Post 30 -Sea Day and San Diego

Wednesday 29th March – Sea Day to San Diego

Slightly later getting up this morning. Our new neighbours are not up quite as early as the previous ones, so less drawer banging as an early morning alarm clock.

The sun is shining, but with a chilly wind, it is not warm. The temperature  never rose above 17° and the Riviera Pool wasn’t overly popular… except for the mayor and mayoress.

It is the beginning of the last sector, and we are going to do as much as possible over the next three weeks. That means a congested morning programme.

10:00 – Port Talk on Puerto Quetzal in Guatamala

11:00 – Dance instruction covering the Cha Cha Cha

12:00 – Battle of the Sexes where Deb was made captain of the ladies

12:30 – Choir Practice

Lunch to fit in with our schedule

14:00 – Deb went to Salsa

15:00 – Part 2 of Cha Cha Cha dance class

16:00 – Afternoon Tea followed by a rest

On a side note we have discovered that DJ Martin has now found out that we are posting regular Blogs and so has read the comments I have made about Cricket.  Sorry but these are my views that I am expressing based on many years of playing the game on P&O ships.

It is a Formal Evening so after the rest, it was shower time, and then putting on the traditional evening clothes. Of course it is also the Welcome on Board cocktail party and we rebelled about always having to go to Carmen’s. It is darker and busier than the Crow’s Nest party at the same time, so we went up to the top of the ship instead. It was so much better with room to stand and chat and plenty of daylight to look around.

The Captain has a cold and sounds quite poorly as he made his speech. It’s good to know the ship’s crew also catch the bugs that float around this vessel.

All six of us returned to the dinner table after two nights away. We have new guests in the spare seats. They joined in San Francisco and now have the difficult task of being accepted by us. Hopefully they will soon be brought into our little friendly group…but not the quiz team.

The entertainment tonight was Zoe Tyler singing in the theatre, and a Ball in Carmen’s. There was also a new classical duo (Sfordzandi) with a concert in the cinema.

We were quite tipsy after the wine and obviously didn’t go to theatre. We met up with Richard and Angie for trivial pursuits and the late quiz in Masquerade’s before having an early night.

Well, it had been a busy day.

Thursday 30th March – San Diego, USA

I was woken by the strange noise that appeared to be a Police Siren. There was no way of getting to the balcony to see what it was, but I suspect it was the coastguards emphasising their power. The sun is shining and the sky is blue.

We got up early as we are having a tour today that leaves before 9:00.

The view from our balcony was a little strange. Our berth allows us a view of some ships that are a part of the San Diego Maritime Museum. Square rigged vessels sit side by side with a paddle steamer called the ‘Berkley’ that helped rescue people after the San Francisco earth quake in the early 1900s. There was a rusting, but still menacing, Russian submarine plus an American one accompanied by various other boats.

Aurora has almost become a temporary exhibit, as beyond us on the starboard side is the retired US Aircraft Carrier ‘Midway’.

Also from our balcony we can see the airport in the distance and watched planes arriving and departing every few minutes during the day.

San Diego, is the most southern city in California and just a 100 miles of so from the Mexican Border. It has its share of sky scraper officer blocks and some amazingly vast and beautiful modern hotel complexes. It also has a lot of history, and our guide told us lots and lots of stories as she described the city’s buildings and parks. This lady was proud to say she was 81 years old and a lifelong San Diego resident.

Once we had moved away from the dockside our first stop was a car park adjacent to the ‘Midway’ carrier. This ship is gigantic and a major attraction to visitors wanting a really unusual experience. Not for us today, but we did get a photo opportunity and a chance to look at a huge statue of a sailor holding and kissing a girl. Just to the side of this colourful statue was a small garden with more statues (bronze this time) of Bob Hope at a microphone with a group of sailors positioned around him. It has a recording playing of a few minutes from a concert he made to sailors in the war. The Americans are really good at this type of display.

Back on the coach we passed by a few of the enormous hotels, the city’s convention centre, and office blocks of course. Then we drove along a street that is known as the Gas Light (or is it Gas Lamp) district. This has many of the original, and lower, buildings. We now Wyatt Herp’s hotel pointed out to us, and stories of how the city was developed and one about a stray dog that acquired a severe drinking problem in the bars where he was given beer by the locals.

After this street drive we went to the old ferry terminal which has been developed into a small park with a few little shops and cafés for locals and visitors to enjoy. Unfortunately we were too early and hardly anything was open. There was a good view out over the harbour area.

Our next highlight was the city park which doubles up as a major complex of museums. There are sports halls, an outdoor music venue with the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ. It is a beautiful place with trees from all over the world to tickle the visual senses alongside the cultural venues or athletic opportunities. Sadly we didn’t stop here but the coach did drive slowly enough to see how good it is.

The morning was moving on and there was a further drive session as we went long the waterside and beaches with a lot of history of how it was developed. Our guide was name-dropping throughout the morning, and some of the information sunk into my mind, but much of it came into one ear, and then rushed out the other.

A combination of an excited guide, and a newish driver now resulted in us going along a series of roads and avenues to get to our final stop. We were not lost, but certainly spent quite some time in residential areas. We went along one avenue with side roads alphabetically named after trees. Hence we had Ash, Beech etc. It was quite fun to guess and then discover what the next tree would be. Sadly they couldn’t find anything for ‘V’ and gave up with ‘Walnut’.

…meanwhile the guide had rambled on about something that neither Deb nor I absorbed.

Finally we reached a highlight called ‘The Old Town’. We had no idea what it was going to be and quite surprised by a reconstruction of an ‘Old Town’ reflecting how the original settlers of San Diego had lived.

It was a lot like a cowboy town from Hollywood film sets. Most of the building s were old shells to house modern souvenir shops, but several were little museums depicting a restaurant, Wells Fargo office (complete with stagecoach), the jailhouse and so on. It was really rather nice and easily occupied the hour that we had there. We could have done with more time, but to be fair, many of the shops were selling Mexican style items, and we are going there next, and suspect the prices might be cheaper than in this expensive US city.

The trip was over and we were back on Aurora by 1:00. It was time for lunch and although we had plans to go out again, it would have only been to visit the shopping mall. Our shopping list is still active, but nothing is urgent. We relaxed instead.

San Diego has been another wonderful visit. In fact all three of the American ports have been superb and with delightful weather we are all smiling again.

The evening entertainment was a male saxophone/piano player that didn’t appeal so we quizzed again and even got very close to the top in the syndicate challenge. We have two new entertainment hosts on the ship and they are appearing occasionally to gain experience of the different activities. They are really brand new to the job and still very much apprentices, meaning having one of the experienced hosts alongside them. It will be some time before they actually become active on their own.

Tomorrow is another sea day as we sail further down the western coast of North America. On Saturday we will be arriving in Mexico and another new country to put onto our list of worldwide experiences.

Deb’s cruise diary – March 29-30

Wednesday 29th March – at sea

Temperature today = 16oC

Another port talk this morning (Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala), with loads of new faces milling about the ship.  We went straight from the talk to Carmen’s to check out the dance class, which was the start of four chachacha lessons.  Although we can dance chacha (after a fashion!) we thought we’d give it a go as it’s always useful to revisit the basic moves.

The dancing took us up to midday, and while George went to choir I made my way to the Battle of the Sexes – where I discovered that in my absence I’d been volunteered to be captain!  Ah well, in for a penny…  At least the ladies won today, so I’m off to a good start.

Jake is taking the salsa classes on this leg of the cruise, which is a bit confusing as I keep trying to go into Kemal’s routine!  Good fun all round though.  George is giving cricket a miss for a few days as his knees haven’t really recovered from our trek up the crater in Hawaii, so we went to chacha class number two – not much of a rest then!

The six of us gatecrashed the ‘welcome on board’ drinks in the Crow’s Nest, which is much nicer than going to Carmen’s for it.  And it’s easier to get served there, too!  Then we discovered we have two new faces on our table, which could be interesting, but we met up again later for the Masquerades quiz before having an early night.

 

Thursday 30th March – San Diego, California, USA

Temperature today = 19oC

Our cabin had a lovely view of the old ships docked alongside the Maritime Museum at the next pier along, so no container port nearby today!  And we woke to a letter from Jacky at the Loyalty desk confirming our booking for the trip up the Amazon in two years’ time, so all is good.

On a ‘highlights’ tour this morning, with Robin and Rosemary, which began with a stop at the USS Midway Museum park.  Never seen an aircraft carrier up close before!  And there’s a couple of very interesting statues in the park itself – the first is a giant (maybe 20 feet tall) reconstruction of the famous photo of an American seaman kissing a girl on VJ day.   The second statue is a life-sized bronze of Bob Hope performing to troops on board the carrier.  There’s a recording of the show playing quietly in the background, and statues of around 20 servicemen watching, cheering and applauding.  There’s even blocks for us the visitors to ‘install’ ourselves and be part of the ‘audience’!

Leaving there we drove through the Gaslamp Quarter, which back in the day was pretty salubrious, full of bars, gambling dens and brothels.  Today it’s mostly restaurants and high-end shops.  We were heading for Balboa Park, which is so huge they run guided tours around it, and one of the national highways cuts it in two.  We didn’t stop here, but slowed to look at the variety of trees and shrubs, and just a few of the museums and public facility buildings that are here.  Massive place, it would be easy to spend a week here without seeing anything twice.

Our coach now crossed the Coronado Bridge to Coronado Island where we had a half-hour stop to have a look at the old ferry terminal area.  We had time to grab a coffee, too, before driving back to the mainland where we got lost as our driver tried to avoid all the various roadworks going on!  But eventually we arrived at our final destination – St Diego Old Town.  This was wonderful, another place we could have spent all day at.  It’s like walking onto the set of a Wild West film, brilliantly done.  All the buildings have been restored (or rebuilt in some cases), and are now shops, restaurants and small museums.  It’s a fascinating place, especially the museums which are each dedicated to one particular aspect of frontier life – Wells Fargo postal service was one, there was a replica of the first ‘food joint’ – ie, restaurant – in another, a saddler’s workshop, the town courtroom and jail, and so on.  And through an archway was another area, on the same lines but this time with a much more Mexican feel.  We thought it was brilliant, would love to go there again.

Our tour was over and we returned to the ship where I managed to get the latest load of washing done and we caught up with emails and general paperwork.  We also went down to the Loyalty desk and paid the deposit on the Amazon cruise.  Yippee!

Deb’s cruise diary – March 27-28

Monday 27th March – San Francisco, USA

Temperature today = 15oC

Pretty grotty night’s sleep, but at least we were up in time to see our sail into San Francisco Bay.  When we arrived here last time it was still dark as we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, but this morning it was bathed in sunlight, and we docked with a clear view of the Bay Bridge from our balcony.  None of the famous fogs so far!

Straight after breakfast we went back to the Loyalty Desk, where we discovered that we can’t book this cruise until Thursday.  The girl on the desk tried her best for us, even going into a chatroom with someone from Carnival HQ about it.  Frustrating, but hopefully all will work out.

By 9.00am we were ashore.  We wandered along the Embarcadero to Pier 39, where we went to see the sea-lions basking on the pontoons.  Two appeared to be fighting for the best spot, knocking each other into the sea, while another appeared dead – until he sneezed!  We walked through the Pier, checking out places to eat for this evening, before crossing into the Downtown area where we did a bit of shopping.  Shock horror – I bought TWO dresses!  We were so loaded down with bags that our next stop (after eating the obligatory hotdog) was back on the ship to offload stuff.  We grabbed a cup of tea and a handful of macadamia nuts (thank you Hawaii!), before returning ashore.

We hadn’t been able to decide whether to take a hop-on-hop-off bus ride around the city, or a cruise around SF Bay, but as it happened there was a bus stopped outside the cruise terminal as we left, and someone on the top deck shouted down to us that it was a brilliant ride.  Trusting in him, we boarded – and he was right, it was brilliant.  The bus took us right around the city, with a very good commentary as we went, eventually driving through the Golden Gate Park before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.  My only complaint was that it was friggin’ cold on the top deck as we went over the bridge!

Our tour lasted about 2½ hours, and after showering back at the ship we ventured ashore yet again.  This time we returned to Pier 39 where we’d earlier spotted an Italian restaurant which took our fancy.  I had a pizza and George had an Italian sausage sourdough sandwich.  Neither of us ate everything – we’d forgotten how huge American portions are!

We managed to waddle back to the ship just in time to see the second show by the Flyrights, the Motown group we saw on Thursday.  Not such a good show this time, and to be honest we were too tired to enjoy it.

 

Tuesday 28th March – San Francisco, USA

Temperature today = 17oC

On a tour today, the most expensive tour we’ve ever done.  It was also the most exclusive tour, with only 32 places available, so we were lucky to get tickets.  Angie and Richard had also managed to book onto it, and were already on the coach when we boarded.  We had a trip of about 80 minutes to the Napa Valley wine region, with our guide describing aspects and history of the Californian wine industry, and also what we were seeing as we went along.  We arrived at our destination, where we transferred to the Napa Valley Wine Train.  This is a ten-coach Pullman train, dating from around 1915, which has been renovated to provide observation/wine tasting lounges, two dining cars and an on-board galley.  All the décor is in keeping with the period, including the toilets!

We travelled 36 miles in total, apparently.  The train only went at about 15mph, so we had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the scenery – and no wine was spilled!  We began with a small glass of merlot or chardonnay to welcome us on board, then we had a choice from the wine menu: we picked what they called the Red Flight and the White Flight – three more small glasses of each colour wine, all different and enough to let us know we’d been drinking!  And it still wasn’t midday yet!

We had a plate each of ‘nibbles’ (cheeses, cold meat, honeyed walnuts, bread and fruits) to accompany our wine tastings, but as if that wasn’t enough we were soon called to the dining car for lunch.  We shared a table with Angie and Richard, so we had a good laugh along with our three-course meal (George and I both had the asparagus soup, fillet of beef and carrot cake).  I t was lovely.

We’d travelled through the heart of the Napa Valley wine district, passing many famous vineyards and their acres and acres of grapevines, but all too soon we were arriving back at our station and re-boarding our coach to go back to the ship.  We had a different route from this morning, so having crossed the Golden Gate earlier, this time we crossed the Bay Bridge, which completed a circle for us.  But most people on the coach were asleep, or nearly asleep, so maybe the return trip wasn’t quite so appreciated!

Considering how little effort we had to put in on this tour, we were surprisingly tired by the time we returned ‘home’, so after Muster drill and checking the internet in the port terminal (slow, but free!) we dozed in the cabin for a bit.  We certainly didn’t want dinner, and just grabbed some cheese and biscuits from the buffet before going to the two quizzes in Masquerades to see who was new on board.

Post 29 – San Francisco (continued)

Monday 27th March (continued) San Francisco

As I said in my last post, we had the all clear to go ashore in the magical and amazing US City of San Francisco, and by 10:00 we were bumping along the air-bridge to the terminal. The officials in the terminal were friendly, and pointing us in the right direction through quite a maze. This was not the terminal we had arrived at five years ago, and this Pier 27 looks to be the new first choice for cruise ships.

It was dry and sunny, but we had taken a jumper with us in case the wind proved to be chilly. I felt warm enough, and the extra layer was not needed, but Deb (unusually) felt cooler than I was, and she put on her jumper after we had walked to Pier 39.

For those who don’t know the arrangement in San Francisco, they waterside has a series of berths labelled as Piers. They run as odd numbers from the starting point, at the old Ferry Terminal, in one direction, and even on the other side. We have never investigated the even number side as the bigger cruise ships dock on the area to the Golden Gate side. Aurora was docked at one of the bigger berth numbered as Pier 27. We walked past 29, 31 etc.  and eventually reached Pier 35 where we were docked in 2000.

Adjacent to that pier was the tickets office for the Alcatraz tours that we hoped we could fit in. On this Monday morning we were politely told that the first available tickets were on Saturday. OK, not something we will do then.

We carried on along the busy sidewalk, to the Pier 39 shopping and amusement area. One of the first things that caught our eye was the Alcatraz souvenir shop, so rather than going there we looked around and Deb bought a book about Al Capone. Oh, and there was a fridge magnet of a cable car as well.

Our next stop was an Information booth where we hoped we could find out the location of a couple of shops, which Angie and Richard had recommended. A young man asked if he could help us, and came up trumps with the location of both marked on a map, and they were just ‘blocks’ away.  We continued our walk around the pier and found a possible restaurant for the evening for a change from eating on the ship.

Before we set off to do our shopping, we went and looked at the famous San Francisco Sea-Lions. They were lazing on the pontoons at the side of Pier 39 and had an enormous crown of visitors watching their antics. Most simply lay quietly relaxing in the delightful warm sunshine, but two or three were trying to raise their profile by barking (or honking) at likely beatable opponents and pushing them off the pontoon. The response was for the defeated sea-lion to swim under or around the pontoon and slither back onto it. The two sea-lions then honked and battled again until one or the other was pushed back into the water. This went on for quite a while to the amusement of the watching crowd. It was a wonderful scene to get engrossed in, but we had other things to do.

Back to the streets, and we went in along a street past several ‘blocks’, and as suggested, the shop (Trader Joes) was where the young man suggested. Well the shop wasn’t what we thought it was going to be and was fundamentally a cut price grocery store. At least we found a cheap bottle of Prosecco, and a bar of chocolate. Richard and Angie were also in the shop and they pointed out the other shop (Ross, Dress for less) was just across the street…in the same ‘block’.

This was more like it, and I found a suitable pair of trainers to replace my rather bedraggled cricket ones, and Deb found a pair of dresses at a very reasonable price.

Our shopping list was now down to a few painkilling options for my knees and one or two random bits that have eluded us so far. My knees were at a critical point this morning. My shoe laces came loose, and when I bent down, well actually I knelt on the pavement (sorry sidewalk…I think) I discovered I wasn’t sure I would get back up again. Anyway, we found a sort of pharmacy where I managed to get a different cream for my knees, which hopefully won’t leave a stench of a Sport’s hanging Room’ behind me.

Deb and I were now carrying rucksacks and bags of ‘stuff’ so it was time to stroll back to the ship and store away our purchases. On the way we stopped for a snack, and had a hot dog. Sometimes you have to do things, and eating a hotdog in San Francisco is one of them. With those treats polished off, I spotted some Ghirardelli chocolates that Deb and picked up, and we greedily consumed them as well. I was told this chocolate was not as nice as the European versions, but a wafer thin pillow chocolate, filled with salted caramel convinced me not to listen too much to peoples’ views on American chocolate.

The last task as we walked back was to ask about a Bay Cruise, that was a possible afternoon adventure. There were regular trips around the San Francisco Bay going as far as the Golden Gate Bridge and circling Alcatraz Island. With that stored in our minds, we completed the morning walk and entered into the hands of the US Security officials between us and Aurora.

They asked to see our cards at seemingly every turn and then it was time for the scanner. I failed and had to undergo the polite but thorough hand scan to assure them it was just my hip. Over the two days in this city I became a regular of the hand scanners, along with several other titanium filled pensioners from Britain.

Back in our cabin we unloaded our treasure, and had a drink while we discussed what to do next. My first thoughts were to plaster my knees in the latest potion, and then changed footwear to try out my nice new soft trainers that allowed me something between the sole of my foot and the ground. Well, I have learnt that the US instruction to ‘liberally apply cream to the affected part’ was actually a little over the top. I rubbed the white paste into my knees for over a minute and it would not disperse. Next time I will use the British ‘apply a little…..’.

As we left Aurora, we saw a hop on hop off bus approaching and we asked the saleslady about it. A man on the top deck from Britain said it was wonderful, and we decided to use that for a panoramic view of the city.

OK, it was expensive, but it turned out to be a lovely trip that lasted nearly three hours. We went around the city, and learnt about some of its history, saw the steep streets used to film many Hollywood epics, glimpsed the twisting Lombard Street, and had descriptions of hordes of old and new building that stretched upwards to the blue sky above us. Then we wound our way towards the Golden Gate Bridge plus the vast garden area associated with it. We stopped at various places of course for people to get off or join, but we stayed for the complete journey.

At the Bridge we turned around and the return journey took us along some of the same streets, but also many others. I don’t know how much of the commentary we will remember but it was a lovely way of spending the afternoon just absorbing a small fraction of what San Francisco has, to offer the millions of tourists that have come here.

The bus dropped us off back at the Aurora, at about 5:00.We were hungry but it was too early to have a meal yet. We made do with some Australian potato crisps, and a couple more Ghirardelli chocolates. Having seen free WiFi in the terminal building, we dashed away again in the hopes of making contact with home. Although we managed to get onto FaceBook, we failed to get to anywhere else. Hence we went back via the security scanners again, for the third inspection of the lower limb.

It was time now to eat, so putting on a clean shirt, and swapping my comfortable trainers for a pair of shoes, we set off back to Pier 39 and the Italian Restaurant we spotted earlier. Deb chose a pizza, and I selected an Italian Sausage Sandwich plus fries. We had both forgotten the American portions and both failed to complete our meals. Both rather bloated we walked slowly back to the ship, looking at the busy scene as the dusk brought a different atmosphere to the sidewalks of San Francisco’s Bay area.

The day had been so lovely. We had had some minor disappointments with the weather taking away some of the ‘wow factor’ in Australia and New Zealand, but San Francisco was proving to be delightful. The weather was not hot, but warm enough to allow comfortable strolls without coats. The fog had stayed away, and we had some beautiful views of the Bridges, and Alcatraz Island. And the panoramic trip on the bus had been better than we anticipated.

After a final pat down and hand scan of the foreign body in my thigh, we had a cup of tea to round off our day and it was an early bedtime.

We had been up since our first views of the Golden Gate Bridge just after 7:00 in the morning, and we had not relaxed properly since. There is another day in this city tomorrow, and we are having the most expensive tour of our adventure early in the morning.

 

 

Tuesday 28th March – Day 2 in San Francisco

I woke at about 5:30 with the rising sun just lighting up a clear blue sky. The only thing that I could see in the Californian sky was vapour trails of jets coming and going. Soon the sun began to stream through the curtain gap and I had a warm glow inside with the memories so far, and the anticipation of the day to come.

When I eventually got up to make some tea, I looked out for a better view at the scene in our back garden. It was fantastic with the sun creating gold and diamond sparkles in the water of the Bay. It was so bright that it left the Bay Bridge almost just a silhouette in the distance, and to our right the sky-scrapers were absolutely glowing as the sun said hello to them.

Once again it was not hot, but warm Spring sunshine was enough to avoid the necessity of jumpers. Deb and I were on the quayside and boarding our, rather luxurious, coach just after 8:30. Today we were going to be driven to the Napa Valley where we would board a restored 100 year old train for a very special journey along the wine growing valley. We set off, and the guide gave us a wonderful 90 minute trip from the San Francisco out over the Golden Gate Bridge once more, and then northwards to the valleys where some of the most expensive wines in the world are produced.

We saw San Quentin Penitentiary in the distance, and this was about the only ugly building or landmark we saw. The valley had lush green vegetation that could have been Northern Europe and the climate is also very similar. After about 45 minutes we began to see the grape vines in rows stretching away on both sides of the road for as far as the eye could comfortable see. The vineyard bore the names of famous wines and we realised that this area was responsible for  millions of US Dollars’ worth of red, white, Rose and Sparkling wines enjoyed all over the world.

After about 90 minutes we came into the City of Napa where our coach trip ended. We went into a specially constructed railway terminal to be greeted by smiling staff of the Napa  Valley Wine Train Experience. It was luxurious in the vast lobby area with shops selling high end range of clothing plus souvenirs, and of course, wine.

This was just the start of a wonderful three hours.

The train is over 100 years old and has been restored lovingly to attract passengers that want a truly luxurious experience. It has an old diesel locomotive pulling the ten carriages over the 36 mile journey from Napa to St Helena and back.

Depending on what package you purchase, you get a different lounge to sit in, and for those eating, there is a spacious dining carriage. There is even one carriage called the ‘Champagne Vista Dome’ for those who are really after something very special. We were in the Chardonnay carriage at the front on the outward journey. It has rows of comfortable armchairs on both sides that face the windows and swivel to capture beautiful views of the Napa Valley.

As soon as we had settled into our chairs, the waitress (called a Captain) asked for our choice of a red Merlot or Chardonnay for those who preferred white. Next they ask what wine testing variation we wanted. This consisted of three glasses (small but not tiny) of a selection of white, red, mixed, or sweet wines. To accompany this there was also a tray of cheese, ham, biscuits, fruit, and honey covered salted walnuts that were absolutely delicious. In fact all the food on this tray was delicious to allow the wines to be tested against various nibbles.

Deb and I chose one white, and one red wine selections, giving us a chance to sample six different wines. By the time we sipped and discussed the wines (quite carefully initially), and nibbled the snacks, as well as looking at the sensational views, we were just a little tipsy.

Our guide patrolled up and down answering questions about what we were seeing, and showed his knowledge of Californian wines was quite extensive. The carriage ‘Captain’ also gave bits of information as we passed vineyards owned by various companies that have places on shelves at the expensive end of the market.

We also looked around the train to see the various lounge themes and furnishing, and even looked at the restaurant car, plus the galley where our lunch was being prepared. One of the waitresses let us know that we would soon be called to eat, so we returned to our lounge carriage in anticipation of our three course feast.

To be honest, the wine and the nibbles had taken the edge of my appetite, but I did my best to do justice with the meal that appeared before me. There was a choice of salad, or asparagus soup to begin, followed by beef, pork, chicken, a fish dish, and Gnocchi for the vegetarians.  For a sweet course there was a choice of a chocolate dish or carrot cake. The meal was rounded off by a cup of coffee. Some people had another glass of wine which they had to pay for, while others brought one of the wine tasting glasses that they had saved. Deb and I didn’t bother with anymore wine, as we were contented with what we had consumed already,

All the food was good. The only reservation was that Deb did not enjoy the sweetness of the main course. They obviously season the food with salt, pepper, and sugar, which is noticeable, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh tasting vegetables, and beef cooked to my more, well done, preference which our waitress described as being ‘to European taste’.

While we were eating, the train had reached the end of the line at St Helena, and was coming back the other way again. As lunch came to an end, the train was just ten minutes from where we had started and our delightful experience was almost ended.

This was a special treat, and although it cost us over £200 each, I believe it was worth it to have a little bit of luxury.

On the coach taking us back to San Francisco, our guide (Jason) told us more wine based facts, more details of California, and some amusing stories. Much of it fell on sleeping ears as we tried to digest the meal, and sober up from the wine. Our return journey took a different route, and instead of going the same way via the Golden Gate Bridge, we came back over the Oakland Bay Bridges. This had a been a huge circular trip around the Napa Valley and the San Francisco area, and it was as better than we initially expected it to be.

Back at the ship we went through the security for the final time, and my hip was patted and scanned for the final time in the city. We didn’t go out again. We had eaten sufficient, although we did have a plate of cheese and biscuits from the buffet.

We had more luck with the internet in the terminal building having discovered that it needed a valid Zip Code (Post Code). We were told to try 90101 which was accepted, but although we managed to connect to what we wanted, the speed was slower than on board the ship…and that is really saying something.

Our evening was rounded off by a quiz, and then we took a last look out from the balcony at the Bay Bridge with a light show making it even more spectacular. Aurora was going to leave the city at around midnight, but we could not stay awake for long enough to watch what was probably a wonderful sail-away, from this beautiful and friendly city.

I don’t suppose I will ever come back here, but I leave with so many memories that will stay with me. It is most definitely one of my favourite cities, and the terrific weather really helped to make these last two days perfect.

Goodbye San Francisco, you will always have a place in my heart.

Deb’s cruise diary – 23-26 March

Thursday 23rd March – at sea

Temperature today = 23oC

We had an early deck walk as Lloyd was still servicing our cabin when we went back after breakfast.  That woke our leg muscles again after their exertions of yesterday!  They got rested again during the port talk which today was about Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.  We have nothing booked here, and still aren’t sure what to do: time for a think!

George had choir and cricket, and I had the Battle and tap dance.  Must admit I’m not enjoying the tap nearly as much as the salsa, partly because so many experienced tappers are joining in and trying to push the pace much faster than us beginners are comfortable with.  It’s also not nearly so much of a workout as salsa – which, fingers crossed, should be back tomorrow.

In the quiz this evening we lost out on the tie-breaker, so no wine yet again.  Much to Richard’s disappointment!  He’s sooo competitive!  We all went to the theatre afterwards where a trio from London were performing Motown and soul numbers.  They’re called The Flyrights, and they were very good indeed.  Definitely an act to see again.

 

Friday 24th March – at sea

Temperature today = 20oC and raining a bit when we got up.  Well, we are heading north!  According to the maps, we’re latitude 20o north, roughly the same as the Canary Islands.

Nothing much doing this morning, just reading and catching up with emails and the internet.  George had no choir practise as the pianist was rehearsing passengers for the talent show later today, but he went to cricket, where he won the gold sticker for highest run scorer.  I had the Battle and then salsa (hooray!): Kemal has persuaded the dozen or so of us there to do the talent show on the final cruise sector, as we’ve been with for at least two sectors and we’re all on board until Southampton.  We’ve tentatively agreed, provided he and Ellie join us.

We had dinner in the Horizon buffet, as I needed to get a load of washing done so I was flitting in and out of the launderette for an hour or so.  But we met up with Angie and Richard for the early quiz in Masquerades, and then we went up to the Crow’s Nest before joining up with Rosemary and Richard for another attempt at the syndicate quiz.

 

Saturday 25th March – at sea

Temperature today = 17oC.

First job this morning was to get the ironing done, and then sort out a couple of queries we had with our on-board account before going for our deck-walk.

The clocks went forward again at midday, so afternoon was pretty busy with everything ‘squashed’ a bit.  But we’re used to that by now!  I went to the Battle while George had the final choir rehearsal, but our usual dance class and cricket were abandoned today for the choir performance.  Rosemary and I watched our husbands singing their hearts out, along with well over 100 other passengers – the stage in the Curzon was packed!  But they were very good, and the audience certainly appreciated the show.  Most of the choir are leaving the ship in San Fran, so it remains to be seen if many join in on the final sector.

We saw the comedian again after dinner: as last time, very good.  Then we went to what was advertised as a sports-themed quiz in Masquerades, but out of 40 questions more than 30 were about football.  Pathetic.  I’ve now challenged DJ Martin, who wrote it, to come up with a sports quiz that contains no football questions at all: that should flummox the one-trick footie ponies!

 

Sunday 26th March – at sea

Temperature today = 15oC.  Even the die-hard sunbathers who are out in all weathers were missing from their usual spot this morning!

Lloyd was still servicing our cabin when we went back after breakfast, so we went for an early deck-walk while he finished.  As we walked, we discussed another cruise, one that our four friends have already booked: they keep saying “book it” to us.  It’s January 2019, on’ Aurora’ for 55 nights, around South America.  It includes a trip up the Amazon, which is what sold it to us, but sadly we’ve not booked it – yet.  P&O’s booking system had closed down (we’re eight hours behind the UK) when we went to the Loyalty Desk to ask about it, so we can’t do anything until tomorrow morning.  Still, fingers crossed…

I had the final of this sector’s Battle – the women won today, but the men won overall.  Then George went to cricket while I did salsa: we all did our really well, which was good as I spotted guest-speaker Karen Hardy (from ‘Strictly Come Dancing’) sitting at the back of Carmen’s watching us!  No pressure, then!  Sad to be told that Kemal is unlikely to be teaching the salsa class on the final sector as he will be doing the tap sessions.  Looks like Jake will be taking over from him, so we’ll see how that goes.

We spent the evening in Masquerades with Richard and Angie, where we quizzed unsuccessfully again, played Trivial Pursuit, and generally joked around.

Apparently, by the time we reach San Fran in the morning we will have sailed 23,665 nautical miles since we left Southampton.

Post 28 – Pacific Crossing and a day in San Franscisco

March 24th Continued

After a mile’s walk around the deck we went for a cup of coffee. It is strangely quiet in Raffles, and I put it down to people still being at breakfast at 10:15.

Next stop was the Crow’s Nest to sit and relax for a while. The art class is just beginning and today the picture is a puffin. Now this art teacher is making life very easy, and only seems to ask his students to paint birds, faces, and still life objects. Surely on a world cruise it should be about capturing images from the places we have visited, and then painting them. When Deb did it five years ago she came home with images from Vietnam, Sydney, Athens, Istanbul and scenes of tropical islands, mosques – these people are going home with puffins, penguins, a lady’s face obscured by a mask. How will this bring back memories of where they have been.

He might be a good teacher, but he is actually telling them the exact paint mix to use at the exact spot, and for the exact distance. Is this teaching to paint, or simply recreating something?

Interesting comment he made – If you follow my instructions carefully, you will always get it 80% correct. In other words, copy what I am doing, and yours should always look similar.

There has been some sunshine at times this morning, but it is really not warm enough to go out and lie in it. Suddenly at 11:00 the view from the Crow’s Nest became a blanket of mist. The weather is changing.

A week ago, those of us on the full world cruise were given some vouchers for different treats. One of them was five internet packages. Obviously a lot of us have gone for this treat, as ever since that moment, the internet speed has ground to virtually snail’s pace. Hopefully by San Francisco the package will have run out, and we can start to use the internet properly again.

While online today I (very slowly) checked my electricity and gas bill for the last quarter. Interesting logic has been applied. Over three of the coldest months of the year, we have paid in slightly more than the bills for power used. In response to us being in credit, our energy supplier has increased our standing order by just over 20%.

Unfortunately it will cost us more to speak to them and sort it out while away…especially annoying when we have been away from home, and our usage has actually been minimal.

The lunchtime period commenced with Deb at the Battle of the Sexes. I stayed in the cabin, but the ship’s movement was beginning to get to me so I moved to Carmen’s and watched the quiz from the back. I always find the cabin a bad place to be when the sea id moving, as there is no escape from the horizon variations without drawing the curtains. The little white pull has been consumed, although I had hoped to wait until later.

When Deb had finished we had an unrushed lunch. No time changes today to confuse activity timings. I had no choir practice either, so we had time together until Salsa and Cricket sessions at 2:00.

I was absolutely thrilled today. Our team lost the cricket match, but I scored the most runs for the team and won my first gold sticker. I still don’t like the way the cricket has been changed, but this has cheered me up a bit.

As the afternoon drew to a close, Deb decided to do some more washing, and amazingly a washing machine was available. To fir this in we are going to the Buffet for dinner. It is a chicken themed menu which we have eaten from before.

By 7:00, the washing was dried and back in the cabin. There are a few items to be ironed but Deb is leaving them for tomorrow. We went down to Masquerade’s to begin an evening of quiz. The female vocalist was of no interest. We also avoided the late evening game show that was based on ‘Mr and Mrs’, and played Trivial Pursuits up in the Crow’s Nest instead, until the Karaoke Queen (Lyn Frederick) arrived. We gave her a silent standing ovation and went to Vanderbilt’s to continue our game in peace. After a full team effort in the late night Syndicate Quiz we gave in to give our brains a rest.

It had not been a very dynamic day, but we are building up to an active time in San Francisco in two days’ time.

Contrary to what the Captain predicted yesterday, the wind has not become too bad, and the sea is actually classed as only being ‘slight to moderate’. It actually looks as if it is flat and calm, but there is an underlying swell that is rolling us around quite dramatically. I wasn’t too worried about the movement, and went to bed without any topping up of white pills.

p.s. I saw a ship on the horizon today.

This was the first thing I had seen since Hawaii, except for occasional birds, and unidentifiable fish jumping around many miles away.

It really is a vast Ocean, and must be a lonely place for yachtsmen and women.

 

 

 

Saturday 25th March – Pacific Day 3

After getting rid of cramp in my legs, I had a lovely night’s sleep. I was woken by the usual banging drawers and toilet ‘gulps’ from nearby cabins at the wonderful late time of 7:45.

It is a sunny morning, but the temperature was only 17° and I think this will be the best we can expect until we head south again after San Francisco. The Riviera Deck poolside was deserted, except for the Mayor and Lady Mayoress who are on their usual thrones overlooking the pool. They are wrapped up this morning as they eat their breakfast, but I am sure that they will still be there late into the evening unless a thunder storm disrupts them.

We did a bit of housekeeping after breakfast by checking our account, and completing the Customer Satisfaction Questionnaire. Our only moans are really the entertainment, and the shop. They always have a sale, and spread their tables along the corridor around a major corner of the walkway. This causes massive congestion that I a serious obstacle for those with disabilities.

I have a busy day with our choir show. The clocks are going forward at midday again, and I have the set up, and final rehearsal in the theatre, just as the clocks move to GMT – 8. Our show is at 3:00 and we all hope our heckler decides to leave us alone.

With no chance of relaxing in any sunshine, Deb and I took to the Promenade Deck and walked a mile. We did this yesterday as well, but with my marathon self-challenge over, this was the first time for several hundreds of miles that we have walked the teak highway. As we approached the stern we caught the first sight of some gull like birds flying close to the ship. They looked like Albatross, but perhaps were a little too small, and certainly a long way north of their traditional territory.

There were several of these graceful birds, but to be honest I don’t know the plural term, is it Albatrosses, Albatri, or simply Albatross?

Anyway, they stayed with us throughout the day, keeping close to the ship so as to use Aurora’s drag to pull them along. They were still hanging around at dusk. Why didn’t they just land on the rails and have a ride? I’m sure they would have been fed by the curious passengers.

The comedian even used them in his act, describing them as a new surveillance weapon from Donald Trump. Presumably they have been trained to look for unwanted visitors, and sniff out drugs as well as being fitted with communication equipment. Of course I am not against Donald Trump, he has been democratically elected just like we have democratically decided to go down the Brexit route…

but he is an unusual person to become a President of the (supposedly) most powerful nation in the world, and some of his ideas are (to put it mildly) unusual, if not downright weird

Anyway, after the walk we had a cup of drink in the buffet and I had a cake to keep me going until after the choir rehearsal. Then it was an hour in the cabin catching up on the television news. As the clocked jumped forward and hour, the choir assembled in the theatre, several new members filled out the Health and Safety form, and then we lined up and sorted out our positions on the stage. There really are a lot of us this sector, and we spread right across the stage. There was time for just one song to get us in the mood again, and then we were told to go and get some lunch.

Two hours later I was putting on the approved clothing of white shirt and black trousers, having my final sip of water, and sucking a throat sweet. My second choir show was about to start.

We were actually late getting onto the stage because Karen Hardy (Dancing person) had overrun, and was now having a photo opportunity by the stage. She apologised profusely as she finally finished and walked by us, but I am sure she had no intention of missing out on the fans.

Eventually the performance began, and maybe there were a few mistakes and occasional dodgy notes, but it went very well, and without any heckling. I was roasting hot after 45 minutes under the stage lights, and with adrenalin rush from the effort of singing.

It was all over again, and now I had to get the tunes out of my head which have been constantly in my thoughts for a couple of weeks.

In less than a week we will be starting again with new songs, and probably a much smaller band of singers as we begin in the next sector.

…I absolutely love the experience.

There was time for a cup of drink, and then as I considered getting my iPod out to listen to different music, I realised it was time for a shower before the evening began. We had a pre-dinner drink with Richard and Angie and then a full table chat with our food.

Aurora was still on a North Easterly direction across the Pacific but had slowed to less than 20 knots. Earlier in the day we had been hurtling along at over 23 knots, which is almost Aurora’s maximum speed, and certainly above her fuel efficiency speed. I can only assume the Captain was trying to outrun the worst of the weather, as the predicted doom and gloom of a storm hadn’t affected us. I have a feeling he has lost out on the fuel efficiency bonus.

The evening entertainment was the comedian, Jeff Stevenson, and he was tremendous again. I know he was not everybody’s cup of tea, but most of us thoroughly enjoyed laughing for 45 minutes at his observations and jokes.

The rest of the evening was very unsuccessfully quizzical, but we had a mind testing challenge, plus lots of fun with our answers.

Tomorrow we will be on our final sea day before San Francisco where 900 passengers will be disembarking, and replaced by 900 new ones. The atmosphere on the ship will change again, especially as many of those leaving will be the Australians who have been so obvious for the last three weeks.

 

 

Sunday 26th March – Final Pacific Crossing Day

Happy mother’s day – yes I know this is late again!

Another wonderful night’s sleep.

The usual dawn chorus of drawers and toilets wake me just after 7:30 and we were having tea just after 7:45. Outside it is foggy and cool with a temperature of only 15°C on the balcony. The garden is a very untidy and confused grey sea that reminds me of Biscay…but on a good day. It is now rough but Aurora is moving around enough to remind us we are at sea.

The sun is trying to peek through the clouds above the fog but it is not the sort of weather we had a week ago. Even the Mayor and his wife are missing from the throne above the Riviera Pool, and this is the first time this has happened (apart from port days) since we were in the Atlantic Ocean three months ago.

Housekeeping this morning was opening the third tube of toothpaste, and the weekly requirement of charging the electric toothbrush.

The programme for the day doesn’t look too exciting, so I have no idea of what we will do later.

When we had finished breakfast we returned to the cabin too quickly, and our steward, Lloyd, hadn’t finished it. We went for a walk again, but only a couple of laps.

——————

Note to self, and anyone preparing for a long cruise – If you buy a new pair of sandals to replace some perfectly good, but older ones, buy them early enough to fully test that they are correct and comfortable.

My old ones were simply old and tatty, but very comfortable, but I decided they should be replaced. The new ones are very comfortable but the Velcro strap has stretched and can no longer be kept tight. Walking requires regular stops to tighten them.

————————–

Mid-morning and we went for another walk, and completed another two laps to make it over a mile. Having used up a few calories we went to Raffles for coffee, but no cake this time for either of us. From there we ventured up onto the Lido deck to see what the weather was like. It had improved, but was still too cool for us, and the majority of the passengers, to strip off for the sunshine.

…that was except for the Riviera Royalty who had returned to their thrones to survey their empire

As morning turned towards lunchtime, the familiar ‘ding dong’ heralded an announcement from the bridge. It was given today by a passenger who had paid a lot of money at the Macmillan coffee morning. He spoke very well and told us that the clocks were going forward yet again, and ship’s time was now GMT – 7. Of course the clocks back in Britain went forward an hour last night, so we are still 8 hours behind home. There are just some 200 miles to go before we reach San Francisco tomorrow morning, and the television navigation channel now shows the US coast. Our voyage across the Pacific Ocean is nearing the end.

By the time of the announcement, Deb had gone to the final Battle of the Sexes challenge of the sector, and I went for a spot of lunch before going to the final cricket session. The men were the winners of the challenge, and I was on the winning side in the cricket. A few days from now, everything will start again for all the organised activities with new faces all over the ship.

It hasn’t really warmed up much at all today with the highest temperature being just 16°. The sun has peeked down on us a little, but the wind is a chilly reminder from the North West that we are well back into winter.

Through the morning we had missed talks from John Graves discussing cruising destinations to 400 plus passengers, who have cruised around the world multiple times, plus Karen Hardy who took part in an interview and question session. After lunch we avoided Gillian Perry telling people about the ‘afternoon tea’ custom…once again to cruisers who have probably been enjoying this tradition for a decade. Then to round off the afternoon there was Dr Daniel R Rubin attempting to wake up the passengers as he talked about contemporary American Politics.

I am sure all of these speakers were absolutely fascinating, but five years ago we had comedians and actors entertaining us with stories and anecdotes to break up the serious cultural talks. Have they all put up their charges so much that P&O are no longer using them?

This evening the theatre has the Headliners performing ‘Stop in the name of love’ while at the other end of the ship Julie A Scott is singing another spot of ‘Diva’ songs in Carmen’s. I believe that this is the fourth female vocalist to feature the ‘Diva’ word as a part of the act. While I was at lunch I interrupted Jeff Stevenson (comic from last night) to thank him for the momentary break from the abundance of female vocalists.

Caravan are performing in the Crow’s Nest, and Lyn Fredrick is providing background music in Champions. Personally Deb and I have decided that David Taylor the pianist is more entertaining with his gentle music in Charlies just outside of Anderson’s.

I think we might go to the Headliner’s show, and see if we can stay awake for the various quiz challenges. Alternatively we might have an early night, and set the alarm to get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning.

Late afternoon saw the return of the Albatross Stealth team. They must have detected something suspicious and have come back for a closer look. Goodness the Americans are cunning!

As usual the captain made a 6:00 announcement of where we were etc. He finished by giving us the total distance we have sailed since Southampton, and as we come to the end of the penultimate sector, it is over 24,000 nautical miles.

We went to bed at just after 10:00 having not bothered with the Headliners show.  We played trivial pursuits with Richard and Angie as well as losing a couple of quizzes. We have an early morning appointment with the Golden Gate Bridge.

Goodnight.

 

 

Monday 27th March – San Francisco, USA

After a night without much sleep, I finally gave up and peered out of the balcony at a little after 7:00. The Golden Gate Bridge was in view on a sunny, but very cold, morning. I put the kettle on, then put on my dressing gown to step out onto the balcony to take the first pictures of the bridge.

This is my third visit to San Francisco. I came here by air back in the early 1980s and then five years ago on Aurora. This is the first time I have seen the bridge clearly and have finally got a photo of it. Five years ago we arrived in the dark, and it was shrouded in mist for the two days.

Deb and I dressed and took a series of photos as we neared and then passed under the beautiful bridge. Then it was time for breakfast as we approached the dockside. The Horizon Buffet was packed with people who rarely see bacon and egg before 10:00. The queue for hot food was ridiculous, but that didn’t worry us who continue with fruit and croissants as our early meal.

Our plans for the day are to wander the streets of the city, and let our footsteps and eyes decide what to do. We still have a shopping list to sort out, and we would like to book a trip to Alcatraz if possible, but that is not a priority. My wish is to get on one of the trams and actually get a seat. I have been on them twice before and stood clinging to the strap of the little roller coasters.

Well before 9:00 we were docked and the sunshine was streaming down on us. Our garden has the Bay Bridge at the end to our left, and if we look past the slightly unsightly quayside piers to the right is just some of the glittering glass city-scape. Unfortunately the most obvious buildings we can see are under construction with cranes spoiling the skyline, but hey, ho, that’s what happens in a bustling city.

We are still waiting for the all clear to go ashore, but that isn’t a surprise for stops in the USA. I don’t think we will be hanging around for too long once the officials give us the all clear.

…hang on now, just what did the Albatross Squadron find?

No, it is alright. At 9:00, the deputy captain has just given the all clear to go ashore.

Post 27 – North Pacific Ocean, Sea Day 2

Friday March 24th – North Pacific Day 2

It is the second day of four on our lonely crossing from Hawaii to San Francisco. The ocean is still being kind to us with quite flat seas and light winds, but there is a light wind and hidden swell that is making Aurora rolls gently from side to side this morning. It is cool with the thermometer showing just 20° but we have to accept that this is the Northern Hemisphere again. The clouds are trying to break, but there have been showers, and if the Captain was correct yesterday evening, the wind is going to get up during the day, and the sea will be creating a roller coaster for us tonight.

Ok, so let’s go back to yesterday evening. The show from the Flyrights was amazing. It was a mix of souls, Motown and, swing from three very good singers from South London. They also danced and performed moments of acrobatic magic. The audience needed no coaxing to stand up when asked to wave, sway, and sing along to one of the songs.  There was even a bit of nostalgia for me when one of them sang a solo with his version of Mr Bo Jangles. I have loved this song since Garry Wilmott sang it on our very first cruise 17 years ago. OK, so the version last night was not personally the best I’d heard, but it still brought the wonderful memories back.

Of course they had a standing ovation at the end and I am sure we will be going back to see them again on the second show.

That was just about it for our evening, and we ended it with a final nightcap in the comfortable Anderson’s, while chatting and listening listened to the pianist gently playing outside in Charlies. It was time for another early night.

So what’s going on today as we sail at 21knots north east towards mainland USA?

Deb and I were hoping to have an hour in the sunshine today, but I suspect the weather has turned much more towards winter again. Maybe we will take to the Promenade Deck and get some exercise this morning.

At lunchtime, the clocks stay as they are and Deb will be off to the Battle of the Sexes. There is no choir practice for me today, but cricket is still on while Deb has Salsa again.

During the day there are talks in the theatre from Karen Hardy (Dancing), Dr Richard R Rubin (US Politics), and Gillian Perry with the life of Anne Frank. This is quite a mixture and keeping people culturally happy.

This afternoon there is the Passenger Talent Show with several singing acts as well as at least one from Ukelele players who somehow decided to bring their instruments with them. Later in the evening, one of the Headliner Singers (Lucy Ainston) is performing her solo cabaret act in Carmen’s, while in the theatre there is Julie A Scott singing a tribute to Cilla Black.

…do you notice the abundance of singing again?

I suspect our little gang from dinner table 228 will be attempting quizzes, and perhaps a few minutes of Trivial Pursuit this evening. None of us get on too well with straight forward singing.

Ok, so that’s my diary up to date, and it’s time to leave my office (Anderson’s today) and return to the cabin. We have internet for a few hours yet so I will get this posted soon to keep you all up to date.

Just in case you think we are not enjoying the cruise, I have to make it clear that we may not be too happy with the entertainment every day, but Deb and I are still having a wonderful time as we get into the last quarter of our adventure around the world. Once again we have seen so much that has made us smile and gasp in amazement, met so many people that we have laughed with daily, and stored away so many memories that will last forever.

Speak to you all again soon.

Post 26 – Hawaii and beyond

Tuesday 21st March – Final Sea Day (for now)

What an awful night. I struggled to get to sleep, as my leg had gone into the restless state that I sometimes get. When it happens I have to bring the leg out from under the quilt to get it cold, then after a few minutes put it back in the warmth. Well after repeating this several times, I then went into the stretching the muscles, which made me go into cramp a couple of times. Still suffering I tried a new cure of going to the bathroom and putting cold water on the offending leg. That really felt cool, and was hopeful and after another dose of leg out, leg in…….ZZzzzz.

It was still a disturbed night, as Aurora was really being told off by an angry sea. We were banging and bouncing and rolling around that there were moments when I had to bend my leg as a brace to stop myself falling out of the bed.

Eventually light came, and the ship felt slightly more stable. The officer of the watch reported a Force 6 wind and the sea state classified as Moderate. It is only 24° with some sunshine, but lots of heavy cloud threatening rain. While we were having breakfast a rainbow appeared and it was so vivid, and appeared to be ending on the sea just below us.

Well this morning has a Port Talk for San Diego that is the first port on the next (and final) sector of our world adventure. After that we will no doubt have a coffee somewhere before getting prepared for the midday round of activities. My leg and wrist are still in a bit of trouble so I will give cricket a miss…of course I might change my mind when the smell of leather and will get into my head.

Deb only has Battle of the Sexes because the Salsa is cancelled to allow the headliner dancers more preparation time before the afternoon matinee show. It is the Queen tribute. Sadly they only have two options for matinees in Carmen’s – Abba and Queen Tributes – and we have seen them both so often.

The evening entertainment is a little limited again with a second show from Peter White singing songs by Kenny Rogers. I didn’t hear any glowing reports about him, and he will not be having us in his audience.

…I think it might be a quiz night.

While we were in Auckland, Paula from the entertainment team went home and was not replaced. Then in Fiji or Apia, Danny had to rush home for bereavement. The team is depleted and Abby is getting off in San Francisco. Her replacement as Deputy Ents Manager is already on board and having the handover, but he has not been passenger facing very often. Two brand new entertainment team members are due in San Francisco but apparently they are really new, and will take a few days to go solo. It really is disappointing.

On a world cruise we expect more than quoits, shuffle board and quizzes. Yes there are other choices are for specialised activities such as Dance classes, Bridge, and Art, but in all honesty they only appeal to quite small numbers. The advert for this world cruise said it would have traditional games and activities that cruises have had over its 180 year history.

I somehow think that as well as other changes that have happened over 180 years, the level of entertainment has reduced significantly, and now those involved in providing and overseeing the entertainment are dropping to ridiculous levels. Just to put it in context, there as many, if not more, people in the youth crew who look after the children. I believe there are just 10 children on board. Don’t get me wrong, the children have to be looked after and kept amused and safe, but the adults passengers should be just as important.

The day ended with the dinner table six being frustrated once again with a quiz. We all went to bed early because tomorrow morning we will be docking in Hawaii, and there is an early start to life on the ship. The US Immigration authorities will k have a face to face inspection of paperwork with all of us, before we can go ashore. That process will begin at 7:15, and we all want to be get ashore as soon as possible.

Deb and I are going to walk up from the base of a volcano caldera to the rim of the crater. It involves around a mile walk up steep paths and steps before we get a fantastic view down over Honolulu and much more of this beautiful island.

When we get back at lunchtime, we will be going out again to do some shopping that has to be done, as well as looking for some souvenirs.

The alarm was set for 6:15 and after just a quick read, Deb and I snuggled into our duvet and pillows.

 

Wednesday 22nd March – Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

We woke with the alarm and got ourselves ready for a day on the wonderful Pacific island of Ohau which is just one of the Hawaiian Islands. It was warm (and would get hotter) with blue skies and light winds. As I said we had a tour booked to go up to the top of an extinct volcano, and it meant an early start.

Initially the most important thing was to get our paperwork ready to be inspected by the United States authorities, and because of the tour, we were one of the first to go through the process.

It was fast, friendly, smooth, and all over for us before 7:30.

Just after 8:00 we went down to get to our tour coach and once on board the driver /guide expressed how sorry he was for the terrorist attack in London.

This was a total shock.

We were isolated from most of the world on a cruise ship.

We were out of sync with home, and ten hours behind what the people of Britain.

Very few passengers turn on televisions to get the news in the morning, and like Deb and I, had no idea anything had happened.

The news may not have stopped us doing what we had planned, and we had a wonderful time but thousands of miles away in London, innocent people had been killed by a cowardly attack, by a terrorist who had been convinced, that his religion would reward him for taking the lives of people, who probably knew, and had access to more truth about his beliefs than he was ever told.

I think the British people knew it would eventually happen, but those innocent people who were going to work, maybe going shopping, or perhaps tourists going to see the heart of a democratic government where people have the freedom to say “we don’t like”, or “we don’t agree”, with the views of others. Can the cowardly leaders of the organisation involved with this attack, say that they allow their people that same level of freedom?

My thoughts go out to those who died, those who were injured, and also to the relations and friends of those innocent people. There are also those who were lucky and survived without injury, but witnessed an atrocity that will never leave their minds. There were also the people who helped the hurt and the dying.  And there is also a nation that will think, and wonder, and possibly fear for what else might happen.

May your gods bless you, and give you peace and the bravery to continue life without blaming anyone…

…except the people who indoctrinated that killer to do what he believed, in ignorance, to be right.

This has cast a shadow over my holiday, and I won’t say anything more about our day.

 

Thursday 23rd March – Crossing the Pacific

Having had an early night yesterday, we slept and hopefully have recharged our batteries after several days when we have felt exhausted. After breakfast it was medicine day, and time to refill our little pill pots for another week. Yesterday one of things on our shopping list was Omega 3 supplements that we somehow brought too few of with us.

That shopping had been at a Walmart store that was enormous and so different to similar hypermarkets in Britain. The pharmacy wasn’t a small counter hidden away in a corner of the store; it had pride of place at the entrance with perhaps four aisles of medicines, supplements, couch medicines etc. It even had a souvenir department, which I have to say was amazing with similar items that we usually buy but at far less expensive prices. It even had ukuleles, and in hindsight I wish I had bought one.

We got a lot of things from an extended shopping list, but my broken trainers remain as the footwear shelves were almost empty. I was also looking to get a new iPod if the price was better than home, but although a little cheaper, the value of sterling didn’t make it attractive enough.

We came away with both our rucksacks full, plus a carrier bag (6 cents) with a large box of chocolate covered Macedonia nuts.

Our shopping trip followed a wonderful morning where we walked, or more accurately clambered, up the side of the Diamond Head Peak from the extinct volcano crater floor below. The walk is around a mile and at times very steep with rough stone pathways. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the highest point where we had tremendous views over the island. Waikiki was just one of the stretches of golden sandy beaches below, and the shallow coral seas were so beautiful. In the distance I saw our ship that was a tiny blip amongst the Honolulu cityscape of shimmering glass towers.

We had been told to look out for whales in the vast bay, but none of us saw any. Sadly the passengers on whale spotting cruises were also disappointed.

Having got our breath back, and rested aching legs, we began the easier downward trek. It took a little over 30 minutes, but still difficult on the steep uneven paths. The paths allowed two people to pass, and by 10:30 it was packed with hundreds of people. Some were athletic and enjoying a gentle workout, but others (like us) were challenging ourselves to do something different, and we panted at times and swigged from our water bottles in the hot sunshine. Shade was rare, and rest points with benches a pleasure to find.

At the bottom we congratulated ourselves and after buying a fridge magnet, we waited in the shade of the trees for our guide to appear. He had stayed with the last person on the trek, and now handed out certificates to remind us of our morning.

The guide was exceptional with a tremendous knowledge of the island, and especially Honolulu. He pointed out and named trees and birds that we passed, and even showed us where Hollywood stars lived, or where different television programmes were filmed. He made the morning a pleasure, and took away the aches with his stories.

Back at the ship we had a quick lunch before our shopping trip.

When we returned at about 3:00 we were shattered and our legs needed to be supported on a comfortable bed for a while. That was enough for the day, and finally a chance to watch the TV News Channel to discover just what had happened in London.  We couldn’t do anything about it, but it did spin around in my head for quite a while. When I worked at The Goonhilly Satellite Station we often saw news broadcasts arriving from disasters and tragedies from all over the world. We saw horrible pictures and scenes that the public wouldn’t see until many hours, and sometimes never. Some of the news and pictures we saw made us go silent at times, and today this news from London had made me reflect on how horrid and evil, some people remain in this otherwise wonderful life.

In the evening the six of us did the early quiz and lost once again to a couple from Densa. They apparently do not drink wine, and offered it to us. This was quite strange as we actually came third and the second place team got nothing. Thanks very much.

After that we all trooped along to the show from a comedian called Jeff Stevenson. None of us had seen him before, and I have to say he was really good. It was a very fast patter act based on reality situations (sort of) with the odd bit of banter with the audience, especially with a number of late comers.

That was enough for us all after a long day, and we trooped off up the stairs to deck 10 and our beds.

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So, back to this morning, (Thursday) and we woke to another sunny day with a bit of a breeze across the decks. It was only in the low 20s at 8:00, but still a lot warmer than back home in Britain.

Aurora is ploughing her way through a lumpy, but not a rough sea, heading North West across the Pacific Ocean at about 20knots. This is the first of four days sailing before we reach San Francisco on Monday morning. Last night the captain told us that we had over 2000 miles to go, and warned that there are some ‘nasty depressions’ heading east from Japan that are going to give us a rough time tomorrow. If he is suggesting ‘rough times’ then I assume that means really, really, rough, so we had better enjoy today’s relative calmness.

At midday the clocks will go forward again to GMT – 9 hours, so Deb and I will be having a late lunch.  I have the final choir practice before our concert on 25th. Deb is going to the Battle of the Sexes, and then on to Salsa or Tap Dancing (she is not sure which yet) while I trot off to cricket.

Hence, after watching the Port talk at 10:00 about ‘Cabo San Lucas’ (Mexico), we dashed to Raffles for a coffee and a cake to keep me going. We have no plans to book a tour for the Mexican stop as nothing jumped out at us as being special, but instead we will look around the town, and maybe even have a paddle at the nearby beach. There are lots of local tour companies that will be offering trips if we change our minds on the morning.

….but hey, that is ages away yet on the next sector!

This evening the entertainment has the Ents. Team performing their show in Carmen’s, well what’s left of them anyway. Following that is a trio of singers called ‘The Flyrights’ in the theatre, and they have been recommended by Richard and Angie. Talks today are from a Dr Richard R Rubin telling us about US Democracy, and also Karen Hardy the professional dancer who took part in Strictly Come Dancing, and who now has a regular spot on the evening show that accompanies the main programme. I might have liked to go to her talk, but getting some refreshment was the priority while she is on stage at 11:15 in the morning. I expect there will be another opportunity to listen to her before San Francisco.

Back together in the cabin after a cup of tea and a scone, it is 3:30 and Deb and I have time to relax before shower time and dinner. We often use this moment to bring our diaries up to date or just sit back and doze. Well I do anyway. It is cloudy now and although the sea looks to have calmed down, the wind is still reminding us of its strength.  The temperature out on the decks is only 24° and it is set to get cooler as we head northwards.

The highlights of the couple of hours since midday include a very successful choir practice where Paul (pianist) didn’t pull us up on any mistakes. We went right through the programme of 8 songs, plus the encore, without stopping. We now know that the concert will have about 35 minutes of singing.

There was an announcement before we started to let us know that Tom (Headliner singer) who is our conductor on this sector, was shown on the television yesterday (22nd March) in the ITV show called The Chase. For anyone who knows him, you can watch the show on the ITV Catch-up channel.

In cricket I was chosen to be a captain. This is a purely random thing, and I had no control over who was in my team. Anyway, we were not the best at batting, although I was second highest scorer, and feared a bit of a disaster as we began to field. We produced a real grafting display of fielding and catching, and won the games by 3 runs. I would have been happy to lose after the display we put up, and shows that hard work can sometimes conquer quality.

Deb was annoyed to discover that the lesson was Tap Dancing again. It is supposed to alternate on sea days, but the powers to be having forgotten that the last sea day, which should have been Salsa, had no session because of a Headliner rehearsal. So to be fair Salsa should have been today but instead it was programmed to be Tap. Tomorrow the room is busy with talent show rehearsals so Salsa will probably be cancelled again and the next day will be Tap once more.

…me thinks the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing here

Deb doesn’t really enjoy Tap, as it is not as energetic as Salsa. To make matters worse, a large number of the people in the class are partially or even quite experienced in Tap Dancing, and have even brought their tap shoes. Deb, and others are beginners, and the instructor ‘Kemal’ is struggling to keep the session as a beginners’ class, because the more experienced tappers are using their power of numbers to move on to more complicated stuff.

Once again, the lack of available entertainment people has resulted in removing the pleasure from some people, to try and satisfy others. In the past the instructor would have been one of the official ents. Team and there would have been separate lessons. Now P&O have cut their costs by using the Headliners as instructors who cannot be expected to do more than one session of extra work.

I have to say that having professionals helping the passengers with dance lessons and singing is a wonderful improvement, and great to have interaction with these hard working boys and girls, but using the opportunity to reduce staff is a bit naughty.

Enough of my moaning, and I will get this posted onto the blog page now before it is time for a shower.

Speak to you again very soon.

Deb’s cruise diary – March 21-22

Tuesday 21st March – – at sea

Temperature today = 25oC

Quite bumpy again this morning, George took a sea-sickness pill, just in case.  The port talk on San Diego confirmed in our minds that we have a good tour booked, so need for a re-think on this one!

In the afternoon I had Battle and George had choir and cricket, but there was no salsa as the Headliners had a matinee rehearsal.  The rest of our day was spent slobbing around and preparing for tomorrow’s U.S. immigration and in the evening trying our luck (failed again!) at the ‘Queen’ quiz.  A lazy day, for a change, but we’ll be super-busy tomorrow.

 

Wednesday 22nd March – Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Temperature today = 27oC, and in this heat I climbed a mountain!

Finally managed to speak to our son this morning – a very brief call as it sounded like he was underwater!  Then by 7.15am we were being called to Carmen’s for our U.S. immigration inspection: our colour-group was the first to be seen as we were all on tours, so no hanging about this morning.  And – hooray! – the immigration bods here in Hawaii were sooooo much more friendly than the miserable s*ds we encountered in San Francisco last time.

16 of us, including our friends Richard and Angie, hopped into a minibus to be taken to the east of Oahu Island to the Diamond Head crater.  On the way our driver/guide told us loads about Hawaiian history, and being a trained naturalist also pointed out various trees, plants and birds as we went along.

On arrival at the crater we set off to walk up to the crater rim, 763-feet above sea level.  Yes, it was hard going, especially in the heat today, but we made it!  It took about 45 minutes, plus breaks for rests and water, and was worth every sweaty step!  At the top we could see right across the island, past Waikiki Beach and towards Pearl Harbour.  Stunning.

The walk back down was a bit easier, but still very hot.  People walking up and staring at their mobile phones didn’t help either, as they weren’t looking where they were going.  That really p*ssed us off, but we weren’t going to let it spoil our lovely adventure.  And sharing it with two really good friends made it extra fun.

We were presented with a certificate of achievement by our guide, and then we drove back to the ship.  After a quick bite to eat we were off out again – we’d intended to get the shuttle bus to the nearby mall as we needed to stock up on a few items, but outside the port terminal there was a separate free shuttle running to WalMart.  So that’s where we ended up, though we only managed to get half the things on our shopping list, in spite of the store being vast.  Hey ho.

After dinner we went to the early quiz in Harlequin’s, where we didn’t win but still ended up with the wine!  The winning team don’t drink, and kindly offered it to us – we weren’t going to say no!  Then we headed to the theatre where this evening’s entertainment was supplied by a comedian, Jeff Stevenson.  None of our little gang had come across him before, in spite of doing nearly 100 cruises between us.  He was good, certainly had us laughing!

We’d all been dressed up ready for the tropical deck party after the show, but none of us made it.  Having been up especially early for the immigration process, we were all ready for our beds by 10.00pm.  It had been a long, tiring and draining day, but a wonderful one.

Post 25- Yet another sea day

Monday 20th March – Sea Day

It is our son’s (Andrew) birthday today. We can’t phone him to wish him many happy returns, but did send him a text at midnight yesterday (our time). The price of satellite calls is ridiculous, so the text message was the only sensible option.

It had to be sent last night, as our time is now 10 hours behind Britain, and as I write this at 10:00 in the morning, it is already late into the evening back home.

Bringing progress up to date, we are on our fourth of five sea days from Apia to Hawaii. I have to think carefully about what day it is. The sun is shining and it is already 28° outside. The wind has continued to strengthen and up to a Force 6. Apparently the sea is only slight, but Aurora is rocking and juddering enough to make the waves in the Riviera Pool create waves that break so violently on the pool edge that there are plumes of water going over anyone sitting nearby. The couple, who have occupied the same position every day on the little deck by the pool, are still there.  They refuse to move even though the water is drenching them as they try and eat their breakfast.

…yes they get there early enough each day to secure their thrones, and eat breakfast there no matter what the weather is…except for a small number of days when we were around New Zealand, when the rain was just too heavy.

They have not done anything wrong, but they have caused quite a few passengers to remark on their quest, and suggesting they are just a little bit over the top.

Anyway, the wind is a little bit much for sun-bathing at the moment, but perhaps things will improve for later.

There has been a change in the Headliner’s dance lessons. They are now alternating Salsa on one sea day and then tap dancing the next. Although Deb has been told she can learn the basics of tap dancing wearing trainers (much quieter I imagine) she is not sure if it is something she wants to do.

Moving forward to 3:00 and I am back at the cabin with Deb. She enjoyed the tap dancing lesson but prefers the Salsa. We will have to wait and see what happens with this new skill.

My cricket wasn’t as special as it used to be. The strong wind made it difficult to maintain balance, but that was not the problem. It has become more and more argue-mental with more shouting and barracking then getting on with the game. There are still young and fit men who throw the ball at the batsman and it is becoming more and more difficult to enjoy it in the same way as I remember from earlier cruises. If this is the way it is P&O ships, then a traditional cruise ship game has been ruined.

Oh, and to make it worse I fell over and hurt my knee and wrist. I think I will give it rest for a few days.

It was a casual dress code night, and we met up in Anderson’s for a drink before dinner with Richard and Angie. We explained that we had looked at how much it would cost to change our booking for 2018 on Aurora, to the one they are on. Sadly the prices of the cruises to the USA East Coast have gone up in price dramatically, and we will keep to our original plan.

With dinner over, four of us went to the early quiz, and then had a few minutes of trivial pursuit. Then Deb and I said goodnight to Richard and Angie and we went to Carmen’s to watch the second show from Robbie K. It was another 45 minutes of unusuality with lots of old fashioned variety style entertainment with a lot of humour throughout.

This is a good act to go and see if he turns up on your holiday ship.

From Carmen’s we walked to the front end of the ship to the theatre to watch the headliners with their show called ‘New Romantics’. It pays tribute to the artists of the 1980s and is a fast paced tribute to those pioneers of popular music. I also enjoy watching and listening to the singers that have helped with the Aurora choir over the last three months.

We have already seen this show on this cruise, but it was well worth a second time, as this music is from my growing years, and features on my music favourites that I have on my iPod.

It was late when we came out of the theatre, and time for bed. Aurora is moving more erratically with the strong buffeting wind, and a sea that seems to be getting angrier as we move nearer to Hawaii. I hope the weather isn’t about to turn bad again for our visit to Honolulu.

We have the final sea-day tomorrow before arriving at an American state. On the day that we arrive in Honolulu we will have to have a face to face interview with the American authorities before we can go ashore. Fortunately our early tour means an early interview. We have had to complete the forms today, and they have now joined the mass of notes, programmes, lists, and notices that are stuck to our wall with the fridge magnets accumulated on the voyage so far.