The Euro Saga Begins

As 2020 opened, we began to get serious about our plans to spend a year or three traveling in Europe and North Africa in the 917.

The idea was fairly simple – ship the truck to Europe and start traveling in a part of the world that had mostly been fly over countries for most of our lives. Then came COVID. 

Now, in 2023, it was time for another look. Several things had changed – the increasing enforcement of the Schengen Agreement which limits time in the European Union to 90 days in, followed by 90 days out, was a major complication. Although there are reports that enforcement is variable, the penalty for overstay is a ban from entering the EU for three years, so this is not something that we want to risk. So this means that we will be traveling in and out of the UK, where we can get 180 days at a time, and then dropping into the EU.

So we launched into a siege of repairs and upgrades, picked a shipping company, and made a reservation. Denise found a repositioning cruise on Viking with very low rates, so we chose that as an alternative to flying. In the end, as the ship carrying the truck is running about two weeks late, this was probably not a good idea for the initial trip – would have been better for subsequent returns to the UK, but it was a lot of fun. And an interesting opportunity to compare/contrast with our almost identical trip on Seabourn.

We drove up to Baltimore to drop off the truck, to almost exactly the same place where Fred recovered his Blazer in 1975, after the trans Sahara trip. ( When Fred received the truck in ’74 it had been completely looted – here’s hoping that we do better this time!

The 917 settled in with new neighbors on the pier. Ended up sitting there for two weeks.

We flew to Fort Lauderdale to join the Viking Star. Boarding was easy and we set out to explore the ship which, while larger, was almost the twin in layout to the Seabourn Sojourn. It was fascinating to note what was the same and what differed from the other ship. In the end, they were more alike than different. 

In the old days, you boarded from dark, dingy pier warehouses. Now you use the same type of jetway as an airport.
Home for the next week.
Viking has wonderful baths on both their river and ocean ships.
Looking around the harbor we noted a RoRo of the type that would take the 917 to England.

After an easy departure, the Pilot went ashore and, later, we waved goodbye to Miami. We were finally en route.

We settled into the routine at sea. And we enjoyed the wonderful weather.

Passengers gathering to photograph part of the dining staff against the sunset.
The formal portrait. (I sent it to the chief of restaurant services, the gentleman on the right.)

We skipped going ashore in Phillipsburg, but were looking forward to Madeira, a kind of magical place. It is easy to see why it it is so high on the European list of vacation spots. With only a four hour visit, we skipped the the packaged tours and set off into town to in search of coffee and a visit to the cathedral.

Funchal is really pretty.

Our first stop was the park where we admired a statue of Bolivar and had a chat with a lovely lady who had just moved back to Madeira after living in Venezuela for years.

Fortified with and espresso and a gelato, we visited the cathedral, a rather plain, gothic building, dating from the late 16th century. One of the few intact buildings from the early colonial period.

Nowhere near as large or gaudy as some the the large European cathedrals, Funchal is still very nice.
The ceiling was spectacular.
Galleon style tour boat, sailing in front of the downtown.

Sailing away from Funchal we passed Kong’s island. 😉

(Kong was not receiving visitors.)

Sadly, we passed through the Straits of Gibralter at night.

Allegedly, the Viking Star is very “green” and most of this is water vapor.
We passed on the Moroccan side.

The next day we sailed up the Mediterranean coast of Spain towards Barcelona.

The Penon d’Ifach (A really big rock)

As the sun set, we passed Ibiza. Barcelona tomorrow morning.

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