Cruise M1606 on the Braemar
"Rivers of France & Spain"

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
18/03/2016 Dover
- On board by 2:30 p.m.
21/03/2016 Lisbon
- Quarantined!
23/03/2016 Seville
- Five Holy Week Processions!
25/03/2016 Vigo
The Oyster Route Drizzle
27/03/2016 Bordeaux
Bordeaux City Walk Sunny afternoons
30/03/2016 Honfleur
Route of the Abbeys Honfleur in a cold wind!
01/04/2016 Dover
- Home at 13:10

Embarkation Day, Dover - Friday the 18th of March 2016

A Streamline taxi got me to BoMo station for the 9 a.m. train to London. I had to shell out nearly Ł90 for an open return ticket to Dover! I crossed the footbridge from Waterloo to Waterloo East stations, but had to wait three quarters of an hour for my next train. This only went as far as Folkestone, owing to engineering works, despite what the ticket office at BoMo had said! So we were ferried on to Dover in a plush executive coach. At the check-in, I was surprised to see Cassie Edmundson as the Saga rep on duty. (Saga now sell other peoples cruises!) For the first time on FOCL, I was fast tracked on board by 2:30 p.m.!

After a single snack in the embarkation buffet, I said hello to Michelle & Geraldine in the Ents. office and to Sally in the Tours office. I then lay down for an hour, before the pax drill, where I met up with Margaret Jones again. This was followed by the Cruise Director's cocktail party, where we all introduced ourselves. I dined on escalope of turkey at my favourite window seat with the dance host team. I couldn't believe how many lady dancers appeared for the pre-show dance sets! I worked on this blog in my cabin whilst the "West End to Broadway" production show was on, before returning for the second dance set. I then went to bed at 10:30, after a long day travelling.

First Sea Day - Saturday the 19th of March 2016

I slept for eight hours, before breakfasting on a freshly prepared cheese omelette. I touched base with Tours Manager William, before giving my first port talk on Lisbon at 11:15. I finished in just under 45 minutes, just before the Captain's noon announcement. I lunched on roast lamb and chips with the dance host team, before sleeping for an hour. I watched Brian's talk on Rodgers & Hammerstein from my cabin, but actually went to the Neptune Lounge for Malcolm's talk on Dr. Crippen. I turned up for both of the Captain's welcome cocktail parties in case any passengers had questions on my morning's port talk. In between, I dined on lobster claws and cottage pie with the dance host team. I watched Clare Bonsu's excellent Dame Shirley Bassey tribute show, before dancing with the usual suspects until 10:30 p.m.

Second Sea Day - Sunday the 20th of March 2016

During the night I suffered from severe diarrhoea, so when I got up I phoned the medical centre. I was thus confined to my cabin for 48 hours and was unable to give my second port talk on Seville as planned. I had to watch from my cabin as the dancers ran the line dance class in its place. They taught Cowboy Charleston, Texas Stomp and a mixer partner dance to Cotton Eyed Joe. I ordered chicken for both lunch and dinner from the limited menu for quarantined guests.

Lisbon, Portugal - Monday the 21st of March 2016

Bridge over the Tagus, Lisbon

Bridge over the Tagus, Lisbon

I slept for eight and a half hours, before breakfasting on a couple of slices of toast with butter and marmite. I had calls from Margaret and Sheila asking after my health and a lovely get well soon card from dancers Maureen & Olive. I now regretted having eaten the lobster claws the night before! Again I lunched and dined on grilled chicken with baked potato. Thank goodness for Sky News on the television. It was fortuitous that IDS (Irritable Duncan Syndrome?) had just resigned, making the news interesting!

Third Sea Day & Seville Evening - Tuesday the 22nd of March 2016

I awoke at 6:20 a.m., which was now 7:20, and was now free to leave my cabin. I breakfasted on a cheese omelette, before touching base with William. At 9:30 I attended Gladys's interesting presentation entitled "Seville Processions and Holy Week in Spain" with Margaret. I then spent three quarters of an hour walking around the top deck in glorious sunshine. I lunched on ham and chips with Sheila & Brian, but was unable to have my siesta as my cabin was being disinfected, so I sat chatting with Rambler Anne in the Observatory. At 3:15 p.m. I gave my talks on Vigo and Santiago de Compostela.

I then adjourned to the top deck to watch the cruise up the Guadalquivir river. The sunshine subsequently gave way to a thunderstorm. I watched the passage through the new lock, under the southern ring road cable stayed bridge and then through the Delights (Delicias) lifting bridge. After dinner, I went to the Big Band Show but, after five minutes, Michelle made the clearance annoucement, so I slipped out of the Neptune Lounge. I walked ashore and investigated the Holy Week ceremonial process walkway (Carrera Oficial). Eventually I found a good pitch in the Victory Duke's Place (Plaza Duque de la Victoria) to watch where three processions merged. I saw three large floats (Pasos), one marching band and lots of penitents in white Ku Klux Klan style outfits (Capirotes). The full moon came out and the air was filled with the scent of orange blossom and incense! I got back to the ship at 11:30 in time for the midnight buffet.

Seville, Spain - Wednesday the 23rd of March 2016

Me at the Archbishop's Palace in Seville

Me at the Archbishop's Palace in Seville

I was awoken at 8:15 a.m. by a phone call from Margaret Jones, who wanted to know that I had got back alright! Unusually I had a late breakfast and, having no tour to escort, I walked into the city. I crossed the first fixed bridge over the river to explore the west bank of the Guadalquivir. I walked all the way to the extensive Charterhouse Carthusian monastery (Monasterio de la Cartuja). In the Triana suburb, I saw four more static floats in two chapels. Crossing back to the east bank, I hurried back to the ship via the new shopping mall in the old railway station (Antigua Estación de Córdoba).

After a roast lamb lunch, I slept for two hours, before walking back into the city. Neither tourist information office knew where Diego Velazquez, the famous Spanish painter, had been born. However one officer directed me to St. Peter's church (Iglesia de San Pedro) where he said a baptismal plaque was in place. En route, I encountered the San Bernardo procession of one float, one band and lots of penitents in black and white outfits. Carrying on, I reached St. Peter's where I saw another float, band and penitents this time all in black, carrying large crosses. They provided an incongruous sight marching under the huge wooden mushrooms of the new market structure (Metropol Parasol)! I then walked back to the ship via the lovely Maria Luisa park.

Back at the ship, I took my first dip in the outdoor pool and wallowed in the jacuzzis for half an hour. I then dined at the tapas buffet for the very first time with the Chaplain and his wife. I danced at the first dance set, but then went outside to see the ship reverse out and turn around in the old harbour. I went back in to watch Clare's second show. This was not as popular as her first show with the pax, as it included a lot of songs by young singers like K. T. Tunstall. I danced after the show and then retired with Jeanette to the Coral Club for Conor James's solo musical theatre cabaret. Unfortunately, as with Clare, I knew few of the modern songs from musicals of which I had never heard. I had a single southern fried chicken drumstick in the midnight buffet.

Fourth Sea Day - Maundy Thursday the 24th of March 2016

Margaret kindly awoke me with a promised wake-up call at 7:30 a.m. After breakfast, I touched base with William, before giving my 45 minute port talk on Bordeaux. I stayed on for Brian's talk on Grieg which he read accompanied by a few static pictures. I lunched on turkey with Brian, but not Sheila, who now had his cold, as I had predicted! We were then joined by the Opal lecturer Kate who has homes in both Sydney, Australia and Long Beach, California! When she left, Cassie the Saga Rep. arrived and told me about the medical evacuation the previous afternoon. I then slept for one and three quarter hours.

From my cabin, I watched Malcolm's talk on the Fred. Olsen ships and listened to Kevin & Cynthia's communal singing session (not a classical recital as billed)! I thus caught up with processing my Seville photographs and updating this blog. I went up to the top deck for a swim but, although the sun was out, the cold north wind precluded any bathing! I dined on a single spare rib with Brian but not Sheila or the two dance hosts. I danced both before and after the "Let's Swing" production show, before adjourning to the Coral Club for Sarah's cabaret. Up in the midnight buffet, I couldn't resist a small gammon, egg and chips!

Vigo, Spain - Good Friday the 25th of March 2016

I didn't awake until after 8 a.m. and so had another late breakfast. After doing some ironing, I went to the line dance class. The professional dancers taught Honky Tonk Stomp & California Frieze whilst I taught Texas Waltz. Just before noon the ship was cleared and I rushed over to the two tourist information offices to collect maps and leaflets. Back on the ship I had a quick lunch, before escorting my sixth choice, the Oyster Route walking tour. During the tour it began to drizzle and we trudged around the wet streets. We ended at the famous Oyster street which is now a covered arcade. I gave the oysters a miss, but we clubbed together to buy a couple of bottles of the local white wine for €15 each bottle, €3 per person. Back at the ship again, I slept for one hour, before dining on shank of veal alone. Brian & Sheila were still ill and the two dance hosts hadn't got back from their respective tours! I danced before and after Brenda Collins hilarious show, but went to my cabin at 10 p.m. to shorten my Rouen & Paris talks. That night I started coughing.

Fifth Sea Day - Saturday the 26th of March 2016

I slept for eight and a half hours, before breakfasting on a cheese omelette as usual. I touched base with William, who ominously wanted me to remove all mention of Paris in my morning talk. So I re-instated the slides I had hidden from my Rouen talk to compensate for not covering Paris! I talked for 40 minutes in my final port talk, without coughing once. I then stayed on for the future cruise presentation, sitting with Jean. I lunched on roast pork with Brian and Sheila, but both were not very well, just having recovered from influenza. I then slept for an hour, before attending the tea dance. I did every dance, bar the St. Bernard Waltz, when I slipped out to nab a chocolate bunny. I danced with all the usual suspects, except Maureen from Liverpool.

Whilst dining on burgundy beef, the Captain announced that we would stay an extra day in Bordeaux to avoid storm Katie in the Bay of Biscay. This meant we would miss out on Rouen, with a stop at Honfleur instead. Since I had never berthed at the latter, this was good news for me! I went to the British singalong, followed by the Cool Britannia show. I danced until 10 pm, but I now had a full-blown head cold, so I went to bed.

Bordeaux, France - Easter Sunday the 27th of March 2016

After breakfast, I went up to the Observatory lounge to watch the sail-in along the Gironde estuary. After berthing, I walked through the Sunday market in the rain. I lunched at noon in the Thistle restaurant, before escorting my third choice walking tour. The microphone wouldn't work in our coach, so we did the walking tour first, before changing to a more modern coach. The sun came out and it was a fine afternoon. I slept for an hour before dinner. I danced at an early 7 pm dance date, before watching the crew cabaret, hosted by the talented Wilmar Casa. He began the show with his Mrs Jones puppet and finished it with his famous sand paintings, particularly appropriate for Easter Sunday. I danced both between and after the cabaret, watching the sand painting finale for a second time. Again I went to bed early.

Bordeaux, France - Easter Monday the 28th of March 2016

After breakfast, I went ashore visiting St. Louis's church and the Marks Quay (Quai des Marques) shopping centre, but it was drizzling. After lunch of a single bowl of soup and an hour & a half's siesta, I caught the €1.50 tram to St. John's Station (Gare St.-Jean). I walked back through the city, taking pictures of the famous gates, in the afternoon sunshine again. I dined with Brian & Sheila, again on a single bowl of soup. I danced at the first set only, going back to the Palm's Café for a second bowl of soup. I went to bed at 9 pm and slept for 9 hours!

Sixth Sea Day - Tuesday the 29th of March 2016

I awoke at 6 am and, after showering, updated this blog. I breakfasted on a cold egg Benedict with Margaret, before catching the €1.50 tram to Place de la Victoire. I then walked back via the city centre taking pictures under the overcast sky. Back at the ship, Brian had had computer problems and overran his slot by 20 minutes! At 11:05, I taught Ziggy in the line dance class, despite not feeling too well. Hollie taught Country Walkin' and Emma taught the Red Hot Salsa. I lunched on roast duck and chips with the dance host team, before sleeping for an hour and a half. At 4:15 pm I watched the helicopter arrive and then depart with the pilot on board. It was labelled Pilote BX where BX stands for Bordeaux. I used to drive a Citröen BX Pilot car!

Citröen BX Pilot

Citröen BX Pilot

I then snuck in to the Neptune Lounge where Kevin and Cynthia were holding their next light classical recital. Around six o'clock I watched the two-tone common dolphins jumping around the ship for half an hour. After dinner, I went to Tom's cabaret in the Coral Club. I particularly enjoyed his version of Olly Murs "I just want to dance with you". At 8 p.m. I went to the second dance set in the Neptune Lounge, before watching the Elvis show "All Shook Up". I danced between the shows until 10:15, before going back to listen to Tom's second show. I went to bed at 11:15 having partaken of just one southern fried chicken drumstick.

Seventh Sea Day - Wednesday the 30th of March 2016

I awoke at 7:15 a.m. and breakfasted on a cheese omelette. At 10 a.m. I taught Just Because in the line dance class. Hollie taught the one wall version of Stroll Along and another dancer taught Blue Rose Is I stayed on in the Neptune Lounge with Jean to listen to Brian's talk on Elgar. I lunched on gammon and chips with Brian & Sheila before having a deep sleep. I walked around the top deck in sunshine not feeling too well again. I changed into my formal outfit, but didn't go into the lounge early. I slipped in at 6 p.m. and sat at the back. I watched the crew show and then had another early night, not dancing at all and missing out on the grand buffet.

Honfleur, France - Thursday the 31st of March 2016

I was awoken at 6 a.m. by our berthing, but went back to sleep until my alarm woke me at 7 a.m. I dined on another cold egg Benedict with Margaret, before escorting my first choice tour along the Route of the Abbeys. We began at the substantially intact St. George's abbey in the village of St. Martin. We then went to the romantic ruins of Jumieges abbey. We saw the majestic Seine valley which we were supposed to have cruised along and crossed the impressive Brotonne cable stayed bridge twice.

Back at the ship I lunched and then slept for an hour and a quarter, before being the only person to catch the 4 p.m. shuttle bus into town. I visited the tourist information office and then blitzed around the sights taking photos under the overcast skies. It brightened up as I walked back to the ship, but there was a cold north wind. I dined on sweet & sour pork with Brian, Sheila, Brenda and her companion. I then danced at the pre-show dance set, including a cha cha and a jive with Sheila. I watched the second variety show with John from Liverpool, who kindly bought me a pint of lager. I danced after the show and then we had a photo session as we said our goodbyes.

Disembarkation Day, Dover - Friday the 1st of April 2016

Berthing at Dover woke me at 6 a.m., but I went back to sleep until 7 a.m. I had my final cheese omelette for breakfast, before disembarking at 8:15. The taxi man was the same Kurd who had delivered me to the ship two weeks before! I managed to catch the rail replacement bus to Folkestone just before it left. At Folkestone West railway station the fast Javelin train to St. Pancras arrived after five minutes, with my slow train to Waterloo East fifteen minutes later. I crossed the foot bridge to Waterloo mainline station and only had five minutes to wait for the next BoMo train. I was home by 13:10!

One couple later wrote: "It was a pleasure to meet up with you. We will follow your site with even more interest now we have met." One lady later wrote: "I thought it was a very good cruise with excellent company, thanks for your part in it."



Score card:

4 Port talks (Lisbon, Vigo & Santiago de Compostela, Bordeaux, Rouen
                   but not Seville or Paris)
3 Line dances taught (Texas Waltz, Just Because, Ziggy)
3 Cocktail parties attended
3 Tours escorted
1 New port visited (Honfleur)

Good points were:

  1. Own cabin
  2. Four port talks
  3. Open foredeck
  4. Four deck atrium
  5. Expansive top deck
  6. Planning spreadsheet
  7. In cabin tea & coffee
  8. Teaching 3 line dances
  9. Triple aspect Palms Café
  10. All round promenade deck
  11. Two warm pools and two hot jacuzzis

For the record ...