Category Archives: Around the World Without Wings – The Sequel

New Book Published

After many months of typing, reading, re-typing and editing, my new book is published in Kindle and Paperback.

      Searching for New Sunrises is the story of our Around The World cruise in 2017.

We had no intention of ever going again, but after we returned from our first world circumnavigation is 2012 we just had to do it once more.

P&O’s cruise ship Aurora sailed around the planet for 104 days, crossed the three major oceans,  and  visited five continents. Once again the sights we saw were amazing, and we have been left with yet more memories of glitzy cityscapes, rain forests, deserts and even a volcano.

And we also made some wonderful friends that gave us smiles and laughs while we saw so many new sunrises.

Post 40 – Final Thoughts

It’s a week now since our suitcases were put outside the cabin and our adventure was coming to an end.

Deb and I have lived in a bit of a dream since we came home, as life began to revert to normal. The washing is completed, the suitcases put away in the loft, the cupboards have been restocked with food, and the freezer is filling up. We have bought seeds and Deb has just about filled all the available space in the greenhouse with pots and trays of flowers and vegetables for the summer.

There is still a list of things that need doing such as digging the vegetable plot, getting rid of a forest of weeds that have appeared, empty last year’s compost bin and spread its goodness on the soil. The water butts need to go back to their proper places and connected up so they gather the precious water for the dry (hopefully) moments during the summer. The lawns need another cut and then be given a first dose of ‘weed and feed’ to turn it back to dandelion less and green delight.

Turning to more major projects, the shed needs to be re-roofed, and the greenhouse is scheduled to be changed for a glass one rather than the noisy plastic panelled one we have at present. We want new carpets in the bedrooms and the dining room, the settees need replacing, and we want a fence and gate across the gap at the bottom of our front garden.

On my personal ‘to do’ list there are three outstanding book projects in various stages, plus of course the book of the world cruise needs to be started, while it is still fresh in my mind.

Sadly Deb and I can only get on with our lists a little bit at a time. We have both got annoying colds since our return, but more importantly, our minds are still in cruise mode, and memories are far too vivid to shove to the back of our brains for a while yet.

So, how can I summarise those 104 days, those 30 or so different countries, those 50 or more cities that we visited, those hundreds of amazing memories, and thousands of smiles and laughs?

There were bad moments, and this blog has probably captured many of them, but are they what I will remember most, and will they sour the experience?

Was this a good cruise? …Yes of course it was.

Was it a very good cruise? …Yes for most of the time.

Was it better than the first world circumnavigation five years ago? …No, the buzz and excitement of the experience wasn’t so intense.

Would I do it again? …Yes in a flash, but I don’t think it will happen, and I believe the experience would be even less exciting, and become what I noticed on several faces of those who repeat the winter world cruise as a habit. They don’t see it as an adventure; it is just what they do to avoid the winter.

I will try and break it down now.

The experience of sailing into and away from exotic countries and cities, is still amazing. Only on a cruise ship can you savour the sights of a cityscape, and only on a world cruise can you drool at the first glimpses of iconic bridges and buildings in the morning twilight, and see them disappearing into the distance in the evening dusk as your floating home moves onto another city or country, or even continent. It is not like a Mediterranean cruise, you can go on these several times each summer and revisit cities and island, if you have the money and the time. A world cruise opens up the possibility of seeing places that are thousands of miles away and British-based ships rarely venture so far away.

Yes of course you can go by plane and experience the culture of the far east, the fun of Australasia, or the excitement of California, but you can never squeeze in so many different places with the comfort of a floating hotel.

On this trip I enjoyed our first visit to Malta near the beginning of the cruise, but I wasn’t so enthused generally about the first couple of sectors. Jordan was amazing for the ruggedness of the desert. The cocktail party and the water display in Dubai were sensational, but the city itself has become too glitzy and too big, in my personal belief. We saw a lot of what I can only describe as dirty cities and countries. India is a rich country with ambitions to be big and successful, but there are so many poor people, in poor towns, who seem to be ignored while the richer city centres get glitzier and bigger without thought for the less well-off, and less able people a few miles, or just metres, away.

The cruise was described as being a Heritage Cruise to remember 180 years of P&O sailing around the world, and yes we saw a great deal of history, with colonial buildings built as the trade routes expanded across the Indian Ocean. But the majority of these buildings are being forgotten for what they were, and if not modernised behind the original facades they are being allowed to decay, or simply pulled down and described by the guides as the site of a once-famous and important historical landmark.

Then we reached Singapore. This is a city that remembers its history, and modernises those colonial buildings whilst keeping their appearance. At the same time the city is growing, and is mixing glass and steel amongst its brick covered past. It is clean, vibrant, and fantastic. And it was like a turning point on the cruise. The two days in Singapore cheered us all up and the next three sectors were exciting and stimulating.

The majority of the cities we went to were clean. The people were friendly and generally looked to be comfortable with life. And yes, virtually everyone spoke English.

The island of Indonesia provided a wonderful tour of Buddhist temples and traditional ways of life. Its busy population and packed roads meant travelling in convoy and having police cars with blue lights and sirens everywhere we went but we quickly got used to it. Sadly we had a real tropical shower that lasted nearly an hour. It turned green and beautiful forests and fields into floods of muddy water. We realised just how volatile the tropical weather can be. The only real disappointment of Indonesia was the Port of Semarang which stank of something no one could recognise, but everyone felt concerned by it.

From there we moved onto Bali. This was a place where we had bad memories of our visit in 2012. We couldn’t forget, or forgive, and stayed firmly close to the ship.

After quite a period at sea we arrived at a run of ports in Australia. I will always be excited at the smiling happy people, and a country that I once thought I would never see beyond the pictures on the television, or in books. Now I have been there twice, and seen several of its beautiful major cities, plus the enchanting Kangaroo Island that was both a surprise and a delight. I love the country and will always feel proud and amazed that I ever got there.

From there we continued to New Zealand. There was more rain but sensational places to visit, starting with the southern Fjords before sampling both the South and North Island. Just as five years ago, the local people were eager to please and show us their homeland.

Aurora moved eastwards across the Pacific, for a day on the island of with Fiji. Finally we had sunshine and true heat on a beautiful tour. Next was Apia (Samoa) and once again the weather smiled on us as we explored another delightful Pacific Island.

Now we had a long run of sea days until Honolulu in Hawaii where we climbed a volcano to see the island from above.

It was all so wonderful and the sector ended in San Francisco where once again the weather cleared to make our two day stay superb. OK we didn’t get to Alcatraz as we had hoped to, but had a sensational time exploring on our own as well as an open top bus tour. We also had the most amazing experience of an organised trip on a restored vintage train along the Napa Valley. It included wine tasting and a delicious lunch. It cost more than we have ever paid for a tour and we thought carefully before we booked it. ..But it was sensational.

From San Francisco we had a series of stops beginning with San Diego before leaving the USA for a visit to Mexico at Cabo San Lucas. After that was Guatemala. We stopped at Puerto Quetzal, which was perhaps not the nicest of ports, but where we had a really good tour to an Orchid farm and a Macadamia plantation.

Now came the transit of the Panama Canal that was still as exciting and spectacular on our second visit.

Aurora was now in the Caribbean and we had a call at Cartagena in Colombia. This was a bit of a let-down. We had a tour that showed us many intriguing places but the fast pace and the guide made it less than interesting. We had the ship’s tour lecturer with us, and she shouted regularly at the guide to slow down, and rescued what could have been a disaster.

Onwards and we visited St Lucia. Here we experienced another first and had a tour on a catamaran to see the Piton Volcanoes and finally had a swim in the Caribbean Sea. Oh, and we drank rather too much Rum Punch, and got a little sunburnt.

The next day it was Barbados and our last taste of sunshine before the long crossing of the Atlantic towards home. There was just one more stop in the Azores where the sun had lost its heat, but which was still a lovely day.

The final days were not nice. We had a three-day storm to remind us that we were returning home for the last few weeks of winter. Those days were disappointing, but could not spoil a superb couple of sectors. The passengers were visibly happier and smiling more as we enjoyed the sunshine and some wonderful ports.

So how about the things that makes a cruise special?

The entertainment was not as good as we remembered from five years ago. There were far too many vocalists, including at least four female ones that described their act as a tribute to the Divas. I am sure many people enjoyed them but we prefer something to laugh at or be surprised by occasionally. The comedians, and speciality acts – magicians, conjurors and ventriloquist were superb, but many jokes and tricks were repeated. The on-board entertainment team were a let-down. Not because they were bad, but because there weren’t enough of them for a major three month cruise. For the first few days after San Francisco we had two trained hosts plus the DJ along with two absolutely brand-new girls. This pair had to be trained and prepared by the others before being let loose on their own. It meant we had no special events and even the Syndicate Quiz ran with just one host.

…We deserved better!

Finally I will talk about the food.

This is the 18th year we have been cruising, and generally we have always enjoyed the majority of the meals served in the main dining room…but not this time. A new menu was introduced last summer (2016) and everyone seemed to be raving about it. Personally we found it boring with far too much fish on the menus, which were obviously not easy to repeat and keep the interest. The vegetables were tasteless, and featured the same things over and over with just subtle changes. Mashed potato featured regularly but never tasted right. Topping it with cheese, or mixing it with herbs, did not help.

Passengers were being forced to go to the speciality restaurants, but not as a treat, but as a change to excite the taste buds again. I hadn’t realised just how boring the menu and taste of the food was until we got home and my taste senses exploded with simple home cooking.

So after a lot of negative thoughts, how can I possibly say that the cruise was a sensational experience and worth the small fortune we aid for it?

Well, the ports of call and the cities were amazing. Even the places we have seen before were special because we made the most of what was on offer. We explored some cities on our own, but also had some wonderful organised trips.

We also enjoy life on a ship – well maybe not the rough weather – but generally we find the days at sea and the evenings of organised fun, plus the pampering is a real treat.

And we made some wonderful friends. The six of us who turned up on the first evening at the dinner table gelled. It took a day or two but we quickly shared our evenings together, and chatted or laughed as if we had known each other for a lifetime. We were comfortable with each other. Now the six of us have gone our own ways, but we will be meeting again in two years’ time for another winter away on a cruise ship.

In January 2019 we will all be departing Southampton on Aurora again for a trip to the Amazon and Caribbean, and we have all tagged on a second cruise at the end going to the fringe of the Arctic Europe. It will be over 10 weeks at sea, and maybe things won’t prove to be as good, but hopefully we will resurrect our friendship and the food will improve, and the entertainment will be more varied as we plough the Atlantic Ocean again.

In three months Deb and I are off again with a sort cruise on little Adonia. In the meantime we will be travelling around the country to see friends and family, so I will be posting about our other adventures.

Thanks for taking the time to read these adventures of Deb and George as we sailed around the world. It has been sensational and I would truly jump at the chance to go again, but as I said at the end of my first book about world cruising – There is an awful lot more of the world to see yet.

So that is the end of this blog. It will remain on the website for people to read, and you are welcome to drop us a few comments…but not about Viagra or Advertising other website please.

Bi for now

Post 39 – Back Home

It is Monday evening and we have been home for a little under three days. There are many good things about being home again, but it is strange to not be on Aurora and planning our evening around the ship.

We were home before 1:00 pm on Saturday after a pleasant journey with the roads not very busy. I suppose the only stressful bit was wheeling two trolleys of suitcases along the road from the terminal to the short stay car park where our car was waiting. Once in the driver’s seat, it took a few minutes to remember how to drive, but by the time we reached the dock gates the autopilot clicked into action, and along with Satnav to gently remind me of the junctions we were on the way. Our only stop was a short detour into Ross on Wye to Morrison’s to get some essential foodstuff to last the first afternoon and evening at home.

I had been driving for almost an hour when I suddenly realised the trees were in leaf. This may sound stupid, but the branches were bare when we left in January. It suddenly struck me that we had missed winter (just about) and it was soon going to be Spring.

Back home it took half an hour to wake up the house again. The water had to be turned on, and it took a moment to remember just what I had to do. The electricity had tripped so needed to be reset and that took a couple of attempts before it stayed on. The fridge and freezer could then be switched on. Meanwhile the suitcase needed to be brought in and Deb took the first of clothes out to the garage and set the first load of washing underway.

The first cup of tea was then ready and we had a chance to sit down and draw breath.

While Deb was unpacking and moving piles of clothes into the garage for washing, I set about sifting through the two piles of post that were each about 30cm tall. The vast majority of it was junk mail, and our empty recycling bin was beginning to fill by the time this useless waste of paper was moved to it. Then piles of possibly useful letters were made of post addressed to one or both of us.

By the time we had sorted through the envelopes, there were about 30 items to file away, and only about five things that needed action.  It seems rather sad that having been away from home for over 100 days, there was so little within the hundreds of items of past that was actually of any interest or importance.

We had lunch around 2:30 by which time the suitcases were nearly all empty and in the spare room ready to disappear up into the loft. There were piles of ‘things’ and ‘bits’ all over tables and other available surfaces that needed to be found a home, and it took the remainder of the afternoon to a final, or temporary resting place for these souvenirs, books,  and presents from our adventure.

Deb and I also took a break to explore the garden. Our lovely neighbours (Pam and Kim) had cut the grass in an attempt to takeaway that shock when we got home. They didn’t know exactly where the edges were, as the grass was over 30 cm high. The lawns were in need of a further cut, but that was not a priority today either.

Almost as soon as we arrived home, I began to suffer from the strange phenomenon pf ‘Land Sickness’. This affects a lot of cruise passengers and leaves our body struggling to balance and we wobble as if still at sea. By mid-afternoon I was really in trouble, and although the world around me was still, I was moving as if I was still in the ship during the three day storm. I was dizzy and rocking, and Deb even suggested I took a sea-sickness pill to see if that would help. I knew that it would soon clear up, but this time it has been really bad, and I am still not totally back to normal two days on.

Anyway, apart from the grass needing cutting, the garden was full of weeds that were so big that it was difficult to instantly know if they were actually plants that should have been growing, or if they were interlopers.

…another job needing attention quickly in the days to come

The apple trees were in blossom, the pears had small fruit on them, and the soft fruit bushed were loaded with sweet delights to come in the weeks to come. Sadly the vegetable patch was bare, apart from weeds, and will have to be dug over and planted out very quickly to give us a harvest.

The garden would have to wait.

Deb cooked a delicious meal of steak and kidney pie, mash potato and carrots. The taste was so much more intense than the majority of meals we have had on Aurora. The ship meals maybe adequate with unusual names and ingredients, but they cannot produce the same degree of taste when catering for hundreds of passengers.

Our evening consisted of long deep baths, and generally relaxing in our familiar settees while discovering just how many television programmes we had recorded. Sadly a lot of what we hoped for hasn’t been recorded because of the power being off, but there is enough to last for several weeks when nothing live takes our fancy.

Sunday morning I moved the larger garden machines from the garage back into the less secure shed. Then while Deb went to complete a proper round of shopping, I began the task of clearing weeds, and then set about the lawns. The two lawns are usually cut in a little over an hour, but it took me nearly three hours this time for a very basic trim. The sun was shining and I was hot, and dripping in sweat from the effort. Midway through the afternoon I finished the lawns and sat down. It was then that I realised my back was screaming a complaint about the effort it had been put through.

I could hardly move by the time we had dinner, but I struggled to the table for roast chicken, Yorkshire pudding, boiled potatoes and more fresh carrots plus gravy. Once again it was delicious and so different from the bland tasting chicken on the ship.

Today (Monday) my back is still bad and I said I would give it a rest. That plan failed as the brick edge to our pathway began to fall off, and a job I hoped could wait until much later, had to be started. It meant scraping up the gravel and moving it to a different part of the garden. I only did enough to avoid accident but that took an hour, and I was exhausted and sweating again.

After lunch we went to B&Q to buy compost, vegetable seeds and weed killer so that I can begin on the vegetable patch and weeds properly. By dinner time, Deb had already planted beans in pots, and potatoes are in trays. That means I have to have the veg patch ready very quickly.

As the light is beginning to fade on Monday, I think we are back to normal and comfortable in our home. We have spoken to our family and all is well, except our son Andrew who has broken his wrist playing football.  There is still a huge pile of clothes to be washed, ironed, and put away, but the initial chaos has passed and we can relax again.

Of course, we are also planning, and looking forward to our next cruise in three months’ time on little Adonia. In the mean time we will no doubt be travelling to Cornwall to see my brothers, to Shropshire to see Deb’s brother, as well as visiting our children.

Oh, and that garden will take up most of our time as well.

It’s good to be home, but soon we will start to watch the videos, print the photographs, and the memories of an amazing adventure will come flooding back.

I will speak to you all again soon.

Post 38 – The final post from Aurora

Friday 21st April – The Final Day

After finally falling asleep when my legs stopped twitching, I was rudely woken at 7:30 by a new day.

The storm had abated from the crashing and banging of yesterday into mere bad weather. It was still blowing at Force 7 and the sea was simply ‘Moderate’ but after the last 48 hours this was a doddle.

It is cold (12°C) but there are blue skies as we complete the Biscay crossing. Aurora has speeded up from the crawl through the mountainous seas of yesterday when we were rarely much above 15 knots.

With breakfast completed Deb attacked the suitcases again, while I cowered from the bumpy weather doing my blog in Anderson’s.

When I returned to the cabin just before 10:00 the cabin had been turned into a second-hand suitcase stall. Deb has virtually completed squeezing everything into six of our suitcases and one holdall. There is another holdall to take the final remaining bits plus two smaller roller cases for the fragile bits, wash kit, and things needed to hand in the morning.

I struggle to be of any serious assistance as the sea is still throwing my balance around, and packing always makes the problem worse.

We won’t be going to the dance session as Roger and Ann are just recapping bits that the dancers want to perfect. We thanked them for their time, and we have really enjoyed the ‘going back to basics’ the iron out bad habits.

There was time for a cup of coffee and then we picked up the last of the photographs, and the final sector DVD.

Suitcases have already starting to appear in the corridors with tropical night flower garlands around the handles. Ours will wait until after lunch as requested. I sometimes think people never read the letters that give information and instructions.

Deb has the Battle of the Sexes final at midday and I will go along and watch.

1:30pm – We have had our last lunch on board. The first three suitcases have been sealed and put outside in the corridor. Three more cases and a holdall are ready to go out when there is some space around our doorway.

Deb completed her Battle of the Sexes captaincy and has some more prize stickers for this evening, and a promise of yet another bottle of wine from Martin. She really doesn’t want the wine because we have one in the cabin for this evening, plus another from Richard and Angie to say farewell to each other. There is also a farewell cocktail party before dinner, where there will be yet more free drinkies. This party was postponed from yesterday because of the bad weather, and it is going to be held in the Atrium rather than split between the Crow’s Nest and Carmen’s. Apparently Captain Dunlop favours one big event for each sitting.

The sea continues to calm down as we near Ushant Point where the Bay of Biscay officially ends. That will be late in the afternoon and then there is just the Channel and Solent left before our expected arrival in Southampton tomorrow morning at around 6:00am.

There was an announcement during lunch to let people know the upper outside decks have been re-opened to allow the quoits and shuffleboard competitions to go ahead. They have been closed for two days and a lot of people want to have their last game.

This evening the entertainment in the Curzon Theatre is the triple bill of singer Claire Bonsu, ventriloquist Gareth Oliver, and the rock and Roll group Bluejays. The six table mates will be going to this show, but we will also be meeting up for a final couple of quizzes, and to attempt to drink all the various bottles of wine we have collected.

The intention is not to stay up too late. We have lost a lot of sleep over the last two nights, and we all have the drive home tomorrow.

Our ‘getting off’ time is 8:45 and I have the phone number of the parking company programmed into my mobile phone to organise the car return as soon as we get off the ship.

3:40pm – Our final piece of luggage is now outside the cabin door. We have sat up in the Crow’s Nest to read our books. As is a very common theme, my eyes became heavy and I was no longer reading words, but just looking at them. I put the eReader down and settled into the comfy settee. I think I was I instantly asleep and when I woke, my confusion, and the sounds of chatter around me, came as a flashback of when I regained consciousness after my hip replacement operation. It was just for a couple of seconds and then I remembered where I was, but I must have slipped into a very deep sleep for a while.

All around us there seemed to be people with pots of tea so I suggested that we go for one in the buffet. It meant a walk outside along deck 13, and although there was a blue sky and sunshine, it was most definitely a late winter afternoon again. The memories of hotter days in the Indian Ocean, when we had temperatures into the high 30s, paid a fleeting visit from the depths of my mind to my consciousness. There will be many such moments in the coming weeks as we settle down in Herefordshire once more.

Back at the cabin our shoes were taken off, and we lay on the bed. The TV navigation channel shows we have crossed Biscay and we will be turning right soon around the Brest peninsular and then into the English Channel.

The wind has reduced to an acceptable level for our last night on board. Tonight I am sure I will sleep but I also suspect I will wake up to familiar noises as we dock at the Mayflower Cruise Terminal early tomorrow morning.

Well this is the last post I will be sending from Aurora. I will be back online from home when we have settled in and got our heads back to normality. The last 104 days and nights have been terrific, and I am so very sad that it is coming to an end, but I am ready to go home, and looking forward to the comfort of our own bed, and Deb’s tasty meals. We have lots of plans and projects for this year inside the house, and out in the garden.

As I said, the story will continue when I am back at home, and soon I will be planning how to put our adventures into a new book, but for now it is a cheerio from Aurora.

I’d like to thank all the people we have met and chatted to during the cruise and shared our lives for three months. Also, thanks to everyone who has been following our blog since that chilly night in January.

We have finished chasing the sunrise across the three major oceans of the world but we can look forward to the thrill of another cruise in just three months’ time on little Adonia.

Post 37 – A Stormy Couple of Days

Wednesday 19th April – Re-immigration Day

It was not the best of nights as the wind increased and the jiggling turned to bumping. When we got up at 7:30 the navigation channel is reporting Wind Force 6 and Sea Sate Moderate. And this is just the beginning of the storm.

The temperature was just 15° so any final sunbathing looks to be over. Deb is going to pack another suitcase this morning and the clothes left in the wardrobe have been drastically reduced. It was also medicine day and it’s the final time, so the spare pills are also about to be packed away, along with the remaining breakable souvenirs. They are wrapped and tucked away with the dirty washing.

There is one little task this morning. We have to line up to have our passports checked by the UK Borders Authority. It was supposed to be announced when it was our turn, but as I was updating the blog in Charlies, I saw people coming out of Masquerade’s where the process is going on.

Deb and I were in and out in less than a minute and I resumed work on my laptop for a little while longer.

Our only plan for the morning is a quickstep dancing lesson at 11:00, but it may not be very successful with the way the ship is being tossed around. I’ve already had a little white pill in readiness for Nature’s welcome home present.

The clocks have the final leap forward at midday, when we will become GMT +1 and so the same as home time. Deb doesn’t have the Battle of the Sexes today, so the time change won’t have any serious issue with getting to events…for us anyway.

Aurora is ploughing through the sea and we are a little over half way up the coast of Portugal. By this evening we will be entering the Bay of Biscay where the storm will be building to its crescendo.

Deb continued with the packing to put away another suitcase of unwanted clothes and ‘bits’ that we have collected. I went for a walk around the Promenade Deck where it was almost deserted as the sea crashed and boiled around the ship.

The dancing lesson gave us a really good reminder about the quickstep and also highlighted a couple of bad habits. Of course the ship performing its own slow, slow, quick-quick… in various directions didn’t help very much.

The amount of movement was increasing as the hours passed, and I was less than inclined to stay in the cabin for long periods.

In the afternoon we had the second quickstep was really good, and tomorrow we are hoping to have our first attempt at the running steps that make this dance so good to watch.

Dinner was a good get-together again, and I was allowed to sit in the window to avoid having to watch the sea. It was getting rough by now, and the forecast is for worse to come. I had taken a pill to reduce my discomfort and I certainly had some concerns for the next few hours.

We trooped long to the theatre tonight to watch a ventriloquist/comedian called Gareth Oliver. He started a little slowly with some weak jokes but when he went into his ventriloquist act, along with his wife, the show became absolutely brilliant. The couple did a double act that was technically superb, and then his final section with ‘Brian’ from the audience had the theatre in stitches. Gareth was a finalist in Britain’s Got Talent’ on the show with Susan Boyle and proves that sometimes (not always) talent has been discovered.

From the theatre the six of us split up and we went to Anderson’s for a drink. This was to be a mistake as I already knew that the pills I was taking for the sea-sickness respond badly to alcohol. Anyway, when we went to bed the ship was performing a sensational rendition of a jive, and along with the violent movement, every bit of Aurora’s structure seemed to be creaking. The pitching motion was causing wild roller coaster movements and deafening crashes as we went headlong into a Force 8 gale.

I couldn’t sleep. The alcohol had mixed with my pill and I had twitching and cramp in my legs. I saw the clock at 2:00 am and it was probably an hour later that I eventually fell asleep.

 

Thursday 20th April – ‘The Storm’

Today was not a very comfortable or pleasant day.

I woke and my eyes didn’t want to open, and my stomach was quietly telling me something was wrong. Strangely I still managed to go to breakfast and treated myself to a sausage sandwich.

From then on the day was little more than existence in what I think was the worst period of bad weather I have ever experienced on a ship.

As soon as I had cleaned my teeth I began a morning of moving from one comfortable and quiet seat to another while my pill took affect and I attempted to coordinate my brain and various senses that sea-sickness confuses. Deb stayed in the cabin and even managed to pack another case, but by mid-morning she was feeling the first symptoms of ‘Mal de Mer’.

During the morning and afternoon the wind increased to Force 10 at one point and the sea state was described as ‘Rough’ and curiously at one stage as ‘High’.

The dancing lesson never did any more of the quickstep, and I couldn’t have faced it anyway. In the morning I watched a talk by Gervase Phinn with his stories from a career as teaching inspector: it was superb and I am looking forward to reading his book that I downloaded yesterday. Unfortunately that will have to wait until my eyes are ready to stare at small letters again.

Deb managed to fulfil her role as captain of the ladies in the Battle of the Sexes, and after that we both had a little lunch, but in my case this was just an automated process, and not because I was hungry.

In the afternoon I tried watching a film, but having fallen asleep twice in the cinema I joined several other people who trickled out of the room realising the film was pathetic except as a way of snoozing.

Deb and I had another cup of tea and then I went to watch the choir give their final show. They were brilliant, and even the rocking and rolling couldn’t stop them. The performance had been moved from the theatre to Carmen’s because of the severe movement of the ship, so the audience were packed into the much smaller venue. I stood at the back singing under my breath the songs that I had taken part in. Although I haven’t joined in this sector, the choir has reminded me of the joy of singing, and hopefully I will find a choir when I get home.

Deb and I had decided that we would not dress up in formal wear this evening, and not go to the dining room to eat. It was horrendously rough and even simply washing my hair almost tipped my stomach over the edge. During her lunchtime quiz Deb had given a request for DJ Martin Scott to play on his teatime radio show. It was to thank our new found friends.

I have been quite negative about Martin, but that was all about the cricket. I have seen the man in a different light since I stopped playing the game, and have much more positive views about him. He works hard like all the Ents Team and has some wonderfully challenging quizzes that are so much better then the ‘Carnival supplied questions’ that feature so many American-themed questions that are a farce for this British ship.

Martin was also a great help to the four passengers who had fallen foul of pickpockets in America and lost their passports. The ship’s management did virtually nothing except kicking them off the ship, but Martin gave them advice and sympathy in what was a horrendous situation to be in. I must also say that the British Embassy did a tremendous job as well. I know the ship had to put them ashore, but there ought to be a softer way of reacting to this situation.

Well done Martin, for all the work you do, but I hope you have a slightly different approach to the cricket.

After our dinner in the Horizon Buffet Deb and I joined up again with Richard, Angie, Robin and Rosemary. We just lost the early evening quiz before going to the theatre to listen to a rock and roll band called ‘Bluejays’. They were superb and deserved the applause and shouts for ‘MORE’ at the end.

They will be back on tomorrow in a special variety alongside Claire Bonsu ( singer) and Gareth Oliver performing for 15 minutes each.

The entertainment at the end of the cruise has been so much better.

After the show we all went to Masquerades and succeeded in winning a bottle of wine. Then we moved to Vanderbilt’s for the Syndicate Quiz. The other five drank the wine as I was not interested in upsetting my sea-sickness pill again. We lost in the quiz by two points which seems to be our standard result.

The sea seemed to have calmed a little, but when we went to bed, it was obvious that the storm was still very bad and the cracking, banging, rocking, and rolling was not going to help us get to sleep for another night.

We were in the Bay of Biscay now and tomorrow will be our final day of this wonderful adventure. It is a pity that the weather has meant a slightly sour end to it, but we have so many amazing memories.

…oh, and we’ve been told that the weather is going to improve during the night.

Post 36 – Tuesday 18th April – Ponta Delgada, Portugal

Tuesday 18th April – Ponta Delgada, Portugal

Well, this is it, our final port and just four days to go.

I didn’t have a full night’s sleep, but at least it was peaceful.

Deb was up first and I crawled out of bed and peeked out between the curtains at the Port of Ponta Delgada, on the Azores island of Sao Miguel. It looked cool and the thermometer confirmed my suspicion showing just 18°.

Behind Aurora was a smaller ship called the ‘Serranisima’ and part from her, it was seemingly hundreds of yachts from the smaller family boats through to huge ocean going millionaire hobbies.

We were here on a cruise in 2006 but my goodness it has changed. We are parked in what appears to be a very new harbour complex with a new terminal connected by underground walkways to a shopping area that curves around to the main road. To our right we can see a vast swimming pool complex with diving areas and other pools besides the main swimming area.

What I do remember is the buildings being virtually all black and white. Of course it makes the buildings stand out from the lush green hills in the distance. The only exceptions to this black and white theme are the powder blue balconies of what I assume is a new tall apartment block near the harbour, and far away between the hills there is another apartment block with yellow panels. Everywhere there are red roofs, with some that are a bright red showing their newness, compared with the darker faded ones of older buildings.

It has changed so much.

After breakfast we did a bit of office work to allow the tours to get away, and for the bulk of the shops to open before we venture out. I was initially wearing shorts, but on reflection from the cool walk to breakfast, I will be putting on some trousers, and probably a jumper when we go out.

The sun is beginning to make an appearance at 9:30 so I think we can get ourselves ready now for a walk. It is will be good to be on terra firma for an hour as we have been warned that there is bad weather ahead before we get to Southampton. It looks like we are in for a rocky ride.

We spent over two hours walking around the streets and it was delightful. The memories came back of the black pavements made of what looks like volcanic rock, and then patterns created by little white marble type squares against the dominant black. We had no plans to do or buy anything, but after noticing that the prices in some of the shops was ridiculously cheap, Deb became tempted and bought some clothes. We even bought a glass jar for 2 Euros which would have been nearer £10 back home. Obviously Portugal is going through harder times that I had expected.

There was little hesitation when I suggested a coffee break and we stopped for a rest in a little café. Here we had a cup of coffee plus a Nata cake each and the bill came to 2 Euros and 40 cents. That is less than £2. Of course the cakes were delicious and another couple from the ship asked what they were and ended up buying them. We could hear them sig with delight at the taste…another pair of converts to these wonderful Portuguese custard tarts.

With our bags full of clothes and souvenirs we made our way back to the ship for a slightly later than usual spot of lunch. Deb was planning to spend an hour in the wonderful warm sunshine, but lunchtime saw the arrival of clouds, and the warmth disappeared.

With sun bathing forgotten Deb put a final load of washing in a machine while the laundrette was unusually quiet. There was no urgency for this, but gives us plenty to wear if it is needed during the final few days.

Many people seem to insist on washing everything before they go home, but Deb is more of the opinion to leave the washing until we get home to use our far better washing machine.

…each to their own

The entertainment tonight has a lady singer in Carmen’s called Clare Bonsu, who is billed as ‘The Girl from Tiger Bay’, or putting it another way, singing in the style of Shirley Bassey. At the other end of the ship the Headliners are presenting their show called ‘We’ll meet again’. Of all the shows they perform, this is one of our least favourites.

We are not too worried as we are going to have a final ‘Select Venue’ meal in the Glass House. We tried to book a table in the Beach House but they only had late evening timeslots that would give me major stomach protests. The menu in the Glass House is perfectly fine, but we just wished the venue had stayed the way it was as Café Bordeaux that we loved so much.

At 10:30 tonight the dance teachers are hosting an hour of sequence dancing in Carmen’s which will give us a chance of trying out yesterday’s Saunter Together dance, and refresh ourselves with some of our favourites. We warned our quiz friends that we won’t be around for the Syndicate challenge tonight.

The sun came out again late in the afternoon. We were not inclined to go out on deck, and just stayed on the balcony watching things going on below us. It is a vibrant area with lots of people eating and drinking in the cafes and the swimming pool area was busy all the time. They were not in the pool itself, but in an area roped off across the inner harbour in front of us. There were serious swimmers and some not so proficient. Some took longer to get in than they stayed in the water, and a small group of boys were more interested in posing on the side of the water. They demonstrated various gymnastic feats and only once jumped into the water for a photograph.

Soon the trickle of passengers returning increased and as the last tour busses arrived, the numbers climbing the gangway dwindled and stopped. Captain Dunlop came on the PA almost instantly to announce we were about to sail for Southampton. His weather forecast was as suspected, and from tomorrow (Friday) afternoon the wind is going to increase to gale force and the swell is going to be 4 to 5 metres. The sea state is expected to be Medium to Rough.

To be honest we have had a reasonably calm passage for most of the three months, so the luck had to run out eventually.

The ropes were soon dropped and the ship was under the control of the Safety Officer although closely supervised by his seniors. He gave three long hoots of the horn as we started away from the harbour, and then we built up speed to head out into the Atlantic Ocean.

For dinner we had a lovely meal in the Glass House with just three other couple arriving while we were there. What a waste of a beautiful room compared to how busy and vibrant it was when called Café Bordeaux. There was one slight annoyance. The music being played when we arrived was rock and roll from the 50s and it was rather pleasant. Then a couple arrived and seemed to be questioning how the waiter was setting up the table. More seriously she complained about the music and asked for it to be changed. The waiter did so half way through ‘Tooty, Fruity’ and replaced by the Carpenters singing typical mood music.

I asked for the music to be changed back.

The waiter was worried and sent for the head waiter. He said that a customer had asked for quieter music, and I said I’d like what we had been listening to for about twenty minutes, and didn’t see why one customer could decide what the rest of us listened to.

The head waiter didn’t have an answer and the Carpenters continued.

We asked for the bill, thanked him for a lovely meal, but we didn’t want anything else because of what had happened.

Aside from that, we had some excitement when there was an order from the bridge for the fire crew to respond to an alarm in the Sindhu Restaurant. It turned out to be smoke from an air-conditioning drive belt, but had the full response with breathing apparatus and hosepipes all over the corridor. The captain told us it was all OK and apologised for the inconvenience caused.

It is so good to know how well the system works when an alarm goes off, and how well the officers kept us informed.

With the meal over we went to the early quiz and lost. We might go to the next one, but the plans are to finish the evening with the dancing for a change.

Well, we did go to the second evening quiz, and along with Robin and Rosemary, we actually came equal first on a challenge about recognising Eurovision songs. As Coral couldn’t do the tie breaker because she had let the band go, we gave the prize to the other team so we could leave Champion’s for the dancing.

In Carmon’s we had a go at six or seven sequence dances and were in there for an hour. It was really good to spend time on the dance floor doing different dances rather than the being taught the same one over and over again. I was dripping in sweat by the end of that very energetic hour.

It was bedtime, and I read my book for a while until my head had stopped leaking. Aurora was jiggling again, and the wind was sounding quite strong as it buffeted the balcony door.

Goodnight.

Post 35 – Final Sea Day to Ponta Delgada

Monday 17th April – Final Sea Day to the Azores

Yesterday evening, as I suspected, we ignored Mike Doyle’s second act, and had a quiet evening with Richard and Angie. We actually won a bottle of wine in the late evening quiz and then shared it while we failed miserably in the Syndicate challenge.

Deb and I returned to the cabin and after the usual read, we turned the lights off and snuggled into our pillows.

At 12:15 we were both shocked awake by our neighbours playing loud music. It lasted about 30 seconds before Deb took to the boarding house primeval method of making our feelings known, and banged on the wall. It worked and the music went down to a more acceptable, if still annoying, level for that time of the night. I was now wide awake, angry, and concerned that we could be seen as the aggressor with our wall banging.

It was over an hour later when I finally settled again.

When Deb woke and got up to make the tea, it was after 8:00.

After breakfast I apologised at reception for banging on a wall, but made my feelings known about the noise from our neighbours since they joined the ship in San Francisco.

So back to the present, and it is an even cooler morning with just 18° on the balcony. It is cloudy and when we took an early walk on the Promenade deck we could see showers on the horizon. We are level with northern Spain and roughly on the same latitude at New York and San Francisco.

With a mile walked we have little to do. There is a talk in the theatre from a submarine officer who is describing an attempted rescue of the ’Kirsk’ a Russian submarine that got into trouble many years ago. Sounds very interesting but we tend to avid stories of maritime mishaps when on a cruise.

There is the final Around the World morning coffee sessions today, so we will have a drink and a cake there before we go along to the dance class. Today the instructors are attempting to teach everyone how to dance the ‘Saunter together’. We have had a go at this on several occasions and failed to come to terms with it, but I am confident today will be successful.

Surprise, surprise, the clocks go forward again at midday, and then we will be on GMT time. That sets us up for Ponta Delgada tomorrow, and there is just one more hour to change before Britain on Saturday. It is 100 days since we left a chilly Southampton and somehow over three months have flown by with our global adventures.

After our final stop at the Azores we will have just three days and nights to complete the voyage around the world, and begin normal life again.

Deb will be captaining the women in one of the final rounds of Battle of the Sexes at midday (or 1:00) and after a quick lunch we will soon be off to dancing again.

This evening the theatre and Carmen’s will have shows from the girl singers (IDA) and the Frank Sinatra tribute artist. Ponta Delgada should mean a final cabaret act will join the ship plus we believe another girl singer, who has been on the ship with Leon since he joined, will also be performing.

Well, it is 10:00 in the morning and I am sitting in Charlie’s just outside of Anderson’s. The single travellers morning coffee is going on behind me in the Lounge, and in front are the temporary shop counters selling today’s amazing deal items. One of the racks is selling Aurora tee shirts at £10 for two. These are mainly shirts from previous world cruises plus other old designs that no-one wants. The corridor is quiet with hardly any prospective customers squeezing the merchandise and hunting for the price labels. I really think the shop has reached the point when there is nobody left who has not taken a look at the handbags, jewellery, soft toys, and old clothes.

…never mind, on Saturday evening they can start all over again with 2000 new customers.

Time to go and find Deb and get ready for our coffee morning and dancing.

Well, the coffee morning was well attended but as on the previous occasions, the cakes and biscuits weren’t the most inspiring. At least we had a chat with someone different before we dashed up the stairs to our dance class.

The Saunter Together went very well, and by the end of the 50 minutes we were happily doing the first two thirds of it. The remainder would be covered in the afternoon.

The clocks changed and Deb went to her Battle of the Sexes quiz. I watched from the back, and still did not assist the men’s side. They are quite a cocky band of people who are really taking it far too seriously with some not very nice banter at the women. Yes and the men won again.

After a healthy lunch of hot dog and chips, we had a rest in the cabin with a glass of coke and some chocolate.

At 3:00 we went back to Carmen’s to finish the Saunter Together dance and an hour later we were successful. This may sound ridiculous but we started learning this dance some 35 years ago, and have finally managed to do it.

Having said some not so nice things about the dance teachers (Roger and Anne) some weeks ago, I have to say that I am warming to them. We now chat and actually enjoy their teaching, especially as we have managed to learn a lot in the last 10 days or so.

Late in the afternoon the sun came out and the sea went almost flat. It was quite a different picture to the dull and cool weather of the majority of the day.

As we were eating our dinner a shout went up as whales were spotted some way behind us. Being at a stern window in the dining room we had a good view of the water spouts, but no actual whale was seen.

…still no luck!!

The evening went quietly, with a 4 way tie break in the early quiz. We lost again of course. We all met up later to continue our quest for wine in the late night Syndicate challenge. This was a painful quiz as we came second and nearly challenging. Only four more chances left now.

We have a port day tomorrow and it would be nice to have a good night’s sleep to be ready for it.

Post 34 – Caribbean Islands and beginning the Atlantic Crossing

Monday 10th April – Caribbean Sea Day

Aurora is bumping around although the navigation page insists the wind is just Force 4 and the sea state is ‘slight’.  On the bright side the sun is shining and it is warm at 7:30 in the morning.

I have slept rather well again and suspect the medicines are actually knocking me out, but as I only have two more doses of the antibiotic and little need for the cough syrup anymore, I don’t think I need to worry about being a little dozy….quite normal really.

To begin our day we had an hour on deck in the sunshine. My iPod music is working again and it was a pleasure to be awake enough to absorb the delightful sunshine.

After a cup of tea to prepare ourselves, we returned to solving the issue of our on board accounts.

It took nearly three hours of visits to the reception and up to the library. This culminated with me seeing the ship’s Finance Manager who came up with s slightly convoluted solution, but one that allows us to have the internet again, and Deb has a card that works.

In the middle of all this I also paid the deposit on the cruise following our Amazon adventure in 2019.

Deb had the midday Battle of the Sexes, and after lunch she went off to Salsa. I am still rather dozy from the medicines so had myself a long sleepy bath while Deb was out.

The rest of the afternoon was relaxation time, and showers before the individual quiz and dinner. The team got together in Masquerade’s for the early quiz, and much to our surprise we won a ‘lovely jubbly’ bottle of wine.

Showtime in the theatre was Headliners with ‘Destination Dance’ that we both enjoy. When we saw them on the way out, the boys and girls were dripping in sweat. They really work very hard.

Richard and Angie came along with us to Masquerade’s again and now, even more shocked, won a second bottle of wine for the evening.

That was enough excitement for us for one night, and it was an early night.

Tomorrow morning we would be docking in St Lucia at the port of Castries. We have a tour booked that is really different for us, and we are really looking forward to it.

 

 

Tuesday 11th April – Castries, St Lucia

The alarm clock at 6:30 was a shock, but it was necessary to be ready in time for our tour. We have a Catamaran trip around the coast of the island, with a stop for a swim in the Caribbean, plus a view from the sea of the Piton mountains.

As usual we were ready with plenty of time to spare on this beautiful sunny morning with temperatures into the late 20s by 8:00.

We realised just how hot it was as we queued on the quayside for the short walk to the catamaran. The boat was called ‘Spirit of Carnival’ and she had plenty of room for our group of passengers. Off we went, and the first fun was watching the crew raising the sail as it flapped around the ropes. I have never sailed (with a sail) before and it was a delightful experience, even if it was mainly just for show, as the boom was tied in the central position.

A guide from the crew told us what would happen and pointed out landmarks as we made our way through the calm Caribbean water. The tour included free drinks including unlimited Rum Punch after we had stopped for a swim.

St Lucia is a beautiful island with lush vegetation and wonderful quiet bays where coconut palms sway gently in the breeze. There are villages that are traditional for the Caribbean and then rather special hotels and resorts that are some of the most select that can be found around the world.

After about an hour we stopped in one of the bays and it was time for swim. Five years ago we missed out on swimming in the Caribbean, so this was a special moment that we thought would never happen. The water was refreshingly cool in the extreme heat. There were fish swimming around our feet and Deb spent as long in the water as she could to make the most of the opportunity. I had perhaps 10 minutes in the water and that was enough as I am still feeling the effects of the antibiotic. I still loved the moment.

Back on the catamaran we turned around and headed towards the Pitons. The rum punch was now being served along with local banana bread, sandwiches and fresh fruit. Without a doubt this was a very special moment. It is hard to beat sitting in the sunshine on a delightful boat, drinking and eating with Caribbean music, amongst a group of fellow passengers who were all enjoying themselves.

The Piton Mountains were a superb sight to round off the outward journey. I had seen them in brochures and on DVDs but this was the first time I had seen for real how they dominated the vista.

The return journey slowly became more and more lively thanks to the rum, and soon the small open area was full of dancing to reggae rhythms, and a few classic disco sounds. The run punch never ran out, and at least one person was seriously over the limit as he crashed around the dance floor. It was all friendly though and I don’t think I saw anything but smiles throughout the 4 hours trip.

We arrived back at about 12:30 and we immediately changed our clothes, and Deb even showered off the salt and sand that she had gathered. Then it was time to go out again for a quick spot of shopping, before relaxing with our thoughts in the cabin for the remainder of the afternoon.

I was exhausted and could not keep my eyes open anymore. I don’t think I have ever fallen asleep while typing on a keyboard.

We decided to eat in the Glass House this evening, and Deb took the opportunity to put some washing on. This might be the last time that washing is necessary on the cruise.

Aurora set off again at 6:00 and hooted a farewell to this beautiful island that had given us all a superb day.

Deb’s washing was put into the tumble dryer and we were sitting in the Glass House by 6:45 with our food ordered. We only had a main course that was perfectly adequate for our appetite and it was delicious. Then Deb fetched her dry clothes, and we were in time for the early evening quiz in Masquerade’s with the rest of our table mates. We came first equal with two other teams, but as usual, we lost in the tie break.

It is tropical night with a deck party again. So after a moment to rest in the cabin again, while the others went to the show, we all planned to meet up later around the Riviera Pool to see if the wind can stay away tonight and allow a decent party atmosphere.

Well, it wasn’t too windy, and we had several minutes dancing under the stars. Unfortunately we were all tired, and the thought of another early morning rise made an early night too tempting.

Aurora was now slowly making her way eastwards to our final Caribbean stop on the island of Barbados. We have a tour again and that means getting to our coach before 8:30. This may  not sound early to you, but for us it means the clock will be waking us again tomorrow.

 

 

Wednesday 12th April – Bridgetown, Barbados

It was another lovely night’s sleep, and although rather bleary eyed, I was out of bed just before the alarm clock beeped good morning to us. The time was 6:45 and Aurora was already just about alongside at Bridgetown, the capital city of Barbados. It was another beautiful morning with bright sunshine from a blue sky and just a gentle breeze.

And yes, it was already warm and would become very hot again during the day.

In the harbour with us today was a little ship called ‘Fairwinds’ (I think) and later the Carnival Equinox arrived to give Bridgetown a boost to their economy. It is late in the cruise season now, and ships like us are a bonus before the quiet period to come.

After our usual light breakfast of fruit and croissants, we were soon ready to set off on a tour that would be taking us around some of the island. We had stops to come at a sugar plantation house, and Orchid farm, and a lookout tower which was used to spot and signal any danger.

The coach was small with a driver called Bernard, and a guide called Mona. We rattled or way through the city where we had the chance to glimpse various places with Mona giving an amusing, and quite thorough, description of what we were seeing. Then we turned inland from the southerly port and wound our way through country lanes with crops of sugar cane and sweet potatoes in the fields around us. Mona was in her element talking about her island and the different parishes that we were passing through. At one point we passed a field where they were actually harvesting the sugar cane with an impressive machine that sent the cane into a trailer, and vast amounts of dust and rubbish out of the back. Small white birds that looked like miniature cranes watched and then investigated the freshly cut rows where something tasty must have been.

We then got to our first stop at the Sunbury Plantation House which dates back to 1660 and is another typical colonial house that we have seen virtually everywhere on this cruise. It is another time capsule of history with lots of furniture and pictures, but I was most impressed with a spectacular long dining table that is still used for exclusive evening meals twice a week. There was also a collection of optical items including glasses, cameras and even eye testing equipment. Upstairs were four bedrooms with various exhibits of clothes and several sewing machines.

Our tour eventually took us to a restaurant area where we rested with a glass of rum punch or fruit juice. Oh dear, Deb and I both chose the rum punch. It was different to the punch we had on the catamaran yesterday, and certainly more fruity.

Back on the coach again we made a short journey to our second stop at an Orchid Farm called Orchid World. Mona warned us that it was not the best point in the season for these beautiful flowers, but there were plenty of flows and trees to look at as we walked around the garden and a series of shaded houses. Mona showed her expertise of the plants in the garden, and also added her personal anecdotes of growing up from the late 1950s in her homeland.

As the walk around the garden ended we were offered another drink of rum punch or fruit punch as we sat in an airy conservatory area. This time I avoided the rum and had a delicious fruit drink to quench my thirst.

It was soon time to go again and the final stop was at the Gun Hill Signal Station. This was one of six such towers built by the British on high points around the island. They allowed a watch of the plantations below for any sign of problems, and also to look out to sea to watch for any possible invasions.

Mona did her bit again to describe the restored tower where there were magnificent views over the island and even Aurora was easily visible several miles away. As we made our way to the exit we were blocked by a group of boy scouts on a visit. They wanted to have a photo taken as they stood with us. We duly obliged and with smiles and waves we might just be remembered when the boys look back on their trip out.

We were on the coach again and heading back to Bridgetown and Aurora. There was more to be pointed out to us including a white statue of a lion with one paw on a red ball. This is all about the British rule of the island. Barbados gained independence from Britain in 1966, but they still retain the Queen as a monarch, and still have a love for Britain.

One thing that was pointed out to us was yet another national test cricket ground known as the Kensington Oval. I have seen so many cricket grounds over the last three months.

We were back at the port before 12:30 and spent half an hour looking around the terminal shops. It was expensive of course but we splashed out on a fridge magnet, plus a tea towel. This was our last chance of using US Dollars.

It was time for lunch on a quiet ship. After eating Deb converted the remaining US Dollars back in to Stirling. We have completed the visits to countries that accept the dollar and there is just the Azores left where the currency will be the Euro. Sadly it means we are on the way home.

The remainder of the afternoon was a chance to relax in the cool cabin. I think we would have both had a doze, but below us a pair of musicians was entertaining us with steel drums and percussion drums. I am amazed how loud they could play. It got even worse when a third person came along and enhanced the sound. It was actually a very good sound but it stopped us having any doze time. They continued until just after 5:00 and their money pot was looking very healthy with donations from the returning passengers.

As the last of the stragglers (including two who were rather late) climbed up the gangway, the captain gave his farewell to the port speech and the ropes were released and stowed away in their secret part of the ship.

Just beyond the docks from our balcony I could see the cricket ground and the massive floodlights had been switched on and warming up. There was obviously an evening game, and as we left the port and the sun went down, those lights were like bright beacons to bid farewell to Aurora.

We had a pre-dinner invitation in Anderson’s from our new table mates to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They are doing their best to be accepted by us, but it will always be a struggle to join our very bonded group after three months together…..but sharing more bottles of champagne will help.

After dinner we had our usual quiz and lost by one point. It was all about science and we were very good, but we failed on just one question.

We had all had a busy day, in fact two busy days in the Caribbean, and all six of us needed a quiet evening and an early night. Deb and I spent half an hour in the Crow’s Nest reflecting on the last two days, and the last three months. It has not had the major wow factor of that first world cruise five years ago, but it has been amazing, and we have loved every day as we ploughed across the oceans. It is really an honour to be able to see so much of the world in this gentle relaxing way.

Aurora was now heading north east across the vast Atlantic Ocean. We have five days when we will probably see very few other ships before we arrive at our last stop in the Azores. The temperature over the next few days will be going down, so we have to make the most of any sunshine and warmth that remains.

 

 

Thursday 13th April – Atlantic Sea Day 1

It took a little while to get to sleep last night, as our neighbours came in just as I was dozing off, and checked that every drawer in their cabin was securely shut before settling down. I woke as the daylight was coming through the curtains well before 6:00 but managed to ignore that until 7:30.

It was a bright morning and 25° on the balcony. The sea is quite calm but a Force 5 wind is buffeting Aurora and making us jiggle and bump along.

Today was the penultimate medicine restocking day. There is just nine days left before we will wake up in Southampton and the case of pills, potions, deodorants and toothpaste is almost empty. Deb packed away the formal dresses yesterday along with various other clothes that won’t be needed again. There are lots of days left yet, but without a doubt we are seeing the finishing tape ahead.

…still time for lots to do yet!

Before 9:00 we were up on the open deck to absorb some more of the hot sunshine. Deb doesn’t want to fade before we get home, and I am still trying to give my back a bit of colour to get somewhere close to that of my chest and legs.

After an hour we returned in doors and Deb went to the final Port Talk on Ponta Del Gardo. We have no tour there, and will simply use it to stretch our legs and get a final souvenir or two. I sat with my laptop to catch up again.

The talk will be finishing now, so I had better go back to the cabin to see if Deb wants to go to the Dance Class.

The dance class was the Tango, a dance we have never really tried to do. The next two days are concentrating on a basic set of steps and hopefully my knees will survive.

By 11:45 we had had a real laugh as we had an introduction to the dance. It seems to be going well, and although my knees are tired, they have kept going. There is another lesson this afternoon.

At midday the clocks took another leap forward and we are now on GMT-3. Of course that meant the lunchtime activities all began with a bang, and Deb went to the Battle of the Sexes. I watched from the back and saw the ladies beaten once more. DJ Martin keeps saying there is plenty of time left for them to catch up, but there are less than 10 days remaining.

We had lunch together and then had a little while to relax on the balcony before returning to the Tango. It was another successful session and we are still smiling.

The evening entertainment is a comedian called Mike Doyle. We have seen him before, and he is good but the act is basically the same. We have no plans to watch him, especially as there is a late night champagne waterfall that we want to see.

It was a formal evening and the dinner table looked very smart with all eight of us showing off in our best. There are just two more formal evenings to go now, so no need to send anymore shirts to the laundry.

The six of us did the early quiz and failed on the tiebreak about the date of the rock group ‘Queen’s’ last tour. After that defeat we had a break in the cabins before meeting up again for the later quiz where we lost.

We then scurried to the Atrium to watch the champagne glasses being carefully stacked to form the waterfall. It is a terrific sight as the champagne starts to flow down over the sides and it required 72 glasses of fizzy wine (not champagne) to fill each glass. Several people helped to pour the wine, including Deb and Angie, to increase our photograph record of the cruise once more.

At the end we had the chance to drink a glass (well two actually) of the sparkling wine as each glass was very carefully taken down again.

This was a very nice end to the day before we crawled back to our beds. Aurora is bumping and jiggling around quite a bit, but I think it is mainly due to the wind rather than rough sea.

We have four more sea days as we to continue sail north east towards the Azores. We all know the temperature is going to start dropping, and we expect the sea to become less calm. This really is the final few days of our adventure, so we have to make the most of the remaining time.

 

 

Friday 14th April – Atlantic Sea Day 2

The navigation page on the television says the sea state is slight and there the wind is force 4. The ship is moving more noticeably this morning but so far my brain and stomach are still happy. The temperature is only mid 20s but after breakfast we returned to the sheltered spot we found yesterday and absorbed some more vitamin D.

After that is was a chance to have a cup of better coffee in Raffles, and that leaves just one cup each left on the card. It costs £22 for 10 cups of coffee and saves us a little bit, and is a treat to sit in the comfy chairs.

Tango lesson number three pushed us a little further with more new steps that confuse many people with the staccato style of movement. Yes, we struggle as well but perseverance has worked so far to keep us going.

Midday and yet another clock change (GMT -1) sent Deb rushing to Masquerade’s for the Battle. I took her shoes back to a rocky cabin but went to watch the quiz quickly to avoid the rocking and rolling that is so noticeable in the cabin. My stomach is still OK but I am getting concerned that my head is feeling quite confused with the motion now.

The ladies lost again, but Deb is not concerned and takes it all as a bit of fun. It was time for lunch, and we had a full meal in the buffet. The other four from our dinner table group are on their final Round the Word lunch, and this evening we are going to have a little party in our cabin. We have various nibbles to snack on, and lots of quiz wine to drink.

The afternoon brought the final tango lesson and I think we have reached the peak of our abilities for now. The last move was a struggle but we did finally manage to grasp the twisting steps. My knees are still just about going but my head is spinning from so much turning in the dance. It is made worse because I gave in to a white pill to stabilise my stomach, and that has convinced my brain that I need to lie down for a while.

There was no time for rest as we had to shower and prepare the cabin for our little party. Deb and I still managed to fit in the individual quiz but time was quite tight. As we were getting ready, Deb turned on the DJ Martin radio show and she won the quiz. That will be another little golden sticker on her card for the end of cruise prize giving.

The party was a very boozy evening. We have got through a lot of crisps, nuts, and sweets that have been stored away in our cabins, along with a bottle of Prosecco and sparkling red wine, to add to the quiz wine. We had a 45 minute break to have a quiz while which allowed our steward (Lloyd) to sort out the cabin, but we told him not to go too mad.

After another quiz failure we returned to wine and nuts and Richard played music so allow us to guess the song and singers. That passed another couple of hours before we cleared the cabin (a bit) and went to attempt the Syndicate quiz. Sadly alcohol and lack of knowledge meant we failed with the first five questions. By the end we had managed to pull up very well, but we still haven’t managed to win this quiz. There are just seven more attempts left, and I don’t feel confident about our chances. It doesn’t matter too much as we always have fun before bedtime with this session.

The entertainment, that we missed tonight, was from four young ladies singing classical and pop songs. They were called ‘IDA’ and were rather good according to Robin and Rosemary from our dinner table.

Aurora seems to have settled down a bit and the jiggling and rolling is not quite so noticeable. The captain has suggested the weather is going to stay kind to us tomorrow, although the temperature is continuing to drop.

 

 

Saturday 15th April – Atlantic Sea Day 3

 

Sea day three of five on our journey north to Ponta Delgado

The sea definitely feels smoother this morning, and the wind has dropped to force 3. Aurora is much less jiggly as we went to breakfast. The temperature is down to 22° and I don’t fancy sun-bathing this morning.

We have our Round the World lunch at midday, so we should be full up and tiddly afterwards, and fit for little except snoozing.

The clocks are staying the same today so we will have a little longer to sober up and get an appetite back for some sort of dinner this evening. Sadly with the lunch at 12:00 there isn’t really time to go to the dance class (Rumba) this morning. We know the basics of this dance but perhaps we can still take a look at what they are doing.

Now then, I wonder if Deb fancies a stroll around Promenade deck?

Yes we walked mile around the deck and it was lovely. This was something we did regularly during the early sea days, but we have joined in with a lot more things since then and it is now a rarity. Perhaps over the last few days we will try and get out there more often.

Suitably glowing from our efforts, we went for a cup of coffee in the buffet. With well over an hour before we had to get ready for the lunch, we grabbed our towels and went up on deck for some sunshine. We thought it was a little cool earlier but now it was deliciously warm again. I heard a rumour that there might be snow at home in Britain.

The lunch was a pleasant way of passing a couple of hours, but it was more about the chatter with our officer host, and the other guests, rather than the food which was a little disappointing. First Officer Warren Payne (Bridge officer) made pleasant conversation and talked about his career, and answered any questions we put to him. He had just finished an eight hour shift and was probably more interested in going to bed, but he acted as the perfect host.

Our menu have a limited choice and wasn’t overly exciting. On this cruise the weak points have been entertainment and the food. We have the choice to watch the cabarets acts, or make our own entertainment, but the food has let us down. In the past we have always been able to enjoy the food but in the last year the menu has changed, and perhaps on a short cruise it is variable enough to satisfy, on this long cruise it has become boring, and the food has not been as well prepared as in the past.

Anyway, the wine (house wine by the way) was sufficient to smooth over the cracks left by the food, and we went back to the cabin just before 2:00. It was time to relax and let our stomachs prepare for the next meal.  I had a bath (yes, fell asleep) and then joined Deb on the balcony in the pleasant afternoon warmth.

This evening the main entertainment was from two pianists, quirkily called ‘Piano Brothers’, who were also very good according to our dinner table critics. As per usual, Deb and I passed the opportunity of 45 minutes of music. Our evening was quiz based again, and we returned to our cabin after 11:00 rather tired, and wine less.

My bedtime reading is now different. I have read all the books I had on my reader, and have started looking through all the book projects that I have partially completed. There are at least five projects that may, or may not, ever get completed, and this is a good opportunity to read through them to get a feeling of whether they are worth continuing with, and also to remind me of how far they have got.

Coincidentally one of them is about our cruises to the south, including a section of the Azores.

Aurora continues to sail closer to Britain and although the sea is calm, and the wind gentle at the moment, the captain has warned that we can expect less pleasant conditions in the coming days. I am not sure if that means gales and rough seas, or if it is just an end to this delightful sunny and warm weather we have had.

There are two more days and nights at sea before we reach Ponta Delgada in the Azores. We have been at sea for almost 100 days now, but the adventure seems to have flown by.

 

Sunday 16th April – Atlantic Sea Day 4

This is our final Sunday at sea (on this cruise anyway) and everyone is doing their best to make the most of the last week, but there is an atmosphere of things coming to an end.

Deb and I had a good night’s sleep again and woke with another sunny, but rather cooler, day. It was only 20°C on the balcony at 8:00 and as we walked across the Lido deck to breakfast, the thought of sun bathing didn’t appeal.

When we went to grab the crossword puzzles after breakfast we asked for some luggage labels. Because we moved cabins, our present ones are incorrect, and we need some more anyway. Our disembarkment time is scheduled for 08:45 on Saturday morning, so we should be away quite early on our drive back home.

…sadly we are getting ready for the end

It’s time for some office work, and then we can decide how to pass the rest of the morning.

The clocks go forward by another hour to GMT – 1 at midday, meaning that we are just two hours behind home. We have another hour to gain tomorrow before we get to Ponta Delgado, and then just one more to correct ourselves on the final leg to British time.

I am sitting in Anderson’s and I can see a steady stream of wind swept passengers walking past the windows as they pound around the Promenade Deck.

Yup, a mile later we were having a cup of coffee in the buffet, and feeling rather windswept. It is good to stretch the legs, and although the breeze is quite noticeable, the sea seems quite calm.

The entertainment today is the Piano Brothers back in the theatre this afternoon, followed tonight by Mike Doyle. There is also a classical concert this evening from the two ladies called ‘Zeitgeist Duo’ in the Playhouse. It is also the penultimate formal dress evening with a Ball in Carmen’s with music by Kool Blue.

Talks this morning include Ivy Partridge discussing the mystery of reading a music score, plus various enticements talks about Spa treatments and overpriced jewellery. This afternoon Daniel Davies continues a series of talks about cruising, and this time it is the ‘Golden Age of Cruising (from 1900 to 1945)’. I am sorry to disagree with him but I think that was an age when cruising was very exclusive to well off people, or those emigrating.

….Oh, and there are also more talks from the Spa and shop about treatments and jewellery that we really, really, can’t do without.

Of course there are also the usual Bridge, Art, Dancing, and Choir sessions, plus various quiz opportunities.

If anybody thinks sea days are boring, they really need to know just how much is available as you plough through the oceans.

Or, if you are like us, after 100 days we are just enjoying the atmosphere and spending time with our new friends.

 

Post 33 – Goodbye Pacific and Hello Caribbean

Tuesday 4th April – Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

I had a bad night with my virus, bacterial infection, or whatever it was. Our neighbours didn’t do me any favours by having their television on until well after midnight. I heard the Coronation Street theme tune three times, so I have no idea what channels they were looking at. To be honest the background babble of sound probably didn’t affect me at all, but I became angry that people do not realise how easily sound travels between cruise ship cabins.

Eventually I got to sleep, but it was only just after 6:00 when I woke. Lying there dozing got me through to 7:30 when I finally got up and put the kettle on.

It was 27° on the balcony, and a layer of mist was disguising the horrendous humidity that we are having. This is the tropics again and northern Europeans are not used to this form of heat for long periods.

Aurora was nearing our port for the day which was Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. This is another first for us.

After breakfast I had to log on to the internet to check the bank. Because we have paid the deposit on another cruise at the same moment as the last sector bill is sitting there, we are very close to the credit card limit. Realising the possible issues, I changed the on board o my debit card yesterday, but there was still a possible problem. Fortunately the previous bill (sector 3) has now been cleared giving us some leeway again….panic over.

Soon Aurora was moving into her berth for the day, and we had our first proper look at what the port offered. It is very much a commercial port to our left were huge piles of what I think was Anthracite for the power station. A coal ship was offloading throughout the day to make the piles even bigger. To the right was the usual container area with two huge cranes and at least four container moving equipment.

The berth was a floating metal pontoon with walkways to rope tying points on either side. It took several minutes to manoeuvre our ship along the pontoon to allow our walkways to clear smaller tying points. This made us slightly late getting the all clear to leave the ship, so tours were delayed.

On a slightly more passenger note, at the end of the walkway from the pontoon to the shore was a large circular thatched terminal building in a small palm tree area. Between this building and the tour coach park was a quite large tourist trap market with a café plus stalls selling leather, wood and local craft goods plus all the usual souvenirs. It is amazing that so many stalls can somehow make money when they all seem to sell the same range of products.

The shiny trinkets were ignored for now as we had a tour to go on.

Today we went to a Macadamia Nut Farm. Our road journey took us across the flat coastal strip towards the hills and mountains several miles away. Our journey to the farm took over an hour and we passed a countryside that is mainly agricultural, although there are a few holiday resorts as well. This country looked to be poor, and with little organised services. It was dusty and covered in litter wherever you looked. The vast majority of the people work on the land planting, tending, and harvesting crops.

The guide told us about the regional split of the country and that each region specialises in particular crops. Near the sea it seems the soil is perfect for sugar cane and we saw fields with the remains of last year’s crop being cleared, and another being planted. A little further on the vegetation changed to bananas and plantain on either side of the road. On the roadside were regular markets selling fruit and vegetables for communities that lived in simple block buildings hardly bigger than a large garden shed. Even worse some were in smaller buildings supporting families in a space we would assign to one small bedroom.

As we saw the mountains in the distance the crop changed again to coffee. As the soil or availability of water changes, so do the crops.

We passed by a complex of hills that were revered by the Mayen population of the country. It had rocks at the top that had been weathered and looked a little like heads. This is where the Mayen people used to make sacrifices, but now limit themselves to praying, although apparently some of them still live in caves in the hills.

Next were two volcanoes that are still active on a regular basis and they dominate the landscape both visually and presumably have quite an effect on life in general.

The roads we came along were general Ok but turning off these main roads the surface was more dusty and the carriageway narrower. Even on the busy main road we were on, there were places where it went to a single carriage to cross bridges over dry river bed. I assume these revert to torrential rivers during the winter as the water drains from the mountains but now as the short rainy season has ended, these beds are dry and leave a view of boulders that have beenwashed down the valleys.

At last we turned off the main road, and then stopped by an even dustier lane that was our Macadamia Farm. We strolled up the lane and were greeted by the owner and his wife. He was a fireman is the USA but retired in his thirties and eventually moved to Guatemala to buy a series of farms to grow the Macadamia. Our group was split into two, and while one half went on a tour of the farm, we went with the owner for a breakfast of pancakes made with 20% macadamia, spread with macadamia butter, and topped with his own grown blueberry marmalade. It was delicious, and washed down by superb coffee that he grew and processed as well.

While we ate and drank his products, he talked to us about his organic farming techniques, and his ‘back to nature’ style of farming. He was very philosophical and expressed anger at politicians and experts who are killing the world by not addressing the causes of global warming, but just try and control it. He believes that the vegetation Gene Pool is being eroded to maximise efficiency, with the result that ‘Survival of the fittest’ and natural adaptation of plants being stifled. Lots of his ramblings were a little wild, but his primary thoughts were very straight forward and correct.

I enjoyed the half an hour listening to his assessment of a world in a nose dive to destruction.

Soon we swapped to the show around tour. The trees are planted and left to look after themselves. Nuts drop naturally and the local people are employed to pick them up off the floor. The nuts are then allowed to dry before grading and processing. There are no chemicals used and everything, not the actual nut, is returned to the soil to complete the natural circle. They produce nuts but also the oil is used for skin creams, butter and wax. They also give massages to visitors using their own products to relieve and relax aching muscles.

The farm is a small business but rather using machines, they employs several locals who then earn enough to send their children to school which allows them to have an education, and to become the next generation of workers. Without these jobs, the families remain poor, and remain uneducated with no way of breaking the cycle of poverty. Eventually the farm owners hope the locals can carry on the macadamia forests and become self-sufficient.

One statement the owners left us with was simple and to the point:

”What can I do to help the world?”

The response from an eminent scientist was….”Plant a tree”.

“Yes, but what else can I do?”

Plant another tree”.

We left the farm with the sweet taste of macadamia in our mouths, and the confusion of ideas about the world’s problems.

Back at the port we had time to wander through he little market, and to buy just a couple of memories of this country. With nothing else to amuse or interest us on shore we retired to the air conditioned cabin to relax. Deb went and did some washing while the ship’s laundries were quiet. That should be the penultimate time on this cruise.

I was not feeling much better but refused to give in to the cough and sore throat. In the evening we went to the Beach House for a delicious meal as Aurora sailed away for Guatemala on the next stage of this adventure. We would be at sea for two days now passing several countries before arriving at the Panama Canal on Friday morning.

This will herald the end of our Pacific Ocean travels, and the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean towards home. We have four more ports to visit yet, but there are only just over two weeks to go of our spin around our world.

 

 

Wednesday 5th April – Sea Day

This morning I woke with a horrid sore throat…clearly I am no better yet!

The ship is wobbling around but not too violently. The temperature at 7:30 on the balcony was showing 30°. Although it is really hot, it appears cooler with the mist, but as I poke my head outside the balcony door, the humidity is stifling.

Aurora is sailing south east towards the Panama Canal, and this is the first of two days at sea. We will be passing by the coasts of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica before we get to the coast of Panama itself.

After the daily office chores, we met up with Richard, Angie, and Robin to sort out our bookings for the Amazon cruise in 2019. After five minutes talking with the future cruises people, the six of us are now linked and assigned the same dinner table. I doubt we will get table 228 with its superb views from the window of the wake, but we will be together.

In just over two weeks we will be saying goodbye to each other, and hopefully we will keep in contact until a reunion in January 2019 on this beautiful ship again.

It was now Port talk time and it covered our visit to Barbados. Another new island for us, we needed to know something about it before booking a tour. Well still not feeling too well I quickly lost interest and dozed off, but I did register the main points about this Caribbean Paradise. Eventually we decided on a ‘Best of’ style tour to look around the island and visit one or two special places. That means we now have the final tours booked.

Time for a coffee now, plus a muffin to keep us going, before lunchtime when the clocks are going forward again to GMT – 5. From Raffles we went to Carmen’s to see what the dance instructors are doing. I am in no fit state to take part, but we want to see what they plan to cover in the waltz that is the subject for two days. Hopefully by tomorrow I will be well enough to join in and perhaps realise our bad habits in this quite familiar dance.

At 12:00, it became 13:00 and Deb went to Battle of the Sexes. I sat at the back for some of the quiz and then Deb and I went for something to eat. It was quickly 2:00 and time for Deb’s Salsa while I had a rest.

At 3:00 we met up again for a cup of tea, before dropping in on the dance lesson to see what they had achieved so far. We will have no trouble joining in tomorrow is my throat and knees are happy. The routine is a basic, followed by a natural turn, then into a reverse turn which finishes with a whisk and chassis.

On the way back to the cabin I bought some new throat sweets before we run out. I really must get rid of this bug!

…time for some more painkillers

It is a formal dress code evening, and after dinner we have a little treat of a cocktail party. This one is to give all those who have booked major worldwide 2019 cruises while on board Aurora. It gives us a chance to see who we might meet up with again….plus some free drinks of course.

The entertainment tonight features a singing duo called ‘The Sounds of Simon’ featuring the music of Simon and Garfunkel. This sounds quite interesting, but as these are some of our favourite songs, if their versions might prove to be painfully different.

Apart from that in the theatre there is just a Las Vegas themed evening in the Casino and Champions – No Chance!

During the day there have been talks from a ‘Tony White’ talking about drug culture and consequences, and also from ‘Adam Hart Davis’ that I recognise as a historian from the television. He always appears surprised by what he is saying although I am not so keen on today’s subject which was about more seafaring explorers.

For the cultural music listeners there was also a classical concert from a pianist and a clarinettist.

At least we have some quizzes to amuse us.

It is late in the afternoon now and we have a squadron of Masked Booby Birds flying alongside the ship as Aurora disturbs the fish. These birds us the air pressure and turbulence created by Aurora to give them an easy flight while they search for unsuspecting meals in the sea. They are so graceful as they glide and occasionally come up to our balcony level to show off and check us out.

…Still no whales or dolphins!

I think it is time to enlighten you with my shaving adventures since my electric razor was damaged. I have persevered with the disposable razors, and have managed to speed up the process of getting a reasonably smooth chin. But there is an unusual problem. When I was a teenager, I was threatened by a slightly miffed young man with a knife. He did me no physical injury but left me with a phobia about knives and blades. Every time I put the edge of the razor onto my face my legs tremble, and I get a feeling of dread in my stomach. This may seem stupid after 45 years, and when I am the one in charge of the sharp edge, but it happens, and I am looking forward to having a regular electric shave when I get home.

To put this issue into context, in perhaps six weeks of using these razors, I have only managed to draw tiny specks of blood on two occasions.

What a wimp!

OK back to the evening, and after another disappointing Marco Pierre White Gala Menu at dinner, we had an hour of chat in Carmen’s with officers and fellow passengers on the 2019 Amazon Cruise. Personally I just had two glasses of champagne (ish) but others may have successfully grabbed a few more glasses than I did. When we left the show lounge we began the first of two quizzes in Masquerade’s. This was all about television programmes and we did well enough to feel satisfied with our efforts.

Now it was Syndicate Quiz time and we started rather badly and were last after half a dozen questions. Then it all clicked together and we managed to be second behind a runaway winning team. We felt very proud of ourselves after our best ever result.

It was bedtime and the sea had calmed during the day promising a smooth night. I had been coughing quite regularly during the evening and felt embarrassed about my illness, and extremely sorry for myself.

With a last dose of painkillers, I lay in bed and finished the final book that I downloaded onto my kindle reader. As I rolled over onto my pillow I hoped for a good night’s sleep and to feel better in the morning.

 

 

Thursday 6th April – Sea Day

Well the first half of the night was very peaceful and I slept. Then I woke up and my throat was screaming at me to cough. I fought the tickle and wheezes for as long as I could but the battle was unwinnable.

The intermittent dozing and coughing continued until 7:30 when I could get up and make some tea. It was another very hot and humid morning with the thermometer telling me that it was 29° on the balcony. This sort of weather does not help me feel any better.

Aurora was continuing south easterly at a relaxed 15.5 knots. The official conditions are that the sea is calm, and there are just light airs. In other words we are sailing across a near flat sea that has a shiny surface with just a hint of dimples.

We are now passing by the coast of Panama and on schedule to be at the canal early tomorrow morning. Late in the morning we were at latitude of 7° North, meaning we were almost back at the equator again. We won’t be going much further south before we turn northwards to the canal entrance later in the day.

After breakfast we went up onto the very top deck to have an hour in the hot sunshine. I don’t suppose it did my man flu/bacterial infection/ nasty bug any good but it is very hard to ignore such wonderful weather. I am without my little iPod this morning as it has decided to lose all the music again, for the third time. It looks like it is nearing the end of its life and when we get home I will definitely be replacing it. My music is too important to me to not have with me when I relax in the sunshine either on a cruise, or back home in the garden. Fortunately I managed to make the other music machine play a Moody Blues album to keep me amused as I absorbed the sun’s rays.

NEWS FLASH – I saw a pod of dolphins. They weren’t very active but one did a perfect flip for me to say sorry for ignoring me over the last three months.

…OK, where are the whales?

At about 10:00 we slowly got off the loungers to make our way back to the air conditioning, we saw that the squadron of Masked Booby Birds resting on the prow of the ship waiting for their next meal to appear. A section of them were scrambled, took off and peeled away to Starboard. The remainder kept watch to Port for any signs of prey.

Back at the cabin we relaxed in the cool, but were interrupted several times by the birds screaming as food was sighted. Their squawk is something akin to that of a crow or a goose and as one shouts their delight, the rest accompany it and dive down like an arrow into the sea. They rarely fail and quickly bob up to the surface again to swallow their meal.  Then they take off and regain their composure alongside Aurora with the heads twitching from side to side for any hint of a tasty fish. Over the last few days more and more of these birds have joined our ship, and I counted a dozen of them on our side of the ship, and suspect more still were patrolling the starboard side.

Deb and I had a brief stroll up to the buffet for a cup of coffee but the sticky heat is just too much for me, and I was much happier back in the cabin. The cough is not improving and Deb has given me instructions to go to the doctor this afternoon unless I show a significant improvement.

I have to agree with her, as I really feel unhappy.

It is approaching midday and Deb will soon be away to the Battle of the Sexes again. That is the only commitment today so once over, we can go for some lunch. I don’t feel hungry, but I know I should eat something.

By late afternoon we were just less than 7° from the equator, and sailing eastwards towards the Panama Canal waiting room….sorry, pilot station. It reached 31°C during the afternoon, and the Captain promised the same, or even hotter, tomorrow plus 95% humidity. That means it will be almost raining at the same time as being flipping hot!

It seems the action will begin tomorrow morning at about 6:00 with the first of the pilots making decisions for the Captain on how to drive his ship.

The birds remained with us throughout the day, and as I relaxed on the balcony are continued to give us demonstrations of gliding and fishing. I am not sure if they ever really caught any fish, as none of the squadron appeared to be getting any fatter.

There are two different colours of bird:

They all have the white under-body and head with a quite long pointed beak. Most of them have dark wing feathers and dark upper body extending right to the point where the eyes are. If our assumptions are correct, this layer of dark feathers above the dark eyes make them look as if they have a hood on – hence Hooded Booby birds.

The other birds have light coloured feathers on most of their wings and head. They look identical in shape so I am wondering if they are simply juvenile Hooded Boobies, rather than a completely different species. They all seem to work quite happily together when fishing.

It is superb to watch them diving, when the wings fold in close to their bodies as they spear into the water. Sometimes they go down deep and leave a bubbling inferno of water before bobbing up after a few seconds. Other times they go in with a shallow dive to chase the fish going sideways before bobbing up much quicker. Sometimes when they surface they shake their feathers and then quickly take off to re-join the gang. Alternatively, when they come up, they sit on the surface for a while before catching up with their mates again. I can never actually see if they have caught anything.

It is Angie’s birthday today and we are eating the main dining room with balloons and cake to celebrate. Before that we had a pre-dinner bottle of Prosecco between the six of us while chatting in Anderson’s.

The evening went very well with singing waiters at the dinner table. From the dining room we went to the early quiz in Masquerade’s, and then to Carmen’s to watch the second show from the comedian (Phil Melbourne). He was really enjoyable, and had most of the audience eating out of his hand. OK, so some of the jokes were a little familiar but so many of them were new to us.

He ran over time and when he eventually completed the act, Richard scampered off to Vanderbilt’s to get a table for the Syndicate Quiz. Unfortunately there were no tables available, and the questions had already started. We gave further quizzing a miss and had an early night.

Tomorrow Deb and I will be up early to watch our arrival into the Panama Canal, so the alarm clock was set for 6:00.

 

 

Friday 8th April – Panama Canal

The alarm clock wasn’t needed and I got up at 5:45 to make a cup of tea. Various unidentifiable lights had woken me much earlier, but I couldn’t lie there any longer. This wasn’t just because of the spectacle of the Panama Canal. I was also suffering badly from the cough and a headache needed some attention.

At 6:00 it was just about light, and around Aurora there were many ships of different sizes and colours all waiting their turn to pass through the canal to the Caribbean Sea or onwards to the Atlantic Ocean. Out on the balcony it was obvious the humidity was high, and my body instantly let out a burst of sweat. Deb was also up and took her camera outside to capture the first images of the day. As I poured the tea I saw a Pelican fly right by Deb at head height and she jumped in surprise.

There were vast numbers of these graceful birds when in flight, but sometimes not so gamely when on land. They seem to form up into groups that were patrolling the waiting bay, swooping down close to each ship to inspect what the day had brought to their home today. Quite often they lined up one behind the other and then flew past us without a sound.

As the light increased, and the mist burnt away, there was a moment when I could see the cityscape of Panama in the far distance. Then more birds appeared. These were black and flying in at low level just grazing the sea like an attack from bombers below radar detection levels. They might have been the Booby birds we have been seeing daily but now there were hundreds of them in flocks arriving as the sun rose. Other flying visitors came and took a look at Aurora. Some flew around above us like condors, others with different tail shapes and longer necks came lower. Smaller black birds and gulls of varying sizes also introduced themselves to us, and welcomed up to Panama.

At 6:15 after finishing our tea and washing Aurora began to move and turned towards the canal entrance. I counted over 30 ships waiting in this holding area, and one, a red bulk carrier, was sailing in front of us. This would be with us for some time as we made progress during the transit.

By now we had been up on the top deck of the ship, and it was packed with excited passengers catching their first views, or perhaps just catching up on previous memories of this maritime spectacle. It was obvious now that we were on our way into the canal, and a visiting speaker was giving the first introductions about our day over the PA system. His voice was so familiar and he was almost certainly the same speaker as we had five years ago when we came the other way. The first landmark of the transit was the Bridge of Americas that we would pass below about an hour before the first locks.

Deb and I had returned to the cabin as we had a breakfast tray arriving at 8:00. We now parked ourselves on the balcony to watch the action to our side of the ship. The guide was continuing his commentary and gave the history of the canal plus warnings of what was about to be visible on either side of the ship. Sadly our neighbours preferred Sky News or whatever channel they felt important today.

07:45 – We passed under the bridge, and a few minutes later our breakfast arrived. The first lock was in the distance as we nibbled our croissants. It was a lovely day, but I felt awful. I realised I was going to have to visit the doctor today and get myself checked out. This is a horrible bug and I realise than many others on this ship are suffering the same way.

At this point of the canal we caught our first sight of the waterway that connects with the new lock. This allows even bigger ships to pass through the short cut between oceans. Of course they have to pay for the privilege, and are charge around $1million a time. We would be charged just under £500,000 to use the older, narrower, and less efficient lock system.

08:30 – It was our turn for the Miraflores Lock system where we would rise 26 feet up through two locks to the lake of the same name beyond. This would mean 26 million gallons of water would be taken from the fresh water lake to lift us.

…and no, I don’t know how many Olympic size swimming pools that is.

For those who have never been through the Panama Canal, the experience and engineering spectacle is amazing. It cannot be given justice in this blog and a full book would be needed to give the history of its planning, construction, and failures, and more importantly the number of deaths involved to create the canal.

To cut it short, the ship is attacked by steel ropes to a number of engines on rails on either side of each lock. They are called ‘mules’ can purr along beside us and keep the ship central in the lock to protect the paint job.

I am sure you know how lock systems work, so can understand the complexities of moving a huge ship up over 8 metres.

It took just over an hour to complete this first stage, and there would be two more sets of locks before we returned to the sea at the other end of the canal.

Sadly I had lost interest by now and went down to see the doctor.

Almost an hour later I returned to the cabin about £80 worse off, with a box of antibiotics, a bottle of cough medicine, and a little bit of sympathy. I have what he described as “several rattily areas down there”.

I was shattered, and after taking my first pill plus a swig of linctus, I virtually switched off for several hours in an attempt to get some rest and allow the medicine to work.

I stirred occasionally to have a drink, and nibble some food, but the amazing thing going on around me really wasn’t thrilling me as much as it should have done.

Deb had a break from the canal for the Battle of the Sexes, but that was the only thing that took her way from the canal action during the day.

At 5:00 in the afternoon, the job was complete. I was feeling slightly more human and took a bit more interest as we dropped back down to sea level in xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. During the day we had passed through six locks and used millions of gallons of fresh water to enable our pleasure, and save us the alternative sea journey of many thousands of miles around South America.

Tonight Angie was hosting a birthday meal in the Glass House. This was the first time we had ever eaten there, and it was a lovely evening. The food was delicious and the company was superb. We have become such good friends. I felt much better and certainly considered I was finally on the mend, but I should not have had the alcohol. After just one glass of prosecco I felt light headed, and a glass of red wine later I realised my mistake. For the rest of the evening I watched as the three bottle of quiz wine was consumed but was happy to simply sip what was in my glass.

After a lovely meal we went to the Syndicate Quiz and through a considerable alcoholic haze managed to come a credible second. I even managed to give some positive input, but I was ready for bed well before we slowly made our way back to our cabins.

Aurora was now in the Caribbean Sea. She was creaking, jiggling, and bouncing along even though the official sea condition was ‘slight’. The wind was forecast to get up to Force 6 or 7 but the movement was not going to stop me sleeping tonight.

It had been a lovely day and evening, but I probably didn’t appreciate it very much. Tomorrow we will be landing in Colombia at the port of Cartagena, and hopefully I will be feeling better at last.

 

 

Saturday 8th April – Cartagena, Colombia

Our first visit to Colombia, and we woke to another hot and humid day. The arrival was through a pretty area with palm trees and what might have been mangrove swamp, but we soon saw where we would be berthing, and it was another container port.

I was feeling considerably better, but still woke up with a sore throat. The coughing has reduced so maybe I am getting over the latest cold/cough/bug that is the ship is suffering from.

Alongside of us was the ‘Thomson Dream’ which fortunately blocked our view of the container area. On Starboard there was the ‘Norwegian Pearl’, and beyond that the ‘Celebrity Eclipse’. Today was going to be a very busy day with so many cruise passengers descending on the city of Cartagena.

We had a tour that would be looking around the ‘old city’ plus a fortress known as the ‘Inquisition’. Down below us the tour buses were filling with the Thomson passengers including three very noisy ‘fun buses’ with drums, whistles and trumpets blaring out music. As I stood amazed at that scene, our own tour buses arrived and son the quayside was packed with coaches belching out air conditioning waste below me.

Just before 10:00 we were away. Our guide was called Rafael and the driver was Rodney. Fortunately we had our Port Lecturer (Crystal) as this was not the best of trips we have been on. The city is one of those that I would describe as ‘dirty’ with waste paper and plastic bottles behind fences and waste land. There were probably 5000 cruise passengers who all visited the same tourist spots during the morning, so it was busy, and very hot.

At the first stop we piled out of the coach and followed the guide to a statue of one of the city’s historical heroes. This is where we discovered that Rafael only speaks to anyone in front of him and ignores the possibility that others behind him would like to hear his story as well. The amount of traffic noise, and the constant babble from other tour groups (and there were lots of them) made it impossible to hear anything, unless it was directed straight at your ears. Add to this the un-relented  attention of street sellers trying to persuade us to buy hats, fans, watches, sunglasses, jewellery, and maracas, and any hope of hearing Rafael was gone.

We took some photos and went back to the coach where at least it was comfortably cool.

Our next stop was the old dungeons that sounded a little more interesting…wrong!

It may have been dungeons many years ago, but now it is a shopping complex using the old cells. We were steered towards one particular shop and told we had 30 minutes. This was a typical souvenir shop with a lot of imported ‘tat’ so Deb and I wandered off to return to the coach. Unfortunately it was driving away to find a better parking space.

We looked in one or two shops and found nothing to interest us. Outside again and Rafael pointed us towards the coach that was now back, and we went there with several others until it was time to move on.

While we waited, an American couple returned and sat in a pair of seats near to us. I didn’t recognise them but didn’t think any more about it. Then another couple came along and suggested the American couple were in their seats. It appears they decided to move closer to the front assuming that was the normal thing to do. Well, after a short stand-off, the Americans moved to their original pair of seats.

Now, I know there is no rules to say that the seats you start in, and where you should return to, but it is the way that the British do things. Anyway peace returned and there was no repeat of the incident.

Sadly when the Americans came back to the coach after the next stop, I heard him say as he passed by, “We will sit at the back because of that Ass Hole”. I go back to one of my recent posts and reiterate, it is a British Ship, and the majority of the passengers stick to our ways of acting. I think he might be “back-side” in this incident.

Even more annoying is that I believe these are the couple who are our neighbours that enjoy having the television sound turned up high.

Back to our tour and through the periods of driving we were getting a lot of information about the Spanish saviour of the Cartagena, as well as the glorious defeat of a British invasion, and very negative comments about Francis Drake. I think we had a pretty good idea where the British stood in the rankings of favourite nations by now.

Anyway, the next stop was the Inquisition area where the Spanish heroes employed the religious leaders to torture anyone they felt to be witches, or people with negative thoughts about the Spanish….and probably anyone who could speak English. This was the highlight of the tour and is quite interesting. There are some examples of the torture weakens, the living accommodation of where the city’s religious hero lived plus a large church.

Rafael was given a serious ticking off by Crystal for not giving clear instructions, and not waiting for everybody to gather before beginning the next chapter of Cartagena verses Francis Drake. We more or less did our own thing for 30 minutes here.

Finally it was time to get on the coach for the cool drive back to the port.

To be honest we weren’t impressed by this tour. I think the heat and humidity made us feel negative to start with, but the guide and itinerary were also sadly lacking.

We had lunch and then quickly returned ashore to look around the cruise terminal shops. Here we discovered that there was an aviary to explore. There were flamingos, parrots, peacocks and even monkeys. What a lovely place. Sadly neither of us had brought our cameras so we never had a record of it.

We did manage to get a couple of souvenirs before going back to collapse in the cabin. I was so drained from my days of illness, plus the effects of the medicine were making me very tired. I dozed for a while before getting enough energy back to go for a cup of tea and a cake.

It was still very hot and the sun was shining on the balcony, but I managed to sit there for quite a while. The Thomson ship was preparing to leave by late afternoon, but there was some sort of delay. Eventually an ambulance pulled up and took away someone whose holiday had been cut short. Almost instantly the lines were dropped and the ship sped away from the port. That just left us and the Celebrity ship as Norwegian Pearl had left while we were at the terminal complex.

Aurora left just as we finished the individual quiz where I lost in a tie break. I was so amazed to be so close to a sticker.

After dinner there was another shock as the table team won a bottle of wine in a quiz where all the answers were numbers. We actually beat ‘Densa’ by one point this time.

Showtime!

Tonight it was a variety show comedian, juggler and magician by the name of Richard Gauntlet. Most of his act was comedy and he was very good, except that we had heard several of his jokes before. It didn’t spoil a very good show and I think we will return for his second one.

By the end of the show we all agreed it was too late for anything else, and an early night was the agreed consensus.

I was actually quite pleased to relax into my pillow at the end of a tiring day, that didn’t inspire us to want to return to Cartagena.

Aurora was now sailing east across the Caribbean Sea for two days until we reach the island of St Lucia.

Goodnight.

 

 

Sunday 9th April – Sea Day

Aurora continued to sail eastwards at a quite slow speed towards the island of St Lucia. The weather wasn’t quite as hot as it had been, and perhaps the humidity was a little less intense, but it was still a sticky morning.

I felt a lot better and was not coughing very much anymore. I was still feeling very tired however and didn’t like the idea of going outside in the sunshine. Deb went out by herself for an hour while I caught up with two days of my journal.

We got together for a cup of coffee mid-morning and decided to pop down to the Future Cruises Desk to see what the price would be to book the cruises before or after out Amazon trip in 2019. Well, it was quite a shock.  The New Year cruise before it was expensive but by booking the following one going north for 12 nights, the extra incentive discounts meant we only had to pay a seriously low amount. We could even stay in the same cabin. Deb and I went away to think about it, but it was an offer that was hard to refuse.

Back at the cabin, Deb tried to log onto the internet but kept getting a message that it was not possible and we needed to speak to reception. I said I would go and have a word with them while Deb was at the Battle of the Sexes.

At lunchtime the clocks leapt forward again to GMT-4. Deb went to the Battle of the Sexes and I went down to find out what the problem was with purchasing an internet package. Now things began to turn very sour. It appears that by changing the payment card, the system will no longer allow either of us to purchase internet packages so I need to speak to the internet manager.

Slightly miffed I went and sat at the back of Deb’s quiz until it finished and went to lunch. I explained the situation and we decided to wait a while before going up to the library and sort out the internet.

Because our fridge stocks were gone, Deb went to buy a bar of chocolate from the shop. Her card was refused and she came back feeling embarrassed and furious.

We went to reception again. It also appears that by changing the payment card, that Deb can no longer use her on-board spend card for anything. Now we were both angry and asked if something could be sorted out. In the meantime we had cabin account statements to see what has been going on since changing our card.

The idea of changing the payment card was to avoid further charges being made to the first card. It seems that this has not worked, and almost everything has continued to go to the old card. Back to the reception desk and now I was livid that what was my attempt to avoid an embarrassing situation by changing cards has turned out to be a disaster.

We then went to sort out the internet in the library and once again it is all because of changing the payment card as internet packages are blocked when this type of account change takes place.

After yet another heated discussion at reception three people looked dumfounded with what is happening, but no one has a solution. They promised to look into what is happening and I assumed they would get back to me.

It was late afternoon and time to begin getting ready for a formal evening. We did at least squeeze in the Individual Quiz to take our minds off the money issues but my anger levels are just about at maximum.

Dinner was very nice, and at the early quiz we scored 20/20 on a ‘cryptic themed quiz’. Of course another team (Densa) also got them all correct, and we lost to them in the tie break.

We didn’t go to the show but after a rest we met up with the others for trivial pursuits and the late night Syndicate Quiz. The girls and boys drew one game each in the trivial pursuits, and we were pretty useless with the quiz.

Time for bed, and time to forget our payment issues and internet access until the morning.

Surely this can all be resolved.
_______________________

Post 32 – Last Sea Day to Guatamala

Monday 3rd April – Sea Day

I woke with a headache, and feel sorry for myself. My throat is sore and the cough is once again telling me, and everybody around me, that I have the bug.

The day is warm and humid now that we are back in the tropics. That doesn’t help me to feel any better. While I relaxed in the cabin with ‘man flu’ Deb went for a swim. I don’t feel like doing anything today. Sadly the dance lesson is a no, no. Without a shadow of a doubt, the dancing over the last few days has seriously affected my knees. I knew they were bad when I came away, but had no idea that they would get this worse in just three months.

At 10:00 there is a port talk on our stop in St Lucia. That is a long way off yet, and we don’t have anything booked, so we will go along and I will cough as quietly as I can while we see what is on offer.

After that I have no plans to do anything. Deb has the Battle of the Sexes, but that is her only commitment. Hopefully I will feel better later and have a few minutes in the sunshine.

Tonight the entertainment is Donny Ray Evins in the theatre with some more songs, but not Nat King Cole this time. In Carmen’s the Headliners are performing the Abba tribute again. I don’t understand why they have not performed the Queen tribute, and even when we have spoken to the boys and girls, they seem confused as well.

Well it is 25° and misty. When Deb opened the balcony door after coming back from her swim, I felt the humid heat come into the cabin. I broke out in an instant sweat.

Before we went to the Port Talk, Deb had a look through the possibilities for St Lucia, and she came across a boat trip to look at the island’s Piton Mountains. The trip also included swimming time and free rum punch cocktails. This seemed a good idea, especially as we promised ourselves we would swim in the Caribbean Sea this time, having failed five years ago.

The talk showed a lot of tour possibilities but I saw little to change from the boat trip…well actually I slept through a lot of the talk but Deb was still happy with our choice.

From the theatre talk we went for a cup of coffee in Raffles. Quite a weird moment as one waiter took the order, and then a waitress delivered our drinks. A couple of minutes later the original waiter appeared with our coffees and looked totally confused. I wonder who was still waiting for their Latte and Cappuccino.

I was still feeling poorly (aah!) and decided not to bother with the morning’s dance class. Instead I sat on the balcony for a few minutes while Deb went and booked the St Lucia tour. Just before midday, she went to the Battle of the Sexes and I lay on the bed and almost instantly fell asleep. When Deb woke me almost an hour later, I wasn’t totally sure where I was but managed to struggle up to the buffet for a very light lunch.

Back from there I surprised my lovely caring wife and suggested we go and sit in the sun for an hour. I think this did me a bit of good as Deb said when we returned to the cabin that I was looking pale at lunch, but had now got some colour back. And yes, I was actually feeling a little better.

We both sat on the cool balcony reading books, while keeping a watchful look for passing wildlife. Having gone three quarters of the way around the globe, the best I had seen was Sea Lions in San Francisco plus numerous Flying Fish, one or two Albatross, Masked Booby Birds, and Pelicans. Almost everyone else had seen whales or dolphins but these beautiful creatures have avoided my gaze for more than 25,000 miles. Then just as I remarked about this lack of wildlife, our ship overtook a turtle just a few metres away from Aurora swimming peacefully down the coast of Mexico.

Finally I feel I have seen something special…now what about the dolphins and whales?

Apparently people have seen sharks and seals today….I feel such a failure

There is still a lot of mist but fortunately the ship has been sailing along a clear patch since late morning, and the temperature is deliciously warm. The open decks are covered in semi naked bodies with all shades of skin from a light beige through to walnut and teak. Deb and I have got some tan and we describe ourselves as cappuccino coloured, although my legs are definitely getting to a shade of light oak.

As the afternoon is moving towards dinner, I think I feel well enough to at least go to the dining room, but just have a light meal with the others rather than go through the menu. We are in the Beach House tomorrow and need to let the waiters know we won’t be there again.

As for entertainment, I am not sure what we will do yet, but I doubt the singer will be getting our attention.

Although not feeling 100% I did go to dinner and just had a bowl of soup followed by a salad as the main course. I finished with fruit salad and ice-cream and came away without any problems. My head is still feeling as if it is full of cotton wool, and the cough is getting worse, but hopefully a good night’s sleep will see me OK for our tour in Puerto Quetzel in the morning.

As expected Deb and I didn’t go to any of the shows, and just relaxed for the evening. We don’t have an early start in the morning as we have to get to the coach by 9:45 for a tour called ‘Macadamia Discovery’. Yes, it is about the nuts.