Cruise OCY8320
on the Crystal Serenity
in the Western Med.
October 2018

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
- Aboard
just after
Cote d'Azur
Old Town
Walk &
Porto Venere
San Pantaleo
Overcast am
Sunny pm!
by foot
Bike ride
Old town
- Sunny

First Travelling Day, Hounslow - Saturday the 29th of September 2018

   I left home at 9:30, but had to drive via Salisbury as the M27 was closed in order to demolish a bridge. I ate my picnic lunch at Sunbury-on-Thames, before getting to my £45 B&B just after 2 o'clock. They are located close to Hounslow West tube station and only charge £3 per night car parking. I caught the 222 service bus both into and out from Hounslow town centre. Back at the Skylark guest house, I dined on Stilton & Broccoli soup, before watching Strictly Come Dancing.

Embarkation Day, Marseille - Sunday the 30th of September 2018

   I awoke at 4:30, half an hour before my alarms. I didn't have long to wait for the tube train and I was in LHR Terminal 3 by 5:20. As usual I struggled with the check-in machine, before depositing my case and going for a walk, still in the dark. The plane pulled away on time and was only one quarter full. The huge meanders of the River Seine were highlighted with low cloud snaking across Normandy. We then crossed the Rhone, just before landing at Marseille, after a 90 minute flight.

   The Crystal coach took me to the ship and I was on board just after noon, where I bumped into Nancy from Chicago, who had been on my previous Crystal cruise. I lunched al fresco on the roast beef from the buffet, before dozing for an hour and a quarter. At 4:15 I gave my 40 minute port talk on Antibes. At 5 o'clock we had the safety drill. I then touched base with the Shorex team.

   At 6:15 I dined on a huge sirloin steak with Stacey from Massachusetts, who has a holiday home on Nantucket island and was travelling with her parents, together with a couple from the west coast of Florida. At 7:45 I went to the ballroom dance session with the quartet in the Palm Court. I sat with the four dance hosts and danced with Joanne from Oregon and Lyn from Tampa, together with another lady, but not June the dancer from Kent.

   At 8:30 I went to the variety show where I enjoyed the synchronised tap dancing of the professional dancers. I then had to go to the computer room to sort out my birthday, which they had down as the 2nd of November 1936, which would have made me 82! I went to bed at 10:15, but at 10:30 the second show began and my stateroom was directly over the show lounge, so I got up again and started work on this blog! The show finished at 11:15, but it was still only 10:15 BST, when I went to bed again.

Antibes, Cote d'Azur - Monday the 1st of October 2018

   My two alarms awoke me at 7 o'clock ready to have the full English breakfast al fresco, ready to escort my second choice walking tour ($89). I led my charges down to the tender, but we were held outside the marina for a time, so I chatted to Shelby the other lecturer and his wife Marylee. We began our tour at the Absinthe cellar bar with canapés, before walking around the old town.

   Back at the ship, I lunched on the mixed grill, before watching my port talk and sleeping for an hour. I did six lengths of the pool, before wallowing in the jacuzzi. At five o'clock I gave my 45 minute talk on Genoa. I then dined on the proper Beef Wellington sat with a couple from Long Island and two of the dance hosts: Austin & Bob.

   I danced in both sets, including with Anne from South Africa, who practially lives on the ship and had been on the Crystal Symphony with me two years ago. I also danced with the two professional dance teachers from Hungary. The second house was very thin, so the English comedian had a bit of a hard time. I particularly liked his impersonations. I went to bed when he finished at 11:15.

Genoa, Italy - Tuesday the 2nd of October 2018

   I awoke at 7:20 before my alarms ready to escort my second choice Palaces of Genoa tour ($159). We began at the Andrea Doria mansion, continued to the Rolli palace with lovely garden and finished at the Meridian mansion where we had lovely canapés with prosecco. I only had one glass of this, followed by two glasses of orange juice. Back at the terminal, I deposited my charges and then went walkabout. I followed the quayside as far as St. George's Bank, before heading back.

   I did six lengths of the pool, but had only five minutes in the jacuzzi, before giving my 40 minute talk on Porto Venere and environs. I dined on the fillet steak with Stacey from Massachussets with her parents, plus Japanese John and his wife Elizabeth. In the first dance set I showed the two Hungarian professional dancers how to do the Party Samba. I then watched the excellent pop show which included songs by Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Boy George, with some disco numbers but culminating in Freddie Mercury's Queen.

   In the second dance set April the singer asked me to dance the Tango with her. When she started singing 'Man, I feel like a woman' by Shania Twain, I led off the Electric Slide, which surprisingly filled the floor! I then went back to see the excellent 'Icons in Concert' show for a second time.

Porto Venere, Italy - Wednesday the 3rd of October 2018

   I awoke at 7 o'clock to my alarms ready to escort my fifth choice tour to Pisa ($199). We had a 90 minute ride along the autostrada followed by a ten minute ride on the land train to get to the Field of Miracles. We began in the magnificent cathedral, before entering the baptistery, just in time for the 11:30 echo demonstration. During our free time I climbed up to the gallery in the baptistery for the first time. I was pleased to see that they had opened up the rampart walk along two whole sides of the city walls for only three euros, but I didn't have time to explore.

   Back at the quayside, I went in the Grand Hotel and the tourist information office, before walking the length of the main street of Porto Venere. I reached St. Peter's church right on the promontory next to Byron's grotto. I climbed up to St. Lawrence's church and the Doria castle, but didn't go in the latter. I went gingerly down the steep steps alongside the town wall to get back to the tender.

   Back on the ship, I did half a dozen lengths of the pool and then wallowed in the jacuzzi, before giving my 35 minute talk on Olbia, interrupted by the Captain's departure annoucement! I dined on the huge prime rib of beef sat at the Captain's large table in the centre of the dining room with Patty and her husband from Lake Michigan and Joanne the dancer from Oregon with her husband plus Marjorie & her husband and a few empty seats.

   In the dance set I only danced with June, Nancy & Joanne, before going to see the very good acrobatic show. At 10 o'clock I went to the White Ball in the atrium and led off the dancing with Nancy. I did a couple of dances with Japanese ladies, before the floor was full, so I slipped out at 10:30 and was asleep by eleven.

Olbia, Sardinia - Thursday the 4th of October 2018

   I awoke to my alarm at 7 o'clock, but made the mistake of queuing up for the omelettes, where the chef took an age to make each! I then escorted my third choice tour, the $329 mountain hike! We were driven in a minibus through the Sardinian hills to San Pantaleo. We were led by Massimo who didn't speak English, so we also had Jonathan, who has an English mother, as our translator. We climbed up a granite mountain to see a rock formation that looks like a dinosaur. Three guests only made it two thirds of the way up and so sheltered in a cave, whilst the other three, plus two guides and one escort (me!) made it to near the top. Nearly back to the starting point, we had a brief shower, our first of the cruise. We then had twenty minutes of free time to explore the Thursday market in disappointing San Pantaleo.

   Back at the ship, I lunched on the roast lamb sat in a window seat with June from Tenterden. I then slept for two hours, so I must have been tired. I did half a dozen lengths of the pool, before having fifteen minutes in the jacuzzi. At 5 o'clock I did my 35 minute talk on Ajaccio, again interrupted by the Captain's departure annoucement! I dined on the Wiener Schnitzel with Cheryl from Christchurch in New Zealand, Elaine from Oakland in California, Nancy from Chicago and two of the dance hosts Constantino & Bob.

   After dinner, I went to the first dance set, where April the singer asked me to do a Samba with her! She also sang the original Electric Slide song, so I obliged by leading off the line dance. At 9 o'clock I went to the variety show of the excellent violinst and the amusing ventriloquist act of Gary the cruise director. Back in the Palm Court, I danced with some Japanese ladies, with June, Joanne and Nancy. I walked with the latter to see the excellent Latin American dance show, my first time in the Stardust club venue at 10:30. It finished at 11 o'clock when I went to bed.

Ajaccio, Corsica - Friday the 5th of October 2018

   I awoke at 7:30 ready to have an al fresco full English breakfast sat with Cheryl from New Zealand. I then did my ironing and worked on this blog. At 9:25 I escorted my second choice walking tour ($59). We made our way around the promenades to the Cathedral, before passing Napoleon's birthplace. Our guide gave us a one hour tour of the Fesch fine art gallery, before letting us loose. I whizzed around the rest of the museum, before visiting the Imperial chapel next door. I managed to get to the Tourist Information Office just before it closed at 12:30.

   Back at the ship, I lunched on two small fillet mignons al fresco, before sleeping for an hour and a half. At four o'clock I gave my 35 minute talk on Palma de Mallorca. At 5:15 I went to the pre-dinner dance set for the first time this cruise. Surprisingly the showband had replaced the usual resident quartet. This orchestra was led by Deputy Cruise Director Raphael on trumpet. However I only got to dance with two Japanese ladies.

   At 6:15 I dined on one large fillet mignon, sat with two Australian couples from Melbourne, so I was able to tell them that I had bid for an Antipodean cruise with Celebrity next year. At 7:45 I danced the Cha cha, Jive & Party Samba with the two professional dancers and a Tango with singer April. I also danced with Joanne & Nancy, who I was sat with, plus June, Lyn and two Japanese ladies. At 8:45 I went to the hour long Curtain Call production show which featured songs from the musicals Chicago, Thoroughly Modern Millie, the Producers, Evita, Jekyll & Hyde, Cats and Mamma Mia. When it finished I retired to update this blog and got to bed at 10:30 for a change.

Palma de Mallorca - Saturday the 6th of October 2018

   I awoke at 6:20 and breakfasted, just after 7 o'clock, on two rolls with ham & cheese, as the cooked meals hadn't yet started. I enjoyed the freshly squeezed orange juice and the decaff coffee as a dramatic sunrise took place over a calm Mediterranean sea. I then worked on this blog. At 9:30 I gave my 35 minute port talk on Barcelona. I then did three and one third circuits (one mile) of the lovely, continuous promenade deck. I also explored all the public rooms on the ship, which I had not done since the very first afternoon on board. At 11:30 I lunched on anchovy salad with chips for the very first time this cruise, sat with Anne from South Africa. She had been on board for 9 months, but was flying back to South Africa at the end of this cruise, so we talked about Groot Constantia, Kirstenbosch, Stellenbosch, Frankshoek & Paarl! She also has a pied a terre in Pimlico!

Bellver Castle, Palma, Mallorca, Spain

Bellver Castle, Palma, Mallorca, Spain

   At noon I escorted my third choice Bike Ride through the Old Town tour ($99). We cycled along the prom to the old town, but I made the mistake of changing gears too quickly and my chain smashed into the plastic guard and came off. James (Jaume, pronouced How-may) the guide had to put on his gloves to reload my cycle chain. We stopped off at various points of interest including the Cathedral and the Stock Exchange. We had half an hour of free time, but the tourist information office had closed for the siesta. I then picked up an email from one of my agents confirming my tour of Australia & New Zealand in the New Year. Back at the cycle shop, I walked to the Porto Pi shopping mall.

Bellver Castle, Palma, Mallorca, Spain

Bellver Castle, Palma, Mallorca, Spain

   Back at the ship, I quickly changed and dined on the rib-eye steak sat on the Captain's circular table in the centre of the main dining room, again with Joanne & her husband and Marjorie with hers, but with several empty seats. At 7:45 I went to the main dance set where I did two Cha chas and one Jive with the Hungarian dance instructresses. I had one Tango with April the singer and also danced with Joanne, Nancy, June and one other lady. I then packed ready for my departure the next day.

   At 9 o'clock I went to the classical piano concert, where the Polish pianist was accompanied by the show band. I slipped out at 9:30 for the next dance set, but with the quartet in the Stardust Club, not the Palm Court, for the first time this cruise. June from Tenterden was the only dancer present, so I had just the one Slow Foxtrot with her. I left at 10 o'clock just as the good Japanese dancer arrived. I finished packing and went to bed at 10:30. Unfortunately I had made the mistake of ordering a so-called decaff coffee after dinner and it kept me awake and then kept re-awakening me through the night.

Barcelona, Catalonia - Sunday the 7th of October 2018

   I awoke just before my alarm at 7 o'clock ready to have the full English breakfast sat with dance host Tanny from San Franny. I left the ship at 8:30 for the 30 minute coach ride to the airport. After a quick check-in, with a human operator not a machine, I went walkabout, before going through security. I then sat at a desk to recharge my phone and laptop, with a panoramic view of the runway across to Terminal Two. The 50 minute flight to Madrid was fine, and I was able to move forward to a seat with extra legroom after take-off.

The labyrinth (maze) in Barcelona, Spain

The labyrinth (maze) in Barcelona, Spain

   I had to spend a couple of hours in Barajas airport as our next plane had a puncture. We took off one hour late. I listened to an Ed Sheeran concert which culminated inevitably in Perfect (Viennese Waltz rhythm) and Shape of You (Samba rhythm). Back at LHR Terminal 5, I used my WunTu app from the Three mobile network to get a half price meal deal for just £2 in the WHSmith shop. I caught the free train to the central terminals and then the Piccadilly line tube to Hounslow West. I had a 250 yard walk to my B&B to collect my car. I got home just after 9 o'clock after another super cruise!

   One lady wrote: "Thanks for the dances (and the lectures)"

   One gent later wrote: "My wife and I thank you again for your excellent port talks during our last cruise, Marseille to Barcelona. We especially appreciated your tip on the bus # 5 in Ajaccio"

   Another lady later wrote: "I enjoyed your blog about the Western Mediterranean"

Score card:

8 Ports called at
7 Port talks given (not Marseille)
7 Dining tables hosted
6 Tours escorted (not Marseille nor Barcelona)
5 Regular dancing ladies
4 Dance instructors (Hungarian)
4 Ambassador Dance Hosts (all American)
4 New ports (Marseille, Antibes, Genoa & Porto Venere)
4 Old ports (Olbia, Ajaccio, Palma & Barcelona)
3 Islands (Sardinia, Corsica & Majorca)
3 Countries (France, Italy & Spain)
2 Dance instructresses
2 Wash basins
2 Jacuzzis
1 New town (San Pantaleo)
1 Dancing singer
1 Outdoor swimming pool
1 Shower
1 Bath

Good points were:

  1. Triple aspect Palm court observation lounge
  2. Outside double cabin on deck 7.
  3. Hosting tables in the main dining room
  4. First sitting in the main dining room
  5. Dancing with two dance hostesses
  6. Dancing with the singer
  7. Escorting six tours
  8. Giving seven port talks
  9. Galaxy show lounge orchestra
  10. Palm Court quartet
  11. Four dance instructors
  12. On large sea water pool
  13. Two jacuzzis
  14. All round promenade deck
  15. Luxury dressing gown
  16. Free lauderette
  17. Full sized bath
  18. Two wash basins
  19. All inclusive
  20. Free ice cream
  21. Great shows
  22. Great tours
  23. Mini-bar
  24. Seperate cinema
  25. Free water
  26. Free shuttle buses
  27. Free internet
  28. Free in-cabin wi-fi

For the record ...

Current Statistics (as of October 2018):

1126 Ports called at
 681 Tours escorted
 388 Ports visited
 267 Lectures delivered
 129 Cruises undertaken
  23 Cruise ships:

	Saga Rose
	Saga Ruby (Saggy Booby!)
	Saga Pearl II
	Saga Sapphire
	Spirit of Adventure (SofA)
	Quest for Adventure (Q4A)

	Black Prince
	Black Watch

	Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2)
	Queen Mary 2 (QM2)
	Queen Elizabeth
	Queen Victoria

	Seabourn Sojourn
	Seabourn Odyssey

	Crystal Symphony
	Crystal Serenity

	Sapphire Princess
	Celebrity Eclipse

9 Cruise lines:

	Saga Shipping Company
	Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
	Voyages of Discovery (VofD)
	Seabourn (Carnival)
	Princess (Carnival)
	Cunard (Carnival)
	P&O (Carnival)