& a Gorge!
& Port Wine
of Port wine!
I awoke at 6:40 and left home just after 8 o'clock. I had an easy run to Kent, getting to Ashford just after 11 o'clock. I parked on the street and went shopping in the town. I then headed for the out-of-town shopping complex, where I parked in the Asda car park.
I had a snack lunch in Tesco's car park, followed by a half hour snooze. I then parked on the street in Folkestone and went shopping here too. I got to Blériot's guest house in Dover at 3 o'clock and walked into town. I checked in just before 5 o'clock and then enjoyed a Subway submarine roll back in town. That evening I watched the TV in my room, before going to sleep just after 10 o'clock.
I awoke at 6:40 ready for the full English breakfast. My credit card PIN wouldn't work, so I had to pay the £90 (B&B plus 15 nights car parking) in cash, so I rushed back into town to find an ATM to replenish my cash holding. At 10:15 I ordered a taxi and was in the cruise terminal just after 10:30. So I sat down until nearly noon and made a start on this blog.
Boarding began at 1:30 and I was on board five minutes later. The new morning light pub and oriental tea room were delightfully decorated and the new carpet in the main corridor was impressive. After unpacking, I snacked on the soup and a sarnie at the embarkation buffet. I then snoozed for an hour, but was interrupted by several tannoy calls. At 4 o'clock we had the safety drill, where I sat with Paul the new Observatory pianist. We then had the cruise director's welcome meeting, where I chatted to ACD Ritchiel, comedian Steve and lecturer Rina. I rushed off to see the new tours manager Chris and his assistant Angela, who remembered me from our Saga, Spirit & Quest days together! Chris was impressed with my shore excursion slides and gave me some updates.
The weather was splendid, but the pool was cool, so I didn't have my first swim of the cruise. Out on the top deck, I watched the white cliffs of Dover disappear chatting to Klara from Slovakia. I showered and changed, before going up to the Observatory for my first lime soda and twiglets. At 6:30 I dined on the veal and pork with the new dance host team.
At 7:30 I went to the first dance set, where Jess welcomed me on to the floor with the lovely Lilah. I did several cha chas with her and various other dances with the keen dancing ladies raring to go. Together with the excellent "Swing" production show, it was a busy first evening, unlike the normal quiet start to a cruise! The dancing finished at 10:15 and I was asleep by 10:30!
I awoke at 6:40, ready for the full English breakfast, with scrambled egg and smoked salmon at 7:40 in the Secret Garden café. I then worked on my port talks. At 10 o'clock I gave my 45 minute presentation on Cádiz.
I lunched on roast chicken at 12:30 with Steve Terry and a couple from Reading, before sleeping for an hour and twenty minutes. At 4 o'clock I ran my first line dance class for 19 pax. I taught the Slosh, Texas Waltz & Electric Slide as per usual. At 5:30 and 7:45 I was on duty in the Captain's welcome cocktail parties. In the first I chatted with a couple from Lee-on-Solent and had a dance with the wife and then with Pearl from Ipswich.
I dined on the duck and the beef with the dance host team. I watched Shaun's show from the back and enjoyed his Elton John and Ed Sheeran songs. I was surprised how popular he was with such an elderly audience, very few of which walked out. We had a short dance set between the shows, which ended at 10:15, so I was in bed by 10:30. I watched my first port talk on the brand new wide screen TV in my cabin, but the start was delayed, the sound didn't come on for the first ten minutes and it stopped all together after twenty minutes! Why do they always have trouble recording my lectures?
I awoke at 7:35 and tried to watch my first port talk again, but it was still playing up. I breakfasted on the full English with a gent from Box Hill, Monica the craft lady (but not her husband), together with the lovely Lilah & Keith. At 9:45 I gave my 40 minute talk on Peñíscola & Palamos. I then stayed on for Keith's interesting talk on the Tower of London. During it, George called me out to explain that I needed to re-record my Cádiz talk at 5 o'clock that afternoon!
At 12:30 I lunched on the turkey with an old sea dog from Kent who loved Alvis cars and Rudge motorbikes, so we talked about the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) races which I will see on my next cruise! I then slept for 80 minutes, before taking my first trip to the jacuzzi. The haze gave way to the sunshine and I wallowed for three quarters of an hour, but it was a too cool pool (ooh what assonance)!
At 5 o'clock I re-recorded my Cádiz talk, before touching base with Angela & Chris. I enjoyed my second lime soda with TWO jars of twiglets listening to Paul's piano playing. At 6:15 he finished playing and came and sat with me. He has just submitted his PhD thesis on contemporary British classical music to Goldsmith's college in New Cross, London, but he has also studied philosophy!
I dined on the chicken sat with craft instructress Monica & her husband George, together with dance hosts Steven, Keith & the lovely Lilah, but not Michael. At 7:30 we danced with the usual suspects, but Michael still hadn't arrived, a fact no doubt noticed by Allan on his inspection tour! At 8 o'clock Jess and the band handed over to the lovely Lilah and finally Michael appeared, but still wearing his blue polo shirt, so Keith sent him away again. At 8:30 I retired to my cabin to write this blog, to update my Monaco presentation and to avoid the magician's showtime! We danced between the shows until 10:15 when I went up to the Lido Lounge for Christopher's cabaret. I enjoyed his mix of opera and musical theatre songs. At 11 o'clock I made the mistake of visiting the supper club, where I was tempted by the pizza, pasta and a wrap! Back in my cabin, unfortunately my second Cádiz talk was only half present on the TV, so I went to sleep at 11:30.
I awoke at 6 o'clock, but it was now 7 o'clock Spanish time. I had the full English breakfast when the Secret Garden Cáfe opened at 7:30. At 9:15 I taught the Texas Waltz, California Frieze & Cowboy Charleston to 21 pax. At 10 o'clock I gave my 40 minute talk on Monaco. I stayed on for Brian's talk on South African F1 racing.
I lunched on the lamb stew with the lovely Lilah and Keith together with the three performers: Steve, Shaun & Marc. I then slept for TWO hours, making up for my early start, before doing six lengths of the now warm pool. I had half an hour in the jacuzzi, chatting with Ann the tall Chinese lady from Golders Green, who told me she had a grumpy old Jewish man as her next door neighbour! The evening unfolded as usual with dancing both before and after the "Feel Good" production show.
I awoke early ready for the full English breakfast and a mobile phone signal at last. I was off the ship soon after 9 o'clock and headed for the Cádiz museum in Mina Place and the Historical museum in a side street. The latter celebrated the 1812 parliament and constitution in Cádiz. I then went in the Queen Sofia municipal cultural centre, which has an extensive display of nude statues. Back in Mina Place, the museum annex had now opened with extensive photographic displays. I went in the old cathderal to see the sanctuary tower, before exploring the Roman amphitheatre. I was impressed with the huge underground passageway under the stone tiers.
Back at the ship, I lunched on the haddock with Steven and the couple from Lee-on-Solent. In my cabin I watched my talk on Peñíscola & Palamos, but it suffered from too frequent skips. I then slept for one hour, before heading out again. It was a fair way to the new bus station, much less convenient than the old one. In the land gate I went in the new puppetry museum, which was deserted of clientele. Having failed to get a ticket to the new archeological display in the morning, I bagged a ticket for the 5 o'clock film show, which was a Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) style approach to two Phnician skeletons! The dialogue was in Spanish, but with English surtitles (not subtitles). When the ten minute film ended, the screen rose dramatically to reveal the floodlit Phnician excavations!
Back at the ship again, I dined on the gammon with fried egg, sat with dance hosts Steven & Michael, togther with Rina & her companion Hazel. We danced both before and after the excellent Polish violinist Kate's show. However a drunk Irish couple talked through most of the show, before thankfully walking out! The dancing ended at 10:20, so I was in bed by 10:30 and watched my port talks until 11 o'clock.
My alarm woke me at 7 o'clock ready for the full English breakfast as usual. I then worked on my Cannes presentation. At 9 o'clock I taught the California Frieze, Party Samba & Just Because to fourteen pax. At 10 o'clock I gave my 40 minute talk on "Cannes: Life's a Festival". I stayed on for the future cruise presentation, until Klara lured me outside. I then worked on this blog.
At 12:30 I lunched on the veal with entertainers Steve, Shaun, Marc & Alex with dance host Steven joining us towards the end. I then slept for an hour and a half, before hearing the first twenty minutes of Brian's continuing motoring talk to a tiny audience. After six lengths of the pool, I spent half an hour in the jacuzzi with Kelly the Chinese girl and her tall friend Ann. I dined on the turkey with dance host Steven, before dancing as usual. I watched the excellent Elvis tribute show from the back also as usual. The dancing finished at 10:15, so I was in bed by 10:30 and went to sleep at 11 o'clock having watched my Peñíscola port talk again.
I awoke at 6:30 and had the Egg Florentine and TWO fried eggs in the main restaurant (we don't get these in the Secret Garden Café) at 7 o'clock. There was a dramatic sun rise across the flat Mediterranean sea. At 7:45 I picked up a tender ticket from the photo booth. At 8:30 I was almost last to get on the first pax tender away and was on land by 8:45. Peñíscola was perfection in the bright sunlight, looking more Greek or Arab than Spanish on our maiden call here. I did all the main sights and walked both promenades before going to the tender pier at 11:40. It took over an hour for me to get back on board the ship as the swell had got up. I had taken 134 photographs plus two selfies in the perfect lighting conditions.
I lunched on the lovely fish and chips, the first fries of the cruise, before sleeping for over an hour and a half. Unfortunately this was repeatedly interrupted, first with a code alpha on the docking platform, then with the code alpha stand down, followed by Allan announcing a temporary and then a permanent cessation of trips ashore. After my usual in-cabin decaff, I touched base with JC in the office and then watched as they struggled to get a tender alongside. At 3:30 the Captain finally turned the ship to create calmer lee water and the tender unloaded. Like me, lots of passengers had taken over an hour to get back to the ship!
Unfortunately the swimming pool had been drained, so I just had half an hour in the jacuzzi, chatting to the chaplain from Lincoln. After touching base with Chris, I had a lime soda and twiglets up in the Observatory listening to Paul. I dined on the pork and veal with dance host Michael. We danced both before and after Steve's first comedy show, which I opted out of to update this blog and my next port talk. The dancing finished at 10:15 and I then went up to the Lido lounge to hear Sasha's cabaret. I sat out on the deck in the dark in shirt sleeves still accessing the Movistar mobile phone signal, despite being some miles offshore. At 11:10 I indulged in a kebab and a coodled African egg in the Supper Club.
I awoke at 6:30 and breakfasted on the Egg Benedict plus fried egg, crispy bacon and tinned tomatoes at 7:10 in the main restaurant. I was first off the ship just after 8 o'clock and walked out past the marina all the way to La Fosca. Here I took pictures of the castle on the headland, before walking back to Palamós. I photographed the sights, such as they are, in the fishing village. Back at the ship, I lunched with the dance host team and then slept for an hour.
At 3 o'clock I gave my 40 minute talk on Almería together with one video. At 4:30 I taught the Slosh, Party Samba & Lindi Shuffle to 18 pax. Up in the Observatory, I had a lime soda with TWO jars of twiglets listening to Paul's playing. I dined on the pork escalope, before picking up my first tour escort form of the cruise. When Jess called a Party Samba, I grabbed the two Chinese girls, who had learnt it with me that very afternoon! We danced both before and after Shaun's second show, which was again rather modern for such an elderly audience. The dancing finished at 10:15 and I was asleep by 10:30.
I awoke at 5:30, but couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up at 6 o'clock to watch the sail-in to the bay of Monaco, up in the Observatory. At 7 o'clock I had one egg Florentine with TWO fried eggs plus crispy bacon and tinned tomatoes on toast. At 8:15 I began to escort my second choice Scenic French Riviera tour. I led my charges down to the tender and was last on and first off. It was chaos on the quayside with three different ships's tenders disgorging their pax at the same time. Chris introduced me to my guide and told me to lead off the walk to the buses. Unfortunately we turned into a tunnel, with 14 of my people going straight on following a German group! I ran back to consult Chris who told me to consolidate my people on to the other bus, but back at the buses they had both left, both without their escorts!
So I had the morning off to explore Monaco, including seeing the famous changing of the guard at 11:55. Back at the quayside, I caught up with my bag, which I had left on my bus at the start of the tour. Back at the ship I lunched and slept, before catching the 4 o'clock tender back into Monaco. I walked to the station, where the trains were on strike, and then doubled back to the Exotic Garden.
Back at the ship again, I dined before dancing, including my first samba with the lovely Lilah. The brand new production show entitled "Dance Fever" was perhaps the best of their always excellent offerings. The dancing ended at 10:15 and I then watched my Cannes port talk until 11:15.
I awoke at 6:30 and breakfasted on a smoked salmon Egg Benedict with another fried egg on the side, together with crispy bacon and tinned tomatoes. I snuck on to the first pax tender away at 7:45 and was ashore by 8 o'clock. After consulting the tourist information lady on the quayside, I had to take the bus as the trains were still on strike. I walked along the pedestrianised Rue Meynadier to the railway station, where I caught the 200 service bus to Antibes. I will be giving a port talk on Antibes on my Crystal cruise in October, so I needed to do a reconnaisance.
I began at the tourist information office, followed by the port, where I gathered details of the tender operation there. I continued to the beach, to the cathedral (where a funeral was on going) and to the Picasso museum in the Grimaldi castle, which was closed, as it was a Monday, as it will also be in October! I doubled back through the market (which was also closed as it was a Monday) and the main shopping street (Rue de la République). At the station I caught another 200 bus for 1 euro 50 back to Cannes. This bus filled up very quickly and then failed to pick up at many stops along the way, no doubt because of the train strike.
Back in Cannes, I shelled out 98 cents (which the French still insist on calling centimes) on a large packet of beef crisps in the Monoprix food hall as lunch. I was down to escort my third choice Hill Village & Local Specialities tour. At the quayside I touched base with Chris, who told me to lead my charges from the tender to the bus. Thankfully this was a much shorter walk that the previous day, but hordes of MSC Italians blocked the quayside, so we had to fight our way through in the rain! The bus took us up into the hills. At Wolf's Bridge (Pont de Loup) we went in a sweet factory, before traversing the magnificient Wolf's Gorge (Gorge du Loup), with clearing skies. We stopped at the pretty hilltop village of Gourdon, which lies at two and a half thousand feet above sea level. There was some hill mist, but it cleared to reveal the entire Cote d'Azur coastline from Nice to the Massif de l'Esterel. In Grasse we went in the Fragonard perfume factory. In their shop I was invited to choose one item as a free gift, so I chose a large bar of almond oil soap!
Back at the quayside, we were on the penultimate pax tender back to the ship. At 7 o'clock I touched base with Chris again, before dining on the pork burgers with dance host Michael, Rina, Hazel and two gents. We danced both before and after Marc's second magic show, which I ducked out of in order to update this blog. At 10:30 I went to red headed Jack's cabaret up in the Lido lounge, before having a kebab and frankfurter wrapped in bacon sat with Rina, Hazel and their friend Alan. I didn't get to bed until 11:30. During the night we went through a quite severe storm which woke me up a few times. I was worried that my line dancing first thing in the morning would have to be cancelled ...
I awoke at 7 o'clock and had the full English breakfast, sat with Denis the Irish man from Hillingdon near Heathrow. At 9 o'clock I taught Just Because, Texas Waltz & Ziggy to 18 pax. At 10 o'clock I gave my final 40 minute port talk on Leixões: the Port for Oporto. I stayed on for the Oceans cocktail party, where I only danced with Pearl from Ipswich.
At 12:30 I had the meatballs in the Spanish lunch, sat with entertainers Steve & Marc, together with Keith & the lovely Lilah. I then slept for THREE hours, so I must have been tired. At 4:30 I did six lengths of the pool, before wallowing in the jacuzzi for half an hour with Ann the tall Chinese lady. We watched Majorca disappear and Ibiza appear in the hot sunshine.
I then changed into my French red, white & blue outfit, which I had packed for the sailaway that never happened! At 5:45 I had my lime soda and THREE jars of twiglets, listening to Paul up in the Observatory, with fine views of the west coast of Ibiza. I dined on the fish & chips (it was British Night!) sat with the coloured lady with red hair from Lambeth, later joined by dance hosts Michael & Steven.
We danced both before and after the "Britain Rocks" production show. I snuck out of the singalong to up date this blog. I watched most of the "Britain Rocks" production show, but slipped out to see the dramatic sunset over the Spanish headland. The dancing ended at 10:15 and I went up on to the top deck to see the stars. I started watching my Almería port talk again, but went to sleep at 11 o'clock.
I awoke at 6:30 and breakfasted on the full English in the Secret Garden Café at 7:30. At 9:30 I taught Ziggy, Texas Waltz & Lindi Shuffle (the last two in contra lines) to 18 pax. I then worked on updating my presentations with the photos I had been taking. At noon I lunched on the lentil soup, veal and ice cream sundae in the main restaurant.
I went ashore at 13:35 and spent three hours taking photographs in the 30 degrees C / 86 degrees F sunshine! When I got back to the ship, I had to reply to one of my agents who is hoping to get me on the Sapphire Princess at the end of July! At 6:30 I dined on the Cumberland pie with Michael, Steven, Rina & Hazel. We danced both before and after the excellent second show from the improbably named Kate Violin. The dancing finished at 10:15 and I was in bed by 10:30 and asleep by eleven.
I awoke at 7 o'clock but it was now only 6 o'clock on Portuguese time, so I watched my Oporto talk on the TV, with the sound turned down, until 6:45 when I got up. I then updated this blog and worked on my port presentations. At 9 o'clock I taught the Electric Slide, Lindi Shuffle & Cowboy Charleston to 17 pax. At 11:15 I gave my 35 minute talk on Tommy Cooper. One of the cruise staff hosts, Mike Davis, came up and shook my hand at the end! I then had a long chat with Rina about her forthcoming Cunard audition.
At 12:30 I lunched, before sleeping for an hour and a half, broken by a phone call from a man who wanted to know if I knew anything about sailing ships! At 3:45 we had the successful tea dance, where I did one cha cha with the lovely Lilah, one jive with Julia and the Party Samba with Clare & Iris. Surprisingly Jess called a line dance to go with his rendition of Achy Breaky Heart, so I led off the Electric Slide, which I had fortuitously revised that very morning!
I then did four lengths of the warm pool, but the water was sloshing about as we were now back in the Atlantic. I had half an hour in the hot jacuzzi chatting again with Rina. I then had a lime soda and one jar of twiglets in the Observatory, listening to Paul at the piano. I dined on the beef and turkey with Rina, Hazel & Steven.
We danced both before and after Steve's second comedy show, which I ducked out off to update this blog. The dancing ended at 10:15, when I went up to the Lido lounge for Mike's cabaret. At 11 o'clock I had an egg mini-crostini, half a wrap and a few chips at the Supper Club, sat with a couple and Marc the magician, who regretted having missed my Tommy Cooper lecture, so I offered him a private showing! I went to bed at 11:30.
I awoke to my alarm at 7:30 ready for the full English sat with Denis the Irish man from Hillingdon. At 9 o'clock I taught the California Frieze, Party Samba & Cowboy Charleston to 18 pax. I only had 35 minutes, as Rina was due on at 9:45 for her talk on Hollywood leading ladies, which I stayed on for. I lunched at 12:30 with entertainers Steve & Marc together with Denis the Irish man.
We docked at 1:30 and I was soon ashore ready to escort my third choice City Drive & Port Wine tour. We had a photostop at the top cable car station for superb views across to the City Centre. At the Royal Winery we had a quick tour of the warehouse before sampling the lovely port wine. I had the regulation two small glasses, but then bagged two more that people didn't want.
Back at the terminal I had to wheelchair two pax to the ship. I dined on the pork, before updating this blog. We danced both before and after the "Cinematastic" production show. I then went to bed at 10:30.
I got up at 6:45 ready for the full English breakfast at 7:30 in the Secret Garden Café. I then worked on my blog, my photos and my presentations in the cabin. I started watching the Royal Wedding in the Neptune Lounge, but realised that the HD TV in my cabin would be much better. So I lay on my bed for most of the morning watching the nuptials. I lunched with Michael in the Secret Garden Café, before sleeping for an hour and a half.
At 4 o'clock I went to the lovely Lilah's revision class, where she went over the Social Foxtrot, White City Waltz, Cha cha & Rumba that she had taught to 18 pax. I was surprised by the number of figures she had managed to teach during the cruise. I danced mainly with Pearl and then once or twice with Julia. At 4:45 I had less than half an hour in the jacuzzis with a couple from Dover and Kate the violinist. I didn't go in the pool as it was now too cool, despite it being another glorious day in the calm Bay of Biscay!
At 5:45 we had the first of the Captain's farewell cocktail parties, where I chatted with the couple from Lee-on-Solent, before dancing with Pearl and Gladys's daughter Christine. At 6:30 I dined on the not-so-minute steak with Steven, Michael and the two Chinese girls: tall Ann & Kelly. The former had had FOUR egg custard tarts in Oporto and I hadn't had any! The latter was recovering from her "chill".
At 7:45 we had the second cocktail party, where I chatted with some of my line dancers and then danced with Ann. When the Captain came on for a second time, I went back to my cabin to update this blog. At 9 o'clock I watched the Crew Show from the back, which culminated in a beautiful pas de deux by Ritchiel & Cris, with Jaycee singing! When the dancing finished at 10:15 I went to bed.
I awoke at 6:30 ready for my sh*t, shower & shave. I updated my blog whilst waiting for breakfast to commence at 7:30. I had the full English sat with Keith & Irish Denis. Back in the cabin, I worked on my powerpoint presentations.
After Atitaya had cleaned the cabin, I had a nap for half an hour. I then worked solidly for over two hours on my laptop. At 12:30 I dined on the gammon with entertainers Marc & Steve together with the Chinese girls Ann & Kelly. I then slept for half an hour, before continuing my updates.
At 4 o'clock I went to Rina's talk on American women and their cars, followed by my final line dance class. I taught the Slosh, Party Samba & Just Because to 17 pax. I then finished my packing, before dining on the crispy belly pork, with the lovely Lilah & Keith, together with the Chinese girls Ann & Kelly.
At 7:30 came the early variety show, followed by half an hour of dancing. During the second, later variety show, I sat chatting with the Chinese girls & Steven. The latter was embroiled over a controversy about a photograph he had taken of pax in the Lido Lounge late at night! The post-show dancing ended at 10:25 and we said our goodbyes. I popped up to the Lido Lounge to briefly hear the duo for the only time this cruise, but went to bed at 10:45.
My alarm woke me at 6:30 ready for the full English with two fried eggs sat with Irish man Denis in the main restaurant. I then finished packing and left my cabin at 8 o'clock. I was off the ship by 8:35 and home three hours later after another super cruise.
Allan wrote: "Martin is an experienced port speaker who really does his research. I think he is great."
One lady wrote: "Thank you for the lovely time that we shared during our recent voyage. We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the ship and learnt so much on board."
Rina later wrote: "Loved the line dancing so much. You are a brilliant teacher! And adore the music. And your port lectures are sooo thorough and helpful. Go, Martin, go!"
9 Line dance classes 9 Line dances taught (Slosh, TW, ES, CF, CC, PS, JB, LS, Ziggy) 7 Port talks given (CD, PC, PM, MC, CN, AM, OP) 4 New towns (Peñíscola, Antibes, Gourdon & Grasse) 3 New berths (Fontvielle in Monaco, Ribera II in Almería & Matosinhos for Oporto) 3 Tender ports (Peñíscola, Monaco & Cannes) 3 Half days (Palamós, Almería, Leixões) 2 New RIB speedboats (for Oceans members) 2 Tours escorted 1 New port (Peñíscola) 1 New tour (Gourdon & Grasse) 1 Guest lecture given (Tommy Cooper)
Updated PowerPoint Presentations: © Cádiz © Peñíscola © Palamós © Monaco © Cannes © Almería © Oporto © Douglas, IoM © Dublin
New PowerPoint Presentation: © Antibes