Before arriving at the pilot station this morning we had enjoyed two wonderful days at sea.
On the Saturday not only was there a Mediterranean Fiesta Lunch on the open decks but in the evening the famous, and ever-popular, Saga Pearl II Crew Show. As always, it was a “sell-out”.
Sunday began with Sunday worship. The Service was opened by our Filipino choir and led by Canon Henry Pearson. Later in the day there was a special afternoon tea charity auction. We have done very well this cruise. The ship raised over £1500 for MacMillan and for the Saga Charitable Trust over £1000. The evening offered a pre-dinner Classical Concert, while after dinner there was another performance by Instrumentalist Peter Fisher, the genre-spanning violinist.
This morning we arrived at La Coruna, a city in north-western Spain, in the Bay of Coruna. It has a rich history with many historic buildings. This includes the Tower of Hercules, a lighthouse built by the Romans still in use today. The city has a charming waterfront with many cafes and fish restaurants as my wife and I discovered during our afternoon walk.
One of the tours today took our passengers to the famous pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela. It stopped on Obradoiro Square for the view, and to visit the Cathedral, the City Hall and the College of San Jeronimo. A fascinating and amazing town.
For passengers who wanted to explore La Coruna independently it was only a very short walk into town.
Soon after everyone was aboard we left the berth, swung the ship 180 degrees, sailed out of the port, disembarked the pilot and set course for our last port of this cruise, Southampton. Tomorrow is a day at sea. We will be crossing the Bay of Biscay again, but the forecast is good. It looks to be a comfortable crossing with fine weather. A good last day of a very successful cruise.
Today there was the usual buzz that accompanies the end of a cruise. Passengers disembarking, the ship being provisioned, bunkers loaded, ship being prepared for the next cruise, meetings held between ship and shore side management and then our new passengers embarking for this cruise, which has the theme A Tribute to the Musical and Comedic Greats.
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 promises a comfortable transit from Southampton to Funchal.
This evening offered pre-dinner cocktails, dinner, the Welcome on board Show during which the Cruise Director introduced the members of her entertainment department, then music for dancing, followed by Late Night Live in Shackleton’s Bar with Clive Carrington at the piano till late.
At this point I always 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 Resty Sacedor III, Social Hostess Fiona Smith, Cruise Staff Fernando Perez, Fitness Instructor Cathy Ellis and Stage Managers Bernard Mendoza and Fernando Talingdan and IT Support Ian Te.
Gentlemen Dance Hosts this cruise are Andy Nash and Mark Vincent. Guest Entertainers are: West End Vocalist Simon Bowman, Classical and Electric Violinist Kate Violin, Comedian Christopher Gee, the group Them Beatles and the duo Eric and Ern. Resident Show Group is Explosive Productions Singers and Dancers. The Resident Musicians are The Diablo String Quartet, The Saga Orchestra and Cocktail Pianist Clive Carrington.
Guest Speakers are: Destinations Simon Dunbavand, Musical Journalist Jonathan Rice, Geologist and Volcanologist Glynda Easterbrook. Instructors are: Bridge Janet Wilson and Crafts Doreen Ritchie. Ship’s Chaplain is The Venerable Tim Barker.
All tasked to entertain and fill the days of our passengers.
Before arrival we had three relaxing days at sea. The weather and sea conditions lived up to their forecast, and were kind to us.
On the Thursday there was the single mingle party with a glass of bubbly, while Friday’s evening entertainment began with my Welcome On Board Cocktail Party. During this I introduced my management team and gave our passengers an idea of the delights ahead of us. After dinner the Lounge hosted a show by West End Vocalist Simon Bowman performing songs ranging from Classical to Pop, Rock and Swing.
Saturday was another “busy”day, which included a pre-lunch Classical Concert and a wonderful Strawberry Tea. After dinner Classical and Electric Violinist Kate presented an evening of classical gems and modern hits, and then there was Late Night Live with the King of the Keys, Clive.
This morning we enjoyed the approach to the pilot station. It was still dark so 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 by 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. For this reason it has a nice mixture of the old and the new.
Our tours today were:
Scenic Madeira. This was the tour 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 exciting 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 went via the coast roads and the fishing town of Camara de Lobos to Cabo Girao, a 1900 ft high sheer cliff from where our guests enjoyed the stunning coastal scenery. It also included a stop at the famous Old Blandy Wine Lodge.
RIB Adventure took our passengers out to look for Short-finned Pilot Whales and Bottlenose, Atlantic Spotted and Common Dolphins. There is also the chance of seeing a Risso’s Dolphin, a Beaked Whale or an Orca.
onto the right heading, disembarked the pilot and set sail for our next port of call, Santa Cruz de la Palma.
This evening there was another wonderful performance by West End Vocalist Simon Bowman, followed by Late Night Cabaret in Shackleton’s featuring Explosive Productions Vocalist Sammie Firbanks.
Santa Cruz de la Palma is both the capital and port of La Palma, known as “The Green Island”. The island is home to the world’s largest volcanic crater, which has a diameter of 9 kilometres and a depth of 770 meters. The coastline and valley areas of the island are mainly farmland.
My wife and I took the opportunity to go for a walk through the steep streets of the town up to the ridge, which overlooks the harbour and Santa Cruz. Here we found a nice restaurant for a cool drink and some tasty tapas.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival so the passengers could proceed ashore and the tours could be dispatched. The tours today were:
4X4 Adventure: This tour gave our passengers a memorable off the beaten track adventure, to enjoy the rugged terrain and the wonderful views on this interesting island.
La Palma Panoramic was a drive around the island taking in the capital, a view point called Mirador de la Conception, the impressive Taburiente Crater and the town of Los Llanos, which is surrounded by cacti and banana plantations.
Forest Walk was a wonderful walk through the Los Tilos Forest. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, it is home to a profusion of ferns, trees and other indigenous species.
La Hacienda and Silk Museum: This tour took our passengers on a ride through lush scenery along mountain roads to the old town of El Paso. Here they visited the Silk Museum, where silk is being woven using a 500 year old process. Also visited was the beautifully restored 17th century sugar estate, Hotel Hacienda de Abajo, which is surrounded by rich vegetation and botanical gardens.
Stargazing in La Palma: La Palma is the location of the largest telescope in the world and has the world’s clearest skies for observing stars. An opportunity not to be missed.
All on board was not until 10.30pm. So a nice long stay. Soon after all were on board we backed out of the port, swung the ship, disembarked the pilot and set course for El Hierro.
This is the first time for me in this port. The ship has been here before, so we know it works. The lay-out and approach is similar to Santa Cruz de la Palma, which we visited yesterday. We arrived at the pilot station at 7 am this morning. Soon we were entering the port and were all fast at 8am.
El Hierro, nicknamed “The Meridian Island", is the smallest and farthest south and west of the Canary Islands. The port is a playground for water sports. Today there were several busloads of school children being taken through their paces in sailing boats, canoes and on paddle boards. Great fun.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival so our passengers could proceed ashore and the tours could be dispatched. The tours today were:
The Canaries’Forgotten Secrets: This tour took our passengers on an enchanting drive over mountains, and through lush tropical valleys. There was, of course, a stop at the principal Bodega for a taste of the local wine and cheese tapas.
The El Hierro Trek was a most enjoyable trek through the pristine laurel forest at an altitude of 1460 feet.
With everyone on board we backed out of the port, swung the ship, disembarked the pilot and set course for Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We could see Mount Teide on the horizon, so knew the direction in which to sail!
The evening we had the great pleasure to host the Britannia Club Party. After dinner was a show by Classical and Electric Violinist Kate performing a mixture of classical and contemporary pieces, with a modern twist on her classical.
This morning the ship arrived at the pilot station at 7 am. Soon we entered the port, swung the ship 180 degrees, backed to the berth and were safely moored at 8 am.
Santa Cruz, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Canaries, shares the status of Capital City with Las Palmas on Grand Canaria. Its port, one of Spain’s busiest, comprises three different sections and is important for its commercial and passenger traffic.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival so the passengers could proceed ashore and the tours could be dispatched. The tours today were:
Puerto de la Cruz Transfer gave passengers the opportunity to explore this colonial town by themselves, and enjoy the atmosphere of this popular resort.
Mount Teide: This tour took our passengers to this 12,000 feet high volcano, which is a National Park and World Heritage Site.
Northern Delights was a scenic drive, with a stop at the fishing village of San Andres. The beach in this village is partly made from 23,800 tons of Sahara sand. Our passengers were able to enjoy the local wine and cheese in the village of Taganana. They enjoyed the views from the highest point of El Beladero, and Mercedes Forest, Pico del, Ingles, Mirador del Carmen and Cantara with its outstanding views of the wild country side and northern coast.
Gardens of the Valley: The focus of this tour was the abundant colour and sheer variety of flowers and vegetation that thrive in the Canary Islands. Our passengers visited Jardin Botanico and Risco Bello Garden. A real treat for garden lovers.
This evening, after dinner, we welcomed aboard Local Folkloric Group Alcoran, who delighted us with their traditional music, dance and costumes. Once they had disembarked, we set course for our next port of Arrecife.
Arrecife is both the main town and the port of Lanzarote. The island is mountainous and volcanic creating dramatic landscapes of mountain ranges and desert. The island was also home to Cesar Manrique, who was a prolific artist and hugely influential in the preservation of this unique island.
Our tours today were:
Northern Highlights. As the name states this tour visited the highlights including the picturesque village of Haria, which is known as the valley of 1000 palms, Mirador de Haria, a famous view point, Mirador del Rio, which offers the best views of the archipelago and Los Jameos del Agua, a massive complex of caverns, part of a four mile volcanic tunnel.
Fire Mountain offered our passengers an insight in the fascinating history of the island’s volcanic history, which is revealed in Timafaya National Park.
Cesar Manriques Foundation was the opportunity to discover the genius of Cesar Manrique, Lanzarote’s most celebrated artist. Visited were his house, constructed around five volcanic caves, the cactus gardens, which contains over 1100 varieties of cacti and examples of the artist’s sculptures and murals, and the International Museum of Modern Art in San Jose Castle.
Puerto del Carmen Transfer took our guests to one of Lanzarote’s loveliest beach resorts.
All on board was at 11.30 pm. Soon after this we backed out of the port, swung the ship, disembarked the pilot and set course for Leixoes.
The evening, in the meantime, offered a show by Comedian and Impressionist Christopher Gee, and Dancing under the Stars with live music from the Explosive Production Singers and the Saga Orchestra on the open decks.
On Friday there was a very tasty Spanish Fiesta lunch on the open decks, and an afternoon concert by the Diablo String Quartet. Classical became pop for the evening, when there was a performance by the very authentic Them Beatles in “Beatle Mania”.
Saturday was a busy day, which was enhanced by wonderful Chocolate Afternoon Tea. However, the day did not really go as planned. On Friday evening I was informed we had a very ill passenger on board, who needed an urgent operation. We therefore diverted at full speed to the South Portuguese port of Portimao. The conditions were perfect. We disembarked the patient on an emergency boat, and set course again for Leixoes.
This diversion set the schedule back by three hours, but we were berthed at 12 noon and the port authorities gave us permission to extend our call by two hours. So all ended well for our passenger, who is comfortable having received treatment, and there was minimal impact to our schedule.
Leixoes, a town north of the mouth of the River Douro, is the artificial deep water port for Oporto. This, the country’s second largest city, lies five miles to the south-east. Oporto is the real destination today. It is a charming city with lots of interesting and historic buildings as well many famous wine cellars, one of which our guests could visit today.
Wine Lodge and Tasting was the tour for lovers of wine, and all that goes with it. Our guests visited the beautiful setting that is the Quinta da Aveleda Wine Estate to learn about, and taste, a variety of their famous wines.
Oporto Sights and Douro River Cruise was the perfect opportunity to see the highlights of Oporto and surrounding area by coach, and then from the water with a cruise on the Douro River.
Palace of the Dukes at Guimaraes. One of the most historic cities, Guimares, was the birthplace of the first king and where the re-conquest from the Moors began. This pretty UNESCO town is home to a 10th century castle and Palace of the Dukes.
Oporto Panoramic offered our passengers the opportunity to see the highlights of this historical town and its surroundings from the comfort of a coach.
Soon after all were on board, we backed away from the berth, swung the ship 180 degrees, sailed out of the port, disembarked the pilot and set course for Southampton.
This evening there was a variety show featuring an evening of comedy and music with Eric and Ern and Them Beatles. This was followed in Shackleton’s by Late Night Cabaret featuring Explosive Productions Vocalist Jonathan Graham singing some of his favourite songs with Clive Carrington at the keys till late.
On the way to Southampton we will spend two days at sea. The forecast is for kind seas and a pleasant crossing of the Bay of Biscay, so I’m sure our passengers will make the most of this sunshine. On the last day I will be busy with my Captain Kees’Fish and Chips Lunch. Lots of fun, with very tasty food.
Today the usual buzz of the end and the beginning of a cruise on the same day. Passengers disembarking, ship being provisioned, bunkers loaded, ship being prepared for the next cruise, meetings held between ship and shore side management and then new passengers embarking for this cruise, which has the theme: Big-Band- Soundtrack to an Era.
After the required safety drill at 3.30 pm the ship was 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.
Our passengers had the opportunity to take part in the sailaway and explore the ship. The evening offered pre-dinner cocktails, dinner, the Welcome on Board Show during which the Cruise Director introduced the members of her entertainment department, music for dancing, followed by Late Night Live in Shackleton’s bar with Clive Carrington at the piano till late.
At this point I always tell you who my 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 Jo Boase.
Jo Boase is supported by Assistant Cruise Director Resty Sacedor III, Social Hostess Fiona Smith, Cruise Staff Fernando Perez, Fitness Instructor Cathy Ellis and Stage Managers Bernard Mendoza and Fernando Talingdan and IT Support Ian Te. Gentlemen Dance Hosts this cruise are Bill Winterbourne and Douglas Stephens.
Guest Entertainers are: The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Magician Richard Griffin, Comedian Tom O’Connor, Electra (Three Instrumentalists) and Vocalist Maria Lyn. Resident Show Troupe is Explosive Singers and Dancers. The Resident Musicians are The Diablo String Quartet, The Saga Orchestra and Cocktail Pianist Clive Carrington.
Guest Speakers are: Destinations Bill Simpson, Music Broadcaster John Clithero, Maritime Historian Malcolm McRonald, Royal Navy Liaison Officer Commodore Ian Risson and Diplomat and Historian John Kelly. There is also a four person Orca Team who will be out on deck every day. Our ship’s Chaplain is Reverend Tom Leary. Instructors are: Bridge Bernard Kaye, Crafts Dennis and Ann Berry and Art John Morris. All tasked to entertain and inform our passengers.