Cruise P2149 on the Saga Pearl II to the Western Med, April 2016

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
05-Apr-2016 Southampton
- Aboard by one!
07-Apr-2016 Ferrol
Scenic Coast of Galicia Pigged out on pigs in blankets!
10-Apr-2016 Motril
Costa Tropical Flavours Rum, Village & Sugar Museum
12-Apr-2016 Valencia
City Tour New and Old City in sunshine
13-Apr-2016 Tarragona
Scenic Tour Roman Arch, Quarry & Aqueduct
14-Apr-2016 Roses/Rosas
Delights of Girona City Tour in sunshine
15-Apr-2016 Toulon
Toulon & Cassis Cloudy morning, sunny afternoon!
16-Apr-2016 Mahon
Scenic Northern Drive Sunny all day!
18-Apr-2016 Gibraltar Europa Pt. & Afternoon Tea Sunny all day!
22-Apr-2016 Southampton
- Home by 10:15!

Embarkation Day, Southampton - Tuesday the 5th of April 2016

I left home at 9:30 a.m. and drove along to SoTon. I enjoyed the regular breakfast in IKEA, before being fast tracked on board, for the second time in as many weeks. In the Mayflower departure lounge, I said hello to former England cricketer Mike Cowan and his partner. On board, I met up with tours manager Jackie, IT man Robert and stage managers Ian & Jelex. When my colleague Chris arrived, we went for lunch in the embarkation buffet. Here I said hello to Dorothy from Nottingham, Jean & Mary and Martin & Tricia. At the safety drill I met cruise director Jo and her assistant Resty. She said she would like me to be on board whenever a new production company arrives, in order to relieve them of the line dancing. She also asked if I would be prepared to give English lessons to the Filipino crew! At the sailaway I chatted with Joan from New Milton and a lady from Edinburgh. I also said hello to Fernando and Martin Orbidans in the sunshine as we traversed Southampton Water.

At 6 p.m. we had the cruise director's cocktail party followed by dinner in the main dining room. I sat with Linda and her sister Maureen from Perth, Western Australia, a lady from Woodstock, a couple from Edinburgh, and a single gent on a large oval table. I dined on the rib of beef as usual. At the pre-show dance session we danced with Joan, Eve, Jean, Mary and others. Paul the musical director introduced me to Ron the bass player, Ian the saxophonist and another Paul the drummer in the band. The show included a walk-on by us all. We danced after the show and then adjourned to Shackelton's bar where I say with Mary and Jean, the latter buying me a drink. We went to bed at 11:30, as we were about to lose an hour.

First Sea Day - Wednesday the 6th of April 2016

Saga Pearl II

Saga Pearl II

We awoke at 7 a.m. but it was now 8 a.m. I breakfasted on my first egg Benedict with Sally Lumb the schoolteacher from Crouch End and the production company's costumier. At 9 a.m. Jo recommended I cancel the line dance class as it was a bit rough in the Bay of Biscay and only one lady had turned up anyway! I listened to Jacquie's shore excursion talk followed by Mike's port talks on Ferrol and Motril. At noon we attended the singles mingle where I chatted with Sally & Ruth. I lunched on smoked salmon salad with Dr Brian Dunn. At 1:45 I taught the social foxtrot to ten people, before sleeping for an hour. At 6:15 the Captain held his welcome cocktail party. I dined with four single ladies and one gent. We danced both before and after David Shannon's first show of musical theatre songs. We adjourned to Shackleton's and danced with Jean and Mary whilst sat with Jo and Jackie. We went to bed at midnight.

Ferrol, Spain - Thursday the 7th of April

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Joan at the large oval table, before escorting my first choice tour to the Scenic Estuaries (E, R). I pigged out on pigs-in-blankets as usual at the marvellous tapas and wine stop overlooking a ria. Back at the ship, I forewent lunch and slept off the elevenses. I caught the 3:15 shuttle bus into the town and shelled out 2 euros to go in the ship building exhibition. The displays were not so interesting, but the building, the old naval smithy and forge, was dramatic. I found the old tourist information office closed up, but followed the signs to a new one across the street. I then found a second new tourist information office across Spain Place (Plaza de Espana). I walked back to the ship via General Franco's birthplace. At the sailaway I danced with three ladies, but the cold wind kept most people away. I dined on pork with Linda & Maureen, Brenda & Margaret from Wakefield, another lady and another couple from Edinburgh. Unfortunately it was too rough to dance, so after the new Neil Sedaka show "Laughter in the Rain" I went to bed at 11 p.m.

Second Sea Day - Friday the 8th of April 2016

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Sally before leading my first line dance class of eight people. I taught the Slosh, Texas Waltz & Electric Slide. I listened to Mike's second pair of port talks and the amusing Henry Sandon's "Desert Island Pots". This told his life story (Worcester Porcelain and the Antiques Roadshow) via his eight favourite pots! I lunched on gammon, egg and chips with a third couple from Edinburgh and a lady from Formby, who complained about the £2000 p.a. maintenance and £400 ground rent of her McCarthy & Stone apartment! At my second ballroom dance class, I taught the waltz to another eight people. I slept for over an hour before updating this blog. At 5:15 I went to the lecture on Religions in Spain, but had to slip out early to get changed. At 6 p.m. we enjoyed a bottle of pink bubbly and canapés with Joan in suite 4 on the top deck. I dined on sirloin steak with Alan & Barbara from Flitwick and Betty & Len. It was the latter's 90th birthday so we had a special cake with ice cream. We danced both before and after the Polish violinist's show. She played classical, country & western, jazz, swing, musical theatre and the Beatles, so there was something for everyone! We adjourned to Shackleton's and danced with Jean, Mary and another lady before bed at midnight.

Third Sea Day - Saturday the 9th of April 2016

I breakfasted on the special egg Florentine, for the first time, with another Sally, Linda and her Australian sister Maureen. At 9 a.m. I taught Texas Waltz, Just Because & Cowboy Charleston. I attended Professor Alan Lloyd's talk on the Med, but every other word was 'er' or 'um' so I slipped out early. At the singles luncheon, new hostess Fiona left us out so we both had to sit on the overflow table. I had belly pork, not chicken, with Linda, Angela, Doreen, June & my colleague Chris. I had to slip out at 1:30 to set up my social rumba class, which was depleted as the singles luncheon ran on. After my siesta, I enjoyed sailing east towards the Strait of Gibraltar in the sunshine. I dined on steak Diane with Eve from Crosby, Jean from Formby, Pat and Tricia & Martin. We danced both before and after David's second and slightly less good show. He bizarrely ended with a unknown song from a failed musical! I bought Jean & Mary a round in Shackleton's before going to bed at midnight.

Motril, Andalusia - Sunday the 10th of April 2016

After breakfast of one egg Benedict, I escorted the Costa Tropical Flavours tour (E, N, R). We began at a rum distillery where one old lady fell from the coach's front step, whilst I was dealing with the rear door. Tatjana, who was travelling with me, applied the first aid. We then visited the hilltop village of Velez, before going to the interesting sugar cane museum in Motril. Back at the ship I lunched on roast beef (it was Sunday) before lying down for half an hour. I caught the 2:45 p.m. shuttle bus into Motril and spent two hours rushing around taking photographs for a future port talk. Back at the ship, I had a quick refreshment before walking to the beach. This was made of disappointing grey gravel!

I dined on chicken with Heather and her friend, Len and a couple from Exmouth at a window table. We danced before the new production show "I got rhythm", but afterwards only quiet recorded music was played. So after doing one dance each with the four remaining dancers, I went to my cabin to slip into my red and yellow Spanish flag polo shirt with red shoes. At the 10:30 p.m. sailaway deck party I danced with nearly all the usual suspects except for Eve who had gone to bed. When Sid Sims sang "Rock around the clock", I bagged a jive with cruise director JoBo! The ship was late departing as she needed a tug to offset the side wind. When the band finished at 11:30 the party quickly fizzled out and I went to bed. However I didn't feel sleepy aftet two glasses of the complimentary rum punch!

Fourth Sea Day - Monday the 11th of April 2016

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Sally Lumb, before teaching Just Because, Party Samba & Lindi Shuffle to half a dozen pax. I then listened to Mike's 40 minute talk on Mahon. Afterwards I started composing my Motril port talk in powerpoint. I lunched on fishermen's pie with Ruth, before leading the social cha cha class for eight people. After a deep siesta, I continued with writing my port talk and updating this blog. At the Britannia Club cocktail party I chatted with Joan, before dining on the surf & turf with Ann the Welsh lady from Hertfordshire, Tim the ex-Royal Signals officer and his wife from Wantage and a couple from Maidstone. We danced both before and after the violinist's second show, just as good as her first. We then sat with Jean, Mary, Margaret & Trish in Shackleton's until midnight.

Valencia, Spain - Tuesday the 12th of April 2016

I breakfasted on one egg Royale with Rosemary, before escorting the Valencia city tour (E, N). We began at the futuristic city of arts and sciences designed by Valencia born architect Calatrava. After a coach tour of the city centre, we walked through the old quarter for 70 minutes via the important sights. Back at the ship, I lunched on escalope of pork with a lady who stutters.

I lay down for half an hour, before catching the 1:30 p.m. shuttle bus back into the city. I walked across the old quarter from north to south, then across the modern city from west to east passing no less that three El Corte Inglés department stores! I headed back west into the old quarter and then north over the old river, now a linear park. Admission to the Fine Art Gallery was free and there I saw one El Greco, two Velazquez (including a self-portrait) and a room full of Goyas! I caught the 4 o'clock shuttle back to the ship for my first ice cream cone of the cruise. At 5:30 I donned my Spanish flag polo shirt again for the sailaway. We danced with Linda & Maureen, Eileen, Joan, Jean & Mary and the jovial lady. I dined on the veal with Pam & Eileen from Yorkshire, Pat, Len and another lady. We danced both before and after the magician's show, which I skipped in order to start work on my Valencia powerpoint presentation. In Shackleton's I sat with Eve and one of the dancers, whilst Chris sat with Jean, Mary, Trish and two of the dancers.

Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain - Wednesday the 13th of April 2016

I breakfasted on the daily special of poached egg with spinach on a potato tortilla with Welsh Ann from Hertfordshire. During the morning, I escorted the Scenic tour (E, N) which included a Roman arch, aqueduct and quarry. I lunched on one cheeseburger (no bread) with chips and tomatoes with Ruth, before heading back into the city on the 1:20 shuttle bus. This was only my second visit in 29 years! I whizzed around the old town taking photos for a future port talk, catching the 3:40 bus back to ship. I slept for an hour and a half, before attending the poorly attended sailaway. Some people were lured away to watch the human pyramid on the quayside. I chatted with Chaplain Chris and only had three dances. I dined on spaghetti carbonara with Linda and Maureen at a small table, so we had quick service. We danced both before and after the string quartet's concert, which I listened to in the cabin as I finished processing my Valencia photographs. I went to bed at 11, with Chris holding the fort in Shackleton's.

Roses/Rosas, Costa Brava, Spain - Thursday the 14th of April 2016

I had to set my alarm for 6:30 as I was on the first tender away, after I had breakfasted with a poached egg on a corned beef hash cake with Ann. I escorted the morning tour to Girona (N, R, S). We walked around the marvellous old town for two and a half hours, my second visit after 29 years! Refreshments consisted of cava sparkling wine with serrano ham rolls, which I was able to pig out on! Back at the jetty, we had to wait 15 minutes in the tender whilst the Captain manouevred the ship. Back on the ship, I had a Caesar salad with Ruth to compensate for the elevenses! I slept for one hour, before catching the 3:30 tender ashore. I explored Roses/Rosas, before catching the 5 p.m. tender back to the ship. I dined on the lamb with Eileen & Pam from Yorkshire and Brenda from Wimborne, again at a table for only four. We danced both before and after the Elvis show, which I watched from the cabin. We adjourned to Shackleton's and were the last to leave with Jean & Mary.

Toulon, France - Friday the 15th of April 2016

We awoke just before 7:30 and I breakfasted on a Madame (not Monsieur) Croque toasted cheese and ham sandwich with fried egg on top with Rosemary. I escorted my first choice Highlights of Toulon & Cassis tour (LA, S). We drove out along the main street (Boulevard de Strasbourg) and back along the front (Avenue de la République). In Cassis it was overcast, but the sun came out in the afterrnoon. I climbed up to the chateau above Cassis but couldn't get in, it being a posh 290 euros per night hotel. I visited the little museum, the market and the church.

Back at the ship I lunched on a rib-eye steak with Ruth, before heading back into Toulon in my new French sailor outfit. At 3 p.m.I met up with my old friends Stephen Morgan and Brian Harvey who were cruising on the new Viking Star. We tried the local rosé wine at a prom-side café, but it looked white not pink! I was called 'matelot' and 'marine' once each! My outfit also proved a hit at the sailaway. I dined on the Chateaubriand beef with Welsh Ann from Hertfordshire, Rosemary & her husband from Chingford and Mary & her husband from Wimborne. We danced both before and after the classical pianist's showtime, the latter being done to my CDs. I called the last waltz at 11:15 and went straight to bed as I was feeling a little fragile, with Chris holding the fort in Shackleton's lounge.

Mahon, Menorca, Spain - Saturday the 16th of April 2016

I got up at 7:30 and had a light breakfast with Pat from Woodstock. At 8:30 I watched the scenic sail-in to Mahon from the top deck. At 9:30 I went ashore to take photographs in the glorious sunshine. I lunched at noon on salade nicoise at the large oval table with the lady who stammers. At 1 p.m. I escorted the Scenic Northern Drive (M). We visited several of the Northern seaside resorts, which were like ghost towns in April, before the season begins in May. Bull Mountain (Monte Toro) was as scenic as ever, but an hour was a little too long. Back at the ship, I slept for an hour. I then dined on the scampi with Jean from Formby, Pat from Suffolk and a lady from New York City, but missed the dramatic sailaway. We danced both before and after show time. I stayed on to listen as dancing passenger Eve played the Chopin inpromptu, but left when the magician came on for a second time. When Fernando finished his cabaret in Shackleton's lounge, we danced with Jean, Mary, Joan and Trish. At midnight Jo announced that it was Jean's birthday, so we sang Happy Birthday, before going to bed at 12:10 a.m.

Fifth Sea Day - Sunday the 17th of April 2016

I breakfasted on the special of scrambled egg with pesto, avocado and spinach with Ann, Sally and two other ladies. At 9 a.m. I taught the Slosh, Texas Waltz & California Frieze to ten people including three of the professional dancers. I spent the morning and the second half of the afternoon in the briefing room processing my Mahon photographs into PowerPoint. At the Roman Banquet I lunched on BBQ chicken and pork al fresco with Sally, Mary & birthday girl Jean. At 1:45 I taught the quickstep to four ladies, with most pax still at the banquet. I then slept for an hour and a half catching up after five ports on the trot. I finally finished processing my Mahon photographs, sitting in the briefing room with the amusing IT chap Robert.

At 6 p.m. we had our second cocktail party in Joan's suite, this time consuming half a bottle of Shiraz red wine from South Australia. At 7:15 I dined on roast beef (it was Sunday!) with Eileen, Pam, Brenda, Pat from Suffolk and John the BBC sound man from Harrow. We danced both before and after the Lloyd-Webber show. I then danced with Eve, birthday girl Jean, Mary & Trish in Shackleton's to the combined sounds of pianist Martin and the quartet's Hungarian violinist. When they finished at 11:30, I went to bed.

Gibraltar - Monday the 18th of April 2016



I got up at 7:30 and breakfasted on the kedgeree special with Sally and another lady. I was off the ship by 8:15 and visited Morrisons & McDonalds en route to the town. I walked along the western battlements to see the new Commonwealth park. I toured the famous botanic gardens, before walking back up the main street. The tourist information office had moved from Casemates Square, so I had to backtrack to Mackintosh Square. On the walk back to the ship, I got a call from Peter Rushton offering me the Western Med on Crystal in May. I detoured around the Ocean Village for the first time, before getting back to the ship and checking my diary. Unfortunately I was already committed to the Mystery cruise on the Braemar, so I had to phone Peter back to decline his offer.

I lunched on German sausages, chips and peas before escorting the Europa Point & Afternoon Tea tour (E, R). We went along the western shore of the Rock for only the second time. At the Rock Hotel the tea was cold, but the redecoration had been finally finished. At the sailaway, still wearing my red Muslim hat, I danced with Tricia, Jean, Mary, Maureen (but not Linda) and the happy lady. After turning down the offer from Mo Holland of lecturing on the Boudicca going to Canada in September, I slept for an hour. I dined on the beef stroganoff, again with Eileen, Brenda, Pam, Pat from Suffolk, but this time with Mike from Chester. We danced both before and after the classical pianist's second show, during which I backupped my Gibraltar photographs. Again I ran the final set with my CDs, finishing at 11 p.m. with Chloe's cabaret still in full swing in Shackleton's.

Sixth Sea Day - Tuesday the 19th of April 2016

I awoke at 8 a.m. and breakfasted on the special jacket potato filled with a poached egg with Welsh Pat and another couple. At 9 a.m. I taught Texas Waltz, Just Because & Ziggy to half a dozen people. I spent the morning writing one of my Associateship of King's College (AKC) essays on the Russian Orthodox church and Vladimir Putin. Just before lunch, I was summoned into the Discovery lounge by Resty to rehearse for the crew show. I lunched on a pork burger (no bread) with chips and mushy peas, sitting with a couple from Radlett and another quiet chap. At 1:45, with the sea quite rocky, I taught the Rock Jive to Margaret and the three professional dancers. I then slept for an hour and a half.

I finished off my essay and then attended the cruise show dress rehearsal. I dined on the lamb shank with Eve from Crosby, Jean from Formby, June from Basingstoke, the lady from NYC and Fay the quiet lady who had been ill in her cabin for a week with a bad cold. We danced both before and after the crew show. I made the mistake of slipping into the hot changing area too early, ready for my very first appearance as the diesel fitter in the "If I were not upon the sea" sketch! We adjourned to Shackleton's with Eve, Trish, Jean & Mary. I didn't get to bed until 12:30 a.m.

Seventh Sea Day - Wednesday the 20th of April 2016

I awoke early having gained an hour getting back to British Summer Time (BST). I breakfasted on the special salmon fishcake with fried egg and crispy bacon with Welsh Ann and her friend. At 9:00 I taught Ziggy, Cowboy Charleston & Lindi Shuffle to half a dozen people. I spent the morning processing my Gibraltar photographs. I lunched on a jacket potato filled with chilli con carne with John from Harrow and another couple. At 1:45 I taught the Samba to eight people, before sleeping for an hour and a half. I then had my one and only swim of the cruise in the indoor pool at 30 degrees C. I dined on the lobster, but wished I had ordered the lamb or the beef Wellington. I sat with Jean from Formby, quiet Fay, John from Harrow and the lady from NYC. We danced both before and after the "Cool Britannia" show. I went to bed at midnight (CET).

Eighth Sea Day - Thursday the 21st of April 2016

I awoke just before 8 a.m. and breakfasted on the special egg Florentine with Sally and another lady. I put my last load of washing on, before taking my final request line dance class. We danced Texas Waltz, Just Because, Lindi Shuffle, Cowboy Charleston & Party Samba. I then worked on my Gibraltar port talk until, at 11:15, we had our walk-on at the end of the disembarkation talk. I lunched on monkfish and chips with Margaret, Brenda, Trish & another Eileen. At 1:45 I ran my final request ballroom dance class. I then slept for an hour and a half. I spent the final afternoon creating my Toulon port talk of 50 slides. I was invited to dine with Pam, Brenda & Eileen together with a couple from Taunton. I had the gammon, egg & chips, despite having had chips for lunch too. We danced both before and after the Last of the Proms variety show. We then sat and danced with Jean, Mary & Trish in Shackleton's lounge, before going to bed at 11:45.

Disembarkation Day, Southampton - Friday the 22nd of April 2016

Chris's alarm went off at 5:50 a.m., so I was breakfasting with Sally and three other ladies at 6:30. No daily special, so I had the full English breakfast. I then adjourned to the Briefing room to update this blog. With luggage tag 'A' I was off the ship by 9 a.m. and home by 10:15.

My agent later wrote: "We have received the passenger scores for your recent Med cruise on Pearl II. You received 1.50 which is a very good score. Well Done." (1 = Excellent, 2 = Good, 3 = Poor, 4 = V. Poor)

Score card:

17 Dinner tables hosted
16 Evenings danced
9 Line dances taught (Slosh, Texas Waltz, Electric Slide, Just Because,
  Cowboy Charleston, Party Samba, Lindi Shuffle, California Frieze & Ziggy)
8 Tours escorted
8 Ballroom dance classes taught (1 revision class)
7 Ballroom dances taught (Social Foxtrot, Waltz, Social Rumba, Social Cha Cha,
  Quickstep, Rock Jive & Samba)
7 Line dance classes taken
4 New ports visited (Valencia, Tarragona, Roses, Toulon)
3 Cocktail parties attended
2 New towns visited (Girona & Cassis)
1 Crew show performed

Good points were:

  1. Hosting a table in the main dining room
  2. Red Sea dress with no ties most nights
  3. Leading the ballroom dancing classes
  4. Leading the line dancing classes
  5. Breakfast special every morning
  6. Efficient cabin steward (Andrei)
  7. Free wine with lunch & dinner
  8. Outside twin cabin on B deck
  9. Free ice cream machine
  10. Plenty of dancing ladies
  11. Free creamichoc drink
  12. Sorbet every evening
  13. Tours in every port
  14. Free in-cabin wi-fi
  15. Free shuttle buses
  16. Free car parking
  17. Dressing gown
  18. No quarantine
  19. No headaches
  20. Free internet
  21. Free water
  22. Free fruit
  23. No cold

For the record ...

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

New PowerPoint Presentations: Motril Valencia Toulon Tarragona Updated PowerPoint Presentations: Ferrol Mahon Gib.