Cruise P2175 on the Saga Pearl II to Norway, May 2017

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
20/05/2017 Dover
UK
- Aboard
by 1:30
22/05/2017 Arendal
Norway
Walking
Tour
Old & New
Towns
23/05/2017 Kristiansand
Norway
Walking
Tour
Old & New
Towns again!
24/05/2017 Bergen
Hordaland
Taste of
Hardanger
Lunch
by the fjord!
25/05/2017 Flåm, Sogn og
Fjordane
Vision of the
Fjords
Boat &
Coach
26/05/2017 Stavanger
Rogaland
Slice of
Paradise
Waffles
by the fjord!
28/05/2017 Dover
Kent
- Off at 9:00


Ten days before this cruise started, the destinations lecturer Alan Perks tragically died. The P&R Agency asked if I could help, so I said I could step into the breach, if no one else volunteered. After some argy-bargy over contracts and double billing, I had a week to prepare the port talks. Now I had chosen to do this cruise as a dance host, since I hadn't been to either Arendal or Kristiansand, and wanted to go there to do my reconnaisance and take my photographs. So I had to do a lot of desk research instead!


Embarkation Day - Dover
Saturday the 20th of May 2017

I left home just after 8:30 and got to Ashford at noon. Unfortunately the A20 was closed, so I had to divert via Canterbury and the A2. I got to the quay at 1 o'clock and met up with Ernie Coulson who was arriving to be a dance host on the Saga Sapphire. As a result of the A20 closure, the terminal building was empty and I was on board by 1:30. After settling in, I had a light lunch at the embarkation buffet, before lying down for half an hour. After touching base with Jemma, Andrew, Leo and Grazia, I attended the safety drill with my colleague André.

At 5:30 Leo gave his shore excursions introduction, followed by my thirty minute talk on the ports of Arendal and Kristiansand. At 6:45 Trevor placed me on a large oval table in the main dining room with three single ladies from Bromley, Surrey and London, together with two couples from Wales and Wakefield in Yorkshire. I had the cheese soufflé to begin, the prime rib of beef next and finished off with almond toffee ice cream. I left the table at 8:30 to watch Saga Sapphire sail past us, with Jo Boase shouting across to Jemma Thomas! We sailed shortly afterwards.

At the first dance set at 8:45 I danced with Catherine and one other lady at a very sparse session. At 9:15 we had the long and expensive fireworks on the Dover breakwater, but the sky was bright pink and not nearly dark enough. At 9:30 the production company did their excellent Best of British show. After the show I danced with Catherine and Ann, who was travelling with Jackie, who had previously travelled with Charmain, who would be on my Tall Ships cruise later in the summer! At 11 o'clock Shackleton's lounge had no single ladies present so I went to bed.


First Sea Day - North Sea
Sunday the 21st of May 2017

My alarm woke me at 7:00, which was now 8 a.m. Norwegian time. I had the full English breakfast rather than the kedgeree curry special, sat with two single ladies at the large oval table in the Verandah restaurant. At 9 a.m. two of the professional dancers taught the Achey Breakey, California Frieze, Crazy Postman & Electric Slide line dances. I then worked on my Bergen port talk. After conferring with Leo & Grazia, I gave the 40 minute talk at 11:15. At noon I attended the singles mingle, where I chatted with Brenda amongst others. At 12:30 I had the roast leg of beef (it was Sunday!) with May from Denham and three other single ladies. At 13:30 I slept for an hour and a half, before starting this blog.

At 4:15 I went to the strawberry tea, where I partook of the compote with ice cream, sat with Jackie & Ann. I then did ten circuits (one mile) of the top deck in the bright sunshine. At 6:15 we had the Captain's cocktail party, where I danced with several ladies and chatted with others. It being the 20th anniversary of Saga Cruising, the Captain gave long service certificates to four crew members who had worked for Saga for 20 years! I dined on the fillet steak stuffed with stilton cheese at a table with five single ladies. These included Catherine the dancer and a younger lady with her mother. The other two ladies were from Worksop and Woking. We danced both before and after the Pasadena Roof Orchestra's (PRO) show, which I watched from my cabin as I updated my port talk on Flam. I liked their big band numbers, but not their jazz! We then adjourned to Shackleton's lounge where Francesca was doing her cabaret show. She invited dancers on to the floor, so André and I danced with various ladies. When the disco dancing started at 11:30 we went to bed.


Arendal, Norway
Monday the 22nd of May 2017

I awoke at 7 a.m. and breakfasted on the special jacket potato stuffed with egg and bacon with Brenda from Bromley and André. At 9 a.m. a different pair of professional dancers taught the Red Hot Salsa, Country Walkin' & Stroll Along line dances, the latter as a one wall dance. At 9:45, still wearing my line dancing outfit, albeit with Norway logo, I gave my 45 minute final two port talks on Flåm and Stavanger. Unfortunately I missed the scenic sail-in to Arendal. Berthed by 11, I whizzed around the lovely town including the tourist information office and library. Back at the ship I lunched on salmon en croute with chips, sat with Joyce from Billericay.

Me in my Norwegian teeshirt, photo taken by Chris Lowthian

Me in my Norwegian teeshirt, photo taken by Chris Lowthian

At 12:45 I escorted my second choice walking tour (rated strenuous). Katheryna from Russian speaking Eastern Ukraine took us slowly around the downtown sights with the addition of the Old Town Hall museum. We had coffee or tea with spherical Danish pancakes at the guest yacht haven in the bright sunshine. Back at the ship, I slept for one hour. I then dined on sirloin steak with jacket potato on a table with Eileen and her partner Gerald together with two single ladies and one single gent. At the end of the meal, Eileen's partner Gerald asked me to do a slow foxtrot, which he couldn't manage, with her, which I obliged that evening (and every successive evening), when we danced both before and after the excellent Abba Tribute production show. We then adjourned to Shackleton's bar with three of the dancing ladies. I did the Viennese waltz with Catherine, and one dance with each of the others, before we went to bed at 11:30.


Kristiansand, Norway
Tuesday the 23rd of May 2017

I awoke at 6:45 and breakfasted on the special salmon fishcake with fried egg, sat with the Welsh lady dentist. I then escorted my third choice walking tour of Kristiansand (rated strenuous). We saw most of the city centre sights, before visiting the Southlands Art Gallery.

He's behind you!

He's behind you!

Back at the ship, I lunched al fresco on gammon and chips with two of the ladies who had been on my tour that morning. I then slept for an hour, before catching the shuttle bus the short distance past the road works to the new 'Wave' concert hall. I did the complete circuit of the grid iron street plan mainly in sunshine, but clouding over towards the end.

Back at the ship again, I slept for another hour, before having my first ice cream of the cruise. At 6:15 I attended the Britannia Club cocktail party, where I chatted to Chris & Trevor's friends amongst others. At 7:00 I dined on sirloin steak and jacket potato again, with five single ladies including the Scottish lady who I had sat next to the previous evening. We danced both before and after the second show by the Pasadena Roof Orchestra (PRO), which I again listened to from my cabin whilst updating this blog. We then adjourned to Shackleton's lounge for the second half of Michael's cabaret, sat with Brenda and her friend Judy, where I danced with the usual suspects. This was followed by Brad, who told me at 11:30 that he wasn't going to play any more dance tunes that evening, as his acoustic set was about to start, so I went to bed.


Bergen, Norway
Woden's day the 24th of May 2017

I awoke at 6:45 and breakfasted on the special Egg Florentine with the Welsh lady dentist again. At 10 o'clock I escorted my first choice all day tour to the Hardangerfjord with Leo also on board (rated easy). We had a short photo stop at the Steep Force waterfall (Fossen Bratte). On arriving in Øystese (Oyster in Norwegian?) at 11:30 we had an early lunch at the Hardanger hotel. We had lamb stew followed by apple cake and coffee, but no alcohol. Afterwards I explored the gardens and village, but the wooden church was conducting a funeral, so I couldn't go in. On the journey back we had a long photo stop at Stone Dale Force (Steinsdalsfossen), where you can walk right behind the enormous waterfall. Back in Bergen, we had a quick city tour.

Bergen

Bergen

When I got back to the ship I slept for an hour and a quarter. I then had my second ice cream, as I watched the sailaway in the sunshine from the top deck. At 6:45 I dined on the prime rib of beef with three single ladies from Liphook and a couple from Fleet, both in Hampshire. We danced both before and after the Neil Diamond tribute production show, which yet again I listened to from my cabin whilst updating this blog. We then adjourned to Shackleton's lounge where I danced with Catherine, Brenda, Judy and ladies from Yorkshire & Scotland. The ladies went to bed at 11:30 as also we did.


Flåm, Norway
Thor's day the 25th of May 2017

The dropping of the anchors at 7 a.m. woke me up. I had the full English breakfast with Joyce from Billericay, before escorting my first choice tour on the new Visions of the Fjord electric boat (rated moderate & new) We had been bumped off our berth by a German Phoenix ship, so we had to tender ashore. Unfortunately the electric ship was out of service, so we had to make do with an old and noisy boat. I completed the transit of Aurlandsfjord from the top deck, but moved downstairs when the wind got up in Naeroyfjord. We transferred to a coach at Gudvangen to eat our packed lunches and for the trip to the Tvindefossen Twin Force waterfalls. We then doubled back to Stalheim for the dramatic descent on the 13 hairpin bends into the Stalheim Canyon. Finally we came back through the long tunnels to Flåm.

Fjord

Fjord

I whizzed around the commercial attractions on the quayside, before catching the 3 p.m. tender back to the ship. Saga Pearl II, formely Astoria, had now been joined by her twin sister Astor! I then slept for an hour and a half, before having an ice cream on the aft deck, enjoying the retreat back along the majestic Sognefjord. At 6:30 I attended the Newcomers' cocktail party, where I chatted with the couple from Fleet who I had dined with the previous evening, amongst others. At 7:15 I dined on the lamb shank with Alan from Kent, the lady in black from Burbage and her mother, together with two single ladies from Cheshire. We danced both before and after the comedian's show, which I watched from my cabin. The only bit I enjoyed was the impression of Dame Shirley Bassey. He picked on both Judy the "Insider" and Eileen, "Duchess of Essex", who had both made the mistake of sitting in the front row! We then went to Brad's singalong which ended at 11:30 without any dancing.


Stavanger, Norway
Fridda's day the 26th of May 2017

I awoke at 6:00 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up at 6:45 and had the full English breakfast in a deserted Verandah restaurant. On arrival in Stavanger, I escorted my second choice Slice of Paradise tour (rated easy). We drove south and then east to Lauvik to get to the Baker's Paradise. Here we had waffles, jam and sour cream, before exploring the fjordside farmstead. We came back along the Sola coast road for a short city tour.

Stavanger Cathedral

Stavanger Cathedral

Back at the ship I lunched al fresco on a burger and chips without bread in the hot sun on the aft deck with the pair of ladies from Leighton Buzzard. I then slept for an hour, in spite of having had strong morning coffee at the farmstead. At 3:45 I danced with Ann, Brenda, Judy, Maureen and Catherine to the Pasadena Roof Orchcestra (PRO) on the aft deck sailaway, again in the hot sunshine. I then had a mug of tea with the lady from Burbage and her elderly mother, together with another single lady and a couple. At 5 p.m. travelling south through the inner passage we passed FOCL's Balmoral going north. After putting my laundry on, I did five circuits (half a mile) of the top deck in the bright sunshine.

Stavanger old town

Stavanger old town

At 6:30 I attended the Captain's farewell cocktail party, where I chatted with Eileen & Gerald from Witham. I dined on the Chateaubriand beef with the Scottish lady yet again, the ladies from Woking & Worksop again, the very elderly gent who had served at Dunkirk during the war and another single gent. We danced both before and after the final production show "West End Show Stoppers". We then adjourned to Shackleton's bar, where the cruise staff disco was in full flow. I danced with Catherine, Brenda & Judy on the side, until Brad took over the music and I was able to dance with a couple of other single ladies. Our group went to bed at midnight.


Second Sea Day - North Sea
Saturn's day the 27th of May 2017

I awoke at 7 a.m. and breakfasted on the special Egg Royale with André, who was looking for a lift home to Guildford. Since I usually go via the A31 hogsback I was happy to offer him a ride home. At 9:00 two of the professional dancers taught Mamma Maria, Honky Tonk Stomp & Dance the Night Away line dances all of them wrongly to seven pax! I then stayed on for Stuart Usher's lecture on midget submarines and Duncan Galloway's talk on the Pasadena Roof Orchestra (PRO).

I lunched at 12:30 on steak and smoked salmon salad (no chips) with Brenda & André. I gave Captain Kees Spekman's fish and chips a miss as the queue was long, but did have a half of lager from Chief Engineer Mark Cameron's bar! I then slept for over an hour, before finishing this blog. At the chocolate tea, I sat with Joyce and a couple from Gloucestershire, but restricted myself to just one strawberry and one marshmallow dipped in the chocolate fountain! I then did five circuits of the top deck in the sunshine for penance. At 6:15 I went to Stuart's second lecture of the day. I dined on the sirloin steak and jacket potato yet again with a lady from North Bucks, the WWII veteran gent and the three ladies from Liphook. We danced both before and after the variety show of the comedian and the Pasadena Roof Orchestra (PRO). I danced with the usual suspects plus the ladies from Yorkshire & Scotland in Shackleton's lounge until the last left at midnight.


Disembarkation Day - Dover
Sun's day the 28th of May 2017

I awoke at 7 a.m. but it was now only 6 o'clock. I had the full English breakfast with André, followed by a couple from Hastings and another lady from Bromley. We were off the ship at 9:00 and away by 9:10. I dropped André off at his daughter's house in Guildford an hour and a half later. When I got to the M3 it was crawling, so I went via Hursley, getting home just before 1 o'clock.

Saga Pearl II

Saga Pearl II

One lady later wrote: "I did enjoy dancing with you even if at times I must have appeared somewhat less than keen! My dancing feet have had a welcome recussitation and for that I thank you. Having looked at your www site, amazed that you kept such a detailed account of your daily 'happenings'. Wish you well on future cruises, hope you meet as friendly a group of people as were on Pearl 11, on your travels."

One couple later wrote: "We rated you as the best destinations speaker we had had and not exaggerating!"

In the preliminary analysis of the exit questionnaire, I scored 1.51 as the Destinations Lecturer and 1.43 as a Dance Host, where 1.00 is excellent, 2.00 is good, 3.00 is poor and 4.00 is very poor.


Score card:

8 Dining tables hosted
8 Nights dancing
5 Tours escorted
5 Port Talks given
4 Cocktail parties attended
2 New ports
1 Cruise enjoyed!

Good points were:

  1. Open Seating Dining in the Dining Room.
  2. Twin Cabin on B Deck all to myself!
  3. Two New Italian Coffee Machines.
  4. Efficient cabin steward (April).
  5. New carpet in the public areas.
  6. New top deck lounge area.
  7. Free Ice Cream Machine
  8. Two first choice tours.
  9. Giving five port talks.
  10. Free in-cabin wi-fi.
  11. Free Shuttle Buses.
  12. Dressing Gowns.
  13. Free Internet.
  14. Free Water.
  15. Free Wi-fi.
  16. Free Fruit.
  17. Free Wine.
  18. No heartburn!
  19. No headaches!
  20. Double billing.
  21. Printed biography.

For the record ...


Updated PowerPoint Presentation: Arendal & Kristiansand.


Current Statistics (as of May 2016): 7 Cruise Companies. 20 Cruise Ships. 111 Cruises. 606 Shore Ex. 988 Port Calls!