Monday is Sun Day

We woke up this morning to a relaxing day at sea. In fact, I felt a little under the weather – maybe it was all the beers and tropical cocktails I had yesterday. 😦

I soon sorted myself out with a couple of paracetamol washed down with a gargantuan drink of water, and a plate of bacon, sausage, fried egg, mushrooms and black pudding at breakfast.

Afterwards we wandered around the topmost deck, watching the birds diving for flying fish. We saw the surface of the sea come alive with a massive shoal of the fish, while the birds swooped and dived and, more often than not, successfully caught their prey. The sun was very hot on my back and it wasn’t long before I sought the coolness of the shade.

At 10:30am it was time to go along to the Curzon Lounge for the final talk by aviation expert Colin Hobbs. This time his presentation focused on the giant aircraft such as the iconic Boeing 747 and the truly huge Airbus A380, a double-decker aeroplane that holds over 700 people. As ever, it was an interesting talk interspersed with Colin’s amusing anecdotes and jokes. 🙂

Lunch was a delicious barbecue out of the Crystal Pool deck, and afterwards we met up with Colin in the Conservatory. I work in IT and, the other night, Colin had asked me about alternative operating systems to Microsoft Windows. I advised that Linux was an excellent choice, and was free! I explained in some detail about the different Linux distributions and recommended that, for a Windows user wanting to make the transition the best options would be with Linux Mint or Ubuntu. As I had my laptop with me, which uses Ubuntu, I offered to demonstrate it to Colin and answer any questions he had. A computer tech’s work is never done… 😉

At quarter past two we went up to the Crow’s Nest for the final round of the “Battle of the Sexes”. We had an extra couple join in this time, so the ladies had five and the men four on their teams. The first round was “identify the celebrity” and the second round was “what’s the phrase?” based on those Dingbat type puzzles. For some reason the answers to those just popped into my head instantly, so the ladies knocked spots off the men in this round.

The final round was music; a short excerpt of a song/tune was played and you had to state the title of the song and the artist. Once again the women excelled, and indeed we won this round, and the competition overall! Yaayy!! Each team, however, won a bottle of wine, so we enjoyed a nice bottle of white, shared out between five of us. 🙂

We sat around a bit, watching a Wii bowling competition and enjoying our wine, before going and getting sorted out. As it was a sea day, then tonight was formal night once again.

We sat out on the balcony for a while, then got ourselves titivated up and dressed in our gladrags; I wore a long burgundy dress with sequins on the bodice, and a matching sequinned jacket, teamed with a gorgeous and unusual Murano necklace.

Then it was up to the restaurant to eat far too much as usual. I really will have to go on a strict diet once we get back home. 😦

The show tonight was a new guy we hadn’t seen before; he must have just joined the ship in St. Kitts. He was called Mike Sterling and had performed in the Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables in London’s West End. We was a decent singer and we enjoyed his show, especially when he did The Music of the Night.

Afterwards we went to the Crow’s Nest where the classical guitarist Robin Hill was explaining the different guitar techniques and effects as well as demonstrating them. We stayed until it was time to go to the syndicate quiz, where we found John and Linda already waiting for us, having requested the bottle of wine. So we were about to enjoy our second freebie bottle of the day! 🙂

As we were last night’s winners, we started the quiz on -1 points, which is the winners’ handicap. We didn’t win tonight, only managing to come third, but we weren’t complaining; we enjoyed the quiz anyway.

I was pretty tired by now, so we went back to our cabin where I read a while, before falling asleep, lulled by the sound of the waves. Tomorrow we were due to reach Port of France, Martinique.

Relaxing in St. Kitts

We were up early once again this morning and out onto the balcony for a look round. Today we were docked in the port of Basseterre, capital of St. Kitts & Nevis. We’d been here once before, in 2012; we therefore decided, like yesterday, to pass the time at our own pace instead of going on an organised excursion. Moored next to us in the dock and blocking the view was the massive Royal Princess that we’d seen in Antigua.

We spent some time reading the leaflet about St. Kitts and studying a map of the island. We thought we might walk to the railway station (which was only 1.5km away) and see if we could go on the St. Kitts scenic railway; P&O had offered an organised trip to do this, but it was expensive at £64.00 each, so we thought if we went ourselves it would work out cheaper.

At the entrance to the cruise terminal Trevor asked the guy on duty how much the train ride was, but the guy said that it only accepted pre-booked tickets from the cruise passengers, and you couldn’t just buy a ticket for the train. Trevor was sceptical about this however, and decided to go and give it a try anyway.

We set off along the hot and dusty streets in the general direction of the railway station. Although it was less than a mile and would normally only take us about 17 minutes, the shimmering heat made it hard going. Despite the map we found that a lot of the streets didn’t have prominent street names, and we soon left behind the shops and restaurants and found ourselves in the middle of an estate of ramshackle houses, the train station nowhere in sight.

It was hot, sticky and not particularly pleasant walking through the grubby streets with nowhere to shelter from the sun, and I soon got fed up and wanted to abandon the search the for the train station, especially when there was no guarantee we’d even get on the train. We therefore decided to head for the sea and perhaps look for a nice beach, or see if we could get the water taxi over to the neighbouring island of Nevis.

We walked down to the ferry terminal, but as it was Sunday there were only two ferries a day, one at 9:00am (which we’d missed) and one at four o’clock, which was too late. So much for that.  😦

We then decided to seek the shade and have a cold beer (!!) each, so we found a nearby local snackbar which sold Carib beer, three bottles for five dollars, and we bought some. A small monkey was tethered up in the bar and there was a box where you could make a donation if you wanted to have your photo taken with the monkey.

We enjoyed our beer, then decided to have a look around some of the shops. Tonight was Tropical Night on the Adonia with a Caribbean buffet followed by a deck party and, even though I’d brought a fairly colourful dress with me, I spotted some cotton off-the-shoulder maxi dresses in the brightest of designs and colours, at only $22.00 each. I therefore went in and bought one. 🙂

We strolled around and browsed the shops, then spotted a sign at the casino offering Carib beer at a dollar a bottle – it was obviously designed to tempt people into the casino but we were more attracted by the free wi-fi. We sat at a long table outside and ordered a beer each, checked emails etc. then got talking to another couple who joined us; they were passengers from the Royal Princess and hailed from Ontario, Canada.

We passed a pleasant hour or so in conversation with the couple, enjoying another beer each, before deciding to go back to the Adonia and enjoy a cool, refreshing swim once again. We then ate a light lunch, and went back to our cabin to enjoy a siesta.

We then later sat out on the balcony, looking across to the giant ship opposite. A tremendous din of many voices, shouting, laughing and catcalling came from the Royal Princess and we could see people sitting out on their balconies. When the time came for the Royal Princess to depart, it did the same as it did last time – played a tune on its foghorn. This time, however, Adonia responded with a long, loud blast of her own! 🙂

After a couple more foghorn blasts between both ships, Royal Princess slowly started moving out of her berth, passengers from both ships waving at each other. At the end of the Royal Princess someone was holding up a giant red foam waving hand, and a cheer went up when the Adonia responded with a yellow one! 🙂

Once the Royal Princess had departed, two things struck us at once. One was how quiet it now seemed, the other was how much brighter our cabin was, now that the sunlight wasn’t being blocked out!

We got ourselves ready for the tropical night; I wore the colourful dress I’d bought along with a wig I’d brought with me – it’s a Tina Turner style but it’s red, blue, yellow and green. Trevor wore his tropical shirt along with a Bob Marley dreadlocks wig, and we each donned the leis that we’d been given on embarkation. Thus attired, we made our way to the pool deck amidst many comments about our get-ups.  🙂

After we’d eaten we decided we’d go to the early show; you always finish your meal much quicker when it’s self-service than you do when it’s a formal meal in the dining room. So we were done by 7:00pm and were able to go into the Curzon lounge for the first performance at 7:15.

Tonight’s show was called Night of a Thousand Stars and featured the Adonia Theatre Company doing their tribute to the many, many artistes who have performed at the London Palladium over the decades. It was a decent show but there are only five performers; three dancers and two singers, so it wasn’t as glitzy as some shows we’ve seen on other ships.

Afterwards we went back to the Crystal Pool deck and enjoyed a couple of drinks as the Adonia sailed along under a warm tropical sky. Both the band and the Amethyst Duo were playing lively reggae tunes and, as more people had their dinners, the deck area soon filled up, as did the dance area in front of the stage. We commented that we would normally have been in bed by now, ready to go to work in the morning. But we were here instead.  🙂

We then went along to the Conservatory for tonight’s syndicate quiz, and we were completely on form, because we won! Yes! We now have the hat-trick. When they offered us the bottle of wine, we asked them to keep it for us until tomorrow night. 🙂

We returned to the deck party and, in fact, Trevor and I were the last to leave of the passengers; only us and some of the entertainment team remained until it was almost midnight. Then back we went to cabin A006, but we weren’t tired yet and it was such a lovely, balmy evening. So we poured ourselves a rum and tropical juice drink, added lots of ice, and took them to enjoy out on the balcony. I put my feet up on the railings, looked at the silvery path on the sea created by the moon, gazed at the stars above in the black velvet skies and listened to the sound of the waves washing against the Adonia’s side. Absolutely gorgeous, all of it. What a perfect way to end an evening. 🙂

Time in Tortola

We woke up this morning docked in the port of Road Town, capital of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. We had been here twice before; on the Arcadia in 2005 and the Ventura in 2012, so we didn’t have any excursion booked today, just deciding to do our own thing.

We spent the morning relaxing and pottering about; Trevor wanted to watch the West Ham v Sunderland match which was being shown at 08:45am (12:45pm at home) as we had nothing to do and all day to do it in. Sunderland lost 1-0. 😦

Afterwards we gathered together hat, sunglasses, sunscreen etc. and disembarked the Adonia for a slow walk into town. It was not yet 11 o’clock but the tropical sunshine was already very hot indeed. We haven’t seen a drop of rain so far this cruise, and in fact the Caribbean sea has been very calm; most of the time you wouldn’t even know you were on a ship, as the Adonia‘s motion has been barely discernible.

Tortola has changed a lot since we were last here, four years ago. We were somewhat perturbed to see that there have been a lot of new, swanky buildings and a shopping precinct built, and there was further evidence of an even greater expansion to the cruise terminal. To me, they are spoiling Tortola; we liked it better when it was a fairly undeveloped port, with little shops, boutiques and refreshment shacks and little cafés and bars, and chickens pecking desultorily at the roadsides. They are going to turn Tortola into an Americanised, commercialised, gilt-edged tacky place like Nassau or Cozumel, with your rip-off merchants and casinos and the ubiquitous Diamonds International. What a shame that some of the lovely Caribbean islands are losing their uniqueness in the name of money-making.

We didn’t really do much; we just looked round the shops and wandered around, then found a stall selling souvenirs and postcards and got a couple to send home. Then, of course, we had to find somewhere to sit and write them out, which would also offer a respite from the sun. We spotted an English-style pub called “Pussers” and went gratefully into its cool, dim interior.

The pub was doing a lively trade. It was filled with nautical memorabilia, reminding us of Tortola’s Royal Naval history and heritage. There were lots of old photos and ship’s wheels, lamps, ropes and life-belts and other maritime mementos.

We enjoyed a cold Carib beer each while writing out the postcards; afterwards we decided to go back on board and enjoy a swim before lunch, anything to cool down really. 🙂

Back on the Adonia we changed and made our way up to the Crystal Pool deck, where few people were around, so we had the pool all to ourselves. Kicking off our shoes, we had to move fast to get into the water as the deck was too hot under our bare feet. It was gorgeous and refreshing in the water, and we swam lazily around for 20 minutes or so, before getting out, drying off and enjoying a light al fresco lunch in the shade.

We didn’t really do much after that. We just relaxed on our balcony and I did some kumihimo braiding and read my Kindle, and just generally whiled away the time in its usual pleasant way until it was time to start getting ready for dinner.

The show in the Curzon lounge featured another show from Lion King singer Phillip Browne; once again his performance was excellent. We then went up to the Crow’s Nest where there was a performance by classical guitarist Robin Hill which was a pleasant and relaxing interlude.

Then, as ever, we finished off by participating in the syndicate quiz but once again our hat-trick of wins eluded us.

Then it was back to cabin A006 to settle down for the night, and once again we slept soundly.

Plane Spotting in St. Maarten

We were up early again this morning and after breakfast, as we were wandering around the deck taking in our surroundings, we met Colin, who asked us if we were going out to the airport. As we had nothing organised for today, we impulsively decided that it sounded like a good idea. We agreed to meet in Reception at 10:30am.

This is our third visit to St. Maarten, a nation under two flags – half Dutch and half French. It has the most gorgeous beaches, blue ponds and green hills and each side maintains its parent country’s tradition and culture. There is so much to see and do in St. Maarten.

We spent the time going up to the topmost deck and looking to see which other ships were in port. We spotted the Jewel of the Seas which we’d seen in Antigua and saw another RCI giant coming into port, the massive Anthem of the Seas. It towered over everything and we noticed it had eight balcony decks alone, compared to the Adonia‘s three.

Just before half-past ten we made our way to reception where Colin and Christine were already waiting. We were presently joined by Bob and Thelma from our table, as well as another couple who introduced themselves as Ken and Sue. We decided we’d shared a mini-bus to Maho Beach.

We disembarked the Adonia and made our way dockside to the taxi ranks, which were doing a lively trade. We explained there were eight of us so we were taken to an air-conditioned mini-bus, where the female driver, Sonia, told us it would be $8.00 each person, each way.

We all piled into the mini-bus and set off through the busy streets thronging with traffic, looking with interest at the colourful buildings and the bustling, Friday morning activity. It took about an hour to get to Maho Beach, and specifically the Sunset Bar & Grill, situated right on the beach at the end of the International Airport runway.

Yes, you read that correctly; the beach bar was set at the end of the runway. Maho Beach is actually very well-known the world over for its unique location, and already, even though it was only 11:30am, the bar was doing a roaring trade and the beach was crowded with people of all nationalities, but mainly passengers from the cruise ships that were in.

We agreed to meet again around 1:00pm then went our separate ways. There was a board up next to the bar, showing the times of the flight arrivals. The one we were particularly interested in was a KLM Boeing 747, or “jumbo jet”. 🙂

We kicked off our shoes and walked along the shoreline, allowing the warm Caribbean sea to lap at our ankles. The sand was almost white and was powder soft. As we walked along the beach we found ourselves directly at the end of the fenced-off runway, immediately under the flight path of the aircraft. Large signs were in evidence advising against the dangers of jet blast; apparently it was not unknown for brave (or stupid) people to stand right behind the jumbo jets as they were taking off, allowing themselves to be blasted over the road, across the beach and into the sea; that’s if they didn’t do themselves severe damage (or worse) in the process.

We watched as one or two small aircraft came in, just 50 feet or so above the beach, then we decided to find a shady spot and enjoy some freezing cold beer.

The Sunset Bar offered a “bucket of beer”, buy five bottles of Corona and get the sixth free, so we decided to go for that. The bottles were placed into the ice-filled bucket and we enjoyed one each while people-watching, plane-watching and just soaking up the happy, laid-back atmosphere.

Just before midday we spotted an aeroplane in the distance, getting ready to turn for his final approach, It looked as though it was fairly big, so we decided to walk out onto the beach a bit, directly under the flight path, Trevor with his camera at the ready and me carrying the bucket of beer. All around us we could see people getting their cameras, cam-corders, selfie sticks etc. ready and placing themselves in a good vantage point.

The aircraft came closer and closer until we saw that it was, indeed, the KLM jumbo, its landing light shining straight at us. The plane descended, lower and lower, until it was less than 50 feet above our heads. It came in with a deafening roar and a whine of jet engines and, as it landed just beyond the fence, we were sand-blasted with the thrust from the jet engines. Anything not fastened down was just blown away. 🙂

What a great experience! That giant plane which barely seemed to skim the rooftop of the bar was really a sight to behold! We were pleased that Colin had suggested it to us, and we certainly know what we’ll be doing next time we visit St. Maarten. 🙂

We watched a few more planes come in; one was an American Airlines jet and we got talking to a couple of people next to us who were passengers on the Anthem. We passed a pleasant interlude with them and then, because the very hot sun was beating down on us and we had no sun protection with us (!) we made our excuses and fled to the shelter of the bar, where we finished the rest of our beer.

We then met up with Colin and Chris and the rest of the gang and I went into the souvenir shop and bought a t-shirt (yes, you have to buy the t-shirt!) before we made our way back to the mini-bus for the return journey to the Adonia, arriving back about 2:15pm. We then went for something to eat before heading back to cabin A006 for a hot-sun-and-beer induced afternoon nap.

Just before 5:00pm we went out on our balcony and watched the departure of the Anthem of the Seas before getting showered, shampooed and ready for dinner. In the restaurant we all discussed the day’s events, sights and sounds over the usual delicious meal.

The show tonight featured an excellent comedy magician called MarkShortland. We had seen him before on the Balmoral four years ago. He really is very entertaining and we thoroughly enjoyed his show. Afterwards, as ever, it was a case of a relaxing drink in the Crow’s Nest before making our way to the Conservatory for the syndicate quiz with John and Linda. We enjoyed our winnings from last night, a nice chilled bottle of white wine. But no bottle of wine for us tonight – we didn’t win. Oh well, there’s always another night.

Strolling in St. John’s

This morning we woke up in St. John’s, the capital of Antigua. We had been here once before, in 2005 on the Arcadia, so today we were not going on an organised tour, but were rather doing our own thing.

When we looked out on our balcony, all we could see was what appeared to be a block of flats over-shadowing us, but it turned out we were docked alongside one of the mammoth American cruise ships; this one was the Royal Princess. The Adonia looked like a little pup moored up next to her!

Another two giant cruise ships were docked nearby as well; the Costa Favelosa and the Jewel of the Seas. We could therefore expect Antigua to be very crowded today, with over 10,000 cruise passengers alone invading St. John’s. For me, it spoilt it a bit, it made the island very commercialised, and indeed the Heritage Quay, directly in front of the cruise terminal, thronged with visitors walking through the slightly tacky souvenir shops and places like ‘Diamonds International’ just looking to over-charge the unsuspecting holiday-maker.

After breakfast we disembarked the Adonia and decided to escape the crowds a little bit. We walked through the noisy terminal, over which could be heard the inevitable sounds of Caribbean steel drums, and made our way through the streets of shops, travel agents, offices and bars. The sun was already very hot. We didn’t have any particular place to go and we refused numerous offers of “Taxi?” as we walked along.

We decided first of all to visit the cathedral of St. John, set in a picturesque position surrounded by mahogany trees and a small churchyard. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1845 to replace an earlier wooden building that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1843. The interior was designed to encase the congregation in pitch pine (in an attempt to secure the building from ruin during earthquake or hurricane) and is now undergoing a huge renovation project. Although there were signs up saying it was a construction site and therefore a hard hat area, nobody was stopped from going in and having a (limited) look around, where we were invited to make a donation to assist in the restoration.

The church was at the top of a gradual rise, and it afforded us good views of the cruise ships (and other vessels) in the harbour.

Continuing on our way we came to an interesting-looking, imposing building which had several vintage steam locomotives outside. They were mainly trains that were used to travel to, from and on the sugar plantations. We wondered if it was a railway museum as there was a placard outside saying that Antigua has more railway lines per square mile than anywhere else in the world. However, the building was the former courthouse built during the British colonial times of 1750, which since 1985 has been the Museum on Antigua & Barbuda. It only cost $3.00 per person admission, so we decided to go inside and take a look.

It was very interesting in the museum. Exhibits and displays took the visitor back in time through Antigua’s history, from its beginnings over 35 million years ago to the times of the Arawak Indians, the slavery era to the present day. People always associate Antigua with the Royal Navy, Horatio Nelson, pirates, shipwrecks and, of course, rum, and the island is steeped in a rich maritime history. There are also quite a number of shipwrecks off the coasts of both Antigua and Barbuda, and these are popular with divers.

We spent an enjoyable hour in the museum, then took a slow stroll in the hot sun back to the Heritage Quay search for a bar and enjoy a cold beer. We found an open-air place selling the local Wadadli beer; it was noisy and crowded and full of Americans from the ships. The beer was cold, foamy and refreshing but we only stayed for one, preferring instead to go back to the relative peace and quiet of the Adonia.

Back on the ship we enjoyed an afternoon nap, before spending the rest of the time pottering around and sitting on our balcony, looking across with interest at the people sitting on their balconies in the Royal Princess. An American couple opposite us shouted across to ask us where we had boarded; we replied that it was Barbados. They had joined their cruise in Fort Lauderdale. It seemed strange to be carrying on a conversation from one ship to the next!

At about 5:00pm the Royal Princess gave a resounding blast of her foghorn to signify her imminent departure. It wasn’t the regular three blasts, however; it played the notes of some unrecognisable tune. How tacky! It seems to me that the American ships want to try to give the passengers (or rather, “guests” as they call them) as little a nautical experience as possible, which somewhat defeats the object of cruising. The day all cruise ships are built like these giant floating apartment blocks is the day Trevor and I will stop cruising.

We watched as the Royal Princess slowly manoevred herself out of her berth, and put to sea. She was followed shortly afterwards by the Costa Favelosa. As it was now about 5:45pm we needed to start getting ready for dinner, so we reluctantly went inside.

As ever, we enjoyed a delicious meal, entertained by Colin’s patter and jokes. Our next port of call is St. Maarten, and as an aviation expert he asked us whether we’d ever taken a ride out to the airport in Phillipsburg (the capital). We shook our heads and he explained that it was a sight to behold, as the aircraft come in right over the beach. He said he would organise a mini-bus if anyone on our table was interested.

The show in the Curzon lounge tonight featured the Adonia Theatre Company and was called “Songs from 88 Notes”, after the 88 notes on a piano. We’d actually seen the same show three years ago when we were on this ship. It was enjoyable enough, but although the theatre company are good, I don’t think they are as good as others we’ve seen; on our last cruise on the Boudicca for example, the overall entertainment was much better. Still, it’s not costing anything and it passes a pleasant interlude.

Afterwards we went up on deck where the Amethyst Duo were “singing” some 60s and 70s music for the themed deck party. There weren’t many people up there, whether because there was a brisk sea breeze or because of the dire singing, but I enjoyed a glass of prosecco (Yes! They actually have some in!), did some of this blog, and then it was time to try our hand once again at the syndicate quiz with John and Linda. So far we’d only had one win, so we were due another one.

We started off quite badly in the quiz, only scoring two out of the first five questions. However, we seemed to perk up after that and, after the 20 questions, we were joint leaders with another team. So it went to a tiebreaker, and we actually won! Yaayyy! Once again we chose the bottle of house white, which was quite palatable last time, and we took it back to our cabin so we could enjoy it tomorrow night. 🙂

So ended a pleasant and interesting day, and we turned in, after first of all opening our balcony door to let in the soothing sounds of the sea.

Point-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

We were up early again this morning, in time to see the Adonia dock in Point-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. Gaudeloupe is one of the French overseas départements and it looked quite a well-developed port, from what we could see from our vantage point on after breakfast on Deck 9. The currency here is the Euro.

We disembarked the ship to meet with the rest of the tour group. This morning we were booked on the “Guadeloupe Highlights” tour which would give us a good overview of the island.

We walked through the cruise terminal buildings, passing many colourful stalls selling clothing, souvenirs, drinks, bric-à-brac, spices and everything else you could think of. We thought the prices were a little dearer than elsewhere in the Caribbean. We would need to find an ATM as we didn’t have any Euros with us, only US dollars. But that could wait until after the tour.

We boarded the bus and the guide introduced herself as Natalie, with Gilbert as our driver. We set off through the charming little streets, each with very individual private dwellings, many with French cars (Peugeot, Citroën and Renault) parked outside them. It looked as if it was a place where I could live quite easily. Many of the houses were semi-concealed behind lush herbiage, and a lot of them featured their own swimming pools.

Our first stop was at a waterfall, the Cascades aux Ecrevisses. We made our way down a series of stone steps, following the roaring sound of the water. The steps were quite uneven and you had to watch where you were putting your feet. The waterfalls cascaded into a lovely natural pool, which was obviously deep judging by the people swimming in it. I wished we’d brought our swimsuits and that we had more time, because it looked absolutely idyllic. Trevor clambered over some rocks to get a good enough view for a photograph, but I prudently stayed where I was, as I didn’t fancy slipping. Natalie told us that the waterfall was one of numerous ones to be found around the island.

Back on the bus we continued on our way, passing fields where the ripening sugarcane grew tall. Natalie explained how the slave ships brought the plantation workers over from Africa to plant, harvest and process the sugarcane which was (and still is) used to make refined sugar as well as one of the Caribbean’s most famous exports, rum. 🙂

Next we stopped at the botanical gardens, and alighted from the bus into the hot sunshine. As we walked through the lush, tropical gardens with their colourful flowers and plentiful greenery, we kept in the shade of the trees where possible. Many exotic birds flew around, including hummingbirds, which looked particularly striking with their black and bright blue/turquoise plumage. They flitted from flower to tree to flower again, their little beating wings creating a blur. The wings of hummingbirds flap at approximately 50 times a second, meaning that they can hover like bumblebees and even fly backwards. I managed to get a good photo of a hummingbird perched on a vivid pink flower.

It was lovely in the botanical gardens, sampling a small example of what Mother Nature had to offer. We looked at many different trees (some with breadfruit, nutmeg, coffee and cocoa) as well as herbs and other medicinal plants, and of course lots of exotic blooms, insects and birds.

After about 45 minutes it was time to go along to the small concession area, where we had a voucher to collect a cool glass of guava juice, as well as the chance to use the restrooms if we needed to. We sat in the shade and enjoyed our juice, and watched as a little bird flew down and dipped his long beak into one of the beakers of juice on the bar.

Suitably refreshed, we were all back on the bus for the next stop, which was to a rum distillery. Rum is my spirit of choice so I was looking forward to this part of the trip. 🙂

We arrived at the Longueteau distillery and alighted from the bus, where a short walk took us to the cane processing plant. Where once the sugarcane was cut by hand, using hundreds of workers wielding machetes to cut down the tough stalks, nowadays the cane is all cut by machine, and each cane is chopped into lengths of about 6” which makes it easier to put into the machines which press the cane to extract the juice.

We saw the long conveyor belts carrying the sticks of cane to the chopping and pressing machines, and also a couple of very large vats in which the sugar cane juice was bubbling and fermenting away in its quest to make rum. Afterwards we were shown the barrels (the most popular size of which was the hogshead) in which the rum was stored to mature. Some of the barrels had previously held sherry or port, and this served to impart a delicate flavour to the maturing spirit.

Afterwards it was into the shop to taste the various rums and rum liqueurs and punches on offer. We tried an aged golden rum which was like brandy, as well as a white rum and some of the blends, including piña colada and coffee. We decided to buy a bottle of the golden rum to take home, and a bottle of the piña colada for consumption in our cabin. 🙂

There ended our tour and it was now time to return to the Adonia in time for lunch.

Back on board we enjoyed a light lunch before venturing ashore once again, to do our own thing. We found an ATM and withdrew some Euros, then we walked along the very busy and very hot streets – a nearby temperature readout showed that it was 32ºC, and it certainly felt like it. There were lots of shops, mainly selling clothing, shoes and household linens such as curtains, sheets and towels.

We found a newsagent and bought half a dozen postcards, then purchased the stamps at a nearby bar-tabac. All we needed now was to find a bar and enjoy a cold beer while writing them out. 🙂

Eventually we found a pleasant little place which had chairs and tables in the shade outside. We enjoyed a glass of Stella Artois each while writing out the cards and people-watching. Then, after posting the cards, off we went back to the ship, as the time was now getting on. On the way, however, we passed a supermarket that sold booze, so we went in and got a couple of bottles of cava to enjoy in our cabin, as the Adonia doesn’t seem to have any Prosecco! 😉

Back on board I took a refreshing shower and did my hair, then just spent the time pottering about until it was time to go to dinner. Tonight, however, we didn’t go to the restaurant, but instead to the Conservatory, where they were serving a Thai Buffet. We enjoyed a selection of spicy and delicately-flavoured foods (including ginger-spiced prawns, which were delicious) all washed down with cold Tiger beer.

Then it was along to the Curzon lounge for tonight’s show, a West End singer called Phillip Browne. This former London bus driver has starred in The Lion King, Porgy and Bess, Show Boat and several other productions. He was a great singer, a deep bass-baritone with a voice like melted chocolate – smooth and mellow. I would probably say that his show was the best we’ve seen so far on this cruise, and we looked forward to seeing a further performance from him.

Afterwards, as ever, we took part in the syndicate quiz with John and Linda, but we didn’t win this time. Mind you, we didn’t come last either, so it wasn’t too bad.
We finished off the evening with a couple of drinks up in the Crow’s Nest before heading back to cabin A006 and settling down for a good night’s sleep.

A Relaxing Day at Sea

We were up at 07:30 this morning and went out on the balcony to see what the weather was like. Although it was already warm and sunny, there was a brisk breeze blowing as the Adonia cut her way through the waves, leaving a foaming white wake behind her.

We put on our swimsuits, grabbed our pool towels and made our way up to Deck 9. Not many people were around this time of the morning, but the wind was stronger here so rather than go for a swim, I decided to spend some time in the hot tub.

The water was a lovely warm temperature and I set the jets away and luxuriated in the bubbling water for a while. It was blissful. All I needed was a glass of champers, but 07:45 in the morning was a bit early, even for me!  😉

I spent the maximum time allowed of 15 minutes in the jacuzzi which was enough to wake me up and invigorate me somewhat. Then we went back to the cabin to get dried and changed, and go for breakfast.

As we were going back to the cabin, one of the salon staff handed me a leaflet advertising a special offer; choose any five mini-treatments for £69.00. I decided that would be a perfect way to spend an hour, so I went along and made an appointment for 1.00pm, choosing a neck and shoulder massage, a mini-facial, eye treatment, scalp massage and deep conditioning treatment for my hair.

We spent the morning just pottering around the ship, until it was time to go to another of Colin Hobbs’ aviation presentations at 11:00am. This time the topic covered supersonic travel and the inimitable Concorde. It was very interesting, made more so by the fact that Trevor and I have been privileged enough to have flown on Concorde twice. As far as I, and many other people are concerned, she should still be flying.

The end of the presentation took us nicely to lunch time, and I enjoyed a light meal of cold meats and salad. Then it was time for me to go along to the spa for my hour of pure relaxation.

In the salon, I changed into a white waffle bathrobe, and was shown to a large reclining chair by the window, with a floor to ceiling window giving an excellent sea view. The therapist started off by giving me a soothing scalp massage, followed by a facial and eye mask. Then she put the hair conditioning treatment on and, while it was doing its thing, she gave me a neck and shoulder massage. She had fingers of steel and I had to ask her to ease off before I started to feel like tenderised steak!  My skin did feel lovely and smooth after the facial though.

When I came out of the spa, it was time to go along to the Crow’s Nest for the second session of “Battle of the Sexes”. In the first round there were 10 close-up photos of everyday objects and you had to say what they were; they consisted of everything from a stapler, clothes peg and umbrella. The second round consisted of photos of parts of celebrities’ faces. If neither team got the answer correct, then a clue would be given but the total points were reduced from 20 to 10.

At the end of both rounds, the men were winning. Adding the scores to the totals scored last time mean that the men’s team are now five points ahead of the ladies, so it’s very close.

After the quiz it was time to go along and get showered, shampooed and sorted out as, once again, tonight was formal night. I wore a long black dress with a gorgeous fine mesh wrap in eau-de-nil, which was edged in red velvet and contained elaborate embroidered and sequinned patterns at the edge. I teamed it with a beaded necklace I’d made, with hand-made lampworked glass beads. The beads matched the wrap perfectly.

Dinner was delicious as ever, but we were of the increasing opinion that Bob on our table likes to find fault with everything. No matter what we were talking about, whether it was ships, cruises or ports of call, Bob would find something negative to say about it. It must be awful to have that sort of outlook on life; as readers of this blog will know, Trevor and I have travelled far and wide and stayed in hotels or been on ships ranging from excellent to mediocre, but on the whole we’re fairly easily pleased – as long as our accommodation is clean and comfortable, we don’t expect gilt edging (unless we’ve paid for it). People who complain all the time mustn’t be happy people in their lives in general.

After our meal we went along to the Curzon lounge where tonight’s entertainment consisted of the two classical acts we’d seen so far – the cellist Andrew Scrimshire and the Welsh soprano Gwawr Edwards. Both were very good, but I was starting to feel quite tired by now and knew I wouldn’t be staying up too late tonight.

We ended the evening, as ever, by participating in the syndicate quiz. There were only three of us this time as John had gone to bed. We didn’t do very well; coming joint bottom. 😦

I was ready to go back to the cabin by then, and settle down with my Kindle before getting some shut-eye. Trevor, however, said he’d pop along to the Crow’s Nest to see what was going on as they were supposed to be holding a British Pub Night.

I am currently reading The White House Farm Murders, a fascinating account of the 1985 case in which Jeremy Bamber was convicted of shooting down his entire family; mother, father, sister and her twin six-year-old boys. He has always maintained his innocence and controversy about the case still rages over 30 years later.

I’d been in bed half an hour or so before Trevor returned then, once we’d opened the balcony door to let in the fresh sea air, we settled down to sleep. Tomorrow we were due to dock in Guadeloupe, another new port of call for us.

Catamaran Capers

We were up bright and early again this morning; from our balcony we could see that the Adonia was just about to drop anchor off a series of small hilly islands; this was Mayreau, St. Vincent & Grenadines, another new port of call for us.

From our vantage point the sea looked very choppy, in fact below us we could see the pontoon from which the liberty boats would be launched; the boat was bouncing around, creaking and groaning, and it looked as if the passengers would have to be pretty sure footed to board!

After our breakfast we went along to the Curzon lounge to await the call to embark the tender which would take us to the pier. Today we were booked to take an idyllic ride on a catamaran to the Tobago Cays, where we could swim, sunbathe or snorkel (or all three). What a lovely way to spend a day – bliss. 🙂

We waited in the lounge where there was a safety film running on a loop, on the correct way to board a tender boat. As if we haven’t done it before, loads of times. It got annoying after a while, hearing the same spiel over and over again. We were pleased when our group, Gold 1, was called to disembark.

The queue for the liberty boat was long, and stretched back and up the stairs. A crew member apologetically explained that it was taking longer than usual to get everyone on board, due to the two-metre swell which was causing the boat to rise and fall steeply. They called us forward in groups of five, and slowly the queue reduced until it was our turn.

What an experience! We could hear the grinding, screeching, creaking noises that the liberty boat made as it bashed against the rubber buffers of the pontoon, and was tossed around like a cork. We had to stand at the edge of the pontoon, one at a time, with a crew member holding on to us either side, and another couple of guys in the boat. When the threshold of the boat was momentarily level with the pontoon, the crew member would shout “Now!” and you had to step across immediately. Once we were inside the boat, we were bounced around in our seats as we watched other people trying to board; it was quite entertaining but the crew guys were spot on with getting us all safely onto the boat.

The ropes were then loosened, the engines revved up, and we were away! It only took about 10 minutes and I thought we’d have to go through the same charade at the other end, but disembarking was relatively easy after that.

We then had a short walk along to the pier, where a large white catamaran, the Sun Spirit awaited us. I was so looking forward to this; this is what holidaying in the Caribbean is all about. 🙂

We all got aboard the catamaran, and she set off through the azure waters. Trevor and I were seated near the front, facing the direction of travel, and it was just so relaxing and blissful sailing along, with the wind in our hair and the warm sun shining down, sparkling and glittering on the sea.

In front of us, cargo nets were stretched across between the catamaran’s twin hulls; the captain, Bruno, said we could sit or lie on the nets as long as we took our shoes off before doing so.

We sat for a while and watched them hoisting the sail; then the captain switched off the engine and let the Sun Spirit sail along under wind power alone. It was gorgeous – this is certainly the life! I decided to see what it was like on the netting, and crawling over the mesh, I lay face down, looking into the sea. It was quite hypnotic watching the water flashing past beneath me, as the catamaran skimmed over the waves.

After about 45 minutes, we reached a lovely sandy beach, and the Sun Spirit dropped anchor while another guy lowered a ladder into about three feet of water. We climbed down into the warm sea and onto the beach, then took off our clothes as we were wearing our cossies underneath.

Then it was down to the sea and the lovely warm Caribbean water. We wanted to go swimming, but the seabed was pretty stony here, and you really needed water shoes, which we didn’t have. So it was quite uncomfortable wading out until it was deep enough to swim, and there was quite a lot of seaweed getting tangled around our legs.

After a short swim (the current was quite strong, and swept me along diagonally) I waded back to shore and, placing my towel on the sand, happily sat down. 🙂

We watched the other small boats and catamarans gliding in and out of the bay, as well as some of our fellow passengers who had come better equipped than we had, with water shoes and their own snorkelling masks and tubes. We couldn’t help but compare this with what we would normally have been doing on a Monday morning – being at work, the weather cold and damp outside. Instead, here we were on a tropical island without a care in the world. 🙂

After about an hour, we all went back to the Sun Spirit and, once everyone was aboard, the ladder and anchor were raised, the sails hoisted, and we were off again. Bruno then asked “who wants some rum punch?” and everyone replied “ME!” He said the ‘bar’ was open and it was happy hour. I was the first in the queue! 😉

I got Trevor and myself a plastic beaker of iced rum punch, and we sat and enjoyed it as the Sun Spirit glided along in the turquoise depths. Bruno put on some reggae music (Bob Marley) and the scene was set.

It was perfect just sailing along merrily as the catamaran tacked her way across the bay. We enjoyed several more beakers of rum punch (seven each!!) as we headed back towards the Adonia, anchored in the near distance.

As the Sun Spirit leisurely skimmed the sea, a sudden very large wave took us all by surprise. It rose up out of nowhere and crashed over the deck, cascading over those people reclining on the cargo nets and completely soaking them. A couple of inches of water sloshed around on the deck while everybody rushed to rescue their rucksacks, shoes and other belongings, everyone laughing uproariously. 🙂

All too soon we arrived back at the pier and disembarked, making our way back to where the liberty boat would come in. We’d just missed one, but we didn’t have too long to wait until the next. By now, the sea had calmed down somewhat, so embarking the boat was not the challenge it had been at the start.

Back on board the Adonia, we went up to the pool deck for some lunch. Very few other people were about, so we got served very quickly and enjoyed some scampi and chips, washed down with a cold pint of John Smith’s each.
Afterwards it was back to cabin A006 for a rum punch-induced afternoon nap. 🙂

When we awoke we didn’t really do much; just pottered around a bit, sat out on the balcony, then got washed and ready for dinner. We decided not to go to the Pacific restaurant tonight as they were holding an Asian buffet in the Conservatory, so we went to that instead, enjoying some tasty Thai and Indian dishes.

We then enjoyed a drink in Anderson’s bar before making our way to the Curzon theatre to see tonight’s show by the Adonia Singers and Dancers, called From West End to West Side.

The show was OK I suppose, although the well-worn musical theatre medleys didn’t really do much for me; I think Guys and Dolls and West Side Story have been done to death on these cruises, and it gets a bit boring. It passed a pleasant 45 minutes though.

Then we went up to the Crow’s Nest to listen to the band, “Quintessence” until it was time to go along to the syndicate quiz. John and Linda were both there this time, so we were able to share our winnings and put in a concerted effort to the quiz. We didn’t come last tonight, but we didn’t win either. Nevertheless it was good fun.

Afterwards we returned to the Crow’s Nest, because tonight was karaoke night! I put my name down and did a few numbers, including Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U and Dido’s White Flag. One or two other passengers got up, as well as some of the entertainment team. As midnight came and went, people left one by one to go to bed, until Trevor and I were the only passengers left in the Crow’s Nest apart from the entertainers and bar staff. Ruth, one of the entertainment team, kept asking me to get up and sing.

It was after 01:00am before we returned to our cabin, but we had a sea day to look forward to tomorrow, so a nice lie-in in the morning then. 🙂

Sightseeing in Scarborough

We woke up early again this morning, and eagerly went onto the balcony to have a look around, as we were shortly due to dock in the seaside town of Scarborough. But this wasn’t Scarborough, Yorkshire – this was Scarborough, capital town of the island of Tobago. 🙂

This was our first time to this port, although we have already been to the sister island Trinidad, on the Arcadia in 2007. Tobago is the most southerly of the Caribbean islands and is a small island of lush rainforests, hills, waterfalls, small bays and beaches as well as charming little villages. We looked forward to exploring.

We enjoyed an al fresco breakfast before going to the Curzon lounge to await the call to disembark for today’s excursion. We were doing the Tobago Highlights and Folklore half-day tour, and I made sure to cover myself liberally in factor 30 suntan lotion, as the tropical sun was already very hot.

We disembarked the Adonia and walked towards the line of waiting coaches. Our guide was a very friendly, smiley young lady called Priscilla; she was only about 18 or 19 and explained that she was working as a guide during the tourist season before resuming her studies. You could tell that she hadn’t been doing the job long because at times she was unsure of what to say, or said the wrong thing, but these mistakes were met with a hearty laugh, showing all her very white teeth. At one stage she sang us Tobago’s national anthem, God Bless Our Nation, to which she received a resounding round of applause from all of us. 🙂

We visited various places on the island, including Pigeon Point, Plymouth, the Tobago museum and Fort George, which gave us superb views through the palm trees and bougainvillea flowers across the bay, where we could see the Adonia in the distance below us, her white paintwork gleaming in the sun. Fort George was built in the late 1770s by the British, and was occupied at times by the French. We could see the former barracks and chapel, as well as the officers’ mess and cannons overlooking the harbour.

We finished the trip off with a visit to the cultural centre, where we were treated to a plastic beaker of rum punch and an hour-long folkloric show of singing and dancing, accompanied by three drummers enthusiastically beating out a catchy rhythm on their bongo drums. I found my feet tapping more than once, and all around me I could see others doing the same. The ladies’ costumes were bright and colourful and easily influenced by African culture and tradition.

Then it was back onto the Adonia in time for lunch, before disembarking once again to walk into the town on our own to get some postcards.

Being Sunday, a lot of the shops were closed, but nevertheless we got half a dozen postcards and stamps in a little souvenir shop, then off we went to find a bar to have a beer and sit and write the cards out.  🙂

We walked along the road, the sun hot on our backs, and found a local bar which had tables and chairs set outside, under a canopy. The happy sounds of soca music issued forth from a massive speaker outside the bar.

We enjoyed an ice-cold bottle of Carib beer each as I sat and wrote out the cards and just generally watched the world go by. The bar, however, didn’t have wi-fi so we thought we’d go and try to find another bar that did; in any case, Trevor had paid for the beers with US dollars, but received his change in Trinidad & Tobago dollars, so another couple of beers was a good way to get rid of them!  😉

We found a nearby bar that looked a friendly and lively place and was doing a roaring trade with the locals. In we went, and got another couple of Carib beers that were ice cold, as they were straight out of the freezer. We sat at a table enjoying our beers and soaking up the atmosphere, and Trevor got talking to a guy who introduced himself as Gerry and said he was a motor mechanic at a local garage; he insisted on giving Trevor a pen advertising “Malik’s Automotive Repairs” and said he hoped we’d look him up “next time” we were in Tobago.  🙂

After our beers we decided to walk back and find a post-box, as it was now nearing 4:30pm and we had to be back on the ship by half-five at the latest. As we walked throug the terminal building we asked one of the tourism guys where we could find a post box, but before he had a chance to direct us, the lady from whom we’d bought the cards and stamps came out of her shop and said she would post them for us.

Back on board we got showered and dressed and sorted out, ready for the sailaway party. As repeat passengers on P&O we’d received a voucher for a free glass of champagne, so we went up to the pool bar, perched on a bar stool and enjoyed our free glass of fizz, whilst listening to the Amethyst Duo trying to sing. The sun was shining and a little playful breeze caressed our skin as the Adonia slipped her moorings and put to sea once more, around 6:00pm.

After our champagne we made our way to the Pacific restaurant and table #8. Bob and Thelma were there, and this time we were joined by another couple – the aviation speaker Colin and his wife Christine. We all regaled each other with tales of what we’d done today, and dinner passed in its usual pleasant way.

When we went along to the Curzon lounge we managed to get front-row seats. Tonight’s show featured a classical crossover Welsh singer called Gwawr Edwards. She was a soprano with a lovely voice, and she did some classical numbers such as O mio babbino caro as well as more contemporary songs. We enjoyed her show a lot.

Then it was up to the Conservatory for the syndicate quiz. We brought the bottle of wine we’d won last night to share with John and Linda, but when we got there, John was waiting to tell us that Linda was unwell so unfortunately they wouldn’t be joining us tonight. Our team was two down!

We didn’t do so well this time, coming last. 😦

We then returned to our cabin and settled down for the night, at the relatively early time of 23:15 hours.

Streaks of Silver

We were awake just after 6:00am, as we were still on British time. I went out onto the balcony, where the air was already pleasantly warm, and watched the Adonia gliding along sedately in the turquoise water; she was not going very fast, maybe only nine or 10 knots.

At around seven o’clock we gathered together our swimming things and went up on deck, where only a few people were around. The crickets were still chirping away, competing with the hypnotic sounds of the waves washing against the Adonia‘s side. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and it looked as though the day would be a scorcher.

We enjoyed a swim of half an hour or so as we watched the rays of the sun burst over the ship’s funnel. Then, getting showered and dried off a little, we returned to cabin A006 and got dressed, before making our way to the Conservatory for our breakfast.

Back in our cabin, we sat out on the balcony for a while, gazing out at the sparkling azure Caribbean, searching for flying fish, which we always see when we are in the Tropics. A flash of movement on the sea’s surface caught our eye; sure enough, here and there we spotted streaks of silver as the fish skimmed the surface, the sun flashing off their scales. Sometimes we’d see large shoals, with the fish taking off in all directions; other times we’d just see a lone fish gliding along on its own.

We went up to the pool deck and sat in the shade for a while, and I spent some time doing my kumihimo braiding. I like to keep my hands busy and the repetitive nature of kumihimo is relaxing and doesn’t take much concentration.

At 10:15 we went along to the Curzon lounge where a bloke called Colin Hobbs was giving a presentation/talk about the early days of aviation, particularly the first successful transatlantic flights achieved by Allcock and Brown. It was all very interesting.

We then decided to go back up to the pool deck and sit in the sun with a nice cold beer. Although it was only 11 o’clock it was already very hot, and the sea breeze could lull you into a false sense of security. We enjoyed a pint of John Smith’s each, whiled away the time and listened to the noon navigational information from the bridge, where we were informed it was 29ºC. At this point we decided go and get some lunch, and seek refuge in the shade; “mad dogs and Englishmen” and all that. 🙂

We enjoyed a light lunch sitting out on the rear decks, before wandering around for a bit. We could see several frigate birds circling around; they too were taking an interest in the flying fish, and every now and again one of them would go into a steep dive and try to catch the fish as they jumped out of the water. We didn’t see the birds catch any, though.

We then returned to our cabin for a post-luncheon nap, as we were still quite jet-lagged from yesterday. Then, at 2:00pm, we went up to the Crow’s Nest to take part in the “Battle of the Sexes” quiz. This is good fun; men and ladies were split into two teams, and each team took it in turns to answer questions. You got 10 points for a correct answer, but if you got it wrong or didn’t know the answer, it was passed to the other team who could get five points for the ‘steal’. Each team answered 10 questions, and it was pot luck as to whether you got a hard or easy question. As usual, several times someone in the team would come up with the correct answer, then allow themselves to be talked out of it by other team members. The ladies were losing after the first round of general knowledge, but the next round was the music round, and that’s where we came into our own, as 70s and 80s music tends to be my forte in quizzes. So the ladies won the quiz overall. 🙂

The points for both teams would be carried over until the next sea day, when the battle would continue.

Back in our cabin I took my Kindle and went and sat out on the balcony for a while, before starting to get ready for the evening, as tonight was the Captain’s Cocktail Party and was a formal evening. I took my time getting ready, and wore a long black velvet dress with a necklace I’d made containing several Swarovski crystals and beads. Trevor looked very smart in his dinner suit with a winged-collar shirt and black bow tie and cummerbund.

We made our way up to the Curzon lounge and were photographed with Captain Sarah Breton before taking our seats, whereupon a tray-bearing waiter appeared and offered us a glass of Prosecco each. Then the Captain introduced her senior officers and gave a little speech which included the weather forecast for the next few days; hot and hotter. 🙂

We enjoyed a second glass of fizz before making our way to the restaurant to our allocated table, #8. There was only one other couple there, Bob and Thelma and we enjoyed their company whilst partaking of a delicious meal, washed down with rosé wine and finished off with coffee and amaretto.

Then it was along to the Curzon lounge once again for tonight’s entertainment; a cellist called Andrew Scrimshire. He was very good indeed and we enjoyed his performance a lot. In between his musical numbers he made us laugh with his subtle, dry humour. An excellent show.

We finished the evening, and indeed a very pleasant day, by going along to the Conservatory for the syndicate quiz. We were joined by another couple who introduced themselves as John and Linda. Our team was a good mix because we all had different ‘special subjects’ and this paid off, as we won! We received a bottle of white wine as our prize and, as it was now getting late, we said we’d keep it until tomorrow night and share it then.

So ended our first full day at sea, and we slept well back in cabin A006.