Cruise P2143 on the Saga Pearl II around the Bay of Biscay, November 2015

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
30/10/2015 Southampton
- Aboard at noon!
31/10/2015 St. Malo
(No tours) Glorious day!
02/11/2015 La Pallice
Roche Courbon Castle &
Glorious day!
03/11/2015 Bayonne
San Jean de Luz &
Drizzle in Biarritz
04/11/2015 Gijon
Covadonga National Park Picos de Europa!
05/11/2015 Ferrol
Scenic Coast of Galicia Tapas & Wine!
06/11/2015 Santander
Scenic Santander Glorious day!
08/11/2015 Bordeaux
Chateau de Roquetaillade Glorious day!
09/11/2015 Montoir
Nantes &
the Erdre River Cruise
Glorious day!
11/11/2015 Dover
- Off at 8 am!

Embarkation Day, Southampton - Friday the 30th of October 2015

I left home just after 9 am in a Warren's Streamline taxi for BoMo station. I caught the 9:25 stopping train to SoTon, getting to the Ocean terminal for 10:30. When my colleague Barry arrived, he blagged us on to the ship before the passengers, so we were in our cabin just after noon. I had sailed with him once before to the Black Sea on the Saga Ruby. I then snacked on scampi and sausage rolls at the embarkation buffet, before sleeping for two hours. After the safety drill, we had the sailaway deck party, where we danced with Catherine wearing her large black hat (Cat the Hat?), followed by the entertainers' cocktail party. I dined on prime rib of beef with Evelyn, Kit & Liz and Diana & Michael. I ordered a bottle of Argentinian Malbec red wine as usual. We danced before show time with Bridget, Lynn and her mother from Inverness, Jane & Sue the two daughters (but not their mothers) and Catherine, this time without her large black hat! (Cat without the Hat?) Kayleigh introduced us during the show and we danced afterwards. Later in Shackleton's I danced and sat with Catherine until Clive finished. I then drank some skimmed milk in the Verandah restaurant before going to bed.

St. Malo, Brittany, France - Saturday the 31st of October 2015

I set my alarm for 7:30, but awoke at 7 am, which was now 8 am French time. We had been diverted from St. Helier on Jersey to St. Malo in Brittany due to the Atlantic swell. I breakfasted on one egg Benedict at the oval 'singles' table in the Verandah. At 9:15 I listened to Tom's introduction to the tours and Jeff's talk on La Rochelle & Bayonne. He has done 38 cruises as a port lecturer in the last five years! I then caught the second tender, getting ashore at 11 am. I did the 1.1 mile circuit of the famous ramparts in glorious sunshine, before diving into the city centre for the Cathedral, the art nouveau Post Office and St. Saviour's Chapel.

Back at the ship for 1 pm, I lunched on salmon en croute with chips and peas with the lady from Cardiff. I then slept for over an hour, before catching the 3:15 tender back into the port. I walked around the city to see the few sights (mostly shops and squares) that I had missed in the morning. I then walked south (?) towards the ancient Cité d'Alet. I photographed the Solidor Tower, the '39-'45 bunker museum and the old lighthouse, whilst walking along the promenades and the scenic cornice. Back at the jetty before 5 pm, I spent three quarters of an hour waiting for the last tender to depart, so I only got back just in time for the sailaway. This was almost a non-event since we couldn't sail with Europe's greatest tidal range at low ebb. Furthermore there were very few people present. The men were watching the rugby world cup final, and the ladies were getting ready for dinner! I did dance with Catherine.

We then adjourned to Shackleton's bar, where we were kept busy with a surprising number of dancing ladies during Clive's cocktail set. I dined on sirloin steak with Judy and her mother, Jackie & her French friend Lucette from Colchester and a lady from the Isle of White. I ordered another bottle of Argentinian Malbec to go with some leftover wine from the previous night. With a classical concert on in the Discovery Lounge, I was able to linger over dinner for the first time. I then backupped my 144 photographs from St. Malo. I watched the excellent "Let's Swing" showtime, before dancing to Clive's piano playing. We adjourned to Shackleton's, where a Halloween cabaret was in full swing. The floor was full of disco dancers, so we had a final drink in the Verandah before going to bed.

First Sea Day - Sunday the First of November 2015

Up at 7 am, I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with Barry & Clive. At 9 am I led my first line dance class for four people, including Tina the Captain's wife, Angela the port lecturer Jeff's wife, Sue and another lady. I only had time to teach the Slosh & Texas Waltz before the church service started at 9:30. I then updated my blog, before attending two lectures. The first was on French and Spanish cuisine and the second covered the ports of Gijon, Ferrol AND Santander. At 12:15 we had the singles mingle, where Kayleigh introduced everybody.

I lunched on roast beef with Sue and her husband from Ealing al fresco. At 13:30 I taught the social foxtrot and Barry taught the waltz. We had Tina the Captain's wife, Bridget but not Ann, Julie with her walker, Pauline who had won a bottle of wine at the mingle, tall Jane but not Sue, Rosalind and Sue from Ealing. I then slept for an hour, before continuing with my powerpoint presentation on St. Malo. At 6.15 we helped out at the Captain's cocktail party. I chatted with various guests and with Dan the deck cadet who was ten years older than the other cadets having already had a career in the Royal Navy. I dined on fillet steak stuffed with Stilton cheese with Richard the public school boy, Dennis from Upminster, Jean and Jenny the Welsh lady. I ordered a bottle of New Zealand Astrolabe white wine for the ladies, whilst Richard and I finished off the red from the previous night. We danced both before and after Anthony's showtime and then danced in Shackleton's with Catherine, Pauline, Jane & Sue. I also bagged a jive with cruise director Kayleigh. We went to bed after midnight.

La Pallice for La Rochelle, France - Monday the Second of November 2015

St. Martin de la Ré

St. Martin de la Ré

I awoke at 7 am and breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Evelyn. I then escorted my first choice tour to Chateau La Roche Courbon and the Roman city of Saintes (M & N). The former had beautiful grounds and the latter a majestic Roman triumphal arch. I also visited the Cathedral, the Nuns' Abbey (Abbaye aux Dames) and the Logis viewpoint in Saintes. Back at the ship, I lunched on salmon, chips & mushy peas again al fresco. I then slept for an hour, before reading in the library.

At 4:45 we had the sailaway, where I danced with Julie, Bridget, Pauline, Jean and another lady. I also led off the Slosh with the professional dancers. I then worked on this blog and processed my photographs whilst my first laundry load was washing. We danced in Shackleton's during Clive's cocktail set with Bridgit, Pauline, Jane, Sue, Julie and some other ladies, but not Catherine who was in quarantine. I dined on sirloin steak again with Richard and the four J's: Jean, Julie, Janet & John! I ordered another bottle of red wine and nobody wanted any of the leftover white! We danced as usual both before and after the classical guitarist's show and also during Clive's set in Shackleton's which ended at 11:30.

Bayonne, France - Tuesday the Third of November 2015

I awoke at 7:30 and breakfasted on a cheese omelette with two of the dancing ladies. I then escorted the tour to St. Jean de Luz & Biarritz (M & N). The first was a charming Basque fishing town, but it started to drizzle in the latter and some of the pax became restless with the disorganised German lady guide! Back at the ship, I lunched on smoked salmon salad and chips with Tina and Sue both from my line dancing classes. At 14:20 I caught the shuttle bus into the lovely Basque city of Bayonne. After visiting the tourist information office, I jumped on one of the free, electric shuttle buses which purr around the town. I hopped off in Petit Bayonne and started photographing the sights. I crossed back into Grande Bayonne and was impressed with the cathedral and old castle. The former had a marvellous gothic cloister and the latter was connected to extensive ramparts and fortifications. I then caught the penultimate shuttle bus back to the ship at 16:00.

I slept for a hour, before getting ready for the evening. We danced in Shackleton's to Clive's cocktail set. I then dined on Chateaubriand beef on table no. 8 with Dennis, Daniella's partner Richard (but not herself as she was seasick), a 90 year old gent and a couple (?) from Chiswick. I ordered a bottle of Malbec to go with the leftover white wine, but this confused the only lady on the table, but it turned out she had her own wine anyway! We danced both before and after the variety show, but with a cold coming on, I went to bed whilst Barry held the fort in Shackleton's.

Gijon, Asturias, Spain - Wednesday the Fourth of November 2015

Gijon pronounced Hee-HON

Gijon pronounced Hee-HON

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Evelyn, before escorting my third choice tour to the National Park in the Picos de Europa mountains (S, L & N) with Tina the Captain's wife in tow. Wearing walking boots and long socks, Tom the Shorex Manager called me "Dora the Explorer"! After an hour's drive we stopped at a café, where I shelled out 1 euro 60 on a hot chocolate. We then drove up into the majestic limestone mountains themselves to a circular glacial lake and then walked further up to another. Driving back down we stopped at a cave and associated Basilica. Back at the bottom, we had a sumptuous lunch consisting of many courses, but with the cheese first and the bean soup almost last just before the cold rice pudding! There was plenty of rough red wine which went well with the sparkling water. I sat with Ron, Diana & Michael.

Back at the ship at 4:30, I dozed for an hour, before getting dressed for the evening. We danced to Clive's cocktail set before dining. I had the chicken Kiev with Genevieve from Berkhamsted, a gent from Kent and three quiet, little old ladies. I ordered another bottle of Malbec of which everyone partook. We danced both before and after the production show's tribute to Andrew Lloyd-Webber, which I watched from the cabin whilst finishing off my Bayonne presentation. We then adjourned to Shackleton's bar for Clive's post-show set. When he finished we stayed chatting with the new Saga Shipping Director Stuart McQuaker who was very interesting. I didn't get to bed until 12:30!

Ferrol, Galicia, Spain - Thursday the Fifth of November 2015

Up at 7:30 I breakfasted with Barry, German Angela and her friend on a cheese omelette, before escorting my first choice Scenic Estuaries tour (E & R) again since I didn't want to spend the day in Santiage de Compostela yet again! We stopped off in Pontedeume as usual, but it was drizzling, so many pax didn't even get off the coach! At the usual restaurant, I pigged out on pigs-in-blankets and drank two glasses of the white wine. Back at the ship, I didn't bother with lunch, but went straight to bed and slept for two hours. The sailaway from Ferrol was abandoned due to the wet deck, so I went up to the top deck to watch the Captain take the ship out. We had a seven gun salute from St. Philip's Castle (Castelo San Felipe) as we passed through the narrow entrance to the harbour. I then read in the library, before getting ready for the Britannia Club cocktail party. I chatted with various pax before dining on Tornedos Rossini fillet steak with the Scottish couple from Stanmore, Lucette the French lady and her friend and a lady from Kent. I ordered a bottle of Prosecco for the table. We danced both before and after Harry the Piano's show. Continuing in Shackleton's lounge, I didn't get to bed until after midnight again.

Santander, Cantabria, Spain - Friday the Sixth of November 2015

I breakfasted on the full English with Pauline and another couple before escorting the City tour (E & N). We stopped at the famous Magdalena Palace and the Lighthouse before touring the city centre. Back at the ship, I lunched on escalope of pork with chips & peas, before sleeping for an hour and a half. I then went back into the city which I walked around for two hours taking pictures in the hot sun with a temperature of 75 degrees! Back at the ship again, I showered, did two loads of laundry and updated this blog and my day's photographs.

We danced before dining with the usual suspects. I had the lamb shank with a couple from Norwich, a couple from Tavistock and Catherine. The former only just tasted my red wine, but the rest of us finished off the bottle! We then danced both before and after the soprano's show. I liked her singing as she didn't go in for that awful vibrato warbling so many opera singers go in for. Sing, sang, song, sung - whatever happened to seng? We caught the end of Kurt's cabaret in Shackleton's lounge and then we danced to Clive, but he only played smoochy music. I went to bed just after midnight.

Second Sea Day - Saturday the Seventh of November 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with line dancing Sue, trying both versions of the Yakult yoghurt drink for the first time. At 9 am I led my second line dance class. Unfortunately they had already set up the cookery demonstration in the Discovery Lounge, so we moved into Shackleton's Lounge. I had only four pax, one of which was Tina, the Captain's wife. I spent most of the morning working on my computer finishing my Santander presentation. At lunchtime we had a Saga Magic Moment of an al fresco French & Spanish meal. I wore my Spanish flag polo shirt, which Kayleigh commented upon. We danced with a few ladies, before grabbing some BBQ dishes. At 1:15 I had to slip away to set up the ballroom dance class. Again I taught the social foxtrot and Barry re-capped the waltz. At 2:30 I gave my well-received lecture entitled "Hitler & Putin: a tale of four cities". Richard helpfully suggested that I add a "Rise of Russia" slide to complement my "Rise of Prussia slide". A lady from Königsberg in East Prussia congratulated me on my presentation, but pointed out it was pronounced "Me-mel" not "Mem-el"! I then slept for a couple of hours. We sailed up the Gironde estuary and along the Garonne into the centre of Bordeaux. We danced at 6 pm to Clive before dining with Joy, Dennis and two other gents. We then danced both before and after the Elvis production show. Barry having a bad leg, I held the fort in Shackleton's until midnight.

Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France - Sunday the 8th of November

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette before escorting the tour to Chateau Roquetaillade (S & N) near Sauternes. We toured the famous sweet white wine vineyards before having a guided tour of the medieval castle by the son of the Viscountess who spoke perfect English. The castle had interesting romanesque, gothic, renaissance, neo-gothic and art nouveau interior decors. Back at the ship, I dined on roast beef with Bridgit and Ann al fresco. I then slept for an hour and a half, before walking along the packed quayside in the brilliant sunshine to the organic market and the outlet shopping centre next to the new Chaban-Delmas lifting bridge. We danced before dinner in Shackleton's lounge as usual. I dined with Pauline, Lucette the French lady and her friend from Colchester, a lady from Wye in Kent and another lady. I ordered rib-eye steak, but only got sirloin! We danced both before and after Harry the Piano's show and then in Shackleton's, not getting to bed until after midnight.

Montoir for St. Nazaire & Nantes - Monday the 9th of November 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with line dancing Sue, who told me I did have a line dance class on at 9 pm despite it being a port day! I taught Bridgit, Bo, Tina & Angela Electric Slide, Texas Waltz & Cowboy Charleston. At 10 am I escorted my first choice all day tour to Nantes (Ł99, E, L, N & SD). We visited the western viewpoint over the city, but didn't get off the coach, before going to the ultra-modern cruiser on the River Erdre just north of the city centre. We had a three hour cruise viewing several charming river side chateaux. We began lunch early on board with salmon in butter sauce followed by duck, which stumped most people, but not me! We continued with a cheese and watercress course followed by sweet cake and strong coffee. The meal began with slightly sparkling wine laced with Kir (?), continued with the local red and ended with the local white.

After the river cruise extended luncheon, we toured the cathedral and impressive castle, before getting back to the ship 70 minutes late! We quickly changed into our formal gear and danced in Shackleton's pre-dinner. I dined on Beef Wellington with Bernard, Jean, Jenny & Julie. We danced both before and after the Neil Sedaka tribute show. We listened to the jazz cabaret in Shackleton's and then danced with the single ladies present. At 11 pm Clive, Doreen, Tom and other crew members slipped out to attend a memorial service in the cinema to Frisian, one of the Filipino cocktail waitresses who had recently died of a brain tumour in her thirties. I wish now that I had gone too, and not stayed to hold the fort in Shackleton's. I went to bed just after midnight.

Third Sea Day - Tuesday the 10th of November 2015

I breakfasted with Lynn from Sutherland and her mother, before leading my final line dance class, where I taught Electric Slide, Just Because & Lindi Shuffle. With rough seas, I only had Bridgit & Bo present. I then attended the Remembrance day service held a day early. I did my last batch of laundry and worked on this blog, before lunching on tortilla wrapped shrimps, tomatoes and chips with Dr. Brian Dunn and the English couple from Anglesey. At 1:30 I taught the social rumba basics and Barry taught the Turkish towel in the cha cha. We had Tina, Catherine, Pauline, Bridgit, Rosemary, married Sue and Jane. I then slept for an hour, before being summoned to the cruise office for our evaluations (I scored 19 out of 21!). I then packed before the farewell cocktail party. I dined on Wiener Schnitzel with Rosemary and four other ladies. I ordered another bottle of Prosecco for the table and everyone partook for a change. We danced both before and after the soprano's second show, which I watched from our cabin. We adjourned to Shackleton's, where Clive was in fine form - demob happy! I went to bed just after midnight.

Disembarkation Day, Dover - Wednesday the 11th of November 2015

Saga Pearl II

Saga Pearl II

I breakfasted on TWO egg Benedicts with line dancing Sue. With luggage tag 'A' I was off the ship at 8 am. There were no taxis present since they know that all Saga pax are chauffered home, so I had to phone Heritage Taxis in Dover. They sent a car quickly, but I just missed the 8:25 train and had to wait until 9 am. I had foolishly bought the cheapest train ticket over the internet when Saga were paying, so I had to change trains at Tonbridge, Redhill AND Southampton, not getting home until after 2 pm!

One lady later wrote "Enjoyed your BLOG - previous experience has taught that they're usually spectacularly cretinous and one wonders: WHY? but yours has humour and I'm sure you remember a lot more about the voyages than I do. Thank you so much for the dancing and your company."

Score card:

19 Out of 21 scored in the end of cruise evaluation!
12 Dinner tables hosted
12 Nights dancing
 7 Tours escorted
 4 New towns visited (Cité d'Alet, Saintes, Biarritz &
 4 Line dance classes taught
 3 Ballroom dance classes led
 3 Cocktail parties attended
 3 New ports visited (St. Malo, Bayonne for Biarritz &
	Montoir for St. Nazaire & Nantes)
 1 Guest lecture given (Hitler & Putin)

Good points were:

  1. Outside Twin Cabin with picture window on Deck B
  2. Open Seating Dining in the Main Dining Room
  3. Giving one guest lecture (Hitler & Putin)
  4. Two New Italian Coffee Machines
  5. Teaching 3 ballroom dance classes
  6. Efficient cabin steward (Andrei)
  7. Teaching 4 line dance classes
  8. Free Ice Cream Machine
  9. Free Shuttle Buses
  10. Dressing Gowns
  11. Free Internet
  12. Free Water
  13. Free Wi-fi
  14. Free Fruit
  15. Yakult!

For the record ...

	New PowerPoint Presentations:

68 slides St. Malo
34 slides Bayonne
47 slides Santander

Updated PowerPoint Presentations: * Ferrol * Bordeaux * Hitler & Putin
Key: P Panoramic E Easy M Moderate S Strenuous R Refreshments W Wine Tasting L Luncheon N New SD Something Different LA Limited Availability