Deb’s cruise diary 27-28 Feb

Monday 27th February – at sea

Temperature today = 22oC.

Woke this morning thinking I could hear the ship’s foghorn, and sure enough, we couldn’t see a thing beyond our balcony rail.  But by late morning the sun had come through and burnt off the fog, and the afternoon was glorious.

This morning was given over to a charity half-marathon walkathon for Macmillan Cancer.  Over 140 passengers and 30 crew joined in, some walking, some jogging, and all attempting at least part of the 44 laps of the Prom Deck.  George and I did it as a relay, and completed 32 laps between us – at which point my foot was hurting where I broke my big toe a year or so ago, and George had to get ready for his final choir rehearsal.   But we were pleased with what we did, and the atmosphere on the deck was really great.  And we learned later that our friends Angie and Richard had both completed the full 44 laps (applause applause), and that the ship had raised over £2500 by our efforts.

My foot was still sore after lunch so salsa was a non-starter.  Instead I watched George (and Robin, but George mainly!) in the choir’s theatre this afternoon.  They were very good, especially since they don’t seem to have had an awful lot of rehearsals.  In the evening we watched the Headliners showing how it should be done – the show was our favourite one, ‘Destination Dance’.  And all six of us opted for an early night: very tired after our exertions, so no quizzing or meeting up for drinks – just bed.

 

Tuesday 28th February – Melbourne, Australia

Temperature today = 32oC.  Flippin’ heck, it’s hot!

The ship’s pilot was on board before 4.00 this morning as the run into Melbourne port is a looong one.  We’d docked and had clearance to go ashore by 8.00 am, and we got the shuttle into the city about an hour later.  Our legs weren’t suffering any ill-effects from their exertions and we were ready to see what Melbourne had to offer us.

The shuttle dropped us close to Federation Square, and we walked from there about half a mile to the Old Custom House which is now the Immigration Museum.  Sounds dull, but it certainly wasn’t – loads of displays about how and why people came to Australia, Victoria State in particular, and where they came from.  It came right up to the present day with the problems created by the current migrant/refugee situation in the Middle East.

We were in the museum for over an hour, and coming out got straight onto one of the old trams that run a circular route around the city centre.  It’s called the Tourist Tram Line, but there seemed to be an awful lot of locals using it too!  All the trams, tourist and otherwise, are totally free within a city-wide boundary, which is really good.  We rode on ours to the north-west part of the city as we wanted to take a look at Queen Victoria Market.  This is a covered market of around 1000 stalls, some tat, some decent stuff – we bought a bit of both!  And we ate lunch here, having finally found somewhere to have a pizza!  It seems to be the one thing they don’t do on board (but I’s sure they used to, back in the day).

We got back on the old tram and rode around again, completing the full city circuit.  By now it was really really hot, but we still managed to wander through a shopping mall before wilting completely and returning to the ship.

In the evening we went up to the Riviera Pool for the 60s/70s party.  For the first time this cruise we dressed up (Abba-ish for me and Superannuated Hippy for him) – and we were the only passengers who did!  But we had loads of comments like “love your outfits” which made it worthwhile, and the Ents team didn’t recognise us because of the wigs!

We had a bit of a dance and a chat to an Aussie woman, but the funniest bit was watching one of the ship’s photographers trying to rescue a cricket which was floundering/drowning in the pool.  She got it out eventually and left it on one of the rails – only for the stupid creature to go in again!  Suicidal cricket, I reckon.

By about 11.00pm there was a stiff breeze getting up.  Drinks were getting blown over and it was rapidly cooling down, so we gave up and went ‘home’.

Post 15 – Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, and the Walkathon

Friday 24th February – Sea Day

We were late getting up again, and I was still tired after a noisy and roly-poly night. It is cloudy and cool once more and the back garden is in need of a serious rolling. I believe we can expect this for the rest of the day.

As we sat in Charlies updating our diaries, I realised that it is still yesterday at home. We have another 30 minutes to add to our clocks this lunchtime to set us up for Adelaide.

Deb and I went out onto a cool Promenade Deck for a walk and completed another mile of the teak walkway. That is 17 miles now, and I really feel the walking has done my new hip a lot of good.

We registered ourselves for the half marathon in aid of the Macmillan Nurses. This is going to be on 27th February and the idea is to walk 44 laps of Prom Deck which equates to the half marathon distance. Not many people can achieve this sort of distance so some people (like us) are working as a team to share the distance, or they can simply do as little as they want. There is a contribution from each entrant and this should result in a very good total.

At 10:00 I was looking at the navigation information screen and Aurora is now about half way along the southern coastline of Australia in a patch of water known as the Australian Bite. This is after more than two days and nights sailing from the south-eastern tip of this huge country. All through the daytime we were heading due east and sailing quite quickly at 20 knots.

This morning, both of our neighbours have spoken to us, and asked about the noise during the nights in our cabins. I think we have accepted that the sea conditions make the balcony doors, and various other bits and pieces, creak and groan, but they are cannot understand just how noisy it is. I suspect they are not familiar with long periods of sea days when there is a continual bumpy sea.

With the noon clock change beckoning, I got ready and went to Carmen’s for today’s choir practice. It is getting really serious now as this was our penultimate session before we go to the theatre on 27th February. Yes this is the same day as the Macmillan walk, and I am going to be very busy.

Deb also had her lunchtime appointment with the Battle of the Sexes.

We met up briefly after my singing, but I needed some lunch and Deb was on her way to Carmen’s for her Salsa session.

This evening the entertainment is not to our tastes.

Ali Harper (female vocalist) is back in the theatre to sing songs from the Gershwin Songbook, and there is a classical duo in Carmen’s called ‘The Jeffrey-Martin Duo’. One of them plays the piano while the other has a violin. In Champions the entertainment team are fronting a ‘British Pub Night’ evening of games.

Deb has decided to do some washing.

We will also avoid the dining room tonight and either go to the buffet (Mexican Night) or have room service.

Deb is having a minor issue with her Tablet. Over the last few weeks, she has been continually losing her Daily Mail online app. Today it would not reinstall at all. Our internet session was due to shut down so there was a panicky few minutes attempting to restore it.

When Deb found a free washing machine she filled it with our dirty clothes. Forty-five minutes later they were washed and moved to the tumble dryer. This gave us plenty of time to go up to the buffet for the Mexican themed meal. Admittedly I had roast gammon, but I also sampled several of the less spicy Mexican bits.

By the time we left the buffet, some of the clothes were dry and I took the easy bits back to the cabin while Deb started the ironing. Once I had put most of the clean bits away, I returned to the laundry room in time to bring the final dry and pressed clothes back. That should see us through to Sydney now.

Deb read her book for a while, and I did the puzzles from the newspaper I downloaded earlier.

At 9:00 and suitably rested we went down to meet up with Richard and Angie for another quiz from DJ Martin. Tonight it was a special 50 questions in 50 minutes. Sadly we had another bad session, but at least we marked the winning team’s paper.

The ship is wobbling around again, and looks like we have another noisy night coming up. Tomorrow we are in Adelaide (South Australia) and we have a tour of a village that was a settlement for a group of Germans in the late 1800’s. We are not sure what to expect, but I am sure we will enjoy the day out, especially if the sun comes out.

 

 

Saturday 25th February – Adelaide, South Australia

Yes it was another noisy night and Aurora was still fighting a lumpy sea. I was not too uncomfortable until I woke up with cramp in the calk of my leg. As I lay there trying to ease my leg, I began to listen to the weird creaking noises coming from our ceiling. It was if something was rolling around as the ship tilted one way to the other. Discounting that it might be a couple of footballs, I decided it might be some form of insulation or pipework moving around. Thinking that was probably not possible, I had another idea that it could be water sloshing around. I just couldn’t get comfortable and it was being made worse by my thoughts about the noise. Eventually I had to resort to getting up and having a pain killer…oh and a quick trip to the toilet while I was up.

This was at about 1:00 am.

The painkiller, and walk did the trick, and I was quickly off to sleep.

I woke just before the alarm went off at 7:00 and Aurora was on her way into the Port of Adelaide by then, with thrusters working overtime. After the early morning cup of tea we washed and dressed for breakfast. We had to meet up in the theatre by 8:45 to be ready for our tour.

Hey, it is dry, the sun is shining and it is warm!!

There was a three piece band on the terminal building veranda playing a welcome to us, and they had the volunteer guides from the city there to wave at us.

…what a lovely country this is.

To round off the bit of the show I heard, they even played ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

…time to go

Aurora was actually docked at a place called ‘Port Harbor’ (or was it Harbour Port?) alongside a car transporter with cranes as a backdrop for the container ships. From there to the city centre of Adelaide there was a free shuttle that took upwards of an hour. Hence you can realise that our ship was docked some distance from any of the popular destinations for tours. Slightly closer was the suburb of the city called Port Adelaide that took about 20 minutes to get to by train which left from a station just across the road from the docks. The only issue with this train service (which also went to the city of Adelaide) is buying tickets. Because it is an unmanned station, the only option is to buy the tickets from a machine on the train itself.

It only takes coins. And of course few passengers are well stocked with sufficient currency in coins.

Anyway, this didn’t worry us, as we were on an official tour. It was to the little village of Hahndorf which is where Britain allowed a German settlement to be created. The Germans involved were from religious groups that were being persecuted by the Prussian State. We had a guide called Kurt, and a driver (or Captain) called Peter. As we set off Kurt explained that he was a German who emigrated to Australia in the 1970s after marry a Japanese woman…too complicated to explain here.

Our tour took us through the small suburb I mentioned of Port Adelaide, and then we had a drive through of Adelaide City. This city is vast. It is laid out on a grid basis of roads and streets and is beautifully clean, compared to some of our earlier stops. The openness of Adelaide is also enhanced with green parkland surrounding its centre giving the people of this city a place to escape the busy traffic.

From the city we headed up into the Adelaide Hills for a stop at a place called ‘Mount Lofty’. The warm sunshine at sea level now disappeared and a chilly wind was a shock as we left the coach. From this (as the name suggests) lofty position above the city, there was a panoramic view down to the sea that gave us a better impression of the spread out city of Adelaide.

Once the short stop was over we headed off to our main stop of the day at the little town of Hahndorf. It is a quiet sleepy town (or maybe large village) where the quite long main street is a mass of shops, pubs, and cafes with the occasional museum and exhibition to look at. Hahndorf retains much of the German influence, offering the visitors traditional German cakes, meats and beer. To be honest, it is simply a piece of history in this vast country where tourists come to look back a century… and spend money.

We had two hours to look around and we thoroughly enjoyed the time.

Both of us expressed a view that we didn’t know what to expect, and it was different from many of the places we have seen around the world. I likened it to visiting somewhere like the village of Clovelly on the North coast border of Cornwall and Devon. Clovelly has hundreds of tourist daily in the summer walking down, and then back up, the steep cliff that the village has been built into. Visitors enjoy themselves having cream teas, staring at the unusual local houses, and buying souvenirs.

Like Clovelly we didn’t quite understand what to make of Hahndorf, or why it seemed so interesting, but we come away with a little glow of satisfaction and joy at what we had experienced.

After a cup of coffee, plus a cake, our time was up in Hahndorf and we returned to our coach and our guide called Kurt, for some more of his description of Hahndorf plus his home city of Adelaide.He was the perfect guide for this visit with his knowledge of Germany, plus the experience he has gained after 40 years in his new country.

We got back to Aurora just before 2:30 and had a cup of tea before going out again. We planned to go to the nearby Port Adelaide (not the city) to explore and find somewhere to eat. Deb and I caught a local train for a 20 minute journey and then tried to find something of interest in the town. We got to Port Adelaide at about 4:00, and other than some old sailing ships, we found nothing to interest us enough to continue wandering around in the very hot sunshine. Apart from Big Mac and KFC we found nowhere to eat, so we got back on the train and returned to Aurora.

We had enough time for a shower and a change of clothes before having a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s.

It was just the pair of us plus Richard and Angie at the table, and after discussing our adventures for the day over our dinner, we lost another quiz in Masquerade’s.

The evening entertainment consisted of a Folkloric show in the theatre from the local Tanunda Town Band. This is a traditional German style band with oompahs! Elsewhere Carmen’s had the Headliners show ‘Thank you for the Music’ and Caravan were laying in Champions.

All four of us are tired, and the entertainment for the evening does not interest us. So our plans were to meet up again later for another quiz and see if our luck returns.

After another quizzical defeat we rounded off the evening with a drink in Champions while listening to Caravan.

Our visit to Adelaide had been a lovely day. At about 11:00 the announcement came to say that Aurora was ready to set sail again for a short overnight crossing to our next stop at Kangaroo Island tomorrow morning.

The sea was much calmer and we were far more confident of a good night’s sleep.

 

 

Sunday 26th February – Kangaroo Island, Australia

Success, we both had a good night with calm water and no unnecessary noises.

I was woken at about 7:15 by the sounds of anchors dropping and tenders being launched. It was a lovely sunny morning, but sniffing the air in the back garden was a shock as it is rather cool. The temperature was way below 20°. At the bottom of the garden there was the mainland of Australia some distance away to the left, and to the right was the very pretty coastline of Kangaroo Island. We had another tour today called ‘Cape Willoughby, Wines and Views’, but it was not until after lunch so we have a leisurely morning on the ship.

So, be honest, how many of you have ever heard of Kangaroo Island, and how many of you know where it is?

Well, personally I was totally unaware there was such a place until the brochure mentioned it, and even up until this morning, I only had a vague idea about what turned out to be a really lovely place.

Kangaroo Island is just a short overnight sail from the Port of Adelaide, and is now more than around 8.5 miles from the nearest bit of Australian headland. It is the third largest island off the coast of Australia after Tasmania and the island of Melville near Darwin in the north. Even at the third largest, it is not very big – about 90 miles (west to east) and 35 miles from north to south. It was a resident population of a little over 4000, but swells with tourists from a daily ferry and cruise ships.

The island is very much a farming community with sheep, cows, cereal crops, GM free vegetables and grapes. It was pointed out by a local in the afternoon that the island was self-sufficient in bread, milk and wine, so didn’t need much contact with the mainland.

We were anchored in ‘Hog Bay’ just north of the little town of Penneshaw on the north east of the island.

First impressions of the island were that it appeared similar to a Cornish cliff. The main difference is that the vegetation comprises of fir trees rather than the gorse of Cornwall. The tenders started their back and forth journeys just after 8:00 and it was obvious that the sea was a little choppy as they bounced and rocked around. This might get interesting later if the wind doesn’t drop a little. The deputy captain suggested the temperatures on shore were a little warmer than out here in the Bay but the wind was not mentioned.

We had a light ‘brunch’ at 11:00, and then got ourselves ready to get a tender ashore to meet up for our tour. We decided to be early, but getting on the tender and the crossing went so smoothly that we had almost an hour to look around before the tour began. It gave us a chance to explore a little and have an ice-cream. The Deb and I took a couple of photos including Aurora in the Bay and another ship called ‘Astor’. Apparently it is based in Adelaide and regularly visits the island on party style cruises. This weekend it had arrived on Saturday morning when the passengers spent the day ashore on the island. Today the passengers were on the ship and doing whatever Aussies do on a day afloat. It left the Bay lae in the afternoon to return to Adelaide to get people off on Monday morning.

Eventually our coaches arrived. They were three minibuses taking our party around the island in convoy. The transport was not very new, and struggled with the hilly terrain and their suspension lacked some of the finesse of the transport we are used to.

Our driver/guide described himself and his history of a family connection going back to Arbroathin Scotland. They came to the island as boat builders and turned to agriculture, but this is no longer viable as a way of earning sufficient money, so tourism is now the most important aspect of most of the islanders.

Initially our journey was on tarmacked roads, but as the houses of the village ended, so did the smooth surface and the roads were limestone covered dirt-tracks which were full of pot holes and far from smooth.

Our first stop was a wine showroom/restaurant for a wine tasting experience. I have never known these to be anything other than delightful, and today was no exception. OK, so we didn’t have a lot of wine to drink but the owner gave us a lovely description of the wine they make and explained the rather quaint names they have been given. As examples there was a sparkling one called ‘Dudley Bubbly’ and a very simple but very drinkable ‘Sheep Shearing Red’. There were four others with similarly unusual names that we sampled.

As usual it was very expensive but one or two did buy a bottle or two.

After the wine we re-boarded our buses and bounced, and rattled our way on a panoramic trip around some of the island. The other official stop was at ‘Cape Willoughby’ with some gorgeous cliff views and one of the first lighthouses to be built in Australia. The coastline of this island is rugged and has had several ships making unwanted arrivals on its rocks. As I had remarked to Deb earlier, the island really has several similarities to Cornwall and this place was really like home, except for the grass growing on the soil of the cliffs rather than the barren granite in Cornwall.

Oh, and there was one more treat at this stop – Kangaroos!

We had a chance to photograph them as they lazed in the shade or quietly bounced away as we upset their slumbers.

There was time for a few more minutes crashing along the roads and leaving a dust trail in our wake. The tour went on for quite a while longer than scheduled and it was a lovely afternoon on this beautiful island.

It was around 5:00 when we set off on the tender back to Aurora, and the water was still choppy allowing us to get more of a feel of the water rocking us around, and the odd bit of salty spray in our faces. We had just enough time to have a shower and change before a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s. Then at dinner the eight of us caught up on our day, and chatted about our adventures.

Aurora pulled up her anchors and we actually set off on time for the next bit of our global adventure. In the evening the entertainment was not to our tastes with a male vocalist (Roy Lake) in the theatre, casual music elsewhere, and a gameshow (like The Chase) in Masquerade’s. We teamed up with Richard and Angela to play trivial pursuit in the Crow’s Nest but were interrupted by Lyn Frederick. Her less than amazing Karaoke style entertainment annoyed us so much that our game ended early and the four of us gave uo and went to bed.

Aurora was now on her way eastwards to our next stop at Melbourne, but there was a sea day to come that turned out to be quite a wonderful day.

 

 

Monday 27th February – Sea Day

I woke at 7:00 to the sound of the ship’s fog horn. Looking outside, the garden was completely gone and replaced by a thick blanket of fog…

…hey, isn’t this mid-summer in Australia?

We had to get up reasonably quickly for a sea-day, as we were taking part in the ‘Walkathon’ for Macmillan nurses. Going to breakfast we discovered that it is cold and wet outside in the fog and perhaps a good day for a long walk, but the weather was still a bit of a surprise.

By 9:00 we were on a cool Promenade Deck getting ready with 120 or so other passengers to do our best to walk and raise money for this very special cause. We had teamed up with Robin and Rosemary to walk as a relay to get as close as we could to the 44 laps that would be the half marathon distance. There was no pressure to complete the distance and some people just wanted to do couple of laps, while others were aiming to complete the full 44 laps.

We were off and Robin and I took the first few laps. It was wonderful atmosphere with spectators all around the deck who cheered and clapped from the first lap to the end. It was smiles and laughter everywhere and it really was a lovely experience. As the walk started it was obvious that the fog was lifting and the sun soon came out to cheer us on as well.

To show the difference in the standards of those walking, there was one man on a pair of crutches that struggled to move but completed 10 laps. At the other extreme around a dozen people ran the course and completed the distance by the time the majority were around half of the way. Robin and I managed 16 laps that equates to 5 miles. Deb did 14 laps so just over 4 miles, and Rosemary did almost the same as Deb.

This now brings my marathon total to 22 miles.

We stopped at about 11:15 because Robin and I now needed to have a drink and calm down a bit before our final choir rehearsal. Today it was in the theatre so we could sort out where to stand for the show was at 3:15 today. The rehearsal was going very well until a lady collapsed. She is a diabetic and had been walking with the rest of us earlier and tipped herself over the edge. While she was being assessed and treated we were told to give up and to meet later for the real thing.

This gave me a chance to half a bite to eat and half an hour with my feet up on the now very sunny balcony. It was really very warm now, and memories of the fog were gone.

At 3:15 the ‘Third Sector Aurora Choir’ did their bit and entertained quite a good crowd of people in the theatre. I really enjoyed singing in public after many years when my voice was only used for my work.

I will be very surprised if I don’t have another go when the choir starts up again for sector 4.

By the time I climbed down from the stage I was aware that my knees were not really doing what they should anymore. The climb up the stairs was approaching agony levels and the lift would be the preferred method for the rest of the day. Robin has cramp in his legs so is also suffering…

…and we only completed about a third of the distance.

Just to put it in perspective, our other table mates, Richard and Angie, waked together and both completed the full 13 miles (plus a bit). All I can say to them is ‘Well done’ and a deserved ‘Respect’.

I rested my legs for the remainder of the afternoon before going to dinner. It was the full house once again and we chatted about the walk, the choir, and the day in Melbourne to come tomorrow.

After eating six of us went for the quiz in Masquerade’s – lost again – and then Deb and I went to the theatre to watch the show. Tonight it was one of our favourites called ‘Destination Dance’ from the Headliners.

At the end of the show Abby (from the ent’s team) announced that the walkathon had raised around £2000 and that is a magnificent result. We are both so proud to have been a part of it.

When we came out at 9:15 there was nothing on our minds except an early night. We have potentially a lot of walking to do in Melbourne tomorrow and my legs need as much rest as possible to recover.

The captain has said that we should be tied up at the port of Melbourne by 8:00 for part 4 f our Australian adventure.

Goodnight everyone.

 

 

Deb’s cruise diary 24-16 Feb

Friday 24th February – at sea

Temperature today = 19oC

After doing our mile prom Deck walk we went and registered to do the half-marathon walk for Macmillan nursing next Monday.  We’re doing it as a relay with Robin and Rosemary.  Then around lunchtime George went for coffee and a chat with Michael Mullane, the Cruise Director.  Suffice it to say Mike is not a happy bunny.  Meanwhile, I had Battle of the Sexes and then we went our separate ways to choir practice and salsa.

We ate up in the Horizon buffet this evening, and in the theatre there was yet another female vocalist who we didn’t want to see, so I hit the (pretty deserted) launderette.  All washed, dried and ironed in plenty of time to join the others for the Masquerades quiz.

 

Saturday 25th February – Adelaide, Australia

Temperature today = 22oC

We had a tour booked for this morning, and were sitting on our coach before 9.00am.  We had a bit of a tour of the city of Adelaide before going into the Adelaide Hills, right up to the Mount lofty summit.  Some spectacular views from there across the Adelaide region.  But it felt a bit chilly, even though the sun had come out, as there was quite a wind blowing across.

From the Hills we were driven to a little town called Hahndorf, the first German settlement in Australia.  There is still a very Germanic air to the place, with shops, cafes and bars selling products from that country.  We had a couple of hours to explore, and although we browsed through many of the little shops the only thing we bought was coffee and cake.  Of course.  But there were several short heritage walks and memorial gardens which took our interest.

We drove back from Hahndorf via an old route that is not much used now the freeway is open.  But as we drove – slowly – along we were told we might be able to spot some koalas living in the wild.  Obviously there’s never any guarantee that you’ll see any, but I was lucky enough to spot two, both doing what koalas do best – sleeping in trees.

After we’d returned to ‘Aurora’ to drop various bits off and grab a cup of tea, we went back ashore and headed for the local train station that was just across the road from the port gate.  We (eventually) worked out the ticketing system, and got a train to Port Adelaide, a journey of about 20 minutes.  We had hoped to find somewhere there to have a meal, but everything was either closed or closing, and all that was open was KFC and Macdonalds, neither of which is to our taste, surprisingly enough.  So we had a walk around the town before getting the train back to the ship where after dinner we just relaxed before getting an early night.

 

Sunday 26th February – Kangaroo Island, Australia

Temperature today = 21oC.

We were at anchor close to Kangaroo Island when we woke this morning.  There was quite a gusty wind blowing, which slowed the tendering operation down, but by lunchtime things were much calmer.

We were on an afternoon tour, so we grabbed an hour in the sun before getting a cooked breakfast (we knew there was no chance of any lunch today) and heading for the tender pontoon.

Kangaroo Island is stunning, that’s the only word for it.  It reminded us a lot of the coast of west Cornwall, but with eucalypts rather than gorse growing.

16 of us were taken around in a minibus, over roads that were frankly primitive.  Most of them were just compacted limestone, and many of them were very rutted.  And there were times when we thought our minibus wouldn’t make it!  Much of the trip was done in first gear, so it really struggled.

Our first stop at Dudley Wines where we had a wine tasting.  We’ve done several of these things over the years, and this was certainly one of the best.  There were six wines of different types, all to be drunk overlooking a stunning cove with the Aussie mainland in the distance.  Beautiful.  As the lady who talked to us about the wines said “we have locally produced bread, cheese and wines, and those views.  What more could we want?”

We drove then to Cape Willoughby where there is an old lighthouse and a visitor centre.  Again, amazing views similar to the Cornish coastline – except in Cornwall you very rarely spot kangaroos in the wild!  And we spotted dozens, mostly dozing under the trees, but several hopping around.  Most of the photos we took include wire fencing, which makes it look as if they’re ‘caged’, but they really aren’t – the fences are property boundaries.  A wonderful wonderful tour.

We tendered back to the ship just in time to shower before dinner where all eight of us were at the table – that’s the first time for several days – so the chat was mostly comparing experiences of today.  And we were all pretty tired, so just played Trivial Pursuit for an hour or so before going to bed.

Post 14 – Sea Day

Thursday 23rd February – Sea Day

It was another bumpy and creaky night, but not as bad as the previous night. Deb and I slept, and in fact we didn’t wake at our usual time, and it was 8:00 before we had our wake up cuppa.

The sea is maintaining its bumpiness and it is cloudy. The temperature was just 18° and as we went to breakfast the open deck was almost deserted apart from a couple who are always the first on a lounger each day. They were wrapped in their towels eating breakfast but already in their favourite spot to capture the golden rays…if they appear today.

After eating we went to the office in Charlies and updated our diaries while the ship woke up. All too soon the shop brought out the temporary tables to tempt the passengers to part with their money. Today it was cheap jewellery and watches.

The clerical work was done so we went for another mile walk around the Prom Deck. That is me up to 16 miles now.

We are considering getting our dinner table to take part in a half marathon walkathon being organised in support of the Macmillan Nurses in a few days’ time. We will have to talk with the others to see if they are interested.

This was a busy morning as we then went to the restaurant for a ‘Around the World’ coffee morning. The cake is not special but it is a chance to seek out new people to talk to for half an hour.

At midday the clocks bounced forward again. It is now GMT +10hours here on board Aurora. Of course that meant we missed our traditional lunch time as I went to the choir practice and Deb took part in the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ lunchtime challenge.

As the choir practice ended in Carmen’s, Deb came in to have her Salsa session. She has just come back to the cabin, so it must be time for an afternoon cuppa, and perhaps a cake.

With the temperature struggling to get above 20° the option of sun worship was forgotten so we logged onto the internet late in the afternoon to catch up with any news from home, and to check on our bank activities. Storm ‘Doris’ was just beginning to bash Britain and the wind speeds near to where we live were forecast to be extremely high. It puts the situation into context when we are quietly moaning about a lack of sunshine.

Captain Dunlop came on the PA for his 6:00 update and all seems set for Adelaide in a couple of days. He did warn us that the seas would be lumpier (4 metres) with a stronger wind meaning the official sea state might change to .Medium to Rough’. I shall be having one of my pills later.

The evening was quite enjoyable. There was a full house again for dinner and after a quick Masquerade’ quiz failure, we trooped off to the theatre for the second and final show from comedian William Caulfield. The jokes were less familiar this time and it was a wonderful hour of laughter.

The determined six from dinner table 228 now returned to Masquerade’s for a themed challenge about cartoon films. Now, we are of an age beyond watching many children’s’ films, so this was a struggle. We didn’t do too badly….enough said.

The cabin was creaking and the ship was rolling when we went to bed. There has been an obvious increase in the movement of the ship for almost a week and the nights are worse when you want a bit of peace an stillness for a sleep.

Tomorrow is the final sea day before we get to Adelaide on Saturday. The weather forecast from the BBC is suggesting sunshine when we get there, with temperatures back into the 20’s and even warmer as we continue to Kangaroo Island and Melbourne.

Deb’s cruise diary 21-23 Feb

Tuesday 21st February – Fremantle, Australia

Temperature today = only 18oC when we docked at 7.00am.  But it got to 22oC in the afternoon.

200+ pax disembarking today, and another load joining the ship.

After breakfast we got the shuttle from the port into Fremantle centre, where we wandered into a shopping mall and found a hairdresser who spent an hour chopping our locks off.  We are now quite shorn, and feeling a lot tidier than before!  I also spotted a ‘Specsavers’ (in Oz!  Who knew?) where I got my glasses repaired for free, so all good.

Then it was a short walk to Freemantle Gaol, which was built by convicts in the 1850s and in use from then until 1991.  It’s now a Heritage Site museum, and very good it is, too.  There are three (I think) different guided tours offered: we joined one called ‘Doing Time’ which started a few minutes after we arrived.  It was very interesting, and we had a good hour with a knowledgeable guide showing us around.  Well worth a visit.

We had lunch at the gaol’s café before catching the shuttle back to the ship, where we dropped off our souvenirs and had a drink before walking back into town to a nearby supermarket.  Here we stocked up on paracetamol, coke, hairspray and so forth, so we’re okay again for another few weeks.

After unpacking our shopping I went for a swim.  The Riviera pool was empty, but I didn’t stay in long as the water was pretty hot, which makes breathing uncomfortable.

We managed to win another bottle of red in the early-evening quiz, then watched an Irish comedian, William Caulfield, in the Curzon.  He wasn’t bad, but several of his jokes had already been delivered by previous performers, so they fell a bit flat.  Though there were an awful lot of Aussies in the theatre who must have joined the ship today, and they seemed to enjoy him.

 

Wednesday 22nd February – at sea

Temperature today = 20oC

Two months today we’ll be home 🙁

We had a pretty rough night, and although the ship’s movement wasn’t an issue we were both kept awake by the various creaks and bangs in the cabin.  I gave in at about 3.00am and opened the box of earplugs we’d bought with us – they helped, as they muffled the noises, enough so I could finally get some sleep.

It was still quite bumpy when we went to breakfast, and the pools were netted over for the rest of the day, so no swimming today.  We went for a Prom Deck walk and then listened to the port talk on Sydney, even though we already know what we want to do here.

George didn’t go up to the cricket today as he’s getting fed up with how it’s being run, and there was no salsa class for me due to the Headliners having a rehearsal for their show later.  But we did go to choir practice (him) and Battle of the Sexes (me).

There was yet another female vocalist in the theatre this evening – that’s the third one who’s show is advertised as a tribute to ‘divas’.  Talk about repetitive.  We got repetitive, too, by not going to watch it.  Again.  Instead we sat up in the Crow’s Nest with Richard and Angie, and one of the bottles of red we’ve won.  Nice evening, ending with a very different sports quiz in Masquerades that we did better in than we thought we had.

 

Thursday 23rd February – at sea

Temperature today = 18oC and pretty overcast.  Someone said it had been raining this morning, but we didn’t notice.

Clocks have gone forward again and we’re now 10 hours ahead of time back at home.

Much calmer and quieter last night, so we slept pretty well and didn’t wake until nearly 8.00am, which is late for us.  We had our Prom Deck walk after breakfast, and then went to the Alexandria restaurant for the second Round the World Travellers’ coffee morning where we had a nice chat with a couple we met in Freemantle two days ago.

I had Battle of the Sexes followed by salsa this afternoon, and George went to the choir practice.  And in the evening we watched the comedian, William Caulfield, in his second show (which was as good as the first one) before joining our four table-mates for the Masquerade’s quiz.

The red rose I received on Valentine’s Day “from the Captain and Officers”  has finally given up the ghost.

Post 13- Bali to Australia

Friday 17th February (cont)

Well, once the washing had been completed, our day in Benoa was a lazy one.

We had an hour in the sunshine but gave in when another tropical shower crept up on us. We retired to the cabin and the rain stopped quickly. I watched tender boats and the local craft being used as our ferry. The water state became a bit choppy and the tenders were bouncing rather seriously for a while.

Aurora slowly turned on her anchors giving us different views every hour or so. This can be quite confusing when (like me) you doze off. One moment there a view of the shore, then all that can be seen is the sea.

As the afternoon moved towards dinner time, the Regent cruise ship gave some farewell ‘toots’ to the island of Bali and slowly made her way out into the Bay and turned for her next destination. I finally managed to see her name, and it was the ‘Seven Seas Voyageur’ with five decks of luxury cabins.

The final tenders were bringing our fellow passengers home, and we had a shower to freshen our bodies from the humid stickiness. At 6:00 the captain gave his normal evening update of life on Aurora and announced that we would be late leaving…again.

One of the tours was late and not due back for another 30 minutes. I don’t think we have left any port on-time during the cruise.

At dinner it was just us plus Richard and Angie. Robin and Rosemary and our two other dinner mates were on that late tour. Richard and Angie had spent the day at a local hotel where they had a bit of relaxation on the beach and in the hotel complex’s pools.

In the theatre we had a bit of a change with a mind reader called Anthony Laye. OK, so he was really a magician but he gave a very good show, and was impressive with his skills at making people do what he wanted them to do. Of course sometimes the person chosen from the audience can make the show a success, and he managed to pick two really amusing characters.

We rounded off the evening with a Masquerade’s challenge where we caught up with Robin and Rosemary and heard about their really enjoyable tour, even if it was late getting home.

Aurora has now started its southerly trip towards Australia. There are several days at sea now until we reach Fremantle .

 

Saturday 18th February – Sea Day

Now that we are sailing south, our Port Side cabin has the morning sunshine streaming onto it. When I looked out at 7:30 the temperature was showing 31°C. The humidity is still high and mirrors are steaming up as the balcony door is opened. When we go out there to read we have to wipe and wave our glasses for several minutes for them to clear sufficiently.

After breakfast, Deb went for a swim, and I lay in the sunshine watching her. Deb eventually joined me and we had almost an hour in the sunshine before it was time for the Port Talk on Adelaide. We have a tour booked for here but the talk is always time well spent, checking we have made the correct decision.

It was time for a coffee and cake in Costa after the talk. Robin sat behind us and reminded me that we have choir practice at 12:30.

This was my third session and the tickly cough always returned after the voice has been tested. Our repertoire so far is a medley from West Side Story, Memory, Hallelujah, Over the Rainbow, Cheek to Cheek, Chiquititta, One Moment in Time, and another medley from The King and I. We have a few days yet before we perform in public, but Robin has confirmed my thoughts, that the songs are getting more complex as the cruise is progressing.

After a good old sing, song, it was time to rehydrate my throat before going to play cricket. My finger is still strapped but I am confident that I can play without doing it any further damage. I discovered it is difficult not to instinctively use my right hand, but I came away undamaged.

The rest of the afternoon was resting before a formal night. We could have gone and watched the Headliners performing Killer Queen as a matinee in Carmen’s but the temptation of a warm balcony and a comfortable bed won our attention.

Dinner proved to be a good meal, except for me tipping a tomato based sauce over my dress shirt. So after finishing the meal, I crept back to the cabin away to get a fresh shirt. The stain may well be bad enough to say goodbye to the shirt.

Deb and I didn’t bother with the theatre cabaret which was yet another vocalist called Stevie B.  Instead we simply read our books in the Crow’s Nest for a few minutes. The Karaoke style singer called Lyn Frederick was there initially but we didn’t have to put up with her for long. Later there is a Ball in Carmen’s hosted by the dance instructors. We may well go along to see if we can spot a friend from the past. Patrick used to teach us to dance when we lived in Stone (Staffordshire) nearly four years ago. He has now qualified as a dance teacher and we met him in a life a couple of days ago. He is on board for a holiday, or perhaps checking out the possibilities of a working holiday to come.

The team met up again for the 9:30 quiz which tonight was all about identifying iconic video clips from Olympic Games. We thought we had done very well but as usual there was a team who upset out plans to increase the wine stocks.

Time for bed.

Sunday 19th February – Sea Day

The ship is pitching a bit and the swimming pools are a little rough, so Deb didn’t bother with a swim. Instead we lay in the hot sunshine with a cooling breeze on the upper deck to give some relief. The temperature was 30°C on the deck this morning, and no sign that the humidity is dropping.

It is the Australian Immigration interview this morning, and after we had a cup of coffee, we were called to the queue. The snake of passengers started just outside of Masquerade’s all the way to Carmen’s where the three Australian officials were working. They were actually human, and smiled as they said hello to us. The process may have taken quite a while, but it was painless.

Very soon we will be having the American Immigration face to face interview. That will not be as pleasant, and will probably take a lot longer.

Anyway, with that over, Deb went to a Port Talk on Kangaroo Island, and I went for a Prom Deck walk. I hadn’t been out there for several days and managed seven laps today bringing my Marathon around the world total to a little over 13 miles. This must rate as one of the slowest ever and the ship goes further than I walk in the same time.

After lunch we had a few minutes relaxation before Deb went to a talk by Martin Roberts about his time on ‘I’m a Celebrity….’ And I went for a hot and stick hour of cricket.

It was really hot today and I was soaked through with sweat. When I got back to the cabin I had to change my clothes….all of them.

At 3:45 in the afternoon, I sported a little bit of land on the Port side. Having checked our navigation information and the map, it appears to be the point where Australia is at its widest (west to east) at a place names the North West Cape. It is Latitude 21° 54’ south and we are sailing almost due south at 17.7 knot. The temperature is still 30°C. The sea is a lot lumpier than we have experienced for some time, and is pitching enough to make things rattle, and it is also slightly confusing my head.

We still have a long way to go until we reach Fremantle on Tuesday.

Oh and there are lots of flying fish amusing us, and even the birds have turned up to get a snack from them.

Tonight it is the second theatre show from singer Helen Ward Jackson singing tributes to various Divas. No thanks.

In Carmen’s it is Anthony Laye with his mind reading again. That was our planned entertainment but eventually we joined up with our dinner mates for a spot of Trivial Pursuit in the Crow’s Nest before a musical quiz in Masquerade’s.

This was the moment that ‘Nature’ decided to give us a welcome show to Australia. Just by accident I looked out of the balcony window and spotted some lightning.

Wow!

The flashes and forks of energy were visible all the way along our view from the Port side of the ship. It was sensational with the sky lighting up on the coast of Western Australia. I think virtually everyone on the ship saw it, and gasped in amazement as this display went on for well over two hours.

We decided this was the ‘Southern Lights’ and although less colourful, it is a very good spectacle compared to the Northern hemisphere’s version. I think it could be referred to as the ‘Aurora by-Australis

Oh, and we won the quiz. It was all about records that should never have been released….novelty ones in the main.

Although we impressed most people with our musical knowledge, our musical tastes were seriously doubted.

Goodnight.

Monday 20th February – Sea Day

We woke and discovered Aurora is still bumping and pitching in officially ‘Moderate’ seas due to quite a strong South East wind. It is uncomfortable as it has been three days of having to work our legs at maintaining balance.

The navigation channel says we are 113° East meaning we have travelled a third of the way around the globe from the London Longitude.

It was too rough in the pools for Deb to swim so we started our day with a mile’s walk around the prom Deck. That puts me to over 14 miles now.

From there it was a spot of office work, and a port talk on Melbourne. We haven’t got a tour for this stop yet, and Crystal (port presenter) says we don’t really need one, as her home city is easy to get around to the highlights.

After a quick lunch it was time for choir practice, and we had a good session with the King and I medley (that I now recognise) and Abba’s Chiquitita. Meanwhile Deb went and took part in the Battle of the Sexes quiz.

After a few minutes rest it was time for Deb to go to Salsa, and I was off to cricket.

Although I really enjoy the cricket exercise and competition, it is becoming rather predictable with the same people on the same teams and the same group winning the matches with the same people winning the batting stars. My gripe is that the rules of this quite historical game have been changed and it takes away the element of chance. Sadly the art of bowling has been ignored and now almost everyone is simply throwing the ball very fast and hard, at the batsman.

….this is not cricket, and not the game I have played on a cruise ship for many years.

I want the exercise, but I am not sure I want the cricket anymore.

Late in the afternoon, the sea became even lumpier, and Aurora is rolling as well as pitching. My stomach is surviving, but I am feeling uncomfortable.

The temperature today only struggled up around24° and dropped down to just 20° by dinner time.

There was just us, plus Angie and Richard at dinner, and after eating we scuttled to Masquerade’s for the early quiz. It was on general knowledge….and we won.

From our success there we went on to the theatre for the Headliners show called ‘Stop in the name of love’.  Deb really enjoys Motown music, and this show is a good one.

We had a late drink in Anderson’s and then it was bedtime.

Aurora was still moving in an angry sea as we continued overnight for our stop tomorrow morning in Fremantle.

 

 

Tuesday 21st February – Fremantle, Australia

Fremantle is the first of our five stops in the wonderful country of Australia, culminating in the sector ending in Sydney on 2nd March.

Hey, this might be a shock, but the temperature is below 20°C and is not expected to rise very much all day.

Aurora began her noisy docking process, making me up at 7:00 with side thruster roaring as the ship manoeuvred into her mooring spot.

The city of Fremantle is more often thought of as the maritime gateway to the larger city of Perth. Rather than travel to Perth, we are spending our time in the smaller Fremantle area for a little bit of exploration, but more importantly to do a bit of shopping, and getting our hair cut.

The deputy captain officially announced our arrival at 8:00, and this was accompanied by a reminder for passengers to not take any food etc. ashore.

Deb and I left Aurora at about 8:45 and after being inspected by the food sniffer dog, we were soon on the free shuttle for the short ride to the central area of the city.

After a 10 minute walk we found a hairdresser just opening her shop and after giving her a few minutes to sort herself out, we sat down and had our hair cut. She was quite thrilled to have early customers and was fascinated to have someone from the ship. By the time we left an hour or so later she had another couple from Aurora waiting, and one other man had also popped in to enquire about a trim.

Feeling much fresher and lighter, we walked around the other shops, had a cup of coffee, and then made our way to the historical site of the Fremantle Prison.

This turned out to be a really lovely couple of hours. This prison was built by convicts in the 1850s before they took up residence there themselves. It then housed later arrivals of convicts until Britain gave up the practise. The building then became the main Western Australian prison for serious criminals and although changes were made, it continued as the main prison for the state until 1991.

The guide was really knowledgeable and showed he enjoyed his job with a lot of humour and the story of the prison through the decades. It was good to see an Australian example of a prison as we are hoping to get to Alcatraz in San Francisco later in the cruise, where we can compare the two historic high security jails.

The tour ended with the whipping frame that was used when the nearby solitary confinement cells failed. And just a minute’s walk from there was the gallows where the ultimate penalty for the most serious crimes was carried out. I don’t know if it was just the heat, but the guide took his cap off as he described the scene and explained how the hangings were performed. I like to think he was showing some respect for those who had passed through this room.

With our wonderful tour complete, we had a quick toasted sandwich lunch at the prison before retracing our steps to the shuttle bus.

After a quick stop for a cup of tea, we set off again into Fremantle. This time it was a sort walk to a shopping centre called ‘Coles’ where we stocked up on soft drink, crisps, chocolate, and medicines.

It had been a very successful visit to this lovely city. We were back on board by 3:00 and Deb took the opportunity of a quiet pool to have a swim. I just relaxed on the balcony before she returned, and woke me up.

Aurora is not leaving until 9:30 tonight, and we had considered going out for a meal, but we have had a good day already, and we hadn’t seen anywhere on our walk to interest us in going out again.

There is a comedian in the theatre tonight (William Caulfield) but there is also a talk from a visiting Aboriginal person about his culture as well as songs and dances. I am not sure what we will do yet.

First things first, it will soon be time to eat again.

It was just four of us for dinner, with Robin and Rosemary, as well as the new couple, eating elsewhere. After refuelling we went for the early evening quiz and we were successful for the first time in quite a while to add a bottle to our wine stocks.

In the theatre we had an amusing 45 minutes listening to William Caulfield with some new jokes and stories. Unfortunately his act contains some of the jokes we have already heard. Do comedians have an annual magazine of new jokes that are free to use perhaps. Anyway while we laughed at the new jokes, the latest passengers were extremely amused by the ones we had already heard, and even this made smile.

From the theatre we trotted back to Masquerade’s for a later night quiz that they called ‘Scatterbrain’ (I think). The host would nominate a topic that we had to find examples of, and then a letter which had to be the first letter of that object. For example we had to find ‘things that grow’ beginning with the letter ‘P’. It was a manic game as the teams thought up various growing object, plus some unusual answers, but mainly every conceivable plant beginning with ‘P’….and there are a lot!

The winning team was the one who thought up the highest number of answers that no one else came up with.

In hindsight this possibly wasn’t the best game for this audience. There were moans, and outright objections about the validity of some answers and it did not flow very well. A lot of people left in frustration or boredom. We struggled on and actually came second, but it was not a very pleasant or amusing, or culturally rewarding 45 minutes.

Aurora was late leaving Fremantle …what a surprise. This time it was because the evening shift of stevedores was sent to tie up a container ship that took priority over us leaving. We were away by about 10:30 and as we reached the open seas, it was obvious that it was not going to be a smooth sea. As the evening progressed it was very noticeable that Aurora was rocking and rolling. The captain had warned us of a three to four metre swell, and the sea state was officially ‘moderate’. As we all went to bed, it was not so easy to walk in straight lines, and everything that could flex was creaking.

This was not going to be a quiet or smooth night.

 

Wednesday 22nd February – Sea Day

It was a horribly noisy night. Aurora was fighting her way through an angry and confused sea will huge rolling lumps of water tossing us around. I didn’t feel ill, but I did struggle to stay in the bed at times. The new sea-sickness pills from Fremantle were in use, and although I felt uncomfortable with the movement, the dignity of my stomach was maintained.

The temperature was 18° when we got up, and hardly went above 20° all day.

With breakfast over we had a quiet and relatively stable 30 minutes in Charlies. Then we went for a walk, and my total is now over 15 miles.

A few minutes after our exercise we were off to the theatre for the Port Talk about Sydney. After some deliberation we decided to stick to our original plans and do our own thing when we get there is roughly a week’s time.

At midday the clocks went on an hour again. It is now GMT +9. I went off to the choir practice as Deb went to the Battle of the Sexes.

After they were over, we went for a late lunch. I didn’t bother with the cricket as I have really lost interest in trying to defend myself against someone throwing a ball at me as if this was a baseball.

The ship was still bouncing around and there was no sunshine to tempt us onto the windy decks. So we simply rested in the cabin for the reminder of the afternoon. I even had a bath to soak away the aches in my legs. The act of automatically correcting the movement of the ship can give the leg muscles quite a hammering…well it does for this ‘land lubber’ anyway.

This was the third formal evening of the sector, so the clothes were hung ready to put on after our afternoon individual quiz. No stickers for us again.

With a set of posh clothes on we strolled down to Anderson’s for a glass of Prosecco before dinner. This is becoming quite regular, and is a chance to chat to each other about our day, and to watch the familiar faces that frequent this wonderful lounge. Although we enjoy a drink, we decline the canapes.

It was a full house for dinner for the first time in a while.

There was an afternoon matinee of ‘My Generation’ from the headliners in the theatre with the evening entertainment coming from a female vocalist from New Zealand called Ali Harper. Her show is a tribute to ‘Legendary Divas’. Whoever books the acts should think a little more. This is the second act in a week to feature tributes to Divas.

In Carmen’s it is dancing for the formal night ball.

With dinner over we dashed to Masquerade’s for the quiz, and having lost again, we decided to go to the Crow’s Nest and have a while playing Trivial Pursuits with a bottle of red wine from the previous wins stock. We gave up the game in time to get to Masquerade’s again for the late evening challenge.

Tonight it was a version of the TV panel show ‘A Question of Sport’. We thought we had a good chance to do well here, but we soundly beaten by several other teams.

It was time for bed again. The ship is still rocking around, and creaking as we continue on our way towards the Port of Adelaide. There are two further sea days yet before we arrive in this city in the State of South Australia. I do hope the weather brightens up a little and the sea calms down.

Goodnight.

Deb’s cruise diary 17-20 Feb

Friday 17th February – Bali, Indonesia

Temperature today = 29oC.

We dropped anchor at around 6.00 this morning, which woke us.  I hit the launderette first thing, and while our stuff was in the machine we both went for a short swim in the deserted Crystal Pool.  Shore tendering began shortly after 7.30, and by mid-morning the ship was pretty quiet.

We had a pretty quiet day, too.  With bad vibes about Bali from last time we just didn’t want to go ashore, especially not with a tender ride of three-quarters of an hour.  Instead we took advantage of empty decks and crashed in the sun, and generally just relaxed with books and music all day.  There were a couple of light showers during the day, but nothing dramatic.

After dinner, we went with Angie and Richard to the early quiz, and after watching the Curzon show (another mind-reader, but not a bad show) the four of us went up to the tropical deck party.  Rosemary and Robin had been late back from their day-long tour (ship was late leaving because of the delay), so opted out this time, but frankly they didn’t miss anything.  For some reason, it was quite a ‘flat’ affair, which was disappointing after the last one, so we called it a night.

 

Saturday 18th February – at sea

Temperature today = 30oC at 8.00 this morning, but it did calm down to just 29oC before lunch.

I went for a swim after breakfast, and had a chat to my fellow ‘proper’ swimmer: he’d been wondering where I’d been the last couple of weeks, but of course I’d had the flu-type bug so swimming was out.  I asked him about the competition he’s heading for – turns out he’s competing in the World Masters Championships in Auckland (all freestyle events from 100m up to 1500m, plus a 5km open-water swim).  Talk about out of my league!

After an hour’s sun, we went to the port talk on Adelaide, which confirmed that we have a good-sounding tour booked.  There’ll also be plenty of time afterwards to explore a bit, and maybe have dinner ashore as we don’t leave until just before midnight.

My salsa class was cancelled today, as the Headliners were doing their Queen tribute show later in the afternoon, but George still had his choir practice.  While he was there I looked in on the ‘battle of the sexes’ quiz, which seemed much more restrained than I remember it from in the past.  George followed his choir with the cricket again, going up with his hand well strapped.  Fortunately he returned an hour later having done himself no more damage!

The evening’s show was yet another singer who we didn’t fancy seeing.  Robin said afterwards that most of his playlist had already been done by previous acts, including a finishing Beatles medley which was almost identical to the one done by Ukebox three nights ago.

We joined our four new pals for tonight’s quiz in Masquerades, which was on the Olympics.  Some quite heated arguing from the Aussies now on board over their interpretation of the answers.  Not good at all.

 

Sunday 19th February – at sea

Temperature today = 28oC

The motion of the ocean was pretty bumpy through the night and this morning, so I didn’t swim (too dangerous with the water crashing around in the pools).  So we did a bit of housekeeping before crashing on deck for an hour, and then going for our Aussie immigration interviews.  And unlike some countries I could name (U*A and R*s*ia spring to mind), these guys actually had smiles on their faces and didn’t grunt once!

I went straight from immigration to the port talk on Kangaroo Island.  I’d missed the first ten minutes or so, but we already had a tour booked here and I just wanted to learn a bit about the place: we’d never even heard on it before this cruise!  It’s basically one big nature reserve, roughly the size of England – looks really nice.

After lunch I went to the Battle of The Sexes while George had choir practice.  Then he went up to cricket and I listened to a talk by Martin Roberts, who presents ‘Homes Under The Hammer’ on the BBC.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the show, but I recognised him from last year’s ‘I’m A Celebrity…’, which was the subject of his talk today.  It was okay, but he’s not a good public speaker – loads of “umm”s and “ahhh”s, and talking very fast.

For a good couple of hours after dinner there was a spectacular electric storm off the port side.  It must have been 50 miles or more away, as we heard no thunder at all.  It was amazing – someone likened it to the Northern Lights.  Southern Lights, perhaps?

We spent an hour in the Crow’s Nest with Angie and Richard, and were joined by Robin for the Masquerades quiz.  Tonight’s theme was about songs that were big hits but should never even have been released – the Smurfs, Jasper Carrot, and the like.  But we managed to win it quite easily, so that’s another bottle of red for our supplies!

 

Monday 20th February – at sea

Temperature today = 20oC

Bumpy seas again through the night, and the pools this morning were even more active than yesterday so I certainly wasn’t going swimming.  We opted to do our mile Prom Deck walk straight after breakfast, before it got too humid, but we still managed to end up very sweaty.  We went to the Melbourne port talk, but still couldn’t decide if a tour would be right for us.  I think we may do our own thing as the city seems pretty easy to get around.

After lunch I went to the Battle of the Sexes and then salsa while George had choir practice and cricket, as usual on sea days.  After dinner we watched the Headliners’ show “Stop in the Name of Love”, which is one of their better ones, and after a drink in Anderson’s went back to the cabin for an early night.

Deb’s cruise diary – 13-16 Feb

Monday 13th February – Singapore

Temperature today = 29oC.

Both of us feeling much brighter this morning, which is good.  We had another tour booked – ‘Highlights of Singapore’ – which left at 9.30 and took us straight to the Botanical Gardens.  This is a huge complex, part of which was our destination: the National Orchid Gardens.  Well, it was lovely.  Thousands of orchid varieties, probably 90% of them growing outdoors.  They really thrive in the humid conditions here.  All I can say is it’s a pity you can’t record smells onto photos!

Our next stop was at Merlion Park to see the Merlion statue, the half-lion half-mermaid symbol of Singapore.  Unfortunately it was covered in scaffolding, though the Baby Merlion next to it was fully visible.  I was pretty surprised to see how big the Merlion is: I think I was expecting something like Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid!  It must’ve been around 20’ tall: even the Baby Merlion was as tall as I am!

Finally, we stopped in Chinatown, where we could visit the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Masjid Jamae Mosque, or just admire the architecture of both from outside, which is what we did.  We also had some time to wander through the street market, where we bought a couple of items and used up our remaining $Singapore.

We handed our passports back in as we re-boarded ‘Aurora’: the Singaporean authorities don’t let a ship leave until everyone has done so.  But of course, there were bods on board who ignored the repeated calls and as a result we were over an hour late leaving.  But that’s not as bad as last time we were here, when we finally left at midnight but should have left around 6.00 pm.

We had a new couple on our dinner table.  They’ve actually been on board since Southampton but were previously on second sitting.  They’ll be with us until San Francisco, when they go home.

We did both the evening quizzes, winning the earlier one (more wine!), and between the two went to see the Headliners ‘New Romantics’ show.  Very good, even though we’ve seen it before.

Tomorrow’s ‘Horizon’ newspaper says that the main act in the evening is Ukebox.  Hooray!  We saw them on ‘Oriana’ in September – they were brilliant.

 

Tuesday 14th February – at sea

Temperature today = 27oC and very sticky.

We “Crossed the Line” in the early hours of this morning.  Unfortunately the southern hemisphere has brought torrential rain and a Force 7 storm so my plan to return to swimming today (having shaken off the flu/cough/whatever) has been put on hold.  Ah well.

We went to the Bali port talk, and as a result cancelled the tour we had booked there.  It sounded nothing like the description in the book.  And nothing else took our fancy, especially as they’re all six hours or more, plus the 40-minute each way tender ride in.  Just too much for our middle-aged bodies in this heat and humidity.  So it looks very much like we’ll be spending the day on board – just as we did in Bali five years ago.  Groundhog day….

There was the Crossing the Line fun and games after lunch, but we gave that a miss.  We saw plenty of crew getting covered in coloured custard, kissing (inflatable) fish, and falling in the Terrace Pool last time around.  Instead George went to choir and then cricket while I joined the salsa class again.  George managed to do some damage to his hand as he was playing cricket: we’ll have to see how that pans out.

This evening was the ‘welcome on board’ drinks thingy.  I have to say, when it comes to blagging free drinks, Richard is in a class of his own – I think we each had four glasses of prosecco is less than half an hour, and then we came over with four glasses of house red to take to the dinner table.  Bit squiffy, to say the least.

We went to the Curzon theatre to see Ukebox, who were as good as we remember.  Brilliant show.  Then making our way to Carmen’s for the Valentine’s Ball we were stopped by Michael Mullane, the Cruise Director (or whatever his title is these days).  Ended up chatting to him for a good 40 minutes or so, mostly about P&O standards, past and present – very interesting to hear the views of a company man.

As a result of chatting, we never made it to the Ball, just had a nightcap in Anderson’s before turning in.  Clocks go back in the middle of the night so we get an extra hour’s sleep – hooray!

 

Wednesday 15th February – Semerang, Java, Indonesia

Temperature today = 28oC.  And our first serious tropical storm of the cruise!

Many congratulations today to George’s brother Ernie and his wife Joyce, who are celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.  George managed to phone them briefly late this afternoon, so all is good.

We were very late arriving in Semerang.  The approach channel is narrow and very shallow, so conditions have to be just right, and unfortunately in the early hours the wind picked up and we had to hold offshore for two hours.  It made everything later than planned, including our tour.  But when we finally got away, we travelled in a convoy of four coaches with a police escort to get us through the bonkers traffic in Semerang.

Our first stop was at Gereja Blenduk protestant church, where we should have been greeted by a choir – but there was no sign of them.  It’s a public holiday here today, so perhaps that’s the reason.  So we continued on to our next stop, which was at a large shopping mall: this as much like any mall anywhere in the world, and with no knowledge of the local currency/exchange rates we had no interest in buying anything.  If we want a Big Mac or products from Body Shop we can buy them in Hereford!

Onwards to our third stop at a Chinese temple, which was quite beautiful (the golden Buddha was lovely), and then we had a 40-minute or so drive into the mountains to a batik workshop.  Here we had some Japanese-style snacks and drinks and a chance to look at the workshop, and could buy if we saw anything that took our fancy.  Unfortunately while we were here the heavens opened: the storm lasted maybe 20 minutes, and in that time the nearby rice fields flooded and we saw a couple of uprooted rubber trees floating by.  Amazing sights.

By the time we got to our final stop at Sam Poo Kong temple complex the rain had eased to a drizzle, so we were able to take in the amazing buildings and statues here.  All in all, an interesting tour – one of the strangest we’ve ever done, what with the police escort and stretched itinerary.

Before we went in to dinner Angie, Richard, Robin and Rosemary came around for a “cabin warming” drink, which was nice.  We compared notes on our day, and all seem to have had a good experience of this part of Java.  And later we all (bar Rosemary, who was asleep!) met up for the Masquerade’s quiz where we managed to come second again.

George’s hand is still very sore and quite swollen.

 

Thursday 16th February – at sea

Temperature today = 28oC.

Very sticky and a bit overcast today, and when I opened the balcony door the cabin mirrors steamed up – that’s the first time on this cruise that that’s happened.

After I had a swim and we both had a doze on deck we went to the port talk, which today was on Freemantle and Perth.  We weren’t sure what to do here, but have now decided to stay in Freemantle, visit a few of the sights and generally do our own thing.  It seems to be very easy to get around the city.

George said his hand felt a bit easier today, but we strapped his little finger and ring finger together to give them a bit of stability, and he gave the cricket a miss today too, so as not to make it worse.  But he did go to choir practice and I went to Salsa.  However, but late afternoon George decided enough was enough, and took his hand down to meet the nice Cornish doctor.  It was x-rayed and strapped, but the ‘photo’ has to be sent to Southampton for a verdict although the doc doesn’t think anything’s broken.

In the evening we ate al fresco at the Beach House, which was very busy – unlike the Glass House.  We both had a lovely meal without having a starter so we could really enjoy our main and dessert courses without feeling over-stuffed.

Then we raced to the Curzon to see Ukebox again.  They get off tomorrow (real shame), but they got a well-deserved standing ovation tonight.  And we finished with evening with our friends in Masquerades, failing to win more wine.

 

Post 12 – Arrival at Bali

09:45 in the morning of 17th February, at anchor in the bay just off the port of Benoa on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Thursday 16th February – Sea Day

I had another rather restful night but was woken early by our neighbours who seem to think 6:00 is a perfect time to get up while on holiday. Those of you who know about cruising will know the problem of bedside drawers that are very difficult to close without slamming them. Our neighbours don’t appear to even try to close them carefully.

Never mind, perhaps we wake them up when we come to bed late.

The sea is calm and milky green. The sun may be hot and bright, but it is hidden behind the clouds this morning. It was 27° at 7:30 on the balcony, and it is humid once more.

After breakfast Deb decided to have a swim and I lay nearby on a lounger in the early warmth of the day. Once dried and changed, Deb joined me for 30 minutes. There were spits and spots of light rain in the air, but it wasn’t affecting the enjoyment of just relaxing as the ship came to life around us.

It was time for a cup of coffee. We had a date in the theatre to listen to the port talk for Freemantle and Perth. The western port of Freemantle will be our first Australian stop in a few days’ time and we have nothing booked as yet.

When we came out 45 minutes later, we decided to do our own thing and visit a few places in Freemantle, as well as taking the opportunity to do a bit of shopping. If we get really bored we can always take a river boat ride towards Perth to at least take a peek at the city.

Deb strapped up my fingers with a plaster to stop me moving it excessively. The problem is that almost everything I do involves attempting to bend the offending finger. The plaster is just about avoiding me being able to move the knuckle, but is annoying.

At midday the clocks bounced forwards an hour (GMT +8) in readiness for Bali tomorrow. I went to choir practice and had an enjoyable 50 minutes, except for a few painfully high notes in one of the songs (Hallelujah).

As I came out of Carmen’s, Deb arrived for her Salsa class. I trotted off to the ‘Grab and Go’ counter for a sandwich as my lunch, and made my apologies to the cricket group. Poorly finger stopped play.

Deb has just come back from Salsa, and it is nearly 3:00 so time for a cup of tea, and maybe a little cake.

We are eating in the ‘Beach House’ later so maybe an ‘itzy teeny weeny’ snack will be permissible.

My finger is continuing to annoy me, so I gave in and went to see the medical team again. I don’t think I have broken anything, but at least they have a better range of plasters to strap my finger to the adjacent one.

This was an expensive 45 minutes. The doctor’s consultation plus X-rays cost a lot of money to eventually end up with my fingers taped together. The X-Ray isn’t totally clear and it has been sent to Southampton for the experts to take a look, but the local thoughts are that I am just a wimp and a poorly, ickle finger.

The evening did get better.

Our meal in the Beach House was delicious, and we have learnt our lesson from the past about attempting to eat too much. We went straight to the main course and then had a pudding to finish off. I think this is the first time we have ever ordered, and enjoyed, and pudding in the select dining rooms.

We finished eating in time to get to the theatre to listen to ‘Ukebox’ giving their final show. It was brilliant once again and there was a, very deserved, standing ovation at the end.

From the theatre we squeezed our way through the crowds to Masquerade’s for the late night quiz. It should have been hosted by the new entertainment team member (Aaron) who came on in Singapore, but he is still ill and recuperating in his cabin. Meanwhile the existing short-handed team are still working their socks off.

The quiz was actually run by DJ Martin and we did very well except for a round on flags that left us flummoxed.

Who needs more wine anyway?

Aurora is slowly sailing across the Sea of Bali to the port of Benoa on the Indonesian island of Bali. We know that we will be woken early again with the sound of anchors being dropped, and tender boats being launched.

Goodnight.

 

 

Friday 17th February – Benoa, Indonesia

As expected, the rumble of chains was our alarm clock at a 6:00. The neighbours did manage to beat the ship noises by a few minutes.

Just like the last few weeks, it is a hot and humid morning.

Last night while Deb was catching up with Facebook, there was a photo of our grandson (Oliver) dressed up in a winter jacket and a hat. It reminded me that we are living a dream of a warm winter while you have to put up with the usual damp and cold British climate.

The ship is busy with passengers getting ready to go on tours. The buffet is full of tired people eating their breakfast while also sorting out picnics to take ashore. We are in no hurry as we have no plans to leave Aurora today.

With breakfast over, Deb put a load in a washing machine and then we both changed and went for a swim. This was my first venture into the water on the cruise, and I think it is the first time for many months.

I might be able to walk quite happily, and even play cricket contentedly for an hour, but the swimming left me breathless and panting after five minutes. As we learnt when training to be swimming teachers, this is an exercise that really tests and works the body.

My next plan was to have a walk around Promenade Deck but of course the use of tenders has meant the deck is closed off. I haven’t added to my marathon total now for several days. Tomorrow is a sea day so I had better try and get a couple of miles done.

Instead of walking I sat in the Crow’s Nest to do a bit of office work for a few minutes while I look out over the beautiful bay that we are anchored in. There are some clouds at the moment but earlier there was a sensational view of hills (or probably mountains really) in the distance with fluffy layers of cloud part of the way up the tallest one. I can see a stretch of the coastline with the occasional golden sandy beach. In the water there are pleasure boats of all colours and sizes and even a couple of parachutes being pulled by speed boast to give the tourists a thrill.

The island looks green and lush and with very few building more than four or five stories high. Every few minutes an aeroplane comes into land bringing yet more tourists to this Indonesian holiday island.

It is 09:30 and the call for the second batch of tender passengers has just been announced. It is quite a distance to shore and our little orange bumper boats are taking 20 to 30 minutes to make the journey. There was one load taken by a much larger local pleasure craft earlier but I haven’t seen it come back for more yet.

In the port there is a rather exclusive white ‘Regent’ cruise ship that is small enough to dock, but I think a day at anchor is just as spectacular.

Ah, I have just seen that a tropical squall has started. Hopefully it won’t spoil the day for Aurora’s passengers for more than a few minutes.

It is time for me and help Deb with the washing.

Post 11 – Penang to Java

Well, it has been a few days since the last post.

Aurora is sailing slowly from Semarang on the island of Java towards our second Indonesian stop at Bali tomorrow.

We are still having a wonderful time. These are the highlights of the last week or so.

Wednesday 8th February – Sea Day

On the balcony at 7:30 it was already 26°C. It rose to 29° during the day. We continue with the tropical theme and it is sticky again, and there were a couple of moments in the afternoon when we had a bit of a shower.

Deb and I went to a port talk on Semarang (Indonesia) this morning. It was to try and decide if there is a tour suitable for us. In the end we went for a short 4 hour ‘Glimpse of Semarang’ trip to let us see a little of the area around the city.

After a cup of coffee we set off for a walk around the Promenade Deck. Today we did 4 laps plus a bit, and that brings my total so far to 10 miles.

To round off the morning I stared at the sea in the back garden and watched the flying fish again.

At midday the clocks magically shot forward another hour, and we are now at GMT + 7.

By the time we had enjoyed a bit of lunch there was hardly time to catch a breath before Salsa and Cricket increased our pulse rates a little. Of course once they were over it was an excuse for a cup of tea and a scone.

It has been too hot and humid to spend time in the sunshine today, and I have enjoyed just snoozing on the balcony.

The evening entertainment features a concert pianist in the theatre called Tian Jiang, but I think we might go to Carmen’s at 9:30 to watch the Headliners perform the Abba Tribute show called ‘Thank you for the music’. This sector has had a much more varied selection of cabaret acts.

We were showered in time to go to the Individual Quiz in Champion’s and Deb succeeded in winning our first ‘gold sticker’ for the cruise. She managed 19/20 and beat me by just a single point. Yes it was an easy quiz today.

It was dinner time, and I still didn’t feel very hungry. This constant high temperature and high humidity, is sapping my energy, and killing my appetite. I enjoyed a chicken with a Chinese twist salad as a starter, and then picked my way through a Gammon Steak as a main course. I rounded off the meal with a couple of scoops of ice-cream. It sounds like my appetite was quite good, but I never finished any course.

Carmen’s had a technical problem. The Abba tribute show was cancelled, and the girl singer with the favoured Alto singing range, performed her personal portfolio of songs as an alternative show. Deb and I had a rest in the cabin and then went to the Crow’s Nest thinking we would be watching Caravan perform. We found the gang from the dinner table playing Trivial Pursuits so joined in as they struggled to get the final cheeses. It was the usual girls verses boys challenge, but neither were victorious as the pink cheese proved totally illusive.

The clock ticked towards 9:30, so we abandoned the game, and dashed to Masquerade’s. It was time for another quiz hosted by DJ Martin.

This evening the challenge was all about TV Quiz shows, and our team was sensational beating our nearest rivals by 7 points. Another bottle of wine for our virtual cellar.

This was the end of the second sea day as we crossed the Bay of Bengal towards the eastern rime of the Indian Ocean. The captain has promised more of the same weather tomorrow with a warm breeze and sunshine from dawn till dusk.

“Gad Carruthers, it’s hot!”

 

 

Thursday 9th February – Sea Day

We have been at sea for a calendar month today. If I have made any inference that we are not having a good time, then it was purely accidental. This is a sensational way of spending the winter.

Sorry for upsetting anyone at home.

I had a good night’s sleep after changing the pillows around. Better still, I haven’t woken with a stiff neck and a headache.

The weather is as predicted with the balcony at an early morning norm of 27°C. We are on the shaded side of the ship so just imagine how hot the balconies on starboard must become with this wall to wall sunshine. The breeze is also quite obvious as it is coming from the north east quadrant straight onto our balcony from the garden. Talking of the garden, it is a little lumpy but less active than yesterday when there were a few small hills and valleys with several groups of white horses playing in the distance.

After breakfast we spent an hour in the sunshine. It was a little energetic at times retaining towels in the breeze but Deb and I are persisting in attempts to give our pale skins some colour. From sun worship we went for a walk and my total has now reached 11 miles.

I think that I should clarify that we have walked considerably more than 11 miles on the cruise while on our tours, and we do avoid using the lifts for most of our climbs and descents through the decks.

…unlike a high number of other passengers!

It was time for coffee, and we went to the buffet. And yes, we avoided the cakes this morning.

Well, we are heading towards midday, and the clocks are being bumped forward another hour to make us GMT +8. That will set us up for our visit to Penang in Malaysia tomorrow. Sadly it means the post lunch sessions are squeezed once more.

Today at 2:15 the Aurora Choir performed in the theatre and we went along to listen. It was a really good 30 minutes, but I was a little sad knowing that I could have been singing.

Hopefully I will be on stage with them in the next sector.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon avoiding the worst of the heat and enjoying the air-conditioning in our cabin. Deb and I did crawl out to take part in the individual quiz, but that was the total expenditure of energy for the afternoon.

It was the final Formal evening of the sector and we all looked rather splendid at dinner. The menu was a Marco Pierre White special, and it so inspired us that hardly any of us actually chose his dishes.

After eating we went to the theatre to listen to the MacDonald Brothers, and were rather glad we did. Between them the two young men play the piano, accordion, guitar and violin, as well as giving us some really good harmony singing.

From the theatre made our way to Carmen’s for the Ball. We took to the floor for five or six dances and by the end of that I was overheating and out of energy.

It was time for bed. Aurora is moving quite smoothly now across the Straits of Mallaka for an early arrival at the penultimate port of this sector.

We have a tour in the morning when we arrive in Penang, so the alarm was set, although I doubt it will be necessary.

 

 

Friday 10th February – Penang, Malaysia

I was right about not needing the alarm. As Aurora made her final approaches to the busy port of Penang, the noise of the thrusters woke me.

It is hot again, but only around 25°C on the balcony when we finally got out of bed. Later in the day it pushed up towards the later 20s again…and typically, tropically, sticky.

We are parked with a view out over the water towards mainland Malaysia.

Our tour is called ‘Butterflies, Fruit and Spices’ and was due to leave at 8:45 so we had to be in the theatre by 8:30. There was plenty of time for a relaxing breakfast.

One of the regular events at ports is the appearance of the local authorities. Once they have boarded, checked paperwork, and checked for any unsavoury characters such as former Spice Girls, the officials are let loose on the buffet for breakfast. Many are prepared for this and make the most of the delights on offer, but sometimes you wonder if they have been given some bad advice about the food on offer.

Today for instance I noticed one of the men with a croissant. He initially folded it over and then spooned a little pot of Marmite over one side. This was followed by a dollop of butter and rounded off with a pot of marmalade. I couldn’t look away as he squeezed the croissant together and took a bite. Initially there was a slight glint of surprise in his eyes and a concerned stare at what he was eating. It may have been a pleasant surprise, but I think it was more a shock at the taste explosion in his mouth. He continued eating this newly discovered delicacy but the look on his face suggested he just wanted to get it swallowed and forgotten. I wonder who suggested the tried this unusual breakfast treat?

We returned to the cabin and got ourselves ready for the morning out in Penang.

The tour was superb. OK, it was tiring from standing, or walking for around three hours. Firstly the spice trail in a rain forest tested our climbing skills as the enthusiastic guide described the different plants to us. By the time we got back on the coach we were already 15 minutes late.

The next stop was a fruit farm where we had another excited farmer filling our heads with the names of fruits. His descriptions and obvious passion for the sweet and juicy fruit showed that this was more than a job to him. The visit was rounded off with a tasting session of freshly prepared fruit drinks plus a buffet of pineapple, mango, melon, as well as sweet treats that I did not recognise, but which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Back on the coach again and we were almost an hour late now.

The final stop was a butterfly centre. Oh, this was sensational.

There were butterflies of all colours and sizes ranging from what we see in Britain through to some the size of a tea-plate. Alongside the beautiful insects flying freely around the flowers, there were lizards, snakes, birds, fish, strange flat horseshoe crabs and various creepy crawlies to keep my camera busy. We were told we only had thirty minutes here, but by the time we had bought a souvenir, we were a further ten minutes late.

The return journey to the ship was a chance to snooze (if wives allowed) while the guide, Ronny, described and explained more about his home. He also told jokes, and they were new to us, although I did miss the last one while I got away with shutting my eyes…for a moment.

Back on Aurora we dashed up to the buffet to get something to eat. It was 2:30 and our trip had been longer than we anticipated, but it really was very good.

After eating, we went to reception to find out when we are moving from our current cabin to the new one. No-one seemed to know, or to care, but after standing our ground at the deck for long enough, we discovered we are moving on the first day in Singapore and Sunday. Of course this means we have to make an effort at packing tomorrow as we make our way south towards our next stop.

We also found our cabin steward and to be sure he knew we were leaving on Sunday morning. He was still unsure of how many of his cabins will be changing occupants, so our little bit of warning was welcomed. He suggested that we might be lucky and find our new cabin will be ready during the morning on Sunday. He will have ours ready by 10:00 for new passengers, and other stewards will be attempting similar time-scales.

This evening Maurice Grumbleweed was performing his final show in the theatre, and if we are enthusiastic enough, there is a tropical deck party out on the decks later. Aurora will not be leaving port until after 10:00 tonight, so it may not be as breezy as it usually gets for these parties.

Well we were alone on the dinner table with the two ladies that joined us in Dubai. They are far chattier than when we first met, but now it is almost time to say goodbye to them as they leave in Singapore. Our late return with a mid-afternoon snack in the buffet meant neither of us was hungry. We both decided on a bowl of soup, followed by a starter for our dinner….plus some ice-cream of course.

As we wandered back towards our cabin there was a tap on my shoulder from Richard. He was tempting us into Masquerade’s for the early evening quiz. We were actually very successful with 18/20 but another team beat us by one point. The four of us agreed to meet up later for the deck party.

The theatre show from Maurice Grumbleweed was a lovely, and amusing, 45 minutes. From there we went up to the Riviera deck and our dinner table six camped at a table for an evening together. It was a really fun evening and we all danced and laughed.

The captain interrupted procedures for a moment to announce we were leaving Penang. He also described a change of plans. Aurora would be arriving in Singapore at midnight tomorrow rather than the following morning. It means we will have two nights in port allowing an early getaway for some on the Sunday morning.

Aurora gracefully turned around in the harbour area before setting off down the Mallaka Straits again for a gentle 26 hour journey to the Island of Singapore. On Sunday and Monday some 800 or so of the ship’s passengers will be going home, and replaced by a similar number for the third sector.

Our dancing resumed and DJ Martin was so happy having a really happy group of people dancing to his music.

…then it began to rain

Well we discovered the suddenness and heaviness of tropical rain for the first time. It persisted for half an hour and that was enough to convince our little gang, and many others, to call it a night.

It reminded me that the first truly delightful tropical deck party we had in 2012 ended in a similar fashion. On that evening as we neared the Caribbean, the DJ played a series of songs about rain, and many people attempted to stay in the mood until their clothes were soaked through.

…memories!

Good night.

 

 

Saturday 11th February – Sea Day

We woke to a cloudy morning. Within a few minutes while we drank our morning cuppa, it was raining. I moved my trainers away from the edge of the balcony, and it was the usual hot and sticky tropical morning.

Breakfast was a quiet affair with few people up and around at 8:00 in the morning. There was another reminder of five years ago with plastic buckets strategically positioned to catch the rain water that has collected in the rood space of the buffet.

As well as having some fun, our plans for the day include a degree of packing away our clothes and belongings. We don’t have to put everything in suitcases, as they will move our hanging clothes as they are. We will have to restore the original hangers in the wardrobe of course, and that may take some time to achieve.

At 9:00 we were up in the Crow’s Nest with high numbers of ships in view. We were warned that the Straits of Mallaka is one of the world’s busiest waterways.

..it has stopped raining.

At one point during the morning, while enjoying the breeze on the balcony, I spotted 35 ships (just on Port side). Amongst them was one tiny fishing boat that was nowhere near as big as one of Aurora’s lifeboats. It was working in the middle of this maritime M25, oblivious of the mayhem all around it with vast ships carrying oil, cars, liquid gas, dry good, and thousands of metal containers going in both directions, carrying vast amounts of something to fuel the lust of mankind for MORE!

Late in the morning it was apparent that out cabin air conditioning had failed. I reported it, but was told to wait for 30 minutes to stabilise after having the balcony door open. After lunch I reported it again and they promised to send the ‘ventilation’ man. During the afternoon the temperature actually rose to 28°C inside the cabin. This was only 1 degree lower than outside on the balcony. It took until almost 5:00 before the engineer came to tell us it was working again. It had actually been all of the forward end of C Deck that had been affected.

I had a chance to play cricket again. It was a match between those who were leaving and those who were staying n Aurora beyond Singapore. The ‘remainers’ were victorious, but the tempers were a little heated as the banter went further than usual.

At dinner we had a chance to say goodbye to out temporary lady visitors, and also to Cyrus the assistant waiter who is going home tomorrow. There is a chance than no-one will be going to dinner tomorrow because of our various tours.

After dinner we packed away the bulk of our bits and pieces in the cabin in readiness for our move tomorrow. We are hoping to move between 9:00 and 10:00 and will hopefully be in our new cabin by then.

We didn’t bother with the entertainment on offer during the evening. Instead we played trivial pursuits with Angie and Richard before the six regulars joined up for a quiz at 9:30. It was themed on the Best of British and we were very successful…and beaten by just one point.

It was time for bed. Aurora was already making her final approaches to Singapore at 11:00 and although we went to sleep almost straight away, we were woken by the docking procedures at midnight. There was a very well placed floodlight shining into our window so we had to pull the curtains properly tonight.

Of course, by now I was wide awake and sleep became illusive again.

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Sunday 12th February – Singapore

We were awake by just after 7:00. Tea was made and pills consumed. The bulk of our bits and pieces were packed away and we made our way to breakfast at 7:30.

It is a strange morning with a lot of people in tidy clothes in readiness to leave the ship, while others were in their usual scruffs, and staying aboard.

By a little after 8:00 were had camped in the Crow’s Nest and listened to the announcements for disembarkation and immigration processes.

By 10:00 we had moved to our new cabin…and by 11:00 we actually had keys that worked. It then took until midday to pack away our clothes and bits, but at least we now have more room to store things away in.

We had our lunch quite early and then prepared ourselves for the afternoon tour. We were off to Raffles for afternoon tea plus a bit of a historical show around the city of Singapore.

OK, so the Raffles Hotel is a special place, and the afternoon tea was quite outstanding, but the service left a lot to be desired. It took three attempts to get some milk, and nearly twenty minutes for the Singapore Slings to arrive. They cost about £20 a glass, and I expect faster service at that sort of price.

We looked around the hotel as well, and even checked out the souvenir shop to find something as a memory. Unfortunately the prices were worse for souvenirs than the drinks. At about £14 for a fridge magnet we decided to save our money.

We couldn’t really enjoy the surroundings too much as we had the second almighty tropical shower that sent everyone under cover.

Eventually we re-joined our coach and had a tour of the city plus a walk and look at the area where Mr Raffles actually landed on the island. The city has expanded greatly since then. That original landing site is now a long, long, way from the sea.

The city has certainly got a vast array of different styles of architecture. The older colonial buildings have been preserved and modernised, and other Dutch style buildings are also kept, to maintain the history. Alongside all of the history there are skyscrapers, but many are imaginative, and few seem to have any straight lines. It is quite a pleasure to look at the way the city has developed.

The coach took us back to Aurora and we were exhausted from the humidity. We decided to give dinner a miss, and simply had a snack in the buffet to keep us going.

The ship is full of new people going the wrong way in search of their cabins and restaurants. We try to help them, but many are just too stubborn to listen.

Deb put a load of washing on while a machine was free. This will get our wardrobe full with clean clothes to last us another couple of weeks. In the meantime I had a shower to freshen up my body from the walk in the tropics. I am not sure if we will do anything else tonight. There is only the local Folk Laureate show in the theatre and that means putting some clothes on. Maybe we will just relax in the cabin and have an early night.

Tomorrow we have another tour. This time it is early in the morning, and we are going to the Botanical Gardens.

 

 

Monday 13th February – Singapore Day 2

Hey, we had a very good night’s sleep. It was quiet, cool, and somehow the bed and pillows felt more comfortable.

We were awake just after 7:00 and set ourselves up for the day with a cup of tea.

The buffet was busy, with a lot of strangers trying to feel at home on Aurora. We were welcomed by a cheery waiter bringing pots of tea and coffee. It’s feels good to be a local.

Our tour was due to begin at 9:15 but with the possible delays having to go through Singapore immigration again, we set of a little after 8:30. Of course we were in the departure lounge in less than 10 minutes with ages to wait for the coach.

At least one couple were less successful getting through the immigration process, and we eventually set off 15 minutes late.

The first stage of our tour was at the Botanical Gardens to look at the Orchid collection. Wow, it was spectacular. Unlike Britain, or Hawaii where we have seen collections, they have been housed ij special greenhouses, but not here. They were growing and flowering in their natural tropical climate, and it was a glorious display of colours, shapes and sizes.

From the beautiful gardens we had a narrated trip through the colonial area of the city before stopping to look at the waterside developments area. Our guide (Peggy) was so knowledgeable about her home and the humour she was able to bring into the tour made it very special. Onwards again and our final stop was in China Town. It was meant to be a chance to look at the earliest Mosque, and earliest Buddhist Temple, but we went walkabout amongst the stalls looking for souvenirs.

BY the time we headed back to the coach our stash of Singapore dollars was spent, and 12 US dollars were also parted with to get what we wanted. Alright, so we bought one of those cats that wave their arm.

As we arrived back at the cruise terminal, it allowed us to sample a tropical rain storm again. Fortunately we were already under cover as we got back onto Aurora. It was 1:00 so we trotted quickly to get some lunch, before unpacking our treasures and putting things away.

Across on the other side of the terminal there is a Royal Caribbean ship just beginning to let her new passengers board.  It is the ‘Mariner of the Seas’ and very similar in size to Aurora. I suspect we will both be leaving at a similar time this evening.

I did try having a few minutes on the balcony in the warm sunshine, but the rain came again. It is no surprise really. We are just over one degree north of the equator, and this is the monsoon season. At least the rain is warm.

Casual dress code tonight, and I think the six of us will be at the dinner table to check out our new people. I suspect we will be going to the theatre tonight to watch the Headliners show, but maybe a late night quiz will bring the table quizzers together again.

Our departure from Singapore was delayed for over an hour because a number of people didn’t return their passports. I will be polite and say that they must have missed the continued requests, and but I think it was more because of several stubborn ignorant people. The Singapore authorities won’t let a ship leave until they can see with their own eyes that all passengers are back on the ship, and passports are safely locked away.

Many of us would have preferred the ship to name and shame the worst of the offenders, who refused to comply for over an hour.

Well, the new people at the dinner table turned out to be a couple who had simply requested a change of dinner time. Hence it wasn’t the surprise that we were expecting. As we sat and introduced ourselves Aurora was finally leaving Singapore. It is a beautiful city with so many historical buildings hidden away below glass and glitzy skyscrapers. As I said earlier, the architects seem to have thrown away rulers and set-squares and slopes, wavy lines, and non-symmetry appears to be the normal. Of course they have made mistakes. They copies two segments of the Sydney Opera house as stand-alone buildings, but the excess of glass created ovens that people couldn’t survive in. They overcame the problem by engineers coming up with metal segments that cover the outside of the glass buildings like the shell of an armadillo. They look nothing like the Sydney Opera House, but are iconic buildings in their own right.

Anyway, with dinner over, and after getting to know the new people a little, we went our separate ways. First an early evening quiz, that we won, and then onwards to the theatre for the Headliner’s ‘Modern Romantics’ show. This was excellent, and only the second time we have seen it.

The captain promised a change in the sea conditions and he wasn’t fibbing. Aurora is bumping and thumping around in seas described as ‘Moderate’ and a wind that he suggested would be a Force 4. There is a low pressure system nearby that we are sailing along the southern edge of. This will be with us for a while.

After our trip to the theatre, five of the dinner six met up in Masquerade’s for the late evening quiz. Rosemary is not feeling well again. This Flu virus is a persistent little devil. The quiz was from DJ Martin and quite a good test for everyone. We failed this time, but we were very close.

It was bedtime, and our first in our new bedroom while actually sailing. It was going to be a bumpy night, but I had taken a little white pill and felt quite confident of a good night’s sleep.

 

 

Tuesday 14th February – Sea Day

I had a very comfortable (if a little noisy at times) night, and slept very well. There is nowhere near the same level of noise as we had from the balcony door in our previous cabin.  I do hope the new occupants are not disappointed.

During the night we crossed the equator and are now sailing south east towards our next stop at Semarang in Indonesia tomorrow.

It is raining. The wind is walloping into Aurora at a Force 6 or 7 and the sea is distinctly angry with the ship for daring to cross the magic line without permission from the Gods.

The rain is tropical and is bouncing off the open decks. To get to breakfast we had to paddle. The only positive note is that the temperature is in the mid-20s at 8:00 in the morning.

It is Valentine’s Day. And no, I have not bought a card or several very expensive roses for Deb. She is the love of my life and we have never had to sink to the commercial depths of this celebration.

In fact the captain sent every cabin a single red rose.

After breakfast we went to the office to catch up on diaries and journals, and I intend to go online later today to tell the world where we are.

At 10:00 we have a Port talk on Bali where we had such a strange and disappointing day five years ago. This time we have a tour booked to take away the hassle of shuttle bus issues that began a day when 1500 of Aurora’s passengers were stranded on this beautiful, but rather lonely island for over six hours.

After the talk we cancelled the tour we had booked for Bali. It wasn’t right for us. Worse still we couldn’t see anything that interested us enough to put up with 45 minutes each way on a tender plus a minimum of six hours driving or walking around the island. That day will be a simple ‘stay at home’ day.

Later today there is the ‘Crossing the Line’ ceremony around the pool. Hopefully the weather will have changed before this afternoon, or that will be a wash out.

There is another chance for me to join the Aurora Choir at lunchtime, and both Salsa and Cricket is back on if we want to take on the exercise.

Tonight we have ‘Ukebox’ in the theatre. We saw these five guys playing Ukuleles on Oriana in September and they were a breath of fresh air compared to the usual abundance of vocalists. There are also some new people on board giving talks as well. A lady historian (Jane Robinson) is going to talk about successful women, another person (Clive Catchpole) is going to talk about the wildlife of this area of the world. Finally Martin Roberts (Homes under the hammer) is obviously going to talk about his life in house buying, as well as his television programme and an appearance on ‘I’m a Celebrity…’

There is a young couple who are classical musicians with the man playing the trumpet alongside his wife on the piano…interesting mix!

I believe there is also another comedian to cheer us up as well.

The ship now has a large number of people talking with that so recognisable Australian accent. They are such lovely people, and a joy to meet, but they really do speak very loudly when having a private chat with their country mates.

Well, it is 9:20 and I think the rain has subsided a little. Aurora is travelling very fast to presumably try and escape this bad weather.

By late morning the weather had indeed brightened up and the sunshine was becoming hot again.

After a quick lunch I went to the choir and thoroughly enjoyed myself, even if a few of the notes are stretching my voice a little.

Deb and I abandoned the ’Crossing the Line’ ceremony, and while Deb enjoyed a Salsa session, I had a game of cricket. Goodness it has become hot, and at the moment it is not the humid tropical heat that we have had recently.

There was a letter warning us that tomorrow’s trip in Semarang has been extended by over an hour to include new places to visit, plus some refreshments. There doesn’t appear to have been a price rise either. So what we lost of the 10% penalty for cancelling Bali has been made back on a longer trip in Semarang.

After a mid-afternoon cup of tea, we had a laze on the cool balcony before our showers. Tonight is a formal dress code evening with the ‘Welcome on board’ cocktail party.

We will be in the theatre after dinner, and there is no late evening quiz. Instead there is a version of Mr and Mrs in Masquerade’s. We did this a couple of cruises ago and I think we have done our bit with that particular gameshow.

The cocktail party was a real hoot. We met up with Angie and Richard and in 30 minutes succeeded in consuming far too many glasses of ‘fizz’ and even left with full glasses of red wine each for the dinner table. I was slightly inebriated….no very inebriated.

After dinner the visit to the theatre was a success. Ukebox were brilliant. Yes it is the same act as we saw in September, but it is still different to so much that turns up on the stage. Our dinner table mates also agreed that it was a really good show. After 45 minutes in the theatre headed for Carmen’s for a dance, but on the way we said good evening to Mike Mullane (entertainment boss). We had a candid chat in the corridor, and we expressed our concerns about the lack of entertainment hosts, the abundance of vocalists, and stated our disappointment that Café Bordeaux was changed to the Glass House, and stands virtually empty all day every day. We did eventually get to Carmen’s but decided to give dancing a miss and went for a late night drink in Anderson’s.

It was a late bedtime and Aurora was only a few hours away from an early morning rendezvous with the pilot to assist us into the port of Semarang for a 7:00 arrival.

 

 

Wednesday 15th February – Semarang, Indonesia

I woke during the night with a hangover. I also had a very sore little finger where I caught a ball very awkwardly in the cricket yesterday. The clocks went back an hour (GMT +7) during the night even though we have sailed further east that Singapore.

Just before 7:00 I switched off the alarm clock and put the kettle on. A quick glance through the curtains told me we were nowhere near our port, and Aurora was going extremely slowly. The captain had warned us that conditions needed to be just right to get us safely into this port where the approach channel is shallow and narrow. Any wind would make it hazardous, and it looked like we were struggling.

Well, we were very late arriving, and all the tours were set back by an hour.

We set off on our coach for ‘Semarang at a glance’ with a police car at the front of the four coaches on this same tour. Even with the Police escort the journey was sometimes a nightmare with the vast numbers of motorbikes and cars with drivers who seem to have no appreciation of what other road users are doing around them.

Anyway our trip wound its way around the island of Java for five and a half hours. We visited a Roman Catholic Church that was built by the Dutch and is now used by Protestants as well. From there we went to a massive Mall to shop for 45 minutes. We didn’t buy anything, and the lack of bags suggested we were not the only ones to keep hold of our money.

Then we had a Buddhist temple complex that was stunning. The food was interesting to say the least. Sadly our arrival coincided with a tropical storm that dumped thousands of gallons of rain on us for the next hour. Look around the factory was less than inspirational, and it preceded a mad dash to the coaches which left everyone wet, and many soaked to the skin.

Off we went again and it was to another temple complex that was even more spectacular than the first one.

Semarang is a beautiful place to visit with lots of older colonial style buildings. It also has a high number of churches and temples to reflect a very religious nation. Sadly like our experiences in India, it is not the cleanest of places we have visited, and there are a very high number of poorer people who exist while others nearby are living a very good lifestyle.

The island of Java really suffers from its tropical weather. The monsoon rains in the higher parts of the island cause floods and landslides that regularly damage the road infrastructure. More importantly the floods wash away the soil at the lower coastal areas and the port of Semarang is getting significantly lower every year. The only solution is to plant Teak trees with root structures that will stabilise the soil, but they grow very slowly. There doesn’t appear to be any quick fix available to the people of this island.

As we left this final temple called ‘Sam Poo Kong’ we thought we had finished for the day, but our guide said we were going to a museum now. Several of us questioned this, and eventually our coach broke away from the convoy and headed back to the dockside and Aurora. We were exhausted, and a lot of wet clothes needed to be dried.

For the first time today the mobile phone was used. It was the Golden Wedding Anniversary of my brother Ernest, and his wife Joyce. It was only a short call to wish them the best, and to let them know that we were both thinking of them on this very special day.

It was another first this evening as we had invited our dinner table mates around for a pre-dinner drink. It was a chance to get through some of the wine we have won over the last couple of weeks. The plan was to use our balcony, but we had another tropical shower making it a soggy out of bounds area.

Better luck next time!

Richard and Angie are eating in the Beach House tonight, and we are going there tomorrow. Hence our dinner table will be shorthanded for a couple of nights.

Aurora was late leaving the port because of a seriously delayed tour, but at around 6:30 she let go her ropes and setoff for a day at sea before arriving in Bali on Friday morning.

There is nothing on in the theatre of Carmen’s to interest us this evening. There is a female singer (Helen Ward-Jackson) giving an Adele tribute show in Carmen’s, and Monique Montez at the other end of the ship giving us yet more singing.

Instead we are all meeting up at 9:30 for the late evening mind boggling in Masquerade’s with a challenge from Coral that appears to be about literature. We lost by a couple of points, but kept up our proud record of doing very well.

Deb and I said goodnight to our friends and made our way to bed. Sadly one of the major things on my mind was a very sore little finger. It won’t affect my singing tomorrow lunchtime (clocks go forward again to GMT +8) but it might mean having to give cricket a miss.