Before we arrived in Funchal this morning we had two “relaxing” days at sea.
On 30 December, after our overnight, we left our berth in Las Palmas at 8am and were soon out of the port and on our way to Funchal. After breakfast the passengers’ day was filled with all sorts of activities and the famous, and very much enjoyed, Chocolate Tea. The evening offered a pre-dinner classical concert by The Medley String Quartet and a performance by the Explosive Production Singers and Dancers of their show “Forever in Blue Jeans”.
The next day was, of course, New Year’s Eve. We had a normal sea day with all the usual activities till 6 pm. We had planned to go to anchor at 6pm to ensure the best possible position in the Bay of Funchal for the spectacular midnight fireworks. However, the weather decided not to play and the sea was too rough to allow this to happen. No problem. We went to the north of the island for shelter and would be back in position for the fireworks in good time.
The evening in the meantime offered The New Year’s Eve Cocktail Party, which culminated in the traditional piping in and address of the Haggis, dinner, a spectacular show performed by the WestEnders. It was then time for the New Year’s Ball after which the passengers were piped to the outside deck for the Countdown to 2017, and the fireworks display.
All worked out perfectly with the ship being in a prime spot, the stern turned to this world famous display. After the display we hoofed it back to the sheltered north of the island.
This morning we enjoyed the very pretty approach to the pilot station. As it was still dark we were welcomed by a very pleasant back drop of friendly lights. The pilot boarded at 7 am, guided us into the port and had us berthed at 8 am. Funchal, located in a unique area whose geological features form an amphitheatre, is a modern city with a sheltered harbour. It has been the capital for more than five centuries.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival so the passengers could proceed ashore and the tours could be dispatched. The tours today were:
Scenic Madeira wass for passengers who wanted to see the island’s beauty and floral splendour during a relaxing drive through the most picturesque areas.
4WD Safari. This exiting four-wheel drive tour took our passengers both on and off road through some of Madeira’s hidden valleys and mountain roads, showing them some of the island’s most inspiring sights.
Levada Walk is one of my favourites, and a most enjoyable way of seeing Madeira. It follows the 19th century irrigation channels offering lush landscapes and spectacular views.
Cabo Girao took our passengers via the coast roads and the fishing town of Camara de Lobos to Cabo Girao, a 1900 ft high sheer cliff. From here they enjoyed the stunning coastal scenery. There was also a stop at the famous Old Blandy Wine Lodge.
RIB Adventure took our passengers out to look for Short-finned Pilot-Pilot Whales and Bottlenose, Atlantic Spotted and Common Dolphins.
My wife and I decided to go for a stroll this morning. There were still revellers around, and the evidence of a good party was in the process of being cleared up by the many cleaners. By the time we were on our way back to the ship all was pristine again. Very impressive. On board in the meantime our passengers were treated to a wonderful New Year’s Day Champagne Brunch.
With everyone back on board we backed out of the port, swung the ship onto the correct heading, disembarked the pilot and set sail for our next port of call, Lisbon. Before the evening entertainment started there was an interdenominational New Year’s Day Church Service, led by Canon Ian Ainsworth-Smith and opened by the Filipino Choir. This evening’s Late Night Cabaret in Shackleton’s featured Fernado, with Stuart Anderson at the keys till late.
Before we arrived in Lisbon this morning we had a relaxing day at sea, with a variety of activities and entertainment on offer. There was a Lunchtime Jazz Club in Shackleton’s, but a hi-lite of the day had to be the magnificent Pantomime “Sleeping”performed by the ship’s staff, followed by a special New Year’s Tea.
This morning we sailed up the scenic River Tagus to the pilot station. We arrived at 7 am, boarded the pilot, then continued our sail into the port of Lisbon, the capital and largest city of Portugal. It has an exceptionally fine harbour, which is the chief seaport of Portugal. The city has a long and interesting past with many historical buildings and sites indicating this.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival and the tours dispatched.
A Taste of Lisbon took our passengers on a relaxing bus drive through beautiful Lisbon and its environs.
Palace of Ajuda. After a scenic drive through the City, the tour went to the Ajuda National Palace. It is a neo-Classical building dating from the early 19th century, and was the residence of the royal family till the abolition of the monarchy in 1910.
Lisbon Tram and Port Wine was the perfect combination of seeing the sights and enjoying a taste of the local tipple.
After our early sail into Lisbon this morning, all aboard was at 4.30 pm. This was to enable our passengers to enjoy the very scenic return journey, as we retraced our trip of this morning to the pilot station and the mouth of the River Tagus. We arrived at 6.30 pm and then set course for our final port of this cruise, Southampton.
This evening there was the very famous Saga Pearl II Crew Show. Standing room only I gather.
Before we reach Southampton our passengers still have two days at sea to relax or take part in the many activities organised by the staff on board. This festive cruise has certainly been a jolly one.
In Southampton we have a busy time ahead of us. After the passengers of this cruise have disembarked the ship will become a hive of activity as there is a scheduled overnight maintenance period. We will be ready for the next cruise, and our new passengers, on 07 January.
As mentioned in my last blog the ship was in Southampton overnight from 06 to 07 January. Soon after arrival the passengers were disembarked. In the meantime, and for the whole period, the ship was a hive of activity. Periods like this give the ship the chance to address required maintenance, which need longer time than we have available during normal operations.
Today the passengers started to embark just after lunch. After the required safety drill at 3.30 pm we were ready to start the new cruise. The pilot boarded, we left the berth, sailed down the Solent and around the north of the Isle of Wight to the pilot station, where we disembarked the pilot and set course into the English Channel for our sail to Madeira. The forecast looks good. Following winds and a low following swell, which promise a comfortable transit from Southampton to Funchal.
This evening there was the Welcome on board Show during which the Cruise Director introduced the members of her entertainment department, followed by music for dancing and Late Night Live in Shackleton’s bar with Stuart Anderson at the piano.
As you know by now, at this point I take the opportunity to tell you who the senior officers and the members of the Entertainment Department are. This cruise we have Staff Captain Richard Lambert, Chief Engineer Ciro D’Alessandro, Hotel Director Ivar Drageseth and Cruise Director Jemma Thomas.
Jemma Thomas is supported by Assistant Cruise Director Andrew Galler, Social Hostess Maja Struc, Cruise Staff Fernando Perez, Fitness Instructor Danielle Beattie, Stage Managers Ian Te and Fernando Talingdan and IT Support Robert Urcia. Dance Instructors this cruise are Anthony Crouch and Sarah Coupland-Smith.
Guest Entertainers are: West End & Musical Theatre Star Anthony Stuart Lloyd, Instrumentalist Suzanne Godfrey, Pianist Adam Johnson, Magician Marc Oberon, Soparano Sinead Blanchfield, Violinist Izabella Zabroska and Bagpiper Fred Budge. Resident Show Group is Explosive Productions Singers and Dancers.
Guest Speakers are: Destinations Huw Jenkins, Military Historian and Current Affairs Sir Christopher Coville, Ornithologist and Natural Historian Professor David Parkin, Astronomer and Space Historian Dr. David Mannion F.R.A., Horticulturist and Natural Historian Dr. Stephen Head, Music and Media Steve King and Pernod Ricard, Master Class Elain Acklam.
The Resident Musicians are The Medley String Quartet, The Saga Orchestra and Cocktail Pianist Stuart Anderson. Instructors are: Bridge David Stead, Craft Dennis and Ann Berry and Watercolour Linda Matthews. Ship’s Chaplain is Rev. Dr. Derik Mckelvey.
Before arrival we had three relaxing days at sea. The weather and sea conditions lived up to the forecast and were kind to us.
Sunday 08 January, started after breakfast with an interdenominational church service led by Rev Dr. Derik Mckelvey and opened by our very own Filipino Choir. There were then a whole host of activities for our passengers to choose from, including the single mingle party with a glass of bubbly. The evening offered pre-dinner classical concert by The Medley String Quartet, and a performance by West End and Music Theatre Star Anthony Stuart.
Monday, after a busy day, the evening began with My Cocktail Party and Welcome Address, during which I introduced my senior team. After dinner Explosive Singers and Dancers delighted their audience with their show “Best of British”. This was followed by Late Night Cabaret with Musical Director Laura Prescott and Stuart Anderson at the keys till late.
On Tuesday there was the Singles Luncheon and a wonderful Strawberry Tea, before the evening’s entertainment began with a performance by Sammie Firbanks. Award Winning Flautist Suzanne Godfrey gave a wonderful performance after dinner.
This morning we entered the port of Funchal. It is located in a unique area whose geological features form a natural amphitheatre, and has a sheltered harbour. It has been the capital for more than five centuries. My wife and I took the opportunity to visit the English church and have lunch in the little restaurant on the historical Municipal Square. Our passengers were spoilt for choice today with the following tours available:
Madeira Island Delight. This tour took our passengers on the windy, but scenic road up to the summit of Pico do Aviero, 5937 feet above sea level, passing through the village of Monte and the eucalyptus and mimosa trees. From here they continued to the village of Santana via Ribeiro for a look at the trout hatchery. The village is famous for its traditional thatched houses. Here our passengers enjoyed a visit to the vineyard for lunch and a wine tasting. They then continued via the fertile Machio Valley to the small village of Machio.
Scenic Madeira was for passengers who wanted to see the island’s beauty and floral splendour during a relaxing drive through its most picturesque areas.
4WD Safari took our passengers both on and off road through some of Madeira’s hidden valleys and mountain roads, showing them some of the island’s most inspiring sights.
Levada Walk saw our passengers follow the 19th century irrigation channels with their lush landscapes and spectacular views.
Tea for Two at Reid’s by Tukxi. As the description promised, our guests were taken by tukxi to the famous Reid’s Hotel, which overlooks the Bay of Funchal, for a relaxing time and to take in the unique atmosphere before enjoying tea, scones, sandwiches and cakes on the terrace.
RIB Adventure gave our guests the opportunity to see a variety of marine life up close and personal.
All on board is not till tomorrow morning, so an overnight in this wonderful town.
Yesterday was a day at sea, with the weather and sea conditions forecast to be good. We departed from Funchal at 10 am and set course for Las Palmas via Islas Desertas, where we arrived at 11.15 am, for a bit of whale spotting - and we did see pilot whales.
There was a fabulous Spanish Fiesta Lunch out on deck, and a mid-afternoon classical concert by the Medley String Quartet. In the evening award winning Flautist Suzanne Godfrey delighted our passengers with her extensive repertoire.
This morning we entered the port of Las Palmas. Founded in 1478, it is a cosmopolitan city with a big sea port. It has three beaches, and boasts that it has the best climate in the world. Along with Santa Cruz de Tenerife, it is the co-capital of the autonomous community of the Canary Islands.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival so our passengers could proceed ashore for a look around. Our tours today were all afternoon ones:
Puerto Mogan Transfer took our passengers to Grand Canarias’charming, smallest and most southern resort to explore independently.
Essence of Grand Canaria showed the volcanic origins of the Canary Islands by visiting the Bandama Crater, which rises 1900 feet above sea level. Also visited was La Hacienda del Buen Suceso, the oldest ranch in Grand Canaria.
Hiking in the Bandama Crater enabled our passengers to take a walk around this amazing crater, one of the youngest volcanoes on the archipelago.
Soon after all were on board, we backed away from the berth, swung the ship, sailed out of the port, disembarked the pilot and set course for Mindelo, in the Cape Verde Islands.
Before arriving this morning we had a couple of days at sea, with balmy temperatures and kind seas.
On Saturday, I hosted the Britannia Club Party. It was attended by some 225 members, during which I had the pleasure of introducing two new Sapphire Members. After dinner there was a performance from International Classical Pianist Adam Johnson, and Late Night Cabaret in Shackleton’s with Explosive Productions Vocalist Sophie Burrell and King of the Keys, Stuart Anderson.
Sunday was a “busy” day, which started with the Interdenominational Sunday Service and was enhanced by a wonderful Chocolate Afternoon Tea. The evening offered a pre-dinner classical concert by The Medley String Quartet, and a show by International Award Winning Magician Marc Oberon.
This morning the ship arrived at the pilot station at 6 am. Soon we entered the port, and were safely moored at 7 am at Porto Grande. Situated on the windward Island of Sao Vincente, it has a deepwater harbour and is the major port of the Cape Verde.
The tours today were:
Charm and Culture of Mindelo took our passengers to Mindelo, which is the cultural capitol of the country and the most cosmopolitan of the archipelago. As the historical stop for ships making their way from Europe to Africa, Asia and South America it has always been influenced by different cultures.
Scenic Sao Vincente offered a scenic drive through the volcanic landscape, along the white sandy beach called Praia Grande, and the farmland in the Ribeira de Calhua valley.
Porto Grande 4WD Tour gave our passengers an off the beaten track experience, and enjoy the unspoilt scenery on the island. This included undiscovered beaches, spectacular views and interesting countryside.
For passengers who wanted to explore independently a shuttle was running between the ship and the town centre.
With everyone on board we sailed out of the port, disembarked the pilot, and set course for our second Cape Verde port, Porto Praia.
The evening, in the meantime, offered a Classical Sail Away on the Verandah Deck with the Medley String Quartet, ShowTime with Explosive Productions and their show “Swing That Thing”, and Late Night Live in Shackleton’s.
This morning we arrived at the pilot station at 7 am. Soon we entered the port, swung the ship 180 degrees and were safely moored at 8 am.
Porto Praia, on the south coast of Santiago Island, is the capital and largest city of Cape Verde. It is the commercial centre and the port that ships coffee, sugar cane and tropical fruits. It also has a fishing industry, and resort beaches nearby.
Our tours today included:
Praia and Cape Verde & Cidade Velha took our passengers to the old district of Praia for a walk through the town centre, a visit to the Ethnographic Museum and a better understanding about the life of the early settlers. There was then a visit to Cidade Velha, the original capital of the country.
Historic Santiago saw our passengers taken through mountainous landscapes, visit the small botanical garden at Sao Jorge, the 1933 concentration camp for political prisoners in Tarrafal and a beautiful nearby beach to relax, have a swim and a delicious lunch.
Cradle of Cape Verde offered our passengers the opportunity to explore Cape Verde’s largest island, discover the country’s old and new capitals, enjoy the spectacular mountainous scenery and enjoy a typical local lunch.
Rhythms of the African Island showcased the African influence on the people living here.
For passengers who wanted to explore independently a shuttle bus ran between the ship and the town centre.
Soon after all were on board we sailed out of the port, disembarked the pilot, and set course for our next port, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
This evening Explosive Vocalist Sophie Burrell entertained our passengers while they quaffed their pre-dinner drinks in Shackleton’s. ShowTime featured a Classical Concert by The Medley String Quartet, while Late Night Cabaret in Shackleton’s saw Cruise Staff member Fernando perform a selection of his favourites, with Stuart Anderson at the piano.