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21st October, 2017

La Palma

Having sailed off into the sunset from Funchal. and with a morning at sea before arriving in La Palma, I met up for dinner with some ex-cruising friends I hadn’t seen for 20 years!!

We last met in 1997 when I was Safety Officer with P&O Cruises and my girlfriend (now my wife) was working on board with me. It was wonderful to catch up after so many years and what made it extra special was dining in the “East-West” Asian-Fusion restaurant. With a salmon sushi “amuse bouche” to wet our appetite, we then all chose the Atlantic seared Scallops as our starter. The main course of sizzling roasted duck breast with fresh ginger sauce and lychees was just superb, and is always served on a hotplate that creates a dramatic burst of aromatic smoke as the sauce is poured. I’m not going to describe the entire menu, just in case there are a few of you reading this who have not yet experienced this fabulous restaurant.

After our fantastic dinner we all headed to the Drawing Room to hear our Staff Captain Franko perform his “for one night only” medley of 60’s and 70’s hits. The room was packed and for many it was a trip down memory lane. I slipped quietly away before the end of his “gig”, as I like to rise early and start the day with a workout.

A couple of hours before arrival we had the third presentation by our Celebrity Gardener Chris Beardshaw who was on board as part of our special “Gardens” themed cruise. Chris has had 15 years in broadcasting including regular filming for the BBC. He is most recently known for his part in the much loved weekly gardening programme “Beechgrove Garden” which has been running for 35 years and is broadcast on BBC2 each Sunday morning from April to October. The Britannia Lounge was packed for each of his presentations. Saga does attract some wonderful speakers.

Back to the navigational side of things, we made our approach to La Palma from the north and slowed down to embark our pilot at 1100. We passed the breakwater approx 150 meters off before swinging and then backing up to our berth. The wind freshened to 15-20 knots just as we approached which always adds a little extra “excitement”. With the wind near the stern we “backed up” to the berth and worked the ship in towards the dock. With extra lines out due to the strong winds we were all fast with the gangway ready by 1200.

La Palma is also known as ‘La Isla Bonita’ – the beautiful Island and is typified by lush forests of pine, laurel and fern which contrast with the rugged splendour of the gigantic Taburinete crater. The island is dotted with attractive villages, which are a delight to discover, and the capital Santa Cruz is perched on the edge of the volcanic crater of La Calderata. There were 6 shore excursions on offer today with something for everyone depending upon your agility and desire to have a great walk. Tours included Scenic La Palma, Off the Beaten Track Adventure, Volcano & Wine and the Los Tilos Forest Walk.

Whilst our Guests were ashore our crew set up the top deck for our evening “Floating Garden Party” with a wonderful arrangement of Planters and Parasols etc ( photos attached). With a 6.30 start we had an excellent turnout to join Celebrity Gardener Chris Beardshaw and the Cruise team, and of course a glass or two of Pimms and Lemonade to befit the special event.

We slipped our lines shortly after 1900 hrs and used the wind to best effect to ease us off the berth and then head back out to sea. Our Safety Officer Dan was driving out, and under my watchful eye he did a very good job. Next stop is Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

Captain Julian Burgess

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.