|15/08/2013||Malaga||EasyJet flight from LGW|
|18/08/2013||Ibiza Town||North Island Tour||3 Resorts & 1 Village|
|19/08/2013||Mahon||Monte Torro & Binbeca||East Island Tour|
|20/08/2013||Barcelona||Montserrat||Tibidabo in morning|
|23/08/2013||Monte Carlo||Highlights||Mid-town in afternoon|
|24/08/2013||La Spezia||River Arno & Pisa||Downtown in afternoon|
|25/08/2013||Bastia||Bastia & Erbalunga||Mediterranean Lecture in afternoon|
|26/08/2013||Porto Torres||One horse town in morning|
|27/08/2013||Cagliari||Ancient ruins of Nora (Batty?)||Lovely town in afternoon|
|29/08/2013||Civitavecchia||Home by 9 pm!|
I drove up to Horley near Gatwick and parked at the Masslink B&B (£69 for one night's stay and a fortnight's parking). They drove me to LGW in the morning for my EasyJet flight to Malaga. I had to shell out £8 for extra legroom and nearly £6 for lunch on board. There were only 5 lecturers on the flight heading for the Quest for Adventure so we were whisked to the ship in two large taxis. After a quick freshen up in an outside twin cabin on A deck all to myself, I attended cruise director Neil Horrock's introduction with a walk-on at the end.
Doreen from Christchurch asked Kirsten the Maitre D' if I could join her table for dinner along with Barbara from Northolt, Gillian from Nursling, Ken from Dublin and Arthur from Yorkshire. I enjoyed the excellent rib-eye steak as usual. There were few dancers present for the sessions both before and after the classical concert, but I did get to dance with Sue from Brighton again.
In Gibraltar I breakfasted with Anthea from Jersey who was looking for someone to go to the beaches with. I recommended to her that she ask around at that lunchtime's Travelling Alone get together, and she did indeed find a like-minded soul there in the shape of Gillian. I walked into Gib and climbed past the Moorish castle to the Old Siege Tunnels, taking lots of photographs on the way. I found a back street shop closing down and bought a pair of white dance shoes for £7 there. I took advantage of the free wi-fi outside McDonalds both going in to and coming out from the town.
During the Great British Sailaway on the aft deck I again danced with Sue from Brighton. After a deep siesta recovering from the previous day's travels, I ran a ballroom waltz class AND a line dance class, the latter attended by the cruise director's appreciative mother. I taught my usual threesome: California Frieze, Texas Waltz and the Electric Slide. The Captain wrote in his blog: "It is good to see gentleman host “Doc” Martin back on board as his line dancing classes are always eagerly anticipated." After the Captain's welcome cocktail party, I dined on fillet steak with Pat & Maureen from Thurrock, Rosemary from County Down, Shirley from North London and Ted from Isleworth. I managed to coax a reluctant Maureen on to the dance floor for the first and last waltz of the evening.
No tour in Cartagena so I was off the ship by 8:15 in the morning. I found free wi-fi outside the Nam Nam Pizzeria and then at the out of town McDonalds. I visited the free exhibition of episcopal vestments in the Casino, mainly to see inside this remarkable Art Nouveau building which is normally only open to members. I willing paid the one euro price for a personal tour of the City Hall, another remarkable Art Nouveau edifice. Unfortunately the new Naval Museum was closed.
I lunched with Madeleine from Reading before sleeping for an hour and a half. I walked back into Cartagena again taking many photographs in the glorious sunshine. In the evening for the very first time we had a Singles Dinner rather than a Singles Lunch. My colleague Michael and I hosted large tables in the two private dining rooms. I ate with Gillian, Val, Penny, Tony, Dilys, Anne, Ted, Shirley, Carreda & Anthea. The free wine flowed and I enjoyed the Gressingham duck!
The next morning I breakfasted with Shirley from North London. The first tour that I escorted this cruise was my first choice North Island Tour on Ibiza. We visited three lovely resorts: Portinatx, Sant Vicent and Santa Eularia (Eulalia?); together with one little village: Sant Joan (San Juan). We toured the charming little church in the latter and wandered around the Sunday arts and craft market. I managed to get a free wi-fi signal at the beach bar in Sant Joan (San Juan) by 'liking' their FaceBook page! At Santa Eularia (Eulalia?) I climbed up to another lovely little church on the fortified hilltop overlooking the dried up river bed. Having done the South Island Tour on a previous visit, I've now covered all the main towns on the island, so I can now lecture on Ibiza with authority.
Back at the ship I lunched with Penny and then slept for an hour and a half. I then ran my second line dance class (Texas Waltz, Just Because and Cowboy Charleston). For the first time, instead of just watching, Dawn Cartwright the Hotel Manager joined in the dancing of Just Because! I dined that night on sirloin steak with Janet, Tony, Ken and Dilys from Aberystwyth. After the pre- and post- dinner dance sessions we changed into our tropical shirts and adjourned to the deck party. I bagged jives with both Dawn the Hotel Manager and Kirsten the Maitre D'!
I breakfasted with Rosemary al fresco in Mahon on Menorca before escorting my first choice Monte Toro and Binibeca tour. We visited the pretty white fishing village of Binibeca, drove to the top of Monte Toro and sampled the local red wine and cheese, before exploring a prehistoric settlement. I lunched with Adam Reece the pianist. After my siesta, I explored Mahon taking many pictures in the bright sunshine. We danced at the sailaway and then at the pre-dinner session in the Discovery Lounge with Sue from Brighton. Doreen again asked Kirsten if I could join her table for dinner and share in her complimentary bottle of champagne. So I dined on sirloin steak again with Doreen, Maureen, Pat and Arthur.
In Barcelona I caught the metro and suburban train to Tibidabo, unfortuantely the Blue Tram didn't start up until 10 am and the funicular until 10:45, so I had to climb Tibidabo mountain on foot. When I walked down again there were long queues for both forms of vintage transport. Alighting at the suburban terminus in Catalonia Place, I picked up the free wi-fi from the parked tourist buses. I then walked back to the ship through the Gothic Quarter past the Cathedral and along Las Ramblas.
I lunched with Rosemary before escorting my first choice afternoon tour to Montserrat. The roads were clear and we got there in less than an hour. We took the new electric rack railway up to the monastery in the serrated mountains. Thoughtfully the cathedral square offered free wi-fi. The queue for the Black Madonna (with the big boobies?) was about an hour's length, so I gave it a miss. The audio-visual show was good in parts, and the final section with a tenor, a baritone and the choir boys sounded so good that I sat through it twice. The real life choir boys were of course on their summer hols. I sampled four of the liquers, and various cheeses at the market stalls. We didn't get back to the ship until 7:30 pm so I dined in the Verandah buffet restaurant with Anne, Emily and her mother Pam.
On my first visit to Palamos I walked into town in the morning and took the shuttle bus in the afternoon. The library offered free wi-fi. I had a chat with a local chap who builds cruise ship models including the QE2, Canberra and Costa Concordia! He had photographs of all the ships that had ever docked in Palamos including the Berlin (aka Spirit of Adventure), Balmoral, Black Watch, Boudicca, and four of the six Seabourn ships. The latter encouraged me to finish working on my Mahon port presentation and start on a Palamos one. I had an early lunch and a 90 minute siesta before venuturing out into the heat again. I dined on sirloin steak (yet again) with Dilys, Sue, Ken, Rita and her daughter Susie. For the very first time I was enticed into dressing up for the fashion show, and in so doing I became the straight man for the cruise director's jokes! I was paired with Maureen a passenger from Thurrock in Essex. Jane the shop manager rewarded us with a shared bottle of German bubbly.
In Sète I was off the ship by 8:15 am and four hours later I had covered the town complete with 123 photographs! I lunched with Pat & Maureen. In the afternoon I ran my third line dance class (Just Because, Slosh and Lindi Shuffle). In the evening I was on duty in the Britannia Club cocktail party. The Captain mentioned me in his speech and wrote in his blog: "There was the chance to learn a line dance with Doc Martin." I dined on the Chateaubriand steak with Pat, Maureen, Anthea, Ken and Janet. There was no dancing after the classical concert since the Quest Quartet had their Jazz night in Shackleton's Lounge, so I had an early night for a change.
In Monte Carlo, Monaco I escorted the Highlights tour. We explored both the old town of Monaco and the area around the Casino of Monte Carlo. I took the tender back into the town in the afternoon to cover the area in between the two that we had done in the morning. In the afternoon I taught the Social Foxtrot when the afternoon tea was moved out of the Discovery Lounge and on to the Verandah deck. I dined with one of the receptionist's mother, Debbie and some regular diners.
In La Spezia I escorted the River Arno cruise and Pisa land train tour. The Field of Miracles was as delightful as ever and I went into the majestic cathedral but gave the 18 euro Leaning Tower a miss! Luckily our meeting place offered me free wi-fi. I hadn't appreciated how attractive the quaysides were in downtown Pisa as we floated past. A crash on the autostrada meant we had to come back on the old Aurelian Way, so we didn't get back until 2:20 pm. After a quick lunch and brief siesta I took the shuttle bus into La Spezia. The modern, circular cathedral was closed and the castle was just closing, but I did enjoy the free funicular railway. I quickly photographed the outside of the three museums on the main pedestrianised street, before walking back along the prom. I dined on fillet steak and paté de fois gras with Janet, Doreen, Arthur and a couple from Caerleon. At the second deck party I jived with Kirsten the Maitre D', but Dawn the Hotel Manager was not to be seen. After leading the Electric Slide danced to Achy, Breaky Heart I finally went to bed.
On Corsica I escorted my first choice walking tour of Bastia which also visited the small fishing village of Erbalunga. I was quite smitten with this lovely town despite the hordes of tourists waiting to catch the ferries to the two mainlands. In the afternoon I gave my lecture on "The Story of the Mediterranean". The ship's doctor, the ex-director of the Leek United Building Society and Sir Michael & Lady Henrietta Burton amongst others later congratulated me on it! The Captain wrote in his blog: "The afternoon included a lecture from Dance Host and Open University lecturer Martin P. Lee ambitiously titled, ‘The Story of the Mediterranean’." I then popped back into town to complete my photographic reconnaissance. I dined with Madeleine, Dilys, Doreen & Arthur with my best meal of the cruise. I started with cheese crepes, continued with cheese soup and then had a fillet steak stuffed with Stilton cheese! So much for my doctor's instructions to cut down on cheese with my cholesterol up at 5.9. My meal was finished off with rocky road toffee ice cream - not cheese and biscuits! What with a church service and Kevin Woodford's "Can't cook, won't cook" show both in the Discovery Lounge, we had no dancing at all that evening! Cruise director Neil was of course hilarious playing the fool during the cookery show. Having not found any free wi-fi on Corsica I had to use the ship's satellite service that evening to update my FaceBook status.
In Porto Torres I took the 8:30 am shuttle bus into the one horse town. Nevertheless I took 96 photographs in 3 and a half hours! The archeological museum opened at a surprisingly early 9:00 am and I had a personal tour of the extensive Roman remains outside with the curator at 9:30. Certainly worth the three euros entry price! The Romanesque basilica was incredible with two long arcades of recycled Roman columns and capitals. The enormous two level crypt was packed with marble statues and sarcophagi. Well worth the two euros entry price! I lunched with Maurren and Pat before taking my siesta. In the afternoon I led a Social Rumba class. I dined with Madeleine, Rosemary, Dilys, Shirley and Ted. Again I couldn't find any free wi-fi in town.
In Cagliari I escorted my first choice tour to the (frankly disappointing) Carthaginian and Roman ruins at Nora. After lunching with Sandy, Loretta and Val I had a short siesta before heading into the city. I found a free internet terminal in the foyer of the Hotel Regina Margherita. The fortified old city on the hill with magnificent cathedral was spectacular, definitely the highpoint of the cruise! I dined on sirloin steak yet again with Doreen, Arthur and others. That evening Anthony Stuart Lloyd (aka Pavarotti's love child) held his concert out on a windy back deck with a dramatic electric storm over the distant hills as we sailed away from Cagliari. The last time I had seen him do this was in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Balmoral's Titanic memorial cruise, but that was a much more sombre affair. Having earlier that day been offered a slot doing the destination lecturing on Queen Mary 2's next world voyage, I had to use the ship's satellite internet connection to bid for the Southampton to Cape Town leg through Peter Rushton.
On the final sea day I led my last ballroom and line dance classes. In the evening we had the Captain's Farewell cocktail party, with the passengers in casual wear and us in our informal outfits. With baggage tag 9 we were the last coach away from the ship in Civitavecchia for Rome. The Corsair plane was a little late taking off. I bagged a seat in the front row of the economy cabin with extra legroom, but my colleague Michael managed to secure a complimentary upgrade to the premium cabin! He waited with the bags at Gatwick whilst I collected the car from the B&B. We were back to BoMo just after 8 pm after a marvellous cruise!
The cruise director later wrote: "Very good indeed and thanks again for all your hard work."
9 Line Dances taught 8 New PowerPoint Presentations authored 7 Tours escorted 6 New Ports visited 5 Dining Passengers hosted per night 4 Ballroom Dance Classes led 3 Cocktail Parties attended 2 Deck Parties attended 1 Lecture (the Story of the Med) delivered The Cruise Director wrote on my score card: "Well Done!"
Gibraltar Cartagena Barcelona Monaco
Mahon (44 slides) Palamos (59 slides) Sète (56 slides) La Spezia (43 slides) Bastia (48 slides) Porto Torres (51 slides) Cagliari (57 slides) Ibiza (21 slides)