine. They print these menus fresh EVERY DAY. One might think they would have adjusted their wording a bit given we were 10 days into this tour and Ukraine was actively being bombarded.
And, you know, this was one of the prettiest plates on the ship’s travels, and just saying that makes me shake my head a bit. I could showcase all sorts of photos from “lesser quality ships” where the food was much more appealing looking. If Oceania had two years to launch their big plans to win us back with their amazing food, it didn’t quite get there.
So, to summarize Cartagena, Spain – it seemed an amazing city but next time we should explore on foot. The trolley tour just doesn’t do it justice. It’s also fair to say that after the amazing sights we’d experienced up until now, there was nothing we saw here which held up to that “wow” factor.
In a way, Day 9 on our Oceania Riviera cruise was a sad day. On this day, Tuesday, April 12, 2022, we were SUPPOSED to be in Morocco. Morocco!! Amazing city! Historic! A key reason we signed up for this cruise was to be able to visit Morocco.
But it was not meant to be.
Oceania never quite said why we had to change the itinerary, but undoubtedly COVID was a base reason. And in a small way, it was a relief. Morocco was on Italy’s list of “dangerous countries”. Italy was our end destination. If we stopped in Morocco and then went on to land in Italy, there’d be all sorts of forms and issues involved. All of those concerns went away once we bypassed Morocco.
Still, it was sad to miss out on that opportunity. Someday we’ll have to go back and visit Morocco.
The “consolation prize” Oceania gave us instead was Cadiz. And, really, Cadiz is an amazing place. This incredibly historic port town of Spain is FULL of ancient Roman buildings, ancient Spanish churches, you name it. Plus, it was Tuesday and on Sunday was Easter. That meant Cadiz was already gearing up for Easter and had all their beautiful floats and flowers and such on display.
We didn’t have any tours planned, so my sister, my mom, and I headed out on foot.
Cadiz is beautiful. Everywhere you turn are historic buildings and architecture.
There are also a ton of shops. Some had quite amusing items to go with the holidays. To American eyes, these sort of look like Ku Klux Klan candies.
First we went to the Cadiz Cathedral. Yes, the building itself was stunning, with beautiful stonework, paintings, etc. etc. But **also** they had simply amazing floats staged within. So it was doubly stunning.
Next, we went to the ancient Roman Theater, which had only been discovered by accident in 1980. This was one of the largest Roman Theaters in existence and could seat 10,000 participants! It was amazing to walk through the halls and imagine how this would have felt in 100 BC. So much hasn’t changed in life.
Nearby was the Church of the Holy Cross / Parroquia de Santa Crus. Again, absolutely beautiful. Lots of floats staged for the procession.
I felt fairly iffy about the new method of fire control in churches, though. In the past, when I went to a church I would light a candle for my grandmother. Here, though, you dropped in a euro and an LED candle would light up. Drop in more coins, more LED candles sprung to life. I don’t know. It just felt … plastic. I know real candles are fire hazards, but it will take some getting used to.
We walked through some gorgeous open-air markets for clothing and food. It was delightful.
Finally our feet were tired and we headed back to the Riviera. I had a nice big salad and was thoroughly happy. Soon enough it was 4pm tea time with our musical trio. Then art class drawing beautiful calla lilies. Then dinner in the main dining room. I wanted to show the gorgeous white lace over-dress my sister got in the marketplace. They have beautiful items in Cadiz.
I know it feels to some people like I am harping on the way these dishes are presented. I am really trying to look for “lovely plated dishes” to showcase. I spent many years writing articles for a local winery magazine where I would praise the local restaurants for their wine and food pairings. The dishes served were always magazine-quality. We would run photos of the dishes along the winery reviews. I just am not impressed with the plating on the Oceania Riviera. Countless cooks will tell you that how a dish is presented to you matters immensely. And then I get served this.
It’s just not right. The display is supposed to entice the eater. It’s supposed to then entice other nearby tables to want to order it. This … not so much. If I tried to submit this photo with one of my winery reviews, I doubt it would have been published.
Jenn and I had barely been able to see the Rock of Gibraltar on the way out, so we made absolutely sure that we were going to see it on the way back in to the Mediterranean Sea. Maybe a bit TOO sure. We went up on the top deck and waited … waited … we did get interesting photos of other things, and learned how to balance on the rocks in the miniature golf course, but it took a LONG time before we finally got to see the rock.
Still, we did see it.
Finally, after a long day of exploring and art and food, it was time to sleep.
The past two days on the Oceania Riviera, in the Canary Islands, have both involved a LOT of attentive activity – either a lot of walking or a lot of steady-hand videotaping for my sister. Today was an at sea day, cruising back toward Spain, and I was grateful. Even though it was all at sea, though, it still had a busy schedule. Plus, today was Monday, meaning I had my teen writing class from 11pm to 2am (ship time).
Today was two art sessions – one at 9am and one at 5pm – both on working on the human face. I am generally a ‘rank beginner’ with faces so I looked forward to learning techniques to practice. I grabbed some fruit for breakfast, and by 9am bright and early I was in the studio with Noel Suarez. We had, again the usual gang, about 8 of us, all ready to keep building our skills.
Noel really is good. The two hours fly by and often we stay for longer. The way he can start with a simple shape and make it become 3D is stunning. Once we were done, it was time to meet my mom and sister for lunch. I had a tuna melt. Again, I’m just not keen on their plating technique in most cases. It’s missing something.
I caught up on doing edits for my teen writers, and then it was already 4pm tea time. Now, oddly, the musical quartet had become a trio. We were told that one of the violin players had gotten sick and left the ship.
I left the tea experience right at 4pm for my 5pm art class to work on the face. I really wanted to get as much of this as I could – but unfortunately at 6pm was the celebration party for returning Oceania cruisers. So I had to cut out early to go up to that party.
The room was ABSOLUTELY PACKED. Not only that, but we were told they had to break this party up into TWO SHIFTS because there were so many repeat travelers on board. Even though the boat in general was only about 40% full. Apparently, even though there were relatively few people on board, nearly all of them were people who had traveled on Oceania before. The thought was that most people were still afraid of cruising. Only repeat cruisers, who were chomping at the bit to get on board, were willing to cruise. So it made sense that nearly all of the people on board were repeat Oceania cruisers.
What this meant was that the room was jammed full and, because everyone was eating and drinking, nobody was wearing a mask (well nearly nobody – the staff were). The captain and main crew weren’t there – just the ‘public crew’ types of people. They gave a few call-outs for the people on board who had cruised the most and that was about it. The house band played some music.
Then it was time for dinner. Tonight we were dining at the Polo Grill.
Again, I’m just not sure who is designing their plating options in these restaurants.
And then – a spark of beauty! I’ve found someone who is paying attention to their task in life! This is what I would expect at a nice restaurant. Beautifully done. This is visually appealing in a number of aspects.
When it got to be teen-time, I brought along my power converter, my fully charged laptop, and I went up near Baristas. It was completely empty and quiet by this time. I prayed to the WiFi gods. They heard me! The 3-hour glass went as smooth as silk, the teens had an awesome time, and life was good. By the time that was over, I was quite ready for sleep.
Ask with any questions!
Here are all the menus from the entire trip, if you’re curious what type of food was offered both on ship and in Rome –
Here is a selection of the artwork found on the Oceania Riviera –