We were extremely anxious to get off the ship and explore a new country this morning. There was only a slight chance of rain, so we were looking forward to covering a lot of ground.
We had some beautiful views of the coast as we sailed into Valletta’s Grand Harbour in Malta. Instead of a regular excursion, we had wisely scheduled a car and guide so we could see more at our own pace.
Before the day was over we’d have toured Valletta, Vittoriosa, Rabat, and Mdina by car and on foot. We’d also do a car tour through Senglea and Cospicua.
We met our guide and walked from the port down to the waters edge to board a Dghaisa for a boat ride around the Grand Harbour before meeting our car. A dghaisa is a colorfully painted Maltese fishing boat, reminiscent of a gondola.
I really enjoyed seeing Malta from this viewpoint. I have to say though, that it was a bit of a rough ride. A little wet too. We got quite a bit of ocean spray as we hit the wave crests.
We took a short drive in the car, stopping at a spot to get another great view of the Grand Harbour.
Malta is a beautiful place. The cities we visited are made up of many densely occupied, narrow streets made of tile and stone. Most of the buildings are made of limestone, which is no surprise considering the island itself is one massive limestone rock. Walking through the streets, I loved the balconies, bay windows and shutters accenting the exteriors.
We walked down Strait Street, the most famous street in Malta. It is the hub of English, Italian and Maltese people and is known for its nightlife.
We saw so much and covered so much ground–I better just touch on a few of the day’s highlights:
Grandmaster’s Palace or the Governor’s Palace. In St. George’s Square (Valletta), the Grandmaster’s Palace is the Office of the President of Malta. It was built between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Casa Rocca Piccola is a 16th century palace and a ‘living museum’. The 9th Baron of Budach and the 9th Marquis de Piro, Nicholas de Piro; and his wife, Frances, are the first family to open their home to the public.
We actually met the Marchioness (Frances) when we arrived. She greeted us before our tour of their house. We later met the Marquis as he was searching the house for someone to help him with his new computer. They were both very friendly and welcoming.
The Marquis’ additional claim to fame is that he is a prolific author, having written many books on Maltese history.
After touring the house, we were invited to tea, coffee and fresh cannoli in the garden.
Kiku is the family macaw who spends warm days greeting visitors in the garden. Kiku is even on Twitter!
Before leaving the house, we went underground, through tunnels to explore where over 100 people were sheltered from bombing during WWII. It was dark, damp and a little chilling.
St. John’s Co-Cathedral was built in the 1570’s and dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It contains nine chapels. It barely escaped destruction in World War II– all the art having been moved out and hidden– so none of it was lost. A major restoration began in the late 1980’s. It is considered one of the finest examples of surviving Baroque architecture in Europe.
We enjoyed a nice walk through Valletta before rejoining our car.
After another short drive, we had a wonderful three course lunch at Palazzo Castelletti in Rabat. Our guide did not dine with us and was visibly frustrated by the slow service as she was trying to keep us on schedule. She kept poking her head in the room to see if we were being served and then would go find a server to bring the next course. It was sort of funny. Luckily, we missed a little rain while we were dining.
Mdina. After lunch, we finished our day with a relaxing walk through the walled city of Mdina. Total population of the “Silent City” is 300. Mdina was once the capitol of Malta. It was founded in the 8th century BC.
A visit to the Carmelite Priority Museum is intended to give the public a look into the living traditions of a Carmelite monastery. The 17th century building has been renovated and stands as an example of a monastic cloister.
We ended our day in Malta overlooking the country. Our viewpoint from the high walls of Mdina was impressive. From there, we walk back through the city to our car which took us back to the ship.
I’m really glad we chose to see Malta this way, even if we still only saw a fraction of it. It’s a beautiful country.
Back to Broadway (On the High Seas 7). We got back on board just in time for the late afternoon/early evening offering: a talkback with Faith Prince and Jennifer Simard, hosted by Seth Rudetsky. They both talked about their lives and careers ‘in the business’. Most recently, they both starred in Seth Rudestsky’s short-run Broadway musical, Disaster!
Jennifer Simard is incredibly talented. I hadn’t heard of her prior to her run in Disaster! this past year. A role for which she was Tony nominated in the Best Featured Actress category. She has an extensive list of credits on and off-Broadway including Sister Act, Shrek and several editions of Forbidden Broadway. It was recently announced that she will hit Broadway with Bette Midler in Hello Dolly! this spring as the scene-stealing Ernestina.
Faith Prince is known primarily for her comedic and musical work in such productions as Guys and Dolls (1992 Revival, Tony Winner) and Bells Are Ringing I was lucky enough to see her in the ill-fated musical, Nick and Nora, and the off-Broadway production of Falsettoland, which later became the second act of the Broadway musical, Falsettos. Her heartbreaking rendition of “Holding to the Ground” was another one of those pinnacle moments in theatre for me.
Michael and I saw her moving performance in A Catered Affair (2008); and last year in the Chicago, pre-Broadway engagement of The First Wives Club playing opposite Carmen Cusack and our friend Christine Sherrill.
Both Faith and Jennifer were on the cruise as “Ambassadors” so they weren’t going to be doing full out concerts. During the talkback we did get a musical number from each of them. Faith Prince treated us to her delightful rendition of “Broadway Baby“, while Jennifer Simard had the audience rolling in the aisles with her imitation of Bernadette Peters doing “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy.
One other note: Faith arrived on the cruise late, having had issues with her flight. If THAT wasn’t bad enough– the airline lost her luggage for three days. It’s amazing how someone can get by with only one outfit and a few accessories. She looked great!
After the long day, I skipped dinner and laid down for a little bit…ordered room service and then took my time getting ready for the evening’s concert.
Lindsay Mendez in Concert. Can I say perfection? I can’t imagine anyone being better or putting together a better set for a show.
Lindsay performed a great concert on last year’s cruise (BOTHS5) and somehow managed to outdo herself. She is best known for her Broadway performances in Godspell, Grease, as Elphaba in Wicked and her critically acclaimed performance off-Broadway in Dogfight.
Lindsay married her husband, Philip Wakefield, in May. As a special treat for the audience, she brought him on stage for one of her numbers, playing the drums. She also did a fun duet with Laura Osnes, recreating “It’s Raining On Prom Night” from their revival of Grease.
After a wonderful show, a few of us gathered at our usual spot and everyone was abuzz about Lindsay’s great concert. We turned in before midnight, another full day ahead.
Next stop: Trapani, Sicily.