A Cruise South on Oriana for some sunshine

Saturday 10th – To Southampton

We had a leisurely morning ticking off the various tasks on the ‘to do’ list. There was a slight change to our luggage arrangements meaning that we eventually had five large cases plus small roller ones to carry.
There was an early lunch, and a little after 1:00 we set off. There was a drizzle for all the journey that made it an awful drive. There was an amazing queue of cars waiting to go into the Ikea carpark that quite surprised us but fortunately I had chosen the outside lane along Herbert Way to get to the hotel. We arrived safely at the Holiday Inn in Southampton by 3:30. We had a cruise and stay package so once the car was unloaded it was tucked away in the car park for the next 12 days.
Our room was one of the recently refurbished ones and they have made a very good job. There is now plenty of storage by reducing the desk to a table, and adding a useful shelf under the television. There is even storage under the sink in the bathroom which makes a change in hotel rooms.
There was another change at the hotel with no car park barriers anymore. Everyone has to registered their cars onto a computer, and they have a monitoring patrol team looking for cars not on their list. The problem was that I haven’t yet managed to remember our car number plate yet, and had to go back outside to check.
Once in the room Deb had a bath while I watched the first half of the England verses Wales rugby.
The drizzle continued so rather than going out for a walk, we had a meal in the hotel restaurant. This was not a success with quite bland food, which tasted burnt from the griddle. We weren’t going to moan but did ask for the tip to be removed. While Deb was getting some extra milk, the duty manager asked if the meal had been OK. She shared our views and the young manager said he would look into our issues, as he is new to the hotel.
He eventually took 50% of the bill, that was not what we expected, or wanted.
For the rest of the evening we watched the television and shared a bottle of very pleasant red wine, before giving in to tiredness.
Sunday 11th – Oriana
Sunday morning and neither of us had a decent sleep – but that is quite normal for us in hotels. We both ate more for breakfast than normal…. oops.
There was loads of time to kill, so after a wash and packing our bits, we went for a walk into the city shops. Being Sunday very few were open but there was time for a decent stroll and a cup of coffee before we returned to the hotel.
Just after midday we were in the taxi and soon arrived at the Mayflower terminal. As we walked in we were directed to the priority check in lane, and realised boarding had already started. So, by 1:00 we were on Oriana and in the Oriental Restaurant with a glass of wine for the loyalty buffet.
We had a lovely chatty hour with another couple, seriously indulging in the free booze … oops again.
Time now to find the cabin (sorry stateroom) and unpacking. We had a superior outside room which has plenty of space, with sufficient hanging room for the clothes, and more than usual amount of drawer space.
It wasn’t long before we were exploring this very familiar ship.
Oriana was the first ship we sailed on way back in 2000, and it will always be a very special vessel.
At 6:30 we arrived in the Oriental restaurant again for dinner. Our table was for six people and it wasn’t long before we were chatting over a pleasant meal. The menu was familiar but one that had plenty of things that appealed to me.
After dinner we trotted off to the Theatre Royal for the first show of the cruise. The entertainment manager (or whatever the name is) introduced himself and most of his team before the Headliners came on for the Stage Door show. We have seen it before, but it was still a most enjoyable 45 minutes.
From the theatre we set off for the Lord’s Tavern for a late-night quiz with a couple we met on the world cruise 12 months ago. The theme was P&O and we did very well, but lost by half a point.
It was bedtime. Oriana was wallowing as we made progress along the south coast of England at a snail pace of 11 knots. I was already well under the effect of my sea-sickness pills. I never feel very well on the first 24 hours of a cruise, so always take the pills. Hopefully I will get my sea legs by tomorrow afternoon.
The ship creaked and groaned as we wobbled along, and it was ages before I eventually got some sleep.

Monday 12th February

OK, I know its February, and it is winter, but wow the sea has been rough overnight.
While I described it as ‘wallowing’ earlier, the night turned into quite a rock and roll experience with Oriana pitching and rolling. Plus with everything but the cushions appearing to be creaking, sleep was virtually a restricted to short bursts between the long periods of wondering why I keep going on cruises.
I never like the first 24 hours as my stomach and brain come to terms with this alien environment, but tonight it was worse than usual.
The dark night eventually turned into a grey morning and we got up and dressed for our first real day of the cruise. I was feeling far from well, and extremely tired, but breakfast beckoned.
We went to the dining room for breakfast rather than our usual foray to the buffet. The only reason was that we had heard that it was ‘eggs Benedict’ on Mondays. It was well worth it and improved by a chat with the other couples on our table. The only weakness was the tepid stewed tea.
The day was cool (yes still winter) and very windy so going outside was quickly taken of the agenda. Instead we went to the Crow’s Nest for a read while the ship woke up. Deb watched the art class begin, but she had seen the instructors before and didn’t particularly wanted to join in.
We went for coffee instead.
I personally find it amazing that there are so many people just considering breakfast at 10:30 in the morning. Many people were disappointed to discover that Tiffany’s does not provide breakfast beyond croissants and pastries.
At 11:00 we returned to the Crow’s Nest for a get together with a few of the P&O Facebook members plus Captain Derek Gray. He chatted reasonably openly about his job and P&O and is certainly the most sociable master of a ship we have experienced.
At midday I dashed away to the Pacific Lounge for the first day of the choir. There was a huge turnout with a good number of growling trolls making up the bass and tenor sections. Three of the Headliners plus the orchestra pianist are in charge and we will be learning a song a day before our show at the end of the cruise. Today we created a wonderful rendition of ‘Sweet Caroline’ and were applauded by a fairly large audience escaping the cold decks.
My stomach and brain were still out of sync with the movement, and my lunch was restricted to a cheese and tomato roll. There was nowhere to sit in the buffet so it became a grab and go experience back in the cabin.
It was time for another sea-sickness pill before Deb and I took part in ‘Battle of the sexes’ alternatively known as the women verses the less than bright men. We were thrashed!
It might have been my imagination but the sea appeared to be getting worse.
Dinner was quite enjoyable as the six of us on the table relax a little with each other. Interestingly, we have not exchanged names so far.
The evening show was Mike Doyle, and I thoroughly enjoyed his humour, although a small number of people found him slightly offensive. He dared to mention older people and their less than active lifestyles on the ships.
We rounded off the night with the syndicate Quiz in a team with a couple we met on the World Cruise.
We won!
Even better, they don’t drink wine, so we have the whole bottle. When (not if) we win again the others can have soft drinks as the prize.
It was time for bed.
Sadly, the sea has not made friends yet, and in fact it has got even worse.
I did drop off to sleep initially, but about 1:00 am I was woken by an absolute mayhem of crashing, creaking and a fear I was being rolled off the bed. Then flashing lights caught my attention through the window.
There followed a long period of an horrendous thunderstorm.
While the thunder and lightening subsided, the rolling, pitching, creaking, and crashing continued.
Sleep for me was impossible, and my stomach issues were getting worse.

Tuesday 13th February – Somewhere just west of the Bay of Biscay

Although I did eventually fall asleep, I woke suddenly. I had no idea of what the time was, but is was dark.
I was not aware of what exactly woke me, but in a second or two I realised that the noise had probably contributed. It was horrendous, with crashing and banging accompanied by regular grating from above as if someone was dragging lumps of metal along our ceiling. That was bad enough but there were other sounds coming from outside of the ship, and it was similar to when the lifeboats are being prepared to be dropped.
Now wide awake I was also aware that Oriana was rocking wildly and I was rolling from side to side in my bed and feared I might fall out.
Then I thought I saw a light through the curtains.
I got up to investigate, and as I peeked through the curtains I could see the sea boiling below with waves crashing up onto the window. I now discovered the mysterious light, as a blinding flash of lightening lit up the sky followed almost immediately by a deafening crash of thunder.
The thunderstorm continued for several minutes accompanied by all the other noises, and the excessive rolling.
My stomach was not happy!
I searched out a sea-sickness pill and tried to lay on the bed so that I no longer rolled around. Sleep appeared impossible, but after more than an hour I did drop off again as my brain came to terms with the noises and motion.
When I woke again, it was getting light outside and the serious noises and motion during the night had returned to what we had been suffering from during yesterday. This was still bad enough to maintain my nausea.
Deb got up and made a cup of tea, but I just drank enough to consume my prescription pills. Breakfast was far from on my mind, so after a quick wash to make myself presentable to the public, I went to Anderson’s in hopes of getting a stable place to sit while Deb went for breakfast.
Fifteen minutes later Deb came and found me.
Any plans to become active were forgotten and Deb sat with me with her book while our cabin was being cleaned for the day. An hour later I was back on the bed attempting to get some sleep while my stomach settled. I did manage to eat a bread roll and an apple but I simply lay horizontal while Deb went elsewhere.
At midday Deb went to lunch and I felt well enough to go to the choir session. That seems to make my mind ignore issues of motion and I enjoyed taking on Coldplay’s ‘Fix it’ song.
Back at the cabin I found Deb working on her diary, and a sandwich waiting for me. I was finally feeling well enough to eat, and ready to join in with the world again…but only carefully.
We went to Battle of the sexes for round two, and the ladies thrashed the men again. Fortunately, Deb doesn’t make a fuss about the ladies being somewhat superior, but as the captain she is pretty happy with their performance.
It was time for afternoon tea, and as well as the drink I had a cake. My food intake for the day so far has not been very much.
We returned to the cabin and while I relaxed with my book, Deb had a bath.
Tonight was the first formal one with the Welcome on Board cocktail party. The rocking and rolling continued, and although still slightly unstable, I had a glass of wine as we listened to Captain Gray telling us how smooth a trip we were having (WHAT!!) and how the sun was coming out for our visits to the ports in the coming days.
Slightly late and tipsy for dinner, we chatted again with our new friends over another quite pleasant meal from the Marco Pierre White gala menu.
With full tums again, nothing appealed from the cabaret acts this evening, so we relaxed in the cabin with our books.
Later we met up with the syndicate quiz team again, but lost by a couple of points. Not too bad considering we began with the -1 point penalty for being the previous evening’s winners.
By now Deb and I were exhausted from lack of sleep for two days, but the sea was finally beginning to give up its battle with Oriana, and we were hoping for a restful night.
There is another sea day to come tomorrow and we are looking forward to the promised temperature rise, and calmer sea.

Wednesday 14th February – to the west of the Portuguese coast.

Finally, it was a quiet and smooth night, and the pair of us slept properly.
My stomach was OK and we both went for breakfast in the buffet. Deb had porridge, and I had Frosties before we completed or reasonably health start to the day with a croissant.
After breakfast we had a short session with our diaries before going out onto the Promenade Deck for a walk. Unfortunately the front end of the deck was roped off so we had to walk first one way and then the other. Our estimations were that we had walked a mile, but it was not the same as doing the full laps.
Coffee time again, and we saw Mike Doyle having a chat to the captain. It seems they are good friends.
At midday we had the Baltic / Ligurian loyalty lunch with more free booze and a decent menu as we chatted to another couple, and an officer from the Purser’s team (or whatever they are called nowadays).
We left the Oriental restaurant in time for Battle of the Sexes part three. Finally the men have remembered what the aim of a quiz is all about. We won quite comfortably, but are still trailing the ladies overall.
The remainder of the afternoon was all about relaxing and reading, although I did also have a lovely hot bath.
As we had eaten well at lunchtime, we ignored the dining room dinner, and just had a snack in the buffet, which was featuring Indian food.
After that we lost in a Lord’s Tavern quiz about flags. To be honest we were useless.
Then in the theatre we laughed our way through Mike Doyle’s superb second comedy act. He has probably offended some more people again but I would gladly see him again.
It has been such a better day, so we had another couple of glasses of wine in Anderson’s before meeting up in Crichton’s again for the Syndicate Quiz.
We lost by two points in a very high scoring quiz.
To round off the day we climbed up to the buffet for a late night hot chocolate, and then after a short read, the lights were turned out.
….and sleep.

Thursday 15th February – Funchal, Madeira

Yes, we had a wonderful night of undisturbed sleep.
Breakfast was as healthy as yesterday.
We didn’t get off the ship immediately but looked at the island from the open decks. Oceana is also in port and docked just in front of us. The sky is blue and the sun was already trying to warm up the air.
Just before 10:00 we got off the shuttle in the shopping district of Funchal, and we set off for a walk around some of the backstreets. It was getting rather warm as we explore the Town Square and shops offering bargain prices, but sadly on things we didn’t want.
We had coffee and Nata cakes in a very pleasant café before turning towards the dockside again. We didn’t use the shuttle and made the most of terra-firma beneath our feet for a 2-minute walk along the water-front.
The last three wobbly days has made my knee ache very badly, and when we got back to the cabin it was noticeably swollen. By now we had both changed into shorts as the temperature had risen to delightful levels as the morning progressed.
After resting for half an hour we had lunch, and after that we went out by the pool and enjoyed the sunshine as we listened to our music.
Absolutely delightful.
Late in the afternoon Deb went to a special offer in the Spa where she had a number of treatments for an hour and a half. The price was actually very good at just under £30.
I had a bath to soak a rather sore and swollen knee, plus an aching neck. I love holidays but the three days of slightly dodgy weather meant my leg muscles were working overtime to maintain balance, and the knee has suffered.
Oriana set off at about 5:00 for the overnight sail to La Palma and I watched as we passed Oceana. She would be setting off for the Caribbean a little later. There was several minutes of the two ships blaring their horns at each other.
… I assume we were very popular with the people of Madeira hoping for a peaceful afternoon.
Deb and I had our dinner in the Beach House as a treat. It was delicious as always with a wonderful level of service.
Of course, there was too much food and we had to rest afterwards before going to the second show from the Headliners. The performance tonight was ‘Reel to Reel’. Yes, we have seen it before, but still worth watching.
That took us to bedtime, and I am hoping for a good night again to relax my aches and pains.

Friday 16th February – La Palma (Canaries)

For whatever reason, I didn’t get the sleep I wanted.
I gave up dozing at 7:45 to put the kettle on. We were just approaching the breakwater on the island of La Palma at the town of Santa Cruz. The sky had patches of blue but there were a few clouds as well.
It was breakfast in the buffet again with fresh fruit and toast for me, and porridge followed by croissant for Deb.
The Aida Sol arrived while we were eating. We think we last saw this ship in 2012 as we left Madeira on our world cruise.
Our plan was for a simple walk along the main street of the Santa Cruz. It was perhaps not the most dynamic port we have visited, but we knew that before we left home. Total outlay was less than 30 Euro for a pair of leather belts, an ice-cream each, and a fridge magnet.
It was hot and I had forgotten my sunglasses and my hat. To make matters worse my knee was as bad as it was yesterday and the walk made it swell again.
On the way back through the narrow streets, we saw a wave of Aida passengers coming towards us. Hundreds of them had just been released from their ship and were now taking over the town. I am sure these people are very nice but it seems that Germans stay close to each other and walk in a vast group. They were six or seven abreast and surging towards us without any thought about people coming in the other direction. We continually had to scatter to the left or right as each herd approached us.
This obstacle course continued all the way back to the harbour, and even along the shared dockside.
We were back home on Oriana before 11:00 and Deb went for a swim while I stretched out beside the pool to enjoy the unexpected heat of the sunshine from the totally blue sky.
Our eventual lunch was a healthy salad, although I spoilt it with a fruit trifle.
After lunch we returned to the cabin and spent a while updating diaries and Deb posted some more of our adventures of Facebook.
We followed that with an hour on the poolside, but in the shade. Once more it was music for me, and a book for Deb.
He evening began with an Individual Quiz where Deb won with 20/20 but only after a tie break.
Dinner was back in the dining room again where we were questioned about being missing for two nights. The menu included a section to celebrate the Chinese New Year that I thoroughly enjoyed. While a lot of people went to the theatre to listen to a singer who featured Michael Buble song.
We were not interest.
Deb went to sort out a dress that she will be wearing in the fashion show in a few days from now, and I lay on the bed attempting not to go to sleep with my book.
We stayed in the cabin until going for a drink before the syndicate quiz. We didn’t do very well, and I wished I could occasionally come up with an answer rather than sitting amazed at how much the others know.
That was the end f another beautiful day in the delightful sunshine. We have a slow journey tonight eastwards to the island of Tenerife.
… and the weather forecast is for more sunshine.

Saturday 17th February – Tenerife

I had a really good night, and although I woke at around 4:00 I wasn’t awake long before returning to dreamland.
When we got up just before 8:00 the sun was shining, and we were docked alongside in Tenerife. We are sharing the port with the Aida Sol again plus the Saga Sapphire.
After breakfast there was a few minutes downloading and scanning our newspapers before we got ready to look around the city of Santa Cruz … yes, another one!
There is a carnival in the city today and we had been warned that many roads are blocked off, and various stage shows and market stalls will be making walking difficult.
Goodness they were so correct.
It was chaos. A shuttle took us to the terminal building where we had to walk round and round and upwards to the street level. Then we began the walk through barriered off areas with a major concert stage being set up with sound checks. One major downside was that the council were washing down all the streets making our progress difficult while staying dry. Then there was the stench from ‘Portaloos’ which appeared to have been set up while filthy, and the air was full of the stench of urine.
Anyway, we managed to make our way to the shopping area where I went to a chemist to buy a support for my knee. It had reached a point where I am willing to try anything to keep me going until my surgery at the end of March. Once tried on, the support stayed put on my aching knee, and yes there was an obvious feeling of comfort from it.
Beyond that purchase, we walked for a while, but the city is concentrating on their carnival and some shops still had their shutters down. We retraced our steps to the ship with more diversions around stages and barriers. At the terminal we splashed out 2Euros again on a fridge magnet.
The remainder of the morning involved coffee and cake and a few minutes sitting on the deck while our steward (Harish) completed a major morning of full bedding changes.
We had lunch in Al Frescos for a change, but apart from the fresh pizzas I didn’t feel the food was any better than the buffet, but it was perhaps a little less crowded.
Deb burnt off the extra calories with a swim. We planned to sit around in the sunshine again, but there was a chilly breeze blowing across the decks. Deb went for a session in the sauna and I retired to the warmth and comfort of the cabin to update my diary.
Tonight we will be eating in the dining room again before watching the Headliners performing ‘Destination Dance’ in the theatre. We both enjoy this show.
Deb has just returned from her sauna and the only plan for the afternoon is to organise a second visit to the Beach House for tomorrow evening.
As the afternoon merged with evening we tested ourselves in the Individual Quiz…. I lost the battle.
The captain announced that we would be late leaving Tenerife while the inspectors complete checks on all the ship’s lifeboats. This delay would not be a problem as the overnight crossing to our nect port is a short one. We eventually left about two and a half hours late.
Then we enjoyed a quiet glass of wine in Anderson’s before dinner. I am pleasantly surprised that I have been finding something interesting and tasty to eat of the menu each night. I can only assume that a different chef can make the food on this familiar menu, that I was bored with, into meals that I am perfectly happy with.
From the restaurant we made our way to the theatre and had a delightful 45 minutes of energy and sparkle from the Headliners. I really like ‘Destination Dance’ and especially the finale of Irish dance.
We needed a rest now so spent some time reading before I was challenged once again to find some answers in the Syndicate Quiz. Only once did I have an answer that the others didn’t get, but my lack of confidence stopped me from pushing it forward.
… we lost by a single point.
There was still enough time left to have hot chocolate in the buffet before a quick read and sleep time.
Tomorrow we will be in Lanzarote for the final leg of these Spanish Islands. We have our one and only organised tour here, but it is a late departure, so no rush to get up in the morning.

Sunday 18th February – Lanzarote

It was a calm crossing overnight and I had plenty of relaxing sleep.
We were at breakfast by 8:15 as Oriana made her final approach (on time) to the port of Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote.
We came here many years ago and visited Fire Mountain along with hundreds of other tourists who have come to this mountainous volcanic island. This time we were taking a short coach trip to the city of Teguise that used to be the capital of the island.
Our tour is just a brief panoramic trip with basic information before we have a couple of hours on our own. There is a market where we might be able to spend some of our remaining Euros.
I have my knee support back on again this morning, and Deb believes the swelling has reduced since I began to use it yesterday. Even though it is less swollen, I continue to struggle with too much walking, and restrict use of the stairs to a minimum.
Just before 10:00 the tour bus left the dockside on the twenty-minute journey to Teguise. Our guide was called Girma pronounced with the ‘G’ sounding like you are clearing your throat. She gave us a pleasant description of the island of Lanzarote talking about the climate, its history, and how the primary employment used to be for agriculture, but which is now tourism. We were told about building regulations that refuse tall buildings, meaning that most houses are just two stories, and virtually every one we saw was painted white.
… very pretty
As we arrived in Teguise, Girma then spent time talking about the city, which was more like a sprawling small town. It has a market every Sunday that attracts hundreds of locals and tourists to this attractive location. On a hill overlooking the town is a castle, that was really too far to consider visiting, but which is very popular.
The coach parked up and we were let loose on the town for about two and a half hours.
The market had hundreds of stalls as well as dozens of artisan shops within the town itself. A small area is dedicated to local stalls with fruit and vegetables, cheeses, sauces and honey, but the vast majority were tourist based. The products ranged from the same ‘tat’ as seen all over the world, through local specialities such as basic clothing, pottery, and a vast array of items made from the volcanic waste. Then at the other end were some stylish items of clothing, high end art and crafts. Of course, there were numerous food outlets along with bars, and cafes.
We wandered up and down the market that is on the side of a slight slope. I imagine the site of the market spread over a couple of football fields with a square in the middle next to the beautiful church. There was music being played all over the place including a one-man band with various instruments including a harp, and he was very good.
Deb and I didn’t spend very much with coffee, a burger style snack for lunch, and an ice-cream to add to the cost of a fridge magnet (just one Euro today), a scarf, and replacement sun visor. So we still have some Euros left for our visit to Lisbon.
My knee was aching by the time we got back, so after a cup of tea I had a bath, and promptly fell asleep.
This evening we have the loyalty cocktail party, before we go up to the Beach House for our second treat of the cruise in this restaurant that we enjoy on all of the P&O ships.
The entertainment is not to our taste this evening, but we might attempt the mid-evening quiz in the Lord’s Tavern before I sit with the other four of our team attempting to think of a correct answer in the syndicate quiz.
Oriana will be late leaving Lanzarote to complete the lifeboat inspection on the starboard side of the ship. The captain is again not worried by the delay as we have a reasonably easy run through tonight and tomorrow to our final port of Lisbon.
By the way, the sun shone again just as in all out ports so far. The sky was clear blue, and it was hot. It was however just a little breezy at sea level.
Hopefully Lisbon will make a full house of beautiful weather before we make our way back to Britain.
Well, the evening was interesting. The Peninsular Loyalty cocktail party was in the Pacific Lounge that does not make interaction with other people easy when sat in rows. We had a couple of drinks plus a canape before the deputy captain gave the speech. Unfortunately, there was no information about the P&O future plans, and sadly we didn’t win the photograph album and bottle of champagne(ish).
From the party we went to the Beach House for another lovely meal. We couldn’t manage the desert course as we were full, or it could have been the rapid consumption of the party free booze. Anyway, we returned to the cabin contentedly full, and had a doze.
The evening was still quite busy with an attempt at a music quiz in the Lord’s Tavern where someone managed to score a full house, leaving the rest of us trailing far behind.
From there it was a dash upstairs to take on the Syndicate Quiz again.
Disappointment again, and especially as we had sufficient answers that we talked ourselves out of, to have won.
That was enough for the night and we struggled back with heavy tums and empty brains for our beds.
Tomorrow it is a sea day as we sail up the coast of Africa.

Monday 19th February – Sea Day

Early start today.
Deb is taking part in the fashion show later, although I think she is confused how this happened.
Being Monday it is also Eggs Benedict in the dining room.
Deb was not fully over yesterday evening’s food and booze yet, so only managed a single egg for her breakfast before having to dash back to the cabin to prepare herself for the cat-walk.
The weather is a little cloudier than our days in the islands, and although warm, it is not good enough to laze on the poolside…. Yet.
Well, that is my diary up to date for now, so I had better get ready to find a spot to watch Deb strut herself in front of the waiting crowds and paparazzi.
… have I got the wrong idea here then??
There was plenty of time for me to go out on the Promenade Deck and walk a mile before the fashion show began. By half way I decided it was a bad idea and my knee was hurting again. Of course, I ignored the warning signs and carried on for the full distance. Now it was really hurting.
Into the Pacific Lounge and I set up my camera to capture Deb in her outfit.
I was very proud as she appeared to have come second…..
… oh, is it not a competition?
It seems she was just chosen as the second person to walk out in the ‘black and white section of the show.
Thirty minutes later the advertising session for the ship’s clothes was over, and I met up with Deb back at the cabin. She has some extra discount for the shop as a reward for her work. It seems the group of 12 passengers involved were also supplied with copious amounts of Prosecco.
It was almost lunchtime by the time Deb had changed back into here normal daywear.
Deb went for her food but I had my choir practice and today’s song was ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ which involves serious amounts of harmonisation. I hit a high note today that I have avoided for many decades. Fortunately only two or three of us even attempted it, and has now been downgraded to a lower octave.
We only have one more session before the final rehearsal and stage set up on Thursday for the afternoon performance.
After that I grabbed a few chips for my lunch and then it was off to the Lord’s Tavern for Battle of the sexes. The ladies won yet again.
The busy day continued with a game show called ‘Less is more’. Of course, it is a pure coincidence but it was almost identical to BBC’s Pointless. Deb and I were chosen as one of the four pairs, but the first round was about Star Wars, and Star Trek films and we bombed out. Never mind, it was a pleasant way of spending half and hour before tea and cakes.
After the usual individual quiz interlude, we dressed in formal wear for dinner.
As we sat in Anderson’s for an aperitif we realised that we hadn’t read the daily paper correctly. It was billed as ’Black and White’ night and Deb stood out slightly in her red dress.
… Whoops!
We didn’t bother with the entertainment this evening as the Headliners were performing ‘We’ll Meet Again’. This has been going in one form or either since our first cruise 18 years ago. I imaging the British Cruise industry must keep the manufacturer of British flags going with the amount handed out for each sail-away party, along with this show.
Deb and I sat in the Crow’s Nest for a glass of wine listening to the rather Jazz biased trio, before we took on the Syndicate Quiz. It was another failure with more than enough correct answers considered, but rejected for wrong ones.
Tomorrow we will be at our last port in Portugal. It is our ninth visit to the city of Portugal.

Tuesday 20th February – Lisbon, Portugal

We woke to another blue sky and delightful sunshine. It was not warm to begin with, but the forecast is for 18°C later.
After breakfast, where I treated myself to some bacon, we were quickly ready to go down the gangplank. We were sharing the quite new terminal with the Aida Vita ship today.
The shuttle bus was a disaster. It had to drive away from the port along a dual carriageway in the wrong direction for almost a mile, before being able to turn back towards the city. After ten minutes we passed Oriana in the other direction and then after another ten minutes arrived at the drop off point. Had we known I think we would have walked the ten-minute stroll directly from the ship to the Black Horse Square.
We didn’t do much, and just strolled around looking at the shops and having coffee plus ‘pasties de Nata’ cakes (custard tarts).
That was enough for my leg so it was back on the shuttle bus for the much quicker and straight forward return journey.
There are issues of the ship today as the engineers and Plumbers are working on the newly refurbished boilers, so there is no hot water for several hours.
Hopefully it will be restored before shower time this evening.
Now I think it is time for some lunch.
With tums exercised, Deb and I grabbed towels and sun-screen for an hour or more on the deck in the beautiful hot sunshine. It reached a glorious 19°C.
We followed that with a cool down in the cabin, and a chance to read a few chapters between the odd moment of closed eye thought.
Deb won the individual quiz, and at around 6:00pm Oriana’s horn said a farewell to Lisbon as we began the 1000 or so mile trip north towards Britain. This has been a rather pleasant cruise, especially at the ridiculous price we paid for it.
We decided to skip the main dining room tonight and ate in the Buffet for their Indian style menu. It was really very nice but I came away with slight indigestion which got worse through the evening.
The evening entertainment was comedian Roy Walker. We really have seen too much of him on previous cruises, but I am sure he made the less travelled members of the audience laugh. Elsewhere on the ship it was 60s and 70s night and although we had our fancy dress with us, it seems no one dresses up any more. We saw just one passenger who had made the effort, and even the entertainment crew that we saw were in normal clothes.
We had a game of Trivial Pursuit up in the Crow’s Nest before the evening quiz in the Lord’s Tavern.
It was a musical quiz on the 60s/70s and we scored 27 out of 30 and still lost by 2 points. I have to say that the musical questions hardly covered the music I remember during that time. I listened to a lot of the music of that time, but apparently it was the wrong music.
Anyway, that was followed by the syndicate quiz where we failed in a three-way tie break. Sadly, I gave an incorrect answer and insisted it was correct so I take the blame for us not winning tonight.
… they really shouldn’t listen to my very rare answers.
The sea has turned lumpier and the wind has got up. Oriana is jiggling and bumping her way up he Portuguese coast.
The temperature is dropping as we get closer to home with just two days to go.

Wednesday 21st February – sea day

It was not a night full of sleep. The indigestion made me feel uncomfortable, and the motion of the ocean didn’t help.
It was a relief to eventually get up at 7:30 for a cup of tea.
As we went to breakfast in the buffet, we experienced the howling wind on the open deck. This is not going to be a sun bathing day, and any fresh air will be cold and blowy.
The first job on the list today was to complete the passenger questionnaire. It is quite noticeable that our scores are getting worse as time goes by. The niggling reductions in service standards are never dramatic in isolation, but the cumulative affecting our thoughts.
It will get worse, and we are seriously considering checking out the competition.
It was a quiet morning looking at the sales items in the shops, had a cup of coffee, and relaxed as the sea began to calm down a little.
At lunchtime I was I the Pacific Lounge for the choir practice, and we went through four of the songs, including a new one. Sadly, I have still not heard or sung the fifth one we will be singing.
Meanwhile Deb had begun to pack the mountain of cases.
After a quick snack with Deb we were off to the Battle of the Sexes where the men actually triumphed. We are still a long way behind the women before tomorrow’s final battle.
The rest of the afternoon was relaxing read time, and I had a bath as well.
It was formal dress code tonight, so after the individual quiz, we put on the planned black and white clothes that we should have worn a couple of days ago. The dinner was from a menu where I struggled to find anything to interest me, so it was prawn cocktail, and steak with the Sundae to finish.
Surprise, surprise, we missed the shows and had a quiet drink in Anderson’s before the Syndicate Quiz showed up my lack of general knowledge again.
A final cup of hot chocolate in the buffet ended our day, and sleep was needed. Oriana was now making quite smooth progress through the area known as the Bay of Biscay.
Tomorrow is the final day with lots to do.

Thursday 22nd February – Final Sea Day

Yes, it was another lovely and restful sleep, and we woke to a relatively calm sea with the sun shining. It was bitterly cold out on the decks as we went to breakfast, but this is winter.
Oriana was just about turning into the channel so not very far to sail during today and tonight before reaching Southampton.
Choir rehearsal in the theatre this morning at 10:00 before the show this afternoon at 1:30. My throat is not very healthy and I am resorting to the pastilles to stop the cough and get my vocal chords active for those high notes.
The rehearsal in the theatre went well, although it wasn’t easy fitting everyone on the stage. There was a small amount of motion from the sea meaning that my legs were rocking a little but nothing uncomfortable. After about 30 minutes we were told to go and get a rest and some lunch before the actual performance.
As I returned to the cabin my throat was sore again, I was coughing quite a bit, and my legs felt very heavy.
… this didn’t feel as if it was from the singing, or the slight sea movement.
Lunch was the usual pandemonium in the buffet to find places to sit, but we arrived early to stake our claim while we had a drink of water. From there it was a few more minutes relaxing in an attempt to stop what felt like cramp.
At 1:30 we performed our five songs in front of quite a good audience who applauded and demanded more as we hoped. I really enjoyed the experience but I wished I hadn’t been positioned next to someone who was a little tone deaf, and singing notes at random pitches through the songs. Perhaps I am just as bad, but I don’t think so.
Deb had watched the first couple of songs but then had to go to the Battle of the sexes. Luckily our songs didn’t take too long and I had changed out of my dress shirt in time to get to the battel before it started. The men did very well and gained almost half the points we were trailing by, but not well enough, and the ladies had a deserved victory.
Next was time for a cup of tea, and an admission to Deb that I was really not feeling very well. I was suspecting I had caught another virus.
We didn’t fancy going to the main dining room tonight so planned to eat in the Conservatory Buffet where there was a Thai evening. Our decision was based on the rather slow service we were getting in the oriental restaurant.
Roy Walker was the theatre act tonight, and he was eating just a couple of tables away from us. He certainly knows how to cram in his meal quickly.
There was a little spot of amusement when he left. The sliding doors had been switched off to prevent too much freezing blasts chilling the passengers, but they could be forced open to get in and out. As Mr Walker approached the doors expecting them to slide open he was surprised of their lack of movement. After waving his hands with no success I could detect a moment of suspicion and before he did anything else, he looked around to see if anyone had set him up.
Comics are always targets for practical jokes, and I have a feeling this was what he suspected. Anyway, with no one laughing he proceeded to prise the doors apart and make his escape.
We didn’t go to his show, but there was a lot of very positive feedback from the passengers we spoke to.
Instead we went to the Crow’s Nest for a drink to spend our remaining on-board credit. This coincided with the guitarist singing some very familiar songs from our past.
We gave the pub quiz a miss and moved to Anderson’s for a final drink of the cruise in there, before going to the syndicate quiz.
Yes we lost again, but though the last 11 nights of this quiz we had been near the top each time as well as our single win.
We bade goodbye to our quiz mates and went for a late night hot chocolate before bedtime.
By now I was feeling rotten and crawled into my bed with a full dose of paracetamol plus throat pills. Throughout the night I was sweating for a while and then shivering.

Friday 23rd February – Home again

It was a bad night, and I knew I was ill, but it was time to go home.
The last time we were on Oriana I managed to contract Norovirus on the morning we got home, this time it appears to be flu.
Anyway, we were away very early with disembarking commencing before 8:15. There was a serious delay while we found our suitcases, and the taxi back to our car was also rather slow arriving. There was also a moment needed to scrape the ice of the windscreen but we were on the road by 9:15, and home just after midday.
It had been a lovely few days away with some very unexpected good weather, but now it was time to get back to normal.
It is going to be a busy few weeks as I have to dig the garden over as quickly as possible before having an arthroscopy on my aching knee. After that there will just be just over a month before we are away again for our early summer cruise to the Mediterranean.
p.s. – My new book is selling very well, and I thank those of you who have bought it.

A slightly unplanned cruise to the Canaries!

Saturday Feb 10 – leaving home

Well, by lunchtime everything that needed doing had been done, so we loaded the cases and hit the road.  I’m quietly impressed that we’re only taken five cases this time!  Not even using the biggest one of our new set.  So just five – plus a tiny roll-on case and a laptop bag each.  Oops!

The roads were surprisingly quiet, and it only took us 2½ hours to get to Southampton.  But what a filthy trip; non-stop spray being thrown up by the vehicles around us.  And although we’ve had our new car since October, we still haven’t mastered the heating controls!  On.  Off.  Too hot.  Too cold.  Windscreen steaming up.  Off again.  And so on.

Ah well, never mind.

We checked into the Holiday Inn, and left four of the cases in their secure room.  Well, it saved lugging them up six floors and down again tomorrow.  And as usual when we stay anywhere, within 30 minutes of us arriving, the poor room looked like a bomb had hit it.

I had a quick bath while George watched the rugby, then we went downstairs to get something for dinner.  Now, every time we’ve had an evening meal here in the past it’s been really nice.  Not tonight.  George’s grilled chicken was very dry, and my chicken fajitas were frankly tasteless.  And both our plates had something burnt about them.

So after the meal, when I went to Reception for some more milk and teabags, I mentioned it.  As it happened the new manager was standing there and heard what I said, and after talking to us in more detail knocked 50% off the price of the meal.  That wasn’t the reason I mentioned the poor food, but it was appreciated.

We spent the rest of the evening in our room with the TV and a bottle of red.  It would have been nice to walk into West Quay where there was a Light Festival running, but the weather was frankly too awful.


Sunday Feb 11 – Southampton, embarkation day

The usual crap night’s sleep in a strange hotel room, but I think by now we’ve come to expect it.  Fortunately, when we woke and opened the curtains we could see Oriana docked and waiting for us.

After breakfast we killed an hour by wandering round the West Quay shopping centre, before returning and meeting our taxi to the ship.  We did the check-in thing and were ushered straight on board – no waiting around at all.  The Loyalty Welcome Lunch was in the Oriental restaurant, where we had a good chat and a laugh with a couple from Weston-Super-Mare.  And the drinks flowed very freely!  And we were surprised by Catherine, part of quiz team ‘Densa’ who did the world cruise with us last year.  She’s on board with her husband Frank and her parents, just like last time we met them, but unlike us they’d already been onboard for 12 nights, and were doing back-to-backs.  We all arranged to meet up later for a quiz.

After unpacking, we did our usual deck-by-deck forward-to-aft exploration of the ship, to get reacquainted with Oriana.  She’s not changed at all since we were last on her, although a lot of the furnishings and fittings appear quite new.  Our cabin is a deluxe outside, on C-deck midships: a good size, and lots of storage space.

We attended Muster drill of course, and the ship sailed at 4.45.  It was a lovely sunny afternoon, but it seems that while we were all indoors learning how to put our lifejackets on there had been a short sharp hailstorm.  Certainly the open decks were wet when we went outside.

Don’t you love the British weather? 😊

Dinner in the Oriental restaurant meant meeting out four table-companions – a couple with well over 60 cruises under their belts, and a pair of ladies who said virtually nothing.  Hmm.

We were pretty tired but managed to sit through the first Headliners’ offering, ‘Stage Door’: we’ve seen it before, of course, but it was still good.  Then we joined Catherine and Frank in the Lord’s Tavern for a ‘welcome’ quiz, mostly questions about P&O, where we lost out on the bottle of wine by just half a point.  Never mind.

And so to bed, both of hoping to get at least a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.


Monday Feb 12 – at sea

Well, so much for hoping: neither of us slept very well at all.  The sea was a bit lumpy, though nothing like we’d expected, but of course we just weren’t used to all the various noises that a moving ship produces.

For once we had breakfast in the main dining room rather than in the buffet.  This was purely because today was Monday which meant that Eggs Benedict were on the menu.  Lovely!  Even George, who’s tum gives him grief in heavy seas, enjoyed it.  And we had a nice chat with the others we were seated with, so all good.

I’d planned to give the art class a go, but had second thoughts when I saw who was taking it (I’ve come across them in the past, and sorry, but I just didn’t like the way they ran their lessons).  So the pair of us just sat in the Crow’s Nest reading until it was time for a meet-up arranged through Facebook.  The Captain (Derek Gray) showed up, so we all had a good chance to ask him things.  Thus we learned about his working day and the rest periods he’s legally obliged to take, the fact that he can’t pick and choose the officers who sail with him, what he thinks of the tea on board, why he sometimes secretly cries in his cabin (he misses his three-year-old son), and that contrary to a thousand and one launderette rumours, there are no plans to sell off Oriana.

A nice chap, very easy to talk to.

After that I grabbed a salad while George went to choir practice, and we spent the rest of the afternoon reading and relaxing, and watching the increasingly heavy seas.  Then it was time for the individual quiz (beaten by Catherine!) before preparing ourselves for the evening.

Dinner was much more of a chatty affair than yesterday as the six of us start to get to know each other a little. The menus are proving to be veeerrry familiar (!) but the standard here is pretty high, so that’s good.  However, I do wish I’d opted for a different dessert as the smoked cheese on the board repeated on me all through the evening.  Won’t fall for that one again!

There was a Welsh comedian on in the Theatre Royal, Mike Doyle.  I thought his name was familiar but after seeing his show I’m not so sure.  George was certain we’d not seen him before.  Either way, it was a very funny act and we’ll definitely make the effort to see him again in a couple of days’ time.

We joined Catherine and Frank for the first syndicate quiz, which – surprise, surprise – we won on the tie-break.  And as they don’t drink, George and I waltzed off with the bottle of wine:  Catherine just said when (when, not if!) we win again, they’ll have soft drinks.  I love an optimist!


Tuesday Feb 13 – at sea

What a dreadful night.  We were woken around 1.30 to what I thought was the sound of a lifeboat falling off its divots.  The ship was moving around a lot, and George peeked through the curtain just as there was a bright flash of lightening and a loud clap of thunder.  I don’t know how long the storm lasted, but I had to resort to ear-plugs to block out the noise a bit before I could get back to sleep.

In the morning I discovered a large puddle of water on the bathroom floor: I can only guess it had splashed out of the toilet pan.  But no other signs that we’d been churning around in a washing-machine sea, although poor George’s tum was suffering again and the last thing he wanted was breakfast.  Fortunately for us the Atlantic had calmed down again to ‘just’ a heavy swell, but both the Prom Deck and Sky Deck remained closed.  The Riviera Pool was the only one open, along with all the jacuzzies, but there was no rush of passengers to take advantage!

So the morning really was just spent dozing as we tried to make up for some of our lost sleep.  By lunchtime we’d rallied enough that George returned to the choir, and a bit later we both went to the Battle of the Sexes (I’m the ladies team captain, so pretty much have to go to that!).  Ladies whopped the men again, so we’re now over 100 points ahead.

Tonight was formal night, and the Welcome On Board bun-fight.  Okay I suppose, but the Pacific Lounge was pretty packed and we had no chance to mingle and chat to anyone much.  Still, at least we had a few free drinks!

Dinner was the Marco Pierre White menu, with the Beef Wellington option, which was really nice.  But although it’s only our third dinner on board I’m already wishing there was more in the way of vegetables on offer.  The strange ‘medley’ of veg sticks is not inspiring – carrot, turnip, sweet potato, swede – and the heap of over-cooked spinach is just plain awful.

But the lemon and sugar pancakes for Shrove Tuesday were lovely!

Neither of the main shows this evening took our fancy so we went back to the cabin for a bit more catching-up sleep.  And before joining Catherine and Frank for the syndicate quiz (hopeless tonight!) we just had time to pop into Harlequins to have a dance and try out George’s dodgy knee.  We got there just as a session of sequence dancing was starting, and sure enough there was a Mayfair Quickstep for us to join in with.  And to our delight they played the Irish Jig version – our favourite dance above all others!


Wednesday Feb 14 – at sea

At least, a reasonable night’s sleep!  The sea state had calmed down massively, and the air temperature was beginning to climb, so we decided to do a prom Deck mile walk.  Good idea, thwarted by the forward part of the deck being closed “due to high winds”.  It was a bit blowy, yes, but wouldn’t have called it high winds.  Ah well.  So we went as far round as we could and doubled back on ourselves, and repeating that four times took us well over the mile.

Midday saw us in the Oriental restaurant for our Baltic/Ligurian tier loyalty lunch.  There’s two of these on this cruise as there aren’t enough senior officers to host all the tables if we’d all been in together.  Apparently, the Caribbean tier lunch will completely fill the restaurant, but they don’t necessarily get officers hosting tables.

Our table host was the Purser (sorry, can’t remember what they’re called now), and we had another couple with us, so a nice little group.  Plenty of chat, and the Purser seemed to enjoy herself.  Decent amounts of wine brought round, and the menu was much nicer than the last time we attended one of these things.

George had missed the choir practice, but we left the restaurant just in time to get to the Battle of the Sexes, where the men had a stand-in team captain and won today (though the ladies are still ahead overall).

We didn’t want the full MDR dinner this evening, because of the lunchtime blow-out, so we just had a small plate of curry at the Indian-themed buffet in the Conservatory.  But what a curry!  I had a tablespoonful of pilau rice and the same of vegetable korma – and I think it was the nicest, tastiest curry I’ve ever had on any ship.  Gorgeous!

After eating, we joined in with a quiz in the Lord’s Tavern, where we had to recognise flags of the world.  We didn’t do too well, but two couples managed to get all 20 right: we think they’d done the same quiz before.  Then we made our way to the theatre where Mike Doyle was doing his final show – another very funny 45-minutes or so.

And finally it was time for the syndicate quiz, where together with Catherine, her mum and Frank we finished runners-up, so not bad.


Thursday Feb 15 – Funchal, Madeira

Another decent night’s sleep for us both, but sadly George’s neck was really bad this morning so I think he must have slept at a funny angle.  His dodgy left knee was giving him grief, too, so a double-whammy.

A lovely bright and sunny morning, though a little cool.  I thought trousers and a jersey would be appropriate for wandering around Funchal, but after about half an hour I was wishing I’d worn shorts and a t-shirt!  A really nice day, weather-wise.

Oriana’s sister ship, Oceana, was docked just behind us, giving us the chance to grab photos of the two vessels side by side.  But we had prime spot, meaning Oceana’s passengers had further to walk into the town than us!

We’ve been to Funchal on several occasions in the past and there was nothing particular we planned to do today, and with George’s knee playing up we were never going to go very far.  We wandered through some of the back streets and the Municipal Gardens, bought a couple of souvenirs, and ended up drinking coffee and eating nata cakes in a street café.  How did that happen?  Hee hee.

Back on board, we spent an hour up on deck, soaking up the sun and listening to our iPods.  The weather was turning out to be much hotter and sunnier than we had expected – not that we’re complaining!

Then at 4.00 I had an appointment in the spa, for something they were calling “Ladies Night”.  There were eight of us who were exfoliated and moisturised to within an inch of our lives, with sessions in the steam room and sauna thrown in (to help our skin absorb the products, apparently).  It lasted about 90 minutes, and was quite good fun.  Good value, too, at just £29 for the whole thing.

This evening we ate in the Beach House.  Always a fantastic meal in there, and tonight was no exception.  Service was a tad on the slow side, but that was no bad thing as it meant we digested our starters and mains, and weren’t so over-stuffed that we had no room for a pud!

Our final thing for the day was to watch the Headliners’ ‘Reel to Reel’ show.  Another one we’ve seen before, of course, but still pretty good.


Friday Feb 16 – Santa Cruz, La Palma

Fortunately, George’s neck is a bit better this morning, and he was up making tea as we sailed into Santa Cruz.  No sign of Oceana this morning as she’s heading for the Caribbean, but we were joined by the Aida Sol instead.  So we expected lots of Germans in town with us later on.

As with Madeira yesterday, there was nothing in particular we planned on doing, so as soon as we’d had breakfast we wandered into the town, buying one or two bits (including ice creams!) as we went.  The seafront is lined by little buildings, all of which have pretty wooden balconies on their upper levels.  The balconies are painted in a variety of colours, and most have pot plants trailing over them, making a very photogenic sight.

It was getting pretty hot so we didn’t hang around ashore, and once back on the ship I had a quick swim and we toasted ourselves up on Sun Deck once again.

I’m beginning to wish I’d packed more pairs of shorts, and maybe a bikini!

We joined in with the individual quiz, which today I managed to win!  My first (and possibly last) gold sticker!  We dined in the Oriental, and after dinner I had to visit the shops to pick an outfit: this idiot has volunteered to ‘model’ for the fashion show in a few days’ time.  I only wish they stocked/sold stuff that I actually liked.  Anyhow, I got a dress sorted, though when I saw the price tag I just went “how much???!!!”  Not a chance, not even with 10% Peninsular discount.  Good job I don’t have to buy the thing.

There was nothing on entertainment-wise that floated our boats this evening, so we relaxed in Anderson’s with a drink until it was time to join the others for the syndicate quiz.  That was strange – it STARTED with a tie-break question.  It seems the scoring yesterday was wrong, so the team that thought they’d won, us and another team had a tie-break question – which we won.  Strange way to start a quiz, but there you go.

Saturday Feb 17 – Santa Cruz, Tenerife

The Canaries are pretty confusing sometimes, with the names of towns being the same, or whole islands called the same as towns on other islands.  Doubtless the locals find it simple.

The Aida Sol was docked nearby again, along with the Saga Sapphire.  We tried to have a bit of a nose at the Saga ship as we’ve been thinking about investigating what they have to offer.  A fair number of balcony cabins and what looked like plenty of open deck: we might see about a ship visit later in the year.

It was carnival day in Santa Cruz today, and as we went ashore the preparations were much in evidence.  Many roads were closed to traffic, some off-limits to pedestrians, too, and we walked past three large temporary stages near to the port terminal.  But the worst thing was the stench of urine everywhere: the streets were being power-washed, which seemed to spread the problem around while the roads and pavements were wet.  Awful.

But we held our noses and headed up the main shopping street in search of a chemist.  George had decided he needed to buy a decent knee support (the one he has now is too small and does him no good at all), and found one which he’s worn most of the time since.

We didn’t particularly want to hang around to see the carnival, so made our way back to the shuttle bus.  We saw quite a lot of people in fancy dress, all heading in the same direction, so I’m guessing there are quite a number of floats involved.

We tried lunch in Al Fresco on board.  Shan’t be doing that again.  Tasteless salads and pizza slices, and the carbonara was cold.  Ah well, some you win…

We crashed on deck briefly, though the wind was quite cool – enough to send us back inside after I’d had a swim.  George went back to the cabin while I went to the spa and spent half an hour in the steam room and sauna.

The Headliners were back in the theatre this evening, with ‘Destination Dance’, our favourite of all the shows they do.  Think this one might be on the way out, though, as we saw a totally different dance-based show on Oceana back in November.  Shame if that’s the case, but it’s been around for a few years so its time’s probably up.

We followed the show with the syndicate quiz, hot chocolate in the Conservatory, and then bed.  We’re on a tour tomorrow so need our sleep!


Sunday Feb 18 – Arrecife, Lanzarote

We were on a tour to Teguise this morning, where there is a market every Sunday.  The rest of the week, this little town is a sleepy place, with just a few visitors seeking out the history of the island.  But on Sundays – well, all I can say is I wouldn’t want to be a resident!

There were literally hundreds of stalls, spread out over the main square and all the surrounding streets, roads and lanes.  It was part craft market, part flea market and part local produce.  One area even looked like a car-boot sale!  It was enormous.

And of course, being enormous meant there were thousands of visitors.  But we had no trouble finding somewhere to sit down when we wanted to, so we stopped a couple of times, once for coffee and once for a burger from a German street-food stall.

We’d been allocated three hours at the market, and that was about the right length of time.  We didn’t have to rush around anywhere, and nor were we twiddling our thumbs waiting to go back.

We were back on Oriana by mid-afternoon, which was too late really to get the shuttle bus into Arrecife.  So we lazed a couple of hours away before going to the individual quiz.  That was followed by the Peninsular cocktail party: have to say I don’t like these things being held in the Pacific Lounge (or in Carmen’s on Aurora, come to that).  It’s much too ‘regimented’, and there’s barely any chance to mingle and chat to other passengers or the officers.  Much nicer in the Crow’s Nest.

We ate in the Beach House again this evening, but didn’t manage the dessert course this time!  I blame the wine…

There was a music quiz in the Lord’s Tavern which we were just in time to take part in.  We thought we’d done quite well, but one team scored 20/20 so no-one else got a look-in.  And the syndicate quiz was a bit of a farce, with people taking issue with some of the answers, and Alejandro’s scoring called into question.


Monday Feb 19 – at sea

Didn’t sleep brilliantly – bit of indigestion after yesterday evening’s over-indulgence.  But we were up early for breakfast in the MDR, where the special-of-the-morning was Eggs Benedict.  We had nice company at the table, though I had to make my excuses and leave early as I was due, suited and booted, in the Pacific Lounge for Fashion show rehearsals.

There were 12 passengers and four of the shop team modelling a variety of outfits.  We had our make-up done and a walk-through practice beforehand, with unlimited prosecco, orange juice and bucks fizz flowing.  The audience began filling the Lounge, which I’d guess was around 75% full, so a good crowd who were very supportive of us nervous models.  I was second on, as part of the ‘monochrome range’: in short, I had a black-and-white wrap dress to wear, with a black bag and white pashmina.

It didn’t last too long, and was all quite fun.  I’d certainly volunteer to do it another time.

George went to choir practice, then after lunch we both had the Battle (ladies back to winning ways again).  We followed that by getting our names picked out of a hat to take part in the P&O version of “Pointless”.  Got knocked out in the first round though, due to neither of us ever having watched either a Star Wars or Star Trek film!  We didn’t really want another meal in the Beach House anyway!

Tonight was black-and-white formal night, which somehow I managed to overlook, and wore a scarlet dress instead!  Never mind, I wasn’t the only one in a ‘colour’!

We didn’t want to see the Headliners’ ‘We’ll Meet Again’ show, so spent an hour in the Crow’s Nest where the Trio were playing, before joining the others for the syndicate quiz again.  Bit better organised tonight, but there was still a couple of teams querying the scoring.


Tuesday Feb 20 – Lisbon

This is the ninth time we’ve called at Lisbon so we had nothing on our ‘do and see’ list.  Another Aida ship was docked with us (Aida Vita, I think it was), so the port area was pretty busy, though there was no queue for the shuttle into the city centre.  This took ages – partly due to the traffic and partly the convoluted one-way system.  But we were in no hurry.  We wandered around for an hour or so, window-shopping mostly, before having a coffee and nata cake at one of the pavement cafés that line the main streets.

And that was all we wanted to do.  It was a lovely sunny day, but a bit cool, and lazing on the deck of the ship seemed a nice way to spend the afternoon, so that’s what we did.  Most of Sun Deck was pretty sheltered, with barely any breeze, and although it was quite quiet when we settled down it didn’t take long for most of the sunbeds to be occupied.

I won a second gold sticker in the individual quiz later in the afternoon.  Not sure if I’ll swap them – might just hang on to them until we’re on Aurora in May.  We’ve heard that the stickers will be replaced with ink stamps, but I’ll take that risk!

We ate dinner in the Conservatory as tonight was the Indian buffet, which is always good.  Then we sat in the Crow’s Nest for an hour playing Trivial Pursuit as we didn’t really want to see tonight’s main show, Roy Walker, as we’ve seen him several times in the past.  We joined Catherine, Frank and Nora in Lord’s Tavern for a 60s/70s music quiz, followed by a dash upstairs to the syndicate quiz where we lost out on the tie-break.


Wednesday Feb 21 – at sea

We’re sailing back past Portugal’s Atlantic coast, and the sea is noticeably lumpier than it has been for the last few days.  Cooler too, so it looks like we’ve had it with the sunbathing!

Harish, our cabin steward, delivered our questionnaire/feedback form this morning, so we sat down for half an hour and filled that out.  Our responses to the “what can we do better” bit included:

  • Improve the choice of vegetable in the MDR so we can get our five-a-day
  • Include the tips in the price of the cruise to stop people not tipping at all (cash or auto)
  • Stop relying on classical musicians and singers for the evening entertainment as some of us don’t like that type of music
  • Build more SMALLER ships (Oriana/Aurora-sized)

There’s probably a lot more we could have put, but we ran out of space!

And today it’s been announced that Aurora will become ‘adults only’ from March/April next year.  That’s okay with us (hardly see any children on her anyway), but we do wonder if that means Oriana will be sold.

Most of the morning was spent around the ship, sitting chatting to various people and drinking coffee.  George went off to choir practice at midday, leaving me space in the cabin to begin sorting stuff for packing.  I got the bulk of my clothes into a case before he returned and we went to the Conservatory for lunch.

The men won the Battle today, so there’s less than 100 points between the two teams going into tomorrow’s final, and we didn’t do great at either the individual or the syndicate quizzes.

The main show in the evening was a pair of classical musicians/singers (no thanks), or the Headliners’ tribute to Queen which we’ve seen so many times we could probably join them on stage.  We spent most of our evening in Anderson’s instead.


Thursday Feb 22 – at sea

Overnight we continued past the Bay of Biscay, with seas so calm there was barely any ship movement at all.  So slept well, apart from waking at one point with a really banging headache: no idea why (bit dehydrated, perhaps?  Certainly not due to the single glass of rioja I had last night), but it had cleared by the morning.

George had his final choir rehearsal at 10.00, while I packed a couple more suitcases.  Bulk of it’s done now, which is good.

Then after lunch the choir gave their performance in the theatre – and very good it was too.  I even managed to video most of it, in spite of someone who came and stood next to me and sang along, seriously off-key!  Then I raced down to the Lord’s Tavern for the final of the Battle, which was much more interactive than before: the ladies won today, and have won overall – hooray!  And I was given a bottle of the P&O paint-stripper for being team captain, which I wasn’t expecting at all.

We ate in the buffet this evening, Thai-themed tonight.  We just couldn’t face the MDR: I’ve not mentioned it, but one of our table-mates eats his way through the entire menu, extremely slowly.  Last night was the final straw, as he didn’t like the bouillabaisse (he’d already had a starter), but had it replaced with another soup – while the rest of us were sitting twiddling our thumbs with our champagne sorbets rapidly melting.  So no, enough, and the buffet was fine.

Roy Walker was on in the theatre again, but we sat in the Crow’s Nest drinking our way through our remaining on-board credit.  We made it – just!  I would hate to not spend some of it, even just a few quid.  We had a final go at the syndicate quiz, before saying our goodbyes and putting the last suitcase outside the cabin door.

George has picked up the Cruise Cough – it’s pretty bad this evening, but at least he succumbed at the end of the trip, not the beginning.


Friday Feb 23 – Southampton, disembarkation day

We were off the ship before 8.15, but strangely it took us an age to find our cases: that’s been a pretty quick process in recent cruises.  And then we had to wait another age for our taxi back to the hotel to collect our car.

George was still feeling rotten, but drove anyway, and we were home just before midday.  By the middle of the afternoon we’d unpacked, gone through all the post, and I’d done two loads of washing.

It was a really nice cruise, even though the Canary Islands aren’t top of our list of places to visit.  In our case, it’s about the cruise rather than the ports.

And now there’s just over nine weeks before we’re off again!



Sofa Change complete

New sofas in and already well sat on.

Old sofas finally gone to a new home. There were three people who asked for them, were told where to come and collect them,  and then ignored us …..time wasters.

Anyway the new ones are very comfortable, and support my knees oh so much better. The only negative is that the backs are lower and don’t support my neck. No problem as I am adapting the way I sit and looking for a small neck rest.

Elsewhere, my new book has begun to sell as people find out about it.

The weather has been very unpredictable with heavy rain, winds, and then freezing cold with a sprinkling of snow. At least the pair of us have finally driven away the influenza bug that has been annoying u since the new year.

I have managed to spend a few moments in the garden digging the vegetable patch. I only dig a little at a time to avoid exhausting myself, or pushing the aching joints too far.

I have been to see my doctor to talk about my visit to see the knee surgeon. My GP had still not had the letter from the Mr Maggit (however it is spelt). So I had to let him know what the surgeon said and planned to do.

My GP was not impressed with his thoughts about my knee. At least the arthroscopy should identify what is going on inside the joint to explain why I have so much pain, for so many years.

I did have a blood test taken to check for rheumatoid arthritis, although my doctor assured me that I had a similar test last year which show no sign of it.

I just have a suspicion, that after the exploration inside my knee at the end of March, I will be still suffering with no answers.

Hey ho, I can’t dwell on this until too much as there are other things to get on with.

Tomorrow we have a little job to do. we are driving to Cannock to visit our son’s flat, and measure up for new carpets. He has also piled up a load of rubbish he wants rid of.

….yes we spoil him!

After that we can concentrate on getting ready for our little holiday. The good ship Oriana will soon be waiting for us to board for a (hopefully) gentle sail down to the Canary Islands for a spot of early sunshine.

That brings me up to date, so stay warm everyone….or if you are from a warmer country, stay cool.