Ports #5 & 6: Morocco

We went from the Canary Islands to Morocco, and what a difference that short distance makes! We visited Agadir and Casablanca and both were worlds apart from the vacationer retreats we saw in the islands. I admit that one has to have a bit larger of a comfort zone to feel at ease walking around in these ports, but if you ARE comfortable then the photo ops are great! We visited Agadir first and then Casablanca, the latter of these being the one where we spent the most time exploring. We spent a lot of time at an internet cafe in Agadir getting some mandatory work and holiday shopping (thank you, Amazon!) done before exploring there. Once we got out and about, we walked to two mosques (mosques usually have unique architecture) and then a traditional Moroccan souk (market) that was full of vibrant clothing, spices, jewelry, etc. You just have to get used to the fact that persistent vendors will literally follow you around trying to sell you their wares.

We spent one night sailing from Agadir to Casablanca and after dinner, the movie, “Casablanca,” was played in the ship’s theater. Karen and I like to watch movies set in the locations we visit so this was perfect. We docked in Casablanca the following day and spent the entire day exploring, starting off with a long walk through the local outdoor market. The market was essentially several city streets completely lined with vendors selling all kinds of foods (including some that we couldn’t identify) and other wares. We definitely stuck out here in that it was not at all a tourist location and we were walking around with huge cameras and clothing that didn’t fit in at all. We did know ahead of time that, because of the local religion, we were not to wear shorts or anything that exposed the shoulders (for Karen at least). We both got loads of photos at the market. With the colorful foods and expressive faces, it was a photographic haven… if you were ok with the odd stares and the fact that you stood out like a sore thumb. I did gesture to many of the folks with my camera to make sure that they were ok with photos. Some were and others weren’t.

We then walked to the Grand Mosque, which is the second largest mosque in the world. Unlike the market, the mosque was filled with tourists. This was also a great shooting location, especially if you use the unique arches to create a frame for your subject. All of the colors and tiles were beautiful as well. Eventually we did the very touristy thing to do when visiting Casablanca, which is eat at Rick’s Cafe, which is the setting for the movie that made this city famous. Now we know that it’s not the actual cafe from the film, but that’s ok. It was close enough. We actually got some yummy Moroccan food there… and we can now say that we’ve eaten at Rick’s Cafe.

By the time we were finished with lunch, it was time to head back to the Crystal Serenity. That evening, we would be setting sail toward Cádiz, Spain with one full sea day before we arrived there. More on Spain later. For now, here is a photo journey through Morocco!

Agadir:

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Casablanca:

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Ports # 3 & 4: The Canary Islands

After departing from Madeira and saying goodbye to Portugal, we continued onward to visit two of Spain’s Canary Islands. The first stop was Lanzarote, which is unlike its neighboring islands in that it’s very dry, with a lunar-like terrain. This is because of all the volcanic activity this island has seen over the centuries. We did a shore excursion in Lanzarote that  had three stops and gave us a good feel for the island. Our first stop was an agriculture museum called El Patio, was really a series of historic buildings that somehow dealt with the agriculture of the island. There was a farm house, a barn, a winery, a windmill, etc. The place was very photogenic so we spent a lot of time shooting there before we all ended up in the winery to taste some of the island’s vino and have some tapas.  Our second stop was a gigantic cactus garden that featured over 1,400 species of cacti! When shooting a place like that, I do a complete walk-through with one lens, then switch lenses and walk through again in an attempt to see things in a different way. Out last stop on Lanzarote was the César Manrique Foundation, which is an artist’s home-turned-museum that is literally build into the lava rock, with the natural terrain serving as the walls and ceilings. The place had a very organic and  artsy feel to it, and I shot what few photos I could in our limited amount of time there.

Before I move on to the next Canary Island, here are some of my images and Karen’s video from Lanzarote:

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Our second Canary Island was Tenerife, which was just a one-night sail from Lanzarote. On this stop, we did not do a shore excursion. Instead, we went about exploring town on our own. (We would eventually return to Tenerife a week or so later and do a tour at that point.) The Crystal Serenity docked at the port in Santa Cruz, which is the business capital of the island. It was quite bustling compared to our previous island stops, with busy pedestrian streets full of stores and people doing their Christmas shopping. We did find some historic buildings as well as a farmers market to shoot in town, but the most interesting thing we shot that day was the overly unique concert hall (You can see it in the photos below). It’s a very modern, space-age looking structure that was juxtaposed in an interesting way to the historic part of the town. On our second stop to Tenerife, we traveled to a more quaint and colorful town, but we’ll save that for another post. Next stop: Morocco!

More to come…

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Port #2: Madeira


After we boarded the Crystal Serenity in Lisbon, we eventually set sail for Madeira, which is about 500 miles south of the mainland of Portugal. Madeira is known for its relaxed way of life and of course, its famous port wine. It took two days of cruising before we arrived at the port in Funchal, which is the main town on the southern coast of the island. We did an excursion in  Madeira, which is a tour that’s organized by the cruise ship. Over the course of our trip, we tried to choose excursions that looked the most photographically promising. Our day started with a cable car ride up a large hill to a historic church that looked over the town of Funchal. Then we got to go on toboggan rides, Madeira style, in order to get down the hill. This sounds nuts, but the “toboggans” are essentially large baskets with seats in them. There are ropes attached to either side and your two “pilots” run along side the toboggan, steering you down the street with these ropes. We then spent an hour touring one of the island’s botanical gardens and finally ended up at a winery in town to taste some of Madeira’s famous port. After all this, we still had time to walk around town, exploring and shooting. As with all of these cruise port posts, I’d rather give you more visuals and less text to describe the experiences, so below are a bunch of photos I shot in Madeira. Above is a video that Karen made documenting our day. To see her blog post on Madeira, click HERE.

Next stop: Lanzarote! More to come…

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