Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 success!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.

As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

August 10, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2009. To me it captured Mattie's whimsy despite being so sick. Notice the big construction paper roach sitting on the couch next to Mattie. Mind you the roach had a human face!!! Mattie and his art therapists created this creature in clinic, because they knew how much Mattie loved roaches. Mind you, I am not sure Mattie ever saw a live roach, but he knew I hated them and that intrigued him! Any case, Mattie was sitting on the couch with his big roach and in his hand was a huge fly swatter. It became a game that day, I would try to remove the roach from the couch, and Mattie would swat me with the fly swatter if I got close by.

Facts of the Day: Washington Dulles Airport is the largest airport in the Washington Metropolitan Area with over 22 million passengers a year. On a typical day, more than 60,000 passengers pass through Washington Dulles to and from more than 125 destinations around the world. It was named after John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower. The main terminal was designed in 1958 by famed Finnish architect Eero Saarinen and it is highly regarded for its graceful beauty, suggestive of flight.

Today was an absolutely endless day. We woke up at 6am to finish packing and to disembark the Crown Princess Ship by 8am. We have been on Mediterranean time for the past two weeks, which is six hours ahead of Washington, DC. Though it is 8:45pm on Saturday, for me it feels like 2:45am! Therefore, I am not sure what I will be writing tonight or if I will even be coherent! As I sit to write tonight's blog, I can't believe that in two weeks time, Peter and I traveled over 14,000 miles. In a way it was like going around half of the world!!!

For the past two days at sea, we slowly moved away from the beautifully sunny and glorious weather of the Mediterranean and headed into the Atlantic Ocean bound for Southampton, England. When we docked in England at the crack of dawn today, it was around 60 degrees, overcast, and cloudy! Mind you all the Brits on the Ship thought today was a great weather day for England! We found out that there were ONLY 140 Americans on our Ship, a Ship that hosts 3500 passengers. In a way, though we toured the Mediterranean, I felt like I spent a great deal of time in England on this trip! I guess because I was surrounded by Brits in our floating city.

Once we docked in Southampton, we took a car to London's Heathrow airport. That took us close to two hours to drive. Fortunately we did not have much down time to linger at Heathrow. I personally do not enjoy waiting for hours on end in an airport, maybe because it just builds up my level of anxiety about flying. However, I would have to say if I had to be stuck in an airport, you can leave me at Heathrow any day. It is an airport with class, from its stores to its restaurants. There is even a mini Harrods store at the airport! On long flights, I rarely eat on an airplane, so therefore, I suggested to Peter that we eat something at Heathrow. We sat at a café and check out what was on every table!!!!!!!!!! That's right FRESH herbs. The table we sat at had mint, but others had rosemary, basil, and thyme!

When we boarded our United plane, I was stunned to see that they changed the type of plane we were using. Originally we were scheduled to have a large 777 and because of the low passenger count they changed our plane to a one aisle 757. Which means that I sat between two people! I assure you such changes aren't good for a person who has airplane anxiety! To add insult to injury, I learned that today's flight was going to be extra long because we were flying into tail winds. So in total, I was trapped in an airplane for 8 hours and 40 minutes. When I heard the captain announce our flight time, I started screaming at Peter. Basically because I assumed he knew the flight time and didn't want to tell me. Because most likely if he told me, I am not quite sure I would have gotten on the plane. Peter is used to my airplane issues, so nothing I do surprises him on this front. But once the airplane doors were locked, there wasn't anything I could do. So I had to develop a strategy! I literally was up and alert for the entire flight and glued to either a tv show or movie. I am normally not so electronically focused but I needed mental diversions to maintain some sort of level of sanity for this LONG time period. To top it off, there was a woman sitting in front of us who spoke SO loud, you thought she was on a microphone. But it only got more funny. This woman had two children on the plane, her mother, father, and husband. Her two children and husband were sitting five rows behind all of us. Yet when she wanted to communicate with them, she would start screaming down the aisle. She became a true nuisance and finally a flight attendant had a chat with her. But I can't say that made much of a difference! Her behavior perplexed me and then I met her children, who also talked and screamed at the same decibel level! I told Peter these apples did not fall far from the tree!

Any case, we are home and somewhat unpacked. I am not sure when I will acclimate to DC time, but one thing is for sure, when I stepped off the airplane and could feel DC's humidity, I was one happy camper! I love DC summers and I am so happy that we came back to a sunny day with high humidity!

August 9, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2009. A few weeks before Mattie died. Mattie loved boats, especially his toy remote controlled boats. Though Mattie had no interest in going in a pool with his broviac (the tube connected to his chest in which he received chemo and other medicines), he still was interested in floating his boats. So we set up his pool on our deck and he was outside getting some fresh air and playing with his boats. A friend of ours gave us this captain's hat, and Mattie was proud to wear it. By that point in Mattie's battle, he was very weak, couldn't walk, had limited use of his arms, and breathing was becoming a problem. Despite all of that, he seemed happy with his boats.

Facts of the Day: The Crown Princess' godmother is Martha Stewart (of all people!). Its length is 951 feet, its height is 195 feet, and it can hold 3,080 passengers and 1,201 crew.

Greetings from the Bay of Biscay!  We are presently off the coast of France heading towards England and our final destination Southampton.  Tomorrow morning we will be up early and disembarking the ship around 8am, and then taking a car to Heathrow Airport where Vicki and I will take an early afternoon flight back to Washington, DC.  Vicki’s parents will stay another day in England and then fly home Sunday morning to California. 

The day started out with the ship regularly blowing its horn as we were in a fog bank.  The ship does this to alert any ships that do not have radar and traffic systems that it is coming, and let me tell you that the horn can be heard for miles.  I took a couple of shots of the morning flog, which fortunately cleared late in the morning and burned off.  As the captain had promised, the weather in the Bay of Biscay is calm and little wind so the ocean is calm as well making our last day on the ship very smooth in terms of its ride.

We then went to the last zumba class which is always a great workout.  We took a few pics of the class with the three of us in action as well as a partial group shot that we took at the end.  If you look at the group shot you can see the instructor Rommel on the left-hand side of the picture wearing a yellow zumba hat.  Once again the class was a real treat and it is both enjoyable as well as aerobically challenging.

We then attended a tradition that each cruise does near the end of the cruise, which is the Culinary Demonstration and Galley Tour.  We skipped the Galley Tour as we have seen the industrial sized galley/kitchen on prior cruises, and it is very impressive to see all the stations, ovens, dishwashers and even soup pots the size of a small car.  One can only imagine just how chaotic the galley is as each night the dinning services team is delivering over 3,000 meals within a few hours to all the passengers.  It is truly a remarkable feat that the teams can do all this and do it with style and quality.  We learned today that there are 533 dinning staff and crew members involved in delivering food and beverages to the passengers!  The Culinary Demonstration is put on by the Maitre D’Hotel and the Executive Chef.  They traditionally prepare several meals in front of the audience and try to be funny while doing it.  We snapped a few pictures of the demonstration.

Also last night, we marked the anniversary of Vicki’s parents during dinner.  Our wait staff brought out a mini cake and then sang happy anniversary to Vicki’s parents at the table.  I snapped a shot of the wait staff in action serenading them.

So, after lunch today we headed back to the room to begin the packing process.  The ship requires all passengers not taking their own luggage off the cruise to have their bags packed and tagged with a pre-determined set of luggage tags provided by the ship, and placed outside their staterooms by 11pm the night before we disembark.  The tags are color coded to help the ship’s crew as well as the longshoreman once we arrive in Southampton to place the bags in a logical order based on where each passenger is heading.  The packing process is always depressing as it represents the end of the cruise.  So, we are getting as much packing done as possible now before dinner, and then after dinner we’ll come back to the room and place our dinner clothes in the suitcases and we’ll place them outside to be picked up by the crew.  Tomorrow morning, we’ll get washed and then cart out things off the ship, and then retrieve our bags once on the dock.  

So wish us luck and hopefully tomorrow’s blog will be posted from Washington, DC.  Once again thank you again for following along!

August 8, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2008. At that point, we were about two weeks into Mattie's cancer diagnosis and we felt like the world had just ended for us. That day, Mattie went with Peter, our neighbor, and his dog, JJ, out for a walk. JJ was just a puppy then and in so many ways Mattie and JJ grew up together. Mattie always wanted a dog, and JJ enabled him to have the best of both worlds. Mattie could play and walk JJ, but not have the daily responsibilities of caring for a dog. I am so happy Mattie had this special time with man's best friend.

Fun Fact of the Day: The Crown Princess' maiden voyage took place on June 14, 2006, departing Red Hook, Brooklyn (New York) for Grand Turk (Turks & Caicos), Ocho Rios (Jamaica), Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), and Port Canaveral (Florida). As of 2009, the Crown Princess sails the Caribbean for the Winter season, and Europe for the Summer season.

Greetings from the Atlantic Ocean!  We are at sea today (yes, this is Peter writing) heading north towards England and passing west of the coast of Portugal and Spain.  The winds picked up yesterday when we left Gibraltar and have persisted since, which has caused the waves to build up.  The net result is that we are rocking and rolling as we are steaming back to England.  The temperature is around 67 degrees, the skies partly cloudy, and it is very clear that we are no longer in the Mediterranean!  I have included a few compulsory ocean shots as well so you can see for yourself, and I will try to keep the blog short as internet connectivity speeds remind me of the dial-up modem days of the 1990s (remember 14,400bps?).

We had a nice sail-away from Gibraltar on Wednesday.  I included some photos below of The Rock as well as the harbor.  As North Africa is only 8.9 miles away from Gibraltar and we transited the Straits of 

Gibraltar on a westerly heading to reach the Atlantic Ocean, I was able to get a few shots of the country of Morocco.  Also as we were leaving the Bay of Gibraltar, I noticed some dolphins in the water who swam right past the ship, and fortunately I had the camera ready and took the below shots as it was a lovely sight to see a mother and its calf swimming past the ship.  I know Mattie would have loved it as whenever he saw this kind of sight he said it reminded him of him and his mommy.

We continued to pursue the Sanctuary, not to take advantage of it, but rather to better understand how and why the ship would run this kind of service.  It turns out there are only 47 chairs in the Sanctuary and they offer only on the first day of each cruise the opportunity to pre-purchase a chair for each day of the cruise.  However, you must pay for all the days upfront and in full, and they can only offer this deal for approximately 20 chairs, after which they have to hold the other chairs for each day of the cruise.  We spoke with one of the attendants in the Sanctuary who admitted it was a very hard policy to enforce since they had to each day turn away passengers who wanted chairs, and the attendants are forced to deliver the bad news.  Keep in mind we also learned there are only 900 deck loungers on the ship, for the 3,500 passengers, meaning that on average only one passenger out of every four can get a deck chair.  Doesn’t sound fair, does it?!  I tell you what it does: it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth and wondering why one would ever take another cruise with so many people and so little space!

We did zumba again this morning, which is really a great workout and one that I will personally miss once off the cruise.  I realize I need to up my cardio workout and perhaps change some of the activities I am doing, but it zumba has been fun.  I recognize that not all zumba classes have such an aggressive athletic intensity, but this instructor pushes you to go as hard as you like, and tells us at each class to not focus on the footwork or the moves and to do your own thing and check your ego at the door and just get your body moving.  So, it is fun and has helped me contain my weight on the cruise, as there is food at every turn on this ship and the temptation to eat is strong! 

Tomorrow (Friday) is another day at sea.  We will be crossing into the Bay of Biscay tonight, so let’s hope the wind and waves do not continue as the Bay is known as a very tumultuous body of water prone to quick changes in weather.  We toast Mattie each night at dinner and we have shared some recollections of Mattie during the trip, which is both nice and painful all at the same time.  Vicki and I are getting better at recollecting stories of Mattie when we are alone, but it is still hard.  We tend to focus on the funny and uniquely Mattie things which brings a smile, but we never really go too far in recalling the past as the situation inevitably turns from joy to sadness.  I am not sure we’ll ever be able to go too far in sharing our memories of Mattie with each other, but I know over time we’ll keep trying as it would be impossible not to talk about Mattie.  It has been 1,430 days since Mattie passed away, and not a moment goes by when I do not think about him (yes, yes, I know that’s a double negative, but I’m running with it).

So wish us luck with the Bay of Biscay tomorrow.  We arrive in Southampton early Saturday morning, at which point we will take a car to Heathrow, say goodbye to Vicki’s parents who will be staying another day near Heathrow as their return arrangements require them to leave Sunday, and take an afternoon flight back to Washington, DC.  I’ll post again Friday and thank again for following along!

August 7, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2008. Back then the Hospital did not have a child life playroom. So if Mattie wanted to play outside of his room, he did that in the hallways. Therefore when the child life playroom opened up in the Fall of 2008, it was a blessing for Mattie! As you can see here, Mattie designed a mask for himself out of model magic. He colored and decorated it and naturally tried it on. This mask remains in our kitchen today.

Fun Facts of the Day about Gibraltar: (1) Once an important base for the British Armed Forces, it now plays host to the Royal Navy. (2) Gibraltar consists of a long limestone mountain, which has as may as 140 caves. (3) Gibraltar and the Moroccan mountain of Jbel Musa are known as ‘The Pillars of Hercules.’ This is because it is believed that Hercules used them as his hand grips, when he decided to pull Africa and Spain apart. (4) The evidence of human habitation in Gibraltar has been traced to as far back as Neanderthal man. (5) The people of Gibraltar are British citizens and most of them want to stay that way.

Gibraltar is a peninsula. Which means it is surrounded by water on three sides and is connected to land on the fourth side. In this particular case, Gibraltar is connected to the Country of Spain. Yet Gibraltar is NOT a part of Spain, despite the fact that Spain would like to claim this very valuable port territory as its own. In fact there have been conflicts over the ownership of Gibraltar for centuries and many countries have fought to occupy it. Currently, Gibraltar is a British dependency and has been since 1704, although an elected House of Assembly controls most domestic affairs.

Although it is less than three square miles in area, the Rock of Gibraltar has become a symbol of durability and permanence. With its strategic location at the western entrance of the Mediterranean, “the rock” offers great value as a military strong point. There is little wonder why it has been such a great source of contention over the centuries. The Gibraltarians refer to their territory as “the rock.” Literally when you look at this peninsula, it is ALL rock. In fact, our guide told us that Gibraltar has more tunnel roads cutting inside the mountains than it has roads outside and around the mountains. This was of course designed very strategically, so those on the Peninsula could protect and defend themselves from outsiders who wanted to attack and claim their land.

When I looked at Gibraltar from our Ship, I have to admit it looked like any seaside community. You know the type, with towns, villages and developments surrounding large mountains. However, while driving around the Peninsula it became instantly clear that this area is not really a seaside community at all. But an area with a vital port, that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, I feel that this British “Rock” has many similarities to our American “Rock” in San Francisco. Every time our guide used the terminology, “the rock,” I couldn’t help but think of Alcatraz in San Francisco. It too has the nickname, “the rock.” Both (Gibraltar and Alcatraz) are solid fortifications that were used for protection.

This statue was to memorialize the mass exodus of children and women from the Peninsula during World War II. The “Evacuation of the Gibraltarians,” from my perspective was a very powerful visual statement. The statue captures the reunion between a woman and her husband. In tow, the woman had her child with her, a child who most likely left the Peninsula when he was a baby. The statue captures a reunion 10 to 15 years later and upon their return, the dad isn’t greeted with open arms from his son. But instead his son has his arm extended forward, pushing his father away. This child did not grow up in the presence of his father and therefore though this man is biologically his father, because of the circumstances of War, the child viewed this man as a stranger. This statue captures the complexities of war and the impact that WWII had not only on individuals but on the entire family system.

In 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, a strong British naval force under Admiral Rooke captured the town and the fortress. The Rock has remained in the British hands ever since, in spite of many Spanish and French attempts to recapture it. This is a photo of the border check point into Spain. Our guide told us there is GREAT unrest between Gibraltar and Spain. Spain would like to charge every Gibraltarian over $50 to enter Spain and also a tax to use the waters around Gibraltar. Many Spaniards are employed in Gibraltar. It is easy for people of Spain to come in and out of Gibraltar, but it isn't as easy for a Gibraltarain to enter back into the peninsula from Spain. Gibraltarians can be detained for hours.

This photo captures a first for me!!! We drove on an airport runway! Why? Because the run way serves as a road when planes aren’t taking off or landing in Gibraltar. Amazing, no!??? Our guide, Eugene, told us that five flights land in Gibraltar daily!

The ancient Greeks called the two sides of the Straits the Pillars of Hercules. In the year 711, a Moorish army led by Tariq ibn Zeyad crossed over from North Africa and began the conquest of Spain for Islam. The name “Gibraltar” is derived from “Gebel-Tarik,” which means Tariq’s rock. He built a strong fortification to secure his communications with Morocco. The ruins of the Moor’s Castle illustrated in this photo represent part of this construction.

The port area and residential areas are new additions to the Peninsula. They were created by land fill. I am referring to all the homes, apartments, and high rise buildings you see in this photo! These were built on land fill.

As my faithful readers know, I LOVE lighthouses. This red and white cutie, Europa Point Lighthouse, is still in operation today. It is the only British lighthouse off the mainland that is still in operation today!

“The Rock” itself is a natural fortress 1,396 feet high, with a sheer vertical face to the east. Today the town of Gibraltar has about 30,000 inhabitants.

It is a rather amazing concept that depending upon where you are standing on the Peninsula, you are seeing different countries! This is a photo of Spain from “the Rock.”

Europe is only eight miles from Africa at this point. This photo illustrates that we were standing in Europe and across the way, we were viewing Africa. A totally different continent!

A rather shocking sighting on Gibraltar is the wild Barbary Monkeys that roam the Peninsula. These monkeys have been present for centuries! They are VERY comfortable around people and cars, as you can see! However, as our guide reminded us, these are WILD animals and have been known to bite, scratch, and seriously injure humans. I couldn’t get over people who went up to these monkeys today and tried to touch them or fed them. All VERY bad ideas accordingly to our tour guide. Our guide told us what happened to a recent tourist who extended her arm to one of these monkeys. This monkey literally tore open her arm, blood was pooling everywhere, and she had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. This is ALL I needed to hear, I got out of the bus once to experience these monkeys, but I wouldn’t leave the bus a second time. I wasn’t alone in this feeling!

Peter snapped a photo of me with my parents today. We toured St. Michael’s Caves. Fortunately I have experienced both Howe’s Cavern and Luray Cavern in the United States. So I understood what I was viewing. Mattie loved Luray Cavern and found such natural formations fascinating and intriguing. St. Michael’s Caves are like our U.S. caves which reveal beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.

As you can see, some of the passageways we walked through were tight and narrow and others led to huge open and cavernous spaces!

Isn’t this an amazing amphitheater? The acoustics in this natural space are incredible. We were told that concerts are performed in this space even today!

Stalagmites are limestone deposits that accumulate from the ground up and Stalactites are limestone deposits that form from the ceiling and drip downward. As water comes through the ground, it picks up the calcium carbonate in the limestone, and when it reaches the cave it is exposed to oxygen. This causes the calcium carbonate to precipitate out of the water and begin to form such glorious deposits. Deposits that took thousands of YEARS to form.

Close up of the stalactites!

Gibraltar is home of the Barbary Apes. These are tail less monkeys which are native to this Peninsula, but not to the rest of the Spanish mainland. These monkeys freely walk the streets with the people and the buses!

Legend has it that Britain will retain the Rock (Gibraltar) as long as the Apes live here. At one point during War II, they seemed to be dying out. Fearful of poor morale at a critical time, Winston Churchill gave the legend a bit of help by bringing in ape-reinforcements from North Africa in 1944. Today they number about 60. I was thrilled to be on the bus as we passed the ape den! These monkeys were jumping all over the bus roof, were hanging from the windows, and really wanted ON the bus!

I entitle this photo, “the contemplative ape!” I just love his face and eyes. In so many ways, we weren’t only observing these apes today. They were observing us! Bringing a plastic bag of any kind to the area where the apes live is a HUGE mistake. We saw people carrying such bags get attacked. The bags were taken away by these apes, broken into, and any food within the bags were taken and eaten!

These monkeys roam FREELY! There are NO fences, gates, or people to protect you from these monkeys. Therefore you have to use common sense and not provoke these creatures in any way, especially moms carrying babies. They were SUPER protective of their young. If Mattie saw this threesome today, he would have said….. “this is a baby with his mom and dad. Just like me!”

The apes know that the tour guides will feed them, which is why they jump on the buses that pass by. These monkeys are relentless! Our guide had dried prunes and as soon as the monkeys saw the fact that he had this fruit, they went wild. As you can see, one monkey put his arm into the bus to grab the prune and eat it.

My last photo for tonight is that of a “Gibraltar Puss.” We have had many cat sightings on our trip! This cutie looked under nourished to me and if I could I would have taken him home.

We are now back at sea, steaming to Southampton, England. It will take us two straight days to return to the port of Southampton! We fly home on Saturday afternoon. We had no cell phone coverage today in Gibraltar and of course we not get cell phone coverage while at sea. So this is three days without my Blackberry. That alone is a feat in and of itself. Then factor into it that as soon as we dock, I then have to board a plane and fly home over water. I am not the traveler I once was. Far more makes me anxious and uneasy since Mattie’s death. Also I have found that this 14 day cruise has exhausted me beyond belief. The pace was very aggressive and I suppose unlike others who know how to sit still and relax in a lounge chair, I am constantly doing something. The Ship has a daily schedule of activities and literally if you try to keep a schedule while also doing aggressive tours, it is tiring. I am living proof! My joke is I need to return home just to sleep. It is my hope that I have captured our stops adequately enough to give you a feeling for what we have done in these past two weeks. I appreciate you reading Mattie’s blog and the next time you will hear from me, will be from Washington, DC. Peter will be doing the remaining blogs during our sea days. 

August 6, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 -- Mattie died 203 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken on August 6, of 2008. Mattie was on his way for a scan. We learned early on that NO scans could be done without sedation. Which was why the lovely lady in pink was walking besides Mattie. Debbi was Mattie's sedation nurse angel. It was thanks to Debbi and Linda, who advocated on behalf of Mattie, that all scans were done with sedation. Mattie's first oncologist felt that he could easily do an HOUR long MRI without sedation. Honestly!!! A total clueless wonder. I tried appealing to this doctor but got no where, until Linda and Debbi came on the scene. All they had to do was observe the terror on Mattie's face to know that there was no amount of reasoning or distraction technique that would work during scanning.

Fun Facts of the Day: The Straits of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Gibraltar and Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. Europe and Africa are separated by 8.9 miles of ocean at the strait's narrowest point. Ferries cross between the two continents every day in as little as 35 minutes.

Greetings from the Mediterranean!  It is Peter writing today, which as you might have already guessed, means we have an “at-sea” day on the cruise.  Vicki has been doing a wonderful job as usual with her travel logs, so let me set the expectation right now: my blog today will not be able to compare with any of her past postings… ever.  So, I’ll try to make this one as short as possible and I will endeavor to avoid talking only about the sea (even though there isn't much else to look at).

I woke today early as I was intent on getting up topside and into the line for the Sanctuary.  Princess has a special section up in front called the Sanctuary that has a special access area, luxury lounge chairs and steward service.  It is quiet, calm, serene and not crowded!  Passengers lucky enough to secure a lounge chair in the Sanctuary get to enjoy beautiful views and a quiet area away from the throngs and hordes of people angling for deck chairs and lounge chairs topside, not to mention not being able to hear the 69,000 watt Movies Under The Stars speaker system that apparently can be heard from every part of the ship.  

We learned the chairs are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.  So, I got up topside at 6:30am and I was number 11 in line (yes a line had already formed, which should be a tip-off) or as the Brits refer to it as “the queue”.  I waited in line until 8am, when they started processing the people, only to be told 10 minutes later that they only had chairs for the first 6 people in line, and they could not accommodate any more for the day.  Talk about crazy, yes?!  Keep in mind you cannot reserve the chairs except on the day you wish to use them, unless of course on the first day that you sail, you purchase the chair for all 14 days of the cruise.  The chairs are rented from 8am-12pm and 1-5pm for a charge of either $10 for a half day or $20 for a full day.  What I deduced is the that the majority of chairs were purchased for the entire cruise (mind you that is $240) just for the privilege of having access to your own chair on each day of the cruise.  Now stop me if you’re thinking the same way as I am: why should I have to get in line and pay hundreds of dollars to be guaranteed access to a deck chair?!  Doesn’t quite sound right, does it!  

So, with only 6 free chairs today, everyone else (there were almost 50 people in line by 8am) were out of luck!  Frankly, we think this policy sucks, and when we went to passenger services to complain we got quoted policy and not much else.  We think it is unfair that to guarantee access to a deck chair you need to spend $240 on day one of the cruise, otherwise you are left to compete for the regular deck chairs, for which competition is fierce.  In fact, if you are lucky enough to get a regular deck chair, you cannot be away from it from more than 30 minutes or the staff will remove your things!  Crazy stuff and a real turn off to ever using Princess Cruises.

With that said, I took a couple of compulsory pictures of the sea (see below) as it is simply gorgeous to look at and stare at the sea throughout the day as it is really is a glorious color and so calm!  By the way, the pictures really do look like they have been created in an artist's studio, when in reality, we are simply looking outside!

We did zumba this morning after the deck chair fiasco, which I loved as it is less dancing (although there are a lot of dance moves) and is very athletic in nature.  My prior blogs talked about how athletic to workout is and frankly, if the zumba instructor ran this class in Washington, DC., I would go 7 days a week as it is truly a great full-body workout.  I worked up a great sweat as it pushed my cardio level, which always makes me feel better.  I am trying to watch what I eat and keep my activity level up as it is very easy for me to gain weight.  We had a nice lunch in the dining room and then walked around the ship on deck 7, the Promenade Deck that has a track running all the way around the ship.  We did four miles of walking, which felt good after zumba and then lunch.  I am now back in the room typing up the blog while Vicki and her mother are having tea up on deck 15 in the Horizon Court.  Tonight is a formal night, so we’ll get dressed up and have dinner.

While we were walking around the deck, we paused at the bow (the front) of the ship to gaze at the water.  We noticed as the ship was plying through these beautifully blue and clear waters, that we could see enormous jelly fish just below the surface.  Keep in the mind the ship is doing about 25 miles an hour, so the water is passing by us fairly quickly, and looking down into the water you could see the jelly fish go by looking almost like ghosts floating perhaps 10-20 feet below the surface.  It was quite a sight and one that I will never forget.  Later we saw fish jumping out of the water, so clearly someone was chasing them.  The sea is never a dull place!

I cannot let a blog go by without mentioning Mattie.  Today marks day 1,428 since Mattie passed away, and I miss him so very much.  I look at the children on the ship, and they are so full of life and enjoy each moment as it happens, and I miss those days when that was a part of my daily existence.  I still remember living life through Mattie and how he took in his world and experienced things, and how I got to enjoy both the event as well as enjoy Mattie enjoying the event.  I think every parent knows what I am talking about that you live life both as yourself but doubly so as a parent living through your children.  It is a special gift and one too often squandered and neglected.  Mattie was life Vicki in that he thrived on people and interacting with them.  I learned a lot from Mattie and I continue to learn from him each day even though he has been dead now almost four years.  Given this, Lord only knows what he might have accomplished had he not had cancer and had gone on the live a healthy life.

So, tomorrow we are onto Gibraltar to see (of course) the rock and also to visit caves and a colony of monkeys that have been living in and amongst the rocks and caves for decades, and which apparently either were brought over or swam over from North Africa.   Vicki will be back tomorrow to give you a full read out on Gibraltar as it is technically part of Great Britain, so we’ll see what that is all about.  I am not sure what to expect when we get to Gibraltar and what it will be like, so it will be an adventure!

Thanks once again for continuing to follow along!