Cruise M1602 on the Braemar around Central America

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
21/01/2016 Montego Bay
- Walk into Town
24/01/2016 Cozumel Island
Chichen Itza
Mayan Ruins
Very Impressive!
25/01/2016 Belize City
A Tale of Two Cities Altun Ha &
Belize City
28/01/2016 Colón
Shaping of Panama Panama City!
29/01/2016 Cartagena de Indias
Horse & Carriage
thru' Walled City
Enjoyable ride!
31/01/2016 Santa Marta
Historical Tour Simon Bolivar's Hacienda
01/02/2016 Oranjestad
Highlights & Beach Only swim in the Caribbean!
03/02/2016 Bridgetown
G. Washington Ho.
& Screw Dock
Interesting sights!

Bournemouth to Manchester Ringway Airport (MAN)
via London Heathrow (LHR)
Wednesday the 20th of January 2016

I left home at 11 am in a Streamline taxi to catch the 11:45 National Express coach from BoMo to LHR. With me sat in the front seat, Jason the driver was very talkative! We got to Terminal 5 by 1:45 pm, but I wasn't allowed to check in until 3:15, so I ate my packed lunch in the foyer area. Having offloaded my large case, I went joy riding on the Personal Transit System PODs. We took off around 6:15 pm and got to Manchester Ringway airport in less than 40 minutes. I took a ten pound taxi to the Premier Inn, but went to the wrong one, the North Hotel rather than the South Hotel opposite. I had my packed supper in the bedroom, before sleeping fitfully until 5:45 am.

Manchester Ringway Airport (MAN)
to Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)
Thursday the 21st of January 2016

At 7 am I caught the £3 shuttle bus back to the airport. Having checked my large case in, I went walkabout to view the new tram and railway station. Coming out of the railway station I was asked for a ticket, since I had walked on to the train platform from the tram platform! Back in Terminal 1, we had to go down a steep, narrow staircase and then up another one just to get to gate 26! We took off nearly half an hour late, but got to Montego Bay Jamaica in just less than ten hours. I was unlucky in securing a complimentary upgrade, but I did bag two empty seats with extra legroom by the main door! I sat facing the amusing trolley dolly David. During the first two hours, I watched the Jersey Boys film about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons directed by Clint Eastwood. I then lunched on the James Martin chicken curry and enjoyed the late afternoon tea.

Immigration and customs at MBJ was a breeze with me bagging front seats on the first coach away, so I was soon on the lovely Braemar. I had been allocated an outside twin cabin on deck 2. I soon met up with William & Sally at the tours desk and Allan & Conie in the Entertainments Office. At the embarkation buffet I bumped into the lovely Jane Stapleton, but 'Tarzan' Dennis was out on tour! When my luggage arrived, I showered and changed. I met up with the rest of the dance host team consisting of Jim Currie and Don McGregor. I had worked with the latter on cruise BM922. I dined on roast chicken with them in the Palms Café. At 7:15 a local steel band played on the top deck and I had one long dance with Jane. At 7:45 the band started playing in the Neptune Lounge, but only a handful of pax were present. I danced one quickstep with a married lady, before going to bed at 8 pm (1 am body clock time).

Montego Bay, Jamaica
Friday the 22nd of January 2016

I awoke to my alarm at 6:30 am having slept for ten and a half hours! I breakfasted on a freshly made cheese omelette with Stan the Blackpool comedian, before walking the two miles into the town. I went into the old Anglican church and shelled out $6 to go in the museum & art gallery, which had a special exhibition on Rastafarianism. I used the free wi-fi outside of Burger King to pick up my MAN -> LHR return flight details, before walking back to the ship.

I lunched on roast pork and chips with Jane and Stan, before sleeping for over two hours. After the safety drill, we had the Cruise Director's welcome meeting, where he asked me to help out with the line dancing. Up on the top deck, the sailaway had already started. I had one jive with Jane and then led off the Electric Slide. I swam and jacuzzied as the sun set over the Caribbean sea and the full moon came up - heaven! I dined on salmon salad with the dance team, before dancing three sets, with Jill, Norma & Pat in the first two, and Cath & Ann in the last. In between sets, I watched the "West End to Broadway" production show with Christine the craft instructress & her husband from Bristol. I went to bed at 10:30 having finally got over the inevitable jet lag.

First Sea Day
Saturday the 23rd of January 2016

I awoke at 6 am and worked on my presentations. I breakfasted on one pre-prepared egg Benedict at 7:30 with Stan, before speaking to Tours Manager William. At 9:45 I gave my first two port talks: "San Miguel, Cozumel Island, Mexico" and "Belize City, Belize (formerly British Honduras)". With two ports to cover, I spoke for 55 of my 60 allocated minutes. At 11:15 one of the dancers ran the line dancing session, she taught Cowboy Charleston & Texas Stomp, whilst I taught Texas Waltz. I lunched on roast lamb and chips with Don and Jim, before sleeping for over two hours. I then jacuzzied for half an hour, but no swimming as both pools had been drained for maintenance purposes.

That evening I changed into my formal outfit ready for the Captain's welcome cocktail party. Here I danced with both Jane and Liz. I dined on burgundy beef on the usual table with the dance hosts, before attending the second cocktail party, where I danced with Jane and Marie. I danced after Clark Stewart's excellent singing show. He sang many Sinatra, Monroe and Lloyd-Webber standards which were much appreciated by the pax. I went to bed at 10:30 but only slept for eight hours.

San Miguel, Cozumel Island, Mexico
Sunday the 24th of January 2016

Tulum, Mexico

Tulum Mayan Ruins

Having woken early, I watched my first two port talks on the cabin television. I had the full English breakfast in the Thistle restaurant sat with three Norwegians and a chap from Nottingham. The Norges congratulated me on my first two port talks, saying they had understood everything that I had said except for the word "loo"! I escorted my first choice tour to the UNESCO world heritage site of Chichen Itza. We caught the waterjet ferry from the cruise pier, but unfortunately the on board wi-fi wasn't working. We then had a long coach ride from Playa del Carmen to join the new motorway from Cancun to Merida. We only had an hour and a half at the marvellous Mayan ruins. I was very impressed with the heavily restored pyramid and the famous ball court. Unfortunately we didn't see the Cenote sink hole or the famous astronomical observtory, nor could we climb any of the structures. I enjoyed the local packed lunch eaten in the coach on the return journey.

Back at the ship, I watched the sailaway from the top deck. I dined on pork cutlet with the dance team, before dancing both before and after the "All Shook Up" Elvis tribute production show. However there was a shortage of lady dancers, as some went to the quiz in the Morning Light pub instead. I went to bed at 10:30 and slept for nine hours having only dozed for one hour on the afternoon's coach ride.

Belize City, Belize (formerly British Honduras)
Monday the 25th of January 2016

I had the full English breakfast in the top deck Grampian restaurant with the former geography school teacher who, like me, had studied at Keele University. At 8:30 I escorted the "Tale of Two Cities" tour. After tendering ashore on a local boat, we drove out to the Altun Ha Mayan ruins. Although not as impressive as Chichen Itza, I was able to climb two enormous pyramids here! So this proved to be the high point of the cruise! Back at the city we had a short panoramic tour and finished with a rum punch. The latter was served in the Smokey Mermaid restaurant, where I was able to access their wi-fi. I dealt with one email, but FaceBook wouldn't let me upload my selfie from Chichen Itza. One of the other ships at anchor in the bay was hosting a gay cruise, so the city was full of young, American men in rather loud outfits!

I got back to the ship at 2:40 just before the Palms Café lunch buffet closed, so I was able to have some minestrone soup with stewed beef & chips. I then had a deep sleep for an hour and a half. At the sailaway I danced with both Liz and Jane. I dined on chicken at my usual window seat in the Palms Café with the dance hosts. At 7:30 I went to the "I haven't stopped dancing yet" disco show in the Coral Club for the first time this cruise. At 8:00 I danced to the orchestra back in the Neptune Lounge with a different lady for each dance, also for the first time this cruise. At 8:30 I retired to my cabin, as a magic show was about to begin. I then returned to the dance floor, where I was again kept busy. At 10:30 I had my first luxury hot chocolate of the cruise and then went to bed.

Second Sea Day
Tuesday the 26th of January 2016

I awoke at 7 am and breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Stan, Carmen the Irish lady and Brenda the thin lady. I checked in with William, before giving my 45 minute talk on Colón, Panama. Unfortunately I forgot that my first video did have a soundtrack accompanying it. At 11:15 I attended the Oceans cocktail party, where I was able to answer several questions arising from my previous talks. I lunched on roast lamb and chips with a chap from Rotherham, the two cruise sales ladies and two of the dancers. I then slept for an hour and a half, before attending the tea dance, where I danced with all the usual suspects. Sat in the Morning Light Pub, with a fruit kebab dipped in chocolate, the gent next to me introduced himself as Roy Elms, who I had shared a cabin with on my very first Saga Ruby cruise! I then had to re-record my morning's talk, which hadn't been recorded properly! This had happened on my last Black Watch cruise too, come back Bernard Mendoza all is forgiven!

At 6:15 I dined on duck in the Thistle restaurant as an Indian buffet was on in the Palms Café. I sat with Ann from Eastbourne, Margaret from Stockport, Elaine from Castle Combe and the Rev. Barry AKC from South Yorkshire. I danced at the post dinner session, but left when the game show started. I worked on this blog and my next few presentations, before returning for the dance session after Stan's comedy show.

Third Sea Day
Wednesday the 27th of January 2016

I awoke at 6:30 ready to breakfast on a cheese omelette at 7:30 with Stan and his two followers. I touched base with William, before giving my talks on the two Colombian ports interspersed with the Farewell tour in Barbados. I spoke for 45 minutes, before staying on for the Future Cruise presentation. I then lunched on fish and chips with Stan, John, Jane, Don & Jim. After sleeping for an hour and a half, I had a double scoop of pistachio ice cream at the Ents. Team station on the top deck. At 3:00 I went to Brian's police dog talk. At 5:45 I had my first soda and twiglets in the Observatory listening to Tony's piano playing. After dinner, I danced both before and after the "Let's Swing" production show which I watched with Jim. I particularly enjoyed dancing with cruise sales lady Janet from Liverpool.

Colón, Panama
Thursday the 28th of January 2016

I got up at 6:45 and breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Carmen & Brenda at 7:30. At 8 a.m. I escorted my first choice tour to Panama City. We crossed the Panamamian isthmus both ways on the toll motorway. First we had a loo stop by the fort guarding Old Panama. Next we had a photo stop at the Frank Gehry Bio Museum overlooking the Bridge of the Americas across the canal. At Fort Amador I was able to use the free wi-fi outside the Buccaneer restaurant as on my previous visit. Then we lunched al fresco at noon on a Subway chicken roll by the canal HQ building. The walking tour around the old quarter was very interesting, but very hot in the humid sunshine.

Back at the ship I lay down for less than an hour, before heading into the terminal looking for free wi-fi. Fortunately the lobby of the Radisson hotel had free internet terminals. I then swam and jacuzzied on the top deck. I dined on Chicken a la King with the dance team and Cruise Director Allan. He then bought me a drink in the Coral Club, as we watched the Frankie Valli tribute show together. At 8 p.m. I adjourned to the Neptune Lounge for dancing, before Clark's second and slightly less good show. At 10 p.m. some of the dancing ladies went to the quiz, so I had an early night.

Fourth Sea Day & Cartagena de Indias
Friday the 29th of January 2016

I got up at 7:30 and breakfasted alone at 8 am, as Stan and his harem departed. I touched base with William, before giving my talk on Aruba but not Bonaire, as our itinerary had changed. At 11 a.m. Hollie taught Ribbon of HIghway & Uptown Funk, whilst I taught the Party Samba. After lunch and a lie down, I escorted the enjoyable Horse & Carriage Ride through the Walled City tour with the lovely Sally. I dined on roast lamb with the dance host team, followed by dancing both before and after the stunning local folklore show. When the Braemar Band finished playing at 10 pm, I had my second luxury hot chocolate, before going to bed.

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
Saturday the 30th of January 2016

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Carmen & Brenda, before walking the three miles into the city. I found free wi-fi and free loos in the impressive air conditioned public library (Biblioteca Bartolome Calvo), so I was finally able to upload my selfies from Chichen Itza and Panama City to FaceBook! I then walked the three miles back to the ship in 40 minutes via the lovely Bayside walkway. I lunched on gammon and chips with all the professional entertainers: the comedian Stan, the singer Clark and the magician Andrew together with Jane. I then slept for an hour and a half.

At 4 pm I taught California Frieze, Just Because & Lindi Shuffle to 15 people, competing against the lovely weather and the sailaway from Cartagena. At 4:45 we rushed upstairs to join the sailaway party. We danced the Electric Slide, I led off the Party Samba with Jane & Pat and then had a jive with Liz. I had a short swim and shared the jacuzzi with three ladies, before having my first strawberry & lime cider with twiglets in the Observatory. At 6:30 I dined with the dance host team on fish cake (potato), cottage pie (potato) and croquette potatoes! At 7:30 we had a short dance set, before the British Night singalong and Cool Britannia showtime, which I watched from my cabin.

Santa Marta, Colombia
Sunday the 31st of January 2016

I awoke at 7:15 and breakfasted on one cheese omelette, before escorting the Historical Tour. We began at the famous hacienda, where Simón Bolivar died. This has lovely gardens and an enormous mausoleum to the liberator of most of Central and South America. We had a choice of ice cold drinks here. We then stopped at the viewpoint overlooking the Taganga fishing village. Back in the city we viewed the Cathedral and the new gold museum in the old customs house. For only the third time in over one hundred cruises, the bus had free wi-fi on board, so I was able to upload that morning's selfie to FaceBook!

Back at the ship, I lunched on roast beef (it was Sunday after all!), before touching base with William. At 3 pm I gave my final port talk on Bridgetown, Barbados, which lasted 45 minutes with two video clips at the end. A lady who lives on Barbados then came up to me to congratulate me on my talk on her island. She did point out that Francia House was now an expensive private school and so no longer open to the public. After a short lie down, I went swimming and jacuzzying. At 6:15 I dined in the Thistle Restaurant, as the Palms Café had an Asian buffet on. I was sat at the same table as before, with the same lady who talked all through the meal holding all of us up, and meaning I missed the first dance set! I made the mistake of ordering the surf & turf; the sirloin steak had a lot of gristle. I then wished that I had ordered the lamb shank! I did get to the Neptune Lounge at 8 pm for Dennis's merengue session. I then worked in my cabin during Stan & Andrew's variety show. Finally I returned to the Neptune Lounge for the between shows dance set.

Oranjestad, Aruba
Monday the 1st of February 2016

After breakfast, I walked along the front of Oranjestad to Fort Zoutman and the National Library, where I found free wi-fi. I walked back via the Renaissance beach and Wharfside market. I lunched at 11:15 in the Thistle restaurant, before escorting my first choice Island Highlights & Beach tour. We began at the California lighthouse, where we had to change buses. Next stop was the Casibari rocks, the American guide Amy said 15 minutes, but she actually talked for over thirty in very hot sunshine! We then visited the small Natural Bridge, the large one having collapsed! The final stop was an hour at Eagle beach, where I had my only swim in the Caribbean.

We didn't get back to the ship until 4:50, so I missed the 4:30 line dance class. At the 5 o'clock sailway I did the quickstep with Pat and chatted with the lovely Pam, leader of the Ramblers group on board. I dined at 6:30 as usual on chicken at my favourite seat with the dance host team, before dancing at the pre-show dance set. The new "Non-Stop Europa" production show was excellent with Irish river dancing, Spanish Flamenco, the French can-can, Greek dancing, the English Lambeth Walk and Scottish Highland dancing! There were also Welsh (Delilah etc.) and Italian numbers (Time to say goodbye etc.) too. I danced after the show, before going to bed.

Fifth Sea Day
Tuesday the 2nd of February 2016

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Stan, Carmen and Brenda as usual, before working in my cabin. At 10 am I saw William to discuss my next cruise, M1606, the Spanish & French river cruise in March. At 10:30 I went to Dennis's Salsa class in the Coral Club, whilst at 11:30 I ran my final line dance class. I taught Texas Waltz, Slosh & Ziggy to thirty people in the Neptune Lounge. After a pasta and pepperoni lunch, I slept for two hours. At 3 pm I watched the passenger talent show from my cabin, before swimming and jacuzzying in rather cold waters. At 5:45 and again at 8 pm I attended the Captain's farewell cocktail party, doing some chatting but little dancing. I finally got to dine on the lovely lamb shank in the Palms Café. I danced before, between and after the Crew Show. The only new act was the Thai dance with a large, waving sheet. Wilmar's sand painting was the final impressive act as usual. This was the only time this cruise that I attended the final dance set after the second house. At 11:45 I went to the Gala Buffet and enjoyed some seafood and a fruit kebab dipped in the white chocolate fountain! This was the only time this cruise that I indulged at the midnight buffet!

Bridgetown, Barbados
Wednesday the 3rd of February 2016

I awoke at 7:40 before enjoying the full English breakfast. I liased with William to collect some of his photographs for my next cruise M1606, Spanish & French rivers. At 10 am I went to Jane's Mayfair Quickstep class where I partnered the lovely Liz. At 11:30 I passed quickly through the immigration process in the Coral Club. I then lunched on lobster and prawns at the Thistle Restaurant's seafood buffet.

In the terminal I was able to use the free wi-fi, before escorting my first choice tour at 1:30. We began at the George Washington house. Peter the house guide spoke for over thirty minutes, so we only had ten minutes free time to explore the house and grounds. We had a photo stop at the Garrison Clocktower together with part of the National cannon collection. The bus driver/guide dropped us off at the historic screwdock and then buggered off, probably to do the school run. I found someone at the dock to give us a brief introduction, before we had our rum punch, only my second of the cruise. However, with nearly an hour and a half to kill, some pax decanted on to the Carlisle beach and I walked along to the famous Boatyard bar, where Clark took my photograph. Back at the ship, I started to pack. I dined on roast pork with the team followed by dancing both before and after the variety show of the three cabaret artistes.

Bridgetown, Barbados
Thursday the 4th of February 2016

I awoke at 6:30 and breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Stan, Brenda & Carmen at 7:30. I worked on this blog until I had to vacate my cabin at 9:00. I dumped my hand luggage in the Neptune Lounge and then walked into town. Back at the ship, I lunched on pasta bolognese at noon. I had a lay down in the old Guest Relations office, but this was disturbed by the waiters sorting piles of fresh fruit! At 1:15 the final group for the Manchester flight was called and I disembarked. On the quayside Elliot Taylor greeted me with a hug, having just arrived on the Braemar. The airport was quite straightforward, as our luggage had been taken directly from the ship. We took off only five minutes late, and got to Manchester Ringway airport after less than eight hours. I had been allocated a centre seat between magician Andrew and pianist Tony, so, after takeoff, I moved in to the one spare aisle seat in the next row. Unfortunately I was now sat next to a man with personal hygiene problems at both ends! I had the chicken for dinner, slept for one hour, then frittered the flight away playing freecell.

Manchester Ringway Airport (MAN)
to Bournemouth via London Heathrow (LHR)
Friday the 5th of February 2016

Arriving at 4:30 am, Immigration was a bit shambolic. British Airways wouldn't let me check-in for 3/4 of an hour, and there were no seats to sit on. After check-in and security I finally found a power socket to charge my smartphone up. The flight to LHR was uneventful, save my light switch failing. So I took the opportunity to move forward to a window seat for the landing. The hot cheese and bacon pannini was lovely! At Heathrow I had to wait for the 11:30 direct coach to BoMo. In Terminal 5 I bumped into Pam, the Ramblers leader. She had been on a Virgin Atlantic scheduled flight to Gatwick and had then transfered to LHR for the Manchester shuttle! If only we could have swopped flight tickets. I got home before 2 pm after another super cruise!

One lady from Carnforth later wrote: "I enjoyed the ballroom dancing on the cruise, particularly the rumba which I had not done before. Dancing with you was like dancing with my dad when I was a teenager. (Take that as a compliment!). I enjoyed our brief encounter, and I hope we may one day saunter together again." (N.B. Carnforth was the location of the film Brief Encounter and Saunter Together is a popular sequence dance!) She also wrote: "The dancing was a bonus, as were the line dancing and of course your excellent port lectures!"

Passengers wrote in their questionnaire: "Best port lecturer I've heard" and "Doc Martin very good port talks"

The Cruise Director wrote: "Martin is a really strong guest speaker with good presentations well researched. He also assists with line dancing and other duties, a top man."



Score card:

7 Port talks given
7 Tours escorted
7 Line dances taught

Good points were:

  1. Twiglets!
  2. Slopchest
  3. Open foredeck
  4. Two show lounges
  5. Four storey atrium
  6. Expansive top deck
  7. New Bookmark café
  8. Planning spreadsheet
  9. In cabin tea & coffee
  10. Escorting seven tours
  11. Giving seven port talks
  12. Triple aspect Palms Café
  13. All round promenade deck
  14. Teaching seven line dances
  15. Twin outside cabin all to myself!
  16. Dining in the Thistle resturant twice
  17. Forward facing Observatory Lounge
  18. Two warm pools and two hot jacuzzis

For the record ...

Free wi-fi:

Burger King, main street downtown Montego Bay, Jamaica
Smokey Mermaid, Fort Street, Belize.
Buccaneer Restaurant, Fort Amador, Panama City
Radisson Hotel, Colón, Panama
Public Library, Cartagena
Tour Bus, Santa Marta
National Library, Oranjestad, Aruba
Renaissance Hotel, Oranjestad, Aruba
Cruise Terminal, Bridgetown, Barbados
Blackwoods Screwdock Bar, Bridgetown, Barbados
FLOW mobile phone store, Swan Street, Bridgetown, Barbados