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.
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.