Cruise P2197
on the Saga Pearl II
around the Bay of Biscay
in April 2018

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
07/04/2018 Portsmouth
- Aboard
by 1:15
10/04/2018 Bordeaux
St. Emilion Picturesque
11/04/2018 Bordeaux
Blaye &
12/04/2018 Pasajes
13/04/2018 AvilÚs
15/04/2018 Honfleur
- Picturesque
16/04/2018 Portsmouth
- Off at 9:15

Embarkation Day, Portsmouth
Saturday the 7th of April 2018

I left home just after ten o'clock and got to PoMoH just after eleven, where I met my colleague Tim/Terry Upton, the teacher from Bradford, in the car park. I had last cruised with him TEN years ago on cruise BD055! After checking in, I sat in the upstairs lounge for an hour and a half. Boarding began at one o'clock and I was on board soon after.

I sat with Bridget & Anne for a snack lunch, before unpacking. I had previously cruised with them on SA283 around Jutland and P2143 also around the Bay of Biscay both in 2015. I then snoozed for an hour, before attending the drill where I met up with ACD Andrew. We then had the sailaway, where I danced with the lovely Linda, Vera, two ladies from SoToN and some others. I had first cruised with the lovely Linda on cruise QA029 and most recently on cruise P2183! I enjoyed seeing the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and the passage past Old Portsmouth. This was swiftly followed by CD Simon's welcome cocktail party, where I met up with Leo & Cindy, amongst others.

We then danced in Shackleton's lounge to the lovely Lily & Zoltan, who were a big improvement on a single pianist! I danced with Bridget, Anne, the two ladies from SoToN and some others, before dining at 6:45. Trevor placed me on a table of five single ladies: Kathleen from West Kent, Lesley from Wells in Somerset, the two bridge ladies and another posh lady. I had the pea soup, the salad, the prime rib of beef and the mixed ice cream washed down with a glass of Merlot - it was good to be back!

At 8:30 we danced in the Discovery lounge to a surprising number of single ladies, as it transpired that this was a Women's Institute (WI) sponsored cruise! We had a walk on at the start of showtime, which consisted of two popular classical pieces and a shortened West End musicals show. We danced with just Bridget, Anne and Maureen (with her bandaged wrist) after the show. When they went to bed, I followed suit.

First Sea Day
Sunday the 8th of April 2018

I awoke at 7:15, but it was now 8:15 French time. I had the full English breakfast sat at the large singles table in the Verandah restaurant. At nine o'clock Laura & Lauren taught the Electric Slide and three modified versions of Honky Tonk Stomp, Country Walkin' & Cowboy Charleston, all with new names, to eleven pax. Back in the cabin I started work on this blog. I did five circuits (half a mile) around the top deck as the sun came out. At 11:15 I went to Leo's shore excursion talk, followed by Howard's port talk on Bordeaux. I had to slip out at 11:55 to go to the singles mingle. At 12:30 I lunched on the roast leg of beef (it was Sunday!) sat with the lovely Linda, Lesley and another lady.

At 1:30 I taught the Slosh, Texas Waltz & California Frieze to thirteen pax, including 93 year old Joyce from Lytham St. Annes! I then dozed for three quarters of an hour. Up on the top deck again, I chatted to the wildlife spotter, who had studied geography at Aberdeen University, and his wife in the bright sunshine. At 6 o'clock we danced with Bridget, Anne, Linda, Vera & Joyce in Shackleton's Lounge, whilst the Captain's welcome cocktail party was going on in the Discovery Lounge. I dined on the lovely so-called Beef Wellington but it wasn't boeuf en croute, sat with five ladies and two chaps. The man on my right had the Manchester Regiment's fleur de lys on his green cummerbund. The lady on my left was a cruise virgin. The wife of the retired vicar left the table early and he followed her out later. Maureen with her bandaged wrist kept us entertained.

At 9 o'clock we danced, before the excellent Troubadour(s) four part harmony group of young men, led by Gareth ('Gaz') who I knew from the Black Watch production company some years ago. They sang some songs a cappella without musical accompaniment. We danced after the show with the usual suspects and then adjourned to Shackleton's. We danced and sat here with Bridget, Anne, Vera & the lovely Linda. The duo finished playing at 11:15, when Anne and Vera went to bed. We finally left at 11:30.

Second Sea Day
Monday the 9th of April 2018

I awoke at 7:30 and had the special egg & bacon in a baked potato for breakfast, sat with 93 year old Joyce from Lytham St. Annes. At the line dancing the girls taught the Party Samba & California Frieze which they called the Hitch. They also recapped the Cowboy Charleston and the modified Honky Tonk Stomp which they called the Bounce to seven pax, plus three of the Troubadours, but not Gaz! At 10:30 I listened to the celebrity chef's demo of French onion soup and blackberry klafouti. I lunched on smoked salmon salad & chips al fresco with Bridget & Anne. At 1:30 I taught the Social Rumba to ten people, before sleeping for an hour and a half.

At 6 o'clock we danced with the usual suspects in Shackleton's whilst the Newcomers' cocktail party was going on in the Discovery Lounge. I then dined on the steak & silton pie with chips & peas sat with Lesley from Wells, the ex-publican lady from Sussex and the three little maids from Wales! We danced both before and after the excellent Buddy Holly tribute show. When the band finished we transferred with Bridget & Anne to Shackleton's, where I also chatted with a lady originally from Massachussetts and a lady who I had met two Christmas's ago in Cadiz & Santiago! With an early start the next morning, I went to bed at 11:30.

Bordeaux Day One
Tuesday the 10th of April 2018

I awoke just before my alarm at 7 o'clock ready for the breakfast special of a fried egg on a corn beef hash cake served with baked beans and some crispy bacon, sat at the large singles table in my favourite Verandah restaurant. I then escorted my first choice tour to the lovely medieval village of St. Emilion (S, SD, WT). We began in the upper town before descending to the lower town, where the sun came out. We went in the spooky underground catacombs and huge monolithic church carved from the limestone. We ended with a wine tasting near Pomerol.

Back at the ship I had the fish pie with chicken goujons sat with one of the ladies who had been on my tour. I then slept for an hour and a half, but it was now raining heavily with thunder & lightning! In the morning I had noticed the sign saying that the Chaban Delmas lifting bridge would be raised in the afternoon, in fact Braemar arrived in front of us on the afternoon high tide. I sat with Maureen in the afternoon tea, but managed to eat nothing!

Back in the cabin I updated this blog, until the rain stopped. I then walked via the Tourist Information Office to the Cathedral, which was freely open for visitors. I walked back via the quayside to see the tall ship, with Braemar berthed just downstream of us.

At 6:15 I listened to Jonathan's excellent cabaret in Shackleton's Lounge. I dined on the sirloin steak with jacket potato for the first time this cruise, sat with a quiet lady from Manchester, an ex-Bedford College geographer and the three little maids from Wales for a second time. We danced before the classical concert, then went to the party in Shackleton's, before going back to the Discovery lounge for recorded music, and finally back to Shackleton's again with just Bridget & Anne. The duo stopped playing at 11:15 and I was in bed by 11:30.

Bordeaux Day Two
Wednesday the 11th of April 2018

I awoke at 6:45 ready to enjoy the egg Florentine with crispy bacon at 7:30 sat with the lovely Linda. At 8 o'clock I escorted my first choice tour to Blaye (pronounced Blye) and Bourg (pronounced Bour), the French do like their silent letters! (LA, N, S). The first place included the impressive UNESCO-listed Vauban fortress and the second was another two level medieval village, both sites overlooking the huge Gironde estuary.

Back at the ship I lunched al fresco on the lasagna with Bridget & Anne. I then slept heavily for two hours, before rushing to get into my French fancy dress outfit for the sailaway. Here I danced with the lovely Linda, Bridget, Anne, the two ladies from SoToN and some others. Unfortunately Vera and Joyce didn't appear and Maureen only arrived after the duo had finished, so I gave her a final dance to the recorded French music which Bernard had put on. We danced as we passed Braemar and went under the Chaban Delmas lifting bridge. At this point our tug turned back to bring Braemar out, half an hour behind us, but still on the same high spring tide. I then updated this blog, before dancing in Shackleton's Lounge as usual.

At 6:45 I dined on the sirloin steak again with an old man from Rugby, a Scottish couple who now live in Surrey and two single ladies, the last of whom lives in Roy Jenkins's old village of East Hendred, halfway between my homes in Didcot & Ashbury! Back in the cabin I watched the Pilote BX boat approach the ship to offload the river pilot as we reached the mouth of the estuary. It was labelled Pilote BX where BX stands for Bordeaux. I used to drive a Citr÷en BX Pilot car!

Citr÷en BX Pilot

Citr÷en BX Pilot

We danced both before and after the excellent violinist, but I had to slip out halfway to drink some soda water to relieve my heartburn. We also danced with just Bridget in Shackleton's Lounge. When she went to bed Tim followed suit, but I stayed on to hold the fort for the first time this cruise, until the duo finished at 11:45, when Andrew dismissed me. I was asleep by midnight.

Pasajes/Pasaia, Basque Country, Spain
Thursday the 12th of April 2018

I breakfasted on the wild mushroom special with the lovely Linda, Vera and Jenny from Devon. I then escorted my third choice tour to Scenic San Sebastian (E). We all got soaked on the quayside with Santosh, my escort trainee, huddling under my umbrella! By the time we had a photostop at the old lighthouse overlooking Shell Bay, the rain had stopped. We toured the new town and its posh suburbs, but couldn't get into the old town.

Back at the ship, I lunched on the smoked salmon salad with chips, sat with a couple from Conway and the three little maids from Wales, who had been on my morning tour. I then slept for just half an hour, before catching the 2:30 shuttle bus to the old fishing village on the other side of the harbour. The sun came out and I walked about one mile along the promenade, through the scenic straits almost to the sea.

Back at the ship again, I slept for another hour, before dancing in Shackleton's for three quarters of an hour. I dined on the steak Diane with Margaret from the South Shropshire hills, Jenny from Devon and the three little maids from Wales. The middle one gave me half her lamb shank! We danced both before and after the Swing production show and then with Vera, Linda & Bridget in Shackleton's. The duo stopped at 11 o'clock and all the ladies left shortly afterwards, so I was in bed by 11:15.

AvilÚs, Asturias, Spain
Friday the 13th (!) of April 2018

My alarm woke us at 7 o'clock as Tim had an early tour. With no tour allocated, I had decided to spend most of my On Board Spend (OBS) on the Historic Oviedo tour (M). We had a short panoramic tour of the city with a brief photo stop at Santiago Calatrava's impressive congress centre. We then had a walk through the old city centre. During the free time I went in the Tourist Information Office and the Fine Art Gallery. The latter had the famous twelve apostles by El Greco, plus one painting each by Goya, Titian, Miro, Dali & Picasso!

Back at the ship I lunched on the roast lamb with a couple from Leicester with their daughter. I then slept for one hour, before walking into the old town of AvilÚs. I went in one church and the city museum as I walked around taking pictures in the intermittent sunshine. I toured the impressive Oscar Niemeyer centre, but everthing except the cafÚ was closed.

Back at the ship again, I had to shower as my shirt was covered in pollution from the enormous Mittal iron and steel works. I rushed up to the Verandah deck to watch the sail down the ria to the open sea. At 6:15 we enjoyed the two female vocalists in Shackleton's Lounge, before dining on the spaghetti carbonara. I was sat with two ladies from Somerset, one 90 year old lady and two others.

We started dancing before the show, but half way through the set Simon and Andrew agreed with me that it was getting too rough, so we aborted the session. We enjoyed the four young troubadours's second show, but didn't dance afterwards. We listened to Jonathan's cabaret in Shackleton's and did finally get to dance again with both Bridget and the lovely Linda. The duo finished at 11:45 and I was asleep by midnight.

Third Sea Day
Saturday the 14th of April 2018

I awoke at 7:15 and breakfasted on the scrambled egg Florentine sat with Joyce and a lady from Bromley. At 9 o'clock one of the girls taught the Red Hot Salsa, Inline Cha & a partner dance to seven pax and, this time, only one of the young Troubadours! I also danced the cha cha as a partner dance with the lovely Linda. I tidied my papers and did five circuits (half a mile) of the top deck in the bright sunshine. At 12:30 I lunched on a minute steak with chips & mange tout, sat with the lovely Linda, Bridget & Anne. I then slept for an hour and a quarter, before working on this blog.

At 4:30 I sat with Maureen and the four Troubadours for the chocolate tea. I had two small chicken nuggets followed by a marshmallow and strawberry dipped in chocolate. At 6 o'clock I danced with ten different ladies without repetition, they will come out of the woodwork at the end of the cruise! I dined on the Rossini fillet steak with Maureen, the ex-publican from Sussex, two other ladies and a lady from Brede near Rye who had been a volunteer guide at Henry James house in Rye and Rudyard Kipling's house 'Batemans'. We danced both before and after the British production show, and then until 11:45 in Shackleton's, so I was asleep by midnight.

Honfleur, France
Sunday the 15th of April 2018

I awoke at 7:45 ready for the poached egg Royale sat with the lovely Linda, the tall dancing lady and her American friend. I caught the 9:45 shuttle bus into the town and then walked the two miles south east to the new shopping mall by the Pont de Normandie cable stayed bridge over the river Seine. I walked back to the town and went in the famous wooden church. At the merry-go-round I photographed Bridget & Anne, before walking back to the ship.

At 12:30 I lunched on the roast leg of beef (it was Sunday!) sat at the large oval singles table, which was actually full of couples! I then slept for an hour and half, before catching the 3:45 shuttle bus back into Honfleur. Bumping into Lily, she said how much they appreciated our dancing to their music! I photographed the new butterfly house and Erik Satie's birthplace, before catching the 4:45 bus back to the ship.

I then packed, before printing out two copies of the picture I had taken of Bridget & Anne on the roundabout. These I gave to them at the six o'clock dance session, where I held the fort as Tim was late back from the Bayeux tour. I dined on the Vienna schnitzel with the Bedford College geographer from North Yorkshire, ladies from Billericay & Kent and two others. We danced both before and after the violinist's second show, which I found less satisfying than the first. At 10:45 the band finished playing and we said our thank yous. Back in Shackleton's we danced until the duo finished at midnight, when we said our good byes.

Disembarkation Day, Portsmouth
Monday the 16th of April 2018

I awoke at 8 o'clock, but it was now only 7:00 BST. With no special on offer, I had the full English breakfast, sat with the lovely Linda and ladies from London & Yorkshire. Back in the cabin, I worked on this blog and finished my packing. I vacated the cabin at 9 o'clock and was off the ship by 9:20. I was home by 10:30, after another enjoyable cruise!

A lady wrote: "I would like to thank you very much for all the fantastic dancing on the cruise. It was by far the best ever! On the previous cruise I was ready to give up. You helped me so much and I learnt such a lot from you. I hope to meet up with you on another cruise in the future. I may be a bit better by then as I am having a weekly lesson."

Her friend later wrote: "It doesn`t seem long ago since we were both enjoying our dances with you on Pearl. We miss the wonderful dancing and the dance classes - the best of any cruise! Hoping to meet you on another cruise in the future."

Saga Pearl II

Saga Pearl II

Score card:

(9) Dining tables hosted
(8) Evenings of dancing
(5) New Towns visited:-
    (St. Emilion, Blaye, Bourg, San Sebastian & Oviedo)
(4) Tours taken
(2) New Ports reconnoitred:-
    (Pasajes & AvilÚs)
(2) Dance classes run
(1) Cruise enjoyed

Good points were:

  1. Hosting tables in the main dining room.
  2. Efficient cabin steward (Miquelito).
  3. Two New Italian Coffee Machines.
  4. New carpet in the public areas.
  5. Twin outside cabin on A Deck.
  6. ú50 On Board Spend (OBS)!
  7. New top deck lounge area.
  8. Photograph on the board.
  9. Free Ice Cream Machine
  10. Two first choice tours.
  11. Free in-cabin wi-fi.
  12. Free Shuttle Buses.
  13. Dressing Gowns.
  14. Free Internet.
  15. Free Water.
  16. Free Wi-fi.
  17. Free Fruit.
  18. Crisps!

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

Current Statistics (as of April 2018):

1087 Ports called at
 659 Tours escorted
 380 Ports visited
 237 Lectures delivered
 123 Cruises undertaken
  21 Cruise ships:

	Saga Rose
	Saga Ruby (Saggy Booby!)
	Saga Pearl II
	Saga Sapphire
	Spirit of Adventure (SofA)
	Quest for Adventure (Q4A)

	Black Prince
	Black Watch

	Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2)
	Queen Mary 2 (QM2)
	Queen Elizabeth
	Queen Victoria

	Seabourn Sojourn
	Seabourn Odyssey

	Celebrity Eclipse
	Crystal Symphony

8 Cruise lines:

	Saga Shipping Company
	Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
	Voyages of Discovery (VofD)
	Seabourn (Carnival)
	Cunard (Carnival)
	P&O (Carnival)