|14/12/2012||Southampton||Parked on the quayside|
|16/12/2012||Ferrol, Spain||Galicia's Scenic Coastline||Tapas and wine!|
|21/12/2012||Palma, Mallorca||(Panoramic & Valldemossa)||Ill|
|26/12/2012||Istanbul, Turkey||On Foot in Old Istanbul||Bright & breeezy|
|27/12/2012||Dikili, Turkey||One horse town|
|28/12/2012||Kuşadasi, Turkey||(Panoramic Ephesus)||Ill again!|
|29/12/2012||Piraeus, Greece||Wet visit to Athens|
|31/12/2012||Valletta, Malta||Medieval Mdina & Mosta||Sunny|
|05/01/2013||Vigo, Spain||Vigo & Bayona||Sunny|
|07/01/2013||Southampton||Home at 10:45 am|
I drove up to Southampton and parked on the quay for my Christmas cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean on the Saga Ruby. The newly promoted Cruise Director, Michael Hale, introduced us all on the first night in the ballroom. He was to have a baptism of fire over the cruise!
With a deep depression lurking in the western approaches to the English Channel, we were late leaving port. At first the Captain headed for Le Havre and then Brest in France. As the weather improved slightly he decided to cross the notorious Bay of Biscay. It was too rough for dancing or showtime so we watched the classic film "It's a wonderful life" instead.
After a rough crossing we finally got into Ferrol in NW Spain over seven hours late. I was able to go round the town in the late afternoon doing some photography. The delay meant the loss of the planned visit to Santorini (Thera), so for the second time in as many months I failed to get to the one port I really wanted! That evening we finally had the Captain's welcome cocktail party and then swing singer Steve Terry sang for us. It was a much better morning so I did some more photography which I was later able to fashion into a powerpoint presentation for a future port lecture.
In the afternoon I escorted the Galician Coast tour. We visited the charming medieval town of Pontedeume, before partaking of marvellous and generous tapas and wine in a restaurant with picture windows overlooking the estuary at four in the afternoon! Back in the Atlantic it was again too rough to dance and so the newly promoted Assistant Cruise Director, Matthew Shaw, sang for us.
The next sea day was much calmer, so I was able to lead my first line and ballroom dance classes. For the very first time on any of my cruises the Captain, Alistair McLundie, joined in the dancing of the Electric Slide! Between the two dance classes came the singles gathering in the Preview bar. The next day followed a similar course of two dance classes.
No tour in Cartagena so I went into the lovely town in the morning to do some photography.
The next sea day was back to normal with a line dance class in the morning and a latin american dance class in the afternoon. In Syracuse we had to wait until the afternoon before being tendered ashore in the local steamers. I took 123 photographs on the ancient peninsula of Ortygia.
The highpoint of Syracuse was the baroque cathedral built inside an enormous Greek doric temple! The only other example I could compare it to is the baroque cathedral built inside the Moorish mosque in Cordoba, Spain. Emperor Charles V said that "You have destroyed something unique (the mosque) to make something commonplace (the cathedral)". However the construction of the Syracuse cathedral may well have saved the Greek temple from destruction.
I attended the Christmas morning carol service before enjoying a leisurely six course lunch. The cloud-less sunset across the mirror surface of the Aegean Sea was exquisite as we entered the Dardanelles. In the evening I indulged in another six course meal!.
On Boxing Day morning I escorted the Old Istanbul on foot tour. This walk started from the ship so we actually explored New Istanbul before crossing the Galata Bridge into Old Istanbul. We went into the not so New Mosque and the Spice Bazaar. During the free time I climbed up the hill to view Suleyman the Magnificent's Mosque. In the afternoon I took the shuttle bus on its 40 minute sightseeing drive to the Grand Bazaar. I then walked to Roman Emperor Valens' majestic aqueduct.
The next morning my line dancing class was curtailed by an earlier then usual lecture. In the afternoon I explored Dikili. I won't be creating a powerpoint presentation on this one horse town in hurry! It's only real virtue is its proximity to the ancient city of Pergamon.
The next afternoon I walked around Kuşadasi taking photographs.
The next day I took the metro into Victoria Station, Athens and photographed the National Archaeological Museum amongst other sights. The drizzle became rain and I returned drenched to Piraeus for lunch. I ventured out after my siesta but didn't walk far on a wet day.
On the next sea day I again led line and latin american dance classes. I was also able to create a powerpoint presentation on Kuşadasi from the photos that I had taken.
At dawn on New Year's Eve we entered the Grand Harbour of Valletta on Malta, the home port of the Saga ships, to a seven gun salute from the battery. I escorted my first choice tour to Mosta to see the famous domed church and to Mdina the old fortified capital in glorious weather. We enjoyed cheese and pea pastizzis with our morning coffee in the Carmelite Priory café. In the afternoon I took the brand new lift up to Valletta city centre for some more photography. In the evening we celebrated the New Year with a deck party and fireworks in the Grand Harbour.
On New Year's Day we had a Gala Jazz Lunch in the Ballroom followed by my social cha cha class. I was also able to update my powerpoint presentations on both Athens and Valletta.
The following day involved us in six sessions: line and ballroom classes, an afternoon tea dance and the three usual evening slots. The Cruise Director asked me to run the tea dance so I devised a mixed programme of three latin american, four ballroom and five olde tyme dances which all went down well.
In Gibraltar I escorted my first choice Fortress tour which went to Europa Point, the Apes' Den and the World War II Tunnels. That evening the Saga Ruby orchestra played their great new Jazz Night show. This included the theme from Strictly Come Dancing, Take Five (in 5/4 time), Dixieland and Ragtime jazz music. In the evening I got an email from the Open University offering me two more T802 (Technology MSc) contracts to add to my current two. With so many cruises booked for the coming year I decided to turn down the kind offer. When M801 (Maths & Computing MSc) ends in March I will be down to just one T802 contract through to 2020 supervising just two students per year.
On the penultimate sea day I again led line and ballroom dance classes. In Vigo, Galicia I escorted the tour to the marvellous port of Bayona which I had never visited before. I walked the entire 2 kilometre ramparts of the Mount Royal (Monterreale) fortress in glorious sun. It was here on the 1st March 1493 that the brothers Captain Martin Alonso Pinzon and Master Francisco Martin Pinzon arrived back from the New World on La Pinta, a Galician caravel. Soon to be Admiral Sir Christopher Columbus was just three days behind on La Niña, another Galician caravel, arriving back at Lisbon in Portugal on the 4th. La Pinta finally got back to Palos de la Frontera near Huelva in Andaluçia the starting point of the expedition on the 15th of March 1493. In the afternoon I led a social tango dance class. In the evening we danced in the lovely Britannia Lounge while the farewell cocktail party took place in the Ballroom.
On the final sea day crossing the much calmer Bay of Biscay I again led both line and ballroom dance classes, the latter revising the dances I had earlier taught on the cruise. In the morning we participated in the walk-on at the end of the disembarkation talk. In the afternoon the lovely June Snowden, my helper in the ballroom dance classes, gave her talk on the Saga Charitable Trust. In the evening I was invited to dinner in the View private dining room by the lovely Brenda Shaw. I had the pâté de fois gras with a Maçon white wine, fillet steak with a Bordeaux claret and fruit roll with coconut ice cream!
I got off the ship at 10am and with my car parked on the quayside I was home in 45 minutes. One married lady gave me a lovely present of cuff links and tie pin. So another cruise that had started badly ended well! Unfortunately dear old Saga Ruby wasn't able to sail off in the afternoon on her world cruise because of engine failure.
10 Line dances taught. 9 Line dance classes led. 8 Ballroom dances taught. 7 Hours late into Ferrol. 6 Sessions successfully completed in one day! 5 Tours escorted. 4 Dining companions entertained. 3 New ports visited. 2 Cocktail parties attended. 1 Tea dance hosted.
08:00 - 09:00 Get up for al fresco breakfast outside the Lido cafeteria. 09:00 - 09:45 Line dance class in the Ballroom led by me. 10:00 - 10:45 Destinations lecture. 11:00 - 11:45 Enhancement lecture. 12:30 - 13:00 Lunch on the aft deck outside the Lido. 13:00 - 14:00 Siesta 14:15 - 15:00 Ballroom / Latin American dance class in the Ballroom led by me.
18:30-19:15 Pre-dinner dancing in the circular Britannia Lounge. 19:15-20:45 Hosting a table in the main dining room. 20:45-21:45 Pre-show dancing in the rectangular Ballroom. 21:45-22:30 Showtime in the Ballroom. 22:30-23:15 Post-show dancing in the rectangular Ballroom. 23:15-00:00 Socialising in the Lido or Preview.