Saga Cruise SD005 on the
Spirit of Discovery
to the
Gulf of Bothnia
August & September 2019

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Arms: Tours: Comment:
- Aboard
just after
two o'clock
of the
Atlantic Wall
4 Bunkers
3 Museums
Evening on
Bubbly &
- Glorious
Oulu &
Wet afternoon!
Best of
Exploring the
Fortress town
Sun &
- Home

Travelling Day
Friday the 16th of August 2019

   I awoke at 6:50 and left home at 8:50, managing to stay ahead of the incoming rain. I had a clear run through to Maidstone services, where I ate my cheese and tomato sandwiches. I then slept in the car for 50 minutes. I went shopping in Ashford and picked up a local map at the tourist information office inside the new Gateway library building.

   I got to my £28 AirBnB just after 4 o'clock. Having settled in, I walked to the Singleton Environment Centre, but it had already closed. I drove back into Ashford looking for the large Sainsbury's supermarket. I parked on the north side of the M20 and crossed over on the magnificient cable stayed footbridge. I then ate my supper in the car as a rain shower came down.

   Back at my digs, with no TV in my room, I downloaded three Windows Live TV apps, the third of which, "TVplayer" worked well. So I spent the evening watching television on my laptop, going to sleep at 11 o'clock. However it was a noisy house with my hosts having to depart at 4 o'clock in the morning!

Embarkation Day
Saturday the 17th of August 2019

   I awoke at 6:40 and dozed for half an hour, before starting work on this blog. Ramil the lodger let me out of the locked front door at 9 o'clock. I visited the Kent & East Sussex steam railway at Tenterden, before having a bacon roll for breakfast in the Appledore village hall.

   I parked in the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch station car park on the edge of Hythe, before walking in to the lovely little high street via the Royal Military canal. I lunched on proscuitto ham and yoghurt, before sleeping for 50 minutes.

   I got to the ship at 2 o'clock and was able to board immediately as so many of the pax had been delayed by the closure of the M20. I was so glad that I had driven down the day before! My bag sailed off to the wrong cabin as usual, as I made myself at home in a lovely single cabin with double bed and balcony with unobstructed view! I lay down, but couldn't sleep as I was so excited to be back on board!

   I touched base with Kayleigh and Michelle in the Ents office and with the AV boys at the back of the theatre, who told me there was no cable on the stage, so I would be operating their laptop remotely! I met up with Nat, who introduced me to Judy, who gave me my briefing sat with newly promoted Rey, who would be my prime contact. We then had the entertainers cocktail party where I said hello to Robbie, Steve and the dance host team of André, Michael, Danny and his wife Eithna from Newry.

   At 6:15 we had the first dance session with the trio in the Britannia lounge. At first it was quiet as the sailaway party was still going on around the pool, but when that ended some dancing ladies appeared. I danced with Danny's wife Eithna, Margaret from Fareham and Eunice.

   At 6:55 I went to the Grill, but it was buffet service only, so I went down to the Grand dining room, where I was placed on a table with Shirley and FOUR single gents. I began with the cream of vegetable soup, the salad and the beef with a glass of red wine. One of the latter was celebrating his 73rd birthday, so we had champagne and a special chocolate mousse, not cake for dessert.

   At 9:15 Stuart had his first set where he introduced the dance host team and myself, and immediately Marilyn from Stratford walked over and asked me for a dance! I also danced with Betty from Frinton, Debbie from Australia and Jill. I said hello to Danny Alcock from Highcliffe who was on with his lady friend Celia as paying pax. I had previously cruised with him twice as dance hosts.

Danny & Martin

Danny Alcock & Martin P. Lee

   At 9:45 I went to Katie Markham's cabaret in the Playhouse theatre, where she sang mainly Diva numbers plus some musical theatre ones. When she finished at 10:30 I went to bed, but had trouble getting to sleep.

North Sea Day
Sunday the 18th of August 2019

   I awoke half an hour before my alarms at 6:30, but it was now 7:30 on Danish time. I had the special breakfast of TWO omelettes with bacon sat with Betty from Frinton. I then did two circuits (half a mile) of the promenade deck as Joel was making up my cabin. Having rinsed out some clothes in my shower, I did my first spot of ironing in the launderette.

   At 10:15 I gave my 40 minute talk on Skagen to an almost full theatre with people standing at the back, even though there were a few spare seats at the front. I then sat next to the Explore Ashore area of the Living Room for half an hour to answer some questions. At noon I went to the singles mingle where I chatted to several ladies and to speaker Robin. I then lunched on the roast beef (it was Sunday!) al fresco sat with a couple from SoToN.

   At 2:15 I gave my 40 minute talk on Stockholm to a surprisingly large audience given it was siesta time and the sun was shining. After half an hour answering a few questions next to the Explore Ashore department, I slept for an hour. At 5 o'clock Rey decked me out with the new bright yellow Saga tour escort's uniform. I then updated this blog, made my first mug of decaff coffee and sat out on my balcony in the sun!

   At 6:15 I danced with Betty, Marilyn, Eunice, Margaret, Tricia and another lady to the trio in the Britannia lounge. At 7 o'clock I dined on the sirloin steak sat with Enid from York, Margaret from Salisbury, David from St Margaret's Bay and Mim and her husband Frank from Bluebell Hill in Kent.

   At 9:15 the dancing was very thin, so I just had three dances with Danny's wife Eithna. At 9:45 I went to the excellent "Night at the Royal Albert Hall" production show in the Playhouse. The theatre was packed, so I had to sit in the very front row, joined by Mim and Frank just before the start. At 10:30 I caught the last two songs of Sarah-Louise Campbell's cabaret up in the Britannia lounge, before getting to bed at 11 o'clock.

North Jutland, Denmark
Monday the 19th of August 2019

   I got up at 6:30 ready for the special poached egg with smoked salmon sat with Jill from Andover. We had a lovely view as we sailed into Skagen. I then did two circuits (half a mile) of the promenade deck whilst my cabin was being cleaned.

   At 8:45 I went on my first choice WWII tour (£149), with Fernando as the tour escort and me as his sidekick. We began at the Bunker museum in Skagen, which was a military hospital, before driving south to Fredrikshavn. We then went into three of the bunkers in the Bangsbo fortress overlooking the ferry port. The last bunker held a huge naval gun which could fire shells 18 kilometres or 12 miles across the Kattegat towards Sweden.

   Next stop was coffee and pastries at the former water mill. Surprisingly we had warm apple strudel, not Danish pastries! Our final visit was to the Resistance museum which was rather tight on space, so I opted to see the post-Viking age wooden boat and the impressive botanic gardens behind the period manor house instead. Later I whizzed through the dark Resistance museum after the crush had moved on.

   Back at the ship, I had a late al fresco lunch of cheeseburger and chips sat with Fernando and a lady who had been on our tour. I then slept for an hour and half, awoken by a phone call from Michelle. I did some ironing, but thus missed the local band playing us off.

   At five o'clock I went to Stuart's sailaway where I danced with Eunice from Reading and another lady and chatted to Mim & Frank again. At 6:15 I danced with Kath the former OU AL, Eileen from Salisbury, Eunice, Betty, Margaret, Marilyn, Jill and Tricia. At 7 o'clock I dined with Eileen, Stuart and his wife Sue from Lowestoft in the Grill buffet for the first time this cruise. I began with the king crab claws, had the surf (salmon) and turf (sirloin steak), before finishing with the mixed ice cream.

   I danced at 9:15 with all the usual suspects, before staying on for Chloé Porter's excellent cabaret, with both classic and pop songs, including "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse and "I'm not the only one" by Sam Smith. When she finished I went to bed and got to sleep at eleven o'clock.

   I had done nearly fifteen thousand steps during the day, equivalent to about six miles of walking!

Baltic Sea Day
Tuesday the 20th of August 2019

   I awoke at 6:45, but breakfast didn't begin until 7:30, when I sat with Jill and talkative John 'Peach' from Enfield. I had the special smoked salmon omelette with hollandais sauce. I did two circuits of the promenade deck as Joel was making up my room. Back in the cabin, I updated this blog. Doing some ironing in the launderette, I chatted with a couple of OU geology graduates.

   At 10:15 I gave my talk on Luleå and Oulu to a packed full house with pax standing at the back! I then adjourned to Explore Ashore, but only had one lady call by, who said how much she had enjoyed the Meet the Skageners tour yesterday! At noon I hosted a table at the Singles lunch, where the hosts, not the pax, rotated between the tables.

   We had delicious boiled ham in parsley sauce instead of the usual chicken. My first table had Eileen from Salisbury, two Scots and one other lady. My second table included Margaret from Cambridge and four other ladies. My third table had Margaret & Tricia, an army air corps veteran, dancer Katy and one other guest.

   I had to slip out at 1:30 to set up for my first ballroom dance class, where I taught the Social Foxtrot to 24 pax with the help of Eithna (pronounced Eth-na) and the three dance hosts. Surprisingly André struggled with the box turn and Michael said he had never seen the figure before! I then slept for an hour and a half, before having a decaff coffee sat out on my balcony. The sun was so hot that I had to move the chair to the shady half of the balcony!

   I then did six lengths of the cool pool, before spending 15 minutes in one of the jacuzzis having a foot massage in the hot sun. Back in the cabin, I got into my formal gear. At 6:15 we had the Captain's welcome cocktail party in the atrium. I had one dance with Betty before it became too crowded, when I went up to the top of the atrium to get a seat.

   At 7 o'clock I dined on the beef sat with Patricia the former model from Berkhamsted and Susan & Jamie from Shaftesbury in Dorset, up in the waiter service side of the Grill. I danced with Jill, Eunice, Mo and Eithna during Stuart's set, before going to the excellent "Puttin' on the Ritz" production show. I particularly enjoyed the synchronised tap dancing, sat with Kath, Celia and Danny from Highcliffe. I went to sleep at 11 o'clock after another busy day!

Stockholm Day One
Wednesday the 21st of August 2019

   I awoke at 7 o'clock ready for the special breakfast of poached egg on black pudding sat with Betty, Eithna & Danny. At 9:30 two of the dancers taught the Little Red Book & Lemon Tree line dances to a dozen pax. I had to slip out just before the end to get into Sam's interesting talk on Sweden at 10 o'clock. Afterwards I sat in the Britannia lounge to enjoy the scenic cruising through the Stockholm archipelago with a complimentary glass of buck's fizz.

   Back in the cabin, I updated this blog and sat out on the balcony, but it was too hot in the sunny half, so I had to sit in the shady half of the balcony! At noon I lunched on the chicken, chips and peas sat with Betty and another couple, who regaled us with stories from the war. Sat in the Grill, we had a great view of the western fort guarding the narrow strait outside of Stockholm. I then lay down for 50 minutes, but was unable to sleep due to the excitement of the imminent arrival into Sweden's capital!

   We arrived at 2:15, fifteen minutes late at the out of town cruise terminal. I caught the first shuttle bus away at 2:45, but it took 40 minutes to go the two and half miles as the Iranian foreign minister was in town, and the centre was gridlocked with so many closed off streets. The bus was hot and humid and the pax were getting restless! I stayed on the pavement to point the punters in the right directions.

   I walked past the Cathedral (Storkyrkan) to the Riddarholm Royal Church and then along the main pedestrianised shopping street to the main tourist information office. They couldn't tell me of any free public toilets, so I decided to walk back to the ship via the wooded parks. It only took me 45 minutes to get back, barely longer than the bendy bus had taken to go out!

Me in Stockholm

Me in Stockholm

   At 6:15 the dance set only had three dancers present: Jill, Betty and Eunice, so I was able to dance with the lovely Eithna. At 6:45 I dined on the sirloin steak and chips in the Grill sat with three single ladies, before escorting the evening tour on Stockholm's waterways at 8 o'clock (£64).

   We headed out from the main cruise terminal, before coming back towards the city centre. We started along the narrow strait south of Sodermalm, but turned around in the inner basin. We passed the site of the sinking of the Vasa flagship and the two downtown cruise berths. We went past the east side of the old town, before turning east at the Royal Palace. We then came along the north side of Djurdgarden, but it was now dark and we couldn't see much of the narrow channel back to the outer harbour.

   Back at the ship just after 9:45, I slipped into the Playhouse theatre and sat on the steps to listen to the Adele tribute show. Unfortunately I only knew two of the songs: "Skyfall" and "Rolling in the deep". Not surprisingly some pax walked out during the show. At the end, I went up to the Britannia lounge to hear the last three of Robbie's cabaret songs, much more approriate for this age group. I then had my first hot chocolate of the cruise in the Grill.

   I had done over twenty thousand steps during the day equivalent to eight miles of walking!

Stockholm Day Two
Thursday the 22nd of August 2019

   I awoke at 6:30 and dozed until 7 o'clock, when I got up for the Ranger's egg special in the Grill. I was off the ship by 8:00 and walked into the city via the Sea History museum, which of course hadn't yet opened. I went on to Djurgarden island to see the outside of the Vasa, ABBA, Biology, Skansen and Nordic museums. Both historic ships moored in the harbour offered free admission, but were still closed up.

   I got to the History Museum as it opened at ten o'clock. It had a small, but moving Holocaust temporary exhibition and a bustling Viking village in the courtyard. The Baroque ballroom was huge as was the plaster cast of the Piraeus lion with runic graffiti in the foyer.

   Next I went in the impressive Army museum with a recce drone, an articulated snow mobile and a recreation of the Berlin wall. I then went in the Hallwylksa stately home, which I have been in before on a ship's tour.

   My final port of call was the National Gallery, which they call the National Museum. This had a very impressive entrance hall and main staircase. I found the small art nouveau and the larger art deco displays, together with two paintings by Cézanne. Back outside the Opera House, I just missed the 12:15 shuttle bus, so had to wait 35 minutes for the next.

   Back at the ship, I dined on the chicken with baked potato (not chips!) sat with Brenda and Michael Locke, who I had shared with on the Quest for Adventure going to Iceland back in 2012! I then slept for two hours, so I must have been tired after all my morning's walking. I had a cup of decaff coffee as I updated this blog.

Michael & Martin

Michael Locke & Martin P. Lee

   At 5 o'clock we had the sailaway around the pool, but it had clouded over. I danced with Eunice, Celia, Stuart's Sue, Margaret and Tricia, but the dance hosts didn't. One lady kindly gave me a leaflet from Skagen church explaining about the London memorial to the Daphne tragedy.

   The 6:15 dance set began slowly, so I had a waltz with Eithna, but quickly they poured in. I danced with Eileen, Kath, Celia, Eunice, Betty, Marilyn, Jill, Margaret & Tricia, but no time for the new lady who had just appeared.

   At 7 o'clock I stayed up on deck 12 going to the Grill as we were still sailing through the Stockholm archipelago and they had rack of beef in the carvery. I sat with Adrianne/Patricia who I had previously dined with, plus a quiet lady from Surrey. We danced at 9:15 to Stuart when I danced with the usual suspects plus Diana for the first time. Then at 10:00 Laura sang her excellent Swing cabaret with the trio. When she finished at 10:45, I had my first Horlicks of the cruise. I then went to bed where I had an offer of a Crystal cruise next August come through which I hastily accepted!

   I had done over 28 thousand steps during the day, equivalent to about eleven miles of waking!

Baltic Sea Day
Friday the 23rd of August 2019

   I awoke at 7:35, having slept for over eight hours, ready for the herb omelette with bacon special sat with Margaret from Cambridge and her friend Pat. At 10 o'clock I gave my 45 minute talk on Pori, Finland and Fredrikstad, Norway to another full house. I answered a few questions in the Explore Ashore area of the Living Room and gave Judy a copy of the Luleå map, since she will be leading the complimentary walking tour of the city centre.

   I slipped into the back of Peter's second geology lecture which lasted 37 minutes and sat on the stairs. At noon I lunched on the crispy pork belly with chips and petits pois, sat with happy Margaret and two quiet ladies. Back in my cabin, I updated this blog, before trying out the hydrotherapy pool for the first time. The jacuzzi part was formidable, but you couldn't use it as a swimming pool.

   I then changed into my formal outfit, ready for the Britannia Club cocktail party. Here I danced with Eileen, Margaret, Tricia and Eunice, before going to the Grill for dinner. I began with the French onion soup, then had the plated salad, the sorbet and the Chateaubriand beef. I finished with the sugar free frangipane tart with strawberry ice cream, followed by Swedish cheese, sat with the Scottish & Welsh ladies I had previously dined with. We had a lovely view of the sun setting behind some clouds.

   At 9:15 we danced with the usual suspects, but towards the end of the session my right hip was playing up. I then sat with Kath and Mo to watch Laura's excellent Legendary Ladies cabaret. She sang for a full hour, not finishing until 11 o'clock, when I went to bed.

Swedish Lappland
Saturday the 24th of August 2019

   I awoke soon after six o'clock and couldn't get back to sleep. At seven o'clock I breakfasted on TWO egg Florentines sat with Betty from Frinton and then Margaret from Cambridge. We had a lovely view of the sail-in with bright sunshine, but a cool wind was blowing out on deck. We were late arriving, so I updated this blog whilst waiting.

   I caught the first shuttle bus into town and found that the tourist information office was closed on Saturdays, but there had been a small tent on the quayside, so I had been able to pick up some maps. I headed out west from the Culture House drop off point walking alongside the North Harbour. I went all the way around the peninsula taking photographs in the bright sunshine.

Cultural centre in Luleå

Cultural centre in Luleå

   Having arrived at the South Harbour, I cut up to the Norbotten County Governor's Mansion, but the house and its lovely gardens are private. I then waited for ten minutes for the Norrbotten Museum to open at 11 o'clock. There was a delightful period café on the ground floor, a small holocaust exhibition on the first floor, a display of costumes and textiles on the second, and a small art gallery on the top floor.

Church in Gammelstad, Luleå

Church in Gammelstad, Luleå

   Next I went in the lovely Lutheran Cathedral. Back at the Culture House, I didn't have long to wait for the shuttle bus, but did have to sit on my rucksack's integral seat for the return journey to the ship.

   I lunched on a fish cake and pork escalope sat with Betty again, before having a deep sleep of an hour and a half. At 3:30 I walked along the quaysides, back into town taking only 20 minutes, (the buses having to go the long way round), completing the circuit of the South Harbour from this morning.

   I walked the length of the main street (Storgatan) to the bus and railway stations, before doubling back to catch the shuttle bus back to the ship. Here I did six lengths of the cool pool in the bright sunshine, followed by a fifteen minute foot and hip massage in one of the hot tubs.

   At 6:15 we had the first dance session with the usual suspects. At 7 o'clock Eileen invited me to dine with her and Scottish Marion in the Grill. We all had the curried parsnip soup to begin, but it was full of custard by mistake! I had the smoked salmon salad as my starter instead. I then had the sirloin steak with vegetables for my main course and my favourite rocky road ice cream for dessert.

   We danced from 9:15, but Eileen, Marion and I had to slip out early to go to the theatre. This was packed, so we had to sit right down at the front for the excellent Ancora Operatic quartet. They predictably began with the Funicular song and ended with Nessum Dorma. There were two songs from Les Mis and one pop song by Take That, which we didn't know.

   When the show finished at 10:30 I went straight to bed, rather than catch the end of Sabrina's cabaret, which Eileen headed for. During the day I had done over 25,000 steps, equivalent to walking 10 miles!

Oulu, Finland
Capital of Northern Scandinavia
Sunday the 25th of August 2019

   I awoke at 6 o'clock, but it was now 7 o'clock on Finnish time. I had the poached egg special sat with André and another couple. Back in the cabin, Joel had already finished, so I was able to update this blog.

   At 9 o'clock I went on my first choice Exploring Oulu & Surroundings tour (£44). We had a panoramic drive around the suburbs including the university campus, before stopping at the Eden hotel on the beach. We had an hour at the Ostrobothnia museum, which had three floors of exhibits.

   I found the details of the wood tar production interesting, as they stripped the fir trees of their bark for two years before felling them. The logs were then placed in a turf covered dome and burnt for several days to release the rich wood tar which was used for sealing wooden sailing boats. We then had half an hour in the huge Lutheran cathedral, before heading back to the ship.

   I lunched on the Tandoori chicken and chips, sat with a lady who had been on my tour and two gents. I then slept for only 35 minutes, before updating this blog. At 3:05 I caught the shuttle bus into town. I walked through part of the huge international market to get to the statue of Bobby the Policeman in the market square for a selfie. I came back along the main pedestrianised shopping street to the pick up point outside the old town hall after just half an hour.

   Back at the ship, I updated this blog and back-upped my photographs. I then spent ten minutes in the hydrotheraphy pool. At 6:15 the church service was still going on in the Britannia lounge, so there was no dancing. I had my second lime soda and crisps sat with Diana from Leeds.

   At 7 o'clock I dined on the roast beef in the Grill buffet, sat with Tricia from Corsham, Pat from Deal and Daphne from Surrey. We danced from 9:15, but Eileen and I slipped out at 9:35 to got to the "Round the World" production showtime in the theatre. This was an excellent show with the Funicular song from Italy, the Can Can from France, Calamity Jane from the States and the usual home nation songs, culminating in the Last Night of the Proms finale. When this finished at 10:30 I went to bed.

   I had only done just over eleven thousand steps during the day equivalent to just over four miles of walking.

Baltic Sea Day
Monday the 26th of August 2019

   I awoke at 7 o'clock ready for the poached egg and spinach special breakfast sat with Betty from Frinton, Margaret from Cambridge and Pat from Bicester. Back in the cabin, I updated this blog. At 9:30 two of the girls taught the Electric Slide with the slide on the third and seventh steps. They then revised Little Red Book & Lemon Tree. I had to slip out before the end, in order to go to Robin's interesting talk on Havana, but I couldn't see the connection with this cruise! He was followed by Sam's interesting talk on Finland.

   At noon I lunched on the smoked salmon salad with chips sat with Betty. At two o'clock I taught the Social Rumba to fifteen people with the help of Michael, André, Danny & Eithna. I then gave a copy of the Fredrikstad PDF to Murray from South Africa at the Explore Ashore desk. I slept for an hour and a half, before spending 30 minutes in the hot tub. At 6:30 we had the Newcomers cocktail party where I chatted to Murray and the couple who had spent their entire careers in Hong Kong.

   At 6:45 I dined on the sirloin steak in preference to the carvery lamb, sat with Mrs Lamb from Runcorn and two other single ladies. Back in the cabin, I updated this blog. At 9:15 I danced with Eithna, Eunice, Marilyn, Jill, Kath, Eileen & Brenda before slipping out for the show at 9:45. This was the virtuoso violinist Michael Bacala. His slow movement of the Mendelssohn violin concerto was sublime! He has promised the slow movement of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto in his second show. When he finished at 11 o'clock, I went to bed.

Tuesday the 27th of August 2019

   I awoke at 6:20 ready for the poached egg and baked beans on a toasted baguette special breakfast, sat with Betty and then Jill. Back in the cabin, I updated this blog. At 9:30 I joined my first choice "Best of Pori" tour (£49). We began at the Gothic Revival church, but escort Sheer had forgotten that although I was dressed as an escort, I did have a ticket, so we waited a while by mistake! Next we went to the Juselius Mausoleum which was an incredible Neo-Gothic chapel with famous murals and a marble sarcophagus. Finally we had half an hour of free time at the lovely Kirjurinluoto park.

   Back at the ship at 1:30, I lunched on the Swiss cheeseburger and chips al fresco sat with Danny & Celia out on the Verandah. I then slept for two hours, before updating this blog. At 5 o'clock we had the sailaway in the sunshine, where I only danced with Celia and Anne. I chatted with the geologist lecturer Dr Peter Cattermole. At 6:15 I danced with the usual suspects: Anne, Betty, Jill, Margaret, Tricia, Marilyn & Eunice.

   At 7 o'clock I dined with Margaret from Cambridge and the two Pats, the new one being from Glasgow. I thought I had picked up a sirloin steak from the buffet, but it was actually a slab of liver which I did manage to eat! At 9:15 I danced with Eithna, Brenda, Jill, Kath and Diana, before going to the theatre for showtime. Ancora's second operatic show I felt was not quite as good as their first. At 10:30 I went to the jazz bar but with less than a dozen pax present. Back in my cabin, I updated this blog and then went to sleep at 11 o'clock.

Baltic Sea Day
Wednesday the 28th of August 2019

   I awoke at 7:20 when I had my decaff coffee sat out nearly naked on my balcony in the hot sunshine! I then had TWO eggs Benedict for breakfast sat with Jill. Back in the cabin, Joel had already made it up, so I was able to update this blog. At 9 o'clock the Captain came on to the blower to say that it was too windy to dock at Fredrikstad, so we would be going to Oslo instead! I rushed down to see Kayleigh to offer her my port talk, which she slotted in the following afternoon, unfortunately booting out one of Robin's lectures.

   At 9:30 two of the girls taught their own dance followed by recaps of Lemon Tree & Little Red Book. I had to slip out just before the end to go to Peter's next geology talk. Unfortunatey he had technical issues with his videos, thereby over-running by five minutes. At 11:15 Kayleigh interviewed the Captain and Chief Engineer, the latter of whom gave a short slide presentation. This lasted 35 minutes, when I went out to Stuart's session alongside the pool. Here I danced with Betty, Eileen, Anne & Eunice in the warm sunshine.

   At 12:30 I lunched on the gammon, beans & chips sat with Scottish Pat, whose birthday it was, and two other single ladies. At two o'clock Danny & Eithna taught the Bossanova 66 sequence dance to 24 pax. I danced with Brenda and Katherine. I then slept for an hour, before updating this blog and working on the Oslo tours. The 6:15 session was very busy and I danced with the usual suspects.

   At 7 o'clock I dined on the sirloin steak with asparagus & chips sat with Scottish Pat, Cambridge Margaret and another lady from Sussex. The former was celebrating her birthday, so we had the chocolate mousse 'cake' as usual. I then printed off a photo I had taken for Pat. At 9:15 the dancing was very thin as most people were bagging their seats in the theatre. I danced with Eunice, Jill & Eileen, before escorting the latter down to show time. We had to sit near the front again as the theatre was absolutely packed.

   The excellent "West End to Broadway" show began with songs and dances from West Side Story, followed by Mary Poppins, Oklahoma, Phantom, Les Mis, Chorus Line and the Wizard of Oz. At 10:30 we caught the last three songs of Laura's cabaret upstairs. I went to sleep at 11:30, but it was now only 10:30 on Norwegian time.

Baltic Sea Day
Thursday the 29th of August 2019

   I awoke at 7:25, but it was now only 6:25. When the launderette opened at 7 o'clock, I did some ironing. Back in my cabin, I updated this blog and worked on my Oslo presentation. I had the Arnold Bennett special omelete sat with Betty.

   At 9:30 two of the dancers taught Waltz across Texas as a four wall line dance with three quarter turns at the end! They also recapped Little Red Book for the 18 pax. In the middle of the session, we went under the Oresund bridge which caused some dancers to depart to the outside viewing platform. Afterwards I had an interesting chat with Robin. There were no lectures during the morning with a cooking demo taking place instead.

   At 11:30 the orchestra played beside the pool, so I danced with Betty, Celia, Eileen, Kath and Jill (twice). At noon I lunched on the individual Steak & Stilton pie with chips and asparagus (again), sat with Betty from Frinton and Sue & Stu from Lowestoft.

Me in my Norwegian teeshirt, photo taken by Chris Lowthian

Me in my Norwegian teeshirt, photo taken by Chris Lowthian

   At 14:15 I gave my 40 minute talk on Oslo to an appreciative audience, wearing my Norwegian tee shirt, before answering questions near the Explore Ashore desks. Robin wanted the web site details for the street art animation that I had shown whilst they were streaming in to my lecture. I then slept for one hour, before updating this blog. I spent 15 minutes in the jacuzzi, but gave the cool pool a miss.

   At 6:15 we had the Captain's farewell cocktail party, where I chatted to Jill and her husband Graham amongst others on deck 7 overlooking the atrium. I then dined on the Tornedos Rossini fillet steak, sat with Ethel and her husband Norman and another single lady. At 9:15 I danced with Eithna, Betty, Marilyn and another lady, before slipping out for the show. Michael's second violin performance included the sublime slow movement from the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. At 11 o'clock I retired to my cabin.

Capital of Norway
Friday the 30th of August 2019

   My alarm awoke me at 6:30 ready for the special breakfast at 7 o'clock sat with Betty & Jill. I then ironed a shirt, collected my packed lunch and sent an email to Kayleigh and Michelle. At 8:30 I went on my first choice all day tour to Fredrikstad (£89), our original destination. We had a 75 minute run out to the valley east of the town, where we picked up our English guide and saw the famous rock carvings.

   Our next stop was at the series of prehistoric rock circles, generally 13 large stones around a flat central one. In the old fortified town we stopped at a lovely little period café to eat our packed lunches. We continued the tour around the ramparts into the central square where we were given 45 minutes of freetime. I fled around the rest of the ramparts and went in the church and the tourist information office. The run back to Oslo was a bit slower as it was Friday afternoon rush hour, with huge outbound traffic jams.

Martin P. Lee in Oslo

Martin P. Lee in Oslo

   Back at the ship I slept for half an hour until awoken by the Captain's departure announcement. At 5 o'clock we had the sailaway with the classical quartet, when I danced with Kath and Eunice, but it had to be called off owing to the wind.

   Back in my cabin, I updated this blog and watched the passage though the narrow part of the Oslo fjord, where the German cruiser Blucher had been sunk at the start of the war by the Norwegian shore batteries. This had given the King, the government and the gold reserves time to flee north. Blucher of course had been the Prussian general who had come to Wellingon's rescue at Waterloo.

   At 6:15 I danced with Betty, Marilyn, Eunice, Jill, Anne, Kath, Diana and Eileen. The latter invited me to dine with her in the Grill. I had the broccoli soup, roast beef, cheese and ice cream. Towards the end we were joined by John & Shirley the Cockneys from Bognor.

   We danced with the usual suspects plus Sue at 9:15 and listened to Steven's cabaret at 10 o'clock. He sang some lovely musical theatre numbers plus some less well known pop songs. I then danced with a reduced number of ladies, except Anne who declined me, until 11:15 when I retired for the night. I had done over 17,500 steps equivalent to seven miles of walking during the day.

North Sea Day
Saturday the 31st of August 2019

   I awoke at 7:05 but was delayed in having breakfast by watching my Oslo talk which had finally appeared on the TV. It was a case of too little, too late! I had TWO egg royales sat with the lady from the Midlands, later joined by Norman & Ethel from Tavistock in Devon.

   At 9:30 two of the girls taught 5,6,7,8 and recapped Lemon Tree. At 10 o'clock I went to Robin's interesting talk on street art, when he mentioned my Oslo talk. Back in the cabin I worked on this blog.

   At noon I lunched on the beef, pork & scampi, sat with Betty, tall Pat and Margaret from Cambridge. At 2 o'clock I taught the Jive to a dozen pax with the help of Eithna, Danny, Michael & André. I then slept for an hour and a quarter, thus missing the passenger choir performance. At 5 o'clock I started to pack, before almost completing this blog.

   At 6:15 we danced with the usual suspects, but one new nervous lady did come up and ask me for a dance, as I had repeatedly requested at the end of my lectures. When the session ended, we had a short photo opportunity with the dance host team.

   At 7 o'clock I dined on the sirloin steak with Mary and a couple from Hawnby near Lancaster. At 9:30 I went to hear "Jools Holland In Concert at Sea" in the Playhouse Theatre. He is a very talented pianist, but I just don't like jazz music at all. I didn't know any of the songs and the fat woman was schreeching!

   When it finally finished at 10:40, I went back up to the Britannia Lounge to catch the last of the show team's MoTown songs. I regretted not having stayed up here for this cabaret, much more to my liking. I then danced with Eunice, Jill, Sue, Kath, Anne and finally Eithna. We said our goodbyes at 11:25 and I went to sleep just before midnight, but it was now only 11 o'clock on BST.

Disembarkation Day
Sunday the 1st of September 2019

   I awoke at 7 o'clock, but it was now only 6 o'clock on BST. At 6:30 I had TWO eggs Benedict sat with Betty from Frinton, Margaret from Cambridge and tall Pat. Back in the cabin I updated this blog as we berthed in Dover behind the Disney Magic. I had tag A set for an 8:20 disembark, but didn't actually get called until 8:35. There was one short delay on the M25 and then a longer one on the Farnham bypass. I eventually got home at 1:30 after another super cruise.

Spirit of Discovery

Spirit of Discovery

   Folla my AirBnB hostess wrote: "My husband had the fortune of meeting Martin. I didn't but wished I had. What an interesting mix of skills & talents. I would have loved to have sat down with him to have a chat. Great guest, lots of experiences to share over a cup of coffee for sure."

   Robin wrote: "Great to meet you and I got a lot from your talks. Hopefully we’ll do it again soon"

   A passenger wrote in their end of cruise questionnaire: "Interesting presentation and well sourced, has perfect touch, friendly and approachable, is an excellent speaker on destinations - much better (than) some other I've seen."

   I scored 1.6 out of 4 in the questionnaire where 1 is excellent, 2 is good, 3 is poor and 4 is very poor.

Score card:

15 Dining tables hosted
 7 Port talks given
 5 Tours enjoyed
 4 Ballroom dance classes led (SF, W, SR, J)
 3 Cocktail parties attended
 2 New ports visited (Oulu & Pori)
 1 New town visited (Fredrikstad)

Good points were:

  1. Own single cabin with unobscured balcony on deck 7
  2. Teaching the ballroom dance classes
  3. Hosting tables in the top deck Grill
  4. Double height Grand Dining Room
  5. Lecturing in the Playhouse theatre
  6. Double height Britannia Lounge
  7. Shows in the Playhouse theatre
  8. Free shuttle buses in every port
  9. V. Efficient steward (Joel)
  10. New tour escort uniform
  11. In cabin tea and coffee
  12. Triple height Atrium
  13. Ice cream machine
  14. Cabin with balcony
  15. No stomach aches
  16. Large dance floor
  17. Brand new ship
  18. No head aches
  19. Two jacuzzis
  20. Free internet
  21. Free parking
  22. Free water
  23. Free tours
  24. Free wi-fi
  25. Free wine

For the record ...