Cruise SA274
"Springtime in the Canaries"
from Dover to Southampton
on the Saga Sapphire

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


Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
23/03/2015 Dover
UK
- Lunch in town with cousin Jean
26/03/2015 Lisbon
Portugal
National Tile Museum
& City Drive
Three egg custard tarts!
28/03/2015 Agadir
Morocco
Imouzzer Paradise Valley
by Jeep
Gorgeous gorge!
29/03/2015 Arrecife
Lanzarote
Northern Highlights Overcast
30/03/2015 Las Palmas de
Gran Canaria
Island Discovery Lunch at Cruz de Tejeda
31/03/2015 Santa Cruz de
Tenerife
Gardens of the Valley Sunny morning in Puerto de la Cruz
01/04/2015 Funchal
on Madeira
Botanic Garden & Monte Sunny morning in Funchal
05/04/2015 Southampton
England
- Home by 9:20 am!


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

I got back on board the Saga Sapphire at 2 pm but spent an hour walking up and down between reception and my cabin on deck 4 trying to get in! After five new swipe cards and two visits from the carpenter, I had to leave my cabin door open for a couple of hours whilst the lock reprogramming device was charged up! At the safety drill I bumped into Janet, ex Saga staff member from Folkestone. At the sailaway I bumped into Maureen from Skegness who had been on the Azores cruise with me last month. We then watched a Saga Magic Moment flying display by a Spitfire and Hurricane out in the English Channel. I dined on beef with Julia the vicar's widow from Northants and two deaf ladies from Surrey in the Verandah restaurant. I went to the first dance session at 8:30 pm in the Britannia lounge and danced with Sally's friend Shirley from Cardiff, Janet from Folkestone and Ann from Highcliffe. A new, temporary dance floor had been installed, similar to the one that had been in the Drawing room for ages, complete with raised metal lips between the wooden tiles. Show time consisted of the various in-house musical groups, sat at the back I had to suffer as some pax talked all the way through the proceedings. I danced with the three keen dancers, before going to bed.


First Sea Day: Tuesday the 24th of March 2015

Martin & Marlon

Martin & Marlon

I breakfasted on the full English and fresh strawberries with Janet from Folkestone, before attending the first ballroom class. Nicholas Miles was outrageously camp as he taught the Social Foxtrot with Rafal Pilot & Fiona Millikin Walker. So no line dancing on this cruise? Although tempted to dance with the Captain's lovely wife Helen, I partnered Shirley from Cardiff. At 10 am John Parton gave his introductory talk with walk-ons for us all. At 10:30 Tom Ash gave his introductory talk on the shore excursions. At 11:15 I gave my first port talk on Lisbon. At noon I lunched on salmon with two army widows and one army widower who was plotting our course with his GPS receiver. I then slept fitfully for an hour suffering from a heavy cold which had started on the final night of the previous cruise. I did some circuits of the top deck in sunshine, before going for a jacuzzi downstairs on deck 2, the pool being far too cold at 18 degrees. At the Captain's welcome cocktail party I wore the gold (plastic) medal given to me in the morning by the Cruise Director, the Captain described it as 'camp'. I danced with Janet and Maureen, but not Shirley. I then dined on beef with Joan from Olney and the two deaf ladies. I danced both before and after the production company's "The concert they never gave" show.


Second Sea Day: Wednesday the 25th of March 2015

I had a rough night coughing, but woke up no longer having a runny nose. I breakfasted on a plain omelette with Julia the vicar's widow from Northants. At 10 am I gave my second port talk on Agadir ready for our arrival in Morocco. I lunched on king crab legs with George and his wife, the couple who had been to my dance classes on the previous cruise. I slept for most of the afternoon, missed dinner and went to sleep at 8 pm. The exertions of the previous cruise had finally caught up with me. Remind me not to do a back-to-back cruise again!


Lisbon, Portugal: Thursday the 26th of March 2015

Bridge over the Tagus, Lisbon

Bridge over the Tagus, Lisbon

I had slept for ten hours the previous night and so had a light breakfast of home-made yoghurt and cranberry juice. Having started out from Dover rather than Southampton and still having problems with one of the engines, we didn't get into Lisbon until lunchtime. At 9:45 am I gave my third port talk on Arrecife the capital of Lanzarote. I then went up on to the top deck to watch the magnificent sail-in to Lisbon past the Bélem Tower and the April the 25th suspension bridge. I lunched on onion soup with David before escorting my second choice tour to the National Tile Museum. My first choice all-day tour, to the three towns of Obidos, Nazaré and Alcobaza, was cancelled owing to our late arrival into Lisbon. The National Tile Museum was located in a delightful period monastery and was better than I had expected. We continued with a panoramic tour of the city finishing with THREE egg custard tarts, a bottle of orange juice and a glass of port wine in the most famous café in the suburb of Bélem (Bethlehem)! Back at the ship I dined on sirloin steak sat at table No. 1 in the Verandah restaurant watching the sail-away down the Tagus estuary. I danced with Sheila, Shirley and Ann from Highcliffe but not Janet. When the puppet show started I went back to my room to watch my talks on the in-cabin telly.

Funicular, Lisbon

Lisbon Funicular


Third Sea Day: Friday the 27th of March 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Julia the vicar's widow from Northants. At 10 am I gave my fourth port talk on Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. I then worked on my presentations and this blog lunching on my third egg custard tart left over from yesterday. At 2:30 pm I gave my fifth port talk on Santa Cruz de Tenerife. I then listened to the Tiffany string quartet in the Drawing room. At 6 pm I was back there again for dancing with Maureen from Skeggy and Ann from Highcliffe. At 6:30 pm I went to the production company's Drifters tribute show which I have seen many times on both FOCL and Saga, but which is still worth watching! I then dined on salmon en croute with a man who had taught Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College and his wife from Winchester together with a couple from Reading. At the pre-show dancing I danced with Ann, Sheila, Janet and others but not Shirley or Maureen. I then went to my cabin to check over my sixth and final port talk, whilst watching the variety show of jazz and mind reading on the telly.


Agadir, Morocco: Saturday the 28th of March 2015

At the Berber Argan Co-operative

At the Berber Argan Co-operative

Captain Philip Rentell had to stay on board the ship for the crew drill so he asked me to write up the new-to-Saga jeep tour to Paradise Valley in the Atlas Mountains. This had been my first choice tour from Agadir. This is what I wrote for his blog:

"Arriving in Agadir, Morocco to bright sunshine, I was lucky to have been asked to escort the morning tour to Imouzzer Paradise Valley by Jeep. This tour is new to Saga and well worth undertaking. We left the quayside in two large Toyota Land Cruisers which coped with the mountain roads admirably. Our guide was the amusing Ahmed, a mature gentleman without teeth but with excellent self-taught English. He wore a white, full length gown with vivid blue head scarf and carried a carved wooden stick with which to point things out to us. Our first photo stop gave us a panorama of a valley in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains dotted with the famous argan trees and odd herds of goats. Next up was a curio shop, overlooking a palm oasis on the river, packed to the gunnels with plates, metalwork and fossils; the latter including both small trilobites and enormous ammonites one yard across! This stop also afforded us with our first up close view of an argan tree loaded with beans. We then drove up into the Atlas Mountains proper, entering the majestic Paradise Valley, which I would call a gorge. We saw lots of fish but only one lumionous blue kingfisher, a couple also saw terrapins in the warm water. Half way up we got out and ambled alongside the bubbling brook for half an hour in the glorious sunshine."

"Driving back down the gorge, Ahmed bought fresh oranges for us all to refresh ourselves with. Time for me to dispense the cold, eucalyptus-scented towels! Our next stop was at a Berber Co-operative where we were given mint tea and pieces of bread to dip into the famous argan oil and various local honeys. My favourite was the honey collected by bees from orange blossom. We were shown how the argan beans are dried on the flat roof, smashed open by hand with two rocks and the slim almond-like seed thus extracted. These are then compressed to release the valuable oil. At the back of the building we were able to enjoy a beautiful botanic garden with Mediterranean scented plants like rosemary and desert plants like agave, cactus and euphorbia. Back on the coast we had our final photo stop overlooking the port for us to take photographs of the Saga Sapphire glistening in the bright sunshine. This is a tour that I will long remember!"

Captain Philip Rentell's Blog

Back at the ship I had soup for lunch and then a short lie down before my sixth and final port talk entitled: "Funchal, Churchill's Pad". During the afternoon I crafted my 400 words for the Captain's blog. On duty at the Britannia Club cocktail party, I chatted with Cathy and Maureen, amongst others. I dined on lamb chops with two ladies and a gent in the Verandah restaurant, before dancing with Ann, Sheila, Shirley, Janet but not Maureen. When the puppeteers came on, I went to bed knowing that we were about to lose an hour.


Arrecife, Lanzarote: Palm Sunday the 29th of March 2015

Arrecife, Lanzarote

Arrecife, Lanzarote

I ordered one egg Benedict from Marlon the waiter, but he delivered a pair for my breakfast! I escorted my first choice Northern Highlights tour. Unfortunately the weather was overcast and all the famous viewpoints, including the Mirador del Rio, were in the cloud. We doubled back to get to the Jameos del Aqua lava tube auditorium, pools and cafés. At the Mirador del Rio café I opted for the local Tropical beer. At Haria I peeked into the back of the parish church where the Palm Sunday service was in full swing. Back at the ship, I had a late lunch of cheese soup before sleeping for an hour and a half. After dinner Dave Peterson played the organ in the style of Reginald Dixon from the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool. Unfortunately all the tempos were far too fast, particularly the cha cha with Fiona. The floor was full with the arrival of two more dance hosts, including Richard the owner of the Seabreeze Employment Agency.


Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Monday the 30th of March 2015

Poble Canario, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Poble Canario, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

I escorted my first choice all day Island Discovery tour. We began in Vegueta, the old town, with a brief visit to the Cathedral where a service was in operation. I took advantage of the photo opportunity with the famous dog statues in the main square. I had forgotten how extensive the Columbus House Museum (Casa de Colon) was. We drove up to the Bandama Caldera for the wide-raging views, but the Saharan calima dust storm was lurking offshore. We lunched on chicken at the Cross of Tejeda and I took advantage of the free wi-fi in the Parador opposite. We next visited Teror, but I declined to pay to go in the church, as it had been free when I had gone in there four weeks previously! The Gardens of the Marquis of Arucas were lovely but the Neo-Gothic church of St. John the Baptist was closed. Pre-dinner dancing turned out to be a repeat of Nick's previous classes, and there was no pre-show dancing either! I listened to Tony Stuart-Lloyd's showtime before adjourning to the deck party where I danced with Janet and Ann.


Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Tuesday the 31st of March 2015

Tenerife Auditorium

Tenerife Auditorium

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict before escorting the Gardens of the Valley tour. We took the motorway to Puerto de la Cruz to start the excursion at the Botanical Gardens. We had elevenses at the famous orchid garden frequented by Alexander Humboldt and Agatha Christie. We ended the tour at the Risco Bello hanging gardens. Back at the ship I enjoyed the Spanish lunch al fresco with the couple from Aldermaston. At 3 pm they still hadn't cleared the deck, so my first line dance class was moved inside. I only had 25 minutes, so I just taught California Frieze & Texas Waltz. It was an accolade that on a dance themed cruise with THREE dance instructors and FOUR dance hosts, little old me the Destinations lecturer was asked to run the line dancing! John Parton the cruise dictator had billed me as "Doc. Roc. Martin"! I then slept for an hour and a half. I danced with Maureen and Ann at the pre-dinner session in the Drawing room before dining on lasagna with two gents and Joan from Olney. I then danced with Janet, Shirley, Diane and others including doing the samba with Fiona at the pre-show organ session. I watched Clare Langan's flute performance on the television whilst updating this blog.

Gardens on Tenerife

Gardens on Tenerife


Funchal, Madeira: Wednesday the 1st of April 2015

Camara do Lobos, Madeira

Camara do Lobos, Madeira

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict before escorting my first choice Botanical Gardens & Monte tour in glorious sunshine. We caught the cable car up to the famous church at Monte before queueing for the toboggan ride down. Jacqueline Foster from St. Mary's on the Scilly Isles shared this with me and purchased the commemorative photograph. This had a serial number and an email address enabling me to gain a complimentary copy! Our next stop was at the botanic garden, before finishing the tour at Blandy's wine lodge. I lunched al fresco on fish and chips with Douglas before sleeping for an hour and a half. During the afternoon it clouded over and the sailaway from Funchal was windy. I dined on chicken with the ladies from Warwickshire & Sussex and the male dress designer from Nottingham. I danced before but not after the "Call my bluff" game show.

Toboggan Run

Toboggan Run


Fourth Sea Day: Thursday the 2nd of April 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Ann from Highcliffe who I partnered in Rafal & Fiona's tango class. They taught the progressive link, promenade and rock turn as expected. I then worked on this blog, before attending John Parton's interview with Strictly Come Dancing stars Robin Windsor & Kristina Rhianoff. I lunched in the Pole-to-Pole grand buffet with Janet on salmon and king crab legs. I tried to siesta, but the plumber arrived to unblock my sink! I attended Robin & Kristina's first dance class where they taught the cha cha and ballroom jive. At the tea dance, I enjoyed dancing with Janet, Ann, Diane, Maureen but not Shirley. In the Drawing room I danced with Maureen, before going to see the pre-dinner production swing show in the Britannia lounge. I dined on lamb chops with Dave Peterson and a couple from Malvern. Just before the pre-show dancing, I received an email from the Dance Afloat employment agency saying that they had terminated their contract with Saga. Unfortunately, I have three cruises on the lovely Saga Pearl II booked through them. I then danced with Janet, Ann, Diane and Shirley, before watching the variety show of Claire Langan and Anthony Stuart-Lloyd in my cabin.


Fifth Sea Day: Good Friday the 3rd of April 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with David & Julia before teaching my second line dance class. I taught Texas Waltz, Just Because & Cowboy Charleston, the middle one being danced as both a rumba and a mambo. Again it was an accolade that on a dance themed cruise now with FOUR dance instructors and FOUR dance hosts, little old me the Destinations lecturer was asked to run the line dancing! Again John Parton the cruise dictator had billed me as "Doc. Roc. Martin"! I listened to Peter Hobday's talk on the BBC, before lunching on a cheese omelette with Maureen. I then slept for three hours before swimming and jacuzzing. At the Captain's farewell cocktail party I chatted with Claire Langan the Flautist and Helen Rentell the Captain's wife. I danced only with Janet. I dined on smoked haddock ragout with Julia, John and Joan from Olney. I danced before the excellent Strictly Come Dancing show with Robin Windsor and Christina Rhianoff, including leading off the California Frieze when Dave Peterson played Achy, Breaky Heart. I also danced after the show with the usual suspects.


Sixth Sea Day: Saturday the 4th of April 2015

I breakfasted on one egg Benedict with Julia and John. I partnered Maureen at the beginners quickstep class, where Rafal & Fiona taught the basic and the lock step only. I did my laundry ready for going home whilst listening to Peter Hobday's lecture on journalism and social media. I lunched on a fish cake and chips with Maureen in the Verandah restaurant and danced with her at the improvers quickstep class which included the natural turn, reverse lock and hesitation turn. I then slept for over an hour before taking Easter afternoon tea with her and Paul in the Britannia lounge. I finally started to pack! At 6 pm I attended Rafal & Fiona's final improver dance class with Maureen which recapped the tango, quickstep and rumba. I dined on pork schnitzel with four single ladies before dancing both before and after the final musical theatre production show. I gave my thanks to Paul the musical director and the rest of the orchestra before moving upstairs. In the Drawing room I led off the Party Samba with Maureen and Janet. Gradually others joined us including Robin Windsor who joined my line! I then led off California Frieze, Electric Slide & YMCA!


Southampton Disembarkation Day: Sunday the 5th of April 2015

Saga Sapphire

Saga Sapphire

I awoke at 5:45 am and breakfasted on the full English with a couple from Pembrokeshire. I finished packing and updated this blog. I was off the ship at 8:20 am and home in an hour after a most enjoyable cruise!

A lady later wrote: "I enjoyed reading your detailed blog of the recent Canary Island cruise on Saga Sapphire. Thank you for partnering me in the various dances and for taking the line dance classes. I enjoyed both." A couple later wrote: "We enjoyed your dancing instruction and also your escorting." Marlon the stage manager wrote: "Thanks for Everything Sir Martin Peter Lee...Hope to see you again...God bless" to which Anthony Stuart Lloyd replied: "Brilliant! What a team and well done!" I scored 1.54 in the passenger questionnaire where 1.0 is excellent, 2.0 is good, 3.0 is poor and 4.0 is very poor! I also had five positive comments and no negative ones on my lecturing and escorting.


Score card:

 6 Port Talks given
 6 Tours escorted
 5 Postive comments in the pax questionnaire
 3 Cocktail parties attended
 2 Line dance classes led
 1.54 scored in the pax questionnaire
 1 Captain's blog written!

Good points were:

  1. Outside Double Cabin with two portholes on Deck 4 all to myself!
  2. Open Seating Dining in the Verandah Restaurant
  3. Dancing with instructor Fiona Millikin Walker
  4. Efficient Cabin Steward (Emmanuel)
  5. Some first choice tour escorting
  6. Running two line dance classes
  7. Writing for the Captain's blog
  8. Two Italian Coffee Machines
  9. Free Ice Cream Machine
  10. Free Shuttle Buses
  11. Free Internet
  12. Free Water
  13. Free Wi-fi
  14. Free Fruit

For the record ...


Updated PowerPoints:

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Funchal, Madeira: Churchill's Pad
Agadir, Morocco
Lisbon, Portugal
Arrecife, Lanzarote