Category Archives: George’s Blog

Fire and Ice Part 39

Friday 15th February – Sea Day

Today Aurora is sailing east(ish) towards Bermuda. The wind is blowing just on the side, so the ship is juggling. In fact it has been jiggling almost continually since we left Freeport yesterday afternoon. The sea isn’t rough, but the jiggling and a bit of a swell is making it a little uncomfortable.

There is some sunshine around, but the cold easterly wind is not making it warm enough outside, except for the hardiest. The temperature is hardly creeping into much more than the low 20’s.

The clocks went forwards last night, so we overslept a little. Deb had to rush her breakfast to get to Fit Step on time. They worked on the Flamenco movements today.

Going back a few hours to last night:

The six of us went to the Eric Clapton tribute show from Paul Ruck. We all loved it. He is a fantastic guitarist and if you enjoy guitar solo rock then I suggest cruise fanatics look out for him.

None of us sampled the saxophonist, so no comment can be passed on to you.

After the Clapton show we went to Champion’s for a late-night quiz based on Valentine’s Day. Somehow we actually did very well, and were in a three way tie break. Although a long way from the correct answer, there were two teams (including us) who guessed either side of the record time for kissing underwater. We were low, and they were high.

We were judged to be the furthest away and the other team were delighted. We were unsure of the mathematics of the two answers, and I went to the host and asked for the figures. The questioner wasn’t happy with being challenged and wouldn’t let me see the two answers. She then said that if I was that concerned, we could have stickers as well.

It now felt very awkward, and our team saw this as a bitter taste of winning. All I wanted to do was see the answers to check how close we were. Now we were seen as bad losers.

It was time to go to bed.

So, back to today, and a Friday at sea:

After Deb completed her Fit Step class, we went to the buffet for a hot drink. Not very long after we got back to the cabin, I was setting off for the theatre to watch the third of Wayne Sleep’s talks.

As with the other two talks, it was superb.

He finished with a short tap dance routine, followed by pirouettes around the stage, and ended by doing the splits.

There was an almost 100% standing ovation. The applause went on for ages and we could hardly hear John Bartram thanking Wayne Sleep, and bringing him back on stage for a final bow.

As many people said yesterday, this was not a talk, it was a show.

Wayne will be back on stage tomorrow morning for a face to face question session with John Bartram, and I think the theatre will be jam packed yet again.

When I finally got out of the theatre it was 12:15. He had seriously overrun his 45 minute slot. I would be having lunch with Deb after the Battle of the Sexes was over, so I sat to the side of Masquerade’s and watched the ladies and gents fighting it out. The ladies are still losing, but there is only a few points between the teams.

We had lunch in the buffet, and then took to the cabin to relax.

Entertainment this evening in the theatre is Helen Ward-Jackson singing a tribute to the Divas.

… gosh that sounds familiar!

In Carmen’s it is Lee from the Headliners with his personal singing show.

And apart from the usual round of quizzes, Matt Bruno is singing in the Crow’s Nest, and Cool Blue are in Masquerade’s.

The cinema sounds a little more interesting. It is Cabaret, and even that is a musical.

… So, it is singing then!

I’ll let you know what we did tomorrow. We have a second sea day, but will be arriving in Bermuda late in the afternoon, and then enjoying two nights in port.

Bi for now.

Fire and Ice Part 38

Thursday 14th February – Freeport, Bahamas

I had a very bad night. The after effects of kayaking are still manifesting themselves, and during the night I had an ache from the muscles of my chest. I doubt I had more than a couple of proper sleep during the night, and when I got up at 7:00 I was exhausted.

We were docked at yet another American created port with shops and cafes to extract money from passengers.

We initially had a tour booked today to a beach resort for an all inclusive four hours. But, as the tour had to be brought forward to allow an early sail away time, it would have meant beginning to drink at about 9:00 and having lunch before 12:00. After considering if this was worth it, we cancelled the tour, and decided to just look around the terminal shops.

It was initially only 20°C on the balcony and rather cloudy, but the sun did warm us up later.

At 9:00 we left the ship for the dozen step walk to the gateway to the shops. Deb and I spent an hour wandering around identical shops with identical products as we have seen at the last five or six ports. The western Caribbean has really been taken over by the Americans, and they are creating identical experiences that I assume the Americans enjoy.

… I don’t!!

We were back on the ship by 10:00 and after a cup of drink we spent half an hour in the sunshine until a shower came along.

Back in the cabin we had the wonderful sound (not) of booming music from the market area below. Yet more of the Americanisation (note I don’t use ‘z’) of cruise passenger ports.

It is almost midday, and the passengers will soon be back on board. We sail just after lunch for the trip to Bermuda. This is an early departure to get to Bermuda for an extended stay while they try and fix the damage to the propeller.

There were four other cruise ships in the harbour today. Next to us was a ship from the Bahama Paradise company called the Grand Celebration. She was old, and had no balcony cabins but probably serviced 1000 to 1500 passengers. On the other side of the harbour there were three other ships of which one was in a dry dock and the other two could also have been in the process of being repaired. This is the nominal registered port for many of the American ships.

When everyone was back on-board, the captain announced our departure, and warned that there might be a slight swell tonight (two metres) that would be making Aurora to pitch a bit. I accept this as a warning to passengers like myself who are susceptible to motion.

Anyway, we are away again now to our penultimate call on this cruise, but of course we are staying on the ship for the following cruise that goes to Norway. I suspect we will be having a good amount of less than calm conditions before we leave this ship in March.

As we sailed northwards to Bermuda, there was a deck party around the Riviera pool for a change. They managed to get three of the acts to share the music while the passengers enjoyed some sunshine again, and cocktails. We took the opportunity to have some quiet time in the cabin, and I even had a bath…

… yes, I fell asleep.

The entertainment tonight has a saxophonist in the theatre. He is another of the growing troupe of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ runners up called Julian Smith, but at least it is something other than singing. I think we are more likely to go to Carmen’s to catch a show from a guitarist called Paul Ruck who is going to have an Eric Clapton themed 45 minutes. To be sure of getting a seat in Carmen’s with a decent view for the 9:00 show, we will have to be in there not much later than 8:00.

This means no quizzes tonight, unless we take part in the late night ‘Valentine’s Day’ themed quiz, or challenge ourselves at the Syndicate quiz again.

Of course, there are numerous things around the ship for the Valentine’s day opportunity to sell to the passengers. We have avoided it all, and just have the free rose that appeared in our cabin this morning. Even the film today is called ‘Valentine’s Day’. We have never joined in with Valentine’s day, in the same way that we avoid the other marketing opportunities such as Father and Mother’s Day, Halloween, Black Friday etc.

Yes, we are stubborn and careful with our money. That’s why we can afford a cruise like this.

Tomorrow is a sea day, and with the probability of some rocking and rolling of the ship, I hope the entertainment team can find plenty for us to do.

Of course, I might be wrong, and the weather will be superb.

Fire and Iced Part 37

Wednesday 13th February – Sea Day

Good morning from somewhere just north of Cuba. We can see this largest island in the Caribbean on our starboard side, and I wonder when P&O will begin to visit this island.

As we woke up, it was cloudy and the balcony thermometer is showing just 23°C. Aurora is wobbling around in a Force 4 wind but the sea is quite calm. She is almost sprinting along at 20 knots on this leg of the cruise to the Bahamas for tomorrow morning.

Here are a few extra reflections from yesterday:

I asked the young cadet officer, who was our tour escort, what the truth was about Aurora’s propeller or propeller shaft. He said he didn’t know the details of the problem, but did tell us that the initial incident was because over 64 tonnes of fishing net and tackle was actually wrapped around it. Not a simple few metres of net that most people probably envisaged.

I really did hurt my rear end when I slipped on the step getting into the water yesterday morning. The pain has worsened as the bruise has overcome my embarrassment. Also, my shoulder, which had been quite good since the treatment last Autumn, is now really, really aching. Obviously, the kayaking action has annoyed the joint quite badly.

The Ligurian Loyalty Club dinner in a 5 Star Mexican Hotel was enjoyed by the 200 plus passengers who are at this highest loyalty tier. They arrived back later than planned, and the smiles and unsteady walks gives away how much they had to drink. Very soon after they were all back on board, Aurora slipped her lines and quietly purred away from this Mexican island.

Deb and I enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco on the balcony after our dinner in the buffet. It was dark, but still delightful to sit in the warmth of the Caribbean looking at the lights of Cozumel’s harbour, with rightly coloured ferries coming and going, and lightening of a storm in the distance.

We did begin a quiz on Mexico late in the evening, but having stumbled after just three questions, we realised our ignorance of this country and gave up. An early night was a more appealing way of enjoying ourselves rather than needlessly straining our brains.

Back to today:

Deb has just gone to her Fit Step class, and I am wondering what to do for the rest of the morning. I will be going to the theatre at 11:00 to watch the second of the talks by Wayne Sleep, but I am probably not going to return to the choir. I am not enjoying it as much as during the first half of the cruise. The Headliner singers are no longer taking a lead, and the songs that Paul (the pianist) has chosen for us are the ones we have sung before. I would really like to take on new songs that challenge us, and which will also give the eventful performance audience something different to listen to.

This afternoon there is a new speaker who talks about law enforcement and drugs. We have had him on a cruise before and didn’t warm to his subject then either.

Tonight, the Headliners are performing ‘My Generation’ and we will probably go along to watch this, even though it is quite familiar to us.

And of course, there is always a chance that the sun will come out, and I intend to make the most of the golden globe while there is still a chance.

Well, the sun did not come out. The wind got stronger, the sea got a little rougher, and well before 11:00 the rain began, and I had taken a Stugeron to settle my head and stomach.

I did go and watch Wayne Sleep, and the hour in the theatre was quite magical. He expressed his wish for everyone to have a chance of seeing dance of all genre, and that dancers of all genre should be recognised. He showed clips of his own show (Dash) and his various television appearances on chat shows and even of him teaching Mr Blobby to dance as a cygnet.

The presentation ended with his role in ‘Cats’ and rather than show clips, he actually sang his part in the show. It was amazing as a finale to this talk, and the audience was on its feet applauding this man of so many talents. He had a greater affect on the audience than many of the so-called star cabaret acts have received on this cruise.

He is back again in a couple of days, and I will certainly be going to see it.

While Deb was at the Battle of the Sexes I hid away in the cabin for a while, but it was becoming far too rocky there to relax. I went and watched the last 20 minutes of the Battle before joining up with Deb again for lunch.

We went to the buffet and had spaghetti Bolognese as a treat. I was also wondering if I would feel well enough later to eat dinner, so this might have been my main meal of the day.

After eating, I tried to relax in the cabin again, but that was out of the question. The weather wasn’t bad, but it had got to me. There was nothing on the programme, except a talk in the theatre. The cinema was unused, and Carmen’s was empty. I would have expected the entertainment organisers to put something together while the outside decks were out of use, but not this team, or not the man in charge anyway.

I hid away in Charlies that I have found to be the best place on the ship in this weather. At last I relaxed and my head and stomach began to sort themselves out. By 4:00 I was back to normal, and returned to the cabin where Deb had enjoyed a bath.

I told her I wasn’t intending to go to dinner, especially as it was formal night. Getting changed and putting the bow-tie on has always been a struggle in bad weather.

I was feeling happy to go and take part in the individual quiz, and Deb lost it in a tie-break. As we left Vanderbilt’s I decided my stomach was comfortable again, and I would be getting dressed and going to dinner.

After that meal, the six of us split up, with Angie and Richard going to the cinema. Along with Robin and Rosemary we took on the early evening quiz, and lost by one mark with one answer that we probably should have had a point for, but not according to the host.

Then Deb and I went to the theatre for a lovely show from the Headliners.

At 9:00 we had had agreed to possibly meet up again, but it seemed the others had had enough. Deb and I had a quiet drink in Anderson’s and then it was off to bed.

Aurora was well on her way to the Bahamas by then. The sea and wind were still angry with us, and the ship was jiggling and being rocked.

Tomorrow will be in Freeport on one of the islands of the Bahamas.

… yet another new location for us.

Gordon Banks RIP

I am so sad to hear that Gordon Banks has died.

He was loved as a gentleman by the people of Stoke on Trent, and the Potteries, and loved by thousands of us who saw, and felt the excitement, of that day in 1966 when that team of young men became heroes of football fans around the country.

He played the game as a sportsman, and was always ready to speak and smile to those fans who talked to him.

Sadly, although he was someone who reached the pinnacle of world football, it never made him a wealthy man.

It was a time when football was a game for the people, and those players have never seen the wealth of the modern day era. Gordan Banks even had to sell his World Cup Winners medal, and it was probably for a price that was less than the stars of today get paid for a just a few minutes on the pitch.

I doubt I will ever see the likes of Gordon Banks, or the other gentlemen of that team, again.

Your final whistle has blown, so rest in Peace Gordon Banks.

Fire and Ice Part 36

Tuesday 12th February – Cozumel, Mexico

Deb and I have just arrived home from a morning on a beach. We have been kayaking, and Deb also spent 45 minutes snorkelling. I excused myself from that activity as I can’t bear to have a mask over my face.

Anyway, the overnight trip to this Mexican island was a smooth one, and I slept very well. The thrusters roared at about 5:30 as we reached the port, but that was just a temporary wakening. When we eventually got out of bed just before 7:00 it was getting light and the clouds were looking suspiciously full of rain.

There was only time for a quick breakfast in the buffet, and then grab our bags and go. Our tour was scheduled to leave at 8:30 and we had a few minutes walk to the terminal along the quayside, to reach the tour assembly point. As we began the walk, it started to rain, and by the time we arrived at the terminal we were wet, to say the least.

Our guide Pedro, gathered our little group of just five soggy passengers, plus cadet officer James as our escort. It was a small group for what turned out to be a rather fun morning.

The taxi ride trip to the Chankanaab National Park beach complex took about ten minutes, and it rained all the way, although it was getting less and less as time went by. At the beach we were soon getting ready for the kayaking session that was to last about 45 minutes. This was a new activity for Deb and I and of the three passenger kayaks, we were the slowest and we zig zagged across the water as we attempted to keep up.

It was still raining slightly as we set off, but eventually the sky brightened and it was our paddle action that was now making us wet.

The kayaks were glass bottomed so we had wonderful views of the coral outcrops and pretty little fish. Much of the coral bed was destroyed in a recent hurricane, so we were seeing new growth. Pedro told us it would take upwards of 50 years to really establish what was there before the hurricane.

That experience was delightful, but now the group had a chance to snorkel over this new coral reef.

I declined. Firstly, the idea of having a mask put me off, but I also slipped on the steps leading down to the kayak and fell quite heavily on my new hip. Everyone was worried about me, but at the time I felt absolutely nothing, except embarrassment.

So, I sat on the beach under an umbrella and watched the fun and games with various groups of passengers from four American cruise ships that were in port along with ourselves. Deb and the snorkellers worked their way around the coral area under the supervision of Pedro. They saw some wonderful examples of coral and the fish that live around it.

When Deb eventually returned to the beach we sat for a while enjoying the warmth and eating a fresh fruit salad, plus drinking a rum punch.

The group left the beach just before midday and as we drove back towards the port, it started to rain again.

The port terminal is connected to a shopping precinct that has lots of tourist shops and cafes. Unfortunately, the trip to and from the ship is outside, and the short walk to and from the taxi was also outside. So, when it rains you cannot avoid getting wet, and we really did get wet. We stayed inside the shopping area to stay dry, but the precinct was not totally under cover, and we continued to get wet.

Deb and I bought a few dollars’ worth of bits, and then set off to the ship in the pouring rain.

Mexico has not been good to us. We had rain yesterday, and today we got very wet again.

The rain did not dampen the experience, and I enjoyed the morning very much.

Back on the ship we dumped all our wet stuff, put on some dry stuff, and then went for a plate of food.

While I was eating, I realised that my hip (that I fell on) was now aching. I think I may have bruised myself, and now a couple of hours later, I am feeling it. It was time to get my feet up and relax.

It is nearing 3:00 now and it looks like the rain has stopped. At least a few of our passengers will have a walk in the dry as they come and go to the terminal shopping area.

Aurora is in port until gone 8:00 this evening. Some passengers have gone on a very long tour that involves a boat ride to the mainland, and then a coach to the ancient Mayan site at Chichen Itza. Robin and Rosemary are on this tour and left the ship at 8:00 this morning, and won’t be back until near 8:00 this evening.

As much as I would have loved to see this amazing spectacle, I could not have managed the long journey.

Robin and Rosemary are coming home late, and Richard and Angie are off to a Ligurian Club event in a nearby hotel this evening, so it will be just us here for dinner. Rather than going to the dining room, we are going to eat in the buffet this evening. This will give Deb an option to put some washing on as well.

Later, the entertainment is Bernie Flint in the theatre. We have seen him at least twice before, and the act never changed, so he will not be seeing us in his audience. There is also a Fokelore show from a local group in Carmen’s that is probably more interesting.

Rounding off the evening, there is a quiz about Mexico which we are all planning to have a go at. I somehow doubt our knowledge will be sufficient, but sometimes we surprise ourselves.

When Aurora leaves Mexico tonight, she will be setting off eastwards towards the Bahamas and Freeport. That will involve a sea day tomorrow, so it’s back to the routine around the ship.

Fire and Ice Part 35

Monday 11th February – Costa Maya, Mexico

After a comfortable night on the beautiful Aurora, I was woken at about 6:30 to the loud sounds of the thrusters. It seemed to go on for a long time. Then our neighbour (nicknamed Bagpuss) received her breakfast order rather loudly, I got up to make the tea.

As Deb and I lay in bed with our tea, I spotted the rear end of another cruise ship reversing into the space next to us. The business end of the ship’s propulsion was directly opposite our cabin, and it was noisy. Aurora was also being buffeted by quite a strong wind, and things were not looking good so far, for a pleasant day.

The ship parked in our back garden was Rhapsody of the Seas.

It was cloudy and the sky had very dark patches. Rain looked very likely, and along with the strong winds, I was glad we had no tour today.

Aurora is today in the Mexican port of Costa Maya. This is yet another port built for cruise ships with virtually nothing but tourist shops, cafes, bars, water-sport complexes, and yet more shops. It is American, and nothing like our previous stop in this country where at least it was a Mexican town. This port is almost identical to several others we have visited in the last 10 days.

We had breakfast in the Medina, and then looked around us from the top deck. There was even a Mayan style construction that is apparently a water slide.

Some 15 minutes later, there was a message from the tours team to say that a number of tours involving beaches had been cancelled. The weather was quite bad, and the sea was a little rough. We have a water based tour tomorrow, and hope that the weather is better further north up the coast of Mexico.

At 10:00 as the ship was beginning a training exercise, we packed our anoraks in my bag, and set off along the 200metre or so quayside to the tourist bubble of a port. We did what we were supposed to do, and walked around looking at the American style shops selling high end clothes, diamonds and tanzanite, plus looking a little longer at the local stalls. At least there was a lot of Mexican influence in the clothing, pottery, and souvenirs, it was so similar to what we have seen elsewhere, and anything that appeared good quality, was vastly more expensive that we can get at home.

Never mind, we are on holiday. We looked around and bought a few things to remember Costa Maya by. One highlight was the dolphin pool where they play and amuse the tourists, and you can even swim with them. Although rather nice to view, I could not enthuse very much with seeing dolphins in captivity for the amusement of tourists.

As we made our way back to the ship, the rain returned just as we were about a third of the way along the exposed quay. It took long enough to put our anoraks on that we were already rather wet.

There are now anoraks hanging in the bathroom, shorts and T shirt hanging from hangers on the wall, and bags drying out on the balcony.

Never mind, we are on holiday. This is only the third occasion where the rain has caught us out on the cruise – so far.

As we wait for lunchtime, I can hear the sound of the Rhapsody ship being pushed around by the wind. It crunches up against the huge rubber protection ball and squeaks horribly every couple of minutes. Aurora is also moving and jiggling around in the wind, and the sky looks heavy with rain.

After lunch Deb and I made the most of a quiet day to recharge our batteries. Tomorrow we are at another Mexican port on the island of Cozumel, and on a tour where we will be kayaking and swimming (or snorkelling). I want my knee to recover as much as possible before then.

The sun did come out in the afternoon, and we spent a while on the balcony, but the racket from the other ship, and the way it moves up and down in the wind is rather confusing to my senses.

It was time to read, and time to doze, and time to reflect on a sensational five weeks since we left Southampton at the beginning of January.

The entertainment tonight features a female singer called Helen Ward-Jackson, who is giving a tribute to Adele. She seems to be on this ship on a regular basis as we have ignored her on several occasions. That show is in the theatre, and there is dancing in Carmen’s with the instructors Linda and Michael Alger). Assuming the weather isn’t too windy, or wet, there is another deck party planned with entertainment from ‘The Choice’ (upbeat band) and ‘Matt Bruno’ (the solo guitar player and singer).

Georgie is hosting a quiz we haven’t seen before called ‘Tru or False’, and that is probably what we will be taking part in.

Well that is enough for this post, and very soon it will be time to have a cup of tea and maybe a cake.

Fire and Ice Part 34

Sunday 10th February – Belize City

Today is the only historical cultural day with a tour to an ancient Mayan settlement of Altun Ha. We may have seen some historical buildings in other places on the cruise, but this is real history.

Being Sunday, things in Belize didn’t start very early, so we had timed for a leisurely breakfast before getting ourselves ready to go on the day’s adventure.

Aurora was at anchor some way from the shore, so the tour started with a local pleasure craft ferrying us for the 15 minute ride. The sea was calm so this was an enjoyable trip across the water to the port of Belize city.

Then a treat. We had a real coach, with proper seats, and a gangway. This is the first time in many weeks. Deb and I settled into the seats and relaxed as the guide talked about Belize, and its economy. Our drive was for about an hour and there was lots of time to look at the lush green vegetation. The area of Belize that we were in is quite flat, and is actually below sea level. Many of the houses were built on stilts to avoid the regular high waters, while larger more expensive buildings had to have expensive foundations.

We were told about the wildlife of the country. They have jaguars and pubs, tapirs, and other animals that would only exist in a zoo in Europe. The only thing we actually saw on the journey were a family of iguana in someone’s garden.

Once again, the roads were a little bumpy and under major repair. There were also moments, when on a perfectly wide and straight road, there were speed bumps.

Then we arrived at the Altun Ha site.

It was instantly a visual spectacle with the huge stepped pyramids that are so special and commonly seen in this part of the world.

The first thing to be sorted out, was a trip to the toilet. Once refreshed, we all gathered, and suddenly it rained. And it really was a tropical rain shower that caught a lot of people out. We had our umbrellas and remained virtually dry, but many passengers were seeking cover. A salesman came and offered cheap looking plastic ponchos at $10 a time but struggled to convince Brits that they were vital for our stay.

The rain stopped, and we set off for a walk around the site with an enthusiastic local guide. I won’t go crazy with the description, but as a brief idea, the site has three Plazas with multiple structures. It was a ceremonial site, and also a trading centre, but not one where sacrifices were made. Some of the pyramid structures are almost intact, and people could climb them if they wanted to. Other structures had been partially destroyed over the centuries (from 200 BC) but work is continuing the restore as much as possible.

After well over an hour of looking back some 2000 years, it was time to regroup for the journey back to Belize city. Of course, there was a chance to look at some souvenir stalls where we bought our usual memories.

The ride back was quite relaxed and a chance for many to get a few minutes sleep. The guide kept quiet, until we were five minutes away from the port.

It had been a wonderful morning to add to the other wonderful memories on this cruise.

Our tender ride back to the ship was another smooth trip, and with the time being almost 3:00, all thoughts turned to food and drink.

That was enough activity for the time being, and we slobbed out in the cabin for the remainder of the afternoon.

All too soon it was dinner time as Aurora pulled up her anchors and set off towards Mexico.

The evening entertainment was not to our liking, so we amused ourselves with Trivial Pursuit, before the late night quiz. That was all about recognising 1970’s music intros, and we did really well, and lost by one point. Sister Sledge instead of Chic was our downfall.

Aurora was sailing northwards on a smooth sea for our next port. Tomorrow we will be in the southern Mexican port of Costa Maya. We will be having a rest tomorrow after a busy couple of days.

Aurora’s Propeller Issues

Monday 11th February – Aurora’s Propeller Issues

A couple of days ago, the captain gave us an update on the ongoing propeller issues. All because of a fishing net getting caught around one of the propellers, there has been some damage to the shaft. Although we were sailing slowly several weeks ago, we are currently not having any speed problems, but there is still some ongoing work to be done.

So, our stop in the Bahamas in a few days from now will be shorter than planned. This will allow us to leave early and arrive in Bermuda on the evening before we expected to.

A team of engineers (and technical magicians) are being sent to Bermuda to carry out the next round of repairs and that is going to last the two days we will now be in port.

As far as we are concerned, it means an extra evening in port.

Hopefully everything will now be sorted out, and there will be no issues to affect our Atlantic crossing towards Southampton.

Repeat of Parts 26 and 27

It seems these two chapters were corrupted, and not complete. So, here they are again.

Thanks for the information Lucinda.

Fire and Ice Part 26

Saturday 2nd February – Georgetown Grand Cayman

The clocks went back to GMT -5 during the night. We believe that will be the maximum difference from home.

Early awakening today as Aurora dropped anchors and tender boats as she arrived at Georgetown which is the capital of Grand Cayman. The sun is already shining at 7:00 and the temperature up to 25°C on the balcony.

News from last night:

We did go to watch the Queen Tribute show and it was really good to see it again after many years. Carmen’s was already busy about 45 minutes before the show started, and it was packed when the performance began. One amusing highlight was when one of the male singers stuck his foot through the top of a chair during one of the routines. He fell and rolled on the ground with a huge grin of shock on his face. Luckily no damage was done, and the show continued without a break with him still singing as he regained his feet, and his composure.

After the show we met up with our friends for the syndicate quiz. We were appalling and not far from last. There was a tie break for the two top scorers, and when it was announced that ‘The Glums’ team had lost, there was a loud round of applause and cheers for the victorious team. Sadly, the jubilation was short lived as ‘The Glums’ requested a recount of the answer sheets.

The request was made rather rudely, and upset the question-master, but it seemed they had actually won by a clear point.

Why on earth can’t they check their scores before it got to this situation?

Back to today, and with no tour booked, and no urgent need to get ashore, we had breakfast in the restaurant again. It is a peaceful and simple way to eat, but too tempting to ask for the full English. Today I had juice, Muesli and a couple of croissants.

We were away on the tender by 9:00 and by 11:30 we were back on the ship. The area around the cruise terminal is a huge tourist shop. There are shops selling diamonds, watches, sunglasses and numerous tourist clothing and souvenirs sellers. We looked around several places and put some US Dollars into their economy. It was very hot and humid (again) and we treated ourselves to a delicious ice-cream. This is not something we haven’t done very much on this cruise, which is unusual for us.

Our return ride was on a local sightseeing boat and such a delight to feel the breeze on our faces as we sat outside on the upper deck.

Back on Aurora we dumped souvenirs and new clothes, and cameras were put away for the time being.

It is coming up to lunchtime now, and the thought of more food is beginning to make my taste buds tingle.

Lunch today was a salad for me, and a bowl of soup for Deb. Not a chip to be seen.

The island of Grand Cayman is rather small. It has a main lump of land with a long spur of land at the north western end. This spur forms most of the edge of a bay where Aurora is at anchor. We are sharing the anchorage area with a small cruise ship called the ‘Berlin’. She has less than 400 passengers, and as the name suggests, is a German ship currently sailing out of Cuba.

The island is very flat. There are no hills at all, with trees in the background beyond the city in front of us. The tallest apartments are less than 10 stories high, and the tallest landmarks are the spot lights around the sport’s stadium, and the various radio masts.

It is clean and the buildings are generally quite new (in the city anyway). The people are friendly, and the ones we had any sort of conversations with sounded very Americanised. It attracts a lot of American ships, and we saw one souvenir outlet where an American was creating small metal coin shaped objects with the different state icons. When we asked about British alternative designs, he replied that there needs to be more British ships first. This is Aurora’s maiden visit, and the German ship is only on her second visit.

Well, that is the news up to date for now. We have a violinist in the theatre for the entertainment tonight, but I suspect we might miss that. We are eating in the Beach House this evening as a change from the dining room where today’s menu is less than exciting.

Tonight, Aurora sets off again for tomorrow’s stop at Ocho Rios on the island of Jamaica. We have a catamaran ride there taking us to the beach at the Dunn’s River Falls. There is a chance to swim, and also there is Rum Punch to drink.

Speak to you soon.

Sunday 3rd February – Ocho Rios Jamaica

It was a relaxed Sunday morning with arrival in the North Jamaican port of Ocho Rios at 8:30. We were up just after 7:00 for a cup of tea followed by breakfast in the Medina. We have a tour booked for later this morning that will mean a late lunch, so I was legitimately allowed to have a cooked breakfast.

… before you say “any old excuse” there wasn’t very much on my plate

The first impressions of Ocho Rios is a pretty cove with a tourist terminal on a small patch of land with palm trees. There is a small beach resort with apartments and what looked like a swimming pool. In reality it was a dolphin pool where the confined animals perform at times during the day. Some of our passengers saw the creatures jumping around, but a common view was that this was rather cruel.

Our ship is moored with our side facing the water, although it is spoiled by a cargo ship being loaded (noisily) with sand. There is a 400m long ‘board walk’ from the mooring pontoon, that meanders its way to the terminal.

In the background above the terminal area is a lush green hill with very little space between the roadside and where the hill begins. In the trees are a series of expensive looking houses, that I first thought looked like Swiss Chalets. Sadly, my eyesight is not that good, so don’t take my word for what they really look like.

Our tour doesn’t leave until 10:00 so we have plenty of time before we have to get together our bits. The tour is a ride on a large yacht – probably a catamaran – that is possibly called ‘Cool Runnings’. We will sail a couple of miles to a beach area that is at the bottom of the popular ‘Dunns River Falls’. The tour does not include a walk (or climb) up the falls and Deb and I plan to have a swim in the free time we have there.

Here is a recap of last evening.

We had a lovely meal in the Beach House which was very busy with couples and groups of friends enjoying an evening on the stern deck with delicious food and wonderful service.

After the meal we met up with the others and simply sat in Champion’s. We took part in a quiz of course, and it was about science. We got two questions wrong, and made one silly mistake, so lost again. The eventual winners – yes you guessed – The Glums.

We chatted on for a few minutes, but then called it a day. The early nights are becoming more popular now that we have ports almost every day.

Ah yes, my congratulations to the English rugby team for convincingly beating the Irish.

And to the English cricket team, I just wonder what has happened to this team since last summer.

Back to today. It is 9:00 and the deputy captain has just announced the “We are here, so get off” message.

The weather is predictably glorious with a hazy but virtually cloudless blue sky. He temperature on the balcony is showing 25°C, and there is hardly a breath of wind. The sea is absolutely calm with just wallowing ripples.

Sometimes it is difficult to remember that this is February, and friends and family back home are suffering some awful winter conditions.

We have been at sea now for a month, and our first real exploration of the Caribbean has been sensational. Today is the end of the Caribbean island section of the adventure, and tonight Aurora will be heading South to the Central American Country of Colombia.

But for now, it is nearly time to put on our swimming gear, grab the towels, goggles and water shoes and set off for a morning on, and in, the water.

Once outside the ship the scorching heat was made worse by the humidity that created an instant sweat. A lot of passengers were on tours today, and the gathering point was a mass of people trying to stay in the limited shade. Of course there was also a free WiFi point where others struggled to get any sort of fast service from the overloaded signal.

Earlier than expected our group of about 30 people were gathered and led to a beautiful catamaran called the ‘Cool Cool Runnings’. Soon our trip began and we purred out of the dock area passing Aurora gleaming in the morning sun. The voyage was only about 15 minutes long to the small beach where the Dunn’s River Falls can be found. On our boat we had a safety demonstration of some pretty lightweight life jackets, and then were supplied with soft drinks to avoid dehydration. Music played quite gently in the background as the crew members tried to sell us photographs, T Shirts, and water shoes.

… I don’t think they did a roaring trade.

On the way we passed a very exclusive building with vast grounds of lush green lawns, and even its own waterfall. It was initially owned by the American tennis player Arthur Ash, who sold it to Mick Jagger. He moved on to a house overlooking Ocho Rios, and this property is now owned by the Sandels holiday chain. It is a long way out of our league.

At the beach the group split up into those who wanted to climb the falls, those who wanted to walk up the steps to watch people slipping and sliding on the falls, and those, like us, who just wanted the beach, and a swim.

Initially the sea felt rather cold, but that was where the gushing river water poured into it. Once in the Caribbean Sea properly, it was warm, and the golden sand powdery below our feet. The water was shallow for quite a distance but then became perfect to swim. There were fish everywhere. Shoals of small stripy ones swam between our legs, and it was worrying that we might stand on them. Then there were large ones of perhaps 30cm in length. We even spotted a small transparent one with a long beaked like mouth in the warm shallows.

It was at this point that I realised I had not brought my towel.

The swim had been wonderful, and now I just paddled, or walked on the sand, allowing my trunks to dry naturally.

While waiting for Deb to enjoy an extended swim, I made friends with the beach souvenir shopkeeper. I was his first customer and over two visits during the next 30 minutes (Honest) Dave dropped the price of a selected few things by 50%. He did eventually make a sale, and I now have a vest in Jamaican colours without random pictures of Bob Marley, or logos expressing my love of ‘Jammin’.

Back on the Cool Cool Runnings, we began our return journey, and now the rum punch replaced the soft drinks, and the music was turned up and changed to up tempo tunes to get us dancing. The sail was brought into use. It was delightful with the wind blowing through our hair, the hot sun drying our wet clothes, and colouring our skin.

Yes, I was soon dancing.

The couple of rum punch drinks relaxed my inhibitions (I was pissed) gently swayed and jigged to the music (got carried away and hurt my knee again), and I sang quietly to the music (shouted some very loudly) as the crew encouraged everybody to get into the mood.

It was about 12:30 when we were back at Ocho Rios and walking up the boardwalk to Aurora. We dropped off our wet and sandy clothes in the cabin and grabbed a bite to eat. People we saw said they heard us coming into the harbour, and having heard another boat arriving later, I realised just what a racket the tiddly holidaymakers were making.

The afternoon was spent dozing and reading on our shaded balcony. We watched the catamarans, speedboats, glass-bottomed boats, and even ones towing inflatable rafts with screaming girls. This is a tourist dream area for water sports, or just sailing in the calm waters.

Late in the afternoon with clearer heads, we managed an individual quiz as Aurora packed itself up, and set off again.

This was the last of the Caribbean islands (for now) and Aurora now set off to round the northern end of Jamaica, before setting a southerly course towards Colombia back on the South American continent. This will mean a sea day tomorrow and time to relax again.

In the evening we watched a comedian/impressionist called Jon Clegg. He is another of the batch of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ losers that entertain cruise ship passengers. Our friends said he was on the 2017 World Cruise with us, But Deb and I didn’t recognise him. He was funny, his impressions were good, but almost everything we heard, was similar to acts by numerous other impressionists. We are not sure if we will watch his second show.

There was also a deck party outside by the pool. We did pass through it, but the wind had got up a little, and we were both tired.

It had been one of the very special days of this cruise. It wasn’t just down to the rum punch either, the people of Jamaica are friendly and the experience of the catamaran and the quiet beach had been superb.

After a day at sea we will be arriving in the port of Cartagena in Colombia. We had a bad tour experience here in 2017, and hence have not booked anything this time. This will herald the next phase of the cruise as we visit a number of Central American countries, and we have a number of potentially exciting experiences booked.