Cruise P2134 on the Saga Pearl II to the Gulf of Bothnia, Lapland June 2015

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
23/06/2015 Dover
England
- Free parking!
24/06/2015 Kiel Canal
Germany
(No Tours!) Evening / night time transit
26/06/2015 Visby
Gotland
Taste of Gotland &
Train Ride
First choice tour!
27/06/2015 Mariehamn
┼land Islands
Scenic ┼land Outdoor museum &
Woodland elevenses!
28/06/2015 Rauma
Finland
Explore Old Rauma on Foot UNESCO old wooden town
29/06/2015 Vaasa
Finland
Kvarken Boat Trip Smoked salmon afloat!
30/06/2015 Kemi
Finland
Kemi, Tornio & Haparanda Smoked salmon ashore!
01/07/2015 Luleň
Sweden
City walking tour Sunny city!
02/07/2015 Umeň
Sweden
City Tour & Gammlia Another sunny city!
03/07/2015 Hudiksvall
Sweden
Lňngvind Manor &
Ironworks
Stately home and estate
05/07/2015 Copenhagen
Denmark
Copenhagen &
Rosenborg Castle
5 miles in 5 hours of hot sun!
07/07/2015 IJmuiden
Netherlands
Panoramic Amsterdam &
Canal Cruise
Usual sights!
08/07/2015 Dover
UK
- Tag A off by 9 am!


Folkestone: Monday the 22nd of June 2015

I left home at 9 am but hit heavy traffic in the rain on the M3, so I turned off on to the A31. There was then a long tailback from the A3 so I had to go through the centre of Guildford. Reaching the M25, a school bus had collided with the crash barrier causing more delays. After a brief stop at Cobham services, it was then a clear run through to Ashford in Kent. I went shopping there in the town centre and the out-of-town ASDA and Tesco. At the latter I picked up a Nilfisk pressure washer reduced from ú120 to ú30! I arrived at my B&B in Folkestone at 3:30 pm, which Saga kindly paid for, and then walked into town. Folkestone town centre has been transformed, partly with Roger De Haan's money from the sale of Saga. Unfortunately the harbour railway station was still semi-derelict. The walk along the prom to the Leas gardens was delighful in the sunshine after the day's rains.


Embarkation Day in Dover: Tuesday the 23rd of June 2015

The next morning I got to the Saga HQ in Sandgate before 9 am to bag my place at the first Annual General Meeting (AGM). There I met Captain Wesley Dunlop, Cruise Directors John Parton and Kayleigh McMahon, Hotel Director Horst Pint and Saga Chaplain Pam with her grand-daughter. I walked around the extensive grounds and along the prom before the short meeting. They showed a promotional DVD with only one dance host featured, Ernie Coulson the taxi driver from Thorpe Bay. After the meeting I walked around Hythe before driving to Dover. With strikes and civil unrest in Calais the M20 was stacked with queuing lorries, this delayed many pax, so after meeting up with my colleague Danny, I was able to board the ship quickly. After a late buffet lunch, I lay down for an hour before the safety drill, conducted entirely indoors again. At the sailaway at 4 pm I chatted with Christine from Horsham who had persuaded me to book this cruise. At 4:20 pm we had the usual magic moment, this time with two Spitfires preforming overhead. I dined on prime rib of beef with Avril from West Byfleet, Joy from York, Margaret from Newcastle, Alan from Suffolk and Mike. As usual I ordered a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. We danced one set before we were walked on to the stage by Kayleigh and then danced again after the production show. There were no passengers in Shackleton's lounge so we went to bed.


First Sea Day & Kiel Canal Transit: Wednesday the 24th of June 2015

Kiel Canal transit

Kiel Canal transit

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with a couple from Northants. At 9 am the three professional dancers ran the line dance class teaching the Electric Slide, Cowboy Charleston & Country Walkin' to four passengers. At 9.45 Jacquie gave her shore excursions talk followed by Daniel's port talks on the Kiel Canal and Visby on Gotland. We attended the Singles Mingle at noon where it was good to chat to Christine, Hazel and Paula. I had sailed with the latter around both South Africa and Jutland in 2013 when SPII was called Q4A! I lunched at 12:30 and I ran my first ballroom dance class on the Social Foxtrot for only two ladies at 1:30 pm. I then slept for an hour and a half before doing ten circuits of the top deck. I dined on pork schnitzel with Margaret from Suffolk, Margaret from Newcastle (again), Anne, Mary and another lady. I ordered a bottle of house white for three of us, half of which could be held over for the next night. We danced both before and after the Eden duo of sopranos, I then went to bed while Danny held the fort in Shackleton's bar but with no dancing.


Second Sea Day: Thursday the 25th of June 2015

I breakfasted on a plain omelette with a lady from Cardiff. At 9 am Katy taught California Frieze & Cowboy Strut whilst I taught Texas Waltz to five passengers. At 9:45 I listened to Daniel's port talks on Mariehamn and Rauma in Finland. I gave my well received talk on "Hitler & Putin: a tale of four cities" at 11:15, before rushing to host a table in the singles luncheon party. The passengers rotated tables between courses, which included pork belly instead of chicken. I slipped out early for my waltz class at 1:30 pm, whose numbers had doubled with the addition of a couple. I then slept for another hour and a half. At the Captain's welcome cocktail party I chatted with Dave Peterson and Flora & Paul Starling. I dined on fillet steak stuffed with Stilton with Marjorie, Carole, Joan, Jean & Margaret from Gainsborough. As usual we danced both before and aftr the Jazz duo's showtime.


Visby on Gotland: Friday the 26th of June 2015

Visby on Gotland

Visby on Gotland

I had a full English breakfast before escorting my first choice Taste of Gotland and Train Ride tour (M, R, LA, SD, N). We visited a medieval church and a very modern dairy. At the latter we saw them making ice cream and sampled their differing cheeses washed down with elderflower lemonade. We then caught the period steam railway from Roma to Dalhem with a stop at Tule for a short lecture. At the terminus we had time to look in the railway museum. We ended the tour with a half mile walk across Visby from the botanical garden to the marina. After lunch I lay down for an hour before walking back into lovely Visby at 3:15 pm. I then caught the final 4 o'clock shuttle bus back to the ship. We then had to change cabins from 473 in the pax area to 478 in the crew area. I dined on Tandoori Chicken with Margaret from Gainsborough, Christine's friend Joan from Shrewsbury, Mary and two ladies from the Wirral. We danced with the usual suspects before the "Let's Swing" production showtime. After the show we alternated dancing between Ann and Wendy.


Mariehamn in the ┼land Islands: Saturday the 27th of June 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Sue from Oxford, before escorting the Scenic ┼land tour (E, R, N). On the edge of the old harbour we had half an hour at the outdoor maritime museum. I particularly liked the wooden chapel and the motor museum of agricultural engines. We drove east, north and then south of Mariehamn the capital. Near the southernmost part of the island we stopped at a charming kiosk for semolina tart with prune sauce and coffee. Back in the capital we ascended the hill to the old water tower to enjoy the views in the sunshine. I lunched on a beefburger, chips and mushy peas but was unable to have my usual siesta as a cherry picker was de-rusting the outside window of the next door cabin. So I walked into town via the new harbour having seen the old harbour on the morning tour. I photographed all the main sights, save for the swiss chalet which we had glimpsed in the morning. In the public library two folk groups were playing so I stayed to listen for a while. There was a wedding on in the main parish church (it was a Saturday) so I couldn't look around inside. Back at the ship I lay down for half an hour but had to shower and change ready for the sailaway in the brilliant sun. I dined on New York strip steak with Welsh Hazel, the two Margarets, Mary (again) and another lady. I ordered another bottle of Argentinian Malbec red wine as two ladies helped me finish the bottle of house white from the previous night. Mary cheekily ordered all three desserts! We danced before the sopranos second show when I updated this blog. After the show only Ann remained for dancing. I slept for nine hours that night!


Rauma in Finland: Sunday the 28th of June 2015

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Christine and a couple of ladies before escorting the Explore Old Rauma on Foot tour (M, R, N). We began at the church, went in a couple of museums and finished with fruit juice and doughnuts in a period cafÚ. Back at the ship I lunched on roast leg of beef (it was a Sunday) with Danny, Wendy and another lady. I then slept for three quarters of an hour before catching the 2:30 pm shuttle bus back into town. I managed to photograph most of the sights in the UNESCO world heritage area of wooden houses. I then caught the last shuttle bus back to the ship at 4 pm. I dined on sirloin steak with Teresa, Margaret from Newcastle, Anne from Scotland, Mary (yet again) and Lilian from Scotland. I ordered another bottle of the house white wine to go with the leftover red. We danced both before and after the jazz duo's second show. As Chloe was doing her cabaret in Shackleton's lounge, Dave Peterson the cocktail pianist played for our second set in the Discovery Lounge. The midnight sun was still up when I went to bed!


Vaasa in Finland: Monday the 29th of June 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with a lady from Cambridge. I then caught the 9 am shuttle bus into the city. I walked to the motor museum but it didn't open until 11. I started walking to the maritime museum but got diverted by the public library and Lidl's supermarket where I bought a pair of underpants for six euros! I then caught the 11:30 bus back to the ship for an early lunch.

I escorted the afternoon boat trip to the Kvarken Archipelago (E, R, N, SD, LA), pretty pretty but I couldn't see why it was a UNESCO site! We had open smoked salmon sandwiches, cake and coffee on board. At the sailaway I danced with Wendy and two married ladies. I dined on beef stroganoff with Christine (who asked for me to join her), Joan, Alan, Albert and another lady, and ordered another bottle of Argentinian Malbec. We danced both before and after the excellent new "Music of the Night" Andrew Lloyd Webber show. I joined Christine and Joan in the Verandah restaurant for late night hot chocolate.


Kemi in Finland: Tuesday the 30th of June 2015

I breakfasted on a samll cheese omelette with a single lady before escorting the Kemi, Tornio & Haparanda tour around the Finnish/Swedish border (M, R, N). We began with 15 minutes free time at the old harbour in Kemi. Daniella complained at the start that this was too long and at the end that it wasn't long enough! Later her husband complained that there weren't enough stops! The two border towns were disappointing, but the elevenses at the rapids were superb. We had smoked/salted wild salmon on flat bread, some of my pax thought that it smelt too fishy, so I got to pig out on three open sandwiches with my coffee! The only downside was the mosquitoes at the water's edge. The last stop was the interesting medieval stone church of St. Michael at Keminmaa. The 1629 mummy of a pastor was quite grisly!

Back at the ship I lunched on Tandoori chicken and chips with Chaplain Arthur and his wife Melanie. Luckily I was able to show them the leaflet from the church that I had just visited. I slept for over an hour before catching the 3:30 pm shuttle back into Kemi. I photographed all the main sites including the Panorama CafÚ from the top of the 13 storey town hall. A local man gave me a guided tour of the four war memorials in the churchyard, including the red/white civil war and several wars with the Soviet Union. Fortunately I was able to tell him about the Hitler & Putin lecture I had given on the ship. I caught the 5 o'clock bus back to the ship. I then dined on veal with the two Margarets, Jean, petite Dorothy and a lady from Croydon. I ordered a bottle of rosÚ to go with the red and white I had left over. With a classical concert followed by a classical guitarist, we didn't dance until Dave Peterson's set at 10:15 with the band supporting Chloe next door. I joined Christine, Joan and Alan for hot chocolate in the Verandah restaurant.


Luleň in Sweden: Woden's Day the 1st of July 2015

Church in Gammelstad, Luleň

Church in Gammelstad, Luleň

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict before escorting the Luleň City walking tour (S). We began with a panoramic drive out to the university past the new faceless FaceBook building. We started our walk at the inner city park, before visiting the cathedral, the market and the cultural centre. During the free time I photographed the latter together with the fire station, the sports arena and the swimming baths. Back at the ship I lunched on minute steack with Joan before sleeping for an hour and a half. I then took the 15 minute walk along the quayside back into the city. I photographed all the major sights including the theatre and the railway station. I caught the penultimate shuttle bus back to the ship. At the Britannia Club cocktail party I chatted with Ken Fraser who wanted to be remembered to former cruise director Neil Horrocks. I dined on the Chateaubriand steak with a gent from Sheffield and four rather quiet ladies. I ordered a bottle of the house white to go with the red and rosÚ bottles leftover. We danced both before and after Peter Fisher's violin recital. He began with Lord of the Dance by Ronan Hardiman, followed by the Meditation from Thais by Massenet and the Devil went down to Georgia. He ended with my all-time favourite violin piece, the finale from Pablo Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy!


Umeň in Sweden: Thor's Day the 2nd of July 2015

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with a single lady before escorting my first choice Umeň City Tour and visit to the Gammlia outdoor museum (M). We began with a coach ride around the enormous University / Hospital complex. The museum was very interesting with both Sami and Swedish period buildings. The high point was the maritime hall with old wooden boats and the marvellous Egil seal hunting boat. The main building had an extensive collection of skis including the world's oldest ski dating from 3,400 years BC! We then visited the main city church and a medieval one some miles upstream. Back at the ship I lunched on barbequed salmon, chips and peas with Jean. She had recovered from her recent fall and was hoping to be back dancing that evening. I then slept for over an hour before catching the 3 pm shuttle bus into town. I photographed all the main sights before catching the final bus back to the ship. I dined on sirloin steak with Margaret from Gainsborough, petite Dorothy from Longbridge, Jean from Ely, Margaret from Newcastle and another lady. We danced with the usual suspects both before and after the "Cool Britannia" production show. When the music finished, I joined Christine, Joan and Alan for hot chocolate in the Verandah.


Hudiksvall in Sweden: Frigg's Day the 3rd of July 2015

Warehouses in Hudiksvall

Warehouses in Hudiksvall

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Avril before escorting the Lňngvind Manor & Ironworks tour (M, R, N, SD). I led my party on to the first tender so we were ashore by 8:45 am. We stopped off at the medieval church in Enanger to see the famous painted ceiling and wooden statues. At Lňngvind the chapel was still locked so we toured the enormous wooden stately home. I hurried all the way down to the little harbour before enjoying the chocolate cake with both strawberry and pear cordial in the bright sunshine. We then toured the old ironworks including the huge but decaying charcoal-driven blast furnace. Back at the ship I lunched on roast lamb with Hazel before sleeping for an hour and a half. At 5:30 pm I listened to Daniel's port talk on Copenhagen. I dined on lamb shank with Mary from Wokingham, Margaret from Gainsborough, Margaret from Newcastle, the lady from Croydon and another lady. We danced both before and after the classical guitarist's second show. At the end of the evening, I joined Joy & Avril for hot chocolate in the Verandah restaurant.


Third Sea Day: Saturday the 4th of July 2015

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette before attending the line dance class. Katie taught Lemon Tree & Stroll Along Cha Cha, the latter as a two wall dance. I then attended Daniel's port talk which was entitled IJmuiden but only covered Amsterdam! Whilst walking around the top deck, Paula collared me for a game of short tennis on the top court. At 12:30 the magic moment Baltic Buffet took place al fresco on the Verandah and Sundowner decks. I danced with Wendy and one of the married ladies to the band, before lunching on King Crab legs, prawns and smoked salmon, followed by one Swedish meatball, one sausage and half a steak with Danny and the former dance couple. At 1:15 I had to slip away to set up my 1:30 Social Rumba class for Wendy, Ann & Carolyn (one of the married women). I then had a deep sleep for one and a half hours. After reading in the library, I swam in the indoor pool at 34 degrees C for the first time this cruise. I dined on fillet steak with Margaret from Gainsborough, Hazel from Swansea, petite Dorothy from Birmingham, Mary from Wokingham and another lady. As usual we danced both before and after the violinist's second show which I felt wasn't as good as his first.


Copenhagen in Denmark: Sunday the 5th of July 2015

The little mermaid statue in Copenhagen photo taken by Jon Horrrocks

The little mermaid statue in Copenhagen photo taken by Jon Horrrocks

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict before escorting my first choice Copenhagen & Rosenborg Castle walking tour (S, N). This was over five miles over five hours on a scorching day! We visited the Danish crown jewels which were surprisingly not very crowded. Finally back at the ship I lunched on roast beef with the couple from the West Midlands who had been with me on the morning's marathon. I then slept for two hours. I dined on sirloin steak with Mary from Wokingham, Margaret from Newcastle, Marjorie, Carole and Joan. We danced both before and after the Elvis production show, during which I updated this blog.


Fourth Sea Day: Monday the 6th of July 2015

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with a couple from the Isle of Sheppey. At the line dance class a different professional dancer taught the Red Hot Salsa & 5,6,7,8. I listened to Malcolm's musical mystery tour lecture before giving my own one entitled "Hamlet: Prince of Denmark". After lunch I led the revision ballroom dance class for Carolyn, Wendy and Ann. The former asked me to teach the Square Tango as well as revising the three dances that I had previously taught. After my siesta I went swimming in the indoor pool at only 31 degrees C this time! I then got ready for the Captain's farewell cocktail party. I dined on beef Wellington with Mary from Wokingham, Margaret from Newcastle, the two ladies from Beccles and another lady. We danced as usual both before and after Lee Mead's show. Predictably he ended with "Any dream will do"!


IJmuiden for Amsterdam in the Netherlands: Tuesday the 7th of July 2015

I had a full English breakfast before escorting the Panoramic Amsterdam & Canal Cruise tour (E, LA). Back at the ship I lunched on grilled salmon and chips before lying down for over an hour. I then walked the three miles to the beach and then caught the 5:30 pm shuttle bus back to the ship. I dined on Wiener Schnitzel with Marjorie, Carole & Joan (all from Bedfordshire) together with two Scottish ladies. We managed to finish up my red, white and rosÚ wine bottles! We danced with only Ann, Carolyn and one of the married ladies as it was a little choppy. After the variety show and singalong, we danced with just Ann and Wendy. I bagged a quickstep with cruise director Kayleigh McMahon before saying our goodbyes.


Disembarkation Day in Dover: Wednesday the 8th of July 2015

Saga Pearl II

Saga Pearl II

I breakfasted on TWO egg Benedicts with Margaret from Gainsborough. With luggage tag A we were first off the ship by 9 am. Operation Stack was in force on the eastbound carriageway of the M20 but going westbound was fine. The M25 was another story with a lorry crash, so I turned off and wasted an hour pootling along the old A25. I eventually got home just before 1 pm!

Flora later wrote: "I much enjoyed your talk (on Hamlet) and the excellent visual presentation, particularly the Royal family trees and your 'tick' list which made everything so clear."


Score card:

15 Dining tables hosted
10 Tours escorted
 4 Ballroom dance classes taught
 4 Line dance classes attended
 3 Cocktail parties attended
 2 Guest lectures given (Hitler & Putin and Hamlet)
 1 Singles luncheon hosted
 1 Cruise enjoyed!

Good points were:

  1. Outside Twin Cabin with picture window on Deck B
  2. Open Seating Dining in the Main Dining Room
  3. Efficient Cabin Steward (Miguelito then Leo)
  4. Two New Italian Coffee Machines
  5. Free Ice Cream Machine
  6. Free Shuttle Buses
  7. Free Internet
  8. Free Water
  9. Free Wi-fi
  10. Free Fruit

For the record ...


Key:

P Panoramic
E Easy
M Moderate
S Strenuous

R Refreshments
W Wine Tasting
L Luncheon
N New

SD Something Different
LA Limited Availability