November 21, 2013 - 10:30 pm
After a bit lumpy ride to the UK, Quest for Adventure docked in Southampton this morning - The last port for her under this name. Tomorrow she will leave the port as Saga Pearl II once again. That means the end of the Adventure brand. I am very proud to have been a part of it from the very beginning and sadly being here to close the chapter. But your crew will still be here, offering the same – best quality service onboard the same vessel.
I will be leaving the ship tomorrow, handing over to Captain Kees Spekman, transferring to Saga Ruby. Thank you for taking your time reading the blog. Until the next time...
November 19, 2013 - 11:20 pm
El Ferrol has been a major ship building centre for most of its history. It also became a leading maritime port, due to its large natural harbour. It is the gateway to the northern Spanish province of Galicia, a region noted for its green mountains, gorges and many rivers. Most of all it is ideally placed for visiting the medieval city of Santiago de Compostela.
The shore excursions today in Ferrol included the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela, alternatively Santiago On Your Own, and also Galicia’s Scenic Coastline.
At 6.00pm Quest for Adventure, set sail from her last port of call this cruise to Southampton, England. The agent prepared a special treat for us with local pipe band playing their whole set. On the way out, yet another surprise – gun salute from the St. Philippe Castle.
In the meantime Champagne Sail – Away Party at the back deck was at full swing with music from the Quest Quartet, later in Shackleton’s Bar was the return of Rachel Russell, back to perform an early evening cabaret “Let’s All go to the Music Hall” All well attended.
Showtime in Discovery Lounge was presented by Cruise Director, John entitled “George Gershwin and His Music” with music and narration about the fascinating life of this man. Special Guest was Rachel Russell, accompanied by the Quest Quartet.
November 18, 2013 - 10:30 pm
Leixoes is a port located north of the mouth of the River Douro, and also the port for the city of Oporto. Since the Romans constructed a fort here, Oporto is a prosperous trading centre. The city benefitted from the wealth generated by Portugal’s maritime discoveries, and later the establishment of a lucrative wine trade with Britain. Today it is famous for the production of the fortified sweet “port” wine. Its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city was also awarded the status of European Capital of Culture in 2001.
The shore excursions today in Leixoes included the Douro Sights and the Douro River Cruise, Oporto Panoramic and the Wine Lodge and Tasting, the latter proving to be popular as there is the opportunity for tasting delicious wines.
Broadcaster Ernie Rea presented an informative lecture on "An Arab Spring in the Mediterranean: When Muslim’s Disagree."
To complete the evening, Quest for Adventure Farewell Filipino Crew Show took place in the Discovery Lounge. The crew performing their songs and dances to a delighted audience, to include The Candle Dance, The Coconut Dance, and Hand Miming presented by the Christian Fellowship Group to Who Am I?
November 17, 2013 - 11:45 pm
This morning we entered Tagus River on the way to our berth in Lisbon, Portugal. Another lovely sail into, one of the most spectacular in this part of the world with Belem Tower on one bank, the statue of Christ the King on the other and the 25th of April Bridge connecting both.
Lisbon is a city set on seven hills on the river Tagus. It has been the capital of Portugal since the 13th century. It has some majestic architecture, old wooden trams, churches, convents, monasteries, as well as Moorish features and more than twenty centuries of history. It is excellent for shopping, traditional restaurants and the old town is fascinating with narrow streets and individual shops.
The shore excursions today in Lisbon included the Panoramic Tour, The Arrabida Mountains which took in the lesser explored area of Lisbon, and finally the Palace of Ajuda and Lisbon Overview.
The Maestro Trio performed pre-dinner light classics at 6.15pm followed at 9.30pm by popular request, An Educational Evening...? With Call My Bluff. To include on the panel, Broadcaster Ernie Rea, Star of Stage and Screen Gary Wilmot and Cruise Director John. Hosted by Assistant Cruise Director Angela, this was truly an evening of laughter. To complete the evening the Quest Quartet performed their jazz session with special guest – Rachel Russell.
November 16, 2013 - 11:35 pm
This morning brought us perfect weather with blue skies and sunshine. This was the first time for me and the vessel in Portimao. The sail into the port revealed really beautiful scenery, which locals compare to Miami – in much smaller scale though. It has a large marina for hundreds of yachts with the entire infrastructure in place. I am sure it is very popular in the summer, today, was much less. Also, it seemed like someone had turned off the heating. It was still pleasant, but the temperature dropped to just 15C. I guess we have to start getting used to British weather!
Portimao is situated in the district of Faro, in the Algarve region and is an excellent area for sailing, windsurfing and big game fishing. The busy tourist resort of Prain da Rocha is nearby and has some beautiful beaches.
The main highlights of Portimao are the 14th Century Church and the fortress of St John of Arade. There are some excellent family run restaurants and almost all offer the locally caught fresh sardines.
The three shore excursions today included the Scenic Western Algarve, Jeep Countryside Adventure and Lagos and Portimao.
Dr Dan Jones, Guest Speaker presented an excellent talk on Lisbon to an appreciative audience.
The Showtime was opened with A Credit Crunch Pantomime of Cinderella with humorous lines from Cruise Director John, Assistant Cruise Director Angela, Cruise Staff, Mark and David, plus Ernie and Gaynor Rea. This was followed by an excellent performance from Opera Singer Rachel Russell.
November 15, 2013 - 11:30 pm
After short trip from Seville we picked our pilot at 6.30am and sailed into what seemed like a port in the middle of nowhere. However our guests were shortly dispatched on three shore excursions, the Donana National Park, the Rio Tinto Mines and the Columbus Route. Alternatively a shuttle bus was available to go ashore independently and explore Huelva.
Huelva is situated on the Gulf of Cadiz coast and is home to Recreativo de Huelva, the oldest football club in Spain. Huelva became prosperous in the 1800’s with the exploitation of mineral deposits at nearby Rio Tinto. During World War Two, the city was a hub of espionage activities, led by the large British and German communities. The city was also the location for “Operation Mincemeat” when the corpse of Glyndwr Michael, was dressed as a major in the Royal Marines and dropped in the sea off shore carrying fake documents stating that the Allies were planning to invade Sardinia and Greece rather that Sicily.
Showtime at 9.30pm featured Entertainer, Vocalist and Actor, Gary Wilmot accompanied by Mike Alexander on piano.
November 14, 2013 - 11:05 pm
Hello ladies and gentlemen and a warm welcome to my blog. I was quite unexpectedly called to take over command of Quest of Adventure and I thought it only right that I introduce myself.
Many of you will no doubt recognise my name as I have been sailing with Saga for many years now in different roles. And last year I was promoted to Master onboard Spirit of Adventure and later on Saga Ruby.
It is a real honour and a true privilege to be Master of Quest of Adventure. I was involved in the Adventure brand since it was created with the launch of Spirit of Adventure and I am honoured yet saddened to be here for the final cruise.
Having arrived onboard in the evening I had little time to get my feet under the table, shortly afterwards we left Gibraltar for Seville. We picked our Pilot up at precisely 10am and sailed up the Guadalquivir River, which is quite long but the views are really rewarding.
We had to negotiate a few narrow turns, a lock and a 180 degree turn before heading back in toward the quay via a narrow swing bridge and then we were alongside. Not bad for the first docking manoeuvre.
The highlight of the evening was ‘An Enchanted Evening in Cordoba’. This was at the Royal Stables of the city where a marvellous exhibition of purebred Spanish horses were the main protagonists. The show was a unique chance to marvel at the beauty and magic of the animals which show different disciplines and the skill of their riders.
The second day in Seville began with two excursions – a performance at the Flamenco Museum, and a Panoramic Tour of Seville. Onboard the Book Club, hosted by Gaynor Rea, was well attended and the book in question being discussed was ‘The Sun Also Rises’ by Ernest Hemingway.
We slipped our lines shortly before 6pm and followed the same way we sailed in. In the meantime the Britannia Club Party was held at 6.30pm on Sundowner’s Deck, with musical accompaniment from the Quest Quartet, and enhanced by a beautiful sunset.
To complete the evening the Maestro Trio performed their ‘Music of Baroque’ recital. Alternatively Cruise Director John and pianist Clive hosed ‘All our Yesterdays’ taking a trip down memory lane, followed by the Quest Jazz Club in the Shackleton’s Bar.
November 12, 2013 - 11:30 pm
A poignant and moving remembrance service on the veranda deck on leaving Motril, was followed by a very special farewell cocktail party. I was quite emotionally drained, especially after the heartfelt tributes from colleagues and friends that I’ve been blessed with during my 15 years with Saga. I do hope that it isn’t inappropriate for me to share with you the following tribute that appeared in the farewell dinner menu.
Dear Captain David,
On behalf of all of the Officers, Staff and Crew that have sailed with you as the
Master aboard the ships of the Saga fleet,
You will be sorely missed Captain David.
We thank you for keeping us safe and for the many special memories of countless wonderful experiences, and for the conversations, smiles and laughter that those memories have brought us and will continue to bring us.
We thank you for your warmth, for your advice and for your kind guidance
and most of all for your unfailing support.
For all of those that have sailed with you, you really are the ultimate team leader.
Your team that regard you so highly and respect you so greatly, tonight salute you,
not only for your service to the company,
but for what you mean to us and for taking care of us.
Captain David and Beverley – May God Bless you both and your family.
What next? Who knows?
From time to time I do tweet so perhaps we can keep in touch that way. You’ll find me by using the @, as usual, followed by, captdwo
I’ve had a wonderful career and so it was with a degree of sadness that I rang “Finished with Engines” at 8:30am this morning when we were “nicely” alongside at Gibraltar.
November 10, 2013 - 11:30 pm
Cartagena is one of the oldest if not the oldest port in Spain and certainly one of the most attractive natural harbours. It has been developed beautifully over the years and the bespoke passenger terminal is adjacent to the marina and within walking distance to the town centre. The port itself is protected by two breakwaters protruding out from each side of the bay and overlapping in the centre giving maximum protection from the stormy winter weather. However, it does make it a tight turn to manoeuvre in and out of the port. Once again we were blessed with a beautiful start to the day and Quest for Adventure was “nicely” alongside by 8:00am.
Cartagena is a city and seaport in Southern Spain in the region of Murcia, and the sheltered bay has attracted sailors for centuries. The Carthaginians founded the city in 223BC and named it Cartago Nova. Later it became a prosperous Roman Colony, and a Byzantine trading centre. In recent years, traces of the city’s fascinating past have been brought to light. This includes a well-preserved Roman Theatre discovered in 1988 which has now been restored and opened to the public.
Casey Edmondson is back as Shorex Manager, ably assisted by Grazia Giarrizzo, running the tour operation on this cruise. The busses were lined up ready and waiting to whisk our passengers off on the various tours. These included the ‘Villages & Valleys’, ‘The Cross of Caravaca’ and the ‘Walking Tour & Roman Theatre’.
This evening before sailing we had a “surprise and delight” Songs of Praise with a special guest appearance from none other than Pam Rhodes. It was a real pleasure to welcome Pam and her husband Richard back on board again, albeit only for a short visit as they came especially from their holiday in Spain to assist me. Now I know why Pam is the nation’s favourite presenter of the programme.
We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear and see the news of the devastation in the wake of the Typhoon that hit the Philippines. Tragically a few crew members have suffered significant damage to their home but thankfully all their family are safe and well. We are all pulling together to support those who have suffered most and a fund has been set up. The first generous contributions were from the Songs of Praise retiring offering which raised over £1000. The officer’s and crew are all chipping in too and I plan to set up a counselling centre with the help of ship’s chaplain Canon Gavin Kirk.
My time on here is almost up and I have a few loose ends to finalise before I “ring finished with engines”. So forgive the tardy end to my blogs but I hope you understand?
Castellon de la Plana, Spain
November 9, 2013 - 11:30 pm
Where is the time going? I’ve only three more ports to go before I leave at Gibraltar.
This morning Quest for Adventure arrived at the port of Castellon de la Plana at 8:00am. The ship has visited the port twice before but it was another first for me. I wasn’t familiar with the approach and the berth itself which was just inside the main breakwater. The pilot advised that I turn the side around of the entrance and approach the berth stern first. With the light morning breeze I was able to do this without the aid of a tug. The port is not a popular cruise ship destination as most of the larger ships head for Valencia about 60 miles further up the coast. Well the locals certainly made us feel welcome as they had set a “blue carpet” welcome. Traditional musicians and dancers performed on the quay as we pulled up alongside our berth.
Commonly known as Castellon, it is the capital city of the province of Castello, in the Valencian Community, in the east of the Iberian Peninsula. The local economy is based on industry, tourism and craft-work. Castellon expanded greatly in the 19th century when the city walls were demolished and a railway line was opened to Valencia and Tarragona.
Our passengers had the choice of two organised shore excursions to choose from today; ‘Panoramic Tour of Valencia’, ‘Sagunto & the Vall d’Uxio’ or to go and explore independently.
All aboard this evening was at 5:00pm when Quest for Adventure prepared to set sail for her next port of call Cartegena.
This evening’s entertainment started off with a Sherlock Holmes Music Mystery Quiz hosted by Cruise Director John Parton and Cocktail Pianist Clive Carrington in Shackleton’s Bar. The main show in the Discovery Lounge this evening was International Violinist Michael Bacala.
Barcelona to Mahon
November 8, 2013 - 11:34 pm
The final cruise for Quest for Adventure and the same for me. Quest for Adventure will have a name change but for me a change of “tyres”; yes a new set of Pirelli tyres no less! You see the time of life I’m approaching is spelt “re-tyre”; the other spelling is not in my vocabulary.
Anyway having completed a successful turn-round at Barcelona, saying farewell to 289 passengers and welcoming on-board 266 of which 187 are Britannia members; including the 35 passenger in-transit we set sail for Mahon at 7:00pm.
Turn round days are hard for the crew especially the housekeeping department who work exceptionally long hours in preparing the cabins for the new occupants. The back of house have a lot to do as well with restoring the ship and making sure that the 65 pallets of food and provisions are stored away safely before sailing time.
Most passengers are tired after their long journey and glad for an early night and a calm one at that. I’m pleased to say it was but not too many were up and about for the spectacular arrival into the natural harbour of Mahon.
It was only 4 days ago that we were in Mahon so you know all about the port and the tours so I won’t bore you by repeating it. The only difference this time was that our berth was across the other side of the inner harbour because there were 3 other cruise ships at Mahon.
After a very pleasant stay Quest for Adventure set sail at 5:00pm for Castellon de la Plana. More about that tomorrow.
November 6, 2013 - 11:30 pm
We left Palma last evening as the new moon was rising and set our course for Valencia. The wind and sea of the previous night had calmed down and it was a smooth passage to the point outside the port where the pilot boarded at 7:15am.
It has been a few years since I have been here and I was amazed how large the port is today. My first ever visit was to a much smaller port back in 1966 on-board the “Velazquez”, a 2000 ton three hatch cargo side which ran a regular service between London & Spain for the Mac Andrew Line.
From our berth we could see the marina that was built for the America’s Cup with the Challenger’s bases now sadly lying empty as the Cup has moved to San Francisco. My plan today is to visit the bases, especially the Spanish compound, as this is where my brother was when he coached the Spanish team.
Valencia is a city in eastern Spain and is one of the largest cities in Spain and a centre for agriculture, marketing, manufacturing and communications. The city has wealth of fascinating buildings and museums, including the modern Ciutat de les Arts les Ciencies, situated in the former bed of the river Turia, which was diverted to a new course following a tragic flood in 1957.
Our passengers had the choice of three organised shore excursions to choose from; ‘Valencia on Foot’, ‘Panoramic Tour of Valencia’, ‘Vall d’Uixo & the San Jose Caves’ or the option to go ashore and explore independently.
All aboard this evening is 6:30 and shortly afterwards we sail for our final port of call of Barcelona where the Mediterranean Navigator cruise ends.
November 5, 2013 - 10:00 pm
Well it turned out to be a very bumpy ride from Mahon to Palma. We experienced winds gusting up to 40mph at times during the night but I must say the little Quest handled the turbulent sea very well indeed. However, as we approached the port of Palma it was a pleasant relief to reach the sheltered waters. There was still a sting in the wind as we slowed down to pick up our pilot, but as we approached the berth the breeze got appreciably lighter and we were nicely alongside by 7:45am.
Palma is the major city and port on the island of Majorca and capital city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. As of the 2009 census, the population of Palma and the entire urban area was 517,285, almost half the population of the island of Majorca itself. There are two uninhabited islands, Cabera, which is located southeast of Palma and Dragonera which is west of Palma.
Palma is also home to thousands of yachts and motor cruisers of all sizes and designs and there were plenty on show, a yachtsman paradise!
Tours today were the ‘Rugged North Coast and La Granja’; ‘Panoramic Palma & Valldemosa’ so simply take the shuttle bus into the city and roam amongst the local shoppers or simply enjoy a tapas and coffee at the numerous restaurants and cafes.
All aboard this afternoon was 5:30pm as Quest for Adventure prepared to set sail for her next port of call, Valencia, Spain.
This evening the main show in the Discovery Lounge was West End singing legend Anthony Stuart Lloyd. Immediately after the show, resident cocktail pianist Clive Carrington entertained the night owls in Shackleton’s Bar, another memorable end to the day as we sail onwards toward Valencia.
November 4, 2013 - 11:00 pm
Mahon is a municipality and the capital of Minorca, located in the eastern part of the Balearic Islands, Spain. Sailing into this natural harbour rates amongst the best in the world and for that reason I deliberately delayed embarking our pilot until sunrise so that everyone could enjoy the arrival into Mahon. In some respects it’s very similar to Bermuda with prime real estate’s overlooking the water with beautiful private yachts moored close by, very nice too!
Mahon has the second deepest natural harbour in the world, over three miles long and half a mile wide and has a great military history.
Minorca was captured by the British during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1708, and its status as a British possession was confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
During the island’s years as a British dependency in the 18th century, Mahon served as its capital and residence for the governor, the most famous being General Richard Kane. Today it serves as the seat of the Island Council of Minorca.
By the time we reached the berth and completed mooring the old girl it was 8:00am. The buses were again neatly lined up with a very short distance from the gangway which really pleased all those going on the ‘Monte Toro and Binibeca’ and ‘Mahon and the Scenic North’ tour. These tours were the all inclusive package and so by 9:00 the ship was almost deserted! There was a shuttle bus laid on for those who just wanted to visit the town independently.
The sunny bubble we’ve been sailing in this cruise burst around 2:00pm and out came the umbrella’s as the rain started to fall. The wind also increased as forecasted and our crossing to Palma – Majorca is going to be a little bumpy!
Sète, France Monaco
November 3, 2013 - 10:30 pm
The days are shooting by and we are well into our last week already. The difficult day at Monte Carlo is now a fading memory and I look forward to a relaxing day alongside at Sète today.
Sète has a series of canals and bridges and is often described as the “Little Venice of Languedoc”. It is the largest fishing port in France, with many trawlers and boats lining the quay. It’s little wonder that Sète is famous for its oysters and other seafood specialities such as stuffed mussels and cuttlefish in red pepper sauce.
The weather was partly cloudy with a maximum temperature of 16 degrees as we approached the pilot boarding ground at 7:00am. Sète is a developing port with new berths being constructed for the larger container ships, but with our overall length of 164 metres our berth was the closest one to the town itself. With the gangway ashore at 8:00am, Jacquie our Shorex Manager had the buses lined up ready to receive those passenger going on either “Montpellier and Flaugergues Castle, Scenic Sète or the Thau Lagoon and Aigues Mortes.
All aboard this afternoon was 5:00pm and shortly after the Quest for Adventure set sail for her next port of call of Mahon, Menorca.
Art Historian Dr David Cross presented a most informative lecture on Henri Toulouse Lautrec to an enthusiastic audience.
This was followed by an Interdenominational Evening Worship with wonderful singing by the Filipino Choir who opened the service with a medley of praise.
The highlight of the cruise for the passengers is “The Filipino Crew Show”. As usual the Discovery Lounge was full as the crew performed wonderful acts of traditional dances, songs and a most moving hand mime by the Christian Fellowship to the tune of “You raise me up”. Every act was well received with rapturous applause by everyone.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
November 2, 2013 - 11:00 pm
What an amazing site to behold as we approached our anchor position about a quarter of a mile off the breakwater entrance. Such was the pity that we were unable to secure the berth as I would have loved to be able to go ashore and ogle at the private mega yachts mooring inside the prestigious harbour. Unfortunately a run ashore for me was out of the question as the weather forecast was for the wind and sea state to increase during the day.
We dropped the anchor at 7:00am and splashed our two tenders. There was a slight sea initially and the little movement of the tender laying alongside the gangway opening but it was safe enough to operate and so the passengers transfer started on schedule at 8:15am.
Everything went like clockwork and everyone who wanted to go ashore went ashore, but all the time the wind was increasing. By noon it was blowing a steady 20 mph and with it a short choppy sea was building. Needless to say it was now becoming a worry to me and I had to swing the ship broadside on to the wind and sea for every returning tender. A slow but successful operation I’m pleased to say, with everyone back in time for their Saturday lunch! Anecdotally, I remember too well, one time on QE2 when similar weather conditions developed, we had to leave over 200 passengers ashore overnight!! Not this time though.
Founded in 1866, Monte Carlo has a name of Italian origin meaning “Mount Charles”. Named in compliment to the then reigning prince, Charles III of Monaco. Monte Carlo lies on the French Riviera of the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by France and Italy, and is widely known for its casino (Le Grand Casino). Monte Carlo certainly lived up to it glitzy reputation with the harbour surrounded with large expensive yachts, Ferrari’s and Lamborghinis driving through the streets, which of course is the other reason Monte Carlo is well known, the world famous Monaco Grand Prix Circuit which first started in the 1920’s.
Only two tours today and these are; ‘Highlights of Monaco’ and ‘Scenic French Riviera’. Once the tours were underway those wishing to explore Monte Carlo independently were the next ashore by the tenders. The tender crew and gangway teams, both onboard and ashore did a brilliant job and work exceptionally hard to get all our guests back on-board safely.
I too was glad to heavy home the anchor at 4:30pm and sail from Monte Carlo and on to Sète. Maybe I’ll come back to Monte Carlo as the skipper of one of the mega yachts?
November 1, 2013 - 10:30 pm
Another port that I have not visited for some time, Ajaccio. My earliest memory of the port was on the beloved Saga Rose back in 1997. In those days we anchored off in the bay and ran a tender operation but now the port has a bespoke cruise ship terminal which is with easy distance from the town centre.
With no other cruise ship in port we had the delightful town to ourselves and the docking went smoothly in the light morning breeze. The Quest for Adventure was nicely alongside and cleared by the local officials for passengers to go ashore by 8:00am.
Today is “All Saints Day” and being a public holiday all the shop will be closed, but the waterfront cafe’s will be open. Besides, it is set to be a nice warm and sunny day so a walk along the marina and promenade will be very pleasant indeed.
Ajaccio is a French commune and is located on the west coast of the island of Corsica, 210 nautical miles southeast of Marseille. The harbour lies to the east of the original citadel below a hill overlooking a peninsula which protects the harbour. There is an abundance of museums and monuments to see, plus as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte Ajaccio also houses the Bonaparte museum formerly the residence where he was born.
Today the three organised shore excursions to choose from are; ‘Prunelli Gorges’, ‘Introduction to Ajaccio’ and ‘Ajaccio & Napoleon Walking Tour’ or the option to explore Ajaccio independently.
After a very peaceful and relaxing day at Ajaccio it was time to set sail for Monte Carlo at the bewitching hour of 5:00pm.