I Don’t Like Cricket, I Love It

So… we woke up this morning right back where we started from, in Bridgetown, Barbados.  We didn’t have to disembark the Ventura for the airport until 3.30pm, so we more or less still had a full day of our holiday to enjoy.

Some people would be nervous of going on a long-haul flight (or indeed any flight) on Friday the 13th, but this was the third time we’d done it.  New York to Montréal on 13th June 1997, and Buenos Aires to Ushuaia on 13th January 2006.

As we hadn’t managed to do the tour of Kensington Oval when we arrived here, we decided to make that our first stop after breakfast.  We had to be out of our cabin by 8.00am anyway, so we left our bags in the Arena theatre for safekeeping, then took a walk to the famous cricket ground which opened for tours at 9.00am.  So we were their first visitors of the day 🙂

We were introduced to Ruth, who was our guide for the 45 minute tour of Kensington Oval.  We went into the ground where the cricket pitch was a lush green.  The ground was very impressive, and it’s a pity there wasn’t a game on, because we just felt like sitting in the shade listening to the sound of leather on willow.  We were taken all around the ground and into the press box.  We were shown where the players sit and where the VIP visitors go in the Sir Garfield Sobers stand.  It was all very interesting.  We explained to Ruth that we had a good cricket team in Durham and that one of our players, Paul Collingwood, used to be the England captain until recently.

After our tour of the Oval we walked back into Bridgetown and went for a cold Banks’s beer at one of the little ramshackle bars.  While we were sitting there, the heavens opened.  We waited until the rain eased off and decided to go somewhere else on our way back to the ship.  On the way, however, there was another massive downpour and we were forced to seek refuge in another bar, whether we wanted to or not 🙂

The bar was full of Brits and Americans, off the cruise ships, who’d also come in for shelter from the rain.  One thing about the Caribbean though – even when it rains, it’s still warm, unlike Britain where it’s just cold and grey when it rains, even in the summer.

Once the sun came out again we continued on our way back to the Ventura.  We went back on board and along to the lido restaurant for some lunch.  Then we collected our bags and got our books and went and sat on some loungers by the indoor pool, as there were still intermittent showers.

At 3.30pm we were called to disembark the Ventura for the shuttle bus to the airport.  Once we arrived, we went through security and into the executive lounge.  We only had time for a couple of drinks, however, before our flight back to Blighty was called.

So that was it, basically.  Just the usual boring overnight flight, when all you want to do is get home once the holiday is over.   When we did eventually land in Birmingham International Airport we got a bit of a shock, the temperature was -6°C!  Only about 36° colder than what we’d had this last fortnight.

Would I go on the Ventura again?  Probably not.  There was nothing at all wrong with the ship, the food, the entertainment or the service.  No, it was none of that.  Maybe it was because there were just too many people, yet we didn’t make any friends or have a favourite hang-out this time.  What is it they say about being lonely in a crowd?  No, give me the smaller ships any time.

Rhum Running in Grenada

Woke up this morning feeling a little bit sad, as Grenada is our last port of call; tomorrow we’d be back in Barbados and flying home later on.  So we were determined to make the most of it today 🙂

Grenada is only 21 miles long by 12 miles wide and is very scenic with volcanic craters, mountain valleys, waterfalls and lush rainforests, as well as gorgeous white sandy beaches and azure sea.  This was our first visit, so we were keen to explore.

After breakfast we left the Ventura and decided to walk into town and have a look round.  There was a big hill with a tunnel cut through it; both traffic and pedestrians went through the tunnel and there wasn’t any barriers separating the two!  The tunnel was only one way (for the traffic) but there wasn’t much room for pedestrians to pass either, so we had to be really careful.  I was actually quite relieved when we came out of the tunnel on the other side 🙂

On exiting the tunnel we found ourselves in a pretty little harbour, where fishing boats were moored up and there were lots of little shops and cafés, and little houses nestling in the hills.  It immediately reminded me of a tropical Whitby.

We walked all the way around the harbour, stopping occasionally to look in the lovely clear water, where we saw quite a number of fish of different sizes.

We came across the Grenada museum and decided to have a look inside.  It had lots of interesting artefacts from Grenada in the last century, as well as examples of stuffed birds, fish and shells.  Grenada obviously has a lot of nautical history too, and part of the museum was dedicated to the various ship wrecks which can be found all over the Caribbean.  One of the most famous sunken ships is Costa Cruises Bianca C., which sunk in Grenada after an explosion on the ship in October 1961.

As we were walking back, we saw a hairdressing salon which was advertising braiding to cruise passengers for US $15.00 on production of a ship board pass.  That was quite cheap, only a tenner in English money.  There weren’t many customers in the salon, so I asked one of the hairdressers if she could do my hair now.

It always takes ages to have corn-row plaits done and today was no exception.  It took an hour and a half, but luckily they had a TV on in the salon, showing an interesting film which we later found out was called Apocalypto and was directed by Mel Gibson.  As Trevor also had a sit for an hour and a half waiting for me, he enjoyed the film too.

Finally my hair was done and we walked back, through the tunnel again, and back onto the Ventura. I was dying of thirst by now so I enjoyed a freezing cold Red Bull and had a fairly light lunch of salad.  I didn’t eat too much as we were due to go out on the booze cruise this afternoon, and I wanted to avoid swimming on a full stomach.

After lunch we put on our swimming things under our clothes, gathered together our towels and sun creams, and congregated on the dockside to await our guide, who would escort us to the catamaran called Rhum Runner II.

Our guide and host introduced himself as Shaun and said that the Rhum Runner was the party cruise.  The catamaran had an upper and lower deck; we stayed on the lower deck as it was shaded from the very hot sun.  Shaun explained that it would take about an hour to get to the beach which was to be our destination, and in the meantime we had to PARTY!

The Rhum Runner II  set off, the soca music started, and the plastic cups were filled with rum punch and soft drinks for us to help ourselves to 🙂  I went and got a rum punch for Trevor and for myself, and we took a big swig.  Boy were they strong!  Usually rum punch just tastes like a fruity drink, but these ones definitely put the “punch” into rum punch.

We had another one each and it was just enough to make me want to get up and dance.  I did so, and one of the boat’s crew noticed me dancing and came over to me to get a “conga” started.  We went round, getting other people to  join in, and it was all good fun – just what the booze cruise is about  🙂

We managed another rum punch each and soon the Rhum Runner II was dropping anchor at a gorgeous secluded beach. They dropped the gang plank and we went ashore, placed our towels and flip-flops on the sand and put on some sun lotion.  The water was turquoise and the sand was white and powder soft; it was bliss.

Shaun came down the gang plank and asked everyone why they were on the beach and not in the sea!  He said “Who wants some more rum punch?” and the cry of “ME!” went up.  So Shaun went back onto the boat, turned the party music up LOUD and came out a few minutes later with a tray full of the plastic cups of iced punch.  He started giving them out to the people in the sea, so that was enough for me to wade out until the water was chest deep.  It was gorgeous and cool.

Shaun had an interesting way of serving out the punch; he would swim on his front with his face under water and the tray balanced on the back of his head.  You couldn’t see him in the water; all you could see was a tray of rum punch coming towards you!  We helped ourselves and swam around and sang and danced; basically we were having a party in the sea!  In fact, the few people who were on the beach when we arrived got up and moved elsewhere – I think we were making too much noise for them, ha ha 🙂

Shaun went back several times and replenished his tray; we stayed in the sea and drank and danced and had a really good time.  I told him that we went on a lot of cruises and indeed I had a website and a blog dedicated to them, and I would mention him in my blog.  So Shaun, if you’re reading this, a great big “HELLO” from England – and thanks for a really great afternoon 😀

After an hour and a half, Shaun blew on his conch shell, which was the signal for us to go back on board Rhum Runner II.  Once back on board we set off for our return to the Ventura.  To be honest, there’s not much more I can write, because I can’t really remember much about it!  Must have been a good party then, lol 🙂

Back on board the ship we returned to our cabin and crashed out on the bed.  We woke up and 6.45pm to realise we should have been at dinner and hadn’t even been washed and changed yet.  I still had my cossie on and the bed was full of sand; every time I moved I was getting a free body exfoliation.  I was ready to go back to sleep but Trevor made us a strong coffee each and, like it or not, it was our last night on the ship and we had to pack.   😦

So I got out of bed, packed our cases with all the stuff we wouldn’t need in the morning, and placed them outside the cabin door.   So we missed our dinner, missed the evening’s entertainment, missed everything that happened after 5.00pm  🙂  In lots of ways it reminded me of our day in Alter do Chão in Brazil last year, when I got sackless on caipirinhas, lol 😀   What the hell, it’s part of being on holiday!

And so there ended our final evening in cabin B238; this time tomorrow we’d be on the plane going back to Blighty.

Luscious St Lucia

We awoke this morning to the inevitable warmth and sunshine, once again in a port to which it was our second visit – Castries, the capital of the beautiful island of St. Lucia.

We decided we’d just do our own thing this day, but I was on a quest – I wanted to get my hair put into Caribbean corn-row braids 🙂

We took a slow walk into the town along the harbour, where we could see the Ventura towering over all the other vessels in the port.  Castries is very lively, if a bit shabby, and there were a lot of market stalls, as well as a covered market selling everything from hand-carved wooden souvenirs to clothing to jewellery to spices, fruits, vegetables and fish.

We had a good look round the shops and hairdressing salons, but none of them seemed to offer braiding.  I was actually quite surprised that we had got this far into the holiday without being accosted on the beach or near the cruise terminal by ladies offering to braid our hair – usually you see them everywhere, but not this time.

I did, however, spot a nice-looking shoe shop and bought myself some lovely leather sandals with a 5″ wedge heel.  They were under 20 quid, which was a bargain.  Feeling quite pleased with my purchase, we bought some postcards and went to find the inevitable bar to have a beer and write them out.

We found a little bar and had a bottle of Rooster beer each; it was strong stuff at 7.6%.  A radio blasted out reggae music which competed with the loud soca music coming from the bar next door.  When we finished, I could have put another one away, but Trevor was keen to try somewhere else as he found the blaring cacophony of music annoying.

After talking a slow stroll back to the port, we stopped at a little drinks kiosk which was playing Bob Marley music, and I had a freezing cold rum punch while Trevor had another beer.  It was pleasant just sitting there on a stool and people-watching.  A local steel band struck up a few cheerful tunes further along the quayside.

We had one more drink and went back to the Ventura in time for lunch, after which we spent some time just sitting out on our balcony reading our books and relaxing in the sun.

That evening I put on my new wedge sandals to wrax them in a bit; the heels were very high, but the wedge did make them comfortable 🙂

Instead of going to the main theatre, where Clem Curtis of “The Foundations” was performing once again, we went to the Havana to see Steve Tandy, the comedian, doing his new show.  He was very funny and we enjoyed it a lot.  Trevor said that he often preferred the secondary shows to the main one.

Then we went along to ‘Wetherspoon’s’ where they had a karaoke again.  This time I sang Dido’s White Flag, then got up to do Lynn Anderson’s Rose Garden.  I got as far as singing “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden…” when a group of women walked into the pub and stopped right in front of the TV screen with the lyrics on, completely blocking my view!  Luckily I knew all the words anyway, but they were just oblivious until I waved my hand at them in a gesture asking them to move aside.  Then they realised they were blocking the screen… they did come over later and apologise though 🙂

After the karaoke we stayed in the Exchange, as they had a quiz about film stars on.  We didn’t join in, just had a few drinks and listened to the questions.  Films and film stars isn’t really my forte; to be honest I’m not really into celebrities the way some people are.

P & O Pleasures

Today was the last full sea day on this cruise; the Ventura had only two more ports of call to visit before we’d be back in Barbados 😦

We had noticed in the daily programme that there was going to be a cruise talk at 10.00am by one of the P & O sales reps, outlining what cruises would be available in 2012 and 2013 and where the ships would be going.  What tempted us into going was the fact that, if you paid a £50.00 deposit per person today towards a future P & O cruise, you’d get your 50 quid converted to £100.00 free on-board spends.  All you had to do was book another cruise within 12 months (just book it; you didn’t have to take it within 12 months).

As it is pretty certain that we’d be going on another P & O cruise – I fancy the Adonia or the Oriana – then we thought this was a good deal, and we went along to the talk.  In fact, we’re already booked on the Arcadia for January 2013 🙂

At the talk they explained that they were going to be making a new addition to the P & O fleet; a massive ship of around 143,000 and over 4,000 passengers.  We knew we’d never go on that ship, as I’ve already mentioned several times in this blog, I thought the Ventura‘s 3,000+ passengers was too big.  So the day all cruise ships are massive is the day when we’ll stop cruising.

At 11.00am I went along to the craft class, while Trevor went to pay the 100 quid deposit for the two of us.  As I enjoy handicrafts I was interested to see what we’d be making.  It turned out to be an embroidered and sequinned felt butterfly brooch.  It was quite intricate so I didn’t get much done during the hour duration of the class, but they said we could go back again this afternoon to finish it if we wanted.

We had lunch and went out on deck to soak up the sun by the pool, and the afternoon passed by in its usual lazy way.  Then it was time to get our glad-rags on for the final formal evening and off we went to the Bay Tree for dinner.

The entertainment this evening in the Arena theatre was called “Reel to Reel” and featured scenes and songs from some of the greatest British movies.  As ever, the Headliners Theatre Company put on an excellent show.

We decided afterwards to go along to the Havana lounge as the Freddie Mercury tribute guy was performing again, but as usual all the good seats had been taken and the lounge was crowded.  We therefore went along to ‘Wetherspoon’s’ for a drink instead, then it was back to the cabin for a nightcap and bed.

Basseterre, St Kitts

Got up early this morning in a new port of call that we hadn’t visited before, that of Basseterre, capital of St Kitts.  From our balcony we looked out to see an island that appeared hilly, with lots of green and lush trees and vegetation.

Today we were going to explore some of the rainforest on foot, during a three hour walk, so we dressed accordingly; I wore cargo trousers and flat, trekker style shoes – my trousers allowed the legs to be zipped off, converting them to shorts if necessary.

We met the rest of the group, and our guide, on the quayside and off we went, in a little open-sided bus. We went through narrow, bustling, colourful streets and, at one point, the bus stopped and our guide pointed out the neighbouring island of Nevis.  We drove along the coast and admired the lovely clear sea water.

Eventually the bus pulled up at our first stop; that of Romney Manor.  This is a beautiful old manor house that was once owned by Sam Jefferson II, the great great great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of U.S.A.). The house was renamed Romney Manor following its acquisition in the early 17th century by the Earl of Romney.

The manor house is set in gorgeous landscaped gardens containing manicured lawns, flowerbeds, shrubs and different trees.  The trees are dominated by a huge, 350-year old saman tree with a trunk 24 feet in diameter, at which our guide said he would meet us in 30 minutes, leaving us some free time to look around.

Adjacent to the manor house was a batik workshop and shop, Caribelle Batik, selling the finished product.  Batik is a colourful printed fabric used for making clothing, cushions, curtains, wall-hangings and bed linen.  The plain cotton fabric is dyed in several stages; wax is painted onto the fabric which is then dipped in the dye, or painted with the dye, and the wax prevents its absorption, leaving an area of undyed fabric.  By repeating this process several times, using different waxes, dyes and stencils, it is possible to build up a patterned fabric.  We could watch the artisans carrying out this process in the workshops.  It can take weeks for some patterns to be completed and some batik fabric can cost many hundreds of pounds.

We browsed around the shop, looking at the different products, and I ended up buying a small batik drawstring bag containing three miniature bottles of the local rum.  Then it was time to meet our guide by the saman tree.

The guide walked back to the bus with us, which took us to the start of our rainforest trek.  As we alighted from the bus we were all given a stout walking staff, then the guide offered us all some fresh chilled guava juice to drink; it was lovely and thirst-quenching.  Then the guide locked up the bus and we set off on our walk.

We entered the cool shade of the forest which afforded us some respite from the already-hot tropical sun.  We were soon to see why we needed the staffs; the ground was fairly uneven as well as undulating; we went up, we went down, we went back up again, wending our way through the rainforest.  The guide pointed out an area of rocky cliff in which there were quite a few hermit crabs, reminding us we were never far from the sea.  He also identified the different leaves and herbaceous plants; in fact, it reminded me of our jungle trek in the Amazon rainforest 11 months earlier.

We continued walking at a leisurely pace along the forest trail, crossing a small river in a couple of places by means of large stepping stones (thank goodness for the walking sticks!).  We could smell the cool, damp scent of green things, and it really was very pleasant.  Plus the fact it was nice to get some proper exercise for a change instead of lounging around a pool 🙂

The walk lasted for about three hours and, just before the end, we came across an archaeological dig site in which an old rum distillery had been discovered.   We walked into the sunshine and back to the bus to a well-earned rest.

The guide opened up the bus, set up a folding table and brought out some goodies for us; more guava juice, mango and orange juice and a bottle of locally-produced rum 🙂  He handed out plastic cups of the iced juice and told us to help ourselves to the rum.  No-one rushed to do this, and someone had to be first, so I broke the seal on the bottle and Trevor and I added a healthy slug to our fruit juice.  Other members of our party followed suit 🙂

The guide also produced some savoury snacks, some delicious cake his wife had made, as well as some fresh pineapple and coconut.  It was a delightful tropical treat.  We enjoyed some more rum-infused fruit juice then boarded the bus for the return journey to the Ventura.

We’d already decided to go to a local bar and have a beer (what a surprise!) and, on the way back to the port, we spotted a local shop which had tables and chairs outside, at which one or two people were drinking beer.  So once the bus dropped us off, we went back to the bar.  But first of all, I zipped off the legs of my trousers, which were fairly muddy as a result of the walk.  I was now more suitably attired in shorts 🙂

We went into the little shop, which was just a general dealers, and bought a couple of bottles of Carib beer, which we enjoyed sitting outside.  Our table was literally at the roadside, and traffic went past in a fairly constant stream.  We had another beer before going back to the port, taking a look in the duty free shops on the way.

One of the shops sold Pandora and Chamilia beads and charms, and as I have one of these types of bracelet I bought myself a lovely pinky-peachy coloured Murano bead with a silver core.  It cost the equivalent of £23.00, which was a 12 quid saving on the Chamilia web site’s price for the same bead.  So quite a bargain then.

Back on the Ventura we showered and got ready for the evening.  Tonight was a tropical theme night which required the gents to wear their most garish Hawaiian print shirt or, if you really wanted to get into the spirit of the thing, a pirate costume.  Trevor wore his fairly sedate tropical shirt and I wore a floral printed dress.  We went along to the restaurant where, once again, there was just the three of us at the table.  Then it was into the Arena theatre for tonight’s show, which was a comedian called Mark Walker.  He was pretty good really; I must say that the entertainment, on the whole, was quite decent.  We hadn’t really come across any shows we disliked yet.

Tonight, however, we were determined to get into the Havana lounge in decent time and bag a good seat – the celebrity guest speaker on the Ventura tonight was none other than ex-England manager Ron Atkinson, who’d also managed top-flight clubs such an Man U, Aston Villa, West Brom etc.  We got a great table near the front with an unimpeded view and eagerly awaited Ron’s arrival on stage.

While Trevor went to the bar to get the drinks, a group of about six people came into the Havana lounge, walked straight down to the front and started to move a couple of empty tables and a number of chairs into position right in front of the stage… and in front of us.  I couldn’t believe the cheek of it; come in at the last minute and plonk yourself in front of someone – how rude and inconsiderate.  So I decided to get up and say something.  I went over to one of them and said that I thought it was inconsiderate for her to just pull her chair in front of other people who had made a point of coming into the lounge early to get a good seat.  She just shrugged and said “OK” but didn’t argue.

When I went back to my seat, a blonde woman came up to me and said “Before you embarrass yourself any further” (Hah!) “that’s Ron’s wife.”  I said “So? I don’t care who it is – she shouldn’t just block someone’s view like that”.  The blonde woman went back to her seat and they all looked back towards me, but they did actually move the table and chairs to one side slightly.  Really, if it was Ron’s wife, she should be sitting at the back – after all, she probably got a free cruise out of this whereas we were paying customers!

No matter though – Ron came onto the stage; in fact he walked around on the floor in front of the stage, so we did actually have an unimpeded view.  His talk was very interesting and, afterwards, I went up and asked him what he thought Sunderland’s chances were under new manager Martin O’Neill.  Ron spoke highly of Martin and said he was sure Sunderland would do well.  That was good to hear!  🙂

And so ended an interesting and eventful day.  Tomorrow we had another day at sea to look forward to, so a lie-in in the morning then.

A Nation Under Two Flags

Today the Ventura docked in the port of Philipsburg, the Dutch capital of St Maarten.  St Martin/Sint Maarten is half French and half Dutch so it is one of the Caribbean’s most interesting and diverse islands.  We had been here once before in 2005, on a cruise on the Arcadia, so instead of going on one of the organised excursions, we decided to do our own thing.

We disembarked the ship and decided to walk into the town.  As ever, it was a case of fighting our way through the throngs of taxi and minibus drivers who all wanted to take us on a tour of the island.  No sooner had you said “no, thank you” to one of them, another one would approach.  It was a wonder any of them could make a living when they were all in competition with each other.  At least they didn’t follow you along the road, or tug on your sleeve, the way they do in some countries.

We made our way down to the beach and I took off my shoes and walked along the shoreline, with the gentle waves lapping at my bare feet.  There were quite a lot of shells and I took my time to look at them to see if they’d be any use to me, as one of my hobbies is creating hand-made jewellery.  It was lovely walking along in the wet sand, listening to the relaxing sound of the sea and the birds.

After we’d walked for about half a mile, we came across a lot of interesting little shops, souvenir stalls, cafés and bars.  One bar had tables and chairs practically set out on the beach, under a thatched cover, so we decided to sit and have a cold bottle of Carib beer each.  We enjoyed it so much we actually ended up having another two each!  But it was just so pleasant and relaxing sitting there, without a care in the world, watching the people go by.  This is what being on holiday is all about 🙂

Some groups of people were going along in these sort of motorised scooters; like kids’ scooters that you stand on.  They looked like a good way to get about 🙂  However, we definitely needed the exercise that the walking gave us, so we were quite happy to use our own two feet.

There were lots of shops selling jewellery, clothing, hard-crafted goods and other souvenirs.  I spotted a shop selling humorous T-shirts and was amused to see one entitled “Schitt’s Creek Paddle Company” with a picture on the back saying don’t get caught up Schitt Creek without a paddle in St Maarten.  I just had to go in and buy it 🙂

We also bought some more cava and a selection of miniature rums and other liqueurs.  The we took a slow stroll back to the ship in time for lunch.

I would say that, so far, St Maarten has been my favourite port of call; a very pretty island.

After our usual sitting-out-on-the-balcony and our afternoon nap, we got showered and ready for dinner.  However, I decided not to go down to the Bay Tree restaurant tonight until the coffee stage; it is just far too easy to eat too much and I could feel my clothes getting tighter already.

As they were putting on a pantomime tonight, “Cinderella”, in the theatre we didn’t really fancy it, so instead we hot-footed it along to the Havana lounge where they were showing a good comedian, Steve Tandy.  Wonders will never cease, we actually managed to get a good seat tonight 🙂  Steve was a really brilliant impressionist and his show was excellent; we enjoyed it a lot.

After the show we decided to go up to the Metropolis bar again; this time the city skyline was Sydney.  We still hadn’t managed to find our favourite little niche on the ship, nor had we made any particular friends this cruise.  The Ventura isn’t the biggest ship we’ve been on (that honour goes to the Queen Mary 2) but it has the most passengers, over 3,000, so it is just too big and impersonal.  You could meet someone, have a good conversation with them, then never see them again for the rest of the cruise; such as our table companions who we’d only seen once, on New Year’s Eve.

And so ended another day as we made our way back to cabin B238 for another good night’s sleep.

Time in Tortola

This morning the Ventura docked in Road Town, Tortola.  Tortola is part of the British Virgin Islands and we had been here once before, on the Arcadia in 2005.  Tortola has a rugged volcanic landscape rising to 1,709 feet at its highest point.  It hasn’t really been developed as a major tourist haunt so its attraction lies in the fact that it is less crowded and preserves its natural charm.

When we looked out from our balcony around 8.00am we could hear a couple of cockerels crowing in the near distance.  This reminded us of last time we were here, when we saw quite a number of chickens walking about loose.  Sure enough nothing had changed, and we saw many hens and roosters pecking around the roadsides.

After breakfast we went ashore to have a look around the shops.  Last time we were here I bought an unusual pair of green wedge sandals, so I wanted to try to find the same shop and see what else I could buy 🙂

We spent quite some time browsing the shops and, indeed, I did manage to find the same shoe shop, but this time none of them took my fancy.  The fashion seems to be for completely flat sandals, and I prefer heels, even small heels to flatties.  So we just walked around and enjoyed stretching our legs a bit after the lazy day yesterday.  We didn’t end up buying anything this time, apart from some cava and a 2-litre bottle of diet Coke to go with the duty-free Absolut vodka we’d bought on the ship  🙂

Back on the Ventura we passed the time in the usual lazy, relaxing way.  We spent some time sitting out on our balcony reading our books, drinking some vodka and diet Coke and watching the world go by.  Then, after an afternoon nap, we got ready for dinner.

Tonight it was smart-casual dress and we went down to the Bay Tree restaurant; yes, it was just the three of us again at our table for six.  In the past we have always got on well with our table companions which is one of the reasons we always choose a table for six or eight, but this time it was not to be.

The entertainment in the Arena theatre featured Clem Curtis, who used to be the lead singer of the soul group The Foundations in the 60’s-70’s.  Probably their best known songs are Build Me Up Buttercup and Now That I Found You.  As I like Motown music I thought he was very good and enjoyed his show.

Afterwards we wandered around the ship, had a look out on deck, and decided to go along to the Havana lounge, as they were showing Steve Larkin as ‘Mercury Rising’; a Freddie Mercury tribute act.  As ever the Havana was packed out and we could only get a seat near the back which meant we had to watch the show on a large screen installed for that purpose.  The Havana lounge is really badly designed for live cabaret; there are hardly any good seats and even so, people tend to move their seats and tables in front of other people, so there’s a fair bit of resentment caused.

We decided to finish the evening off in the Metropolis bar at the top of the ship, where the main attraction is that they feature a famous city skyline on a large plasma screen across one wall.  Tonight’s city was Hong Kong, and as we’d been there twice before, we decided to go there.

When we entered the bar there was a fantastic panorama of the Hong Kong city scape shown at night; the first thing that struck me was the sight of the Excelsior Hotel rising up.  I stopped and stared; it was outside the Excelsior, in Hong Kong’s Gloucester Road, that my sister Tricia was tragically killed when crossing the road in October 1996.  It felt really weird seeing the Excelsior; strange how I should walk into the bar just as they were showing that.

I had a couple of cocktails and enjoyed the Hong Kong panorama (it’s a fantastic city) then it was off to bed in B238.

Just Another Sea Day :-)

Woke up once again to the predictable sunny and warm weather 🙂  Unlike Blighty where the weather is just about the most unpredictable thing there is.

We had another glorious day of lazing about to look forward to; after breakfast we brought our sunbathing stuff up to the pool deck and spent some time lying around, swimming, reading our books and drinking cocktails.  Later on we sat out on our balcony doing pretty much the same thing (apart from the swimming, lol)  😀

Tonight was another dressy-up night and, because I’d booked and paid to have my hair done on each of the formal nights, I was entitled to some free mini-treatments, including a foot and ankle massage, mini-facial and eye mask.  So I went along to the salon for a bit of pampering.

I love anyone playing with my feet, so I really enjoyed the foot massage; it was bliss.  The eye mask and facial too were very relaxing and my eyes looked brighter afterwards.  Of course, I knew it was going to be a way for them to try to sell me the products used (you don’t get owt for nowt, as we say in the North) and, sure enough, the therapist came along with the Elemis eye products she’d used, saying if I bought the set I could get them at the ‘bargain’ price of £78.00 instead of the usual £85.00.  Seventy-eight quid for some eye creams!!  No, thank you.

So the day went by in its usual lazy way, and soon I was back at the salon to have my hair put up.  Then it was into my glad-rags in time for dinner in the Bay Tree restaurant.  Once again it was just the three of us; no sign of Peter and Kate; in fact we’d only seen them once, on New Year’s Eve.

Tonight in the Arena theatre the entertainment featured a couple of young ladies playing the violin; it was called ‘String Idols’.  The music started, accompanied by the ship’s orchestra, and only a few minutes into the show it had to be halted due to some sound problems.  We waited about 10 minutes then they came back on again to continue their show.

Just then a horrid stench assailed my nostrils and I looked around, wondering what on earth it was and where it had come from.  I was in time to see an old gent a couple of rows behind me wiping vomit off his beard.  Eurgh, disgusting.  What made it worse was that he didn’t make any attempt to get up and leave; consequently the show was disrupted by people around this guy getting up and moving as far away as possible.  I had to watch the rest of the show with my hand over my nose to try to reduce the stink.  Yuk.  A good show but that spoilt it a bit and I couldn’t wait to leave the theatre.

Afterwards we went along to ‘Wetherspoon’s’ where they had a karaoke on.  I put my name down to do my usual numbers; I sang Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain as well as Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2U.  Some of the singers who got up were pretty good; for karaoke the standard was quite high for a change.

Then we had a couple of night caps and went back to B238 and turned in for the night.

Grand Turk

Today the Ventura was docked in Grand Turk, the largest of the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Last time we had been here was in 2009, on the Artemis so it was a familiar view that met us when we looked out from our balcony.  The whole island is only six miles long and has a long pier at which only one ship can dock.

The beach at Grand Turk has powder soft, white sandy beaches is dotted with small palm trees, which afforded the sun loungers a welcome shade.  We gathered together our swimming things and went ashore.  There are quite a lot of duty-free shops near the port and we spent some time looking round them, buying some more postcards.  One of the shops was selling small (50ml) bottles of various spirits, so we bought a selection to take back to our cabin to drink out on the balcony.  🙂

We did all the usual things that people do in the Caribbean; sunbathed, swam in the sea and watched the world go by.  We decided to have an ice cold beer and Trevor went to a nearby bar on the beach to get them.  They were $7.00 each (nearly £5.00!) which was extortionate, especially as the locals probably only pay about $2.00 US for them.

Some of the photographers from the ship were dressed (top half only) in dinner jackets and bow ties (they had shorts on the bottom half) and had trays with bottles of ‘champagne’ on them.  They were coming round trying to get us to pose in the sea with a glass of ‘champagne’.  As if I’m going to allow anyone to photograph me in my cossie!  :-p

At lunchtime we went back to the Ventura and I enjoyed an al fresco meal of cold meats and fresh salad as well as some more beer.  Then we went to the purser’s desk to post our postcards.

The rest of the day was just spent doing the usual; afternoon nap, sitting by the pool, enjoying a cocktail or two, then getting ready for dinner.

This evening we went to the Waterside for the dinner buffet, which was Asian.  We enjoyed a delicious selection of Chinese and Thai food, washed down with Tiger Beer.

The show tonight was called “Hot Ticket” and consisted of songs and excerpts from current West End shows, including The Phantom, Dirty Dancing and The Lion King.  I enjoyed a couple of glasses of prosecco during the show.

Later on, in ‘Wetherspoon’s’, they were having a 70’s themed quiz which was actually a lot harder than we’d imagined.  Some of the questions were pretty obscure.  Mind you, a lot of people say there’s no such thing as a ‘hard’ question; you either know the answer or you don’t.

So we didn’t do all that much today, apart from laze about and enjoy being on holiday.  🙂


Cruising the Caribbean

Another day spent at sea today.  I quite enjoy the sea days; time is of no consequence, we can just do what we like, when we like.  When we crossed the Pacific on the Volendam in 2009, we had a full nine days at sea between the USA and Japan, so it is just as well we enjoy them.  A lot of people, however, prefer to wake up in a different port every day and don’t see the point of lots of days spent on the ship.  Chac’un a son goût, however.

As it was a sea day, it was another formal night, so after breakfast I went along to the salon to get some nail extensions done, as my own nails are in an atrocious state.  I got acrylic nails done against my better judgement as they usually leave your own nails thin and weak once they are removed.  But I couldn’t stand to look at them as they were, so I got some nice glittery nails put on, giving me proper talons.  🙂

Today we just enjoyed pottering around; sitting out on the balcony reading our books and watching the flying fish, or looking our for other ships or distant land.  We also got our sun things and went up on deck to laze by the pool and enjoy some cold beer or cocktails.  Ah, this is the life!  🙂

At tea-time I went along to the salon again to get my hair put up.  I put on my purple dress with the matching bolero jacket and my sparkly Unze shoes and a gorgeous necklace I’d made with Swarovski rivolis and crystals.

In the Bay Tree restaurant it was inevitably just the three of us again; either the other couple, Peter and Kate, had changed tables or they dined elsewhere.  The meal was delicious and we enjoyed a bottle of Mateus Rosé with it.

Then we hot-footed it along to the Arena, where the entertainment tonight was in the shape of Mark Porter, a bloke who did a bit of swing, big band and easy listening music, à la Frank Sinatra.  I actually thought he was quite good and enjoyed his show, but Trevor didn’t reckon much to him.

After the show we then went along to the Exchange and had a couple of drinks, before going to the Havana, where they were showing the Chapman Brothers.  Apparently they’d been on X-Factor a few years ago, but I didn’t remember seeing them.  We actually (for a change!) managed to get a good seat in the Havana for once.  The guys were twins and they looked a bit like Jason Grimshaw out of Coronation Street.  They did a spot of soul and Motown and they were very good.  Trevor preferred them to the main event.

After a night cap we returned to B238 and turned in for the night.