Mystery Cruise M1611 on the Braemar to Scandinavia

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
05/05/2016 Dover
- On board
by 2:30 p.m.
07/05/2016 Larvik
City Tour Glorious day!
08/05/2016 Hundested
Coast, Church
& Elevenses!
Glorious day!
09/05/2016 Nyborg
& Elevenses!
Glorious day!
10/05/2016 Wismar
Rostock city tour Glorious day!
11/05/2016 Fredericia
Odense city tour Glorious day!
12/05/2016 Lysekil
Seal Safari! Glorious day!
14/05/2016 Dover
- Home by 1:15 p.m.

Embarkation Day, Dover
Thursday the 5th of May 2016

I left home at 9:00 a.m. in a Streamline taxi en route for BoMo station. I caught the five car 9:18 train, but the air was full of announcements about a fire at Vauxhall station just outside Waterloo. The train gradually filled up with some people having to stand and an extra stop was made at Woking, which had had a reduced service that morning. We were encouraged to get out at Clapham Junction, where I had only a few minutes to wait for a Victoria train. I then took the Victoria line under the West End to King's Cross. At St. Pancras International for the first time, I just missed the train to Faversham, so had to wait fifteen minutes for the Javelin high speed train to Ramsgate in Kent. We stopped at Stratford International and Ebbsfleet, before alighting at Ashford International. I only had to wait ten minutes for the next train to Folkestone. I got out at Folkestone West to catch the bus replacement service to Dover for the second time. Apparently the rebuilding of the line through Folkestone Warren will take until December at the earliest.

At Dover Priory Jackie from Stowmarket offered to share a taxi with me, which I was able to pay for on expenses. At Cruise Terminal Two the security check had been brought forward in front of the check-in desks and I didn't have a ticket! So I had to be escorted through to check-in by the head of security with the Dover Port Authority! I was given a gold embarkation card and waved straight through again, so I was on the ship by 2:30. I met up with my cabin mate, John Duggan, and then had a lie down, before the safety drill. We stayed on in the Neptune Lounge for the Entertainers' cocktail party. It was good to meet up again with Michelle, Marina, Claire, Ronnie, Jennie, Paul, Jon, Lloyd and new boys Sean and Aidan. We thus missed the sailaway on the top deck, as we headed east out of Dover. I started work on this blog, before showering and having my first soda in the Observatory, as we turned north towards Norway. I dined on ham & chicken, but gave the lobster claws a miss, at 6:30 at my favourite table in the Palms Café as usual. With no pax in the Neptune Lounge at 7:30, I had my first cha cha with the lovely Jennie. Then Brenda & Carol from the Isle of Man arrived, followed by Mary from Darlington and oriental Cristina. I also danced with Helen from Sevenoaks, Margaret from Chertsey and petite Dorothy. During the "West End to Broadway" show I updated this blog. We danced again between the shows, but Brenda & Carol left before 10 p.m. to win the quiz in the Morning Light pub. I watched the second house, before dancing with reduced numbers of returnees, so I was able to waltz with the lovely Jennie. With no dancers in the Coral Club we went to bed at 11:45.

Martin, Peter, Michael, Paul & Jennie

Me on the left with Paul & Jennie on the right,
taken on an earlier cruise!

First Sea Day
Friday the 6th of May 2016

Awoken at 7:15 it was now 8:15, so we knew we were going to the continent. However my Medion smartphone from Aldi started playing up and I was unable to use it for the duration of the cruise. With no free wi-fi on FOCL ships and a sick phone there were no selfies on this cruise! I had to seek out free internet terminals in each port and wished that I had brought my Acer smartphone with me as backup. Rey the breakfast chef recognised me and started preparing a cheese omelette, which I ate with John and a couple from Ispwich. At 10 a.m. I attended Lancaster Professor Terry Keefe's lecture on the Atlantic and North Sea mysteries. At 11:30 we had the singles gathering in the Coral Club hosted by Claire & Tom. I lunched on ham salad & chips with the team at 12:30 before attending Jennie's ballroom & latin american dance class, where she taught the basics of the waltz, cha cha AND social foxtrot in three quarters of an hour!

At 4:00 I went to the line dance class but the girls didn't turn up until five past. Jade taught California Frieze & Cowboy Charleston, whilst I taught Texas Waltz as usual. I quickly changed into my penguin outfit ready for hosting the masonic meeting at 5 p.m. At 5:30 and 7:45 it was time for the Captain's welcome cocktail parties. At the first I danced with all the usual single ladies, but in the second only with Audrey. I dined on lamb stew with the team plus Sean and Viv. I watched both houses of Jon's superb show, what a voice he has! We again danced after the final show until 11:45.

Larvik, Norway
Saturday the 7th of May 2016

I awoke at 8 a.m., rushed to get ready and then breakfasted on the full English, as Rey was busy. I went out into the cold sunshine on the top deck to take my first pictures of Larvik, with huge slabs of the famous black rock Larvikite on the quayside. At 9:10 I walked one mile along the prom into the the old town. I took photographs of most of the main sights in the glorious sunshine. At the Grand Hotel I used their Apple Mac computer to access the internet and update my FaceBook status. Unfortunately it later transpired that I had failed to log out of FaceBook! I then walked back the two miles from the new town centre. I lunched at noon on chicken curry and ice cream sundae in the Thistle restaurant, before escorting my sixth choice city tour. We had a short walk around the old town, before having a panoramic tour of the new town and its extensive suburbs. Back at the ship, I updated this blog and back-upped my photographs. At the sailaway I danced with half a dozen different ladies including Margaret, Brenda, Carol and Dorothy. At the Oceans cocktail party I danced with several of the single ladies present. I dined on skirt steak and chips with the team plus Sean & Viv. We danced both before, between and after the two shows. By the time of the second show I was able to complete my Larvik powerpoint presentation! During the latter I was able to dance a jive with the lovely Jennie, as only Cristina had returned for the final set. We went to bed at midnight.

Hundested, Denmark
Sunday the 8th of May 2016

I awoke at 8 a.m. and breakfasted on a cheese omelette sat in my favourite window-side seat. Just before 9:00 a Viking battle was re-enacted on the quayside complete with four enormous Lur horns (as seen on packets of Lurpack butter!) I then escorted my second choice tour to Rasmussen the Greenland explorer's house, the local church and a local inn. At the latter we had raw herring on rye bread with raw egg yolk washed down with a bottle of local beer.

Back at the ship, I lunched on just chowder and strawberry cheesecake, before sleeping for two and a half hours. At 4 p.m. I sat on the shuttle bus for twenty minutes, before enjoying a tour of the town. We drove out to the lovely fishing village of Kikhavn and we got out to photograph the thatched fishermen's cottages. Back in the town, I got out at the central hotel, but their internet terminal wasn't connecting. I then walked back to the ship via three of the four havens. Luckily Jennie allowed me to use her iPhone to deal with my FaceBook hacker!

At 6:15 I went to the Thistle restaurant as there was an Indian buffet on in the Palms Café. I dined on cullen skink (killing skunk?) soup, steak & guinness pie and triple mixed ice creams. I was sat with a Lancashire lass from Skipton and the quietly spoken Geordie from Sunderland. We danced both before, between and after the magician's two shows. Having had a so-called de-caff instant coffee at 10:30, I found it difficult to get to sleep.

Nyborg, Denmark
Monday the 9th of May 2016

I awoke at 6:15 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I had an early breakfast of a freshly prepared cheese omelette. At the table, Viv the bridge instructor asked me to swap tours as she had developed a blister. So I got to do my first choice tour after all. We had a short photostop at Lykkesholm castle, before arriving at Egeskov castle. We toured the splendid tulip garden before entering the medieval castle. During the free time, I whizzed around the really excellent motor museums. The fire engine museum was superb and the car, van and motorcycle museums were also good. At 11:30 we had coffee and chocolate cake. I then finished off the beautiful gardens.

Back at the ship, I just had a bowl of soup for lunch and, having had a large, strong coffee for elevenses, forewent my siesta. I jumped on the 1:30 shuttle bus (without paying!) and headed straight for the tourist information office. They had a free internet terminal where I could deal with the comments on my being 'fraped' (FaceBook raped!) and was able to email both of my OU students. I visited the splendid castle, church and museum - all free for cruise pax! I toured the lovely old town and the three little harbours (we were moored in the commercial port). Back at the ship, I slept for an hour, before the the bow thrusters started up. I quickly changed and then went up to the Observatory for my second soda, this time with twiglets! However, when we got to the Great Belt suspension bridge, we turned south not north. So our next port must be Germany with a night time transit of the Kiel canal in the offing! I dined on stir-fried chicken and beef stew with the team plus Viv & Sean. There was only a half hour dance set before the British singalong, so I had an hour and a half to process my day's photos. We danced both between and after the production shows, with another hour spent finishing off my Nyborg powerpoint. We got to bed at midnight.

Wismar, East Germany
Tuesday the 10th of May 2016

We awoke before 7 a.m. and I had a cheese omelette with Sean and a lady. I was one of the first off the ship and spent three hours photographing all the main sights in the glorious sunshine. The T-mobile shop were unable to help me with my sick Aldi German phone, but I did update my status on FaceBook whilst waiting! I also picked up an email from the Sea Breeze agency saying that we had scored 1.5 (1 = Excellent, 2 = Good, 3 = Poor, 4 = Very Poor) on my last Saga cruise. I went in three chuches and the tourist information office.

Back at the ship I lunched in the Thistle restaurant on a mini mixed grill followed by the ice cream sundae, before escorting the afternoon tour to Rostock. I had handicapped Graham in tow as I visited the tourist information office and the public library, where I was again able to update my FaceBook status. The library's system allowed access to my old web site, but not to my new one: MPLee.Co.UK!

Back at Wismar we had a short stop in the main square, before getting back to the ship, where the fishermen were singing sea shanties on the shore. I had a slight tension headache, so had my first swim and jacuzzi in the glorious late afternoon sunshine. This was interrupted by the sound of gunfire, so I leapt out of the jacuzzi and watched the tin soldiers fire their muskets and saw a little cannon going off. I was late getting to dinner with the team plus Sean & Viv, where I had the beef chow mein stir fry. We danced one set before the Mr & Mrs game show, which enabled me to update this blog and process the morning's 145 photos! We also danced both between and after the production company's show, getting to bed at midnight.

Fredericia, Denmark
Wednesday the 11th of May 2016

We awoke at 7 a.m. and I breakfasted at 7:30 on a cheese omelette with Sean. We had arrived in Fredericia, but I had already been here last year on the Saga Sapphire. At 8:15 I escorted my first choice all day tour. We crossed the Little Belt suspension bridge to the island of Funen (Fyn in Danish pronounced Foon) and took the motorway to the central capital of Odense. After a short walkabout we arrived at the Hans Christian Andersen (HCA) birthplace and museum. Our guide, also called Christian, talked non-stop for an hour and a half. He should have talked for half an hour and given us half an hour of free time!

We had a traditional Danish lunch in an old pub of warm meatballs, cold pork and roll-mop herrings with salad. We had a bottle of local beer and unlimited coffee afterwards, so I was hyper all afternoon and evening. We walked past the cathedral, but it was closed for restoration, and then past HCA's childhood home too. We then caught our coach to the island's splendid outdoor museum. Again the guide talked for a solid hour, but he did give us the option of doing the museum on our own, so I was able to rush around and see everything. The highlight was the sow with seven piglets - Danish bacon!

Back at the ship, I walked into town to use the internet at the library. Back at the ship again, Marina told me that I would be getting a lecture slot on the last sea day. We then had our second sailaway, where I danced with Margaret, Mary, Brenda & Carol. I then popped down to give Geraldine in the office the title of my talk. I slipped into my cossie, but back up on the top deck the wind had strengthened, so I had to make do with a shower. With an Asian buffet on in the Palms Café, I dined in the Thistle restaurant at the same table as before. I had the asparagus soup, which was mostly mushroom, the steak & guinness pie (again!) and the triple mix ice cream. We danced both before, between and after the production company's showtime. I processed my photographs whilst the first show was on and then watched the second house. I always enjoy their Spanish, Italian, Grecian, French, Irish, Welsh, Scottish & English dancing and singing in the Non-stop Europa showtime! We got to bed at midnight.

Lysekil, Sweden
Thursday the 12th of May 2016

I awoke at 7 a.m. and breakfasted on a cheese omelette as usual. At 9 a.m. I escorted the boat trip to see the offshore seals. The guide couldn't operate the microphone properly, despite both the driver and me showing her what to do! She still hadn't got the hang of it (holding it horizontally, not vertically), when my colleague John had her in the afternoon! Then the driver went to all the trouble of changing the coach in order to get a microphone that she could use! Back at the ship I lunched at noon in the Thistle restaurant on one southern fried chicken drumstick and chips, followed by the ice cream sundae. I then walked into town taking photographs of most of the main sights, such as they were. I then caught the 2:45 shuttle bus back to the ship (without a ticket!) I got back to the ship at 3 p.m. ready for the emigration (not immigration) inspection as we were leaving the Schengen area! We danced at the sailaway with Brenda, Carol and some other ladies. At 5:45 we attended the first of the Captain's farewell cocktail parties. I dined on pork with Viv, Sean and the team, before the second cocktail party. We danced between and after the crew show, which ended with Wilmar's sand painting as usual, but not his little Willy act. At 11:45 John and I went to the Grand Gala Buffet in the Thistle restaurant, so we didn't get to bed until after midnight.

Second Sea Day
Friday the 13th of May 2016

I awoke at 8 a.m. and, since Rey had a queue, I opted for the full English breakfast, sat on a round table with Jackie and others. Back in the cabin I updated this blog. At 10:00 I listened to Terry's "Mysteries of the Baltic" talk. At 11:00 I gave my well received talk on "Hamlet: Prince of Denmark". I lunched on fish, chips & mushy peas (it was Friday the 13th!), giving the lobster claws a miss. At 2 p.m. Jennie taught her Salsa class, where I partnered Mary and two other ladies. At 3:45 we had the tea dance, but the orchestra only played for less than half an hour. I had my first siesta in days until 6 p.m., when I packed. At 6:30 I dined on roast lamb with Sean, Viv & the team for one last time. At 7 p.m. we had a short dance set for the second sitting guests, but only veteran cruiser Audrey was present. At the end of the variety show of Lloyd, Jon, Aidan and the production company, we had our walk-on, where Michelle mentioned my lecture. We only had a few dances (Audrey, Brenda, Carol, Mary, Eve, Margaret & Janet) between shows as the programme had been compressed. We had another walk-on at the second show for first sitting guests. We danced after the show until 10:30, which didn't please some of the ladies who wanted more. We had a final photo session for a dozen dancers on the oval dance floor. I then had my one and only luxury hot chocolate with John in the Bookmark Café. We finally got to bed at 11:30.

Disembarkation Day, Dover, England
Saturday the 14th of May 2016

The bow thrusters awoke us at 6:15 but it was only 5:15 BST! At 6 a.m. I breakfasted on my final cheese omelette with John, Sean and a gent from North Yorkshire. The latter asked me for one of my slides from my Hamlet talk! We were off the ship by 8 a.m. and only had to queue for 12 minutes to get a taxi to Folkestone station. John bought me a hot chocolate in the station buffet, before catching the 9:00 Javelin to St. Pancras. I then caught the 9:14 to Charing Cross, alighting at Waterloo East. I then caught the 11:05 from Waterloo to BoMo and got home at 1:15 after a fantastic cruise!

One gent later wrote: "Over breakfast last Saturday I mentioned how much I had enjoyed your talk on Hamlet and asked if you could possibly send me a copy of one particular slide. The slide in question came in the Conclusion section of your talk and compared the real life of James 1 and that of the fictional Hamlet" He then wrote: "Thank you very much. Exactly what I wanted"

One lady later wrote: "Many thanks for being such fun on the mystery cruise. Hamlet currently available in episodes on BBC radio iPlayer. All the best." She also wrote a propos my lecture that "It was just right. I wasn't expecting Stanley Wells, but you made the connections between James I's life, and Denmark very clearly."

Another lady wrote: "Enjoyed your lecture on Hamlet. One lady said to me: 'I did not know he is so academic!' I said: 'Not only that, he is a good dancer too'!"

Yet another lady wrote: "Keep dancing and lecturing!"

A fourth lady wrote: "Martin approached Hamlet from a most interesting and original angle!"

The Deputy Cruise Director wrote: "It is always a pleasure to have you on board."

A passenger wrote on their questionnaire: "The dance host team were very good."

My colleague wrote: "It was a great pleasure to share the cabin and cruise with you, you are a lovely person and very talented!! I also found your lecture most interesting and absorbing and easy to follow. An excellent presentation!!"



Score card:

6 Maiden calls
6 Tours escorted
5 New ports (Not Fredericia)
5 Cocktail parties attended
1 Line dance taught
1 Lecture given

Good points were:

  1. One lecture
  2. Open foredeck
  3. Four deck atrium
  4. Expansive top deck
  5. Planning spreadsheet
  6. In cabin tea & coffee
  7. Teaching 1 line dance
  8. Triple aspect Palms Café
  9. All round promenade deck
  10. Efficient stewardess (Nipharat)
  11. Two warm pools and two hot jacuzzis

For the record ...

New PowerPoints:

66 slides Larvik
46 slides Hundested
44 slides Nyborg
60 slides Wismar
88 slides Lysekil

Updated PowerPoint:

61 slides Fredericia

Free Internet Terminals: Grand Hotel, Larvik, Norway Tourist Information Office, Nyborg, Denmark Public Library (Bibliotek), Rostock, East Germany Tourist Information Office, Fredericia, Denmark Public Library (Bibliotek), Lysekil, Sweden