Blue Birds Over

Woke up early, around 6.00am, and became aware that the Braemar was quiet and still.  Looking out of our portholes, we could see the famous White Cliffs of Dover, as we were already docked.  Went back to sleep for an hour, then got up, got washed and dressed, packed our few remaining things in our hand-luggage, then made our way to the Thistle Restaurant for breakfast.

We were joined by Pam and her daughter Kathryn, with whom we’d dined on our first night on board; both of them are excellent singers and had brought the house down with their amazing duet in the passenger talent show, Tell Him, by Celine Dion and Barbra Steisand.

Afterwards it was time to go back to our cabin and collect our bags, as they’d started to disembark the passengers already.  We picked up our coats and bags, took one last look around to make sure we hadn’t left anything behind, then went along to the crowded Morning Light pub to await our call to disembark.  We weren’t in any particular hurry, as our train from Dover Priory station was not until 10:44.

Around 8.00am we disembarked the Braemar, went to the luggage hall to collect our cases, then made our way to the taxi rank.  The weather was cool and damp, but at least it wasn’t actually raining.  It only took a few minutes before a taxi arrived, and off we went.

We had about an hour and a half to wait, so we sat in the Pumpkin café and I bought a magazine to read while enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up with all the emails on my phone.

The ride to London St. Pancras only took about an hour and 10 minutes, giving us a 40 minute wait.  As our daughter Kathryn lives and works in London and was in the area, she met us off the Dover train and we spent half an hour or so chatting before we made our way to King’s Cross, where our train was already in.

Then off we went on the three hour journey back to Durham, where our train pulled in on time at 15:30.  We were back in the house before four o’clock, after the end of another fabulous cruise.

Can’t wait for the next one!  🙂

All At Sea

Didn’t really sleep very well last night because of my cold.  So I was tired this morning and didn’t want to go up to breakfast, despite the fact that tonight will be the last formal night and the free fizz would be on offer.  🙂

Instead, I just took a leisurely shower and blow-dried my hair, and enjoyed a cup of coffee in our cabin while getting ready.  While I was there, a gentle knock on the door heralded the arrival of my freshly washed and ironed linen trousers, which I was pleased to see were back to their pristine white shade.  🙂

At 10 o’clock Trevor went to listen to a presentation about the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, while I relaxed and did some of this blog, crocheted and read my Kindle.  I am reading Don’t Tell A Soul by M. William Phelps, a true story about the murder of Cherry Walker in 2010.

Afterwards we attended another talk, hosted by Elliot Taylor in which he interviewed members of the Braemar Show Company and allowed members of the audience to ask questions.

We decided to go up to the Observatory and enjoy a couple of pre-luncheon drinks up there while enjoying the panoramic views over the bow of the Braemar.  All we could see was sea, but you never knew, we might spot dolphins or whales, so it was always worth keeping our eyes peeled.  🙂

Then we went along to the Palms Café where I enjoyed a good lunch as I was quite hungry, having missed breakfast.

We just spent the afternoon in our usual relaxed and pleasant way before we had to start getting ready early for the  Farewell Cocktail Party at 5.45pm.  It didn’t seem five minutes since the welcome cocktail party and here we were at the last one of this voyage.  😦

I dressed in a long black evening gown with a mesh embroidered wrap in eau-de-nil and a necklace of perfectly matching hand-made glass beads.  Then off we went to the Neptune Lounge to join the inevitable queue.

Once inside, we greeted the Captain and the senior officers before enjoying a few glasses of the free fizz and some tasty canapés.  Then Captain Jozo Glavic gave another of his very amusing speeches before advocating everyone to “be happy”.

Then it was time, once again, for dinner.  When we reached table #101 our waiter advised us that we had a couple of guests joining us tonight; one of them was the chief engineer Steffan Ravneng whose company we’d enjoyed at the first formal evening, and the other was Melanie from the Future Cruises desk, with whom we’d booked our cruise the other day.  It was good company as ever, but once again it was difficult to converse across the huge table.

As tonight’s showtime, which was the Braemar Crew Show, was not on until 9.00pm we decided to go along to the Morning Light pub for a couple of drinks; we wouldn’t be able to get into the Neptune Lounge yet anyway, as the second sitting passengers were still having their cocktail party.

So we sat at the bar and talked and laughed and watched the queue to get into the Neptune Lounge getting longer… and longer… and longer.  It stretched all the way back through the Morning Light and into the corridor beyond.  We knew we’d have no chance in getting a good seat tonight, so we gave up the idea of seeing the Crew Show and instead went to the Coral Club.

Presently we were joined by Jackie and Kathy for the quiz; we got 14/15 but three teams scored full points and had to go to the tie-breaker.

The late show in the Coral Club, “Rocking Out”, consisted of the guys from the Revolverlites band as well as comedian Lloyd Davies on the keyboards and the Morning Light guitarist Luke Palmer on the lead guitar.  The big surprise was Luke – he is such a bland and dreary singer in the pub but tonight he was great!  You’d have thought it was a different bloke.  🙂

Around midnight the disco started, and we stayed for one more nightcap before turning in for the night.


Friday, 17 March 2017


Got up about 8.30am, feeling sad that this was to be our last day.   Went up to the Thistle Restaurant for our breakfast, then decided to venture outside on deck.

On the lee side of the ship the weather was pleasantly warm and spring-like, and the presence of birds showed us we were near land; we must have been in the English Channel by now.  The Braemar was only moving very slowly, about 9-10 knots.  Scanning the horizon we could see the hazy outline of what we later found out was Guernsey.

We wandered around on the deck for a bit and went right to the bows of the Braemar, one of only two ships we’ve ever been able to do this on.  It was then quiz time, so along we went to the Coral Club for the morning’s quiz, but it was interrupted in a flurry of excitement when someone sitting near the window shouted “Whales!” so everyone rushed over for a look.  Sure enough I spotted the tell-tale spouts, three in total, so there must have been a pod out there.  Trevor was lucky enough to see a black tail emerge as one of them dived down.

Then we went to the Neptune Lounge to watch the ship’s version of “Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook” featuring (inevitably) comedian Lloyd Davies as well as our very own Captain Jozo Glavic, and hosted by the executive chef Siggi Weich.

As expected, it was absolutely hilarious, the captain and the comedian parrying jokes and innuendo off each other.  The recipe was for Caramelised Chilli Garlic Tiger Prawns and we were each given a copy to try to make at home.  In the meantime, we were invited up to taste it, and it was delicious.

As today is St. Patrick’s Day a hearty Irish Stew featured for lunch, and I enjoyed some with green beans, cauliflower and new potatoes, washed down with a (free!) glass of rosé wine.

After lunch it was time to go back, drag out one of the cases from under the bed, and start doing some of our packing.  We put in the items of clothing we knew we wouldn’t need again this holiday.

We decided we’d go up to the Observatory again this afternoon for a couple of drinks and also to see if we could see any more whales.  We didn’t see any more, just quite a few more birds as the Braemar glided her way up the English Channel.  As this is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, we spotted several cargo ships as well as one or two fishing vessels.

At 3.00pm we went to the Neptune Lounge to watch a passenger talent show.  Duncan (one of the entertainments hosts) had asked me earlier if I was going to participate, following my karaoke performances, but unfortunately my cold meant I was unable to sing at all.  😦

The show features some dancers and a lady who recited an amusing poem, but the majority of participants were singers, most of whom we’d seen in the karaokes earlier, but they were all of a very good standard.  The show finished with the Braemar Passenger Choir, people who had been going along to the “Singing for Fun” sessions with the singers in the show company.  It was excellent and left everyone feeling really uplifted.

Then it was time to go back and do more packing (boo-hoo) before getting ready for our final dinner on board.  Our cases don’t have to be out until 1.00am but it’s nicer to get the job over with than to have to do it when we’re tired (and have had a few drinkies!)

After dinner we went along to the Neptune to claim our seats for the show, which was entitled “Hollywood Revisited” and featured the Braemar Show Company’s usual singing and high-energy dancing.  Afterwards Elliot brought everyone back on stage, including the orchestra and the sound and light technicians, so the audience could show their appreciation for the absolutely superb entertainment we’d enjoyed this cruise.  🙂

Tonight’s quiz was Irish themed; once again we got 14/15 but didn’t win!!  So it looked as if our triumphs were limited to two this cruise, compared to four the last cruise.  Oh well, it’s all good fun and we learn something new every time!

The evening finished with a St. Patrick’s Day special with singer Ben Carpenter, the male lead singer in the show company.  I thought it was going to be boring Irish dirges but it was really good; Ben has an excellent voice and he alternated the slow ballads with more upbeat songs.  A lot of people stood up for him at the end.

We decided we wouldn’t stay too late tonight as we knew we’d have to be up early in the morning.  So I enjoyed one more of the excellent sangrias before we headed back to cabin # 3074 to finish our packing.

Once the cases were put outside the door we settled down for our final night on board.  Tomorrow we’d be back in Blighty.  😦

En Route to Dover

Woke up this morning to find I was getting a cold.  😦  Sniffly, sneezy and bunged up.  Not surprising really, when you think there are the best part of 900 passengers on the Braemar and the last few days have been a bit too windy to spend any time outside, so we’re all below decks breathing the recycled air-conditioning.

After getting up fairly late (after 9.00am), I left my white trousers (and the free laundry voucher) in the bag for the cabin stewardess to take away to be cleaned.  We then pottered about for a bit before going along to the Neptune Lounge to hear another of Elliot’s “An Audience With…”, this time it featured Captain Jozo Glavic as well as the Hotel Manager.  The Captain is very amusing and always ends his midday navigational speech with “Always remember, be happy”.  It was an interesting 45 minutes or so, as we knew it would be.

We followed this by taking part in “Name that Tune” at 12.15pm which once again we didn’t win.  The problem is that they are playing excepts from tunes which were popular in the 50s and 60s, whereas my music era is the 70s and 80s.  So a lot of the tunes were in the charts before I was even born.

This took us nicely to lunchtime (more eating!) which we enjoyed in the Palms Café, washed down with a chilled glass of rosé wine.  Then we ventured out on deck but it really did feel quite chilly the closer we’re getting to Blighty, so we didn’t stay out long.

At three o’clock we once again headed to the Neptune Lounge for another talk by Bob Wragg; this one was called “The Custom of the Sea – A Question of Survival or Morals?”  It told the story of the ship Mignonette which was shipwrecked leaving four survivors (including the captain) in the lifeboat for days on end.  One of them was very ill and didn’t have long to live, and the captain made the decision to hasten the lad’s death so the other three could live off his remains.  It sounded an interesting (albeit gruesome) story; I will have to find out more about it when I get home.

Straight after the talk we stayed in our seats because the excellent Braemar Orchestra were themselves in the spotlight today with their tribute to the Big Band greats.  They played a good selection of lively tunes and I could see many feet tapping along in time.  I really enjoyed their performance and I love the fact that all the productions on board featured a live band; on some ships the singers/dancers have performed to pre-recorded ‘canned’ music and it’s just not the same.

It was then time to get washed and changed and go to dinner; once again the galley team did us proud with their culinary delights and once again it did my waistline no good at all!  🙂

The performance tonight was a Grand Variety Show and featured all of the guest entertainers; that is Lloyd Davies the comedian, John Lenahan the magician, Lauren Charlotte the violinist and Jon Moses the singer.  It was a good show all round.

We then went along to the fast-filling Coral Lounge to take part in the quiz.  Jackie and Kathy were already waiting for us, and the theme tonight was ‘The Body’.  All the cryptic clues had an answer which was part of the human body, for example:  A tropical tree (answer:  palm).  We got 15/15 but two other teams also scored full marks so it went to the tie-breaker.  We won!!  Yes, we’ve finally won our second quiz, so we enjoyed a bottle of chilled cava on the house.  🙂

The evening finished with a second show; this one featured the Braemar Show Company and was called “The Big Wheels of Motown”.  Once again, it was a lively, original performance and the Motown theme continued afterwards with the Revolverlites, before the disco played to a packed dance floor.  It was late once again when we went to bed, and we tried hard not to think about the fact that we only had three more nights on board.  😦

The Foibles of Fellow Passengers

Stuff I’ve noticed, not just on Braemar but on other ships as well:

a) People who book on a transatlantic voyage then complain that we are spending too many days at sea.  This trip was advertised as a Caribbean/transatlantic.  Looking at the itinerary we could see that 10 out of the 16 days would be at sea, so why should that come as a surprise to so many people?

b) People who book a cruise way up above the Arctic Circle in winter, then complain because it’s cold and dark.  This was a moan we heard regularly on our cruise up to Trømso and Alta in November 2014.

c) People who book a walking tour, which is advertised as a walking tour, then complain that there is too much walking involved.  One we heard when visiting Hamburg for the Christmas Markets in 2007.

d) People who book the cheapest cabin possible, down on the lowest deck at the very stern, then complain about vibrations/noise from the engine room.  This is one we hear every time, on every ship.

e) People who don’t, or can’t read the notifications/instructions in the events programme that is delivered to our cabin every day.  For example, those who turn up in shorts/t-shirts when the dress code is “Smart Casual”, and those who turn up dressed in smart-casual when the dress code is “Formal”.

f) People who never listen to any instructions issued.  For example, the tour manager will say something like “Can those with tickets ‘A’ and ‘B’ make their way to the gangway please?” and those with tickets ‘C’ and ‘D’ get up as well.  Again, this happens every time, on every ship.

Lazy Sea Days

We got up about 8.45am after a good night’s sleep.  The sea was reasonably calm with relatively little movement from the Braemar, but the sky was pretty grey.

I decided not to go up to breakfast but instead to make the most of the tea- and coffee-making facilities in our cabin, enjoying a cup of coffee after taking a leisurely shower and blow-drying my hair.

Afterwards we went along to the Coral Club to do the morning quiz; there was no sign of Jackie and Kathleen this time so there was just Trevor and me.  We did appallingly, only scoring 8/20.  We then had a little time to go back to our cabin and dress up fairly smartly, as today they were holding the Oceans Gold and Silver Members’ Cocktail Party in the Neptune Lounge at 11.15am.

The Oceans Club is the FOCL loyalty club where you are awarded points according to how many nights you have spent on board a Fred Olsen ship.  1-30 nights is Blue (who don’t get an invite to the party), 31-100 nights is Silver, and 101+ nights is Gold.  Trevor and I are in the top tier.  🙂

Along we went to the Neptune Lounge, where Captain Jozo Glavic and his officers were there to greet us on arrival, and waiting staff flitted about holding their trays of sherry, wine, gin and cava aloft.  Other white-clad staff came around with little canapés for us to savour while the brilliant ship’s orchestra played tasteful dance music in the background.

Most of the attending passengers had made the effort to dress up a little smarter, but here and there we spotted people who fell into category (e) in the next section, The Foibles of Fellow Passengers.  🙂

The Captain came onto the stage and gave a heartfelt little speech about how great it was that so many people chose to cruise with Fred Olsen again and again; indeed, 71% of the passengers on this cruise were repeat customers.  Then those cruisers with the highest number of Oceans points  (some had 700+ so Trevor and I have a way to go with our 134 points!) received an award and had their photos taken with the Captain and the Future Cruises staff for the Closer magazine.

The party finished in time for us to go and play “Name That Tune” (we didn’t win!) before our lunch.

The afternoon passed in its usual pleasant fashion; at 2.45pm we went along to the Neptune Lounge where cruise director Elliot Taylor was hosting “An Audience with Lloyd Davies”, a sort of “Piers Morgan’s Life Stories” event with the Welsh comedian.  As predicted, it was pretty funny; Lloyd is very quick with his repartee and is also a talented musician and keyboard player as well as a comedian.

Afterwards we went back to our cabin for an afternoon nap before getting ready for tonight’s Red, White and Blue (or British) themed night.  I wore a pair of white linen trousers, a blue t-shirt and a Union Jack jacket, while Trevor looked very smart in his white dress shirt, Union Jack waistcoat and bow tie.  A lot of people had made the effort to dress up, and we saw several other Union Jack waistcoats as well as three ladies wearing Union Jack dresses in the way made famous by Geri Halliwell of the Spice Girls.

After dinner we shot along to the Neptune Lounge to try to get good seats for tonight’s Great British Sing-along.  Several people complimented us on our outfits on the way.  The event was very well attended and everybody sang songs like “There’ll Always Be An England” and “Land of Hope and Glory” with gusto and much flag-waving.  🙂

There followed a really fantastic performance by the Braemar Show Company.  It was called “From Europe to Britain” and was completely original.  It featured the songs and dances from other Eruopean countries such as Italy, Greece, France and Ireland, finishing with a superb rendition of Riverdance.  We thoroughly enjoyed the show.  At the risk of repeating myself, I have to say that the entertainment on board all Fred Olsen ships is excellent.

Then off we went to the Coral Club to finish the evening off in our usual fashion.  Quiz (no win!), listen to the Revolverlites, chat with our fellow passengers and enjoy a few more gratis drinks.  At one point one of the bar staff dropped a glass of red wine and lemonade, and the crimson drops splashed the bottoms of my white trousers as the glass hit the deck.  The waitress was very apologetic and gave me a chit which would entitle me to get my trousers laundered for free.

As usual it was after 1.00am when we went to bed but what the hell, we’re on holiday and can get up in the morning when we want.  🙂

Land Ahoy!

It was with excitement that we heard the Captain’s voice coming over the tannoy at 8.30 this morning to say that we should be arriving in Ponta Delgada, Azores, between 9.30 – 10.00.  By this time I think all the passengers were looking forward to being able to get off the ship and walk around on dry land.  Eagerly looking out of our portholes we could spot the hazy outline of land in the distance.  🙂

After breakfast we went outside on deck and watched the Braemar sailing into her berth; it was quite a feat for the team on the bridge as the sea was quite choppy and the ship had to dock a few metres forward of where she should have been, as the swell at the stern was so lively.  We were pleased to see touches of blue sky here and there – we were advised that it was 19ºC which, although much cooler than the Caribbean, was certainly better than it would be at home this time of year.

Once the Braemar was berthed and the gang-plank made fast, we hurried back to cabin # 3074 to get our jackets, bags and whatever else we’d need to take ashore.  We weren’t booked on an excursion until this afternoon, so we had a couple of hours to ourselves.

Ponta Delgada is the capital of the Azores; this Portuguese archipelago consists of nine islands altogether and enjoys a moderate year-round climate.  It’a bit windy, but then you’ll find that is the case with most of the Atlantic islands.  We had visited this port once before, on the Arcadia back in 2005.  It is a clean and modern town with an airport right next to the shoreline and lots of attractive buildings, apartment complexes, shops and charming little pavement cafés.  The main source of income in the Azores is cattle farming; they export a lot of beef and leather goods all over the world.

We disembarked the Braemar and walked through the port terminal building onto the main street.  It was really pleasant walking along in the bright sunshine, but we did notice that phenomenon which is common after many days at sea; the feeling that you are still moving.  Going up or down any steps was particularly challenging; it felt as though the steps were either dropping away from beneath me or coming up to meet me.  🙂

We wandered around for a bit, looking in the shop windows and trying to find a café which had free wi-fi, as I had my laptop with me and we hadn’t been able to check our emails since leaving the Caribbean.  While you can get an internet connection on board ship, it tends to be very slow and very expensive, so we tend not to bother with it.

We went into a bar-café and ordered a hot strong coffee and a pastel de nata each.  These are the scrumptious egg custard tarts with the flaky pastry that are so popular in Portugal and its territories and they are very moreish.

The café did indeed have free wi-fi so we were able to check our emails as well as upload some of this blog.  I also Skyped my aunt to see how she was doing and to tell her all about our voyage so far.  We followed the coffee with a glass of the Portuguese beer Sagres each.  🙂

When we came out of the café time was getting on so we had to go back to the Braemar and get our tickets ready to go on this afternoon’s excursion.  Our bus (no.3) was called more or less immediately so we disembarked the ship once again and made our way to the row of waiting coaches for our 3½ hour tour.

Our first stop was at the Arruda Pineapple Plantation.  The guide explained how the pineapple fruits were started off from sprouting tubers which were planted in large greenhouses kept at a constant temperature of 38ºC.  It takes 18 months to two years for a pineapple to grow to maturity.  Each greenhouse housed rows of the plants at various stages of growth; some had not yet flowered while others carried fairly large fruits.  I don’t think I’d ever seen a pineapple growing before now, and it was all very fascinating.

After viewing the pineapples we went into the small souvenir shop where they were selling pineapple liqueurs that you could sample.  They tasted quite strong but as we’ve already bought enough booze to take home we had to resist this time.  😉

Then it was back on the bus for the main part of this tour – the visit to the Sete Cidades crater lakes.  The Azores is pretty volcanic and some lakes had formed in a couple of extinct volcano craters.

The bus wended its way up the winding roads, higher and higher through the leafy byways with here and there a glimpse of the Atlantic ocean through the trees.  It was a lovely ride.  When we got to the top we alighted from the vehicle and got our first glimpse of the lakes.  What a fantastic view!  One of the lakes was a bright green whilst the other was a darker blue – it was quite amazing to see them against the mountainous backdrop.  We took loads of photos and enjoyed an ice-cream was a little mobile stall that had set up and was doing a roaring trade from the cruise passengers.

Back on the bus we set off for our final stop; to a large park that was spread out over various levels.  It was gorgeous walking through the park looking at the various trees and flowers and just enjoying getting some exercise (albeit with our ‘sea legs’).  A friendly black and white cat emerged from some bushes and rubbed around our legs, purring with its tail in the air as we bent to stroke it.

Then our guide rounded us all up and we set off for our return journey to the port.  When we got back, around 4.45pm, we didn’t want to go back on board yet; this was our last port of call before we returned to Blighty and, in any case, the Braemar was in port until about 11.00pm, so there was no hurry.

We therefore found a little bowling alley and bar-café which we discovered was selling caipirinha, my favourite cocktail.  The bar was lively and noisy from the bowling and the cheers and encouragement of the participants, a lot of whom we recognised as entertainers from the ship, who had been given some shore leave and were making the most of it.  One of them told us that they would be disembarking Braemar in Dover and going their separate ways until their next assignment, so it was the last port where they’d be together.

The caipirinhas, when they arrived, were cold and strong and totally delicious.  It was just so brilliant sitting here in this friendly little bar, not a care in the world, and enjoying being on holiday.  There was no hurry to be back on the ship so we ordered another cocktail each.  Halfway down it, I looked out of the window and said to Trevor, “That must be a massive ship there; look at all those balcony cabins!”.  Trevor looked and shook his head, smiling widely.  It was an apartment block and it wasn’t even on the same side as the sea!  Those caipirinhas were good!!   🙂

We finished off by having a third cocktail before finally getting back on board about quarter to seven.  After a quick wash and brush up (what’s known in nautical terms as a submariner’s dhoby) we went to the Palms Café and had a bite to eat before making our way to the Neptune Lounge to see tonight’s cabaret, which once again featured the Welsh comedian Lloyd Davies.  We managed to get decent seats at the front and really enjoyed Lloyd’s show, which was hilarious.  🙂

Then it was the usual – the Coral Club for the quiz (we didn’t win!) and the second show, which featured a duet between host Duncan Johnston and his colleague Bethany Gore; their show was very good indeed.

Afterwards we sat around listening to the Revolverlites and enjoying a few (free!) drinks.  Around 10.45pm we became aware of the increased vibrations coming up through the floor as the Braemar put to sea once more.  Our next stop would be Dover, in five days’ time, but we weren’t going to think about that just yet – there was still much more of our voyage to enjoy.  We’d had a lovely day today.  🙂

Late to Bed, Late to Rise

Because of our late night last night (or should I say this morning) I struggled to get out of my pit, so it was after 9.00am when we got up this morning, and went up to the Grampian restaurant for our breakfast.  The sea was still fairly calm, but not as calm as the previous few days; there were a few peaky waves and a nippy breeze blowing, and I needed to go back to our cabin to get my denim jacket to wear outside; we noticed other people were wearing fleeces and thicker sweaters this time as well.

At 10 o’clock we went along to the Neptune Lounge to listen to a presentation called “The Secret Diary of a World War II Soldier”.  It was very interesting as well as poignant in a lot of places.

Immediately afterwards was a Chinese cookery demonstration by the gourmet chef Jim McGuire.  We were all given a copy of the recipe and Jim set up his wok and started his sizzling dish of ginger, garlic, spring onions, minced chicken, fresh chilli and other tempting ingredients.  The savoury smells which wafted across to us were making us feel hungry!

Afterwards we were invited up to try some, and it was delicious – flavoursome and spicy.  It took us nicely to lunchtime which we spent in the Palms Café; the salads are always fresh and crisp and there is a good selection of cold meats, cheeses and other delights.

The time always does seem to go very quickly; there is always so much to do that there is never the chance to get bored.  The beauty of a long voyage like this is that you can do as much or as little as you want; you can join in or do your own thing, you can participate in the activities or make your own amusement; most of the time I tend to do both, but either way the days fly by.

The evening entertainment started with the Braemar’s version of “Liars’ Club” (also known as Call My Bluff) in the Neptune Lounge, featuring Elliot the cruise director, Lloyd Davies the comedian and John Lenahan the magician, with Duncan acting as host.  As ever, the words for which they had to provide the definitions had slight double-entendre connotations about them, so much hilarity ensued.  🙂

Then the electric violinist, Lauren Charlotte, put in another performance.  As ever, she was excellent; I love classical crossover.

The evening winged by – the quiz, The Revolverlites, the disco – all passed in amusing and convivial company.  Around midnight we decided to turn in as we were due to reach terra firma tomorrow for the first time in a week.

Calmer Crossing

We woke up this morning at 7.50am and looked out of our portholes at sunny weather and a flat calm Atlantic ocean.  Tonight was a formal night, so we knew there would be free fizz on offer at breakfast.  😉

We went up to the Grampian Restaurant and chose the table nearest the prosecco ice bucket.  I enjoyed a breakfast of fresh fruits and smoked salmon washed down with a couple of glasses of the free prosecco and good hot coffee to set me up for the day.  🙂

Then we went along to the Future Cruises booking desk for 9.00am, where we had an appointment with the on-board travel agent.  We had seen a cruise in the new brochure for 2018/19 that we were interested in, so we were here to find out more details.

We ending up booking another cruise!  Whoo-hoo!  We depart on Boxing Day 2018 and fly out to Port Louis, Mauritius, to start a 14-night cruise of the Indian Ocean.  The ship is Boudicca on which we’ve cruised three times before and we will go to Réunion island, the Seychelles, then cross the Indian Ocean to the Maldives, finally finishing at Colombo, Sri Lanka.  We have booked a balcony cabin and it all looks fantastic.  Not only would we see in 2019 from gorgeous sunny climes but we would also cross the Equator, from south to north.  How incredibly exciting.  🙂

Afterwards we went out on deck.  The sea was very calm and there were only tiny wavelets; no white caps at all.  The sky was blue with the sun shining brightly amid the fluffy white cumulus clouds.  It was a perfect day and we sat out at the aft decks and watched the foaming wake stretching out into the distance as the Braemar steamed her way across the ocean.  It was a lovely way to pass the time, and one that I will never tire of.

At 12.15pm we took part in the “Name that Tune” quiz in the Coral Club, but despite scoring 14/15 we still didn’t win!  Only one quiz win for us so far this cruise.

After lunch we spent some more time out in the sunshine.  By now they’d taken the nets off the pool and put all the sun loungers out again, so the decks were crowded with recumbent bodies.  We went to the Marquee Bar and enjoyed a couple of cold cocktails and just passed the time pleasantly until around two o’ clock when it was time for something different – the Braemar’s inter-departmental Tug o’ War competition.  This would feature teams from the engine room, housekeeping, the entertainments team, the galley, the junior officers and the bar staff, with men’s and ladies’ teams.  It promised to be a fun event.

We got a good vantage point at the front of the area which had been roped off for the competition.  Elliot hosted it and got the teams together and warned them against any cheating or other nefarious activity.  Apparently on the previous cruise one team had tied their end of the rope to the ship’s railings and the other team didn’t even notice, pulling away fruitlessly.  I bet that was hilarious to watch.  🙂

It was great fun watching the teams competing amidst lusty cheers from their colleagues and from the spectating passengers.  Some teams were pulled clear across the line by their stronger opponents, their shoes slithering uselessly on the decking.  Other teams were more evenly matched and it was hard to predict the winners.  It ended up being the Engine Room boys being the men’s winners, and the Junior Officers being the ladies’ winners.  It was a really entertaining interlude, standing there on the deck in the sunshine.

We had time to return to the cabin briefly before making our way to the Neptune Lounge to listen to a talk called “Interesting Times” which was about historic events from 1940-2017 which had shaped our lives.  The speaker, however, was inaccurate with some of his dates; for example saying the Berlin Wall came down in 1981 (it was 1989) and that Margaret Thatcher became the first female prime minister in 1974 (it was 1979).  It also sounded that some of the ‘facts’ he was pontificating were just the (not always accurate) generally held views, rather than conclusions he’d reached as a result of his own research.  So I wasn’t really too impressed with the talk; anyone could have done it really, you didn’t have to be a historical expert.

At 4.45pm I went along to the Atlantis Spa to get my hair put up in readiness for tonight’s formal evening.  He guy did a nice job of it; he back-combed it a little to give it some volume, then put it into an elegant French pleat with some little tendrils hanging down to frame my face.  It only cost £20.00 which is far cheaper than an updo costs at home (£28.00).

We then got ourselves dressed and ready; I wore a long burgundy dress with a sequinned bodice and matching sequinned jacket, and Trevor wore his dinner suit with a black bow-tie and cummerbund.  Thus attired, we went up to the Thistle Restaurant for a sumptuous dinner, including a superbly-delicious lobster thermidor.  Yum yum!  🙂

The show in the Neptune Lounge tonight was called “Let’s Swing” and, as its title suggested, was a tribute to the Rat Pack and other swing and big-band music.  It was very good; we always find the entertainment on Fred ships to be superb; considering they are small show companies on small ships it is amazing what they can achieve.

Then of course it was time for the quiz, where a win eluded us once again.  Tonight, however, there was a second show in the Coral Club; the Morning Light’s resident singer/guitarist Luke Palmer playing big ballads while the Revolverlites singer Natasha sang.  They were actually very good together, better than Luke on his own who is not really that good a singer.

Then we just passed the last hour or so listening the Revolverlites’ music and enjoying one more drink before turning in.  We were quite tired after the lost hour last night and the fact we were up fairly early, so we slept soundly, the gentle motion of the Braemar lulling us to sleep.

Saturday, 11th March 2017

We awoke later than usual this morning, around 8.45am.  The sun was still out and the ocean still calm with barely a ripple; I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Atlantic as flat as this.  We had the morning completely at our leisure as there were no scheduled talks this morning because the staff were getting the Neptune Lounge ready for the Braemar’s version of a “Country Fayre” this afternoon, to raise money for charity; namely orphanages in Thailand and the Philippines.

We ate our breakfast outside and it was very pleasant sitting listening to the “shhhhhhh” sounds of the ocean washing against the side of the Braemar and feeling the gentle sea breeze in our hair.

Then we just pottered around a bit; went to the shop to see what bargains were on offer today, looked in the photo gallery to view our formal photos (we didn’t buy them and in any case we have absolutely loads of formal cruise photos!).  Then, as it was such a lovely day, we went and sat out in the sun at the aft decks and enjoyed a freezing cold pint of Stella Artois each, which really went down a treat.

At 12.15pm we decided to go inside (“mad dogs and Englishmen” and all that) and take part in the “Name that Tune” quiz.  Again we scored 14/15 but still no win!  😦

I decided to eat a decent lunch and miss going to dinner tonight, so we went up to the Grampian restaurant and had a table next to the window with fantastic high-up sea views and partook of a glass of chilled rosé with our meal.

Afterwards we just spent some time back in cabin # 3074 as Trevor wanted to watch the England v Scotland rugby match at 2.00pm.  So I did some crocheting, wrote some of this blog and decided to have a look in the Neptune Lounge at the Country Fayre which was on until four o’clock.

The Neptune Lounge was decorated with bunting and streamers and set out in the style of the traditional “All the Fun of the Fair”.  There was a ‘guess the weight of the cake’ stall, golf-putting, ‘name the teddy bear’, darts, ‘find where the Spanish galleon sank’ (by sticking a pin in a map) and lots of other things.  I had a go at the putting (no good), bought a beaker of Pimms and lemonade, and also purchased a couple of raffle tickets at a fiver each; one to win afternoon tea with the Captain, and one to win a mini-cruise.

Also, Elliot the cruise director was over by the Spa area (where you could pay a pound for a 60-second neck and shoulder massage) and, for a pound, you could put a wax strip on his leg or chest and pull it off!  They had Elliot lying back on the massage table, surrounded by ladies waiting to help wax him, and it was so funny to see him wince or jump whenever a strip was torn off him.  🙂

The other thing that made me laugh was the ‘human fruit machine’.  This consisted of three guys standing in a booth with a lady standing to one side holding a large maraca.  You pulled down on the maraca (the handle) and each guy, in turn, would hold up a fruit – an apple, orange, pear or banana.  Three of the same fruit won you a prize.

It was all good light-hearted fun and helped to raise money for a worthwhile cause.  At the close of the fair there was also an ‘art auction’ in which pieces that had previously decorated the Braemar were being auctioned off.  However, the paintings/prints were HUGE – not only were people worried about how they’d get them home (Elliot said FOCL would have them couriered home for the winning bidders) but who would have the wall space on which to hang them? You’d have to live in a mansion.  So, unsurprisingly, there were few to no bidders for some of the pieces, and the art auction was not really much of a success, apart from one smaller piece, a painting on canvas of a sailing ship at sea, which fetched £190.00.

Then the raffles were drawn, but unfortunately we didn’t win this time.  All in all though, it passed a pleasant interlude before we went into the Morning Light pub for an afternoon drink.

Then we wandered around the decks again, passing the time pleasantly with our fellow passengers and relaxing in a way that only those who have completed a transatlantic voyage would know.  🙂

I skipped dinner again this evening, and instead went into the Morning Light to have a couple of glasses of cava and do some of this blog.  While I was in there The Lovers came in and stood at the bar, making a lot of noise and drawing attention to themselves (and not in a good way).   The woman had on a dress that was far too short as well as some high wedge heels, and her makeup looked as if it had been trowelled on.  She was tittering and simpering and giggling in a really annoying way as the man couldn’t keep his wrinkly hands off her.  Yurk!  😦

I went up to the Thistle Restaurant in time for the coffee-and-liqueurs stage, but enjoyed a melt-in-the-mouth crème brûlée while I was there.  Then we went along to the Neptune Lounge to watch John Lenahan, the comedy magician again.  The lounge was fairly packed so we could only get a view of the stage from the side, but John did move around and show all sides of the room his tricks.  We enjoyed his show better this time; it really was hilarious; his jokes and patter as well as his tricks and illusions.

We finished the evening as we always do on board the Braemar; along to the Coral Club for the quiz with Jackie and Kathy (where once again a win eluded us), then the second performance.  Tonight it was called “Oh, What a Night” and featured the songs and music of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, very well performed by the Braemar Show Company.

At 11.00pm The Revolverlites came back on, and the dance floor soon filled up.  We enjoyed a few more drinks – they do a particularly good sangria here on board, consisting of red wine, brandy, Cointreau, lemonade, fruit and lots of ice.  🙂

At midnight the disco started, and although we said we wouldn’t stay long it ended up being after 1.00am when we left, because a few other people came over and joined us and we got chatting.  Apparently they are all solo travellers and they share the same table in the restaurant, so they’d become shipboard friends.

Then The Lovers arrived and joined the dance floor in a touchy-feely giggly fashion as the woman continued to do her amusing, very-stiff-legged dance.  We decided this was probably a good time to return to our cabin as the clocks were due to go an hour forward again tonight, so it was really after 2.00am.  We’d had a good day.

Atlantic Voyager

Another day at sea today.  We would still not see any land for another four days.  So there was no timetable to follow, no excursions to set off on.  We could do want we wanted, when we wanted and the day looked a lot brighter and the sea a lot calmer than it was yesterday.  Had it really been a week since we flew out of Manchester to Barbados?  We felt as if we’d been on Braemar for ever, but we certainly weren’t complaining.  🙂

After breakfast we went along to the “shop event” as it’s called to see what was on offer in the sales.  Today it was perfumes, so after trying a few testers I bought a lovely ornate bottle of Marc Jacobs “Daisy Dream”.  It is only a very light subtle fragrance, but very nice.  Because we are Gold Oceans Club members, we get a 5% discount on anything we purchase on board, so that is an extra bonus.  🙂

At 10 o’clock Trevor went along to listen to a presentation about the end of the British Empire, but I didn’t fancy that one so I just took my laptop along to the Morning Light pub and sat and did some of my blog, as well as some of my crocheting.

Then it was time to attend another presentation from Bob Wragg, the ex-CID man; this time it was called “Stories from the Criminal Underworld” and it featured truth, fact, legend and myth about some of London’s notorious criminals such as the Kray twins and their rivals, the Richardsons.  As I enjoy true crime books and movies, I really enjoyed the talk.

This took us nicely to lunchtime, after which we ventured out on deck to see what the weather was like once again.  It was definitely calmer, although still windy, and I needed to wear my lightweight jacket.  It was still exhilarating enjoying the fresh sea air, and their was something hypnotic about the gentle rise and fall of the Braemar’s bows.

We passed the afternoon in its usual pleasant way until 3.00pm, when we were treated to a close-up magic show by magician John Lenahan.  He also explained how to do a lot of the tricks and how sleight of hand and psychological manipulation of your audience makes magic appear to work.  It was a very interesting and entertaining 45 minutes, and we had half an hour spare before the next talk by the ex-Royal Navy bloke, so we nipped into the Morning Light and grabbed ourselves a drink.  😉

The talk was about ‘Operation Pedestal’ which took place in August 1942 and which told of the convoy that saved the besieged island of Malta.  I always enjoy these presentations, and the speaker David Russell makes them interesting and informative.

It was then time to go back and get showered and changed before getting ready for dinner.  Tonight, however, we were not going to our usual table in the Thistle Restaurant, but instead to the Palms Café where they were holding a grand Indian buffet.  As we love Indian food and eat it once a fortnight at home, we really enjoyed the arrays of appetitsers, main courses, side dishes and desserts.  Some of the dishes were really spicy (which I love) so a scrumptious meal was enjoyed by all.

We got talking to another couple on our table who said this was their seventh cruise; they were astounded when we told them it was our 41st as they didn’t think we looked old enough! 🙂  They asked us lots of questions about different cruise lines, and who we’d recommend, and which was our favourite ship and cruise line.

Then it was time to go along to the Neptune Lounge where they were holding a version of the popular 1960s/70s game show “Mr & Mrs”.  Trevor and I have taken part in this on previous cruises and have won three times, so we hoped we would be picked again this time.  However, the three couples had already been chosen so this time it wasn’t our turn.  As ever, it was hugely entertaining, but we thought it was a bit of a “fix” that one half of the couple who won it was part of the Braemar’s entertainment team!

The game was followed by the excellent singer Jon Moses once again; he gave us a brilliant show and it was obvious he’d built up quite a little following of fans here on the Braemar; as he is so personable I think some of the older ladies wanted to mother him a bit.  🙂

Later in the Coral Club we met up with Jackie and Kathy once again and took part in the quiz which we didn’t win.  Apart from the second night we haven’t exactly been doing well; there are a lot of high scores so either the questions are too easy or we have a lot of very good quizzers.

At 11 o’clock they decided to feature karaoke with a difference – this time ‘bandioke’ or singing along to the live band rather than a backing track.  Basically it was a case of choosing one of the songs that the resident band the Revolverlites played, and singing along while reading the lyrics from the music sheet.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds!  When you think about it, the professional singers would have time to rehearse and practise with the band, but it’s a different kettle of fish entirely to get up and sing on the spot, without rehearsing.

None of the songs I can do really well featured on the list, so I chose to do Jamming by Bob Marley.  Although I know the song, I have never sung it before.  Natasha (who is the singer with the band) propped up her iPad on a music stand for me to read the lyrics, and the band struck up.

What a fiasco!  I started off well enough but then lost my place in the lyrics, so I just had to ad lib by singing words like “I have lost my place and just messed up my song, I don’t know what I’ve done wrong”.  This elicited a huge laugh and a spontaneous round of applause from the audience, so while the singing wasn’t very good at least folks found it entertaining.  Afterwards Duncan, the senior host, came and gave me a hug and said he didn’t even realise I wasn’t singing the right words!  It was all good fun though, we all had a great laugh and all the singers were in the same boat, so to speak.  🙂

The bandioke finished at midnight, and we just had one more drink and made our way back to cabin  # 3074.  As we had to advance our clocks one hour again tonight, it was really 1.00am.  We looked forward to whatever tomorrow would bring.

Crossing the Tropic of Cancer

Our hopes for a good night’s sleep were dashed by the ship’s heavy rolling and the occasional bang or jolt as a waves crashed against the side or bow of the vessel.  We always try to choose a cabin midships, as that is the area of the ship least affected by the motion, so goodness knows what those passengers at the bow or stern must have experienced.

We woke up to partly-cloudy skies and saw that the ocean still looked very rough.  After breakfast we ventured outside on the open decks, but some areas were still roped off and there was still a lot of sea spray in the uncomfortably-windy air.  The pool deck was practically deserted; both pools were empty and had nets stretched over them, and all the deckchairs and sunloungers were stacked up and lashed securely to the railings.

We went down to deck 5 and walked around the the lee side of the ship, where the wind was nowhere near and strong.  A few minutes later, and just outside the range of the swirling wash of the ship, we spotted the familiar silver streaks on the sea’s surface.  Flying fish!  There were only four in total, and no more appeared, but at least we’d seen them.  🙂

Back in the shelter of the Braemar’s interior we just spent the morning at leisure as there were no scheduled talks.  Cruise director Elliot Taylor’s voice came over the tannoy to say that, due to the adverse weather conditions, a lot of the planned deck activities were either having to be cancelled or moved inside wherever practical.

I enjoyed a lunch of fresh green salad and cold meats washed down with a glass of rosé wine before making our way to the Morning Light pub, where I did some crocheting. I am making a triangular shawl in a cotton yarn; the edge of the shawl will be edged with individually-crocheted daisies (there are 49 to make so it will take some time).

Then it was time to attend the first of today’s presentations.  This was entitled “Sink the Bismarck” and was given by David Russell, the former naval man and World War 2 historian.  It was all very interesting and educational.  David’s talk was followed by the ex-copper Bob Wragg whose talk was about his own experiences as a London CID officer in the 1960s and 70s.

This took us nicely up to 5 o’clock, where we pottered around before getting ready for dinner.  We went along to the purser’s desk where the ship’s navigational information is displayed, and we saw that the Braemar was just about ready to cross the Tropic of Cancer at 23º 27’ North.  The earth is tilted at an angle of approximately 23º 27’; therefore during the Summer Solstice (in the northern hemisphere) the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer; the reverse of this is true in the southern hemisphere (during our Winter Solstice) when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

Then it was just the usual; delicious meal, palatable wine, good company etc, and off we went to the Neptune Lounge for tonight’s entertainment.
This time it was a Welsh comedian called Lloyd Davies.  As well as stand-up comedy he also played the keyboard and sang funny songs (those where the lyrics of popular songs have been changed to comedic effect).  I actually thought he was pretty hilarious and we enjoyed his show a lot.

Tonight there were actually two shows; after the quiz in the Coral Club the Braemar Show Company put on a production called “Happy Days” featuring high-energy singing and dancing – it passed a pleasant half hour or so.

We stayed in the Coral Club until around midnight, then returned to cabin # 3074 and settled down for sleep.  Braemar was no longer in the tropics but, unless we were imagining it, the ocean outside our portholes did seem a lot calmer.  We slept very well.