|07/11/2013||Barcelona, Spain||-||Glorious afternoon in wonderful city|
|08/11/2013||Mahón, Menorca||Mahón and the Scenic North||Fornells, Monte Toro & Mahón|
|09/11/2013||Castellón de la Plana||Sagunto & the Val d'Uixó||Roman theatre & St.Joseph's Cave|
|11/11/2013||Motril, Spain||Granada & the Alhambra||Glorious day visiting Moorish palace|
|12/11/2013||Gibraltar, UK||Europa Point & English Tea||Rock Hotel|
|13/11/2013||Seville, Spain||Enchanted Evening in Córdoba||Equestrian show & delicious supper|
|15/11/2013||Huelva, Spain||-||Two trips into town|
|16/11/2013||Portimão, Portugal||Scenic Western Algarve||Cape St. Vincent & Lagos|
|17/11/2013||Lisbon, Portugal||Arrábida Mountains||Setubal, Azeitão & Sesimbra|
|18/11/2013||Leixões, Portugal||Oporto Sights & Douro River Cruise||Calem port wine tasting|
|19/11/2013||Ferrol, Spain||-||Art Nouveau route|
|21/11/2013||Southampton||-||Home at noon|
I caught the National Express coach from BoMo to Gatwick via Portsmouth, followed by the service bus to my £35 B&B in Horley. The next morning I retraced my steps as far as the South Terminal for the uneventful Monarch flight to Barcelona. We were all checked in by 2:30 pm so I walked along the Prom as far as the Parc de la Ciutadella. After the 5:30 pm lifeboat drill, John Parton the cruise director introduced us in his Welcome Aboard session in the Discovery Lounge. There was a short sail away in the dark followed by dinner when I had the rib of beef with Marjorie, Barbara, Sue and her husband. We danced both before and after the classical concert with Barbara and Gillian, but most passengers had an early night after their travels. At the Entertainers cocktail party I chatted with Dr Dan and two of the ORCA scientists Gary and Tom. Neil Horrocks texted me when I had updated my status to say: "Just wanted to wish you a wonderful finale to the 'Quest'. Naturally I'm devastated not to be there, but am sure John will make it entertaining for all."
After my first breakfast back on board of two eggs Benedict, I escorted my first choice Scenic North tour to Fornells, Monte Toro and Mahón itself, capital of Menorca. I lunched with Jean and Barbara on smoked salmon baguette with chips followed by a deep siesta catching up on the previous long day. After a shortened Singles Mingle in the Shackleton Lounge we adjourned to the Discovery Lounge for the Captain's welcome cocktail party. I chatted with the sequence dance couple from West Moors in Dorset. I dined on fillet steak stuffed with Stilton with Gillian, Jean, Angela and Lorna. We danced after Gary William's show with Jean, Barbara, Pam and Emily.
In Castellón de la Plana I escorted my first choice tour to Sagunto and the Val d'Uixó. We climbed up the hill by the Jewish quarter to the heavily reconstructed Roman theatre, but didn't have time to go all the way up to the enormous castle. On the way down we stopped off at the interesting archaeological museum. After snacking on our packed lunches in the coach, we arrived at St. Joseph's cave, the longest navigable underground river in Europe. We were punted half way into the system, walked along a subterranean passage to the end of the river and were then punted all the way back to the entrance! Back at the ship just after 3 pm, I caught the last shuttle bus into Castellon with Gillian. With just 10 minutes available, I rushed around the historic centre, taking pictures of the cathedral, bell tower, town hall and market before catching the last shuttle bus back to the ship! Dozing on my bed, I heard the cruise director announce dancing on the deck at the sail away, so I rushed upstairs just in time for the start. We danced with Barbara and Yvonne as we sailed away in bright sunshine but a chilly wind. I dined on pork stuffed with prunes in a lovely brown sauce with Monique, a French lady and some others. Before and after the show with Polish violinist Michael Bacala, I danced with Barbara, Yvonne, Jean, Pam, Emily, Lucy (an ORCA scientist) and Lauren one of the photographers aboard.
No tour again in Cartagena, so I was first off the ship and into town to use the free wi-fi outside the Nam Nam Pizzeria. I finally found the Archaeological Museum and used the free wi-fi at the out-of-town McDonalds too. I lunched on roast leg of beef before my siesta. Back in town I re-visited the Nam Nam before finding the free Military Museum for the first time. Pam Rhodes came back onto the ship for the day to lead Songs of Praise, when she again mentioned that the next Christian cruise wouldn't be with Saga! I dined on chicken with Carol, Leslie, Simon and others.
In Motril I escorted my first choice, the all day tour to the marvellous Alhambra Palace in Granada. We started in the Generalife gardens, explored the Palace of the Moors and ended up at Charles the Fifth's palace. We lunched in a nearby hotel where I was able to use their wi-fi. Back at the ship it was Remembrance day (11/11/13), commemorated with a moving al fresco service on the aft deck. The ship turned so we faced the beautiful setting sun. Lord Michael Howard gave a reading and a wreath was cast on to the waters. This was immediately followed by Captain David Warden-Owen's farewell cocktail Party, since he was finally (?) retiring the next day in Gibraltar. Ernie Rea had produced a lovely video with short valedictions by Lords Carey & Howard, Pam Rhodes and others. I dined on peppered steak in the Verandah Restaurant with Jenny, Val, Margaret and Jane. I danced with Jean, Barbara, Yvonne, Pam and Emily, the last of whom was flying back to work the next day from Gib.
In Gibraltar I escorted my first choice Europa Point and English tea tour. After inspecting the queues at the Spanish border we travelled along the eastern, beaches road for my first time. After 15 minutes at a finally complete Europa Point, we had a delicious English tea at the posh Rock Hotel, where I was also able to access their free wi-fi. Back at the ship by 11 am, I walked back into town via the Morrisons supermarket and McDonalds where I was again able to access their free wi-fi. After lunch and a siesta, I climbed diagonally up the rock to the famous Mediterranean Steps at the southern end. I couldn't actually face the near vertical final ascent and so chose the sloping road to the the top of the rock. I then walked along the ridge to near the northern end where I began my descent past the Moorish Castle. I descended via the Castle Steps and then back to the ship via McDonalds again. In the evening we danced both before and after the show and then adjourned to the deck party.
On the river day going up the Guadalquivir to Seville, I led a line dance class at 9 am and a ballroom class at 1:30 pm. Unfortunately the on-ship internet jumped from 10p to 25p per minute for me without warning! At 5 pm we escorted almost the entire ship to visit the famous equestrian show at the Royal Stables in Cordoba. This was followed by an authentic Spanish dinner of tapas, ham soup, pork steaks and chocolate cake with both red and white wine in the lovely period building. Neil Horrocks texted me when I had updated my status there saying: "I had fun planning the night out with the horses, never thinking I wouldn't actually be there!" We didn't get back to the ship until after midnight - quite a logistical exercise!
No tour in Seville, so I walked around the magical city for four hours before lunch. After my siesta I walked back to the Golden Tower (Torre del Oro) via the public library which offers free wi-fi. We had both the sailaway and the Britannia Club cocktail party out on the aft decks for the first time. I dined on lamb shank with Barbara, Jane, Jenny and Monique, the French lady. With a clasical concert and the popular jazz night in Shackleton's, we didn't do much dancing that night!
No tour in Huelva and I was the only person on the 8:30 shuttle bus into town. I caught the noon bus back to the ship, lunched, slept and then caught the 2:30 pm bus back into town. I found the free municipal museum interesting and used the free wi-fi in the public library both times. Not a lot to see in the town but many photographic opportunities on my first visit. I dined on rib-eye steak with Sue, Lesley, Margaret, Yvonne and Barbara. The dance floor was nearly full before the show with sequence dance couples for the first time. Gary Wilmot has a lovely voice but some of the audience didn't appreciate his knobs and balls jokes and walked out!
In Portimão I escorted my first choice Scenic Western Algarve tour to Cape Saint Vincent, Sagres and Lagos. I lunched on chicken and chips with Jean the day after her birthday. After a short siesta I walked along the prom into Portimão to take the few photographs that I had missed on my previous visit. I caught the penultimate shuttle bus back to the ship via the Rocky Beach resort (Praia da Rocha). I dined on scampi and chips seated at the request of Margery (sic) together with Yvonne and her husband and a couple from near Nuneaton in Warwickshire. We danced both before and after the lovely Rachael Russell sang, but the Atlantic Ocean was beginning to make it's presence felt!
In Lisbon I escorted my first choice tour to the Arrabida Mountains. This was my first time going south from Lisbon across both bridges. The castle on the hill above Sesimbra was magnificent in the bright sunshine. After lunch al fresco with Leslie I slept for an hour before climbing the Alfama hill in the city to the gleaming white Pantheon church. At the sail away I danced with Gillian and the lovely Rachael. I dined on sirloin steak with Sue, Carol, Margaret, Margery and Simon. The sea got up over dinner and after a couple of abortive dances we gave up for the night.
I escorted my first choice Oporto Sights and Douro River Cruise tour from Leixões. The weather for the first time this cruise started out overcast but gradually brightened up but remained cold all day. I enjoyed the river cruise for a first time and the generous port wine samples as usual. I lunched on roast lamb with Gillian and others on the central table in the Verandah restaurant. The sailaway was bright but breezy. I dined on beef tenderloin with Angela, Pam, Marjorie and Carol. The sea was calmer and thus allowed us to dance before the Crew Show, which had one new act that I hadn't seen before. The Christian Fellowship group performed their celebrated hand mime to "Who I am" which I prefer over "You raise me up" which they had done at Captain David's farewell. One of the singers dedicated his song to his (absent) cruise director "Mr. Horrocks"!
No tour in Ferrol, so after a heavy rain shower I walked into town to photograph (whisper it) Generalissimo Franco's birthplace. I followed the Art Nouveau trail (which the Spanish confusing call Modernisme) photographing all 20 listed buildings. Back at the ship I processed the pictures into my already substantially complete powerpoint presentation on Ferrol. At the breezy sailaway I danced with Barbara, Yvonne, Gillian and Rachael. Colonel Frances having kindly given me a bottle of champagne, on the final formal night I invited the Reverend Pam, Barbara and Yvonne to dine with me in the Verandah restaurant. We danced before John Parton's Gershwin show in the Shackleton Lounge as the grand piano had been brought down onto the dance floor in the Discovery Lounge. The after show disco was cancelled due to the swell.
On the final sea day I led my second and final line dance class. After lunch of steak and chips with Lorna and Gillian I was supposed to lead my second ballroom class, but it was too rough crossing the Bay of Biscay. In the evening we had the new Captain's farewell cocktail party. I dined on sirloin steak with Lorna, Barbara, Yvonne, Gillian and Simon. We were able to dance with Barbara and Yvonne before the variety show of the lovely Rachael Russell and Gary Wilmot. The former dedicated her final song, "You'll never walk alone" to absent cruise director Neil Horrocks!
8 Tours escorted 7 Old powerpoint presentations updated 6 Line dances taught 5 Dining companions hosted each evening ? 2 New ports visited 1 Ballroom dance taught 1 New powerpoint presentation authored 1 Cruise enjoyed!