Before arriving this morning we had two days at sea, with more than enough events and activities going on to completely fill our passengers’ days. Sunday began with an interdenominational church service taken by the Reverend Tom Leary and opened by the Filipino choir. The evening offered the Newcomer’s party, during which I welcomed those passengers on their first Saga cruise, the Explosive Productions Singers and Dancers with their show “Music of the Night, and Late Night Jazz in Shackleton’s with the Saga Orchestra and the King of the Keys, Clive.
On Monday there was a noon Armed Services Reunion. In the evening The Syd Lawrence Orchestra presented “Listen to My Music”, and as it was Halloween Shackleton’s was the venue of our Halloween Party.
This morning we arrived at Arrecife in Lanzarote. The island is mountainous and volcanic. This creates dramatic landscapes of mountain ranges and deserts. The island was also home to the artist Cesar Manrique, who was a prolific artist and hugely influential in the preservation of this unique island. One of our tours today visited his home.
Cesar Manrique Foundation. This tour gave our passengers 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 contain 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 passengers to one of Lanzarote’s loveliest beach resorts.
Northern Highlights. As the name states this tour visited the major highlights, including the picturesque village of Haria, known as the valley of 1000 palms, Mirador de Haria, a famous view point, Mirador del Rio, which offers the best views in the archipelago and Los Jameos del Agua, a massive complex of caverns, part of a four mile volcanic tunnel.
Fire Mountain gave an insight into the fascinating history of the island’s volcanic history, splendidly revealed in Timafaya National Park.
Looking at the time required to reach Lisbon, I decided we could stay in Arrecife overnight, and give our passengers and crew the opportunity to sample the local nightlife. So it wasn’t until the Wednesday that we departed the port at 7.45 am and set course for Lisbon at 8 am.
Before arriving this morning we had two relaxing days at sea. On the Wednesday, with such delightful temperatures the Food and Beverage team put on a fabulous Spanish Fiesta lunch on deck. In the evening there was a performance by Comedian Tom O’Conner and Late Night Cabaret in Shackleton’s with Explosive Productions Vocalist Sophie Burrell. On Thursday our very own passenger choir gave a wonderful performance. After dinner we were entertained by vocalist Maria Lyn.
This morning we sailed up the scenic River Tagus and were berthed at 9 am.
Lisbon, the capital and largest city of Portugal, is its major industrial and commercial area with an exceptionally fine harbour. The city has a long and interesting history with many buildings and sites to prove this.
The ship was cleared shortly after arrival so our passengers could proceed ashore and the tours could be dispatched. Today’s tours were:
Sintra Town and Cascais by 4 wheel drive. This tour took the passengers by 4 wheel-drive vehicle to Cascais, one of Portugal’s most popular seaside resorts. From here there was a drive through the heart of Cascais-Sinatra Park and the Sintra Mountains to Sintra Town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the site of many stunning buildings and works of art.
A Taste of Lisbon was a relaxing bus drive through beautiful Lisbon and its environs.
Palace of Ajuda. After a scenic drive our passengers arrived at Ajuda National Palace. A neo-classical building dating from the early 19th century, it was the residence of the royal family till the abolition of the Monarchy in 1910.
Lisbon Tram and Port Wine was the perfect combination of seeing the sights and enjoying a taste of the local tipple.
All aboard was at 3.30 pm which enabled our passengers to enjoy the scenery of this attractive River as we retraced our route of this morning. We arrived at the pilot station at 5.30 pm and set course for Southampton.
This enjoyable day was topped off with a magical performance from the Syd Lawrence Orchestra presenting “A Night at the Movies”.
In Southampton I hand over command to Captain Nick Sunderland as I will go on leave. I wish you all happy reading, and will be back at my keyboard again on 20 December to tell you all about the Christmas Cruise.
Well it is good to be back –ready for the cruise I have been really looking forward to all year –our Grand Caribbean Adventure. Yesterday, during the day, we had our Senior Management Conference onboard Saga Sapphire, and in the evening we had a very tasty meal in our dining room and it was a great opportunity to catch up with both sea and shore!!
Today we embarked our guests from midday and at 3:30pm conducted our passenger emergency drill. As you can imagine, in preparation for a 42 day cruise, we loaded a lot of stores ready for our journey ahead.
Just after 8pm we left our City berth and then moved the ship bodily to starboard with the assistance of one tug and proceeded out of the port.
Now our journey to the Caribbean begins –first via Tenerife –so full ahead and here we go!!!
Well we had a bit of bumpy weather in The Channel for the first night, people getting their sea legs quickly!! But it all smoothed out the more south we came. With 4 seadays down to Tenerife we had lots of entertainment and activities lined up for our guests. The crew to guest ratio is nearly one to one so lots of opportunity to get to know everyone.
On Thursday I was delighted to invite all our passengers to my Welcome Cocktail Party, which was very well attended and we were treated to a great meal in the Dining Room and Verendah by our Executive Chef, Dirk. The showtime that evening was the Magic and Comedy of John Lenahan –a mystifying performance, enjoyed by all.
On the 11th November our Chaplain, Gordon Warren, conducted a Remembrance Service and at 1100 we observed two minutes silence.
These last couple of days the weather has started to really warm up, and many guests have begun to work on their suntans on the outside decks. We are getting fair winds and following seas. Long may this last. Next stop Tenerife!!
Well today is a beautiful day here in Tenerife. We picked our pilot up at 7am this morning, and proceeded into the port. We decided to go bow in today as it is a quicker manoeuvre and hence go port side alongside. We approached the breakwater doing around 5kts and then turned 90 degrees to port and proceeded into the port, passing some laid up drill ships docked along the outer breakwater. We had the closest berth to the terminal and this was perfect for the guests to take a stroll into town.
Santa Cruz is one of our most visited ports in the Canaries and it is always a pleasure to come back here, especially when it is 25 degrees C compared to 6 degrees C in the UK!! Many of our guests went on a tour, especially the Mount Teide tours which always prove to be popular.
Shortly after 6pm we departed and a sailaway party was held on the aft deck, with guests basking in the sunshine enjoying a cocktail or two!! We turned the ship around in the inner harbour and once completed we sailed out, passing the Queen Elizabeth, and then proceeded out of the port to drop the pilot off.
Now our crossing to the Caribbean is to begin. The weather is looking favourable so here is to a good 7 day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to Tobago!!!
The day begins at 0400 when my first watch starts having taken over from the 2nd Officer, Adrian. My watch ends at 0800 when Michael the 3rd Officer, famous for his 9am seaday announcements, comes on watch.
I have a Trainee Deck Officer (or Deck Cadet), Matt, on watch with me along with my Quartermaster to help keep a lookout and steer as required, although there have been few course alterations on this Atlantic Ocean crossing other than to avoid rain showers and keep our sunbathing passengers dry.
As part of his Training Portfolio, Matt is required to learn all of the various means of plotting the vessel’s position, so I have been helping him take sextant sights of the stars during Civil Twilight, before the sun has risen, to plot a fix, he then calculates the vessel's position based on the observed altitude of the stars he chose.
During the afternoon 1600-2000 watch, Matt has also been taking sun sights and ‘running up’the position obtained to his evening star sights as part of his navigation workbook.
As Navigator I am responsible for planning the vessel’s voyages prior to each cruise. This involves collating all the available information from various sources such as Admiralty Sailing Directions, Ocean Passages of the World and any information provided by the local Port Agents. This then allows me to plan our intended routes, following any recommended routing measures or Traffic Separation Schemes, and generate a speed schedule which allows us to monitor the speed required to keep to our planned port arrival and departure timings. Unfortunately the weather sometimes has other ideas, requiring shortened port stays if bad weather is forecast.
Long sea passages provide a great opportunity to plan future cruises and also carry out our scheduled training with the Bridge Team for emergency preparedness.
I also maintain all of the Nautical Publications, Charts and Electronic Chart Display and Information Systems (ECDIS) with weekly updates sent out via the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office as Notices to Mariners. We primarily use Electronic Charts to monitor our position, but still maintain paper charts which we make particular use of for those areas where Electronic charts do not provide coverage of the required accuracy or detail. Some of these paper charts can be seen in the Library as track charts, which we use to display our planned routes for the voyage.
Well it is looking as if our prayers have been answered. The weather is glorious, with a following trade wind breeze and smooth seas. I have done a lot of Atlantic and Pacific crossings but I don't think it has never been as good as this, and the sunshine is HOT!!
Lots of activities going on around the ship to keep our guests amused –from Line Dancing to Bridge Lessons to Golf Putting (my favourite) to Ukulele lessons!!! The Ukulele lessons proved to be really popular.
Our showtime performers ranged from Bruce Morrison from the West End, Mitch Perrins Percussionist & Rustie Lee the famous MasterBaker and star from GMTV. We, of course, had shows from our Explosive Productions Performers.
On Tuesday the 15th November we held our Britannia Club Cocktail Party and this was very well attended by our members. I had the great pleasure of presenting Sapphire pins to Sir Michael and Lady Parker.
Thursday the 17th November our culinary team put on a great show for the Alfresco Spanish Fiesta. It was beautifully done on the aft decks with all the guests basking in the sunshine with a Sangria (that's what I would be doing as well if I were on holiday!!!). On the Friday I held my ‘Captain’s Fish and Chip Shop’the famous one on the high seas. Many guests joined me, with well over 200 pieces of fish served at lunchtime –yummy!!!
On Saturday the 19th November, myself and the Chief Engineer joined Rustie Lee on stage for a Bakeoff –who could make the best Victorian Sponge. It was a morning of fun and laughter and of course –the Captain Won J HAHAHAHAHA
Well our 7 seadays have come to an end –the weather has been beautiful and the guests are all looking forward to their Caribbean Adventure which starts tomorrow, Monday. Some of our guests go home in Tobago and some will join us. We look forward to welcoming our new guests and for those leaving us we hope they have enjoyed their holiday onboard, wish them safe travels, and hope to see them again soon.
So here we are, our first port of call in the Caribbean, Scarborough, Tobago. We are greeted with gorgeous hot weather and with a nice cooling breeze. We were at the pilot station this morning at 7am and with the assistance of the pilot and one tug boat, we spun around 180 degrees to the entrance of the harbour and backed into the port and towards the cruise ship pier. We came alongside the cruise pier and then landed our gangway ready for our keen guests who wanted to stretch their legs.
Scarborough is the largest town on the island of Tobago and is of course part of the Trinidad and Tobago Republic. We had some great tours on offer today, including the world famous visit to Pigeon Point beach. Also on offer was the Main Ridge Rainforest walk, historic Tobago tour, Island Girl Catamaran cruise and the Argyle Waterfalls and Tobago Cocoa. I went ashore with my family to Pigeon Point beach and I must say –WOW!! It was amazing. The water was warm and great for snorkelling along with swimming with wild Manta Rays. The beach with golden sands and palm trees –what more could you want. Sun tan lotion was definitely required today with that hot sunshine!!!
Today in Tobago we said goodbye to some guests who after the crossing are returning home, and we welcomed our newly embarked guests who are to travel with us for the ‘island hopping’leg of our adventure.
Well departure time arrived, and with temperatures of 30 degrees C plus we said goodbye to Tobago and proceeded directly out of the port. What a great day, and now off we go to Venezuela. Have some great photos for you, so hope you enjoy them!!
It is certainly hot today, with 27 degrees already at 7am. We picked up our pilot, who looked like a military general, and proceeded towards the dock. Here in El Guamache there is only one cruise pier and we were the only ship in. We were docked just before 8am and many of our guests were keen to go ashore and explore. The highest temperatures recorded here have been up to 38 degrees C –so looks to be a warm day with a bit of a breeze.
We had some great tours today where you could Kayak in the National park, see the Natural wonders of Margarita or visit the great sights of the Colonial treasures of Margarita. Either way unfortunately the Captain cannot go on tour due to a port state inspection!!
I think Venezuela is a great country to explore and really quite unspoilt by the modern world –makes it more authentic and natural.
We had to leave promptly today as we had a high speed run to Willemstad. We have the wind behind us and hopefully a bit of current will help us along the way. For departure we moved the ship away from the berth, with the help of the offshore breeze and turned the bow to port, brought the stern through the wind and then proceeded out of the port.
All our guests had a great day here basking in the sun. I only got pictures of the port –but you can see it was a beautiful day.
Today I returned to one of my regular ports of call from my previous company. Curacao, which forms part of the Dutch Antilles and the ABC islands (Aruba –very nice, Bonaire –great for Diving and snorkelling and Curacao –great place and nice beaches).
Curacao is the biggest and the capital of the Antilles. It is regularly visited by cruise ships large and small and it a great place to explore. We embarked our pilot and were due to dock just before the bridge on the port side. It is a narrow entrance channel with cross current at the mouth so is a tricky manoeuvre, but the pilots here are very experienced and the key is speed control. We made a nice approach and then proceeded towards our dock, pass the Thompson ship on the Mathey Wharf and then went port side alongside. The weather was beautiful and lots of our guests were outside on deck to see the arrival.
Many guests went ashore exploring and shopping, or just to have a drink and food by the waterway itself. There's plenty to see and do here.
All aboard today was 6:30pm and with all the guests onboard we let go our lines at 7pm and with the assistance of one tug proceeded under the bridge so that we could turn round in the turning basin near the oil refinery. Once we had spun round 180 degrees to stbd through the trade winds we then proceeded at 5kts under the bridge and through the narrow channel to exit the inner harbour. The pontoon bridge was moved to one side and many people ashore were there to wave us on our journey –we of course did 3 long blasts to say thank you and good bye.
Next stop Port Antonio –and we have to cross the Caribbean Sea tonight and then a sea day tomorrow. Full speed ahead!!!
Well after our seaday crossing the Caribbean Sea we approached Port Antonio in Jamaica. Unfortunately the wind was far too strong today, and we had to cancel this port. We were able to secure an overnight berth at Santiago de Cuba –which was great news for our guests. So we headed north, just over 100 miles, across the Cayman Trench towards Santiago’s Pilot Station. After a beautiful scenic transit through to the inner harbour, very well protected from the English! and the Spanish! by the entrance fort, we approached our berth and went port side alongside bow in, so we could see the city –and what a beautiful place.
During that evening we learned that Fidel Castro had passed away, at the age of 90, and there were days of mourning to follow until his burial in Santiago on the 4th December. What a time to be in the Cuban Rebellion City, as here is basically where it all started for the present system. Santiago de Cuba is renowned as the place where Cuban Heroes were born along with the start of the Bacardi Brand!!
After my overnight sleep I went on tour to do the Santiago de Cuba City Tour with my family. It was amazing. We saw the City’s Burial ground, where all the people are buried - the famous ones have the marble headstones and monuments. We then went to the Barracks where Fidel’s first outpost was located, before proceeding to the famous Square in the centre of Santiago with the Bronze statue. We visited so many locations around the city, including the entrance fort which was designed to keep intruders out!!
I have some great photos –hope you like them –including me with a famous USA Taxi based in Cuba!!! Note all the Cuban Flags are at half mast –including the ship's flag –as a mark of respect.
5:30pm came about quickly on our 2nd day here and what a stay, especially to be here when Cuba’s history changed again.
Next stop –Well a bit of a surprise for our guests –as we missed Jamaica on the way here I did want to be able to take everyone there –so we are going to Falmouth in Jamaica instead –where we will be tomorrow morning.
Well this morning it was a bit of an early pilot –4am!!! This was to ensure that we were alongside before sunrise, and guests could then have an ‘alfresco’ breakfast alongside in Jamaica.
We turned the vessel at the entrance to the port and then backed the ship up to the northern pier and went Starboard side alongside. Falmouth is catering for big cruise ships nowadays, and we are the smallest ship that has been there –so yet another award.
And yes Falmouth is named after the place in Cornwall –the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny, one of the previous Governors of Jamaica.
Our guests had a choice of two tours today –Rose Hall Great House and Crafts Markets or Rafting on the Martha Brae –I would have liked to have done that!!!
This afternoon we sailed out of Falmouth and are now en-route to Havana, with one seaday in between. I am really looking forward to Havana!!
Last night we had Britain’s finest Jazz singer –Elaine Delmar –with a fabulous concert held in the Discovery Lounge. Tonight we have an Explosive Productions show ‘Music of the Night’, so plenty of entertainment and goings on by the Cruise Department.