West Africa Cruise 2013 travel blog

After a quick breakfast & rearranging our bags for the cruise, we were picked up for the day. We thought it was best to have the luggage with us while sightseeing for the day so that we wouldn’t have to go back to the hotel. Our driver Ibrahim took us to the monument, burial place, & museum of Kwame Nkrume, the first President of Ghana after independence. We had our first ever "celebrity" experience when a group of school kids at the monument wanted to take photos with us. We thought at first they just wanted us to take their photos, but then they pulled us into the photos their teacher was taking. We thought that that was the end of it, but then they each wanted the teacher to take individual photos with us. It was a little crazy. (When we later asked one of the expedition team if this was simply because we were white, they said it was.)

We stopped to pick up school supplies which will be donated to schools along the cruise, plus a few other things we’d forgotten, then made a brief stop at the former Presidential Palace (they just transitioned to a new one 4 months ago), where we were shooed away by security guards, and we also stopped to see Independence Square. Sean was already dying from the heat, which is understandable since he was snow skiing at home a week & a half ago. He got more adjusted eventually, but generally isn’t a fan of humidity

Hands down, our favorite sign we saw while driving around Accra was painted on a wall next to a parking lot that said, “Don’t urinate here you fool!” Unfortunately, neither of us was quick enough to get a photo of it & didn’t think to ask Ibrahim to go around the block.

We laughed that the hotel had immediately suggested the very same restaurant for lunch today that had been suggested by the United employee at Newark, so we figured we definitely had to go there. Buka was pretty cool. The dining area was up on the second level & open air so that it caught the sea breezes & was surrounded by big trees for shade. The food was terrific. We both had whole grilled tilapia - head, bones, skin & all, which was a bit daunting. We managed, though perhaps not very gracefully. Sean tried some sort of traditional rice side that was very similar to Spanish rice, while I had fried yams (not quite as good as sweet potato fries).

As we were waiting for our food, Sean noticed that one of the people at the next table had a SilverSea backpack, & we struck up a conversation with them. The Wong family (from Australia) were a bunch of 6 including a 13 year-old daughter & 8 year-old son. They had just come off the prior leg of the cruise up from Cape Town and absolutely raved about the service & everyone on board the ship. Though these cruises are not at all geared toward children, they said the staff had been terrific with theirs. They also told us to only listen to about half of what Stefan, the Expedition Leader (cruise director) says. I had been concerned about my food limitations, but they reassured me that it’s no problem and that the chef does an amazing job of accommodating limitations on all occasions (even at afternoon tea!), because their daughter has even more critical food allergies than I do.

From Buka, Ibrahim drove us to the port of Tema, about 15 miles east of Accra. At the security gate they wanted to make us get out & walk, because our driver didn’t have a port pass, but we all begged to be allowed to go on given the amount of luggage we’d be lugging & having no idea how far we’d have to go. Luckily, they let us by, but as this port very rarely sees passenger ships, finally locating the Silver Explorer among all the cargo ships was a major undertaking. Suffice it to say it would have been a really LONG walk. (We later found out that SilverSea had provided a shuttle from the main gate, but this had not been communicated to us, and the guard at the main gate didn’t know anything about the ship, much less a shuttle.)

Once on board, we unpacked, had to go through the mandatory safety briefing & evacuation drill, plus had our first briefing on how the cruise & excursions would proceed. There were 80-some passengers on board (max is 120), 28 of those are continuing from the prior leg of the cruise up from Cape Town, and we had 112 crew. What surprised us in the briefing was news that though most of the pirates are on the other side of Africa by Sudan & Eritrea, there is also some risk of pirates in the waters off Nigeria. Though we weren't going that far, they said that for the first 3 nights as we sailed in & out of Togo & Benin the ship would be taking additional precautions such as darkening deck lights & asking everyone to keep their curtains fully closed once the butlers came around to shut them for the evening. When asked what other precautions were being taken, they weren't willing to say. Ok. Yikes!

There was a letter waiting for me to meet the restaurant manager after the briefing about my food restrictions. She said it would be no problem at all & that staff were aware, but to be sure to remind them when ordering.

There was a first night cocktail party up on the back deck, and, as Sean & I were chatting with Cynthia & John and some other folks, we suddenly realized that everyone but us had already dressed for dinner, so we went back to the cabin to change.

We were later than everyone else heading to the restaurant for dinner, so ended up eating on our own. It seems that Sean has a serious sweet tooth, especially for chocolate. As he was trying to decide on dessert our waiter encouraged him to order 2 & suggested a couple that sounded pretty awesome together. I'm lucky that though I couldn't really order the desserts given my gluten & dairy problems, Sean was kind enough to share a taste of his so I could have a little of the great food experience.

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