Cruise SA273
"Nordic Eclipse"
from Southampton to Dover
on the Saga Sapphire

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and read my report)


Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
11/03/2015 Southampton
UK
- On board by 1 pm!
14/03/2015 Bergen
Hordaland
Norway Landscapes &
Flam Railway
Smorgasboard at Fleischer's
Hotel, Voss
15/03/2015 Geiranger
Møre og Romsdal
Fjordland Melodies Church Concert
16/03/2015 Åndalsnes
Møre og Romsdal
Trolls Wall &
Romsdalen
Coffee & Cake at Bjorli
18/03/2015 Lerwick
Shetland
Scenic Shetland Jarlshof Iron Age Village
19/03/2015 Tórshavn
Faeroes
Island Tour Cloudy
21/03/2015 Kirkwall
Orkney
Ancient Treasures Skara Brae Stone Age Village
23/03/2015 Dover
England
- On board by 1 pm!

Embarkation Day: Wednesday the 11th of March 2015

I left home at 10:35 AM and got to Danny's in Highcliffe at 11:00. We were at the QEII terminal in SoTon by 12:00 and on board by 1 PM. I snacked in the embarkation buffet before having a lie down in our large, but inside, twin cabin on deck 6. After the safety drill, out under the lifeboat, I attended the sailaway where I chatted with Julie amongst others. At the CD's welcome cocktail party I chatted with some other entertainers. At dinner Trevor Walford the Maitre'D placed me on a table with three couples and a single lady. The couple on my right were from Edinburgh and the couple of my left were from Crewe. I dined on pork escalope and shared a complimentary bottle of Argentinian Malbec. At the first dance session, I danced with Marcia and some other ladies before appearing in the Introductory show. We danced after the show but there were no single ladies in the nearly empty Drawing room, so we went to bed.


First Sea Day: Thursday the 12th of March 2015

Danny & Martin

Danny & Martin

I breakfasted on a plain omelette with a single lady before leading my first line dance class. I taught the Electric Slide & Texas Waltz to 23 brave souls, including the Captain's wife Helen. The session only lasted 25 minutes in order to make way for Tom's introduction to the shore excursions. I watched Peter Hipkin's talk on Bergen: Gateway to the Fjords and Tim Orchard's talk on Concorde. At noon we were on duty at the Singles Mingle in the Britannia lounge. There were a large number of single ladies but very few put their hands up when asked if they liked dancing. I lunched al fresco with Diana on BBQ steak and vegetables before leading the Social Foxtrot ballroom dance class. I slept for two hours before reading in the Drawing room.

At the Captain's welcome cocktail party I chatted with David who used to live near me at Upper Park in Harlow. We had met on the military tour of Gibraltar some years ago when he kindly sent me some of his photographs. He was company secretary of Johnson Mattey the gold merchants and is still involved with the Newfoundland Memorial University in Old Harlow, although he now lives in Bishop's Stortord. I dined on Angus beef with six single ladies, including Marcia, and a single gent, Vic. I ordered a complimentary bottle of the house white to go with the red left over from the previous night. We danced before and after the Let's Swing production company show, but dancing ladies were few on the ground. Later the Drawing room was nearly empty.


Second Sea Day: Friday the 13th of March 2015

Red Nose Day!

Red Nose Day!

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Julie from Birmingham and a lady from Petersfield. At my second line dance class I had 24 dancers and I taught Texas Waltz, The Slosh & The Party Samba. I watched Peter's port talks on Geiranger and Andalsnes, followed by Valerie's talk on the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). At the Singles Lunch Aaron, Joel and myself were not needed, so I lunched on salmon in the Verandah restaurant instead with a lady from West Sussex, a couple from Dartford and a pair of ladies from North London. At my second ballroom dance class I had 18 pax for my Waltz class. Tom the tours manager told me that my port talks on my previous cruise (SA271) had lulled him into a false sense of security by their high quality! I then slept for nearly two hours before attending the strawberry tea with Julie, wearing my Comic Relief Red Nose! Using the free wi-fi, I received an email from Dance Afloat confirming my place on one of Queen Mary 2's voyages to Hamburg in the Autumn. I caught up with Valerie's first lecture "A Tour of the Universe" on the in-cabin television, before attending the pre-dinner dancing in the Britannia lounge. I dined on lamb shank with Vic and six ladies and ordered another bottle of Argentinian Malbec red wine. We danced both before and after Richard Gauntlett's comedy show.


Bergen, Norway: Saturday the 14th of March 2015

Bergen old town

Bergen old town

Up at 6 AM, I was escort on my first choice all day tour to Voss, Myrdal and Flåm. I had the comedian Richard Gauntlett in tow for training as a tour escort. We took the coach as far as Voss before boarding the mainline service to Myrdal. Here we changed on to the Flåmsbana, the steepest standard adhesion railway in the world. After half an hour of free time in Flåm, we drove back to Voss via a photo stop at Gudvangan I lunched with Helen Rentell and the other escorts, guides and drivers at the magnificent Fleischers' Hotel. The Smorgasboard was as splendid as ever, but the dressed crab not quite so good as in the past. We each had a bottle of soft drink, in my case Coke Zero. I rushed around town after lunch taking photographs in the bright sunshine. Back at the ship, we had a glorious sailaway from Bergen, the wettest city in Europe! I dined on salmon with Beryl, June, John, Mary and three other ladies, sharing my complimentry bottle of house white wine with them. We then danced both before and after Lee Bradley's tenor show. I enjoyed his musical numbers better than his opera arias and was impressed by his one song without amplification.


Geiranger, Norway: Sunday the 15th of March 2015

Me at the Fjord Centre in Geiranger

Me at the Fjord Centre in Geiranger

I breakfasted with Danny on one egg Benedict before watching the majestic traverse of the Geiranger fjord. I then escorted my second choice Fjordland Melodies tour, after a protracted tendering operation into Gieranger village. For the second time this cruise I had a companion, Timmy the Hungarian lady violinist from the Tiffany string quartet, in tow for training as an escort. We visited the two most famous viewpoints in the whole of Norway, at the latter I waltzed off to view the Queen's chair at the nearby vista. At Geiranger church we had a delightful concert of violin, piano and organ folk music with one piece by Edvard Grieg. Again after a protracted tendering operation I had a late lunch of gammon, egg and chips with Marcia, Julie, Diana and two other ladies in the Verandah restaurant. I then slept for over two hours, awoken by the Captain's departure announcement at 4:30 PM. I enjoyed the sailaway from Geiranger including the famous giant's face and the VAT69 waterfall, but the bridal veil waterfall was very thin and the seven sisters non-existent! We danced before dinner in the Drawing room with only a couple of ladies. I dined on lamb, again with Beryl, June, Mary, Ron & Joan and two other ladies. Again I ordered a bottle of house white for the table whilst enjoying one glass from my bottle of red Argentinian Malbec. We danced before the puppet show again with only a couple of ladies. During the show I updated this blog and back-upped my day's photographs.


Andalsnes, Norway: Monday the 16th of March 2015

I had the full English breakfast from the buffet as the chefs were rather busy. In the morning I escorted my first choice Trolls Wall & Romsdalen Valley tour. The tender operation was smoother than the previous day and we enjoyed a lovely ride up and down the valley. The first photo stop was at the famous Trolls Wall, allegedly the highest rock face in Europe. At Bjorli we stopped for coffee and cake in a posh hotel, before turning back down the valley. I lunched on baked ham with Diana before lying down for an hour. Taking the tender back into the one horse town of Andalsnes, I photographed all the main sights such as they are. I walked up the new steel walkway replacing the gneiss steps up the mountain behind the town for dramatic views in three directions. I used my new "Map My Walk" app to record my return walk. Back at the ship I watched Lee the tenor lead the community singing on the aft deck. I went back up to the top of the ship to watch the sunset across the fjord. We danced in the Drawing room with a couple of dancers before dinner. I dined on roast chicken and ordered a bottle of Prosecco for the five ladies and one gent on what was becoming my regular table with Madam Beryl from Yorkshire. We danced before the production show but the orchestra left after the show to give their jazz concert upstairs.


Third Sea Day: Tuesday the 17th of March 2015

Martin & Marlon

Martin & Marlon

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Julie before leading my third line dance class wearing my lurid St. Patrick's Day tie from the pound shop! I taught California Frieze, Just Because & Cowboy Charleston. The middle rumba was in preparation for the afternoon's Social Rumba class. I went to the expansive Bergen Fish & Food Market lunch in the Pole to Pole restaurant. I began with Norwegian fish soup, continued with prawns, crab and salmon, then had a small piece of gammon, ending with two waffles with ice cream! I had a dozen attendees at my Social Rumba class wearing my Norway tee-shirt, followed by an hour's sleep. I enjoyed Vicky-Sue & Peter Witham's talk and recital of violin virtuosi in the Drawing room before taking my first swim and jacuzzi of the cruise. We went to the pre-dinner dancing in the Drawing room as directed, not the Britannia Club cocktail party. I dined with Beryl, Mary, Pauline and Ron & Joan, but not June who was dining in the East to West speciality restaurant. I ordered a complimentary sweet cider whilst the table had my bottle of house white wine. We danced both before and after the variety show of comedian Richard Gauntlett and tenor Lee Bradley. The late night session in the Drawing room was sparsely attended, but I was glad I had turned up, as there was a brace of Captains (Philip Rentell & Tim Orchard) and their glamorous wives present!


Lerwick, Shetland: Wednesday the 18th of March 2015

I breakfasted on a plain omelette with Julie, before escorting my first choice Scenic Shetland tour. With only the first coachload on the tender, we were ashore by 8:45 AM. We stopped for coffee and cake at an early 9:30 AM in the Hoswick Visitor Centre, but I opted for tea and a scotch oat flapjack. We continued to the fascinating Jarlshof archaeological site which included an iron age village, the foundations of a viking long house and medieval remains too. The former was almost as good as the famous Skara Brae site on Orkney, minus the remarkable stone furniture found there. We progressed on to Sumbrugh Head lighthouse at the southern end of Shetland mainland before returning to Lerwick.

Having off loaded my charges back at the tender quay, I explored Lerwick instead of going back to the ship for lunch. I visited the new Arts centre and the neighbouring new museum. I went into the Town Hall to view the famous stained glass windows and into the public library in the old Free church. Back on the ship, I took afternoon tea in the Britannia lounge with astronomers Valerie & Michael Calderbank. We went to the pre-dinner dancing there too, but most pax were at the classical concert in the Drawing room. However I did manage to get to dance with Ann and Heather. I dined on ragout of smoked haddock with Beryl, Mary, June, Chris and Ron & Joan. June gave me a glass of her Merlot red wine, and I gave the others my complimentary bottle of white. We danced both before and after the Hollywood Nights production show, but there was no one to dance with in the Drawing room later.


Tórshavn, Færoes: Thursday the 19th of March 2015

The fort, Tórshavn, Færoes

The fort, Tórshavn, Færoes

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with a couple and a single lady, before taking the port shuttle bus the quarter of mile into town. I photographed most of the main sights under overcast skies. Back at the ship I lunched on rib-eye steak with Dorothy from Nottingham, the first time I had talked to her on this cruise. I then escorted my second choice two hour island tour. The first two viewpoints were dry but cold. Then the drizzle started and the mist descended, so we didn't stop at the mountain top. We saw poor Marco Polo berthed in a side fjord miles from the capital! Voyager was berthed on the western side of the main harbour and we had pole position on the eastern side! Back at the ship, I slept for an hour before working on my blog. Watching Sky News in the cabin, I had a fleeting glimpse of myself striding across the TV screen! I caught the first fifteen minutes of the Færoes folkloric show, before adjourning for the pre-dinner dancing in the Drawing room. I dined on fillet steak with Beryl, June, Mary, Chris, Ron and his wife Joan. Beryl gave me some chocolates and a glass of her red wine, whilst I gave my complimentary bottle of white to the rest of the table. We danced before Anne Rayner's multi-instrumental show but afterwards nearly everyone either went to bed or to the Glitterball Girls cabaret upstairs. I followed suit enjoying the disco singing but not dancing. After the cabaret I had only Marcia and her friend to dance with before bed.

The old town, Tórshavn, Færoes

The old town, Tórshavn, Færoes


Total Solar Eclipse off the Færoes: Friday the 20th of March 2015

I breakfasted on a plain omelette with Chris and two other ladies in the Verandah restaurant. My line dance class had been cancelled ready for the total solar eclipse at 9:40 AM. Captain Philip Rentell managed to manouevre us into a gap in the clouds and showers for a marvellous view. Totality lasted two minutes but my photographs weren't very good. My colleague Danny managed to get one super diamond ring picture. We then changed into our Comic Red Nose outfits for the Country Fair in the Britannia lounge. I lunched on sirloin steak with Jane, an American lady and another lady, before teaching the Social Cha Cha on a slightly moving dance floor. I then slept for an hour before pigging out at the chocolate afternoon tea. At the pre-dinner dancing we danced with Heather but not Ann who was feeling a little sea sick in the Drawing room. This was nearly empty as the production company were performing their Drifters' tribute show in the also sparsely populated Britannia lounge. Not a good time for a show, but the result of a jam packed programme. I dined on rack of lamb with Beryl, June, Mary, Chris and Joan & Ron. Apparently there was no Argentinian Malbec available, so Raymond our wine waiter brought another Argentinian red instead. This was enjoyed by all except Chris. We danced with a few ladies including Cath and Suzanne at the pre-show dancing, the latter celebrating her birthday. I watched the second puppet show in my cabin whilst updating this blog. There were no dancers left in the Britannia lounge or the Drawing room as everyone prepared for an early start the next morning at out last port of call.


Kirkwall, Orkney: Saturday the 21st of March 2015

Orkney cliffs

Orkney cliffs

I breakfasted on a full English with Julie in the Verandah restaurant. I escorted my first choice Ancient Treasures of Orkney tour. We began at the Skara Brae stone age village before viewing the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness. Back at the ship there was a queue for lunch, so I had salmon and chips at the pool side Beach Club in the sunshine for the first time this cruise. I slept for an hour and a half before hosting the tea dance (playlist below). The lovely Marcia helped me lead off the dances. Martin the pianist played the organ tremendously well and described the whole affair as enjoyably camp! We danced with Heather & Ann at the pre-dinner dancing and I then caught the end of the Captain's speech at his farewell cocktail party. I dined with the usual suspects on fillet steak and enjoyed the complimentary bottle of Argentinian Malbec. We danced both before and after the variety show of the Tiffany string quarter and Anne Rayner the multi-instrumentalist.


Fifth Sea Day: Sunday the 22nd of March 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Julie & David, before leading my fourth and final line dance class. I taught Texas Waltz, Ziggy & Lindi Shuffle to 18 people. During the first of these, I was able to dance with the lovely Helen, wife of Captain Philip Rentell. If there's one thing better than having the Cruise Director's mother in my class, it's to have the Captain's wife! I listened to Captain Tim Orchard's final aviation lecture before lunching on roast beef with Julie and a couple from Essex. At my afternoon ballroom dance class I taught the quickstep to a dozen people. After lying down for half an hour I started packing ready for changing cabins the next day. We danced with Ann, Heather and Suzanne at the pre-dinner dancing this time in the Britannia lounge. I dined on pork schnitzel with Beryl, June, Chris, Pauline, Ron, Joan and Mary. June and Mary both brought bottles of champagne and I had some red still left. We danced both before and after the production company's Beatles show to the busiest floor we had seen all cruise! Up in the drawing room all was very quiet.


Turnaround Day in Dover: Monday the 23rd of March 2015

Saga Sapphire

Saga Sapphire

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with a lady from North Wales who regaled me with her cruise from hell on Boudicca! I volunteered for disembarkation duty to say goodbye to the guests from 8:15 until 10 am. I then was able to move my bags from the Academy into my new outside double cabin on deck 4. I walked into town to buy a new watch in Argos, my old one having given up the ghost near the start of the cruise. Back at the terminal for noon, I met up with my cousin Jean, her daughter Michelle and her granddaughter Tallulah. We went to Cullins Yard restaurant at the yacht marina. They had paninis and I had a home-made burger. I then walked back to the ship in the sunshine ready to start my next cruise!

One lady later wrote: "Have read your blog Martin, brilliant!!! Lovely pictures. The blog is very accurate, makes me want to be back on board." A couple later wrote: "Hope you enjoy your next cruise as much as the one we were on."


Score card:

7 Dining companions hosted on 12 evenings
6 Tours escorted
5 Balloom dance classes led
4 Line dance classes taught
3 ?
2 Cocktail parties attended
1 Tea dance organised
1 New island (Shetland)
1 New port (Lerwick)

Good points were:

  1. Dining in the Pole-to-Pole Restaurant
  2. Efficient Cabin Steward (Ramon)
  3. Some first choice tour escorting
  4. Leading 5 ballroom dance classes
  5. Running 4 line dance classes
  6. Two Italian Coffee Machines
  7. Organising the tea dance.
  8. Free Ice Cream Machine
  9. Free Shuttle Buses
  10. Free Internet
  11. Free Water
  12. Free Wi-fi
  13. Free Fruit

For the record ...


Updated PowerPoint Presentations:
Andalsnes

Tea Dance Playlist:
Waltz
Barn Dance
Quickstep
St. Bernard's Waltz
Cha Cha
Gay Gordons
Foxtrot
Party Veleta
Rumba
Party Samba
Jive
Waltz