Saaremaa and Singing

We were up at 7.30 this morning as we had to be ready to go on an excursion at 8.30am around the island of Saaremaa, off the Estonian mainland. Saaremaa is a new port to us, so we were looking forward to exploring.

From the top decks of the Black Watch we couldn’t see much of Saaremaa apart from dense pine forest on the shores of the sparkling Baltic sea.  We went down the gangway and boarded our waiting bus, then set off into the countryside.  Our guide told us that 75% of Saaremaa is forest, and that lumberjacks and loggers lived in small villages amongst the trees; indeed we saw huge sheds stacked floor to ceiling with logs sawn ready for the cold Estonian winters.

Our first stop was merely a photo opportunity as we found ourselves at the top of a rugged cliff called Panga Bluff, which is the highest cliff at 70 feet with forest behind us and superb sea views before us.  We had about 10 minutes to walk around and enjoy the scenery and sunshine until it was time to go back on the bus to continue our tour.

Next we visited Kaali Lake, a big round pond filled with green water which had quite a lot of lily pads on top.  The lake was actually formed as a result of a meteor striking the island about 3,000 years ago; we were looking at a crater about 120 metres in diameter filled to a depth of six metres.  Blimey!

We continued on our way through the quiet and sun-dappled trees, only occasionally coming across a cluster of houses or farm buildings, on our way to Kuressaare, the main town in Saaremaa.  This was a lot more commercialised, with shops, restaurants and bars.  On our way we stopped to have a look at the impressive Bishop’s Castle, which dated back to the 14th century.   Just outside the castle grounds we saw a mobile shop selling soft drinks as well as beer, so we each bought a can and sat on a nearby bench in the shade of the trees, to enjoy the cold beer.   🙂

After our guide had rounded us all up and we were back on the bus, we continued our trip until we came to an old 19th century farm which is now actually an open-air museum.  Looking around the buildings, with their original contents, was fascinating; we saw old farm tools and field implements, old byres and stables, and even a working blacksmith’s forge.  I was intrigued by the smithy; I’ve never actually seen horseshoes being made and seeing the guy heat the iron to just the right temperature, then hammer it into shape on the anvil, was very interesting.

Our visit to the farm was the final place on our tour, and we got back on the bus and enjoyed the rural field and forest scenery on our way back to the Black Watch.

As it was after 2.00pm when we arrived back on board and we hadn’t yet had lunch, we went straight to the Marquee Deck and enjoyed a light lunch along with a cold drink, before returning to our cabin for an afternoon power nap.  🙂

Later that evening the dress code was smart-casual or you could dress in the costume of tonight’s theme which was Rock ‘n’ Roll.  As that isn’t our era (in fact I hate the music and fashions of the 1950’s) we didn’t bother to dress up; but we saw lots of “Elvis” wannabes complete with sideburns, quiffs and inflatable guitars, as well as ladies wearing the circular skirts and bobby-socks.

Needless to say, the Show Company in the Neptune Lounge put on a production called “Love Me Tender” which featured the songs of Elvis Presley as well as other rock ‘n’ roll legends of the time.  Despite not really liking 50’s stuff, we actually enjoyed their show very much. So far we have found the entertainment on the Black Watch for this cruise to be excellent over all.

After the show we headed up to the Lido Lounge, not for the quiz this time, but because they were having a Prize Karaoke.  Yay!  A chance for me to get up in the limelight for a few minutes, and apparently every singer who got up to do a number won a prize (allegedly).   🙂

I put my name down to do Dido’s White Flag and I was the first one called up.  There were 20 prizes on offer, ranging from fairly good ones (e.g. bottle of bubbly, a round of drinks for four persons, half a carafe of wine, free cocktail of the day, Fred Olsen goodie bag etc.) to some really crap ones that couldn’t actually be called ‘prizes’ (e.g. a free glass of tap water, a tea bag, free use of the swimming pool or a toilet roll!).  Knowing my luck, I’d get one of the rubbish prizes.

I sang my song and randomly selected a number from 1 to 20.  Just my luck – I ‘won’ the free glass of water. Big deal!   🙂

Next up was a bloke who did a really good rendition of Frank Sinatra; it turned out he used to be a club/pub singer.  He won free use of the 24-hour coffee station (ha ha, it’s free anyway!).

I decided to try my luck again and got up to sing These Boots Are Made for Walking by Nancy Sinatra – this time I won a free half-carafe of house wine, but as we are travelling “all inclusive” it wouldn’t really make any difference (typical!).  But they allowed me to trade it for a free cocktail of the day, so I enjoyed a nice cold mojito.   🙂

One of the barmen got up to do a really good (and funny) version of Stayin’ Alive, complete with the Bee Gees trademark falsetto notes.  He won a free bottle of bubbly which he donated to another passenger in the room.  Typical how the crew won one of the better prizes!

Other singers got up, winning anything from fridge magnets to keyrings to some of the booby prizes like free use of the gym.  Then there was a break while the resident singer, Pat Shannon, got up to do a few numbers.  During that time the lounge filled up with more passengers, including Geordies John and Linda, who came over to join us.

The second half of the karaoke started off with Jackie, the deputy cruise director, and Lynn, the female half of duo “Serendipity” doing the really difficult Enough is Enough by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer.  Lynn picked a number and won the Fred Olsen goodie bag which is a cool bag filled with useful knick-knacks like a shopping bag, alarm clock, notebook, folding sunhat, sewing kit and other things – I think it was the best of the prizes on offer.

After another couple of singers got up, no other names were on the list to sing, so I volunteered to get up and do one more.  I sang Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U and got a massive cheer and round of applause, even from Geordie John who said I sang very well “for a Mackem”.  My ‘prize’ this time was a Twining’s teabag, whoopee!   :-/

Just then, Lynn from Serendipity came over and donated her Fred Olsen goodie bag to me, as she said she felt I deserved it when I’d got up and sang three times and only won rubbish prizes.  So that was very kind of her and it meant I got the top prize after all!   🙂

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