Episode 207 – Transatlantic Sea Day Logs: Day 9 of 9

February 23, 2022. 73°F/23°C


We reach land in just one more day!!!

In the meantime, laundry (I don’t want to waste one precious minute that we can be off the ship), a lecture, a Dim Sum & Fried rice lunch theme, a port talk, Q&A with a ventriloquist’s dummy, dinner, and a show. It’s a tough life, but I’m glad we’re living it.

Nigel Cox’s talk on “Gifts from Afar: Giraffes, Elephants, a Drowned Rhinoceros & More” intrigued me, especially because when Ted and I visited Buckingham Palace in 2017 we saw an exhibit of gifts that had been given to Queen Elizabeth II over the years. Some were extremely valuable, some were beautiful, some were fascinatingly exotic, and some were just truly odd.

It seems that the giving of exotic gifts to monarchs has a long tradition. The rarer the item, the more respect it showed, as the monarch could then use those gifts to impress and awe visiting dignitaries, as well as their subjects.

In the early 9th century, an elephant appeared at the court of Charlemagne, a gift from Caliph Harun al Rashid.

In the 13th century, Frederick II of Italy returned from the crusades with an elephant. (Elephants seem to be a recurring theme.) He already had a menagerie of smaller animals like monkeys, as well as exotic birds. Around that same time King Louis IX gifted an elephant to King Henry III of England, whose menagerie already contained a polar bear, gifted to him by the King of Norway, that was allowed to swim (attached by a chain to the shore) in the Thames.

In the early 16th century Portugal’s King Manuel I gifted Pope Leo X with a live elephant and a live giraffe. In 1516, Manuel also planned to gift the pope with a rhinoceros that he’d been given by the Sultan of Gujurat. Unfortunately the rhino died in a shipwreck while being transported, so was instead presented to the pope stuffed. Lavish – if weird – gifts like that helped persuade the Pope to fund some of the king’s expeditions.

Not everyone kept the gifts they’d been given. King Alfonso V of Portugal regifted an elephant, a dromedary and 2 civet cats to his counterpart in France. It seems as if exploration of India and Africa gleaned more than just trade in spices and precious metals and gems.

Elephants began to feature prominently in paintings, tapestries, and sculptures in the 1500’s, including works by Raphael and Dürer.

The Sultan of Bengal presented a giraffe (a “cameleopard” – think about it) to the Chinese emperor in 1414. The Sultan of Egypt presented another to Lorenzo de’Medici later, in 1487; the giraffe was allowed to roam the streets of Florence. Raffaelo Botticini subsequently included a giraffe in his painting Adoration of the Magi. Occasionally giraffes were depicted with pointed horns in place of the 2 ossicones on their head; in one case a giraffe was pictured as having a unicorn horn! Lorenzo de’Medici’s son Giovanni later became Pope Leo X – the pope who eventually received those exotic animals from King Manuel of Portugal.

Indian rulers, like the Moghul Emperor Jahangir in the 1600’s, had huge menageries. Jahangir’s included dozens of cheetahs, 100 or more lions, tigers, elephants, an American turkey cock, chameleons, a zebra (which he regifted to the Shah of Persia), and a (now extinct) dodo bird brought by the Dutch from Mauritius.

Sir Thomas Roe, the first British ambassador to India in 1614, gifted Jahangir with English hunting dogs and greyhounds in addition to things like a carriage and horses, all in aid of establishing a base for the British East India Company. Perhaps they weren’t exotic enough, because little progress was negotiated.

The tradition of gifting exotic animals continues well into the 20th century.

Fun fact: One of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite horses was a present from Canada – she has also received giant anteaters, toucans, black swans, kangaroos and more as gifts.

MORE KUDOS FOR VIKING: As I was sitting on the pool deck reading before lunch, Restaurant Manager Casper came to see me. I had put in a suggestion about one of the shipboard events, and NOTHING goes unanswered on a Viking ship. We chatted for a while, and I mentioned how impressed we were with yesterday’s galley tour, and the consideration with which Viking treats their staff. Casper shared that during the worst of the pandemic, he was on the Jupiter, along with just 100 crew (the normal complement including contract staff is around 450 for a ship full of passengers). All of the crew came onto the ship as equals – no “stripes” on their uniforms – and everyone did every job. Although Casper is a 3-stripe manager, he took his turn on each day’s duty roster: sanding railings, washing decks, flushing toilets and running showers so that pipes would stay clean, cooking for the crew, and more. It gave every crew member on board a real appreciation for what their teammates do. During that time, Karine Hagen (daughter of Viking’s owner) came on board – with a pair of thick Norwegian wool socks for each person – and cooked for the crew! Casper said she cooked food from each of the crew member’s home country AND learned enough of each language to at least be able to greet them in their own tongue. Once again, that’s the kind of hands-on involvement and care for their employees that keeps us loyal to Viking.

Everyone on board was excited about the afternoon’s port talk, since it confirms that we’ll all be on terra firma tomorrow. Ted and I really knew nothing at all about the Cape Verde Islands, so there was lots to learn before we disembark for our included tour tomorrow.

Assistant Excursion Manager Sasha gave the talk, complete with hilarious anecdotes based on her own experiences on São Vicente. She reminded us to be aware that amenities in Mindelo will be different from either the Western Hemisphere or Europe. For instance, our “coaster” buses all have “natural air conditioning”, and tour guides may only have rudimentary English skills.

We’ve also be told to watch out for humpback whales, since Cape Verde is the breeding ground (well, water) where the NE Atlantic humpbacks spend winter. Ted would certainly be thrilled to capture a photo of one of them.

It was a busy ship today, with magician Greg Moreland filling the atrium as he performed an up-close magic show for guests seated all the way up the ship’s central staircase. Shouts of “Go Greg, go Greg!” echoed through the ship as he did his tricks.

No sooner was Greg done than it was time for the Q&A with Don Bryan and Noseworthy in the Star Theater. Cruise Director Aaron asked the questions, and Noseworthy jumped in with most of the answers, as well as LOTS of unsolicited commentary – much hilarity ensued. Poor Aaron. (What’s wrong with his shoes anyway? And IS his suit too tight?)

After a fun dinner with 2 other couples in the restaurant, we all headed to the evening show. David and Dawn Meyer returned to the Star Theater tonight with their music and light show. This time, David wowed us with everything from the Charlie Brown cartoon theme to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Wow.

The show left us energized, so we closed down Torshavn Bar with new friends.

Girls just wanna have fun! Guest entertainer Toni Warne (top) did an impromptu Queen song with the band, and much dancing was done.


  1. So moved by attitude of the crew! Every job is part of a puzzle and necessary for completion. This is going to Robert and Ørjan. Love your dress!!!



  2. I am more impressed by Viking after I read each of your posts. I loved the story of how each of the crew during the pandemic helped with all the different chores. Are there 930 guests on your cruise? Is the full staff (450) on board?


  3. Greg Moreland was on part of our Azamara Quest cruise from Alaska to Japan in August, 2019, and we completely enjoyed his act.

    We especially liked his sessions during the day when he showed how various magic tricks worked.

    He is quite the entertainer!


  4. Fascinating, who knew about all that gifting (and regifting) of menagerie animals? Next time someone gives me an elephant, I’m definitely passing it on!


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