|03/05/2013||Seville, Spain||Panoramic||Glorious day in wonderful city|
|05/05/2013||Portimao, Portugal||Lagos||Glorious day in old town|
|06/05/2013||Lisbon, Portugal||Ajuda Palace & Overview||Cool and cloudy|
|07/05/2013||Oporto, Portugal||Avelada vineyard||Rosé, vino verde and cheese|
|08/05/2013||Vilagarcia de Arousa, Spain||Pontevedra||Granite city|
|10/05/2013||Santander, Spain||Comillas & Santillana del Mar||Two pretty towns|
|11/05/2013||Bordeaux, France||-||Impressive city|
|12/05/2013||Belle Ile, France||Belle Ile & Citadelle||Very pretty island|
|13/05/2013||Lorient, France||-||Post-war concrete jungle|
|14/05/2013||St. Peter Port, Guernsey||-||Too rough to land|
|15/05/2013||Portland, England||-||Home by 11 am!|
I took the £17 National Express coach to Gatwick via Southampton and Portsmouth. In the former we passed the enormous Independence of the Seas and in the latter we saw Hurtigruten's Fram. I then caught the local service bus to the £28 Melville Lodge B&B. I spent the afternoon shopping in Horley.
The next morning I partoook of the generous breakfast before catching the local service bus to the South Terminal. At the Monarch check-in desk I managed to bag a complimentary upgrade! This was only the second time in all my travels that I had managed to achieve this trick. The premium cabin had only 3 paying passengers! It was a short bus ride from Seville airport to the Rio Guadalquivir. The ship was conveniently berthed within sight of the Golden Tower (Torre del Oro). I was allocated an outside twin cabin all to myself. I worked with the jolly Michael Cousins from Liverpool on his very first cruise. The first evening I dined with Betty, Margaret and Rees from Cardiff and danced with Ann from Blandford who attended every single dance session.
On the second day I escorted the Panoramic tour around Seville. She is indeed a marvellous city and we saw all the main sights. I walked back into the city in the afternoon on my own to do some more photography. That evening I dined with Ann, Audrey, Pat, Marlene and Louis from Marlborough and then danced with Ann and Mavis from Australia.
In Portimao I escorted my first choice tour to Lagos in glorious sunshine. Elevenses of wine, cheese, fish cakes and meat balls overlooking the beach were superb. The Cultural Centre in Lagos provided me with free wi-fi. It took me four days to organise all my photos into a combined powerpoint presentation of nearly one hundred slides. In the evening I dined with Patricia, Brenda, Audrey and Lionel and danced for the first time with Barbara from Norfolk.
The next day in Lisbon I went on the new Ajuda Palace tour. This is a very impressive baroque palace with each period room dominated by enormous works of contemporary art. These included a giant candelabra made of tampons (echoes of Tracy Emin?). Coffee and my all-time favourite Bethelem egg custard tarts (Pateis de Bélem) outside the Maritime Museum were heavenly. That evening I dined with Patricia, Brenda, Mavis, Helen and Rosemary and danced for the first time with the latter but not with her daughter.
In Leixoes for Oporto I escorted the tour to the Aveleda vineyard. The gardens were at their best with all the azaleas, camellias and rhodedendrons in bloom. The rosé and white wine (vinho verde) with cheese were delicious with very reasonable prices from 2.99 euros per bottle. For the very first time I was on a coach with free wi-fi which worked very well. How do they do that? Via the 3G mobile telephone network or via a satellite? In the evening I dined with Pat, Mavis, Louis, Audrey and Ann.
Back in Spain at Vilagarcia de Arousa, I escorted my first choice tour to the lovely old city of Pontevedra rather similar in appearance to Santiago de Compostela. I ran out of batteries for my new £30 Nikon digital compact camera, so I had to fall back on my new Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 mobile phone with 5 megapixel camera. In the afternoon with new batteries installed I photographed the sights of Vilagarcia such as they are. I took advantage of the free wi-fi at the Tourist Information Centre. In the evening I dined with Betty, Jean, Barbara, Sheila and Lionel.
On the only sea day of the cruise, I led a line dance class in the morning and a ballroom waltz class in the afternoon. After the Britannia Club cocktail party, I dined with Ann, Audrey, Betty, Patricia and Jean.
In Santander I went on my first choice tour to Comillas and Santillana del Mar. The former included a Gaudi designed house and the latter was a picture postcard perfect stone village. I partook of the free wi-fi outside the Parador Hotel in Santillana del Mar both coming and going past! That afternoon I led my second line dance class. In the evening I dined with Audrey, Pat, Louis, Jean and Betty.
I got up early to see the sail in to Bordeaux up the Garonne estuary. The ring road suspension bridge and the brand new Jacques Chaban-Delmas vertical lifting bridge were impressive. For the first time this cruise no tour to escort meant that I had the day off. I went into the beautiful city in both the morning and afternoon taking 131 photographs in total. The Apple Store close by the ship provided me with a surreptitious Internet session, although it transpired that there was free public wi-fi in the square outside! I conducted an experiment at the Post Office ATM of drawing out 50 euros on both my Nationwide debit card and my Halifax Clarity credit card. The former has now removed, and latter now introduced, no commission and no overseas loading, so I shall compare their costs when the bills come in for future reference. In the evening I dined with the two Anns, the only evening I sat at a small table all cruise.
In Belle Île I took the tender into the pretty little village of Le Palais in the morning for a quick run around. I went back to the ship for lunch and to collect my first choice tour. We visited the Needles that Monet (or was it Manet?) painted. We saw Sarah Bernhardt's converted fort and walked through the colourful fishing village of Sauvon. Back at La Palais we toured the palatial Vaubon Citadelle, now a posh hotel. We didn't see Princess Caroline of Monaco or any others of the jet set! The penultimate tender struggled to unload its passengers back at the ship, so those of us in the final tender remained just inside or just outside the little harbour until we could proceed back to the ship. In the evening I dined with Ann, Patricia and the couple from Brackley again. The weather was too chilly that evening so the deck party had to be brought back into Shackleton's Lounge. I finally got to dance with Rosemary's daughter Helen.
On the penultimate day the Cruise Director kindly published my potted biography and picture in the Today programme (thanks Neil!) No tour in Lorient so I took the shuttle bus into the dismal town in both the morning and afternoon, separated by lunch and a siesta. I stood outside the American Embassy (McDonalds) both times to access the free wi-fi. Unfortunately we bombed the town to rubble in the war so it had to be rebuilt much like Le Havre had been. Surprisingly one Frenchman thanked me for the liberation! With hindsight I should have booked to go on one of the Carnac megalith tours. After the farewell cocktail party I dined with Marlene, Louis and Pat.
On the final day I led a line dance class in the morning and a social foxtrot ballroom dance class in the afternoon when our visit to Guernsey was aborted due to poor weather. In the evening I gave my well-received lecture entitled "the Story of the English Channel" as we raced over to Portland to beat the incoming depression. I dined one final time with Pat, Doug, Audrey, Ann & Patricia. I danced with Barbara during Steve Terry's cabaret set in Shackleton's bar.
The arrival into Portland was rather a shambles since they aren't yet properly geared up to receive cruise ships unlike Southampton or Dover. An oil rig was in prime position by the baggage hall so we had to be bussed there from the outer pier. Another shuttle bus eventually whisked us to Weymouth station and I was home by 11 am.
I wasn't able to find free wi-fi in the big cities of Seville and Lisbon nor the tiny Belle Ile, but I was able to use the very reasonable 10p a minute service on the ship. This was my first cruise with my new Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 mobile phone just £115 from the Carphone Warehouse. This replaced not only my old Samsung phone but also my Apple iPod Touch as well. The wi-fi works well as does the Global Positioning System (GPS) in conjunction with Google Maps.
7 Tours escorted 6 New ports visited 5 Dinner guests hosted each night 5 PowerPoint presentations written (Seville, Portimao, Vilagarcia, Bordeaux & Lorient) 3 Lectures given (Portugal, Spain & the English Channel) 3 Line dance classes taught 2 Ballroom dance classes taught (Waltz & Social Foxtrot) 2 Ladies danced with every night (Ann & Barbara plus others of course) 1 Outside twin cabin enjoyed by myself alone!