Cruise P2146 on the Saga Pearl II to the Canaries, December 2015

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
21/12/2015 Southampton
- Aboard by one!
24/12/2015 Lisbon
Tram &
Port Wine
Five egg custard tarts!
26/12/2015 Arrecife
(Cesar Manrique
Too windy to berth!
27/12/2015 Las Palmas de
Gran Canaria
Puerto de Mogan
Glorious morning!
28/12/2015 San Sebastian de
La Gomera
Gomeran Delights Glorious afternoon!
29/12/2015 Santa Cruz de
La Palma
Forest Walk Strenuous!
30/12/2015 Santa Cruz de
Puerto de la Cruz
Glorious morning!
31/12/2015 Funchal
Scenic Madeira Elevenses at the golf club!
03/01/2016 Leixoes for
Taste of Oporto Three glasses of port wine!
04/01/2016 Leixoes for
Braga Two churches in the rain!
07/01/2016 Southampton
- Home just after 10:00!

Embarkation Day, Southampton - Monday the 21st of December 2015

I left home at 11:15 and drove to SoTon for this, my one hundredth cruise! The M27 was slow with animals loose on the highway and the city was gridlocked with four cruise ships and Christmas shoppers. I was on board the lovely Saga Pearl II by one o'clock. I lunched on scampi in the embarkation buffet, before lying down for an hour. I then found out that the first port of call, La Coruna, had been replaced with Lisbon because of the weather. Luckily I had updated my Lisbon port talk earlier in the month, so I only had to include two new tours. Thank goodness for the free wi-fi in my cabin! During the afternoon, and at the Cruise Director's cocktail party, I met lots of old friends including 13 of my FaceBook contacts. We had to carefully distinguish between Kayleigh number one and Kayleigh number two (K1 & K2, CD & ACD respectively)! I recognised Andy Nash the new dance host, but couldn't place him. Then he remembered me from the Rivoli ballroom near Dulwich in south London! I dined on prime rib of beef in the Verandah restaurant with Flora, Paul and their Stratford friend Joyce, together with a couple from Folkestone. At the first dance set I met Catherine, Doreen, Jean and June again, but it was too rough to dance. After the introductory variety show, I went to bed at 11 p.m.

First Sea Day - Tuesday the 22nd of December 2015

Up at 7:30, I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Flora and Michael, before showing my tour slides to Andy Barr. At 9 a.m. Olive taught the Electric Slide but, after one dance, it was still too rough. At 9:45 Andy introduced the shore excursions, before introducing me. I spoke for 50 minutes on both Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote our second port of call. I then stayed on to listen the Phil's first aviation talk. At 12:30 I lunched on chicken cordon bleu, chips and salad with Flora and Paul in the Verandah restaurant, before sleeping for an hour and a half. I updated my two next port talks ready for the following morning. I then took afternoon tea with musicians Steve and Paul, before taking my first dip in the lively indoor pool. I dined on fillet of beef stuffed with Stilton cheese with Margaret from Cambridge and Sheila & her husband from Osterley. He is the Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Imperial College London. (He had to fly back from Oporto near the end of the cruise in order to catch a flight to Bangalore where he was reading a paper!) Again there was no dancing as we crossed the Bay of Biscay. I enjoyed La Musica's crossover singing, before going to bed at 10:30. I was then able to watch my Lisbon talk on the television, before going to sleep.

Second Sea Day - Wednesday the 23rd of December 2015

Up at 7:00, I breakfasted on a cheese omelette again with Flora and Michael. After showing Andy my shore excursion slides, I attended Olive's second line dance class. She taught Electric Slide, Cowboy Charleston, Little Rumba & California Frieze. I then gave my port talks on Las Palmas de Gran Canaria & San Sebastian de La Gomera. Next up, I did my first batch of laundry, before lunching on gammon and chips in the Verandah restaurant with Flora, Paul and their friend Joyce from Stratford. I then slept for two hours, before doing 5 circuits (half a mile) of the top deck in the sunshine. I had a mug of red bush tea in the Verandah café with Kayleigh (K2!) and a couple who I have sailed with before. I then watched my Arrecife port talk on my cabin television, before having my second swim with the water now at 34 degrees Celsius! I dined on sirloin steak with David from Newport, Gwent and a lady from Saffron Walden. I danced both before and after the new Neil Sedaka production show starring Kurt.

Lisbon, Portugal - Christmas Eve - Thursday the 24th of December 2015

I didn't get up until 8:30, when I breakfasted on one egg Benedict at the oval 'singles' table in the Verandah restaurant. This meant that I missed Olive's second line dance class. At 10 a.m. I got dressed up as Father Christmas ready for the tree dressing ceremony at 10:30. I stayed in costume for the sail-in to Lisbon, leading off the Slosh. At noon I grabbed a shrimp tortilla, before escorting my first choice Tram tour (E, R).

Tram in Lisbon

Tram in Lisbon

A coach drove us to the western end of the No. 28 tram route at the Estrella Basilica. We had a one hour joy ride across the Barrio Alto and Alfama hills. Towards the end of ride we got caught in a tram jam as a parked car blocked the rails. After a ten minute wait, the offending motor was moved. I enjoyed five small egg custard tarts, some chocolates and glasses of both white and red port wine in the Mundial Hotel. We finished with a short panoramic tour of the main city sights.

Bridge over the Tagus, Lisbon

Bridge over the Tagus, Lisbon

Back at the ship, I enjoyed the sailaway under the famous suspension bridge from the top deck. I then attended the Captain's delayed welcome cocktail party, where I chatted to Doreen and June amongst others. I dined on sirloin steak again with June, Keith from Cheshire and Maureen from Devon. I danced both before and after the Hungarian saxophonist's show. His playing was all very 'same-y' and many pax walked out. After a hot chocolate, I went to bed rather than attend the carol concert and midnight mass.

Funicular, Lisbon

Funicular, Lisbon

Third Sea Day - Christmas Day - Friday the 25th of December 2015

My alarm awoke me at 8 a.m. ready for another cheese omelette. I attended the morning service but the Canon missed out singing my favourite hymn "Away in a Manger"! I did 10 circuits, one mile, of the top deck to work up an appetite for Christmas lunch. We all attended the Captain's cocktail party at noon in our formal wear. I chatted with Andy Barr, Jean, Mary and others, before dining on Tornedos Rossini with June, Audrey from Brookham and Shirley from Lytham. I then slept for an hour and a half, before doing 10 more circuits of the top deck with Julian. I enjoyed the Nutcracker Suite and Sleigh Ride played by the classical quartet, before dining on New York strip steak with Brenda from the Isle of Man, another lady and a quiet man. I danced both before and after La Musica's second (and better) show with the usual suspects including the lovely Olive.

Christmas on the <I>Saga Pearl II</I>

Christmas on the Saga Pearl II

Fourth Sea Day - Boxing Day - Saturday the 26th of December 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Brenda, from the Isle of Man, and Sylvia, the circle dancing lady, at the oval singles table. Unfortunately we were unable to dock at Arrecife, Lanzarote due to the strong southerly wind. I had been down to escort the César Manrique Foundation tour (M, R). So I was able to give my next two port talks on the two Santa Cruces (on La Palma & Tenerife respectively) at 10 a.m. rather than at the unsocial 6:30 p.m.! But I only had the basic 45 minute slot to do both talks, so I was rather rushed. In both the morning and afternoon I did five circuits of the top deck with more swimming in the indoor pool during the latter. I dined on gammon and chips with the Rosamunde String Quartet including Chris from Sydenham and the Serbian saxophonist. Fortunately we were able to dock in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria that evening.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria - Sunday the 27th of December 2015

Poble Canario, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Poble Canario, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette, before escorting my first choice Puerto de Mogan tranfer tour (M, SD). Having offloaded my charges, I climbed up to the viewpoint (mirador), photographed all the main sights and paddled in the cold sea. Back at the ship I lunched on roast leg of beef (it was Sunday!), and then slept for an hour. I then walked into town taking some more photographs. In the evening I dined on the crispy duck with Margaret from Cambridge and a couple from south London. I danced both before and after the variety show of the Serbian saxophonist and the 'Les Mis' troupe.

San Sebastian de La Gomera - Monday the 28th of December 2015

La Gomera, can you see Mount Teide?

La Gomera, can you see Mount Teide?

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Shirley, before doing my laundry. At 9:15 a.m. I walked into town taking yet more photographs. Back at the ship I lunched on roast lamb with Brenda, before escorting the Gomeran Delights afternoon tour (E, R, N). We began at a charming botanic garden and mill, before photographing the majestic Mount Teide volcano on the nearby island of Tenerife from a viewpoint (mirador). We stopped for coffee and a convincing demonstration of the famous Gomeran whistling language at the Roses café. Next stop was the National Park visitor centre with another botanic garden. We finished at another view point overlooking the enormous volcanic plugs. Back at the ship I dined on fillet steak with Elaine from West Sussex and Jim & Cyn now from Ross-on-Wye, but formerly from Almeria in Spain. I danced before the Stars on Strings puppet show, which I watched from my cabin whilst updating this blog. After the show most of the dancers and hosts moved straight into Shackleton's lounge, so I was left holding the fort in the Discovery lounge, alternating between June & Mary!

Santa Cruz de La Palma - Tuesday the 29th of December 2015

I breakfasted on a plain omelette, before escorting my first choice Forest Walk tour (S, R). We began at the two viewpoints (miradores) which many tours visit, before walking in the Tilos forest for one hour. In the old village of San Andres we had to wait for the waitress to turn up to serve our refreshments. I opted for a bottle of Fanta, as fresh orange juice was not available. We walked down to the lime kiln on the beach, but were unable to continue along the promenade as the coach's roadway was closed off. So we doubled back up through the village. Back at the ship after lunch and a lie down, I walked into town taking photographs. At 6:15 I gave my port talk on Funchal, Madeira. At the end of the lecture June asked me to join her for dinner. We were seated in the Verandah restaurant beside a quiet couple from Cheshire. I had the lamb shank to eat. We danced both before and after the musical theatre singing troupe's second show.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife - Wednesday the 30th of December 2015

Tenerife Auditorium

Tenerife Auditorium

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with June, before escorting my first choice Puerto de la Cruz transfer (M, SD). With no guide provided, I sat in the front seat and gave the odd comment over the coach's PA system. I have escorted several tours to the botanical gardens in Puerto de la Cruz, but have never had time to explore the town. I walked around the old town first, then the newer seaside resort in glorious weather. Back at the ship by 1:15, I slipped into my Spanish outfit ready for the al fresco Spanish lunch. I had two glasses of sangria with the lovely barbequed meat, whilst watching the flamenco dance troupe. I then slept for an hour and a half. After doing my ironing, I updated this blog. I went to the Rosamunde quartet's film music concert, before dining on sirloin steak with Sylvia from Tadcaster, a couple from Corbridge and a couple who had sailed with Neil Horrocks on Noble Caledonia. I danced both before and after the magic show, which I avoided by processing my photographs back in my cabin.

Funchal, Madeira - New Year's Eve - Thursday the 31st of December 2015

Camara do Lobos, Madeira

Camara do Lobos, Madeira

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette before escorting the Scenic Madeira tour (E, R, WT). As we were anchored offshore, I had to lead my group down to the tender, before the 20 minute ride in to the new tender harbour in the rain. Our coach took us up to the highest accessible peak above the clouds for a short photo and loo stop. We then drove east to the very posh Serra da Santo golf course for our elevenses of two types of Madeira cake with coffee. At the Machico viewpoint we were able to watch an EasyJet making it's final, wobbly approach to the airport. Back at Funchal we tasted the sweet and dry Madeira wine at Blandy's wine lodge. Back at the pier, there was a long wait, as one tender was having gearbox problems. So I dumped the ship's bag and headed back into the city. As a passenger had given me their unused wine ticket, I was able to try the medium dry wine back at Blandy's again! I went in the tourist information office, toured the Christmas market and headed along to the fishing harbour. I then explored St. James's fort for the first time, taking many pictures of the yellow-painted walls.

Toboggan Run

Toboggan Run

I got back to the ship at 4 p.m. ready for my first afternoon tea of the cruise, as I had missed out on lunch. After lying down for an hour, I got dressed in my Scottish kilt ready for the cocktail party. I dined on beef Wellington with Victoria and her mother and the quiet, elderly gent who abandoned us halfway through the main course. I went to Olive's 9 p.m. sequence dance session, dancing most of them with herself. We then had dancing with the band before and after the production company's "Let's Swing" big band show time. The New Year's Eve ball began with the addressing of the haggis and the Officers' Gavotte, which I've only seen twice before, both times on the Queen Mary 2. It all fell apart to laughter whilst trying to dance the chain! We were then piped out on to the decks for the famous New Year fireworks display, which I watched from above the bridge wing. After touring the decks to wish people a Happy New Year, I went to bed at 12:30.

Fifth Sea Day - New Year's Day - Friday the 1st of January 2016

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with June & Michael, before joining Olive's line dance class. She taught the Lemon Tree at Flora's request but she wasn't herself present! At 9:30 I cleared my slides with Andy, before giving my final port talk on Leixoes for Oporto at 10 a.m. After doing some ironing and walking around the top deck, I lunched on prime rib of beef with Andy Nash, before sleeping for an hour and a half. I then updated my blog and luxuriated in the indoor pool for half an hour. I dined on sirloin steak with Flora, Paul and Joyce. During the first dance set it got a little choppy, leaving Olive and me to do a cha cha solo! I watched the Stars on Strings second puppet show from my cabin whilst updating this blog. After the show I did one dance with Mary, but it was still too rough to dance safely.

Sixth Sea Day - Saturday the 2nd of January 2016

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with David, before moving across to sit with June, Sylvia & Michael. At 9 a.m. Olive cancelled her line dance class due to the swell. I then listened to Bryher Scudamore's talk on "Ordinary Lives" with clips from the BBC's "That's Life!" programme. Back in my cabin I watched Phil's talk on the two Malaysian air crashes, but he only covered the facts, not the more interesting speculation! I lunched on a minute steak baguette and no chips with Margaret from Cambridge and another couple. I then slept for an hour and a half. I went to the afternoon tea for only the second time this cruise. Unfortunately the tea dance had to be cancelled due to the heavy swell. I had a warm petite quiche lorraine and a slice of stollen, my first Christmas cake of the cruise with June, Ralph and a chap from Broadstone. The latter goes to the lovely Sue Payne's line dance class on Monday mornings at Hillbourne Social Club! (I go to Sue's sequence dance sessions there on Tuesday evenings and to Krazy Karl's line dance class there on Wednesday evenings.) I did five circuits of the top deck before swimming with Victoria's mother in the 30 degree indoor pool. I then attended the Britannia Club cocktail party, where I chatted to Andy Nash, Sylvia, Julian, Peter & June. The latter asked me to accompany her to dinner. I had the duck with her and the couple from South London. I enjoyed the Andrew Lloyd-Webber production show, but it was too rough to dance.

Leixoes & Oporto, Portugal - Sunday the 3rd of January 2016

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict before escorting the Taste of Oporto tour (S, WT, N) We began at the cathedral and railway station, before visiting the Chamber of Commerce in the Bolsa Palace. The latter included the famous courtyard of nations and arabic salon amongst other lavish rooms. At Sandeman's port wine warehouse we had a group photograph taken. The photographer was charging passengers 5 euros, but gave me a complimentary copy! I enjoyed two glasses of the red and one of the white port. Back at the ship, Andy the tours manager gave me a complimentary bottle of port wine to go with the one already given me by June! After lunch of roast leg of beef, I slept for nearly two hours, only to be awoken by the Captain's announcement at 4 pm telling us that we were to stay another day to avoid the force 11 storm in the Bay of Biscay. At 4:15 I went to the tea dance and danced with all the usual suspects. I caught the 5:15 shuttle bus into the city, walked around in the rain for ten minutes, and then caught the next shuttle bus back to the ship! I dined on beef again with June and a couple from Bideford, the husband of which used to work for Rolls Royce aero engines. We danced before, but not after, the crew show. This included two mime acts, the usual hand mime to "You raise me up" and a new one with a battle between good and evil! Emanuelle did his drag act this time on his own.

Douro River, Oporto

Douro River, Oporto

Leixoes & Oporto, Portugal - Monday the 4th of January 2016

I slept until 8:50 thus missing Olive's line dance class. I had the full English breakfast for the first time this cruise. After doing some laundry, I walked into Matosinhos, photographing the library and art gallery for the first time. I lunched on a Parma pork chop with June, before escorting the complimentary tour to Braga (M). This is Portugal's third city after Lisbon (Lisboa) and Oporto (Porto). We began at a hilltop sanctuary, similar to the one above Murcia, Spain followed by the cathedral downtown. We only had half an hour of free time which I squandered on trying to access the wi-fi. When I did finally get connected, I picked up the offer of two cruises on Crystal Serenity this summer! Back at the ship, I changed into my formal dinner suit with burgundy accessories, including the new hankerchief Margaret had bought for me on the Black Watch. I dined on Chateaubriand beef with the Rosamunde string quartet. At 9 pm I danced with the usual suspects and we had a group photo opportunity. I spent the magician's show time updating this blog. We had our final dance session after the show.

Seventh Sea day - Bay of Biscay - Tuesday the 5th of January 2016

I was awoken at 4 a.m. as we finally left Portugal. I breakfasted with June & Michael (but not Sylvia) on yoghurt and fruit, as I was feeling a little fragile after the previous nights complimentary wine. I spent most of the day in my cabin, lunching on a single banana, followed by an hour and half's siesta. At times my window, even on A deck, was underwater as we battled 7 metre swells! I ventured out for afternoon tea in the Verandah restaurant before working on my blog. I dined on roast turkey with a couple from Basingstoke. There was no dancing before the production show due to the rough seas in the bay. This was supposed to be the "Rule Britannia" show time, but it was decided to use the singers without the dancers. Unfortunately after 15 minutes a gentleman in the audience got up and promptly fell over, necessitating the termination of the show.

Eighth Sea day - Bay of Biscay & English Channel - Wednesday the 6th of January 2016

I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with the former headmistress from North London. I attended Olive's final line dance session, but it was still too rough to dance. At 10 a.m. I went to Phil's Concorde talk. During the morning I finished updating all my port talks with the new photographs I had taken. However, I have yet to process all the new leaflets and maps I have picked up! I lunched on smoked salmon salad and chips with Mary from Yorkshire, Victoria and her mother. I then slept for two solid hours, updated this blog and started my packing. At 6:30 I went to the Pax choir concert. I dined on Burgundy beef with June, a couple from Basingstoke and the quiet couple from Cheshire. We danced both before and after the final classical concert of the quartet.

Disembarkation Day, Southampton - Thursday the 7th of January 2016

I awoke at 7 a.m., breakfasted on TWO egg Benedicts at 7:30, cleared my cabin by 8:00, was off the ship just after 9:00 and home just after 10:00! One lady later wrote: "Lovely to have met up again". Another wrote: "I am humbled and impressed by the amount of detail in your blog. It was good to meet up with you again Martin". One gent said: "Thanks Martin and congratulations on your 100th cruise. Nice pictures and happy memories from your write up." I scored 1.59 in the pax questionnaire, where 1.0 is excellent, 2.0 is good, 3.0 is poor and 4.0 is very poor!

Score card:

12 Nights dancing
 8 Port Talks given
 8 Tours escorted
 5 Cocktail parties attended
 3 New towns visited (Puerto de Mogan, Puerto de la Cruz & Braga)
 1 Tea dance attended
 1 Cruise enjoyed!

Good points were:

  1. Outside Twin Cabin with picture window on Deck A all to myself.
  2. Open Seating Dining in the Verandah restaurant.
  3. Two New Italian Coffee Machines.
  4. Efficient cabin steward (Johnny).
  5. New carpet in the public areas.
  6. New top deck lounge area.
  7. First choice tours.
  8. Giving the port talks.
  9. Free in-cabin wi-fi.
  10. Free Ice Cream Machine.
  11. Free Shuttle Buses.
  12. Dressing Gowns.
  13. Free Internet.
  14. Free Water.
  15. Free Wi-fi.
  16. Free Fruit.

For the record ...

Updated PowerPoint Presentations:

Lisbon, Portugal
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
San Sebastian de La Gomera
Santa Cruz de La Palma
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Funchal, Madeira
Leixoes & Oporto

Shore Excursions Key: N New E Easy L Lunch M Moderate P Panoramic S Strenuous R Refreshments WT Wine Tasting SD Something Different LA Limited Availability
Current Statistics (as of January 2016): 100 Cruises undertaken. 527 Tours escorted. 896 Port Calls made!