Day 50, Monday, April 14, At Sea, MS Amsterdam Praia, Cape Verde

The Crystal Symphony is in Shanghai, China. The Crystal Serenity is at sea from Agadir, Morocco to Lisbon, Portual.

It was a windy and cloudy morning but not quite enough to interfere with my walk. The rising sun found just a small slit to make itself known but was on display most of the day.

There are 10 Cape Verde islands but the capitol is on Santiago Island at Praia. It was discovered by the Portugese in the closing years of the 15th century and was a colony of Portugal until the 1960’s. Today it is run by a Prime Minister and President elected every 5 years. Praia is a port call that was only settled after our plans for West Africa were cancelled and the staff was scrambling to gather information about the island. We had been told that tourist infrastructure in Praia was very limited and our guide told us that the chief economic activity here was tourism. That is not a healthy combination, although the facilities are not as limited as we expected. With the volcanic soil, an extremely dry climate, agriculture is also very limited, and the unemployment rate is high. China is investing very heavily in Cape Verde, and being rewarded with access to fishing grounds (and perhaps some other ways the guide didn’t mention).

I had a morning tour that visited the city center and got out to some of the earliest settlements. The city center was less than a mile away but across the water and a 20-minute bus ride along the shore. We stepped inside the Cathedral (this is a predominantly Roman Catholic country), and looked at the supreme court, the market, and the Governor’s Palace (home of the Governor when Portugal ruled the island), and the statue of discoverer Diego Gomez. The Governor’s Palace is undergoing major work, financed by China and with plans on display in Portugese and Chinese.

It was another 20-minute drive to Cidade Velha (Old Town) where the island was first settled in the 1490’s. The community was a thriving center of commerce in the days of slave trading but became a center of attacks by pirates and the town was largely abandoned and activity moved to Praia. It is now a UNESCO world Heritage site and slowly undergoing restoration. We started at the Fortress of San Felipe which had commanding views down onto the town and the harbor. Once at the town proper (at sea level) we toured Rue Banana with old houses in various stages of restoration and went inside the Our Lady of the Rosary Church, said to be the oldest church in the colonial world. Returning to the waterfront we saw the pillory, where man’s brutality to man took place in the slave trading days, and had a bit of free time at the waterfront where there were a number of cafes. We returned to the ship about 1PM.

After lunch I took the shuttle into town and used the free (but not very good) wifi in the square and had a nice view of the ship across the water. On returning I found the exact location of my room on the ship. Departure was listed as 5PM, but we were ready to leave a little before that for an easy sail out of the harbor.

We had a nearly full table tonight, missing just one member who was at a Seder dinner presented in the lido.

Tonight’s entertainment was encore shows by magician Dan Horn and singer Neil Lockwood. I was a bit tired and skipped both.

As today’s parting shot it had almost escaped me that April 15 is tax day in the US. Once a procrastinator, being away has given me the incentive to get that task completed early.


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