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Our day in Malaga, Spain was a great success. While our tour guide was terribly boring, the caves were quite impressive. We enjoyed a great omlette breakfast in Nerja. The drive to and from Nerja was pretty terrible; visually unimpressive and desert-like in some areas. Nothing like Portugal, which was truly breathtaking at every turn.

When we returned, we had to option to be driven back directly to the boat, or dropped off at the entrance to the port (a good mile away from the boat, actually). We opted to spend our remaining 3 hours in the city. (Well, Tony and I did; Evan went back to the boat for some heretofore unclear reason.) We met up with Hilly by chance on the streets, one of the friends we’ve met who we’ve been having a great time with. Hilly metioned a tapas bar he had seen in the city center (centro cuidad or something) so off we went.

My hunt for chocolate con churros had been unslaked, until we turned a corner and landed at a cafe at the end of a square, advertising it in the window. My dad had told me years ago that if I ever ended up in Spain, I *had* to try the chocolate con churros. I hadn’t really understood why that one thing had stuck with him, but I certainly understand it now. We had the perfect little dessert; the chocolate was so rich and perfectly sweet, the churros fresh and amazing and it just fit perfectly with gorgeous weather, an accordion player who Hilly called over and paid to play a song (or two) for us, a creepy beggar guy who mumbled something in idiomatic, perhaps Basque/Euskara, since it was barely intelligible, and a beautiful facade across all the buildings that surrounded the cafe. Truly, the highly of our day in Spain.

We have our final sea day tomorrow. Or, later today, such as the case may be. After that, we’re landing in Livorno and then Rome immediately following. We’re planning to hang out with Brad, the piano bar player, in Livorno, hopefully heading straight away into Florence. He’s never been to any Europe ports of call so good times to come for sure.

Tony, Hilly and I entertained ourselves in the long re-embarkation line by singing random showtunes, to much hilarity. There was also: more chess on deck, drunkenness made considerably worse by INCREDIBLY choppy waters in the Mediterranean, Daft Punk, pouring rain, long talks with new friends and a great deal more excitement. For instance, we visited the supper club last night and it was absolutely incredible; one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten, period. Absolutely worth the $30/person.

There’s a lot more I’m missing, I’m sure, but for now, it’s 6am and I want to get some sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour today. It’ll help me get in bed on time for Florence.

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We just returned form an amazing day tour through the island of Madeira, Portugal. It’s absolutely incredible. I can’t upload any of the 940 photos I snapped today until I get to faster internet, but I definitely got to see Cabo Girao and drive above the clouds and eat some indigenous fish and so much more. A perfect day.

More to come. Oh, and to those who know me well enough: just received official word that we won the state contract. It’s a goooood day. 🙂

We’ve just about completed our transatlantic crossing. We’ll be arriving in Portugal at 11:00am, which is the latest port of call I’ve heard of on a boat. We’ve been having a lot of fun with the people we’ve met and some staff we’ve made friends with. We were already friends with Brad, our piano bar pianist from the last cruise, so it was really nice to find out he was going to be on this sailing as well. We’ve since made friends with the Club O2 (15-17 year old hangout on the boat) host, since there are exactly 2 15-17 year olds on the boat and neither of them show up for any “activities.”

As a result, we got to play some Guitar Hero tonight at least, to break things up a bit.

The crossing has also meant a completely ass-backwards sleep schedule. We’ve been eating breakfast at 8 and going to bed around 9 or 10, only to wake up around 7pm, just in time for dinner essentially. Craziness. Tonight, I’m popping a few melatonin and trying to pass out at a somewhat reasonable hour. Fortunately, we only have to meet tomorrow at 10:30 on the boat so it’s not too bad. It’ll just be a pain falling to sleep, you know, 7 hours after waking up. Whoops.

Tomorrow’s a busy day and my first in Europe. (Though Madeira is quite a bit off the coast of the Portugal mainland, such as it is.) Good times abound though, and I’m infinitely grateful that there are no scales on this boat. Because Christ. Seriously.

I hope to get some absolutely *amazing* photos tomorrow. But I’m expecting a great time all around. I also think we’re hanging out with Brad in Livorno, which should be a lot of fun, since we didn’t have any excursions, etc, planned.

More tomorrow, if I get around to it. Thanks, of course, for following along. It’s been a great trip so far, and we’re only, about, a week into the cruise. Good times indeed.

It’s day four of our transatlantic crossing. It’s kinda cool to look at the positioning screen that they have throughout the ship and just see LINE-DOT-BLUE. It scales out to give context, but it has to scale out damn far.

We stayed up to watch the sunrise, from the very front of the ship. Then we managed to make it another hour and go to a wonderful sit-down breakfast of… many, many foods. Eggs all around.

We also discovered “deck 15” which is, to say, the deck where the spinning radar and satellite elements of the ship reside. And where the laundry drier “exhaust” comes out, so like kittens delighting in warm laundry air, we stood, with otherwise colder air around us.

The temperature is really quite nice. 70s all around and windy. Food has been great and we’ve been enjoying ourselves quite a bit, now that we’ve found some great people to stay up with and have fun with.

That’s all for now. More later. Portugal on Monday. Balmy 72°F.

We’re now in GMT -2, so it’s… 5:15pm here while it’s 12:15pm back home. Tomorrow, we’ll be in GMT -1 and then the next day, GMT. Woo.

I just shot out my memory card on the sunset. About 1,100 pictures, almost all of them crap, but I was playing around a lot with the aperature/time value (shutter speed) settings and learning more about how those work. (The photos store all the settings at the time of the shot, so I can look back on them and use that as a reference.)

More of the same yesterday, hanging out at the piano bar and the “disco” because that’s where folks our age tend to gravitate. All 12 of them. We all pretty much know each other now, so that’s good times.

Dinner last night was really good and our waiters are really nice and fun. They keep showing us tricks and the like.

Oh, and Lindsay: The comedian on board is the same guy that was on the Triumph. Same racist indian jokes that aren’t funny. Same terrible set. Except this time, and I shit you not: he ended it with a bellowing rendition of “God Bless America.” And he was dead serious. So after all the mockery of other cultures and races, it’s okay, because you know, God Bless America. I almost threw up. Srsly.

Heading to dinner soon. Had to re-buy internet, because I’m being terribly *un*judicious. Two more days across the Atlantic. Check our location with the link on the left; we’re definitely in the middle of NOWHERE now. It’s kinda creepy when you consider it. There are no land masses about ANYwhere near.

I’m getting way excited for Portgual, but we definitely need to come up with something to do once we reach Livorno, Italy. More to come later, naturally. Thanks for following along!

Sketchy internet is sketch but at least I was able to see one of my stock plays triggered exactly as it should’ve and made me about $160 today. Woo for daytrading from the ocean, right?

I’m thinking I’m going to run a dryer load, after Evan and me got doused on the deck last night with the Canadians; it was raining and we went out in the rain, which quickly became gale force/monsoon quality and drenched us completely. Fun times nonetheless. Saw them today while Tony and I were having lunch and chatted for a bit.

Time to unload everything on the camera, make sure both batteries are charged and pack it into plastic bags in my carrying case. We’re going on a really cool excursion set up by another cruiser who we found through a forum I was frequenting for this trip. It’s two boats; a pirate boat and a longship, that have been chartered to sail together. I described it in my earlier post. We’re way excited about that, but I’m not sure how wet we can expect to get on deck so I’m going to do whatever I need to to make sure the camera stays dry, and I’ll bring the cellphone with to make a couple calls and as a backup camera, since getting *it* wet isn’t as big a concern to me.

We’ve got to be off the boat and at the meeting spot at 8:15 am, so it looks like we’ll all be taking a couple melatonin shortly here, considering no one woke up before 2 today. (And that we didn’t fall asleep until 6 or 7.) Maybe we’ll get up at 6 and try the whole “breakfast” thing. We’ll see.

I’d love to get pictures up, so let’s see how this one works out. It’s of me carefully pondering my next giant chess game move against Evan, from the first day:

Another fun day. We woke up pretty late, which is basically the norm on the sea days. Had some more amazing fish and chips and took a bunch of pictures from the balcony over the Lido deck buffet for a series I call “what’s on your tray.” (I was challenging myself to shoot out my memory card and/or battery. Neither happened before I ran out of things to shoot.)

We played around on poker a bit, watched the Suns take their first game and enjoyed the piano bar as always. We also made contact with the Canadians; the only other people our age we’ve found thus far, who we first spotted in the embarkation line, one with a Canadian flag on their backpack. We spent a good amount of time chatting. They’re far more chagrined that they’re on the Voyage of the Damned between normal waking hours. On the plus side, everyone is in bed promptly at 8 with a warm glass of milk, so there’s that. I knew it was bad when I passed a group playing Mah-Jong. And when I got chastized in the dessert line for taking a piece of strawberry mousse cake by an old man: “It’s all fat! Don’t eat it!!!!” Thanks, dude. Ass.

It’s seriously pretty bad, so buddying up with other like-aged folks is a worthwhile venture. Tomorrow is more of the same. We’ll be waking up likely no earlier than 2pm. Because we have an interior stateroom, it is exceptionally dark in here and very difficult to wake up at *any* time. We’ll definitely make sure we’re up on time for the shore excursion in St. Maarten, though.

Also, it sounds like we won’t have TV at all once we start the cross. Which makes sense, since satellites can only service a certain circle’s worth of space, and there’s no point in covering ocean. We’ve got plenty of stuff to watch that we already downloaded so that’s a backup.

I’d like to be playing more poker, but the appeal is only so-so for me. I don’t know if playing the stock market has just killed my desire to put money in a riskier venture or if the crowd or small player counts at the table are doing it, but my interest is decidedly dulled. I keep bouncing up and down, but I’m down about $80. We’ll see what happens.

I’m getting excited for the excursions. It’s clear they’ll be the real meat of the voyage. We need suggestions for what to do in Livorno/Florence, Italy and in Rome proper. Leave ’em as comments, hm?

I’m off and packing. (If you happen to be up, click the link and see my progress. If you’re that. bored.)

Evan’s mother has graciously offered to drive myself and Tony (her own son heading to the airport via Nate @ 7am, since his flight is far earlier than ours) and she’s picking me up at 9:20a.

I’ve checked in to our flights for both Tony and myself and I’m printing the last of the documentation.

I’m also telling everyone about this here blog.

I’m hoping to be able to post once a day if I can. I’ll be using a lot of burst time on the internet, which is to say, jumping on, retrieving email and jumping off. Then composing my replies, if any, jumping back on, blasting out a post and jumping back off.

I don’t think I’ll be able to get photos up, but if it’s speedy enough, I might try a few. Definitely nothing to Flickr though.

It’s been an absolutely crazy week. I’ve been trying to get all my ducks in a row at work and things there have been, well, busier than ever before. Thursday is my last day at the office and we fly out at around 11am on Friday, first to Ft. Worth and then into Miami. We’re staying there for the night before being driven to our ship for boarding at the gracious time of “about noon.”

I’ve got my packing list, but absolutely nothing packed. I’ll do a massive load of laundry Thursday night and then get packing. The list is a bit ridiculous, but I’m trying to make sure I’m covered entirely. (It’s available for perusal/mockery here: Transatlantic Cruise Packing List.)

I’m definitely excited. For those unawares, the itinerary of the trip on the Carnival Freedom is as follows:

4/25 Phoenix, AZ -> Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX -> Miami, FL
1 Miami, FL 4:00pm
2 Fun Day At Sea
3 Fun Day At Sea
4 (4/29) St. Maarten, NA 7:00am 4:00pm
5 Fun Day At Sea
6 Fun Day At Sea
7 Fun Day At Sea
8 Fun Day At Sea
9 Fun Day At Sea
10 (5/5) Funchal, Madeira, Portugal 11:00am 7:00pm
11 Fun Day At Sea
12 (5/7) Malaga, Spain 7:00am 4:00pm
13 Fun Day At Sea
14 (5/9) Livorno, Italy 9:00am 7:00pm
15 (5/10) Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, 8:00am Hotel Domus Praetoria
16 (5/11) Rome, Hotel Domus Praetoria
16 (5/12) Rome, Hotel Domus Praetoria
16 (5/13) Rome -> Atlanta, GA -> Phoenix, AZ (2:00pm)

(“Fun Day At Sea” is Carnival’s parlance, not mine, though the 5 days crossing the Atlantic should prove to be an interesting time.)

I’m not sure how often I’ll get to post updates to this. I think I can write them offline and do a burst while I download my email, but that may be putting an awful lot of faith into the ship’s internet. Not to mention that it costs about 65 cents a minute (45 cents with a package of 250 minutes).

More to come tomorrow, and I’ll see if Tony or Evan want accounts here.