We arrived at the mouth of the River Tejo at 6am and proceeded in to pick up our harbour pilot at 7am in Lisbon. It was looking to be a great day in Lisbon and the skies were clear. After proceeding underneath the famous April 25th Bridge we had to turn the ship around due to the flooding current and go starboard side alongside along the more southerly cruise pier, right by the terminal building, so perfect for our guests. We were alongside in good time and attached the shoreside gangway ready for our guests, a lot of whom were on tours this morning.
Lisbon is one of my favourite ports and I think it is a wonderful and vibrant city. This is one of those days when I wish I were a guest and could go at my leisure to look around this beautiful city.
Well at 6:30pm, greeted by a beautiful sunset, all were onboard and we departed the berth shortly after. We had a good attendance of guests on the outside decks enjoying their Sailaway cocktails this evening as Lisbon is a city which looks particularly stunning from the water, and we passed under the April 25th Bridge about 15 mins after departure. We then dropped off our harbour pilot and it was full ahead to proceed out of the port.
There are two seadays ahead of us, and we have a cunning plan to outwit the approaching low pressure!
Well I am pleased to say our cunning plan worked - we are certainly blessed with the weather. The 2nd April has been calm and mostly following seas, which is a great ending to our guests' springtime cruise to the Canary Islands. At 6:30pm I hosted my Farewell Cocktail Party, which was very well attended, and everyone I spoke with told me what a really wonderful time they'd had, and what a great cruise it had been. We were then greeted with a delicious formal dinner in the dining room, courtesy of Executive Chef Dirk and his team.
On Sunday 3rd April, our last seaday, there was even better weather with calm seas and warm temperatures (for the UK area anyway), so many of our guests were out on deck enjoying being looked after by our great crew. It being a Sunday, we conducted our church service at 1000 this morning and it was to be a very special service as we had two couples celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary and three couples celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary –all renewing their vows. It was a lovely event to witness, and I was very humbled to be in the same room as these couples. What a great finale to the cruise, and I hope all our guests had a special and memorable cruise with us.
Well here we are on a lovely day in Southampton on Pier 106. We finished off the last minute touches to the ship before our guests began embarkation at lunchtime for their ‘Cities of the Ancient Mediterranean’cruise.
All went well during the day and we loaded all our stores and luggage in good time. At 3:30pm we did our Passenger Emergency Drill and then shortly after I managed to "squeeze" my departure speech in so that we could beat other traffic out of the port! As we had done all the hardwork on arrival we just had to move the ship sideways off the berth and then drive her out of the port. As soon as we were clear of the berth, and in the channel, I handed the Conn of the ship to the Pilot and he drove the vessel all the way to the Pilot station at the Nab tower, just off the East Coast of the Isle of Wight. We dropped our pilot off at 6:30pm then set sail into the English Channel, turning into the Bay of Biscay eventually, aiming for our first port of call, El-Ferrol in Spain.
Well we have certainly been blessed with the weather as it is warming up all the time as we head south in the Bay of Biscay. We have had following seas which certainly helps with the comfort onboard for all those guests getting their ‘sea legs’and settling in to life aboard Saga Pearl II. We are making good speed on our one day at sea en-route to El-Ferrol. The weather in the North East of the Bay of Biscay is deteriorating, so the faster we proceed south the better.
This evening I held my Welcome Onboard Cocktail Party, which was very well attended, and as always it is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat to both our loyal passengers and those who are sailing with us for the first time. I hosted a great table for dinner and yet again our culinary team, led by Executive Chef Dirk , did a great job –what wonderful food!!! Tomorrow is an early start for me – Bedtime for the Captain after dinner.
Well this morning we were greeted at the Pilot Station by a bit of swell of around 3m coming in from the North Atlantic, so we had to create a lee on the starboard side in order to get the Pilot onboard safely. We were also being followed by a Spanish Submarine that was astern of us. We embarked the pilot at 7:30am, so just as the sun was about to come up. The entrance to El-Ferrol is protected by an approach channel and breakwater, and was a stronghold naval base for the Spanish in years past. El-Ferrol itself has been a major naval shipbuilding centre for most of its history. As we proceeded in the approach channel we were greeted by 2 castle fortresses which were the security outposts for the port. Once through the approach channel the harbour itself opens up and our berth was about a mile away. With the tide and wind conditions I decided to go Starboard side alongside, so straight in and bring the ship alongside. Weather was warm but a bit overcast, but we had plenty of smiling faces at the gangway when we said goodbye to our guests as they set off on the very interesting tours on offer.
El-Ferrol has certainly proved to be a nice port of call for us. Embarkation time came around and many of our passengers were out on deck for our sailaway. For departure we moved the vessel off the berth and came astern and as soon as we were clear to swing we brought the bow to port and aimed for the entrance/exit channel. As we departed the berth we were played out by a band of local bagpipers - great to see the area's Celtic roots. And then in the outbound channel, on the Stbd side, we had at St Philip's Castle a traditional 18th Century Soldier Salute but with fake gun fire of course.
We dropped off our Pilot just before the breakwater and then proceeded out into the Atlantic Ocean again, a bit of swell but this lessened as we proceeded into deeper water. All in all a most pleasant day!!! We now have two days at sea as we make our way to even warmer climates of the Mediterranean.
Well we continue to be blessed with nice weather, and it is getting warmer every hour as we head south and across towards the Gibraltar Strait. During the day the majority of our passengers were enjoying the sun out on deck, and the calm seas they we were sailing in! However at 1100 on our first seaday many of our guests (and the Captain!) had made their way to the Discovery Lounge, and were "sitting comfortably" and looking forward to a lecture from a legendary man –Mr Henry Sandon –The Pot/Ceramic expert from the Antiques Roadshow. Not only his lecture –Desert Island Pots –but also his great sense of humour were enjoyed by all of us, and we all learnt a lot.
On the 9th April the weather was even more wonderful, with hardly any wind over the deck as we sailed along the Algarve coast. The sunshine was glorious and most of our guests were again outside enjoying the sun. Although it is a Saturday, we are in port tomorrow, so at 5:15pm we held our church service and the collection raised a substantial sum for our chosen charity this week –‘Help for the Heroes’–a very worthy cause. At 6:30pm we hosted a Newcomers Party and it was a wonderful opportunity for my senior officers to join me in meeting and chatting with our new Saga guests, and to get some feedback on the gracious service they have been receiving. All were very happy –which means we must be doing our job right!!
This evening Hotel Director Ivar and I had the great privilege of hosting a table for some of our wonderful guests, and also Henry Sandon and his son Peter. At 9pm we were able to get a good view of the Rock of Gibraltar as we passed by!! Fantastic.
As we embarked the pilot at 7am this morning the sun was creeping out above the horizon and looking to make a full appearance for the rest of the day. We were on the inside berth, which has some tight turns to get round so we proceeded in at slow speed. A ferry was docked adjacent to us and with the forecast for the wind to increase during the evening I decided to go Stbd side alongside. We brought the ship alongside and our gangway was out shortly after to allow our guests to go ashore. We had some wonderful tours on offer this morning, and one that particularly appealed to me was the Alhambra and Flamenco tour, which co-incidentally appealed to quite a few of our guests too!
For those who don’t know this area, Motril is a busy seaside town located in the province of Granada, halfway between Malaga and Almeria. The area has some great beaches and I know the crew were really looking forward to visiting them. Hotel Director, Ivar and I were invited by our local agent to join him for lunch at the local Yacht Club, where we of course had the local seafood - and the Captain had his favourite lunch of Steak and Chips –cannot take the Englishman out of a gentleman!!!
As it was such a nice evening I decided to leave slightly later than scheduled and hold a sailaway party, which saw many of our guests out on deck dancing the night away, and so it wasn't until 11:15pm that we departed the berth. I utilized a tug for departure to lift the stern then used the bow thruster to bring the bow over to port and through the wind, and when we were in the right direction we turned 90 degrees to port again and sailed out by the breakwater. We dropped the pilot off just before passing the breakwater, then with a turn to starboard we were able to sail out of the port and make good course for our next port of call of Valencia in Spain, with a day at sea to enjoy in between.
Motril is a great little port and again we have certainly been blessed by the weather. I have enjoyed today.
Well our seaday en-route to Valencia proved that the good weather can continue, with a glorious sunny day and guests out on deck basking in the sunshine for most of it. This evening we held our Britannia Club Party, and as always it was a great pleasure to see so many familiar faces and to hear about all their activities since we last met. I then went to my table in the dining room and had a very nice formal dinner and great conversation with our guests –another great culinary delight created from our Executive Chef and his team!!
Well at 7am on the 12th we embarked our Valencia pilot, ahead of us was the Silver Wind and she was going on the more northerly berth. Because of the wind direction I wanted to be stbd side alongside, as it would make our departure easier, so we turned over to stbd in the north turning basin and then came alongside side the Ro-Ro berth with a nice air bridge for our guests. Valencia is one of the busiest ports in Spain and the whole area is thriving with activity, with the port located not far from the city centre and the famous opera house.
It was the Captain’s turn to go ashore today and as I enjoy Golf –Golf it was. Chief Officer Tom and I had a good round of golf, and the golf buggy was also good fun.
Departure time seemed to come around quickly today and with all the tours back from the city and Lake Albufera we set sail. We dropped off our pilot by the breakwater then made good speed for our next port of Tarragona, where we will be the first cruise ship of the season!!! Great sunny day today!!
Well a glorious morning again here in Tarragona, which is some 60 miles south west of Barcelona in Catalonia. We embarked our pilot at 7am and with us being the first cruise ship in this season we were greeted by all the camera crews filming our arrival (no pressure!!). Our pier was the cruise ship berth on the outer breakwater so we came into the port and turned around bow to starboard towards the dock and then proceeded to go alongside, port side to the quay. With not much wind for arrival this was an easy manoeuvre but the wind was due to gust in the afternoon (apparently this can be one of the windiest ports on this coast) so we shall see what happens.
Not only were we the first cruise ship into Tarragona this year, but it was actually Saga Pearl II's first call to Tarragona so we hosted a plaque exchange ceremony outside the Sundowner bar, and the weather was glorious out on deck.
The tours looked great for this port, including Roman Tarragona which really appealed, but the Captain’s job on a potentially windy day is on his ship!!!
Well at 5:30pm we had all our guests onboard –and guess what –it was windy and unfortunately the wind of 20/30kts was blowing us onto the dock. So with the assistance of one tug at the stern we were able to move the ship away from the dock. As we left the locals put on a ‘human tower’show for us, to the accompaniment of Oooh's and Aaah's from the many guests who were out on deck for sailaway. Once we dropped the pilot off by the breakwater we made good course for our next port Rosas Bay.
Well we are all excited today as the port of Rosas Bay is a first for Saga –so many guests are ready to go ashore and explore in yet another new port for us. We are at anchor today, and with both tenders ready to go shortly after 7am the earlybirds can definitely catch the worm this morning!!!
We were greeted by lots of fishing boats, ready to go in convoy to deeper waters for their catch of the day. The weather was clear skies with a light breeze so we were able to get our guests ashore with no challenges. The area is bustling with activity and looks like a super resort, and we had lots of wonderful tours on offer.
Around 1230 the wind picked-up from the SW so I made the decision to heave the anchor and steam up and down the approach channel to create a safe lee for the guests transferring from the tenders. As a result we offered an un-interrupted service throughout the day which was great. I was on the bridge for the whole day, but it was well worth it for the guest’s experience. Our last guests were back by 6pm so we recovered our tenders and set sail for our next port, in France, Toulon –across the Gulf of Lions.
Well after having travelled across the Gulf of Lions overnight, we were greeted by sunshine yet again in Toulon. We embarked our pilot at 7am, ahead of another ship!, and proceeded into the port. Toulon is a nice pilotage and there was a lot to see from the ship as we sailed in. Toulon is France’s principal naval base so there is a lot of destroyer and frigate activity, with protected berths to the side of the harbour. On our port side as we approached our berth we could see the Aircraft Carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has been involved in many NATO campaigns over the years. We had to wait for a ferry to move from our berth, so we turned the ship around, bow to starboard, and then with us to the south of the berth could back up to go port side alongside once the ferry was clear.
Toulon has a lot to offer locally, along with nice scenic tours, so it was a great opportunity for our guests to take a step ashore and explore the sights.
5:30pm came around and after our sunny visit to Toulon it was time to leave, a straight shot out as we did all the hardwork in the morning. We had a nice sailaway from Toulon and dropped our pilot off shortly after 6pm. We then made a speedy course ready for Mahon, Menorca where we are due tomorrow. One of my favourite ports of the Med, what a beautiful sail in!!
Well as I mentioned yesterday, Menorca has to be one of my favourite places in this region and today, with the sun up high and not a cloud in sight, it looks great. We picked up our pilot at the slightly later time of 8:30am, enabling most of our passengers to have the time to enjoy their breakfast and then make their way out on deck for the 3 mile sail through the entrance to the inner harbour. This inner harbour is the second deepest in the world and with its narrow twists and turns makes it a great sight to see from the open decks. By around 9:30am we were safely docked at the passenger terminal. We came port side alongside today as there was very little wind and it was lovely and warm. It was a great day to catch up with our guests and I had the pleasure of greeting most of them at the gangway as they went on either a tour, or took the city shuttle to Mahon itself. The dock is situated in a sheltered area by Mahon so we were basking in the sunshine all day with little breeze. These are the days when life is just wonderful!!!
To be honest - none of us wanted to leave today, it really was that perfect, but as soon as all our passengers and the harbour pilot were onboard we turned the ship around in the turning basin, bow to starboard, and then came to the correct heading to proceed out of the port. The outside decks were busy with guests who wanted to see the delights of the inner harbour, with lots of beautiful villas leading up to the waterline. For the last stretch of the approach channel we did get up to around 30kts of wind but we had anticipated that. After we dropped off the pilot we then set good course to pass to the south of the Balearics and we now have one seaday to Gibraltar.
Well again we have been lucky with the weather with our seaday to ‘The Rock’. Weather has been very kind to us and it was a good opportunity for guests to relax after a busy series of port days. At 1000 we had our church service which was well attended, and then at 1100 we had a second lecture from Mr Henry Sandon –who is always great to see.
Our Gibraltar Pilot embarked at 7am on the 18th. Weather looked fine, it can be a bit windy here at times. We were planned for the inner berth with another ship planned for the outer berth. It is quite a tight turn to port once you pass through the heads of the breakwater to the north, so around 4 kts we turn hard to port and use the bow thruster to get on a near northerly heading to go port side alongside the inner berth. By 8am the ship was docked and cleared and then a mass exodus was made from the ship - a lot of crew were going ashore to find the Gib bargains. Even the Captain today took a stroll up the road to the shops to buy some aftershave!!
The Rock tours and cable car rides always prove popular and today was no exception. The weather held good with some nice sunshine through the partly cloudy skies. However, with everyone back on board we undocked and were backing the ship astern with the assistance of one harbour tug. Once we were sufficiently astern we could drive the ship ahead and to port and proceeded out of the port. We dropped the pilot off in the turn and then proceeded towards the busy Gibraltar Strait. Weather forecast is looking good for our 3 seadays home, so fingers crossed!!!
Well the weather is still holding out for us. Conditions in the Atlantic are very good and the Bay Of Biscay is forecast to be smooth. We have lots of activities planned for our guests for their last 3 days at sea. On the 19th we had one of my favourite Lecturers –Mr Henry Sandon –giving us a great talk on pots, and we discovered how tea was discovered and used.
A treat at the end of the 1st seaday was the Crew Show held in the evening, with some of the crew's most famous sketches being showcased to the delight of their audience, and some memorable new acts on display - such great talent and so very funny to watch.
There was still rather nice weather on both our 2nd and 3rd days at sea, and with smooth seas it was perfect for our Farewell Cocktail Party held on the penultimate evening of this cruise. These occasions are such a good opportunity for my officers and crew to catch up with all our guests, and it was very well attended by both guests and officers. Yet another culinary delight was consumed at the Captain’s Table, and indeed in all the restaurants, for our farewell formal dinner.
The last of the 3 seadays was a very special day indeed, as it was the 90th Birthday of HM the Queen. To mark the event we held a Special Royal Afternoon Tea, at which we had a great turnout as so many guests came together to wish Her Majesty a Happy Birthday, and to acknowledge the place this very special lady holds in our country.
All in All we have had a fantastic cruise, not only with the weather, but with great ports of call. Our guests told me that they had a marvellous time, and so we hope to see them all again soon.
Well here we are again in Southampton, the last time for a while as at the end of this cruise we will re-locate to Dover. Weather was a bit overcast, a contrast to the warm weather that we had been used to. A busy day for the Southampton port authorities as they have several floating villages in Port!
The loading of our stores and passenger luggage went very fast today, and once our guests were all onboard we held our Passenger Emergency Drill. Once this was completed I was able to welcome our guests onboard for their Flavours of France and Spain Cruise.
Just before 4pm we left the berth. We had done all the hardwork of turning around on arrival, so departure was merely moving the ship sideways and then proceeding ahead under pilot’s advice. We were the first cruise ship to leave and led the convoy out of Southampton. Around 6:30pm we dropped off our Southampton pilot and then set course for Falmouth. It looks to be a great few days ahead from the look of the weather forecast, and also smooth seas for the next few days too –great news for our new guests!!
Well we picked up our pilot this morning at 6:30am, so it was a bit of an early start for everybody. Slightly overcast but the forecast was for us to see the sunshine today. Once we embarked our pilot we made fast the tug aft and then proceeded into the port, past the headlands and with a turn to port, through a small buoyed channel, we could see Falmouth Harbour straight ahead. After passing the RFA ship docked at the top of the Harbour we made a tight turn to port and then proceeded to our dock and went port side alongside.
When the gangway was connected it was a good opportunity to meet a lot of guests who were going off on tour. Picturesque Poldark and Scenic Cornish Drive proved to be popular tours and it was good to see a bit of sunshine.
This part of Cornwall is a beautiful place and one of my favourite places in the summer in the UK.
By 5:30pm everyone was onboard and we made a quick getaway as the Captain had an appointment at 6:15pm to greet everybody at his Welcome Onboard reception. We backed out the ship into the approach channel, when the bow was clear to swing past the RFA ship we swung the bow to port and proceeded out of the port. We managed to drop the pilot off at 6:15pm so all worked out well, and because the Captain did departure in his formal uniform –he could go straight down to the Discovery Lounge.
There was a good gathering at my Cocktail Party, with the ladies looking particularly glamorous in their posh frocks, and then of course we were treated to some great food at the formal dinner afterwards. I really enjoyed today and got a great picture of the sunshine on Falmouth Harbour!!