Cruise
M 1404
on the Braemar
from Santa Cruz de Tenerife
to West Africa and the Cape Verde Islands

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
07/02/2014 Santa Cruz, Tenerife - On board by 2pm!
08/02/2014 Santa Cruz, Tenerife Güimar Pyramids & Secret Garden Sangria
11/02/2014 Dakar, Senegal City Tour Interesting
12/02/2014 Banjul, Gambia South of Gambia Market, school, lunch & museum
14/02/2014 Praia, São Tiago, CVI Island Discovery Green island!
15/02/2014 Mindelo, São Vicente Mindelo Highlights & Catfish Bay Brown island!
18/02/2014 Santa Cruz, Tenerife - Photography


Here's my report on the cruise:

I drove over to Horley in the rain arriving at the Melville Lodge B&B for 1 pm. They only charge £30 per night with car parking at only £2 per day! After my siesta I walked into town before returning to my room for the night. I got up at 5 am to catch the 5:53 am bus to the South Terminal at Gatwick. Thankfully no queues for check-in or security! We took off half an hour late but landed on time. I had a window seat with two spare seats next to me to spread out in, on the Monarch charter flight. Guernsey and Brittany were cloud free, as was the encirclement of the magnificent Teide volcano on Tenerife complete with snow. I was on the first coach away and was on board the ship by 2 pm. After a brief lie down, I walked into Santa Cruz to take some photographs and utilise the free wi-fi outside McDonalds in the main square. For the first time I visited the new arts complex (TEA) designed by the architects who had designed the Tate Modern in London. The Natural History Museum next door was free, so I saw the famous Guanche mummies again. After dinner in the Palms Café, we had a party on the aft deck with the lovely Fely and the recently re-instated Braemar orchestra. Very few passengers were present after our tiring day travelling.



Mount Teide, Tenerife

Mount Teide, Tenerife

On the first complete day, still berthed on the landward side of Santa Cruz harbour for the first time in a dozen visits, I escorted my first choice tour to the famous Tenerife pyramids. After viewing the snowy volcano from a magnificent viewpoint, we descended to Güimar. This town, pronounced Wee-mar (think Weimar Republic!), has six interesting pyramidal structures. The Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl thought they were built by sailors arriving on reed boats from the Med. He demonstrated how this might have happened with his Ra I and Ra II reconstructions. His friend, fellow Norwegian Fred. Olsen senior, bought the site and has turned it into a beautiful set of gardens. We visited the poison garden, complete with the lethal ricin tree! The café gave us sangria and free wi-fi before we returned to the ship for a late lunch. Recent excavations, by the archaeologists of La Laguna University on the island, have shown them to be 19th century cultivation terraces! Back to the ship at 1:15 pm I had a quick lunch before attending the cruise director's welcome meeting with acting CD Simon Vickers from Australia. We mustn't call him 'Skippy' now! After the safety drill, we had a sail away party on the aft deck to the MIT band, with only a few dancers present. Before the show we had a brief walk-on. We danced both between and after the show, "Come on over to my place" the production company's Drifters tribute. For the first time we had been asked to attend the second rather than the first house. There was a longer than usual dance set after the second show when I danced with Wendy and Sara amongst others. After the midnight buffet we retired to bed.

Gardens on Tenerife

Gardens on Tenerife


The first sea day began with a champagne (or rather Spanish cava) breakfast. The FOCL supply ship had been delayed by storms off Portugal (you may have seen the enormous breakers on TV!), so lots of local Spanish produce had to be brought on board to avoid delaying our departure from Santa Cruz. I attended John Lucas's port lecture when he had to cram two ports (Dakar in Senegal and Banjul in the Gambia) into one lecture. I had to slip out early to attend the travelling alone party in the Coral Club. After lunch John & Julie led their first ballroom dance class. They taught the social foxtrot and the barn dance. I had a long sleep and so missed out on my swim. In the evening we were on duty in the two Captain's welcome cocktail parties. I danced with Maida, Wendy, Sara and others. The tenor Jon Moses was excellent. The lovely Fely sang a couple of numbers after each show. We then adjourned to the Coral Club with Sara.


On the second sea day I attended John Lucas's second port talk when he again had to cram two ports (Praia and Mindelo both on Cape Verde islands) into one lecture. Later we were on duty in the Oceans cocktail party, but we got out of hosting the masonics by asking one of the cabaret artists, who is a freemason, to conduct the meeting. In the afternoon we had the grand tea dance rather early on in the cruise so we didn't know many of the dancing ladies yet. It started off quietly whilst the passengers were queueing for the cakes, but livened up as they came flooding in. The first half was mainly ballroom dancing and the second half mainly sequence dancing. I was sat at the side of the "Girls Night In" show in the Coral Club when the singers asked if there were any dance hosts in the room, so I had to find a couple of ladies to dance with whilst they sang! We danced both between and after the comedian's first show in the Neptune Lounge. Later the Coral Club was empty as passengers went to bed early ready for Dakar the next day, so the MIT band packed up early too.



The Pink Lake, Dakar, Senegal

The Pink Lake, Dakar, Senegal

In Dakar the capital of Senegal, I escorted the morning City Tour. At the craft shop I was given a complimentary sand picture. Their wi-fi was working but their internet connection wasn't! After lunch and my siesta I walked back into the bustling city and photographed most of the important sights. In the evening I led the tropical dancing. I taught the Macarena, Party Samba (both slow and fast tracks) and Cha Cha Slide with the YMCA and Conga to finish off.


In Banjul, the capital of the Gambia, I escorted the South of Gambia tour. We visited the market in Serekunda, a school in Mariama kunda, Uncle John's homestead for palm wine and spirit, lunch at Paradise beach, Tanje village museum and a fishing village. I got back from the tour at 5:20 pm and was dancing at the sailaway at 5:30! For the pre-showtime rock 'n' roll dancing the MIT band was brought into the Neptune Lounge for the first time this cruise. The floor was packed with ageing rockers! We danced between and after the "Happy Days" show. It was then karaoke night in the Coral Club.


I slept for 9 hours as we gained an hour sailing west to the Cape Verde islands. I took the opportunity to process my Dakar slides into a powerpoint presentation. I attended Hugh Purcell's thought-provoking slave lecture. In the afternoon we had a rumba class followed by Michael Harris's lecture on the Comedians. I then gave my well received lecture on "César Manrique: Artist and Architect of Lanzarote". We danced both between and after the shows in the Neptune Lounge. It was a variety show with Brian Davidson the Scottish classical pianist and Jon Moses the Geordie singer.


In Praia on São Tiago (St. James) island, I escorted the Island Tour. The botanical garden was small but photogenic. My coach lost it's clutch near the summit of the island, so we drove down the other side all the way in second gear to lunch in Tarrafal. They worked on the bus over lunch but were unable to fix it, so my passengers were re-distributed around the other buses. The deep fried chicken and chips were nice, but I declined to sample the fried fish and finished off lunch with a local banana. I found free wi-fi in the main square of Tarrafal. We drove back along the east coast, past the lovely valley of a thousand palms. Back at the ship, we danced at the sailaway before dining in the main restaurant for the first time, since the Palms Café was hosting the Asian buffet. I enjoyed the prawn cocktail, sirloin steak and pistacio ice cream, none of which we get in the Palms Café! I provided three red ties for the Valentine's day dance date. We danced as usual both between and after the shows, but declined to listen to the comedian and magician in favour of Theory 'Dong' Gutierrez in the Coral Club.




Me on Praia Grande, São Vicente

Me on Praia Grande, São Vicente

In Mindelo on São Vicente (St. Vincent) island I escorted my first choice Highlights and Catfish Bay tour. We were two hours late berthing as another ship had nabbed our quay. We began our tour at the National Artisan Centre in the main square which came complete with free wi-fi! The next stop was the fish market which wasn't as smelly as the African ones had been! We stopped at Calhau fishing village and various viewpoints. When we got to Catfish Bay the designated restaurant was closed and the alternative one could only take two and half coach loads. So we were driven, against my protestations, back to the port to another restaurant. Back in town we drove past tours manager William on his bike. So I demanded that the bus be stopped so that he could take the flak from my disgruntled passengers. Three decided to walk back to the ship and one demanded to be driven back. So my numbers dropped from 22 to the 18 who were happy to go into the alternative restaurant in town. We had a poncha-style cocktail and bottles of both red and white Portuguese wine on the tables. We lunched on chicken and fish similar to the previous day's meal. The dessert buffet was extensive as we were entertained by a four piece band and two professional dancers. I was then able to dance with the lady pro.


After lunch we were driven to the top of the Green Mountain (Monte Verde) which was barren and brown like the rest of the island, in contrast to the greenery of the other Cape Verde island the day before. We returned to the town of Mindelo to view the church, market and a cultural centre. Back at the quay there was a long queue to get back on the ship, so I walked out along the breakwater to photograph the ship. The Captain blew his horn summoning me back to the ship unaware of the slow-moving queue. Back in my cabin my colleague Bill had taken a message from the guest relations manager requesting my side of the morning's drama, since two passengers had complained at the change in venue and lack of beach time! I then hosted the U3A meeting for the first time. We enjoyed the crew cabaret in the Coral Club with a performance of "I love the night life" by Ria our stewardess. Back in the Neptune Lounge it became too rough to dance. We then watched the production show "Cool Britannia". During the night the sea got progressively worse and our cabin, being at the very front of the ship, was bombarded with waves crashing against the prow.




Bill, Martin, Julie & John

Bill, Martin, Julie & John

The next sea day was very quiet, so I took the opportunity to create a powerpoint presentation on Mindelo. I had been coughing in the night and during the day I developed a cold in the head. We had a social cha cha class after lunch followed by my siesta. We were on duty for the two Captain's farewell cocktail parties in the Neptune Lounge. We danced between the shows but not after the second show. I pigged out on five meals that day including afternoon tea of chocolate and caramel covered cornflakes and the gala midnight buffet. Feed a cold and starve a fever? Again the sea was rough and noisy during the night.


The final sea day of the first cruise included lectures by Hugh Purcell on pirates and Michael Harris on the theatre. After lunch John and Julie taught the Rumba No. 1 sequence dance. Unfortunately my cold in the head continued all day. I watched the "Boys Night Out" in the Coral Club rather than the predictable Crew Show in the Neptune Lounge.




Tenerife Auditorium

Tenerife Auditorium

On the the turnround day I walked around the city in the morning taking photographs, slept for two and a half hours and then walked the length of the southern prom. Two ladies gave us a card that said "Thanks guys - the dancing was just swell (literally)! The highlight of the cruise." My colleague Bill later wrote: "Many thanks for being a great companion on both cruises"


Scorecard:


Good points:

Bad points:


New Powerpoint Presentations:


Good, free wi-fi:


For the record ...