French Interlude Cruise SA325
on the Saga Sapphire
along the Channel
August 2017

(Please scroll down to see my photographs and report)

Date: Port: Flag: Tour escort: Comment:
12/08/2017 Dover
England
- Aboard
by 1:15
13/08/2017 St. Peter Port
Guernsey
Vintage Coach
Tour
Cream
Tea!
14/08/2017 Cherbourg
France
D Day Beaches &
Bayeux Cemetery
Glorious
morning!
15/08/2017 Brest
France
Mythical Coast Glorious
day!
17/08/2017 Dover
U.K.
- Home
by one!


Embarkation Day - Dover
Saturday the 12th of August 2017

I awoke at 6 o'clock and was on the road by 7:45. I went on the newly enlarged M3 managed motorway and was not impressed. Twice we were slowed down to 50 mph for alleged slow vehicles exiting the refuge areas, neither of which transpired! I stopped at Winchester for fuel, Cobham for the toilets and Ashford for the shops. I enjoyed the £1.50 bacon submarine roll in the Subway sandwich bar in the latter. I got to Dover at noon and slept in the car for three quarters of an hour. I was on board by 1:15 and slept for another hour before my colleague Pete arrived.

We attended the safety drill out on the promenade deck in bright sunshine, before going to the sailaway out on the Verandah deck. Here I chatted with various pax and danced with Sue from Somerset. At 5 o'clock Andy gave a ten minute introduction to the tours, before Greta spent 40 minutes on both St. Peter Port & Cherbourg. Unfortunately she read from a script and didn't cover the tours. Back in the cabin, I started work on this blog.

Me & Marlon

Me & Marlon

At 6:45 Kirsten placed me on table 105 for eight people: Moira from Hythe, Jean from Winchmore Hill, Pat, Pauline, Joyce, Wendy and another lady. Jean was on her first cruise alone and asked Kirsten for an escort, so it was lucky I was ready and waiting! I had the beef consommé, the salad, the pot beef, almond toffee ice cream and petit fours to eat together with two glasses of red wine and a cup of decaf coffee to drink!

It was slim pickings during the first dance set, but I did get to dance with Dulcie and a 98 year old lady! One excellent pair of dancers, who were celebrating their Sapphire (45th) wedding anniversary, remembered me from the time on the Saga Ruby when, doing the work of four people, I got my best ever score of 1.31 in the pax questionnaire! When the Totally Continental show came on, I adjourned to the cabin to update this blog. After the show, I danced with Dulcie, Sue and some other ladies. Surprisingly the Tritones duo were in Cooper's bar and Stuart was playing the piano up in the Drawing room. He played country music, but nothing really suitable for line dancing. I did dance with Dulcie & Sue, until he finished at 11:40 and I was in bed by 11:45!


St. Peter Port, Guernsey
Sunday the 13th of August 2017

Pete got up at 6:45 and I got up at 7 o'clock. I breakfasted on the Ranger egg special with Stuart and a couple from Tring. They had been on my previous Sapphire cruise (SA323) to the Baltic, by doing three cruises back-to-back (323, 324 & 325)! As it was a tender port, I had to wait until free-flow began, so I had some cake and an ice cream followed by a lie down. The tendering proceeded very slowly, so I was unable to go ashore at all in the morning. At noon, I lunched on the roast leg of beef (it was Sunday!) followed by the rum & raisin ice cream.

In the afternoon, I escorted my second choice Vintage Guernsey tour (LA, M, R, SD). One old lady had missed out on the Sark tour in the morning by being late going down to the tender, so Michelle asked me to take her down early for my afternoon tour instead. She struggled to get on and then off the tender. Finally she couldn't manage the steep steps into the 1954 period coach, so Andy led her away, allowing me to proceed with my tour.

Lighthouse in St. Peter Port, Guernsey

Lighthouse in St. Peter Port, Guernsey

We began at the Victorian walled garden at the Saumarez estate. After following the scenic west coast, we went to the famous Little Chapel. I sauntered back to the coach with ten minutes to spare, only to be the last one back! Our final stop was at the Christian Centre overlooking St. Peter Port harbour for a lovely cream tea.

Back at the ship, I updated this blog and changed for dinner. I dined at table 105 for a second time, on gammon & chips with two couples and three single ladies: Joyce, Wendy & Pauline. It was the latter's birthday, so we had a mousse-like cake. It was again slim pickings at the pre-show dancing, so I had to dance a couple of times with Dulcie, Marilyn and another keen lady. I also managed to persuade Wendy and some other ladies to dance. I watched the Four Seasons tribute act from the cabin, but didn't enjoy their banter. We danced both after the show and then after Reece and Matt's cabaret up in the Drawing Room, where I danced with Dulcie, Marilyn, Sue and her friend Kim.


Cherbourg, France
Monday the 14th of August 2017

Losing an hour and being on bus number one, I had to set my alarm for 6 o'clock in the morning. I breakfasted on the special poached egg and ham on a muffin with Sue's friend Kim. I escorted my second choice tour to the D-Day beaches at Arromanches and the Bayeux war cemetery (labelled S for Strenuous, but barely M for Moderate!). In the former's museum, we watched the fifteen minute black and white film on the Mulberry Harbour, which is still substantially in place after 70 years. It was a rather hectic tour, so I forgot to take a FaceBook selfie in the bright sunshine!

Back at the ship at 1 o'clock I rushed to change and set up for my first ballroom dance class. I then grabbed a sandwich in the Verandah restaurant. At 1:30 I taught the Social Foxtrot to Andy and his wife, as the other tours were all late back. I then slept for two hours.

At 6:15 I attended the Captain's mid-cruise cocktail party where I danced with Wendy and chatted to Andy and his wife. He is a John Lewis Partner and invited me to tea at their exclusive hotel on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour! I dined on the surf & turf with Elsie the dancing lady from Whitstable and three couples from Kingsbridge, Ealing & Stamford respectively. The Devonian couple used to live in Wantage halfway between my homes in Didcot and Ashbury, when I worked at Shrivenham! During the pre-show dancing I was scraping the barrel to find any half decent dancers to dance with. I watched the Mersey Beat production show from the cabin as I updated this blog and back-upped my photographs. We danced after the show and then up in the Drawing Room. Stuart finished at midnight and I was in bed by 12:10.


Brest, France
Tuesday the 15th of August 2017

I awoke just before my alarm at 8 o'clock after a hot, restless night. I breakfasted on the smoked salmon omelette dish of the day with a couple who were on their first cruise. She was enjoying it, but he wasn't! I then escorted my first choice Mythical Coast tour (M). We began at the Virgin Lighthouse with cloudy skies. When we reached the lovely fishing port and seaside resort of Portsall, the sun came out and a selfie was called for. At the final stop at St. Matthew's ruined abbey I couldn't resist taking another for display on FaceBook!

Back at the ship, I lunched on the barbeque veal, sausage and fish with jacket potato and grilled tomatoes. I then slept fitfully for an hour and a quarter. After a mug of redbush tea and a slice of cake, I caught the 4:30 shuttle into Brest. I took many photographs in the sunshine of the castle, the American war memorial, the town hall, the church, the art gallery, the cable car and the lifting bridge. I was then the only person on the six o'clock shuttle bus back to the ship.

At 6:45 Kirsten placed me on table 105 yet again with Wendy, Joyce, Pauline, Pat, Edward the Salvation Army soldier from Leytonstone and two other single ladies. I had the steak Diane with Joyce giving me half of hers too! We danced with Wendy, Dulcie, Marilyn, Elsie the lady from Whitstable and some others before the show. I went back to the cabin to update my blog while Frankie's Guys had their second show. Pete made the mistake of sitting in the front row and so was dragged on to the stage. Wearing a tiny jacket, he had to dance with the boys and be subjected to their banter! After the show Reece, Matt, Karin & Kayleigh held a disco dance party in the Britannia lounge, whilst Stuart started up in the Drawing room. He finished at 11:55 and I was in bed by just after midnight.


First Sea Day - English Channel
Wednesday the 16th of August 2017

I awoke just before eight, ready to have the Egg Florentine dish of the day with the couple from Kingsbridge. I went to the Production Company's presentation "This Is Us" at 11 o'clock. I lunched on the roast lamb with Pat from Camberley soon after noon. She used to own a holiday flat above Durley Chine in Bournemouth. I then changed into my French outfit ready for a busy afternoon. At 1:30 I led the Line dancing class, teaching California Frieze, Texas Waltz & Electric Slide as usual to 16 people. At 2:30 I gave my lecture on "The Story of the English Channel". At 4:15 I hosted the Tea dance, but finding dance partners was difficult. I had to do the Barn Dance with ACD Michelle and the Jive with Social Host Lizzi!

I then packed ready for pre-dinner dancing up in the Drawing Room with Stuart for the first time this cruise. Here I bought drinks for Dulcie & Marilyn, and danced with them and the bare-foot lady for the first time this cruise. I dined on the escalope of pork again at table 105 with Edward, Pauline, Joyce, Jean, Pat and a couple from Rugby. Dancers were scarce at the pre-show dancing session, where I danced with Elsie the lady from Whitstable and the bare-foot lady again. Finally Dulcie & Marilyn arrived, having been told to wait for a table in the Verandah restaurant.

I watched the Piano Magic production show from the cabin as I updated this blog. We danced after the show and then said our goodbyes to Elsie and the members of the band. Up in the Drawing room, Stuart was running a disco with a short set given by the four Frankie Guys. The one straight member of the quartet then went around the room kissing the ladies! I danced with, and said goodbye to, Wendy, Dulcie, Marilyn, Sue & Kim. I then said good bye to Joyce and Pauline, who didn't dance. Stuart finished at 12:10 and I was in bed by 12:20.


Disembarkation Day - Dover
Thurssday the 17th of August 2017

I awoke at 7:40, but it was now 6:40 BST. I had the full English breakfast with a lady from Canterbury who was staying on and a couple from Swaffham whose next cruise, like me, would be on FOCL. I finished packing and left the cabin at 8 o'clock ready to disembark at 9:15 with luggage tag 4. However bunkering delayed my debark until 9:30. I made good progress until a crash at Ringwood held me up for half an hour. I eventually got home just after one o'clock, after another enjoyable cruise!

Kiel Canal transit

Saga Sapphire


Ashley, the Cruise Director, wrote to my agent saying: "I am a BIG FAN of Martin. I have had the pleasure of working with him on a number of occasions."

Pete wrote: "Just to say it was good to meet you and thank you for all your help, taking the line dancing, dance lesson and the Tea dance."

Later he wrote: "Just been looking at your website and report on the cruise. I thought it was very impressive, great reporting on events"


Scorecard:

7 Sessions on the sea day
5 Evenings of dancing
5 Dining tables hosted
3 Line dances taught (CF, TW & ES)
3 Ports of call
3 Tours escorted
1 Line dance class
1 Ballroom dance class (SF)
1 New port (Brest)
1 Tea dance hosted
1 Cocktail party only
1 Guest lecture (Englsh Channel)

Good points were:

  1. Spacious twin outside cabin on deck 4 with twin portholes
  2. Teaching the ballroom and line dance classes
  3. New LED display above the stage for surtitles
  4. Spacious bathroom with large shower
  5. Breakfast special every morning
  6. Free wine with lunch & dinner
  7. Free hot chocolate drinks
  8. Hosting the tea dance
  9. Dancing without ties
  10. Giving one lecture
  11. Free shuttle buses
  12. Tours in all ports
  13. Free car parking
  14. No quarantine
  15. No headaches
  16. No heartburn
  17. Free internet
  18. Free water
  19. Free wi-fi
  20. Free fruit
  21. Cool cabin

For the record ...


Shore Excursion Key:

E Easy
L Lunch
M Moderate
N New
P Panoramic
R Refreshments
S Strenuous

LA Limited Availability
SD Something Different
WT Wine Tasting