|22/07/2014||Dover||-||On board for lunch!|
|24/07/2014||Heligoland||(No tours)||Glorious morning on North Sea island|
|25/07/2014||IJmuiden||Battle of Arnhem||Two museums & lunch out|
|26/07/2014||Ostend||Loppem Castle & Damme||Interesting castle & town|
|27/07/2014||Antwerp||Fort Breendonk & Casern Dossin||Concentration camp & Holocaust museum|
|28/07/2014||Dunkirk||Arras & Wellington Quarry||Three cemeteries & War museum|
|29/07/2014||Boulogne||Opal Coast & the Atlantic Wall||Two capes & War museum|
|30/07/2014||Dover||-||Home by 12:30!|
I left home on the Friday to travel via Newbury to the Hilton Hotel in Milton Keynes. I attended an Open University dinner there prior to a staff meeting on the Saturday. That evening I travelled on to my brother and sister-in-law's at Harlow. I took them out to Sunday lunch at a pub in Epping Upland. On the Monday we drove over to Southend to visit my dance host colleague Ernie Coulson and two lots of my brother's classic car friends. We lunched at a seaside café under the arches of the Westcliff followed by Rossi's famous ice creams.
On the Tuesday I drove south, via Brentwood to avoid a gridlocked M11/M25, on to Lakeside in Thurrock. I then had to queue for a quarter of an hour to cross the Dartford bridge. With short stops at Bluewater and the Ashford outlet centre, I was on board the lovely Saga Pearl II soon after one o'clock. I lunched with Pam from Slough and my colleague Roger from Ormskirk on scampi and smoked salmon rolls. I slept for an hour before the lifeboat drill followed by a religious service conducted by Archdeacon Arthur & his wife Melanie, who I had cruised to the Holy Land with in March. After the Cruise Director's cocktail party, I dined on prime rib of beef with Wendy from Portsmouth, Kay from Bognor and Ted together with Janet Wilson the bridge instructor and her friend Maureen. We danced both before and after the classical concert during which I accessed my emails but I couldn't get FaceBook to update my status. Christine Medlock very kindy gave me a CD containing pictures and video clips from cruise QA027 "Cities of the Inland Sea".
On the first sea day I breakfasted with Kay from Bognor on a cheese omelette followed by strawberries and cream! We were walked-on to the stage by Kayleigh the cruise director at 9:15 am, so no time for line dancing. I then attended Jacquie's tours introduction, Peter Hipkin's first two port talks and Stephen Prince's "First World War" in 45 minutes! At the singles mingle I chatted with Pam, Kay, Sally, Christine and others. I lunched with Christine & Scottish Pat in the Verandah Restaurant on smoked salmon salad & chips followed by praline pecan ice cream! I slept for an hour and a half before listening to the fourth (but not third) port talk in my cabin. I swam in the indoor pool before doing half a mile (five circuits) of the top deck. I finally managed to update my FaceBook status with the names of my 'friends' on board. At the Captain's welcome cocktail party I chatted with Stephen Prince (ex. JSCSC) and his father amongst others. Christine asked the Maitre D' if I could join her table for dinner with Sue, Arnold and ex-headmaster Tony & his wife who I had previously only breakfasted with. I dined that night on fillet steak and was given a complimentary bottle of Argentinian Malbec to share with my table, but only Arnold joined me. We danced both before and after Bruce Morrison's show.
Anchored south of Heligoland, the swell precluded tendering so the ship had to move north of the island. Thus my tender (number four) didn't get away until after 10:30. Arriving on the island by 11 am, I walked north along the sea wall to see the seals in the northern bay. I climbed the Hunter's Steps up the famous red cliffs to see the marvellous gannet colony for a second time. I walked back along the cliff top to the town and got back to the ship in time for lunch with Christine. I started with shell-on prawns, proceeded on to escalope of pork and finished with butter toffee ice cream! I slept for an hour or so before dancing right through the wartime afternoon tea dance with the usual suspects. I dined on pork for the second time that day with Kay, Bill, two sisters and another lady on table number 8. With another classical concert on, we only danced after Linda Watts' wartime singalong show. Some passengers walked out but most loved it!
In IJmuiden in the Netherlands I escorted my first choice all day tour to Arnhem for a second time. We started out at the Liberation museum near Nijmegen, then I lunched on soup, pork schnitzel, ice cream and warm cherries with Wendy. We then visited the Airborne museum near Arnhem before the long drive home. We actually crossed the border into Germany near Kleve (remember Anne?) having crossed right across the Netherlands! However we didn't visit any cemeteries this time. Back at the ship, Mike Reed introduced himself to me - we had worked together on Saga Rose back in 2009! I dined on surf and turf (lobster and fillet steak) with Linda the tall dancer and two northern couples. We danced before the show to the four piece orchestra and after the show to the cocktail pianist as the band moved into Shackleton's bar for their jazz night.
In Ostend in Belgum I breakfasted on two Eggs Benedict with Pam in the Verandah resturant before escorting my first choice tour to Loppem Castle & the lovely village of Damme. I particularly enjoyed the chocolate factory in the outskirts of Brugges! I sat and chatted with Sally from Hornsey on the coach. Back at the ship, I lunched al fresco on a burger, chips and peas followed by my favourite rocky road ice cream. Having slept for two hours, I queued for 45 minutes to catch the free ferry across the harbour to the city. Unfortunately we had been bounced from the prime city-side berth by Voyage of Discovery's Voyager! I walked around the city centre for nearly two hours photographing the main sights ready for a future port talk. I only had to queue for 20 minutes to catch the ferry back across the harbour!
I dined on duck with ex-Headmaster Tony and his wife from Leicestershire and another ex-schoolmaster, who had been in the RAEC, and his wife. With my colleague and most of the ship at the Menin gate in Ypres for the last post, I only had one lady to dance with both before and after the production show. Unfortunately they had to perform their swing show to only a handful of people! The coaches got back at 10 pm for the grand gala buffet in both the main dining room and the Verandah resturant.
In Antwerp I breakfasted with Pam on a cheese omelette before escorting my first choice tour to the Fort Breendonk concentration camp and the Holocaust museum in Mechelen. I found the latter overwhelming so I left early to walk round the Belgian episcopal city. I found the tourist information office in the main square which had been given over to beach volleyball! We got back to the ship at 4 pm and I was alone at the chocolate tea dance at 4:15 as Roger's tour had been delayed until 5 pm after a string of problems. I watched the majestic sailaway from Antwerp from above the navigational bridge, before dancing again at 6:15 pm! I dined on beef stroganoff with Sue from Surrey, Mary, Molly the ex-ballet teacher, John and another lady. With another classical concert in the programme, we didn't dance until after Bruce Morrison's Les Miserables tour de force show.
An hour late arriving in Dunkirk, I breakfasted on two Eggs Benedict with Hazel before escorting my first choice tour to Arras. We began at the Indian Army monument; visited the impressive, underground Wellington quarry (named by the New Zealand miners) and then had our packed lunches in the city centre. The main square, as in Mechelen, was given over to an artificial beach ready for the school holidays. Unfortunately one gentleman was twenty minutes late back to the coach, so I was preparing to send the coach off without him and me, when he finally turned up with his tail between his legs! He had confused a quarter past three with a quarter to! After a shortened stop at the British cemetery in Arras, Archdeacon Arthur Hawes conducted a moving service at the Canadian monument on the top of Vimy ridge. After I had proposed a vote of thanks to the guide and driver, one of the passengers proposed a vote of thanks for me as escort! My coach got back to the ship at 6:15 pm and I was on duty at the farewell cocktail party at 6:30. I dined on lobster with Sue from Surrey again, Molly the dancer and her sister Sheila, and a couple from Manchester. As usual on formal nights, I was given a complimentary bottle of Argentinian Malbec to share with my table, but only Sue joined me. We then danced both before and after the Andrews Sisters tribute act's show.
The next morning I started walking into Boulogne at 8:30 am, as the shuttle bus didn't commence operation until 9:45! I stuck out my thumb and the second car to pass was the port agent who kindly ferried me into the town. He was actually the port agent for Le Havre, drafted into Boulogne to provide holiday cover I think. So I was in town by 8:45 am ready to do some photography. I walked around the impressive ramparts, through the castle and into the old town. I climbed the belfry on the 10:30 free tour and then went in the cathedral. I caught the 11:15 shuttle bus back to the ship for an 11:45 early lunch of pea soup, ribs & chips, and my favourite rocky road ice cream. I then escorted my first choice tour to the Atlantic Wall on the Opal Coast. We began at Grey Nose Cape (Cap Griz Nez) in the grey and ended at White Nose Cape (Cap Blanc Nez) in the sun! In the middle we visited the enormous Todt Battery museum. Back at the ship I listened to the Philippino choir on my cabin television whilst packing. I dined on veal shank with Mary, Alan from Croydon, the two sisters from Norfolk and another gent. We danced both before and after the Last Night of the Proms singalong with Linda Watts.
On the final morning I breakfasted on two Eggs Benedict in the Verandah restaurant one last time with Pam. I had luggage tag number 11, so I disembarked at 9:05 am and was home just after 12:30 pm after another memorable cruise! One passenger later wrote: "It was lovely to see you again and I enjoyed your company." Another wrote: "It was a great pleasure to meet you again Martin. I enjoyed your company so much, as I always do, and thank you for all the wonderful dances. I hope our paths will cross again soon - on either ship, as host or lecturer - equally brilliant when wearing either hat!"
5 Tours escorted.
5 Passengers hosted at dinner each evening.
3 Cocktail parties attended.
2 New ports (Ostend & Antwerp) visited.