Deb and I have been home from our adventure for four days. The majority of the washing has been done, although there is still quite a pile of clothes in the garage where the washing machine is panting from exhaustion. The post has been looked at, and once again a pile nearly half a metre high eventually gave us about ten items of interest. Sadly, most of our post consists of cruise brochures from three separate companies.
Deb quickly returned to the cooking and I was immediately thrilled to have food with taste again. The meals on the ship are good, but don’t have the variety of taste with meat and fresh vegetables that are carefully prepared, rather than the mass catering required in a ship’s galley.
It was delightful to sink into our own bed with our own pillows and not have the gentle (but obvious) purr of the air-conditioning, and rocking as the ship battles the oceans of the world.
… and nobody got up early next door to wake us prematurely.
And yet with all these familiar things back under our control again, I would jump at the chance to repeat the experience we have had.
It was nearly ten weeks on board Aurora, and we visited so many amazing places. Without any doubt, the Amazon was the highlight, and I still cannot come to terms with its size, and the surrounding rain forests. The simplicity of the local villages with people surviving and dealing with an ever-changing environment between the rainy and dry seasons. The different animals in their natural habitat blew my mind.
The port of Manaus was probably not the prettiest of cities we have ever visited, but once away from the hundreds of pleasure and working boats, floating fuel stations, and the noise, Brazil and more especially the Amazon was sensational.
Would I go back?
Of course I would, but having experienced it once, I doubt the thrill would ever be so intense again.
From the Amazon we moved to the Caribbean islands. We have only been to a couple in the past, but now we saw a cross section of islands from those on the east, and those towards the west.
They are so different.
The eastern islands are far less organised to attract the big spenders. The people are going about their normal daily life, while doing their best to make a few extra dollars from cruise ships.
In the west, they are almost in the pocket of the American investors with ports designed to keep the visitors contented without exploring true island life. Vast bright and shiny shops sell diamonds, pearls, clothes with designer labels, and multiple international chains of cafes and bars to painlessly suck money from wallets, and increase credit card bills.
You can already guess what we enjoyed most, and have already planned to get back to those islands in the east at sometime in the near future.
Then Aurora took us around a loop of the central American countries. Like the nearby islands, many were once again shopping palaces that have to be ignored to see beyond the ports, and to find the true lives of countries that are often so very poor. We enjoyed the majority of the countries we visited, but not the constant glitzy diamond shops.
From the heat and humidity of the tropics we slowly worked our way northwards. The temperature dropped gradually, and the Atlantic Ocean reminded us that the sea is not always as calm as we had experienced for a month.
After 55 nights, all but about a hundred passengers left Aurora in Southampton, but few of us stayed on to have a totally different experience of Norway in the winter. This was awe inspiring just like the Amazon, but this time it was the scale of the mountains, the magic of the Fjords, and of course, the snow.
Most people saw something of the Northern Lights to tick one more box on their bucket lists. Deb was lucky to get a clear view of them, but unfortunately my illness prevented me from going off the ship in Alta. For the first time the cold got to me. I am normally happy with cold, and adore the sight and walking in the snow. But Norway was just too much for my aging arthritic body.
I still enjoyed Norway, but it was more about the visual thrills of snow-covered mountains, and unbelievably tall cliffs of the Fjords.
Once again I would like to go back, and complete the experience with a proper search for the Northern Lights, but I will balance my hopes against the experience of the cold.
Finally, I want to thank our friends, Angie, Richard, Robin and Rosemary. They made the cruise so special. We were like a small family unit planning and scheming how to win the Syndicate Quiz, and making the most of the free cocktail party booze.
Deb and I have declared that this will probably be our final long cruise. We have to plan our future, and ensure we are financially secure for however many years we have left.
But we haven’t finished cruising altogether. We will be back in Southampton in June for a last cruise on Oriana. She was the first ship we ever sailed on in 2000, and will soon be on her way to amuse the people of China with her new owners. That cruise will take us around the British Isles including Guernsey in the south, various places in Ireland, and as far north as the Faroes.
After that we will take some time to choose cruises that are going to new places, or favourite places. We will almost certainly look at other cruise lines, and I certainly want to try a River Cruise in the near future.
OK, so this particular series of blogs are finished, but don’t go away as I will still be making my thoughts and experiences public to amuse or annoy the hundreds of you who have read my ramblings.
I now go back into author mode, and begin the new book. After a survey on Facebook, it seems the preferred title is ‘From the Furnace to the Freezer’, and hopefully it will turn up on Amazon before the end of the year. There are at least two other books in the pipeline that are partially complete, and could appear soon.
Thanks again everyone for taking an interest in the adventures of a Cornishman and his wonderful wife.