From Colombo to County Durham

Got up early this morning (7.00am) to find that the Boudicca was docked in Colombo the capital of Sri Lanka.  We hadn’t been here before, but our flight home wasn’t until teatime, so at least we’d have some time to explore our 89th country, and indeed we had an excursion booked after breakfast.

We had a good breakfast to set us up for what would be a very long day; I enjoyed the full English washed down with coffee and orange juice.  We then made our way to the Neptune to await the call for our excursion; we weren’t actually disembarking the ship until after lunch, so we left our carry-on luggage in one of the meeting rooms for safe keeping.

Our bus number was soon called and we went down the gangplank to the bustling dockside, where there were a number of small shops and stalls selling local handicrafts, scarves, pashminas and wood carvings, as well as embroidered handbags and clothing.  In addition, every other shop seemed to be a Tea emporium because, after all, Sri Lanka used to be known as Ceylon, and one of Ceylon’s most famous exports has to be tea.

Our bus slowly made its way through the traffic into the city centre.  We noticed that it appeared to be a lot cleaner and less chaotic than Indian towns such as Delhi or Mumbai, or Nepalese cities such as Kathmandu. However, there were also similarities in their colourful shops, garish billboards and never-ending blare of traffic horns.

There were also a lot of historic colonial buildings still in evidence, from when Ceylon was under British rule.  It gained its independence in 1948, and changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972.  We saw a 100-year old clock tower as well as the more modern Lotus Pearl tower, and we passed the impressive Old Parliament Hall, before the bus pulled up to allow us off for a photo stop.

We had arrived at the impressive Independence Square, a large open-sided building held up with many carved pillars. You had to climb up a series of steps, guarded at regular intervals by a series of stone lions, into the building which afforded good views over manicured gardens and leafy avenues.  The weather was roasting hot, and it was nice to take refuge from the sun in the shady building.

We continued on our way, and left the city behind as our bus made its way along to the sea front, via a wide promenade which gave onto golden sands.  We also passed Buddhist temples, mosques and churches and many colourful shops.  All in all, Colombo looked a really interesting place and would make me want to explore Sri Lanka more, maybe in a longer stay in the future.

We arrived back at the docks around 11.30am, and spent some time browsing the stalls and shops, although there was nothing we wanted to buy.  We then spotted John and Margaret from our table; their bags were being loaded into a taxi as they were being taken to a hotel for another three days, not flying home until Monday, lucky things.  We said our goodbyes and ‘safe journey’ and all that, then made our way up the gangplank of the Boudicca to go and get something to eat and drink.

We went into the Lido Lounge and enjoyed a couple of beers, before heading for the Poolside Grill where we enjoyed a light lunch; I had a delicious tuna steak with salad Niçoise, washed down with a couple of glasses of chilled cava and finished with fresh fruits and cashew cream.  We wouldn’t be getting another meal until we were on the aeroplane home, so we made the most of it. 😊

Around 1.30pm our call came to disembark, so we collected our bags and went down to deck 3, where we despondently scanned our cruise cards for the last time and left the Boudicca.  Then we had to go to the luggage collection point and identify our cases to be loaded onto the bus for the half-hour ride to the airport.

Colombo airport isn’t very big, so it didn’t take long to check our cases in.  Then we just wandered around and looked in the duty free shops, where I bought a bottle of the apple-scented “Be Delicious”, by DKNY.  We then just went to the departure lounge where we sat around and made use of the free airport wifi, read magazines and relaxed, until we heard the call for boarding the Thomas Cook charter flight to Manchester.

We took off on time, then had another 12-hour flight to get through.  It was just the usual, incredibly tedious stuff – drinks, meal, reading, listening to my iPod, trying in vain to sleep.  Boring. Boring. Boring.  We watched the progress of our aircraft on the Sky Map, as it inched ever closer to Europe, across the North Sea, then into good old Blighty.

We landed slightly earlier than scheduled, around 23:50 hours.  It was a bit of a shock to my flip-flop clad feet leaving the aircraft into a temperature of 2˚C, a good 30 degrees less than we’d had the last couple of weeks, but it didn’t take too long to get to the arrivals building, where we collected our cases and phoned the Britannia Airport Hotel, asking for the shuttle bus to come and collect us.  While we were waiting, we saw Gary and Angela, who live in Manchester and would be home within half an hour.  At least we were staying here overnight, otherwise it would have been nearer to 4.00am when we got home to Durham.  ☹

Our taxi came and we arrived at the Britannia about 12:45am.  Then we checked in and made our way to our basic, but clean and comfortable, hotel room, where we thankfully settled down to sleep. In the morning we had the three-hour drive back to Durham, which would herald the end of another wonderful, wonderful cruise holiday.  Can’t wait for the next one!  😊

Britannia, the ‘Shoe Lady’

Felt really depressed that we were down to our final day on the fabulous Boudicca.  How the last fortnight had flown!  ☹

Today we had a nice leisurely day at sea, with a packed itinerary.  We had a good breakfast in the Secret Garden, then attended a talk at 9.45am by Roger Cook; this one was called “Making a Killing” and was really quite distressing – it was all about the illegal trade in exploiting wildlife, from the ivory trade, poaching tigers and the dreadful ‘canned hunting’ where lions are drugged and shot at the rate of around 8,000 a year.  On one occasion, I had to turn my chair round to avoid seeing footage of a lioness being killed in front of her cubs.  Dreadful, dreadful stuff.

Afterwards we went to the Iceni room to have a cup of coffee, before venturing out on deck.  We’d noticed that the ocean was a lot choppier today and, when we went outside, a brisk wind was blowing, so much so that the bow area was roped off to passengers.

We then went back to our stateroom (suite!!) and reluctantly dragged the cases out from under the bed, to make a start with our packing, putting away anything we wouldn’t be wearing or needing again this cruise.  Then we went to the Four Seasons restaurant in good time for lunch, as today they were holding the Grand Seafood Buffet.

The buffet was scrumptious.  There was fresh lobster, crab, prawns, mussels and cockles, all laid out on beds of crushed ice.  As a centrepiece was a gleaming ice sculpture in the shape of a swordfish.  I piled my plate high and we enjoyed a deliciously-messy lunch, pulling the shells off with our fingers, for which the waiter provided some bowls of water in which fresh lemon slices floated.  We washed it all down with a chilled glass of cava. 😊

At two o’clock I went down to the Atlantis Spa for an eyebrow wax and a luxury manicure.  The lady took her time and did a really nice job; the manicure included a hand and arm massage as well as a deep moisturising mask in a pair of heated mitts.  I really enjoyed it, and my hands and nails looked much better afterwards.

I then went straight from the spa to the Neptune Lounge to meet Trevor there, as they were holding the Passenger Talent Show.  There wasn’t much of a range of talent, however, as they were all singers, of varying abilities, some of whom we’d seen in the karaoke the other night.

The talent show was followed by the Boudicca Choir concert, and this was actually very good – I can see why joining a choir is a popular pastime these days.  They sang a selection of popular songs, some in harmony, and in their big finale they sang the very appropriate The Fleet’s In Port Again. This last one was sung to a backdrop of film footage of all four Fred ships, the Balmoral, Boudicca, Black Watch and Braemar, all in port together in Cadiz last year.  The footage looked fantastic and even quite moving with all four ships leaving port together, one after the other.

This was especially interesting to us, because we are already booked on the Balmoral for April 2020, when all four “Freds” will be together in Funchal, Madeira. It certainly looked as if we would be in for a treat, and I’ll be able to get some amazing photos of these lovely classic ships.

After the excellent choir concert we returned to our stateroom (suite!!) to get showered and changed and ready for the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party at half-past five.  It wasn’t a formal evening tonight, but I still made the effort to dress up nicely, wearing a floaty black off the shoulder dress with silver polka dots, and my Playboy Bunny shoes.  When we went into the Neptune Lounge to meet the Captain and his officers, Trevor thanked Captain Sartela for such an excellent cruise, and we greeted and acknowledged each of the officers, as well as the dance hosts.  One of the dance hosts, Vanessa, looked at my outfit and my shoes, and told me that everyone had been referring to me as “Britannia, the Shoe Lady”.  Ha ha, I like that (hence the title of today’s blog).  😊

We enjoyed the cocktail party, partaking of several glasses of the (free!) fizz and enjoying a few canapés.  Then Captain Juha Sartela came onto the stage and did another of his amusing speeches in his usual deadpan manner.

It then took us nicely to dinnertime, where it was quite sad going into the Tintagel Restaurant for the “last supper”.  We had another delicious meal and, once we’d all finished, Trevor announced that the after-dinner liqueurs where on us, so everyone had their tipple of choice and we all clinked glasses, as well as swapping email and address details.  Then we made our way to the Neptune Lounge for the Farewell Variety Performance, which featured all the entertainers we’d seen this cruise; singer Shaun Perry, magician Rick Green, comedian Lloyd Davies and, of course, the fabulous Boudicca Show Company and orchestra.

Then we went along to the Lido Lounge to take part in our final quiz, along with Joe, Gary and Angela.  Once again, we didn’t win, but we still enjoyed great company along with Fred’s all-inclusive drinks package. 😉 We returned to suite 7038 around 12.30am, but didn’t sit out on the balcony because we still had our packing to finish, and in any case it was still too windy.  So we packed everything up apart form toothbrushes and clothes we’d be travelling home in, put our luggage outside our stateroom, then settled down for our last night on the Boudicca, where we slept very well.

Magical Maldives

When we woke up this morning and went out onto our balcony, the sunshine was already bright and the day was hot, even at 8.00am.  The Boudicca was at anchor in the turquoise water, and we could see a small island in the near distance.

There were no excursions scheduled today, because the island of Utheemu was small enough to explore on foot.  Therefore, after enjoying our breakfast and walking around the deck for a while, we went along to get a tender ticket, then awaited our call in the Iceni Room.

Once our number was called, we descended to deck 2 and embarked the liberty boat for the short ride across.  The sun was very hot and I was glad I was wearing my sunhat.

On arrival, there did not seem to be a great deal in the immediate vicinity, so we walked along the wide, sandy track to explore.  There were a lot of individual private dwellings along the palm-fringed roads, and the only traffic seemed to be the ubiquitous scooters or pushbikes; we didn’t see any cars at all.

We saw one or two shops, and a place selling ice-cream, but nothing appeared to be open.  Once again, no bars or anywhere selling beer was in evidence.

As we walked along, we spotted a guy who had set up a makeshift stall selling green coconuts.  I quite fancied drinking the thirst-quenching coconut water so we went over and asked how much it would be.  He asked for 75 rufiyaa, which is nearly £4.00, for one coconut!  We could buy them cheaper at home, so we told him it was too expensive and started to walk away.  He was not prepared to negotiate, so he didn’t get our custom.  Four pounds indeed!

After walking from one side of the island to the other, we came out at a wide expanse of the most pristine and beautiful beach you could imagine.  The sand was white and powder soft, and the water was in shades of turquoise and bright blue as the waves gently lapped the shore.  The beach was not crowded, in fact the main thing you could see was space, so it was perfect.

We had been advised that there was a strict dress-code here; no bikinis or brief swimsuits – swimmers were expected to cover up in shorts and t-shirt on the beach.  So we hadn’t brought our cossies, which was unfortunate because the sea looked SO inviting.

Instead, I rolled up the legs of my cotton cargo pants as far as they would go, and went up to my knees into the gorgeously-warm surf – the sea temperature was 30˚C.

It was just so relaxing and idyllic to be in such a beautiful part of the world, but it really was extremely hot (we learned afterwards it was 34˚C, phew) so as the time edged nearer to noon, we wisely sought refuge in the shade of the palm trees.  I was really thirsty by now, and we’d forgotten to bring a water bottle, so after looking around in vain for somewhere to get a cold drink, we decided to take a slow stroll back to the ship.

As we ambled along, we noticed that there were quite a lot of unfinished buildings and a lot of building work going on; breeze-blocks and timbers were piled everywhere.  Utheemu also looked as if it had a problem with discarded plastic bottles, as they were all along the roadside.  Whether or not they were discarded by the locals or whether they’d been washed ashore (as was the case with some other islands in the Maldives) was debatable, but there was clearly an urgent need for some sort of plastic recycling plan.

So as far as the tiny island of Utheemu was concerned, it was perfect for swimming, sunbathing or snorkelling, but there wasn’t a lot else at all. We decided we’d spend the rest of the day back on the Boudicca.

While waiting for the liberty boat to return, there was plenty of iced water and orange juice on offer, so we were able to quench our thirst which was certainly welcome in the heat.

Back on board we went, as usual, to the Poolside Grill and enjoyed a light meal, washed down with a nice big glass of freezing cold beer.  We sat in the shade and watched those out by the pool burn themselves to a lobster red; for some people it would have been painful later on.

We spent the afternoon just lazing around and relaxing, walking around the ship and watching some of the crew lowering and raising one of the rescue boats, then getting up to speed on the sea.  There is always something going on on the Boudicca, always something to see and do.

Around 5.30pm we returned to our stateroom (suite!!) to get washed and changed and ready for dinner.  In the meantime, the guy arrived with another selection of tasty canapés then, at 6.15pm, we went along to the Tintagel Restaurant for yet another meal and more wine, while listening to Mike and Ruth, John and Margaret tell us their tales of what they’d been up to today.

Mike and Ruth had been out on one of the RIBs.  These are Rigid Inflatable Boats and have only recently been obtained by FOCL and carried on three of their ships.  At certain anchor ports you can book a ride on a RIB, which held 12 passengers.  We had wanted to go, but had been told the only time they were launching the RIBs was when we were snorkelling yesterday.  However, as we saw the RIB out today that was not quite the case – if we’d known, we could have booked it for today.  It did sound (and look) fun, although the RIBs go quite fast and bounced along the waves, so I think your bum would have been sore afterwards!  😊

After dinner, we just did the ‘usual’.  First of all, we joined in with the dancing in the Neptune Lounge, when one lady came over to look at my shoes!  Tonight, however, I was only wearing a silver sparkly pair with a modest heel; there was nothing way-out about them.  She asked me if I could wear my Playboy Bunny shoes again, as she said she wanted to see me walk in them!

Tonight’s evening showtime was called “Dance Fever” and featured the Boudicca Show Company performing high energy dancing in colourful costumes. As ever, it was excellent, accompanied by the superb orchestra.  We certainly cannot fault any of the entertainment we’ve seen this cruise.

Then it was along to the Lido Lounge for the usual – Colin James the pianist, dancing, the quiz (nope, we came nowhere near winning) and drinks and cocktails, all in the lively company of Joe, Gary and Angela. Finally, Trevor and I returned to the peace and quiet of our balcony, and enjoyed our nightcap while reflecting on the day.  It was quite sad that our next port of call, Colombo, would see us leave the Boudicca, but for now we had a full day at sea to look forward to tomorrow, and we determined to make the most of it.

Swimming, Snorkelling, Sand and Scrapes

Woke up this morning to find the Boudicca at anchor off Malé, the capital of the Maldives.  We hadn’t been here before so we were excited about the snorkelling trip we’d booked for this morning.  We love snorkelling, and had done it extensively on our incomparable cruise around the Galápagos Islands in October 2017.

Had a light breakfast in the Secret Garden before assembling in the Neptune Lounge at nine o’clock as requested.  However, we had quite a while to wait as, apparently, the waters were a bit choppy so it was taking some time for our boat to get here.

It was nearly 10.00am before our group was called to disembark the Boudicca from the pontoon, directly into the snorkelling boat.  I was wearing my tankini underneath my clothes with a pair of quick-drying mesh shoes.  We had already provided our shoe sizes for our fins and, as the boat sped away to the first of our snorkelling locations, we were issued with the fins and the lifejackets, as well as tubes and masks.

We arrived at the first site and our boat dropped anchor.  Sure enough, the sea was quite choppy and I hoped it wouldn’t make the snorkelling and swimming difficult, or stir up the seabed so that the view was murky.

The fins I had on my feet were huge, and it was difficult to walk to the side of the boat from which we were to jump into the water.  Once in place, I secured my mask and tube and launched myself the short drop into the sea.  The first problem I had was that my lifejacket, despite the straps being pulled as tight as possible, was far too big, and it rode up around my ears almost immediately.  I was trying to swim with one arm, the other arm holding the lifejacket down, the result of which was that I was going round in circles.  Also, as I feared, the view through my mask was quite murky; I could see some fish swimming around quite way below me, but I certainly didn’t enjoy the crystal clear view of colourful fish and coral I’d seen on snorkelling trips in the past.  ☹

I got so fed up with my HUGE lifejacket that Trevor and I decided to go ashore at a small beach we saw nearby.  We swam towards it as the water became really shallow and the ground underfoot was stony and rocky, some of the small stones getting into my fins.  As I tried to flap my way ashore, impeded by the fins, a large wave swept me over and I was pulled first one way over a jutting rock, then the other way, banging and scraping the back of my right thigh quite painfully.  It’s such a shame, but I can’t say I was enjoying my snorkelling experience so far.  ☹

One of the guys from the boat came over to see what the matter was, and I showed him that my lifejacket was way too big.  I don’t know how fat they thought I was, but they’d issued Trevor with a jacket in a size “L”, and given me the size “XXXL”.  What on earth…?!

I swapped my jacket with Trevor, and we pulled the straps as tight as they’d go.  It made a huge difference; all of a sudden I could swim around without having to struggle to keep my lifejacket below my ears.  By now it was time to return to the boat to go to our next snorkelling site.

Back on board, Trevor swapped the XXXL lifejacket for a more appropriate size, and after about 10 minutes our boat dropped anchor once again and we all jumped overboard.

What a difference!  Here, the water was beautifully clear and the shafts of sunlight shone and rippled through the depths as we looked around at an amazing array of colourful fish and corals, along with a massive starfish about a foot in diameter.  Wow!  This was more like it. 😊

We spent about 40 minutes swimming and snorkelling and marvelling at the beautiful underwater wonders.  It was then time to go back to the boat and, once aboard, we divested ourselves of our fins and lifejackets and got dried off a little; I sat with my large striped towel wrapped around myself and enjoyed some snacks of coconut, fruit and dried tuna, washed down with fresh cold water.

Just before one o’clock we arrived back in Malé at the place where the liberty boats dock.  We’d contemplated having a look ashore, but I didn’t want to walk around in a tankini and towel in this predominantly-Muslim country, so we decided to go back to the Boudicca and get showered, dried and changed before we came ashore again.

Back on board I went into the bathroom to use the loo; when I lowered the bottom half of my tankini, I couldn’t believe the amount of sand it contained – there must have been a cupful!  It was also inside the top half and had managed to find its way into every nook and cranny!  I therefore decided to have a bath instead of a shower, to ensure that I got all the sand off!

Later on, in fresh dry clothes, we enjoyed a light lunch at the Poolside Grill before getting the liberty boat back across to the town.  We found that Malé was quite a commercial, built-up area, very crowded and with more scooters/motorcycles I had ever seen in my life!  They were everywhere and, like a lot of places in Asia, there seemed to be a distinctive lack of traffic rules.

The currency in the Maldives is the rufiyaa and we went to find an ATM so we could get some postcards and go and have a beer while writing them out.

We found a little place selling postcards and fridge magnets (a couple of which I bought as small souvenirs) but the lady didn’t sell the stamps.  She did, however, tell us where to find the post office, so we went to get a cold drink.

One thing we did discover was that we couldn’t buy a beer anywhere!  There were plenty of coffee shops and places selling soft drinks, but no bars or wine or beer!  ☹

We therefore just went to the post office, wrote the card out there, then bought a stamp and posted it.  Then we decided to go back to the Boudicca and enjoy a freezing cold beer up on deck in the 32˚C heat.

We spent the afternoon pottering around the ship, sitting out on our balcony and whiling away the time.  I was trying hard not to think about the fact that we only had another three nights to spend on board the Boudicca before flying home again on Thursday night.  ☹

It was then time to start getting ready for dinner once again, and we made our way to table #31 in the Tintagel Restaurant to enjoy the usual delicious meal in convivial company.

Later on, in the Neptune Lounge, we got up and did some of the ballroom dances we knew, that is, the cha cha, rumba, social foxtrot and, on this occasion, the Gay Gordons.  Then it was time for the evening’s entertainment to begin.

Tonight it was the comedian Lloyd Davies once again, and he had everyone rolling in the aisles with his daft humour and singing; he would take a well-known song and put his own parodied words in.  As ever, we really enjoyed the show.  😊

We finished the evening, as we do every night, doing the quiz in the Lido Lounge with Joe, Gary and Angela, and once again we didn’t win.  Then we just listened to the music, watched the dancers and enjoyed a few drinks and cocktails, until we were pleasantly tired. Back on our balcony we sat out in the balmy night-time air with our feet up, lingering over a nightcap and sitting in a companionable silence, just enjoying the sounds of the sea as the Boudicca glided onward to our next destination.  We had now visited a total of 88 countries.  😊

Oceans Club and Twinkle Toes

Got up at 8.00am and went out on the balcony to see what the weather was like.  It seemed a little breezier this morning (but still very warm) and, while the sea was still calm, we noticed more ripples on the surface and could feel a very slight motion from the Boudicca.

We went down to the Tintagel Restaurant where there was some more free fizz on offer, because tonight was formal night once again.  I therefore enjoyed my usual cold meats, smoked salmon and fresh fruits, washed down with a couple of glasses of the free fizz to set me up for the day. 😊

We then went outside and did our usual five laps around the decks, but we didn’t see any flying fish this time; maybe they’d sought refuge in deeper waters as they noticed the sea was choppier too.

At 10 o’clock we went along to the Neptune Lounge for another of Judge David Radford’s talks; this one was called “Celebrities in my Courtroom” and covered the times when celebs, such as Pete Doherty, Tulisa and Amy Winehouse had appeared in the court he was presiding over.   It was quite interesting, but once again the former judge’s delivery was quite hard-going.

Once the talk was over, we had half an hour to go and get ourselves smartened up for the Oceans Club cocktail party at 11.15am.  The Oceans Club is the FOCL loyalty programme and there are five grades: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond Elite.  Trevor and I are currently Gold; only those passengers with Silver membership or above are invited to the cocktail party.  You are awarded one point for every one night spent on board a Fred ship, and Trevor and I will have 157 points after this cruise.  We need 250+ to go up to Platinum level, so we have a few more cruises to do yet. 😊

We made our way to the Neptune Lounge and showed our Oceans membership cards at the entrance.  Inside, we were met by the Captain and some of his senior officers, as well as Melanie, the future cruises manager.  Oh… and of course there were waitresses walking around with trays of gratis drinks and canapés, so we were offered more free drinks on Fred.  😊

After a brief speech in which Melanie outlined how many members there were in each category, a lady sitting next to us was given an award as a Diamond Elite – she had accumulated more than 700 nights on FOCL ships so she must spend more days a year at sea than on land!

After the cocktail party finished at 12 o’clock, we were all booted out of the Neptune Lounge so that rehearsals for tonight’s show could take place.  We therefore went along to the Poolside Grill for our lunch, and we just enjoyed sitting out in the sun, chatting with people and passing the time pleasantly, in that inimitable way that you can only experience on a cruise.

Just before 2.00pm we went along to the Neptune Lounge to take part in the dance class, which was covering the Queen of Hearts Rumba.  We were familiar with the rumba from our lessons at home, but this was something else altogether, way too advanced for us novices (and for most other people as well, judging by the shambles on the dance floor!).  So I think we’d jumped the gun a bit there, and after several unsuccessful attempts even to do the first part of the dance, we gave up and went out to the pool deck, where a selection of ice creams was on offer.  We therefore tried a different flavour; mine was a delicious hazelnut ice cream.

We then went back to the Neptune Lounge where cruise director Allan Tait was interviewing/chatting with comedian Lloyd Davies, who was outlining his career for us since winning the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1987.  As expected, it was a very entertaining interlude and we looked forward to seeing Lloyd again later on in the cruise.

We then went back to the Lido Lounge (which is just along from our suite) and enjoyed a couple of drinks before returning to 7038 and getting showered and shampooed ready for this evening’s formal attire. I wore a knee-length navy sequinned dress along with a beaded navy wrap which I teamed with a pair of Irregular Choice shoes.

Now I am slightly obsessed with Irregular Choice shoes because they are so different and quirky. Don’t take my word for it, have a look at and you’ll see exactly what I mean.  I don’t buy shoes to go with my outfits, I buy my outfits to go with my shoes.  😊

Tonight, I was wearing a pair of navy blue medium-heels, covered in blue sequins to match my dress and featuring a big bow at the front.  But it wasn’t any ordinary bow, as soon as you started dancing (or even walking on a hard floor) there were fairy lights on the bow, which flashed and glittered.  There is obviously a tiny battery secreted inside the bow somewhere.

So, like my Gothic evening dresses, my Playboy Bunny shoes and my Britannia costume, my Twinkle shoes (as they are called) attracted an awful lot of attention, particularly after dinner when we went along to the Neptune Lounge.  But more about that later…

At the dinner table we noticed that everyone’s place setting included a champagne flute, and once John and Margaret, Mike and Ruth and Trevor and I were all seated, Mike announced that we were having champagne.  Apparently it had been a year since they’d lost their special, beloved dog Jaz, so we were all having a glass of champagne to raise and toast Jaz’s memory. A touching little gesture.

We then enjoyed our meal as ever, then made our way to the Neptune Lounge a little after eight o’clock.  There was no dancing tonight as it was a double bill, first of all featuring singer Lindsay Cooper, then it was time for the Boudicca Crew Show.

We always enjoy the shows put on by the crew. They feature songs and dances from their own countries, mainly the Philippines and Thailand, and they choreograph the dances and make the costumes themselves (when do they get the time?!)  So it’s always a colourful, happy, cheerful affair and nice for the hard-working crew members to get a huge cheer and appreciation from the audience.

Afterwards we went to the Lido Lounge for the quiz.  As I mentioned previously, my shoes got a lot of attention, with people asking where I’d got them and trying them on.  I could have been a salesperson on commission for Irregular Choice, as people were writing down the website URL and looking at and admiring other pairs of IC shoes I’d bought.  When I got up to dance, everyone was looking at my feet!  I may not have been a Twinkle Toes at the dance lesson earlier on, but I certainly was now! 😊

We took part in the quiz as usual, with Gary, Angela and Joe, but needless to say we didn’t win.  Then we just enjoyed a few more cocktails, listening to the music and whiled away the time until after midnight. Then Trevor and I returned to our stateroom (suite!!) to enjoy a nightcap on our balcony after another very full day.  Tomorrow we were due to reach land again, and we fell asleep lulled by the gentle motion of the Boudicca on the ocean waves.  😊

In the Realm of King Neptune

Ahh… it was another glorious day as we woke up this morning around eight o’clock as usual. Going out onto our balcony, my eyes screwed up against the brightness of the sun, we saw that once again the weather was perfect, with fluffy white cumulous clouds above a blue, blue Indian Ocean. 😊

We went into the Secret Garden buffet for our breakfast, and I enjoyed the usual array of cold meats and cheeses, followed by a Danish pastry and a cup of coffee.  Then we went outside for a wander around, where once again we met Chief Officer Stefan Ravneng, and we asked him if we’d crossed the Equator yet, as we were pretty close yesterday.  The Chief advised that Captain Sartela would announce when we were crossing this legendary line at latitude 00˚ 00’.

Meanwhile, we attended a talk in the Neptune Lounge given by botanist Tracy Foster, entitled “What Have Plants Done For Us?”  It was very interesting, showing the role that plants have played on our planet, the fact that they can kill us or cure us, and how the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals keeps the world going.  Fascinating stuff.

Afterwards we went along to the Iceni Room to get a cup of coffee, and we sat by the window enjoying the passing seascape.  It was now 10.45am and we wanted to go to the pool deck, to get a great vantage point for today’s highlight, the famous Crossing the Line Ceremony.

It has long been a seafaring tradition for sailors to have an initiation ceremony for anyone crossing the main lines of latitude and longitude, namely the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, the Equator and the International Date Line.  Sailors who have previously crossed the Equator on board ship and have been accepted as King Neptune’s Trusty Shellbacks look down on those “disgusting Pollywogs”, that is, those who have never crossed the Equator.  Trevor and I have crossed the Equator on board ship a number of times, and already have certificates from three different ships, so this would be our fourth.  😊

I got a great seat at the edge of the pool to await the arrival of King Neptune and his Royal Entourage.  They soon arrived along with some ‘mermaids’ and some ‘pirates’, and cruise director Allan Tait came along dressed in a courtroom gown and wig to keep order over the proceedings.  At King Neptune’s feet was an oval platter containing a large wet fish.

First of all, Captain Sartela was called before King Neptune and brought to trial for his “crimes” against his Kingdom the Deep.  He was invariably found guilty and given the choice of kissing the fish or taking an early bath.  Before he had the chance to answer, the pirates grabbed him and threw him into the swimming pool in all his clothes, amidst much laughter and cheering from the crowd!  😊

Next it was the turn of the Chief Officer and he too was subjected to the same fate.  However, he pulled one of the pirates into the pool with him, and the soaking wet Captain came along, lifted another of the pirates and threw her into the pool too!

Thus the ceremony proceeded, and it ended up where all the senior officers, as well as the entertainers, were all swimming around fully clothed and splashing in the pool, full of good-natured fun and laughter. Finally everyone else, including Allan Tait and Lloyd Davies the comedian were all in the pool too, and King Neptune announced that we were all now Shellbacks and the Boudicca could continue her voyage into the Northern Hemisphere.  😊

It was a really great performance, and for the first-time cruisers on Boudicca, (there were quite a few of them) it would have been something quite special for them to tell all their friends back home.  😊

While all this was going on, the bar staff were going round with trays of complimentary rum punch, and we enjoyed a few beakers of the chilled, fruity drink before it took us nicely up to lunchtime, which once again we ate al fresco, sitting at a table at the Poolside Grill.

The afternoon passed in its usual pleasant way, and at 2.45pm we went along to the Neptune Lounge to listen to the second of Roger Cook’s presentations, called “Terror in the Skies”, which was an investigation into the appallingly lax security at some airports which contributed to the disaster that was 9/11.  I wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea going and watching a presentation about aircraft being hijacked or bombed, particularly as we had another 12-hour flight to endure at the end of our voyage. ☹

However, the presentation was very interesting, if somewhat disturbing, and we were reminded of what a great investigative journalist/reporter Roger Cook was.

We then returned to our stateroom (suite!!) where I had a drink, did some of this blog, then sat out on the balcony for a while, watching the world go by.  Then we just relaxed until the guy arrived with the canapés and replenished our fruit bowl, before it was time to get washed and changed for dinner.

Dinner was, as ever, delicious and plentiful with good service in excellent company.  We then went along to the Neptune Lounge and took part in the ballroom dancing.  While I was there, someone commented on my shoes, which have a 5” Perspex heel in the shape of the Playboy Bunny, with a little diamante eye.  One guy asked if I was “Britannia” and shook my hand – obviously my British Night outfit was still the talk of the ship!  😊

The show tonight saw the return of Shaun Perry, the instrumentalist and singer, and once again he performed some good songs.  But later on it would be the passengers’ turn to perform their best songs as it was Karaoke Night after the quiz.

In the Lido Lounge, we were joined again by Gary and Angela, and this time Joe put in a reappearance, so we have five in our team.  We narrowly hit the post though, as we scored 13/15 and had to take part, with two other teams, in the tie-breaker, which we didn’t win.

At 10.45pm Don from the entertainments team came round with the Karaoke books and slips of paper, and I put my name down to do You Know I’m No Good by Amy Winehouse.  Quite a few singers got up, and the overall standard was quite decent.  Everyone who got up to sing could pick a prize, and I got a little hand-bag mirror.  I then decided to do another Amy Winehouse number, this time Back to Black.  I got a big cheer afterwards and my prize was a Fred Olsen bottle opener.  The Karaoke overran a bit, and went on until after midnight.  We really enjoyed it. Then it was back to suite 7038 with a nightcap, which we enjoyed out on the balcony.  It had been a good day and we still had another sea day to look forward to tomorrow – there is always so much to do on the good ship Boudicca.  😊

Britannia Rules the Waves!

Today we had a packed programme of events to look forward to, as we got up around 8.00am and went out onto our balcony to another warm and sultry day. 😊

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Tintagel Restaurant, then went outside to take a stroll around the decks and breathe in the salt air.  Every now and again we paused, to stand at the railing and look down at the sea; we saw the usual bursts of silver streaks as the flying fish soared and skimmed atop the waves.

Looking further out to sea we thought we saw a dark shape and, sure enough, we caught a glimpse of black fins – it appeared to be a school of porpoises or dolphins; they certainly weren’t big enough to be whales.  We carried on walking around the decks until we had completed the five laps, equal to one mile.

It was then time to make our way to the Neptune Lounge for the first of today’s fascinating talks.  This one was called “Life as s Senior Criminal Court Judge” by His Honour Judge Radford, a retired criminal judge who appeared in the BBC series Murder, Mystery and My Family.  The presentation was interesting, apart from the judge’s slow and deliberate speech which was quite soporific, and you could understand why some jurors fall asleep during the judge’s summing up in court!

It took us nicely up to lunchtime, and we went along to the Poolside Grill where I enjoyed a delicious salad Niçoise with a fresh tuna steak, washed down with a cold pint of Stella.  😊

We then just sat out at the pool for a while, passing pleasantries with our fellow passengers and enjoying watching the Boudicca gliding along in the sparkling blue Indian Ocean, with no other vessels anywhere in sight.

At 1.45pm we returned to the Neptune Lounge to listen to a talk called “Rich on the Run”, which was about the infamous “Costa del Crime” in Spain.  The speaker’s name was given as Roger Cook, but it was only when the presentation started we realised it was the Roger Cook, of ITV’s The Cook Report fame.  The Cook Report was a very well-known documentary series on TV in the 1980s and 1990s; in fact it ran for 12 years.  The programme featured Roger Cook travelling the world to investigate serious criminal activity, injustice and official incompetence. But it is perhaps best remembered for its ground-breaking undercover ‘stings’ and for Cook’s trademark confrontations with his targets, during which he (and sometimes the film crew) could suffer verbal and physical abuse.  The talk started with a video montage from clips from the show, showing some of these (quite violent) confrontations.

The presentation was extremely interesting, and showed some of the most obnoxious conmen and scammers of the day, and how they’d fled to Spain to continue living the high life on their ill-gotten gains.  One of them was the infamous John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer, who was involved in the Brinks-Mat robbery as well as a multi-million dollar timeshare scam in Tenerife.  A thoroughly nasty character, he got what was coming to him when he was murdered, at the age of 64, by six gunshot wounds to the chest.

The talk overran by quite a lot and should have been followed by the dance class, but we’d had enough of being below decks by now, so we decided to go up to the Lido Deck and take advantage of Fred Olsen’s inclusive drinks package.  😉

We then bought some raffle tickets in aid of the RNLI, which is Fred’s chosen charity, in which a number of useful prizes were of offer.  We didn’t win anything, but Ruth and Mike, from table #31, got three of the prizes!

It was now getting on for five o’clock, so we returned to our stateroom (suite!!) and pottered about for a bit before it was time to start getting ready in our red, white and blue, for tonight was British Night!  I had been looking forward to this night, as instead of just wearing a Union Jack jacket or t-shirt or wearing something red, white and blue I was going the whole hog.  They wanted British, so they were certainly going to get British!

Yes!  While Trevor looked very smart in his Union Jack waistcoat and matching bow-tie, tonight was my pièce de résistance; I was dressing as Britannia, and I’d brought all the necessary props with me, including long white dress, a huge Union flag which I tied around my shoulders as a cape, a trident and Union Jack shield, and a long dark wig complete with Roman helmet!  When worn all together it looked fantastic, and I was glad I’d made the effort to create the shield and get the other props.

Predictably, while making our way to the restaurant, my outfit attracted a lot of attention and a lot of comments as I passed regally by, all the way to our table. Everyone on table #31 had made the effort; John and Margaret wearing garments in red, white and blue and Mike also wearing a waistcoat and bow-tie similar to Trevor’s, while Ruth wore a long Union Jack t-shirt and top hat.

The dinner was British-themed, with traditional meals such as bangers ‘n’ mash, steak and ale pie and chicken tikka masala, all washed down with rosé wine and finished with liqueurs.

There was no dancing in the Neptune Lounge tonight as, instead, they were holding the Great British Sing-Along.  As I proceeded along to the lounge, my shield on my arm and my trident held aloft, people kept stopping me and asking for photographs, and other groups of people applauded as I walked by.  If I wanted attention I was certainly getting it, but it surprised me that no-one had ever dressed as Britannia before, as it seemed the most obvious outfit to wear.

We managed to get seats right at the front, then the entertainment team (including Daniel) came onto the stage and we were all given song-sheets, then the band struck up and we all sang patriotic songs like There’ll Always Be An England and Land of Hope And Glory, to much flag-waving and singing with gusto.  It was great!  😊

The performance tonight, by the Boudicca Show Company, was called “Britain Rocks” and was described as ‘a journey through the decades of the very best in British music from the 1960s to the present day’.  It was a superb show, and finished with a rousing Proms Finale.  We enjoyed it thoroughly.

The show company all posed outside the Neptune Lounge in their British outfits for people to take photos of them.  While I was waiting for Trevor to come out of the Gents, there were as many people taking photos of me, and the show company even started singing an impromptu rendition of Rule Britannia!  On the way to the Lido Lounge I couldn’t believe the number of people who came up to me, congratulating me on my outfit or asking to have their photo taken with me.  We spotted Daniel on the way and got someone to photograph me and Trevor with him, so I could email it to his mum Julie (our dancing teacher).

Once again, we sat with Gary and Angela for the quiz, and once again we didn’t win.  We couldn’t see Joe anywhere, so he’d obviously gone elsewhere for the evening.

After not winning the quiz, we remained in the Lido Lounge for the music, although I didn’t get up and dance.  To tell the truth, it was sweltering in the wig and Roman helmet, but I was determined to remain as Britannia until we got back to our cabin. We stayed until about midnight, then got a final drink to take back to our balcony.  Inside our cabin (suite!!) I thankfully removed my helmet and the long wig, and allowed the warm sea breeze to caress my head, face and neck while I put my feet up on the balcony railings and enjoyed the cold drink.  There was no doubt about it – my Britannia costume had been a resounding success, and I looked forward to wearing it on future FOCL cruises.  What a lovely day it had been!

Beautiful Beau Vallon

This morning, when we got up and went out onto our balcony, we discovered we were docked in Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, situated on the island of Mahé.  Today we were booked onto a half-day tour to explore this area and also spend time at the beach.

It was hard to believe we were halfway through our fabulous voyage already.  Some of the people we’d been speaking to, including our quiz team-mate Joe, were spending seven weeks on the Boudicca, staying with her all the way back to Dover and taking in India, the UAE and the Suez Canal on the way home.  Trevor and I would love to do a 21- or 28-day cruise, once we’re retired.

But today here we were in another new port and we looked forward to exploring.  We went up on deck after breakfast to take in our surroundings, as our trip wasn’t scheduled to depart until 9.30am.  While we were up there, we watched a fishing boat arrive quayside with a huge load of fish in a net; this was attached to a crane and lifted ashore into the back of a truck, and sent down a chute into a large refrigerated container.  Then the fishing boat left and another boat with another load of fish arrived in its place, for the process to begin again.  The fish looked quite large, and we later found out they were tuna.

It was then time for us to go down to the Neptune Lounge and wait for the call to disembark the Boudicca, which didn’t take long.  We then boarded a small bus which took us through the bustling streets of Victoria, where there was lots to see.  At one point we got off the bus and followed our guide through the narrow thoroughfare, passing the Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clark Market, a large fish and fresh produce market, where we saw more boxes of the fresh tuna.  It transpires that there is a large tuna canning factory, Indian Ocean Tuna Ltd. which produces 1.5 million cans of tuna a day.  Amazing!

We also passed an ornate Hindu temple and well as a Catholic church; the Seychelles has a multi-cultural population.  The church was lovely and cool inside and had some fantastic stained-glass windows, as well as a life-size tableau featuring the Nativity.

Back outside we strolled through the colourful streets, looking in shop windows and just people-watching.  We then reboarded our bus and headed out of the town towards what the Seychelles is famous for – the beach.

As the traffic and the buildings thinned out, the scenery became more lush, with gorgeous trees bearing colourful flowers and palm trees, interspersed here and there with little shops and boutiques.  After about 15 minutes or so we pulled up at the front of a hotel and resort, the Berjaya, in Beau Vallon.  We had an hour and a half to make use of the hotel’s pool, bar and beach facilities, and first of all we were given a complimentary soft drink which we enjoyed sitting at a table looking towards the beach.

I really wished I had brought my cossie today as the beach was absolutely stunning.  There was a wide expanse of white, powder-soft sand and coconut palms fringing the crystal-clear water.  Some people were para-gliding, the speed boats hoisting the colourful canopies into the sky, others were swimming and sunbathing.

We rolled up our trouser legs to above the knees, kicked off our shoes and walked along the shoreline, allowing the gorgeous warm water to lap around our ankles and lower legs.  I took loads of photos and short video footage and just delighted being in such a picture-perfect location.  Then, as the morning edged towards mid-day and the sun reached its zenith, we decided to seek refuge in the shade, so we went into the hotel foyer to make the most of their free wi-fi and to post the cards I’d written out yesterday.

We then reluctantly made our way back to our waiting coach, for the journey back to the Boudicca, where we arrived in nice time for lunch at one o’clock.  The pool looked very inviting, so I donned by tankini, coated myself liberally in factor-20 suntan lotion, and took to the pleasantly-warm waters, while Trevor went to the stern to continue watching the tuna boats being unloaded; they’d been busy all day.

I did a few lengths in the pool and, when I got out, I had to run to get my flip-flops back on as the wooden decking was roasting hot underfoot.  I then joined Trevor and watched one of the full tuna containers being hitched to the tractor unit of a waiting lorry, ready to be taken to the factory.  A new container was then craned back into place again, while yet another boat full of tuna arrived.

We then decided to return to our stateroom (suite!!) where I got showered and washed my hair before getting dried off and into clean clothes.  I put my cossie and the wet towel out onto the balcony to dry; it didn’t take long in the 30+ degree heat.

We then enjoyed an afternoon power nap and sat out on our balcony for a while, reading and relaxing.  The Boudicca was due to set sail at 16:30 hours, so we went up on deck to enjoy the sailaway party, with live music from the Boudicca Orchestra and Ricardo.  Everyone was dancing around on the deck and enjoying cold cocktails and refreshing, foamy beer.  I had a deliciously fruity sangria, and had a bit of a bop about.  Everyone was smiley and happy and euphoric; the bright sunshine, sparkling ocean and the tantalising sea breeze just had the effect of making us so glad to be alive, and we took in huge lungfuls of the fresh sea air and felt full of contentment.  It’s very hard to describe the feeling, but all I can say is if I was a little dog I would have been leaping about, my tail wagging frenetically.  😊

After an hour or so, we returned to stateroom 7038 in time for the soft knock on the door which heralded the arrival of our canapés.  My nicely blow-dried hair was all over the place with the breeze and the humidity, but so what – tonight’s dress code was smart-casual and no-one’s hair was immaculate anyway, we were all in the same boat, so to speak.  😊

The Boudicca was well underway by the time we went down to dinner at 6.15pm, in fact we had three full days at sea to look forward to now, en route to the Maldives.

Dinner was the usual grand affair; good food, good wine and good company.  Then we spent the evening in the usual way – along to the Neptune Lounge for the dancing and the evening’s entertainment.  Tonight, it was the magician Rick Green again; this time he was doing close-up magic, where we could see his hands manipulating the cards via a camera projected onto a large screen.  He really was very good and put on a great performance.

Then along we went to the Lido Lounge for the quiz.  There was no sign of Joe tonight, but we were joined by another very pleasant couple who introduced themselves as Gary and Angela.  We didn’t win the quiz (again!) but our score was an improvement on what it had been recently, so things were looking up.  😊

We enjoyed a few cocktails in the Lido Lounge, while listening to Colin James, the resident pianist, and watching the dancers.  It was hot and sultry in the lounge because the huge glass doors, the width of the room, were open and the tropical warmth infiltrated the room, so I didn’t have the energy to get up and join the dancers.

We then took the last drink along to our stateroom (suite!!) and sat out for a while, winding down, before settling down for the evening, in happy anticipation of whatever tomorrow had in store.  😊

The Living Seychelles

We had to be up at 07:15 hours this morning as we were due to go on tour at half past eight.  We enjoyed a good breakfast then gathered together suntan cream, mozzie repellent, hand gel and local currency ready to disembark the ship for today’s tour, which was called “The Living Seychelles”, hence the title of today’s blog entry.  😊

After getting the liberty boat across the bay once again, we boarded the small local bus and it was only a short journey of about 20 minutes, through dense, lush vegetation and small houses and shops, until we arrived at the Praslin Museum.  It was a bit of a misnomer, however, because it turned out to be a living museum rather than a building full of dusty old relics, and our guide (and the museum owner) was a large, ebullient man called Mr Steve Esther.

Mr Esther had bought a plot of land in 1995 and had built a seven-bedroomed guesthouse, complete with dance/entertainment area, as well as planting and cultivating lots of the plants and trees native to the Seychelles.  His family, including his cute little 10-year old daughter, helped him run the place.

After welcoming us to the Praslin Museum, we were each given a refreshing glass of tropical juice, along with some samples of fresh coconut and breadfruit crisps, and some dried banana slices.  We then began our tour.

The first thing we saw was a wire enclosure containing three large fruit bats. Unlike most bats, however, during daylight, these ones weren’t asleep but were climbing about in their enclosure, their bright black eyes framed by their cute little fox-like faces – in fact, they are known as “flying foxes” and they have a wing-span of about a metre.  The guy told us that the bats were not held captive; they could fly wherever they wanted but they always returned because, to them, it was like a “bat 5-star hotel” where they were well-fed and looked after.  He said on one occasion there had even been baby bats.  😊

Next, we were taken to see some giant tortoises.  There were three altogether; two females and one enormous male, who Mr Esther told us was 136 years old.  The tortoise was friendly and people were given fruit to feed to him, where he would take it out of their hand.  Along the way, Mr Esther would point out the various plants to us, tell us what they were, and what they could be used for, i.e. medicinal, healing, making things etc.  As well as many coconut palms there were vanilla, breadfruit, patchouli and citronella.

The coconut palm is an incredibly useful tree; all parts of the plant can be used.  We were shown how to de-husk and open a green coconut to get the refreshing water; the fibrous husk is used to make matting and baskets.  There were also some older coconuts that were starting to sprout and Mr Esther opened one of them; instead of containing water, the white flesh filled the interior of the coconut and, when we tasted it, it was much drier and more ”woolly” than the coconut flesh we’re accustomed to; in fact, it wasn’t really all that nice.

We were then given some copra, or dried coconut, to try; this tasted different but wasn’t unpleasant.  Coconut shell is also used to make a wide variety of things, from bowls to ornaments to carvings and other household items.

Next, we were taken to where a dreadlocked guy in a crocheted hat showed us how to grate the coconut flesh which is mixed with water and squeezed out by hand to make coconut milk, and to extract the oil, which is used for a great many things, in cooking, cosmetics and hair-care. In fact coconut oil is one of the best conditioners you can use for your hair.  The same guy also used the palm leaves to plait and weave into a basket, complete with handle.  Palm leaves are also made into brooms and are dried and used to thatch buildings as well.  An incredibly versatile tree indeed.

After learning all about the coconuts, we were then taken to the main building and offered a cold drink of water or juice, as well as being able to use the loo.  The guest house looked lovely; set in all this lush greenery off the beaten track it looked like the kind of place where you’d come for a week or so to take time out of life.  😊

We were then shown to a building where fresh breadfruit was being grilled, and each given a hot slice of the delicacy; it didn’t have much taste or texture, it was a bit like mashed potato, and we guessed that perhaps it was used as a staple carbohydrate to “pad out” meals.

After Mr Esther explained to us a bit more about the endemic plants and trees, he showed us how to take a root cutting from a tree, by removing a piece of bark from the branch, then tying a freshly-cut twig, in a bit of soil in a plastic bag, onto the larger branch, where the twig will take nourishment from the mother tree and begin to sprout roots.  It can then be planted where it will grow and bear fruit in about three months.  Fascinating stuff.  😊

We finished this really interesting and educational tour by going to the “disco” area (a large open-sided shelter) with some guitars, local instruments, speakers and a microphone in one corner.  Inside, Mr Esther played the guitar and sang for us, then he played some local music on a hand-fashioned instrument which had a wire stretched lengthwise above a hollow tube; when different areas of the wire were struck with a stick, a different note sounded.  He then took up the guitar again and everyone joined in when he sang Take Me Home, Country Roads.  Then we were each given a paper beaker containing home-brewed palm wine, which tasted quite strong!  😊

What an excellent morning it had been so far!  Our little bus then took us back along the sea front where our guide said we could spend an hour at the beach.  We saw a small supermarket-type shop that was selling cold bottles of Seybrew (the local beer) so we bought a chilled bottle each and the proprietor removed the caps for us.  We then brought the beer onto the most gorgeous beach imaginable, where we sat in the shade, our toes in the sand, and looked out at a scene straight out of Paradise.  We then walked along the shoreline but the sun was very hot, so we went back into the shade, then walked through a small grove of coconut palms; several of the trees and dropped their nuts and we avoided walking directly underneath the trees as we didn’t fancy a coconut falling on our heads!

We then returned to the landing stage where we were pleased to see that all the closed shops we’d spotted yesterday were now open.  We therefore went into one which was displaying colourful clothing and other local souvenirs, where we bought some postcards and stamps, and I also bought a very unusual hand-bag hand-made out of squares of coconut shell joined together and lined with an inner satin pouch which closed with a drawstring.  It wasn’t cheap at £40.00, but it is certainly different and a nice reminder of our visit to Praslin.  In fact, we discovered that the Seychelles aren’t a particularly cheap place anyway; they probably up all the prices for the tourists!

We then joined the queue at the landing stage to get the liberty boat back across to the Boudicca, where we arrived back just after one o’clock – in nice time for lunch.  Dumping our stuff in our stateroom (suite!!) we went down to the Poolside Grill, and enjoyed a freezing cold beer and a light lunch, just sitting in the shade by the pool enjoying ourselves. Hey, this is the life!  😊

We spent the afternoon pottering around the ship until it was time to start getting ready for dinner once again.  At six o’clock Captain Sartela’s voice boomed over the tannoy to announce that the Boudicca would shortly be weighing anchor and setting sail for Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles.  As the sun dipped lower in the sky (sunset was at 6.32pm), we made our way to the Tintagel Restaurant and enjoyed the usual scrumptious meal, washed down with copious quantities of rosé wine.  As everyone on table #31 had got to know each other by now, we enjoyed the conversation and the banter, and Trevor and I decided this was turning out to be a fantastic cruise.

After dinner we did the usual – went along to the Neptune Lounge to take part in the dancing (the best we could, anyway!), then order our drinks and sit back to enjoy the show.  Tonight the fabulous Boudicca Orchestra were in the spotlight (instead of ‘just’ being the superb backing for the main show).  They were performing their tribute to all the Big Band greats, such as Glen Miller and Duke Ellington.  Their show was excellent, and judging by the foot tapping we could see going on in the audience, everyone else seemed to enjoy it too.

Afterwards we adjourned to the Lido Lounge, where the resident pianist Colin James was just finishing off before the quiz.  Joe joined us tonight, but we were nowhere near winning again.

After the quiz we hot-footed it back to the Neptune Lounge; most of the best seats were already taken because tonight was featuring the Crew Cabaret.  This was a selection of talented singers from around members of the crew, from the engine room to waiters to cabin stewardesses; all of them received enthusiastic cheers and applause from the audience, and we wondered why some of them didn’t become professional singers rather than their usual day jobs.

We returned to the Lido Lounge afterwards, but we were quite tired after our packed day, so we just got a drink to enjoy on our balcony, and we took it back, put our feet up and enjoyed the sounds of the sea along with Enya’s relaxing music emanating softly from my iPod.

We had another delightful day in the Seychelles to look forward to tomorrow and, with this happy thought, fell asleep more or less instantly.

New Year, New Country

Got up quite late this morning (9.00am) and, while Trevor went down to breakfast, I preferred to enjoy some coffee and fresh fruit in our cabin, while I slowly (and rather sluggishly) got washed and dressed.  Going out onto our balcony, we looked around with interest at our surroundings.

We were not booked on an excursion today; we’d be going on a tour here tomorrow as we were due to stay in port overnight.  Therefore we had the whole day to explore at our own pace in this, our 87th country.  😊

First of all, a paragraph or two to describe the Seychelles.  The islands were first discovered in 1502 by the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama on his voyage to India.  However, it was the French East India Company who colonised many of the nearby islands and in the 18th century laid claim to the Seychelles.  It was a common stop for Arab slave traders, British and many European sailors travelling the routes to Africa and India.  It was Britain, in the early 19th century who took control from France.

The country of the Republic of the Seychelles achieved independence from Britain in 1976. Since then, the Seychelles opened up and developed as one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world, with its glorious beaches and picture-postcard beauty.

The Boudicca was at anchor about a mile from shore, and we could see the liberty boats ferrying the passengers across.  We decided to put our swimming costumes on underneath our clothes in case we found a gorgeous beach on which to relax and swim, so I wore my tankini with a matching strapless overdress.

We then went to collect a tender ticket to await our turn, because priority was understandably being given to those who had booked a tour.  Eventually our number was called so we descended down to the pontoon on Deck 2 and embarked the liberty boat for the 10-minute ride across.  The day was already hot and sunny and we could see hillsides with little houses perched on the side, in among the lush greenery, as well as a line of gleaming white catamarans moored up.

Once we got ashore, we decided to try to find a beach.  This seemed to be the more populated part of the island and there were several private dwellings as well as shops, restaurants, bars and commercial buildings, all of them closed on New Year’s Day.  There was quite a bit of traffic about, and we had to be careful walking on the narrow roads, which had no pavements.

The sun was already scorching hot, even though it was only around 10.30am.  We had only been walking about 10 minutes or so, but in this heat it was pretty tiring, and I soon wished I hadn’t worn my Lycra cossie under a Lycra dress, as they were not the best fabrics for keeping cool.  After we’d walked about half a mile with no glorious beach in sight, we decided to turn around and come back the other way, staying in the shade of trees as much as possible.

We did find a tiny little sandy beach area which gave a charming view out towards the small boats and yachts bobbing about on the water.  I kicked off my shoes and walked in the sand down to the water’s edge, paddling in the warm water, where a lone coconut was gently rolling backwards and forwards on the tide.  We could see several holes and mounds of sand, and we wondered what had made them, until we saw several large crabs emerging from and going into the holes.

Continuing on our way, we walked a bit further along until we came to the water’s edge near where the liberty boat had dropped us off.  We sat on some large rocks looking out to sea; one lady had adventurously clambered down the steep rocks to get to a patch of pristine white sand and have a swim in the sea, but in my flip-flops I prudently decided to stay where I was. 😊

As nothing seemed to be open and we didn’t yet have any of the local currency (the Seychelles Rupee) to get a taxi, we decided to return to the Boudicca in time for lunch, because we’d have the chance to come back again tomorrow when we were doing a half-day tour.  We therefore waited in the hot sunshine for the liberty boat to come back, and once again we skimmed across the bay to the pontoon and boarded the ship.  I had thought that I might swim in the pool as I was wearing my cossie anyway, but after a light lunch by the poolside I decided I was still quite tired after our late night and went back to the cool cabin (suite!!) for a post-luncheon nap instead.

Then I had a lovely refreshing shower and did my hair, and we sat out on the balcony for a while, just taking in the scenery and passing pleasantries with anyone passing by our terrace.  😊

The afternoon passed in its pleasant way, then it was time once again to start getting ready for dinner.  The food, service and company on table #31 have been superb so far, and it’s always a treat when dinner time comes around! 😊

Later on, in the Neptune Lounge, Trevor and I practised our ballroom dancing once again, and then it was time for tonight’s entertainment by Welsh comedian Lloyd Davies.  We realised we’d seen him before, on the Braemar, but he’s really funny, as well as being a talented composer and musician, so we looked forward to seeing him again, and he didn’t disappoint.

Then it was along to the Lido Lounge to do the quiz; no sign of Joe tonight because he said he was going to see the comedian again (!) so we were joined by another couple but, as ever, we came nowhere near winning.  Nonetheless we enjoyed the drinks and cocktails and the banter with our fellow passengers until it was time to return to stateroom (suite!!) 7038, and enjoy our final drink of the day out on our balcony, listening to the sounds of the sea and the crickets chirping, and enjoying the balmy night-time air.

Then we settled down in our crisp cotton sheets and, once again, enjoyed a good night’s sleep.