Cruise M1826 on the Braemar to Germany

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
- On board
by 9:45!
- Overcast
afternoon in
Schleswig City!
On Your Own
Overcast AM in the
Queen of the
(No tours) Overcast
(No tours) Sunny
- Sunny
- Home by

Embarkation Day, SoToN - Thursday the 25th of October 2018

   I awoke at 6:35, ten minutes before my alarm, and then left the house in a StreamLine taxi at 8:15. There was an RMT picket at the station, but the Cross Country train left at 8:45 on time. I was on board the Braemar by 9:45 as a visitor, ready to pre-record my first port talk on Hamburg.

   There was a short introduction to the Ramblers Association's Cruise & Walk Holidays going on in the Neptune Lounge. I began speaking at 10:55, but there was a technical hitch after ten minutes and so I had to re-start at 11:10. Ronnie recorded the lecture in his booth AND with a tripod mounted video camera, as the new electronic system on board has had some teething troubles. My 40 minute talk then went ahead without issue, but one of the recordings had a poor soundtrack. It was guests who told me this, as I had the old style TV in my cabin, so I couldn't access either recording!

   I got to my twin outside cabin at noon and unpacked, as I had brought my own luggage on board. At 12:30 I lunched on the chicken in the Thistle restaurant with the potential Cruise & Walk Ramblers. On the way back to my cabin, I bumped into the lovely Maureen & Jeff Errington, who had been on the previous Adriatic cruise as well. I then lay down for an hour, before ironing my shirts and exploring the ship. The only noticeable change was the lovely new upholstery in the Neptune Lounge.

Joan, Dennis, Dave, Maureen, Jeff, Cristina & Maureen

Joan, Dennis, Dave, Maureen, Jeff, Cristina & Maureen
On our previous German Rivers cruise!

   Back in my cabin, I began work on this blog and updated my PowerPoint presentations. After the safety drill we had the entertainers welcome cocktail party, where I was pleased to see Sean, Steve, Marc, Adam and Conie again. I then touched base with Sarah, Sally and Emma at the tours desk.

   I dined on the pork chops, sat with Sean and a couple from Bewdley: Pat & Ray. At the 7:30 dance set I danced with the lovely Maureen, Christine, Michelle and others. I was surprised to see Alan & Peter who live near Cemetery Junction close to me in BoMoH!

   At 8 o'clock the band took over from the lovely Maureen and oriental Cristina arrived. Nick opened the introductory show with a song, before calling Captain Les and myself forward to introduce our talks. The production company did a few songs, with Nick introducing other people in between. We danced between the shows and, after being introduced in the second show at 10:30, I went to bed.

First Sea Day, North Sea - Friday the 26th of October 2018

   I awoke at 6:30, but it was now 7:30 on German time. I had a cheese omelette with crispy bacon and tinned tomatoes. As it was going to be a formal night, Cava was available, so I had a Buck's Fizz made with cranberry juice. Back in the cabin I updated this blog.

   At 9.45 I gave my 40 minute talk on Flensburg. I then touched base with Sarah. At 11 o'clock the lovely Maureen taught the Social Foxtrot. Here I danced with Margaret and another lady.

   At noon Alix and Georgina taught the Cowboy Charleston & Slosh to fourteen guests. I lunched on chicken again at 12:30, sat with oriental Cristina in the Thistle restaurant. I then dozed for an hour, before giving my 40 minute talk on Travemünde & Lübeck at 3 o'clock. I then dozed for another hour, before changing into my formal outfit.

   At the Captain's first welcome cocktail party I danced twice with both Cristina & Aileen. I dined on the steak, sat with Sean, Ray from Bewdley and ex-dance host Ray. At the second cocktail party I just sat at the back with Ray, resting. While Marc's magic show was on, I updated this blog and prepared for our first port of call tomorrow. Between the shows, I danced with Cristina and a couple of other ladies. The dancing finished at 10:15 and I was asleep by 10:30!

Hamburg, Germany - Saturday the 27th of October 2018

   I awoke early and went up to the Observatory to watch the sail-in along the River Elbe as the dawn broke. I breakfasted in the Thistle Restaurant on the so-called Eggs Benedict, but it was actually Egg Royale! At 8:40 I was on duty escorting my sixth choice tour to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. We had a 90 minute drive along the autobahn to get to the site. We then had a 75 minute guided walk around the site to see the mass graves, the memorial obelisk and the room of silence. The only thing we missed was the wall of names.

   The site was beautiful in the autumn sun, with the red, gold and green of the foliage. We then had 90 minutes on our own in the huge museum and exhibition centre, which was very interesting, but I cried off watching the harrowing films made at the time of liberation by the British army. I didn't know about the British military trials which culminated in the hanging of a dozen senior SS officers in the aftermath. I shelled out 1 euro on the locker and 2 euros 50 on the lovely apple cake (apfelkuchen) in the cafeteria.

   Back at the ship just after three, I had just one small German sausage with a few chips, before sleeping for an hour and a half interrupted by the departure annoucement. Up in the Observatory, I had my first lime soda with twiglets of the cruise, watching the sail down the Elbe estuary passed the AirBus factory and airfield. We had a good view of their pregnant air freighter!

   I dined on the chicken yet again, sat with Sean and his two big fans, Pat & Ray from Bewdley. We danced before the show to Connie's singing, she had had a sore throat the previous evening. I watched the excellent Queen production show from the far corner of the Neptune lounge, with my second lime soda of the night. We danced again between the shows.

   At 10:30 I went to hear Sam's excellent cabaret in the Coral Club for the first time this cruise. She sang some lovely operatic arias and musical theatre songs. At 11 o'clock I went to the supper club for the first time this cruise to have a frankfurter and bockwurst with just a few chips, sat with Cristina. I went to sleep at 11:30.

Flensburg, Germany - Sunday the 28th of October 2018

   I awoke at 7 o'clock, but it was now 6 o'clock on wintertime. I went up to the Observatory to watch the exit from the Kiel Canal through the Holtenau locks after the night-time east bound transit. At 7:30 I breakfasted in the Thistle restaurant on the special Italian style egg, sat with oriental Cristina again. I then worked on my final port talk and this blog. At 9:45 I gave my 40 minute talk on Bremen. At 11:00 I enjoyed Captain Les's talk on Concorde. I had an early lunch, in the Thistle restaurant, of the crispiest oriental duck I have ever had, followed by the lovely Eton Mess sundae, sat with dance hosts Stephen from Chorley & Derrick originally from British Guiana, and now living in Ipswich.

   At one o'clock I escorted my third choice tour: Highlights of Holstein with guide Björn, which means Bear! We began with a photostop at Glucksburg castle, before driving to the old capital of Schleswig. We had twenty minutes in the fishing suburb of Holm, before visiting Gottorf castle. An excellent guide showed us the famous bog mummies and the enormous post-Roman (not Viking) long boat from 320 AD. This had rowers, but no mast and sails, and was the model for the Anglo-Saxon boats that transported the Angles from this part of Germany (Angeln) to England! Unfortunately my mobile phone camera ran out of juice and I didn't have a powerbank with me, so I was unable to photograph the mummies or the long boat.

   Back at the ship at 6:30, I dined on the Florentine plaice with Quorn lasagna, sat with the dance host team. We danced both before and after Adam's excellent show. I loved his music, but was not so sure about his singing! At 10:30 I went to the production company's 80s show in the Coral Club. I had one bowl of cullen skink (killin' skunk?), before going to bed.

Travemünde, Germany - Monday the 29th of October 2018

   I awoke at 6:40 ready to see the sail-in to the Trave estuary. I had the coddled egg with full English, sat with Stephen and Derrick. At nine o'clock I escorted my fifth choice Lübeck on your own (OYO) tour. We had a thirty minute run into the Queen of the Hanse via the Trave tunnel. I used the loo in the City Hall (Rathaus), before visiting the famous marzipan café. I went in the Seamen's Guildhall and the Holy Ghost Monastery, which had an enormous craft fair in swing.

St. Mary's Bells, Lübeck

St. Mary's Bells, Lübeck

   The castle complex had been redeveloped as a European Hanseatic Museum (courtesy of the EU!), but I wasn't prepared to shell out 12 euros 50 on the entrance fee! An American lady used her electronic ticket to open the external door to the old Friary, so I tailgated in. It has been extensively restored, but is rather barren of exhibits! Apparently the main museum, which I didn't go in, is much better. I walked back to the coach park via the Haven Museum of period boats.

   Back at the ship, Sarah told me that we were abandoning the visit to Bremen, as Balmoral had had to do last week, in favour of two whole days and nights in Kiel. I offered my Kiel port talk and lecture on the Kiel Canal to Nick, but they had been designated as port days. I lunched on the lovely roast lamb, sat at the Chief Officer's table in the Palms Café, with a couple who had been on my morning tour. I then slept soundly for one hundred minutes, so I must have been tired.

   At 4:30 I walked into town, getting to the Tourist Information in the Beach Station (StrandBahnHof), just before they closed at five o'clock. I then went to the top of the Maritime Hotel, but couldn't find a penthouse bar or restaurant. Back on the main promenade, I went in the famous marzipan café's Travemünde offshoot.

   Back at the ship again, I dined on the lovely lamb shank, sat with Sean, Pat & Ray. I slipped out at 7 o'clock to hear the excellent Passat male voice choir. The young headmaster conductor was especially amusing! Unfortunately the 8 o'clock dance session was cancelled. I therefore had interesting chats with both magician Marc and fellow lecturer Captain Les, sat with his wife Jill. We danced again from 9:30 until 10:30, but when Connie and the band came on, I went to bed having had a tiring day.

Kiel, Germany - Tuesday the 30th of October 2018

   I awoke at 6:40 ready to go up to the Observatory to watch the sail-in to Kiel Bay. We approached an isolated lighthouse which had a tiny harbour behind it. Lurking here were two pilot boats, one of which came out to meet us in the rough seas. At 7:30 I had one Egg Benedict with full English on the side, before returning to the Observatory to watch the passage passed the Laboe naval memorial, the Holtenau locks and German Naval (Ship)Yards. Whilst awaiting clearance, I retired to my cabin to update this blog.

   I was soon off the ship walking along the prom to the tourist information office. The girls here were not very knowledgeable, but fortunately Björn Petersen, who had been my guide in Flensburg, arrived. He lives in Kiel so he was able to give me lots of tips and correct some of the information that I had already been given. Next door was the modern art gallery which only took five minutes of my time! I then worked my way back towards to ship visiting all the main sites.

   St. Nicholas's church was impressive with a fine high altar piece. The Cloister Monastery (Kloster) was closed as usual. The City Museum had an interesting exhibition on the Kiel Week regatta. The Shipping Museum featured the 1918 Revolution, which we in England call the Great German Naval Mutiny. I enjoyed watching the harbour seals (SeeHund) in the large tanks in front of the aquarium, but didn't go in. The Art Gallery charged for admission to its paintings, but its extensive collection of Greek & Roman plaster casts was free.

   Back at the ship. I lunched on the roast beef, sat with the lovely Maureen, Jeff & Stephen, but not Derrick. I then slept for an hour and a half. Back in the city again, I walked to the railway station and then across the folding Hörn bridge to the other side of the Kieler Förde.

   Back at the ship again, I dined on the chicken for the fourth time, sat with Sean, Pat & Ray. We danced both before and after the excellent Continental production show, which I have seen many times, but I always enjoy the Can Can and the Irish dancing. As usual, I sat in the far naughty corner with Jean and Heather from Blandford. When the lovely Maureen finished DJing at 10:20, I retired to my cabin to update this blog.

Kiel, Germany - Wednesday the 31st of October 2018

   I awoke at 6:15 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up ready for breakfast at 7:30. I had the coddled egg with mushroom special, sat with Derrick in the Thistle restaurant. He told me he had written his autobiography about achieving his dreams through the adversities of the 1950s Windrush Generation!

   Back in the cabin, Sue had already made my bed just after 8 o'clock, so I was able to update this blog. At 8:50 I escorted my first choice tour to the Laboe naval memorial with Björn yet again. We drove north, west, south, east and finally north again around Kiel to get to Laboe. We began in the 57 metre high tower, walked through the subway to the underground church and then up to the museum. Let loose by Björn, I doubled back to the tower to go to the top in the high speed lift.

   I enjoyed the panoramic views from the walk around balcony, before climbing the last few steps to the top viewing platform. I then retraced my steps through the subway to the museum. At noon we gathered at the entrance to the famous submarine located on the beach. We all struggled slowly through the small trap door hatches inside the U-boat. I had two gents with limited mobility, despite the tour description saying it was not suitable, and one insisted on going through the submarine complete with back pack! During our second set of free time, I walked along the prom to the pretty, little harbour of Laboe. We drove back along the fjord (Kieler Förde) to the ship.

   I lunched on the salmon en croute, sat with a gent who had been on my tour that morning. I then slept for an hour and a quarter, thus missing the lovely Maureen's Mambo class. At 4:15 I headed out again walking north along the prom, taking photographs as I went. One of the seals was leaping in and out of his outdoor pond as I walked passed the GeoMar aquarium. Back at the ship, I worked on this blog, before dressing in my new Harry Potter Hallowe'en fancy dress outfit.

   I went up to the Observatory at 6 o'clock for my second lime soda and twiglets of the cruise, with the neon lights of Kiel twinkling below. I dined on the roast turkey with Sean, Pat & Ray as usual. We danced both before and after Steve Terry's amusing show. When the band finished at 10:15, I updated this blog and checked my emails on my mobile phone, courtesy of the Three network's Feel at Home 1 penny per megabyte tariff.

Kiel Canal, Germany - Thursday the 1st of November 2018

   I awoke at 6:45 to the ship's engines starting up. I went up to the Observatory to watch the sail away down the Kieler Förde, before having the Egg Benedict special, sat with Jill and Captain Les Evans. I then went back up to the Observatory to watch the transit through the Holtenau locks. I stayed here until 9:45, when I went to Captain Les's interesting talk on the Concorde Paris air crash. I didn't know about the missing spacer from the front undercarriage bogie!

Kiel Canal transit

Kiel Canal transit

   At 11:30 I lunched al fresco on the German sausages, sat with dance host Stephen on the top deck. I then slept for an hour and a half, before attending the lovely Maureen's Rumba class, where I danced with Heather. She was one of 19 pax and Maureen taught the basics, hand to hands (which she called opening outs), New Yorks, shoulder to shoulders and ladies' spot turns going both ways. At three o'clock Alix taught the Electric Slide & Inline Cha to 17 pax, whilst Nicola Wynne taught a couples dance with me as her partner! I then did my ironing and updated this blog.

   At 5 o'clock I went up to the Observatory to watch the passage through the Brunsbüttel lock, whilst enjoying a lime soda and twiglets. At 6:30 I dined on the minute steak and duck, sat at my favourite table as usual with Sean, Pat & Ray. During the first dance set, I persuaded Heather to have a Rumba with me in the far naughty corner. I then sat with her during the predictable crew show, before dancing until 10:20 when I went to bed.

North Sea - Friday the 2nd of November 2018

   I awoke at 7 o'clock ready to have the Egg Florentine special in the Thistle restaurant. I then worked on my final presentation and this blog. At 10 o'clock I went to Captain Les's interesting talk on the future of supersonic travel. At 11 o'clock I gave my 45 minute lecture entitled "The Story of the North Sea".

   At noon I went to the Grand Gala Lunch in the Thistle restaurant, which was a much better time than at 11:45 at night! I had the crab claws to begin, the roast chicken to follow for the fifth time, with chocolates to finish. I gave the chocolate fountain a miss, sat with Jill & Captain Les Evans in the Thistle restaurant. At 1 o'clock I slept for two hours, thus missing the lovely Maureen's Cha cha class. I then worked on this blog, before packing.

   At 5:45 and at 8 o'clock I was on duty in the Captain's farewell cocktail parties, where I danced with various ladies. I dined on the Shepherd's Pie at 6:30, sat as usual with Sean, Pat & Ray. For the Variety show I also sat as usual in the naughty corner with Heather & Jean. Maureen finished DJing at 10:25 and we said our goodbyes.

Disembarkation Day, SoToN - Saturday the 3rd of November 2018

   I awoke at 6:40, but it was now only 5:40 GMT. I had a cheese omelette with full English breakfast, sat with Sean, Pat & Ray at my favourite table in the Palms Café. I was first off the ship at 7:10 carrying my own bags. There was more RMT strike action on the railway, so I had to wait half an hour for a train. However I was still home by 9 o'clock in the morning, which is perhaps the earliest I have ever achieved from SoToN!

   Nick wrote in his report: "Martin is a good speaker. He also got involved with the dancing – It was like having an extra dance host." He gave me 3.5 out of 5, where 5.0 is excellent, 4.0 is good, 3.0 is fair, 2.0 is poor and 1.0 is very poor!

   One lady later wrote: "May I take this opportunity to say thank you for the dances, most enjoyable. I am pleased to inform you I will be joining you next year on a Norway cruise. The compliments from some of the passengers about our dancing was very pleasant to hear."

   Another lady later wrote: "I enjoyed your German Rivers blog."



Score card:

5 Cocktail parties attended
5 Lectures given
4 Port talks delivered
4 Shore excursions escorted
3 ?
2 New towns visited (Schleswig & Laboe)
1 Guest Lecture given (North Sea)

Good points were:

  1. Twiglets!
  2. Slop chest
  3. No heartburn
  4. Open foredeck
  5. Four new tours
  6. Midnight buffet
  7. Four port talks
  8. Four deck atrium
  9. Cheese omelettes
  10. One guest lecture
  11. Expansive top deck
  12. Planning spreadsheet
  13. In cabin tea & coffee
  14. Early to bed each night
  15. Two overnight's in Kiel
  16. Triple aspect Palms Café
  17. All round promenade deck
  18. Very efficient stewardess (Sue)
  19. Dancing with the lovely Maureen
  20. Outside twin cabin on deck 2 with 2 portholes

For the record ...