Cruise P2104 on the Saga Pearl II to the Holy Land

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
11/03/2014 Southampton, UK - On board by 2 pm!
13/03/2014 La Coruña, Spain Santiago de Compostela (OYO) Glorious afternoon in the Granite City!
16/03/2014 Cartagena, Spain - Glorious day in the Art Nouveau City!
17/03/2014 Palma, Majorca Rugged North Coast & La Granja Glorious morning with wine & doughnuts!
19/03/2014 Syracuse, Sicily Scenic Syracuse & Sicilian Wine Glorious morning with wine, cheese & more
21/03/2014 Piraeus, Greece - Glorious day walking over 12 miles
22/03/2014 Santorini, Greece Essence of Santorini Finally got there - third time lucky!
23/03/2014 Marmaris, Turkey Panoramic Marmaris Two hill villages and one beach
24/03/2014 Limassol, Cyprus - Glorious day!
25/03/2014 Haifa, Israel Nazareth & the Sea of Galilee Our only cloudy port!
26/03/2014 Ashdod, Israel (Jerusalem & Bethlehem) Glorious day in magnificent city!
Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
28/03/2014 Heraklion, Crete Panoramic Crete Glorious morning in Aghios Nikolaos!
29/03/2014 Gytheion, Greece - Glorious day in Gytheion!
30/03/2014 Pylos, Greece Ancient Messini Glorious morning in Ancient Messini!
31/03/2014 Argostoli, Kefalonia - Glorious day walking over 12 miles!
01/04/2014 Crotone, Italy - Glorious morning in Crotone!
02/04/2014 Valletta, Malta Medieval Mdina & Mosta Glorious morning on Malta!
04/04/2014 Tunis, Tunisia - Glorious morning in Tunis!
07/04/2014 Gibraltar Fortress Gibraltar Glorious day in Gib!
09/04/2014 Vigo, Spain - Glorious morning in Vigo!
11/04/2014 Southampton, UK - Home by noon


Here's my report on the cruise:

I took the train to So'ton and was on board the lovely Saga Pearl II by 2 pm. I had a late lunch in the embarkation buffet followed by a siesta. After the safety drill and sailaway, I attended the Cruise Director's welcome cocktail party in the briefing room. Kirsten the Maitre d'Hotel placed me on a table of five single ladies, including Pat, Elizabeth and Dorothy, for dinner in the main dining room. I dined on prime rib of beef, but missed out on my dessert as I had to get to the first dance set at 8:45 pm. Surprisingly I was given a complimentary bottle of wine. We appeared in the walk-on in the Discovery Lounge interspersed with performances by pianist Clive Carrington, the Explosive production company and the resident Quartet. We danced after showtime with some of our regulars before adjourning to the Verandah for hot chocolate via Shackleton's Bar.


Losing an hour, I had to set my alarm for 7 am GMT (8 am CET) to be ready for Christine & Ron's line dance class at 9 am. After a breakfast of two Eggs Benedict with Ann and her husband David from Anglesey in the dining room, Christine taught Mamma Maria, On the Double & Cuban Walk. During the course of the morning, I attended Cassie's port talk on Coruña and Gerry Hanson's English poetry talk. The singles mingle was held for the first time in the expansive Discovery Lounge rather than the more intimate Shackleton's Bar. I lunched on smoked pork with the Chaplain Arthur Hawes before Ron & Christine's dance class, when they introduced the waltz and the rumba. After my usual siesta I started writing this blog. I dined on duck with Hilda, Martyn, Jan, Molly and Margaret from Ilkley. Most of the diners left early for the classical concert, but I stayed on chatting with Molly the former dance teacher. We then watched the production company's "Cool Britannia" show and only danced the one set after the show.



Sumo wrestler in La Coruña

Sumo wrestler in La Coruña

I breakfasted with Flora and her husband the bridge teachers. She brought me up-to-speed with the changes that had happened when the Quest for Adventure changed back into the Saga Pearl II. Christine taught Country Walkin' & Honky Tonk Town and recapped Mamma Maria, On the Double & Cuban Walk in the morning line dance class. We arrived early into La Coruña, so I slipped ashore to use the free wi-fi at the quayside Los Cantones shopping centre. I had an early lunch of gammon and chips before escorting the Santiago de Compostela on your own (OYO) tour. The coach ride only took one hour so we had three hours to explore the granite city in the glorious sun. I headed via the free wi-fi at the public library (biblioteca) and via the tourist information office to the lovely parks surrounding the medieval city. I breezed through the cool, empty cathedral to the parador. The wine and tapas there were as good as ever, but this time there was a short concert of guitar players in period costumes playing in a courtyard since the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) was laid out for an evening banquet. I chatted with and photographed Margaret from Liverpool & Phyllis from Darlington two of my dancing partners. The sailaway from La Coruña was glorious. I dined on sirloin steak with non-dancing Sheila, Jo, Martyn, Josephine(?) and Jan. We danced both before and after the banjo player's singalong show. The passengers loved him!


La Coruña Church

La Coruña Church


On the next sea day I breakfasted with Jan from Folkestone. Christine taught New Flame & Honky Tonk Stomp as well as recapping her previous line dances. I then attended Cassie's port talk on Cartagena & Palma and Arthur Cotterell's first history lecture. I lunched on tortilla wrapped shrimps with Christine & Ron, before dancing in their second waltz and rumba class. I slept for an hour and three quarters before doing 10 circuits of the top deck. We were then on duty at the Captain's welcome cocktail party. I dined on fillet steak stuffed with Stilton cheese. Our drinks allowance having been removed, we were allowed to order a more expensive bottle of wine on the formal nights, so I enjoyed a £20 bottle of Argentinian wine with Jan, Sophie the Polish lady and four others. We then danced both before and after the comedian's showtime, including dancing the cha cha with Liz from Leeds for the first time. I walked out after the first two tired, old jokes to use the free internet, but I did get back for his impressive closing impressions of classic comedians. We then adjourned to Shackleton's bar for Michelle Dunne's cabaret show.


At the 9 am line dance class Christine taught the Electric Slide & Blue Rose Is for the first time. As it was another sea day, it included Cassie's lecture on Pireaus, Athens and Santorini followed by the singles lunch. We had to slip away early for the 1:30 pm ballroom dance class. I slept for a couple of hours and walked ten times around the top deck before doing my laundry and utilising the free internet. I dined on New York strip steak with Phyllis, Margaret, Martyn, Molly the ex-ballet teacher and Joan the petite dancer from Guildford. With another classical concert I was able to linger at the dinner table with Joan the petite dancer and Molly the ex-ballet teacher. The banjo player's 100 year singalong was well received by the passengers. We just danced the final set.


Cartagena

Cartagena

No tour in Cartagena, so I walked into town to utilise the free wi-fi outside the Nam Nam Pizzeria on the main street (Calle Mayor). I was joined by Margaret & Phyllis so we all became FaceBook friends! I walked for one hour around the western side of the harbour to the red (portside) lighthouse and the Nativity Fort (Fuerte de Navidad). I walked back via the Nam Nam Pizzeria and was again joined by Margaret & Phyllis who had just come out of the Roman Catholic mass. I lunched on pea soup, roast beef with all the trimmings and praline pecan ice cream! After a two hour siesta, we attended the sailaway in bright but breezy conditions. I danced with Liz, Joyce, Phyllis (but not Margaret), Marianne, and did the salsa with Cruise Director Kayleigh for the first time! I dined on scampi and chips with Una from Blackheath, Sheila from Hertford, Joan the petite dancer from Surrey, Christine and Scottish Stuart. As usual we danced both before and after the variety show.


Castle above Palma de Mallorca

Castle above Palma de Mallorca

In Palma de Majorca, I breakfasted with Margaret from Liverpool. I escorted the morning tour to the North Western coast including Valldemossa and La Granja (the Grange) farmstead. Set in a limestone valley, this stately home was full of interesting exhibits. At the end of the tour we sampled both the red and sweet white wine together with cheese, chorizo sausages, sweet almonds and doughnuts. Back at the ship, I lunched on salade nicoise again with Margaret from Liverpool. That evening I dined on the beef in hollandaise sauce with Liz, Phyllis, Margaret, Jackie from Bournemouth Westcliff and another gentleman. We danced before the second of the production company's shows, but not after it, since the quartet had been moved into O'Shacks for the St. Patrick's night celebrations. Unfortunately I had forgotten to pack my shamrock tie!


The next sea day proceeded as usual, beginning with a 9 am line dance class. Christine taught All my ex's and recapped some earlier dances. I attended Cassie's next port talk on Marmaris & Limassol and Gerry's lecture on Sir Noel Coward entitled "A Talent to Amuse". After lunch of chicken tikka masala with Phyllis, Margaret and Sophie the Polish lady, we all attended the ballroom dance class. Later that afternoon I had my first swim in the indoor pool. I dined on veal with Christine, Hilda, Ken from Derby, Mabyn and Mary. Since it was a formal night, but without a cocktail party, I ordered a bottle of Prosecco to share with my table. We danced both before and after the Paraguayan harpist. At the end of the evening I showed Angela her former boss Neil Horrocks's facebook pages, as she was interested in his new position with Voyages to Antiquity (V2A).



Syracuse (Siracusa)

Syracuse (Siracusa)

On dropping anchor off Syracuse (Siracusa), I breakfasted with Dorothy, Flora (but not Paul) and Archdeacon Arthur & his wife Melanie from Lincoln. Catching the fifth tender ashore, I escorted the Scenic Syracuse & Sicilian Wine tour. The wine was a bit rough, but the foods (cheeses, hams, omelettes, olives etc.) were excellent. The grappa spirit was even rougher, but the dark chocolate helped! I stayed ashore at lunchtime and walked around the mainland part of Siracusa taking photographs, before catching the local boat, not one of our tenders, back to the ship anchored in the bay. I dined with Sheila from Hertford, Arthur from Manchester, Laurence from Edinburgh and one other on fillet steak topped with paté de fois gras. We then danced both before and after the show of singer Suzi Woods.


On the sea day between Italy and Greece, I breakfasted with Jan before attending Christine's line dance class where she taught Feeling Kinda Lonely. I then listened to Cassie's port talk on the two upcoming Israeli ports of Haifa & Ashdod and a lecture on the naval battles in the Med during the Second World War. I lunched with Liz and others on rack of pork (not lamb) then danced in R&C's ballroom class. After my siesta I worked on my Syracuse powerpoint presentation. I dined on pork, for the second time that day, with Josephine, Laurence, Arthur and two other ladies.



Neil Horrocks former Cruise Director and me, photograph taken by Captain Kees Spekman

Neil Horrocks former Cruise Director and me,
photograph taken by Captain Kees Spekman

No tour in Piraeus so I did three separate walks each of about 4 miles in length at a speed of about 3 mph (or so my smartphone tells me)! The first walk was to the new and old railway stations (neither of which to be confused with the metro station). The second followed Themistocles' wall around the Piraeus peninsula. Back at the ship at lunch time, I found ex-cruise director Neil Horrocks taking coffee with Captain Kees Spekman in the Shackleton bar. I took some photographs of them both and was able to print them out and give them each copies. Neil's new ship Aegean Odyssey, which belongs to Voyages to Antiquity (V2A), was berthed right next to us. I lunched on moussaka with Margaret before having my siesta. My third walk of the day involved scaling Kastella (Castle?) hill. In the evening I dined on sirloin steak with Jan, Phyllis, Margaret, Molly the ex-ballet teacher and another lady. We then danced both before and after the Paraguayan harpist's show.


On Santorini (a.k.a. Thera, Thira or Fira - I wish the Greeks would make up their minds!), I escorted my first choice Essence tour. We visited the picturebook village of Oia, you know the score: blue domes, windmills and white washed cottages! Then we took in an 11th century Byzantine church, a black sand beach, and a hilltop monastery (closed to visitors). We indulged in a leisurely Greek lunch of chicken before visiting the main town of Fira. The latter was disappointing after the delights of Oia. The cable car ride down the cliff to the tender was certainly scenic. So after two abortive cruises to Santorini, I was third time lucky in getting on to this magical island! Back at the ship I attended the fashion show rehearsal. I dined on gammon and chips with Sheila, Martyn, Josephine, Arthur and Jackie. I then was back on stage with Sheila for the fashion show. We had just the one dance set after Suzi Woods' second show.



The Lycean tombs, Dalyan, Turkey

The Lycean tombs, Dalyan, Turkey

Awoken early by the sun and our arrival in Marmaris Turkey, I walked into the lovely town via the marina and promenade. I was back at the ship by 9 am to escort my first choice panoramic tour. We visited two hillside villages (Turgut & Bayir) and one beach, but were nearly an hour late getting back to the ship. I lunched on roast beef before having a fitfull siesta. I danced with 9 different ladies at the tea dance before changing again for the Britannia cocktail party. I dined on lobster with a complimentary bottle of Argentinian red with Sheila, Arthur, Daphne the newly arrived art teacher, Margaret from Ilkley and Scottish Margaret. We danced to the quartet before the variety show of the singer and the harpist. We then danced to CDs after the show, as the quartet moved into Shackleton's bar for their jazz night.



Limassol, Cyprus from the castle

Limassol, Cyprus from the castle

The next day was a morning at sea and an afternoon ashore. Christine called Honky Tonk Stomp; Honky Tonk Town; Cuban Walk; Mamma Maria; Blue Rose Is & Country Walkin' all six danced as one wall dances! I spent most of the morning listening to the ship's lectures in my cabin whilst creating powerpoint presentations for Santorini and Marmaris. The musical sail-in to Limassol was cancelled due to a broken keyboard, so I changed into my plain clothes ready to disembark. I dined early on lamb chops & chips with Christine, Flora & Paul. I caught the 12:15 pm shuttle into town and the 3:15 pm one to return to the ship, photographing all the important sights for a future port talk. I went into the Cyprus University of Technology Library to utilise their free wi-fi. I dined on cod with Adrienne, Margaret, Michael, Janet and Jean. We danced both before and after the classical concert, the latter session consisting of just Veronica as nearly everyone had gone to bed in anticipation for our early arrival in Haifa, Israel!


In Haifa we were first through the face-to-face immigration in order to get out to our respective coaches on the quayside. I escorted my first choice all day Nazareth & Sea of Galilee tour. I was sat on the back seat of the coach with the Chaplain, Archdeacon Arthur Hawes and his wife Melanie, together with the Captain's wife, Tina Spekman - so I had to mind my Ps & Qs! We started out at the new Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem was preceded by a large and noisy procession. Some of the priests wore blue stoles (?) indicating they were knights of Jerusalem apparently. We drove past Mary's well and the village of Cana, scene of the water-into-wine first miracle. The whole area around Nazareth was disappointingly urbanised. The baptismal site on the river Jordan at Yardenit was quite charming with enormous fish. Fortunately a priest was conducting a baptism, but it seemed to involve paddling, not total immersion!

We enjoyed a lovely buffet with wine at the kibbutz of Nof at Ginnosar on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. St. Peter's church at Tabgha was interesting, but I would have preferred to visit the nearby church with the famous mosaics. The white marble Synagogue at Capernaum Roman town was impressive, set amongst the black basalt town houses. The new concrete octagonal church was built on stilts with a glass floor to view the octagonal foundations beneath. We saw one rock hyrax, which appear three times in the Bible, only my second time seeing one after Table Mountain above Cape Town! The Church of the Beatitudes at the site of the Sermon on the Mount had a marvellous view across the enormous lake. Having returned to the port of Haifa, we viewed the famous Ba'hai gardens from above, with scenic views across the port and bay all the way to Acre. Religious score of the day: 4 ABCs (Another Blooming Church)! I dined on lamb with Margaret from Scotland, David, Gerry one of the lecturers, Sheila and an old sea dog. We danced both before and after the folklore show which consisted of a large number of young Israeli song and dance students.



Danny & Martin

Danny & Martin

In Ashdod I shelled out £80 to go on the 11 hour Jerusalem & Bethlehem tour. I was sat by the rear door of the coach with Arthur from Manchester with the holy trinity of the Chaplain, Archdeacon Arthur Hawes, his wife Melanie and the Captain's wife, Tina Spekman just behind us. We started out at the Garden of Gethsemane. Whilst the ladies were queueing for the loos, I walked up to the south east corner of the old city walls to photograph the dome of the Al Aqsa mosque and Absalom's Pillar. We visited the Church of the Agony and saw the allegedly two thousand year old olive trees in the garden. We then dropped off our Israeli guide to pass through the ominous security barrier - echoes of East Berlin and West Belfast! Now in the West Bank, a Palestinian guide joined us to show us around the Orthodox Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. We queued behind a group of Russian Orthodox pilgrims to descend to the 'stable' and see the 'manger'. The new adjoining Catholic church of St. Catherine led down to another set of extensive catacombs. Apparently the door through to the 'stable' is only opened by the Orthodox priests for the one day of the Catholic Christmas! We were then locked into a souvenir shop, but it did have free soft drinks and wi-fi. Again the whole area of Bethlehem was disappointingly urbanised, but we did get to see Banksy's famous wall art of a dove of peace wearing a flak jacket!

We quickly passed back through the security barrier and our Israeli guide rejoined us. We headed for the Ramat Rachel kibbutz for another buffet lunch with wine. The adjoining hotel again offered free wi-fi. We viewed the magnificent west side of the old city of Jerusalem from the viewpoint before starting our walk at the Jaffa Gate. The Tourist Information Office offered free wi-fi but I didn't have time to connect, as we followed St. George's Passage to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the church with 14 different sets of priests vying for possession! Having whizzed around the church, and not wanting to queue to ascend the indoor 'hill' of Calvary/Golgotha or to enter the Holy Sepulchre itself, I rushed back and forth along most of the length of the Via Dolorosa as far as the Red Mosque, but gave the various stations of the cross a miss. Back at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the Jewish guide was still rabbiting on, so I did get to climb the indoor 'hill' of Calvary/Golgotha after all, but I gave the Holy Sepulchre itself a miss. The guide then led us via the Roman remains in the Jewish Quarter to the Western, Wailing wall. I hadn't appreciated that the Moroccan quarter had been demolished after the six day war to create a plaza. I was surprised that us gentiles were allowed right up to touch the wall! We then exited the old city via the Dung gate and caught the bus back via B-roads to the ship after a magnificent day out. Unfortunately the Al-Aqsa mosque and the magnificent golden Dome of the Rock are both now out-of-bounds to Christians as well as Jews. I really want to return to Jerusalem to walk the ramparts one day. Religious score of the day: 4 ABCs (Another Blooming Church)! I dined on prime rib of beef with Margaret from Ilkley, Sheila, Molly the ex-ballet teacher and others. With another classical concert on, we only danced one set to Ron's CDs after the tenor's show.


On the next sea day, Christine taught Struttin' Star and recapped previous dances for the four regular attendees. I listened to Cassie's next two port talks, before working on this blog whilst listening to Peter Clayton's lecture. I lunched, slept for one hour and then finally finished my Limassol powerpoint presentation. I dined on veal with Jan, Jo, Sheila, Margaret & Phyllis. As it was a formal night, but without a cocktail party, I ordered a bottle of prosecco to share with my table. We danced both before and after Michael Bacala's wonderful violin playing.



Me in my Greek Guard fancy dress, do you like my pom poms?

Me in my Greek Guard fancy dress, do you like my pom poms?

In Heraklion (Iraklio in Greek) I escorted my first choice Panoramic Crete tour to Spinalonga (the former leper colony), Elounda and Aghios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas) for a second time. Our guide Efi bought me a delicious Greek goat's cheese pitta / pizza. I lunched with Liz, Margaret & Phyllis on steak, egg and chips before sleeping for nearly three hours! I awoke just in time for the sail away when I danced with Liz and Veronica out on deck to the SPII Quartet. I dined on pork with Liz, Mary, Margaret, Jean the Jewish lady and Martyn. We danced both before and after the tenor sang. I gave his show a miss because I found his constant vibrato irritating. I finished the evening with hot chocolate in the Verandah with Joan, Sophie & Veronica, all of whom I had danced with that evening.


No tour in Gytheion, so I had a leisurely breakfast with Sophie, Joan and Margaret. I caught the first independent passenger tender and spent the morning photographing those few sights that I had missed last autumn. I found free wi-fi outside the WIND mobile phone store. The signal was so good that my phone quickly downloaded a slew of updated apps. I lunched on roast lamb with Daphne the watercolour teacher back on the ship. I slept for an hour and a half before going back into the lovely little town. Back in my cabin I finished updating my Heraklion and Gytheion powerpoint presentations. I dined on boeuf bourguignon with Sheila, Daphne, Scottish Margaret, Scottish Laurence and Josephine. We danced both before and after the production company's Tropical show.


In Pylos I breakfasted with Christine, before escorting my first choice Ancient Messini tour. I was last on, but first off, the first passenger tender into the little port which had free wi-fi on the quayside, reaching out into the harbour itself. We began our tour at the impressive Arcadian gate in the extensive old city wall. We then entered the main archaeological site to view the theatre, fountain, market place, debating chamber and temples. Unfortunately we didn't have time to reach the stadium at the bottom end of the site. Last stop was the small archaeological museum. It was better than Olympia but not as good as Delphi! Back at the ship, I dined on roast leg of beef with Joan and Sophie. I slept for two hours before attending the first Strictly Cruise Dancing (SCD) rehearsal with Marianne. I was invited to the champagne celebration of Phyllis's birthday in Shackleton's bar followed by the veal dinner in the main dining room. The special cherry birthday cake was lovely. We danced as usual both before and after the violinist's second and final show.


No tour in Argostoli on Kefalonia so, after breakfasting with Flora & Paul, I went off on a hike. I walked to the foot bridge across the bay but it was still being renovated, so I had to take the long path around the lagoon. I eventually found the British cemetery directly opposite from the ship, but alas it was locked. Unfortunately I couldn't find a footpath going up the gorge behind either, so I walked back around the lovely lagoon. I was out for three and a half hours and walked about ten miles. I can't be precise as my phone's GPS couldn't find enough satellites for accurate positioning. I lunched on minute steak with Ruth before sleeping for an hour. In the afternoon I walked north via the pine tree lined coast to the famous sink holes. Here sea water is sucked down into the limestone, only emerging two weeks later on the other side of the island at the cave I had visited on my previous visit to Kefalonia!

I attended the second SCD rehearsal with Ruth & Sheila, but not this time Marianne, then rushed out on to the aft deck for the poorly attended musical sailaway where I danced with Veronica and one other lady only. This session was interrupted by the Captain announcing he was going to try and get us into Gozo and by Cassie telling us what new tours might be on offer there. I dined on sirloin steak with Jan, Margaret from Ilkley, Daphne, Josephine & Martyn. We danced before the crew show but only one dance after it, as it was already late. I watched the show in my cabin as I updated my Argostoli powerpoint presentation. I chatted leisurely with Joan, Polish Sophie and Polish violinist Michael Bacala in the Verandah over hot chocolate as we were finally gaining an hour as we headed westwards.


No tour again in Crotone, Italy so I breakfasted early with Josephine and was off the ship soon after 8 am. I toured the castle, the cathedral and all the churches of the walled old town, before exploring the city centre and the promenade. My camera packed up half way round so I had to fall back on my 5 megapixel mobile phone. I was back at the ship by 11 am and had authored a new powerpoint presentation by 12:30. I lunched on salmon, chips and peas with Liz, Phyllis & Margaret. I then slept for two hours before updating this blog. The third SCD rehearsal was fully attended and I practised with Marianne, Sheila & Ruth. I dined on pork with Daphne, Laurence, Michael, Josephine & Sheila. As usual we danced both before and after the show. The latter began with the production company, which I watched, followed by Ryan Morgan the vibrating tenor, which I didn't.



Valletta, Malta

Valletta, Malta

I got up early and breakfasted al fresco alone on the Verandah ready for the sail in to the Grand Harbour of Valletta on Malta. As usual we were greeted with a seven gun salute, as we entered SPII's home port. I escorted the Medieval Mdina and Mosta tour for a second time with my camera working again. This time we had the refreshments in a posh café on the ramparts rather than at the convent we had used before. The cheese and pea pastries were as good as ever! Back at the ship, I lunched on sirloin steak, chips and peas (again!) with Phyllis & Margaret. I slept for over an hour before wi-fi-ing on the waterfront with Phyllis & Margaret. It was good to see Rose Zammit enjoying her retirement on the waterfront again. Walking around Floriana again, this time I inspected the brand new underpass and two churches, one old and one new.

Back at the ship, after my late afternoon ice cream, I changed into my Greek Guard's fancy dress ready for the Grecian evening (see photograph above). Unfortunately the Captain announced that the poor weather forecast precluded visiting Gozo the next day. I dined on prime rib of beef with Una, Margaret from Ilkley, Daphne, Henry and Laurence. We danced before the show, then I was last on in the fancy dress parade. I won a bottle of champagne by audience acclamation for my efforts and was given a nice group photograph. The show was a local folk dance troupe. We danced the final dance set before adjourning to the Greek deck party, where Angela did her Greek dance wearing one of my eastern hats.


On the next sea day I breakfasted with Margaret, Flora & Paul on two Eggs Benedict in the Verandah restaurant. At 9 am Christine taught Country Groovin' and recapped some previous dances. I attended the Chaplain's lecture on "What to see in Cathedrals & Churches" illustrated with slides from some of the places we had visited on our cruise together. I then listened to Sheila Parker's lecture entitled "From Tiller Girl to Vernon Girl". I had a SCD rehearsal with Ruth, Ron & Christine on one of the landings at noon followed by a caesar salad lunch with Ruth and two of the newly arrived entertainers. I slept for an hour and then did some computing before another SCD rehearsal at 5 pm with Sheila & Marianne. After waiting 15 minutes outside the main dining room to be placed by Kirsten the Maitre D', she despaired of any more single ladies arriving and so placed me on the same table as my colleague Danny, Henry, Laurence and just two ladies! I dined on split pea soup, salad, lamb shank and maple walnut ice cream. We then danced both before and after the new comedian's show. I slept for nine hours that night!



Bardo museum in Tunis

Bardo museum in Tunis

No tour in Tunis so, after breakfasting with Sue, I caught the first shuttle bus into the city. They dropped us outside the International Hotel which offered free wi-fi and loos. I walked back along the main avenue to the tourist information office which inexplicably had no city maps! I retraced my steps to the Catholic cathedral before entering the Medina via the Porte de France gateway. I traversed the old city via the souks and mosques to Government Place on the other side. I then walked around the southern side of the Medina photographing the other monumental gateways. I re-entered the International Hotel before catching the noon shuttle bus back to the ship. I lunched on salmon en croute, chips and peas with Phyllis & Margaret. I then slept for one and three quarter hours, awakening to find that the brilliant sun had gone and the ice cream station with it! I dined on Chateaubriand steak with Sophie & Joan, Margaret & Phyllis and Michael from Canterbury. It was too rough to dance, but the entertaining puppet show went on nevertheless. So we had the first early night of the cruise!


On the next sea day, I breakfasted with a couple from East Anglia on two Eggs Benedict. Still rough that morning, line dancing was cancelled. I then attended a bird lecture by David Saunders and a history lecture by Arthur Cotterell. I lunched on lamb chops with Margaret & Phyllis. Still rough again that afternoon meant no ballroom class, so I slept for an hour and a half. I awoke just in time to see the start of the Mamma Mia film in the Discovery Lounge complete with complimentary popcorn. That evening I dined on pork with Jackie, Josephine, Joan, Sophie and Michael. We danced as usual both before and after Caroline Dennis' excellent show. I slept for nine hours that night again.


On the following sea day, line dancing, with us outnumbering the passengers, was cut short by the church service. I attended the Gibraltar lecture by Dan Jones and the Beatles lecture by Sheila Parker. I lunched on roast leg of beef with Margaret, Flora & Paul. After the ballroom dance class I only had time for a brief lie down before we had the next SCD rehearsal. I indulged in strawberries dipped in the chocolate fountain at tea time. We were on duty at the Captain's cocktail party before I dined on Steak Diane with Sheila, Jo, Arthur, Margaret from Ilkley and Daphne. We then danced both before and after the comedian's second show.



Gibraltar Convent

Gibraltar Convent

In Gibraltar I breakfasted on two Eggs Benedict and strawberries & cream with Christine, before escorting the Fortress tour. One lady suddenly jumped off the minibus and rushed back to the ship with Grazia in hot pursuit and her husband reluctantly following behind. He later apologised to me saying that his wife was ill. Fortunately that freed up two seats for two standby passengers. We began at Europa Point, stopped at the Apes' Den to see just one old monkey and then toured the WWII tunnels. I lunched on a cheeseburger & chips and strawberries & cream (again!) with another couple before lying down for less than an hour. Walking back into town, I used the free wi-fi outside McDonalds before whizzing around Morrisons supermarket. I walked along the western ramparts for the first time then back along the main street. After another short lie down I attended the next SCD rehearsal before going up to watch the sail away through the Straits of Gibraltar. Unfortunately no dolphins could be seen, although the morning's Dolphin Watch Tour had seen plenty. I dined on New York strip steak (again) with Phyllis, Margaret, Christine, Molly the ex-ballet teacher and another lady. With a classical concert in the Discovery Lounge we didn't dance until after the production company's show but even that turned into a SCD rehearsal.



Saga Pearl II (SPII)

On the penultimate sea day, I breakfasted on a cheese omelette and strawberries & cream with Margaret, Sophie & Flora. I attended Arthur's history lecture on Gibraltar, Menorca and Malta, before having a morning nap in my cabin. I lunched on steak, egg, chips and peas with Phyllis, Margaret and Dr Sybil the 'lapsed Lutheran' archaeologist from Oxford. After the ballroom dance class I had a short lie down before doing my laundry. We had the dress rehearsal for the SCD contest at 6 pm when I photographed the six single ladies. I printed out their photos so that they each had a prize at the end of the contest! I dined on steak with Christine, Margaret, Phyllis, Molly & Arthur. The contest went well with the Captain playing the role of Len Goodman, Claire the production company manager the part of Darcy and the nice Adam James (F&B Manager) the part of Mr Nasty, Craig Revel-Horwood! We all watched the second puppet show from the side before adjourning to the Verandah for hot chocolate via Shackleton's Bar.


No tour in Vigo, so I walked up the ramp to the cathedral, fort and castle. I came down via the archaeological site and the new congress hall. I returned to the ship via the two adjacent tourist information offices (one city, one province) but not via the two railway stations (one old, one new)! I danced on deck at the early sailaway before lunching on roast lamb with Sheila & Jo. After Ron & Christine's dance style class, I slept for two and half hours. On duty at the Captain's farewell cocktail party, I saw Jackie fall over across the other side of the room. However she was x-rayed and pronounced well ready to join my dinner table soon after 7 pm. Thus I dined on lobster with a complimentary bottle of Argentinian red with Phyllis, Margaret, Jackie clutching a ice pack on her bruised arm, Arthur and another lady. We gathered before Caroline Dennis' second show to get the SCD results: 3rd place Ann & Danny, 2nd place with 45 votes Marianne and me, 1st place with 60 votes Diana and Simeon aged 90! Unfortunately it was too rough to dance after the show. At the end of the evening I showed Angela her former boss Jonathan Neal's facebook pages, as she was interested in his purchase of an old lunatic asylum. I adjourned to Shackleton's bar for the Cruise Director's cabaret during which I discoed with Liz and another lady.


On the final sea day I breakfasted with Daphne before attending the line dancing where we again outnumbered the passengers. I then listened to lectures on the Battle of the Atlantic and on Nelson. I lunched on minute steak, chips & peas with Liz, Phyllis & Margaret before attending the final ballroom class. I lay down for just half an hour before starting to pack and updating this blog. I dined on beef in the Verandah resturant for the first time this cruise with Phyllis, Margaret and Stuart. We broke open the bottle of Hungarian bubbly that I had won for my Greek fancy dress outfit. We danced both before and after the final production company's show. On checking my emails I found one from my lecturing agent Peter Rushton saying that Saga were awaiting the return of my next contract. I started saying my goodbyes in the Discovery lounge, continued in Shackleton's bar where I discovered that Molly the ex-ballet teacher would be on my next SPII cruise, and finished the farewells in the Verandah restaurant over hot chocolate.


Back in Southampton I awoke at 7 am and breakfasted with Margaret on my final two Eggs Benedict. I had luggage tag 11 so I didn't get off the ship until 10 am, but I was still home by noon. Penny Butler entered a picture of me in the photo competition which she gave to me at the end of cruise, writing "With fond memories of a lovely cruise".


Scorecard:

10 Tours escorted.
  5 Passengers hosted at dinner each evening.
  4 New ports (Santorini, Haifa, Ashdod & Crotone) visited.
  3 Partners danced with in the Strictly Cruise Dancing (SCD) competition.
  3 Outfits modelled in the fashion show.
  1 Fancy dress competition entered and won.
  1 New country (Israel) visited.


Good points were:

  1. Free water.
  2. Free internet!
  3. Glorious weather.
  4. Free shuttle buses.
  5. Fresh fruit in cabin.
  6. Did I say free internet?
  7. Complimentary wine on formal nights.
  8. Open seating dinner in the main dining room.
  9. Outside twin cabin with picture window all to myself!
  10. Fantastic ports: Santorini, Haifa for Nazareth and Ashdod for Bethlehem & Jersalem.

For the record ...


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