Excerpts from Malta to Nice

 (7/1/05) Today we anchored in Half Moon Bay on the beautiful small island of Ponza (85 miles from Salerno).  Our first excursion was a fascinating boat ride to the Roman-made grottos along the rocky coastline.  Then we took a one-hour taxi ride around the island with many stops for “panoramic photos” thanks to the skill and patience of our driver “Antonio”, who unfortunately spoke very little English.  Ponza is a popular resort for Neopolitans (“like a small St. Tropez”, per cruise director Florian) and it was absolutely charming – with pastel colored buildings and spectacular scenery.  Paul thought it was the most beautiful seen to date!  Many wealthy Italians have been buying up a lot of the land, we were told, to protect it from becoming over-commercialized as has happened in Capri.  We had time to walk through part of the small port town La Forna, then traveled by tender to the “beach surprise” where we were treated to rum punch and watermelon (served from a kayak to the swimmers!).  The stone beach was HOT, and because we had not detoured to the ship to get bathing suits first, we headed back early and relaxed before the 1:00 lunch barbeque buffet (salads were good, but the meats disappointing; however, the choice of chocolate mousse or crème brulee for dessert made everyone happy).

            As we began the long sail to Corsica (181 miles), the winds became very strong (45 knots) and the ride was a rocky one, with many people getting seasick (including some of the crew, staff and the ship’s doctor!)  However, almost everyone showed up for the ceremony when Mark and Laura renewed their wedding vows.  The guests were asked to wear white, and one resourceful passenger showed up in his white Le Ponant bathrobe, which gave us all a good laugh!  After the ceremony we had a champagne toast while trying to maintain balance on the Marina Deck – then had to be escorted to the dining room through the cabin level, up a steep ladder, and through a corner of the galley because it was too rough and dangerous to walk outside.  The bride and groom had planned a special meal – but before the first course was served, the situation got much worse.  Because the formal restaurant is in the bow, the up-down-and sideways “surfing” of the ship resulted in three people falling over while in their chairs (Herm was one of the unlucky ones!) and many others coming close to joining them!   Dishes and wine bottles fell over – and it was quite a scary time.  Luckily there were no serious injuries (one twisted ankle, a bad bump on the back of a head, and a bruised arm) – but the captain wisely determined that we had to return to the Emerald Lounge, located at mid-ship, for safely.   So, table by table, we were escorted back down the ladder, past the cabins, and up to the lounge, where we were served “sandwiches” (one thin piece of lunchmeat and lettuce on bread with mayonnaise) and the “wedding cake” (a mountain of cream puffs with caramel).  We really felt sorry for the galley crew who had been working so hard in the hot rocky galley preparing a gourmet dinner – only to be told to immediately fix trays of sandwiches for 60 people!  Most went to bed early, and sleep came surprisingly easy after watching a movie - “Under the Tuscan Sun” – in our cabin.