Sunday, the first full day of this Caribbean cruise, began with an interdenominational church service led by Canon Eric Woods and opened by our very own Filipino Choir. After a “busy”day, which included the single mingle party - with a glass or two of bubbly, the evening started with my Welcome Onboard Cocktail Party, at which I introduced my senior officers. After dinner the Explosive Production Singers and Dancers entertained with their show “Music of the Night”.
On Monday evening there was a pre-dinner classical concert by the Diablo String Quartet before International Award Winning Magician Marc Oberon astonished and delighted us.
Yesterday, after another “busy”day, which included the Singles Luncheon and a wonderful Strawberry Tea, the evening started with pre-dinner cocktails in Shackleton’s. After dinner Helen Wilding took her audience from opera to musical theatre to jazz while Late Night Cabaret saw Explosive Productions Vocalist Jonathan Graham join King of the Keys Stuart Anderson in Shackleton's till the wee small hours.
This morning we arrived at Funchal. Located in a unique area, whose geological features form an amphitheatre, it is a modern city with a sheltered harbour. My wife and I took the opportunity to visit the English church and have lunch in a little restaurant on the historical Municipal Square.
Our passengers, however, could visit the fishing town of Camara de Lobos and then Cabo Girao, a 1900 ft high sheer cliff. Alternatively be taken by tukxi to the famous Reid’s Hotel overlooking the Bay of Funchal, for a relaxing time and to take in the unique atmosphere before enjoying afternoon tea on the terrace.
With everyone back on board we sailed out of the port, disembarked the pilot and set course for our first Caribbean port of Road Town, Tortola. Meanwhile our passengers much enjoyed the musical Sail Away on the open decks with the Saga Orchestra.
Our passengers have just enjoyed a wonderful few days at sea, with a whole host of activities on offer. Unhappily however on the Wednesday one of our passengers needed to be transferred to a shore hospital by helicopter. The bridge contacted the nearest Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Madeira, who arranged for a helicopter to come to the ship and evacuate the passenger. This was safely completed.
On Thursday, 02 February, before dinner there were the First Round Auditions of the Saga Pearl II Passengers Got Talent trophy. After dinner a Variety Show featured Musical Director Laura Prescott, The Saga Orchestra with Special Guests as well as a Late Night Dance Party and Stuart Anderson in Shackleton’s till late.
Saturday, included a master class with master magician Marc Oberon and Captain Kees’Fish and Chips lunch on the open decks. In the evening I hosted the Britannia Club party, which was attended by 278 members and at which I had the pleasure of introducing 2 new Diamond members and 6 new Sapphire members.
On Monday 6 February we celebrated Her Majesty The Queen’s 65 years on the Throne with a magnificent Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee Tea, and yet again the delight of dining Al Fresco on the open decks.
Yesterday was just as busy as the days before. The evening offered the Final Round of Auditions for Saga Pearl II’s Got Talent and after dinner there was an hilarious “episode”of Call My Bluff. The international panel consisted of Welsh Cruise Director Jemma Thomas, English Canon Eric Woods and Dutch Captain Kees Spekman. It was hosted by Filipino Assistant Cruise Director Resty. Sadly, however, a passenger had become unwell and hospital treatment ashore was required, so we pulled out all the stops to arrive at Road Town as early as possible.
This morning we arrived at Tortola. Road Town is the largest town on the Island of Tortola, one of the 50 islands and cays that make up the serene, seductive, spectacularly beautiful and still remarkably laid back British Virgin Islands. A real haven for beach and water sports lovers.
The tours today were:
Tortola by Land and Sea took our passengers by boat on an exciting cruise among the beautiful islands of this unique archipelago, and by land to see the views and fishing villages that dot the coast of Tortola.
North Shore & Pusser’s Landing offered our passengers the land based part of the tour described above.
History and Gardens started with a scenic drive through Road Town, the Capital of Tortola. From here the tour visited the J.R O’Neal Botanical Gardens, home to numerous indigenous and exotic tropical plants and trees, a pergola walk, lily pond, waterfall, tropical bird houses and miniature rainforests.
Flight Over The Virgin Islands gave a ‘bird’s eye view’of the beautiful British Virgin Islands.
The evening offered a pre-dinner Local Show featuring The Shooting Stars Steel Band, giving our passengers a real feeling of the Caribbean - lots of fun. Showtime featured performances by the Cruise Team offering an evening of song, dance and fun.
Meanwhile we sailed out of port, disembarked the pilot and set course for our next call of Charleston, Nevis.
Yesterday was to be Charleston. It is an anchor port, which means passengers are transferred to and from the shore by ship’s tenders. When we arrived at the anchorage at 7 am there was a goodly swell running and a stiff breeze blowing. We did anchor, but concluded it was not a good place to run a safe tender operation. I took the decision to drift and see if we could make a good lee for our ship’s tenders. Sadly this was not possible with the prevailing conditions.
After an hour, and with the safety and well being of all on board in mind, I took the decision to cancel today’s call. We contacted the ports en route to Martinique for the possibility of a half day call but unfortunately all suitable ports were full and didn’t have a berth for us.
So yesterday became a sea day. In short order the cruise staff adapted the daily programme and soon had our passengers’day filled to the brim. In the evening Funky Fiddler E. Sarah Carter entertained with her show “Star of the Lord of the Dance".
This morning we entered the port of Fort de France, the capital and most populous city on Martinique, one of the Windward Islands. It is largely of volcanic origin and essentially mountainous. Although the official language is French, the majority of the inhabitants use a Creole dialect.
The tours today were:
Deep Martinique. This tour offered a day of experiencing the very best that Martinique has to offer. From pretty villages and historic towns to a taste of the local cuisine and, of course, a glass of rum punch.
Discover the North by Catamaran. A scenic mini cruise along the North Caribbean Coast of Martinique was combined with a visit to the ruins of Saint Pierre and lunch on Carbet Beach.
Saint Pierre & Botanical Gardens. This tour visited the Balata Church, a miniature replica of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, The Botanical Gardens of Balata and also Saint Pierre, which was mostly destroyed by the 1902 volcanic
Flemish Bay and Beach. This tour offered a boat trip across the beautiful Fort de France Bay, a swim in the exceptionally clear waters, and a visit to Anse Mitan Beach.
The evening offered a pre-dinner classical concert by the Diablo String Quartet, while Showtime featured dance couple ‘Epic Moves’with their show “Stepping into Hollywood”. This was followed by Late Night Cabaret in Shackleton’s with Explosive Productions Vocalist Sophie Burrell and Stuart Anderson at the keys till late.
Meanwhile on the Bridge we had set course for Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Port of Spain, the capital, is the retail, administrative and financial centre of the republic. The presence of natural gas has made this one of the wealthiest nations in the Caribbean.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival and our passengers proceeded ashore. Our tours were:
Asa Wright Nature Centre. Starting with a scenic drive through Port of Spain it took our passengers through Trinidad’s stunning Northern Range to the Asa Wright Nature Centre in the heart of the rainforest. This 203 acre reserve protects an extraordinary variety of wildlife and is world-renowned for its birdlife.
Highlights of Trinidad. This all day tour visited the ultra modern Angostura Bitters and Rum Factory - with the "obligatory" rum tasting. After a lovely lunch it was time to taste chocolate at the San Antonio Cocoa Estate, before driving to view the three magnificent Indian themed monuments of Hanuman Murti, the Indian style Carnegie Library and the Temple in the Sea. The grand finale of the tour was the famous Caroni Bird Sanctuary.
Mount St. Benedict Monastery is a peaceful retreat in the wonderful setting of Mount Tabor. After a guided tour there were tea and cakes on the balcony.
Caroni Bird Sanctuary. This sanctuary sprawls across a tidal lagoon and is a maze of mangrove lined waterways. Our passengers were taken through the sanctuary in wooden flat-bottomed boats. It is home to over 130 bird species including heron, osprey and the Scarlet Ibis.
Kayaking in the Caroni Sanctuary. This gave the opportunity to travel slowly along the beautiful peaceful waterways and lagoons and admire the beauty of the landscape.
All on board was not until 10.30 pm to enable us to hold a Dinner and Dance on the open decks with a wonderful BBQ and entertainment by the local “Freedom of Steel Band”.
Soon after the Band disembarked we sailed out of the port and set course for Scarborough, Tobago.
Scarborough, the largest town on the Island of Tobago, is dominated by Fort King George, which hosts the historic and archaeological museum. Scarborough has a deep water harbour, which has allowed ships to berth in the port since 1991.
The tours on offer today were:
Main Ridge Rainforest Walk took our passengers to the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. Specialist nature guide Dexter took them on a slow walk through this green oasis with its abundant plants, trees and tropical vegetation.
Tobago Highlights visited Fort King George, the seaside village of Plymouth, the Mystery Tombstone, and the Itsy Bitsy Folk Theatre for an entertaining cultural show.
Time on Pigeon Point Beach was the perfect tour for those passengers who wished to soak up the sun and the atmosphere on one of Tobago’s finest beaches.
Argyle Waterfalls & Tobago Cocoa visited the Tobago Cocoa Estate, one of the few in the country still producing cocoa. There was also time for a swim or a walk at the island’s highest waterfall which plummets 175 feet in a series of stepped cascades.
Island Girl Catamaran Cruise took our passengers on a cruise along Tobago’s Caribbean Coast for a day of fun and sun.
For those passengers who wanted to explore independently it was only a short walk into town.
With everyone back on board we sailed out of the port, disembarked the pilot and set course for Saint Georges, Grenada.
Meanwhile, it being a Sunday, there was Sunday Worship led by Canon Eric Woods and opened by the Filipino Choir, pre-dinner cocktails in Shackleton’s followed by Alfresco Dining on deck. Showtime featured the Explosive Productions Singers and Dancers with their show “Forever in Blue Jeans”and then Late Night Live in Shackleton’s with Stuart at the keys.
St. Georges, the capital of Grenada, has a horseshoe harbour and is surrounded by a hill side of an old volcano. The main export is spices, which we could smell on the air as we approached the harbour this morning.
Our tours today included:
Island Highlights took our passengers through St. Georges, the villages of Grand Mall and Happy Hill, Beausejour Bay, Brizan, Concord, Marigot, Grand Roy, Dougaldston Spice Estate, Gouyave Nutmeg Station, Victoria, Sauteurs, St. Patrick, Grand Etang Lake and the villages of Snug Corner, Beaulieu and Tempe. There was also time for some rum tasting at the River Antoine Estate.
A glimpse of St. George’s showcased the highlights in and around St. George’s.
Free Time at the Beach transferred our passengers to the four star Radisson Grenada Beach Resort located on Grand Anse Beach.
Sunnyside Gardens is a 1920s house located 600 feet above sea level and surrounded by 150 year old mahogany trees. It has a wonderful view over the Caribbean and the Atlantic. After a wander around its gardens our guests were invited to enjoy a rum punch on the verandah.
After the Sail Away with the Saga Orchestra on the open decks there was a classical concert with the Diablo String Quartet in the Discovery Lounge and pre-dinner cocktails in Shackleton’s. Showtime featured Dance Couple Epic Moves with another fantastic night of dance.
On the Bridge we had set course for Bridgetown, Barbados.
Bridgetown, located in south-western Barbados, is the capital and the country’s chief port and commercial centre.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival so the passengers could proceed ashore and the tours could be dispatched.
Hunte’s Gardens took our passengers deep into the centre of the Barbadian rainforest to the exceptional gardens created by legendary horticulturist Anthony Hunte.
Island drive and St. Nicolas Abbey started with the highlights of Bridgetown followed by Holetown and the Gold Coast to St. Nicolas Abbey. The Abbey dates from 1660 and is one of only three genuine Jacobean mansions in the Western Hemisphere. Visited on the Abbey’s grounds was a traditional rum production plant. The tour continued through the countryside and along the rugged east coast.
Catamaran Turtle Encounter offered a cruise along Barbados’scenic coastline, snorkelling along the coral reefs and swimming with the Hawksbill Turtles.
Harrison’s Cave Experience is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular attractions in the Caribbean which is formed from a particularly beautiful type of crystallized limestone.
For passengers who wanted to explore independently a shuttle taxi was running between the terminal and the centre of town.
After the Valentine’s Day Tea, and with everyone on board, we sailed out of the port and set course for Little Bay, Montserrat.
After the Love is in the Air Cocktail Sail Away the evening offered pre-dinner cocktails in Shackleton’s and then a romantic dinner. This was followed by a St Valentine’s Day Dance which was opened by 10 couples, all ship’s staff. There was then the opportunity for everyone to dance to requested songs and dances performed by the Explosive Productions singers and dancers and the Saga Orchestra.
This morning we arrived at the anchorage in Little Bay. As soon as we were safely at anchor we lowered the ship’s tenders, sent one ashore to establish our landing there and set up the boarding arrangements along the ship. The tender that was sent ashore returned with the local officials, who cleared the ship.
The quiet Caribbean Island of Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory, is part of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies renowned for its coral reefs and caves. You may remember that the capital Plymouth was devastated by the eruption of the volcano Soufriere Hills.
Our one tour today, which ran at four different times, was:
Insight of Montserrat. It showed our passengers the devastating effect of the eruption of Soufriere, the developing new capital at Little Bay, the Volcano Observatory and the unaffected beautiful northern part of the island.
For passengers who wanted to explore independently it was only a short walk from the tender landing to the beach into town.
With everyone back on board, and tenders safely stowed, we heaved up our anchor and ambled along the coast of Montserrat to our next port of call Pointe-A-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
This evening there was a pre-dinner Cabaret in Shackleton’s with Explosive Productions Vocalist Jonathan and Musical Director Laura, while Showtime featured ‘The Fabulous Funkie Fiddler E. Sarah Carter.
This morning we arrived at Pointe-A-Pitre. It is the largest city and economic centre of Guadeloupe, but with a history of fires and earthquakes. In contrast to yesterday, there were several tours on offer today:
Sugar Cane Discovery took our passengers to Le Pays de la Canne, once a major sugar plantation. This visit included a visit to the museum and a ride on the narrow-gauge railway, which in the past brought the cut cane to the mill for processing.
Floral Park and Severin Distillery visited La Domaine de Valombrease, the botanical Garden and the Severin Distillery. The distillery is an old fashioned sugar mill and has traditional cane-growing flats, a watermill and a steam-driven crusher.
Tropical Ballad introduced our passengers to the charming variety of landscapes and villages that make up the island of Basse Terre. They visited the monument of Columbus, Domaine de Valombreuse (Botanical Garden) and the Crayfish Falls.
Carbet Falls and Hindu Temple took our passengers to two of these three beautiful falls. From here the tour continued to Capesterre to view the colourful Hindu Temple, which is the main Hindu place of worship on the island.
For passengers who wanted to explore independently it was only a short walk into town.
This evening we set course for Ponta Delgada, Azores so there was a wonderful ‘Farewell to the Caribbean’sail away gathering with entertainment from the Saga Orchestra.
Before arrival we had 6 glorious days on our transit to the Azores, enjoying the warmth, the lovely temperatures and the calm waters of the Caribbean.
Friday, 17 February, a sunny day with lovely temperatures, was filled with all sorts of activities, wonderful food and a classical Viennese Tea. The evening started with the now familiar Newcomer’s Party, during which I addressed passengers new to our Saga ships. We all just had a nice chat and a glass or two of bubbly. After dinner there was a performance by rising star vocalist tenor Nick Allen and Late Night Live in Shackleton’s with Stuart Anderson at the piano till late.
Saturday, 18 February, after a lovely warm, sunny day and busy day, which included a Jazz Lunch on the open decks, the evening began with a pre-dinner performance by Explosive Productions Vocalist and Musical Director Laura Prescott. This was followed by dinner, and then a performance by Pianist, Musical Director, Arranger and Composer Dr. Simon Fricker.
Sunday, 19 February, after another lovely warm, sunny and busy day, which included Sunday Worship led by Canon Eric Woods and opened by the Filipino choir, there was a very competitive shuffle board competition between the Officers and the Passengers. The evening started with a pre-dinner classical concert by the Diablo String Quartet and pre-dinner cocktails in Shackleton’s. Showtime featured Steve Galler “The Entertainer’s Entertainer”, and a 60’s and 70’s Party Night in Shackleton’s with performances by the Explosive Productions Vocalists and Dancers.
Monday, 20 February, after another lovely warm (although the temperature has fallen a bit), sunny and busy day, which included a noontime sing along with entertainers Dr. Simon Fricker and Steve Galler, Chocolate Tea and the final rehearsal for the Saga Pearl II Got Talent Competition. The evening saw the Explosive Singers and Dancers present their show “Love Me Tender”.
Tuesday, 21 February, the seas and the weather were still kind and after a busy day, which included a mid afternoon classical concert by the Diablo String Quartet, Show time opened with a performance by our very own Saga Passenger Choir.
Wednesday, 22 February, the seas and the weather were still kind and after a busy day the evening kicked off with the fabulous Saga Pearl II’s Got Talent Contest, during which I had the honour of being one of the judges. After dinner there was another performance from Nick Allen and, of course, Late Night Live with Stuart Anderson at the keys till late.
This morning we arrived at Ponta Delgada, on Sao Miguel. It is the capital of the group of nine islands and several islets, which form the archipelago of the Azores. Due to its mild climate, hot mineral springs and lush vegetation it is an important winter tourist resort.
The ship was cleared soon after arrival, so our passengers could proceed ashore and the tours could be dispatched. The tours today included:
Furnas Valley & Hot Springs. This tour took our passengers to a pineapple plantation, then to Ribiera Grande, which is the oldest and largest town on the north coast, the Pico Ferro for views over the magnificent Furnas Valley, which is a huge crater filled with diverse vegetation, beautiful lakes and spectacular geysers. From here they continued to the stunning Terra Nostra Gardens and the Hot Springs.
The Jeep Tour transported our passengers off-road along old tracks, crossing small streams with time to pause to enjoy the crystal clear streams and wonderful panoramas.
Fire Lake & Ribiera Grande. Visited were Ribiera Grande and Pico de Barrosa for breathtaking views of Fire Lake. On the way back to the ship the tour stopped at a pineapple plantation.
Gardens-Plantations & Crater Lakes. This was a scenic drive to the top of Sete Cidades, an extinct volcano 1900 feet above sea level. From the edge there were magnificent views of the two lakes - one blue the other green. From here they continued to the Antonio Borges Botanical Garden, home to a remarkable collection of European and tropical trees, and ended their tour with a visit to a pineapple plantation.
All on board was at 5.30 pm. Shortly after we left the berth, sailed out of the port, disembarked the pilot and set course for El Ferrol, Spain.
On the day of our call in Ponta Delgada it was clear that a very active low was brewing over the Atlantic. We kept a close eye on it, as it could affect the rest of our cruise. Sure enough it was set to seriously impact our planned itinerary of calling at El Ferrol on 26 February and our crossing of the Bay on the 27th. The solution was to stay ahead of the weather and instead head straight for Le Havre and make a call on 27 February.
Friday 24 February was a very pleasant day with no wind and low swells. It was filled with a plethora of activities including a cake decorating competition between Hotel Director Eddy, Cruise Director Jemma and me. Modesty prevents me from disclosing who the winner was. There was also the Country Fayre in the Discovery Lounge, with 16 stalls and a closing auction raising a grand total of .61. Our evening entertainment saw a performance by The Entertainer’s Entertainer Steve Galler while Late Night Cabaret in Shackleton’s featured Explosive Production Vocalist Jonathan Graham and Stuart Anderson at the piano till late.
Saturday, 25 February, was another pleasant day, with light winds and low swells. In the afternoon there was a classical quiz followed by a Norwegian Waffle tea. The evening started in the Discovery Lounge with my Farewell Cocktail Party at which I had the pleasure of recognising two new Diamond Britannia Club members and to present the Employee of the Month. After a delicious dinner comedian Tom O’Conner took to the stage, after which there was Late Night Jazz in Shackleton’s.
Sunday saw an increase in the following wind and following swells, which did nothing to dampen the activities and enjoyment of our passengers. After a busy day, which started with Sunday Worship led by Canon Eric Woods and opened by the Filipino Choir, the evening began with that very funny chap Tom O’Connor delighting his audience. After dinner Showtime featured the Saga Pearl II Crew Show –standing room only, of course.
This morning we arrived at Le Havre. It is a 16th century town and port, which needed almost total rebuilding after World War II. The town still has one old district, Quartier St. Francois, which is connected to the rest of the town by bridges, as well as the ultra-modern Maison de La Culture du Havre.
The ship was cleared soon after arrival, so our passengers could proceed ashore. Our tour today was to Discover Beautiful Honfleur which offered a guided walking tour through this historic town with time to explore.
For passengers who wanted to explore independently there was a shuttle bus operating between the ship and the town centre. It made a stop on the way at the Commercial Centre Docks of Vauba, home to shops, restaurants and cafes.
All on board was at 7.30 pm. Shortly after this we left the berth and set course for Southampton.
Meanwhile, to give our passengers an appetite for dinner, they took part in a Pancake Race in Shackleton’s. After dinner Variety Showtime featured the Saga Pearl II Choir, Saga Pearl II’s Talent Winner Betty Pearson, Comedian Tom O’Connor, Tenor Nick Allen, Banjo Virtuoso Steve Galler, Musical Director Laura Prescott, and the Explosive Productions Singers and Dancers.
Tomorrow we arrive at Southampton. Here I will hand over command to Captain Nicholas Sunderland and go on leave. Until I return on 30 April, I wish you happy reading and happy cruising.
Well Captain Sunderland is back in the hot seat after a great vacation with my family. All is well, be it a bit cold in Southampton. We have 407 keen and eager guests embarking today for our Northern Lights Adventure Cruise. As we proceed towards the ports of Tromso and Alta this will be the furthest north I have been. Previously for me it has been the Northern coast of Iceland –which is also an amazing place.
The ship has just returned from a month in the Caribbean, so lots of technicians onboard and lots of stores to load.
At 3:30pm we conducted our Passenger Emergency Drill and I was hoping to leave, but we still had stores on the quay. After a short delay we managed to depart and the weather was favourable at the berth. We moved the ship off berth 101 and then once in the centre of the channel we proceeded out of the port. Just under 3 hours later we dropped off our Southampton Pilot and then proceeded East in the Channel aiming for the North Sea.
A busy day for everyone......time to rest.....2 seadays to Bergen.....here we go