On our final port of call for this Mystery Cruise, the Saga Ruby sailed into the Port of Lisbon. There had been a very large Storm over the UK and the effects were being felt as far south as Lisbon.
As we sailed up the River Tagus, there was no wind at all, but a 6-metre swell following us in. The helmsman had to work hard in keeping the ship steady as we yawed about as the swell surfed the ship from behind. In the dark, as the large swell over took us, it was quite impressive. We needed to stay in the centre of the channel as the swell was reducing our draft. It was an art to keep the ship in safe water, but this is what we are trained for.
Things calmed down and it was just before 7.30am that we started our approach to the berth. I must admit putting this ship alongside without tugs is always of great satisfaction - she is not gifted with these fancy thrusters - but you just use old-fashioned seamanship.
So stemming the tide with one engine ahead, and one astern, I then used the large rudder to steer the stern into the quay slowly. I used the bowthruster to bring the bow in. You have got to keep the current ahead because if you allow it to get onto each bow, then it can push you quickly onto the quay or away. Once all fast, I breathed a sigh of satisfaction into the cold, crisp morning air. At 8am, I made my usual announcement to welcome all to Lisbon, Portugal.
All those guests with even-numbered cabins gathered in the ballroom at 8.15am, and those with odd-numbered cabins at 12.45pm. They then all set off on the final tour ‘Lisbon Panoramic & Estufa Fria’.
Our passengers had the opportunity to enjoy this informative commentary during a relaxing drive through Lisbon and its environment, stopping to take photographs at landmarks and places of interest.
Our guests could see the Monument to the Discoveries and Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monastery and the Parliment buildings with views of the Castle from Rossio Square. They could take in the atmosphere and ambiance of the new and old towns in the city.
From here there was a chance to visit the very special site of Estufa Fria, an authentic living museum and one of the most important green spaces in Lisbon. The name Estufa Fria (Cold Greenhouse) comes from the fact that no imported heat source is used at this site. The area is divided into three zones hot, cold and sweet. The cold zone is the largest of the three greenhouses. It is covered with slats of wood and naturally controls the temperature and light inside. This glasshouse contains azaleas and camellias from various parts of the globe.
The hot zone hosts tropical species, such as mango and coffee.
The sweet zone holds species belonging to the Cactaceae family - plants such as aloe. This is an unusual place but extremely peaceful. The area is enhanced with pools, waterfalls and statuary. Our passengers could enjoy Port, soft drinks and Pasteis de Belem before returning to the ship.
For those passengers who decided to experience Lisbon independently, they could walk into the main town area or take the shuttle bus provided. Alternatively, our guests could stay onboard to join in with activities like beanbag bowls or shuffleboard with cruise staff, Liliana.
At 17.30pm, we were ready to sail into the blood red sky that lit up Lisbon. We have come to the end of the Mystery Cruise, visiting eight ports, four countries and three maiden calls - all this in 16 days.
I am sure many thought we would be travelling further afield, but it would be impossible to spend too much time at sea getting to the more easterly places and then not being able to fulfil the rules.
We have been so lucky with the weather all the way through. The excursions seem to have been well received and we have had so much fun around the ship. It’s been great to sail with cruise director, Jonathan Neil again - he is so versatile.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this Mystery Cruise and sincerely hope all the passengers have too.
To add a final farewell, a university band played us away to “We want to wish you a Merry Christmas”. I had invited Kevin Woodford and his wife Jean up to the bridge as he is a seriously nice chap, and I enjoyed watching him cook. I must admit I will be taking some tips back home with me.
Sadly, I had to prepare the passengers for a bumpy ride North, so we battened down the hatches and set off for Southampton.
From 6pm this evening, guests could enjoy the sounds of Paul West at the piano in the South Cape Bar. Alternatively, there was an opportunity for those wishing to test those grey cells in our team trivia in the Britannia Lounge with our social hostess, Cathy.
For tonight’s cabaret show time, officers, staff & crew of the Saga Ruby presented our Crew Show Extravaganza. We invited our crew from around the ship to perform onstage. Following this our guests could boogie along to our crew band ‘The Cheese Omelettes’ with our gentlemen hosts in the Ballroom.
For those not ready for the night to end, they could join The Starlight Trio in the ‘Preview for a Nightcap’ with cruise staff, Gemma and Fernando and some music for dancing until late.
Sadly I was unable to see the crew show, as I was busy on the bridge keeping the ship steady in the swell.
Well as we headed north, we did indeed feel the full effects of this storm that had been buffeting the UK, but the passengers took my advice and the Saga Ruby shrugged off the swell and we steady made our way through the storm. We passed Saga Pearl 11 off Ushant on the morning of the 17th. It was nice to speak to my friend and colleague, Captain Wesley Dunlop, heading south.
Tomorrow I hand over the ‘keys’ to Captain Angove. It will be nice to see him again as the last time I sailed with him, he was my Staff Captain - it’s always nice to see promotions.
After that I set off Home to be with My family, which I am thoroughly looking forward to. So its goodbye from me, I hope I have written well enough to keep you interested and will write again when I join Saga Sapphire in dry dock in February to take her into the Saga Fleet.
To all my readers, have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I look forward to 2012 where it will be an exciting year ahead.