Back To The Very Beginning With P&O Cruises

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I embarked on my first cruise in 2007: a 12-night voyage to the Canary Islands aboard P&O Cruises ‘Oriana’. Since then, I have tried many other ships and many other cruise lines, and I have been lucky enough to sail to some incredible places, but every time I see a ship that bears the sun (and now a huge Union Jack), I can’t help but lose a little piece of my heart to her.

You NEVER forget your first cruise, and although you may sail aboard other ships and to more exciting destinations, that first ship will always be the ONE. Unless you have been on a cruise, you won’t really understand what I mean and will probably think I’m a little bit weird, but those that have will know exactly where I am coming from. You don’t just enjoy the destinations that you sail to, the ship itself becomes so much more than a mode of transportation. It becomes a place where wonderful memories are made and great new friendships are sparked. It becomes a place where you feel at home and safe – you’ll never get that feeling from a hotel on land. Plus, there are so many exciting things to experience, things that you can only ever experience from the deck of a ship: the muster drill, sailing into port, watching the crew lower the gangway, eating your breakfast on your balcony while watching a pod of Dolphins swim by…I could go on and on, but you get the picture!

Oriana hasn’t really changed that much since I first sailed on her in 2007. I cruised aboard her again in 2008, but following that, it would be 2015 before our wakes would once again cross. She brought back so many wonderful memories and the instant I stepped onboard it was like I had never been away. On the cruise in 2015, she sailed me to the Arctic Circle – a destination that really took my breath away. It’s still one of the best cruises I have experienced and I can never say enough good things about it. There she was, helping me create lifelong memories, once again, through travel.

P&O Cruises had started something inside my heart back in 2007, and it gently simmered away for many years – even I didn’t know what was to come! Eventually, it made its way to the surface at full boil and I left my steady job to take a risk on something entirely new. I wanted to see the world and I wanted to do something that put me in a position to allow work and travel to compliment one another – CruiseMiss.com was born…in theory, anyway.

I started this blog (what I am writing now) with the intention of going in one particular direction, but it seems that my fingers have typed me onto another course. I’m not going to go back and change it, I’ll stay here now and end by saying that if you want to do something, go and do it! We are placed on this earth for one show and the curtain soon comes down. Don’t get to a point in life where you wish you had done something – make it happen.

Happy Cruising! 🙂

 

Posted in P&O Cruises

My First Cruise Of 2017: Caribbean, Central America And America

My first cruise of 2017 is just 23-days away and WHAT an itinerary it offers! It looks like this: Madeira, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Tortola, Jamaica, Banana Coast, Belize City, Cozumel, New Orleans (2-nights in port), Tampa, Key West, Miami, Port Canaveral, Jacksonville, Charleston, Bermuda and Ponta Delgada. Fantastic, right? I can’t wait to get my suitcases packed and sail-away from Southampton. It’s only by chance that this voyage came along, I had originally been planning a cruise on another ship, but then I found myself looking at Balmoral’s itinerary and I was converted in less than a minute.

It is a 46-night cruise aboard Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ‘Balmoral’ – a ship that I can’t seem to keep away from right now – and my friend and I have been planning our ports days for the last few weeks. We are going to be docked in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and I absolutely cannot wait! I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans last year for 1-night, and that was an experience, but to be there for 2 this time and during Mardi Gras – it’s a dream come true, and I am certainly going to make the most of every second that I have in the Big Easy. I’m not going to tell you all our plans, as that would spoil the live blogs, but we are hoping to explore Ybor City in Tampa, the Mayan ruins at Lamanai in Belize, have an evening beach dinner in Barbados, a relaxing beach day in Antigua, and then let our hair down on the Cozumel Bar Hop in Cozumel – you’ll have to wait to find out the rest! 🙂

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The new ports for me on this cruise are: Falmouth, Jamaica; Banana Coast (Trujillo); Belize City; Tampa, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; and Hamilton in Bermuda. I’m looking forward to exploring them all, but especially Belize and the Banana Coast. I love new destinations!

This will be my 3rd cruise on Balmoral in less than a year, but the longest cruise overall that I will have ever done. I’ve spent 35-nights aboard a ship, but this 46-night journey is probably going to top them all. I’ve already started my packing – I thought it wise I get in there early to ensure that I don’t forget anything – and I have a stack of books and games ready to be enjoyed. That’s the thing about a transatlantic cruise like this one, you have plenty of sea days there and back to just relax and read. Obviously, reading beneath the warm glow of the sunshine is always nicer, but for those days that are a little grey and grim, a few travel games will always come in useful when you’re taking refuge inside.

It’s not very often I come across a ship that I REALLY like in virtually every way, but Balmoral made her way onto my “love” list back in May 2016 – she joined Saga Sapphire and P&O Cruises’ Oceana. Balmoral is the ideal size, her crew are fantastic, her accommodation options are spacious and the food is always very good. I also very much enjoy lounging on her open decks and just watching the world go by. She’s exactly what you want from contemporary cruising and during both of my previous voyages I met some wonderful people.

Fred-Olsen-Balmoral

If you want to know more about the voyage, then you can view it in full on the Fred. Olsen website – there’s still availability so why not come with me!

I’m hoping to blog live throughout the cruise, so be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all my latest updates.

Posted in Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Princess Cruises To Feature Ocean Medallion Aboard Regal Princess

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Princess Cruises has confirmed it will be the first Carnival Corporation brand to feature the new Ocean Medallion.

The medallion, which is the same size as a 10p piece, will automatically provide information to guests during their cruise to give a more personalised onboard experience. It can be worn by guests as a pendant, on a wristband or simply placed in a pocket or bag.

The medallion will be used to:

  • Streamline the embarkation and disembarkation process, as the medallion gives quick and easy access to the ship
  • Lock and unlock an assigned stateroom door as guests near it, so replacing the current key card
  • Enable guests to purchase merchandise, services, excursions, food and drinks
  • Provide enhanced dining experiences based on food and drink preferences
  • Create an array of interactive gaming and other personalised entertainment
  • Enhance interaction with crew members and other guests

The medallion is fully automated and has no visible technology such as an on-off switch or charging function. The data it collects is based on preferences provided by guests before and during their cruise. Guests can supply as much or as little information as required in order to help personalise their cruise.

In addition, an Ocean Compass for guests is also being introduced. The Ocean Compass acts as a ‘digital concierge,’ which is accessible via interactive displays throughout the ship, stateroom TVs or on personal mobile devices.

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It can assist guests in a number of ways, including:

  • Finding their way to venues around the ship
  • Making reservations at the Lotus spa, specialty dining restaurants and shore excursions
  • Arranging celebrations
  • Viewing photographs
  • Learning more about destinations they will visit and activities at each port of call

Crew members will similarly have access to a Crew Compass that will instantly recognise each guest, so they can tailor suggestions and information based on the guest’s preferences.

The Ocean Medallion will be available from November 13, 2017, on Regal Princess, followed by Royal Princess and Caribbean Princess in early 2018.

Other benefits of the Ocean Medallion and Ocean Compass include:

  • The option for guests to place select dining orders and have them delivered to their current location. For example, by using the Ocean Compass guests can order select food and beverages from a poolside lounge chair
  • Similarly, guests can place a drink order and have it delivered to where they plan to be at a designated time. For example, an order for a glass of wine at the theatre can be made prior to a show, which will then be delivered to guests at their seat
  • Parents of older children can keep track of where they are onboard, while friends and family will be able to communicate with each other through seamless instant messenger service

Additional details on the Ocean Medallion will be announced in the run up to the first sailing on Regal Princess.

Posted in Cruise News, Princess Cruises

Saga Sapphire Technical Department: Show Us Your Engines!

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Saga Sapphire is one of my favourite cruise ships, I love virtually everything about her and I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there that also have a soft spot in their heart for her. When I enjoy something or I am passionate about something, I like to learn as much about whatever it may be that I can, so my blog today is a look behind the scenes of Saga Sapphire and what goes on below decks to enable her to sail us to the incredible places that she does. We all love a bit of technical information every now and then!

Saga Sapphire’s Propulsion Plant

Saga Sapphire has two main engines and each one is connected to its own shaft and propeller. The propellers are 5 bladed fixed pitch, so this means the propulsion of the vessel is directly linked to the loading of the engines.

What Are The Main Engine’s?

Sapphire has large Slow Speed Two Stroke Reversible Engines: MAN Bremer Vulkan, KZ SZ 70/125B. Each of her main engines are bigger than a traditional London double decker bus. Each one consists of 7 cylinders and each cylinder has a bore of 700mm diameter. Each piston has a stroke of 1250mm; this is the travel of the piston from top dead centre to bottom dead centre. The maximum operating speed of Saga Sapphire’s engines is 125 rev/min. This provides a ship speed pf up to 17 knots.

Each engine has two turbo chargers and one common scavenge air belt, which is known as a constant pressure turbocharging system. The engine has no inlet or exhaust valves, instead there are scavenge ports and exhaust ports in the liner to allow for the exchange of air change which is required for combustion. The ports are closed to the cylinder depending on the position of the piston.

How Is Saga Sapphire’s Engine Started?

To start the engines, they use a compressed air system, which is known as the start air system. This consists of 4 reciprocating air compressors which fill two start air receivers. Each of which has a volume of 9500 litres at a pressure of 30 bar.

From here, the air is supplied to the engine main start air valve. A signal from the Engine Telegraph system opens the start air valve which supplies air to each unit’s start air valve. Depending on the position of the engine, the air distributor will ensure that the air goes to the correct unit to open the relevant start air valve on the cylinder head, hence forcing the piston on a downward stroke causing the engine to rotate.

A sensor fitted on the engine flywheel detects the speed of the engine. Once the engine has reached a predetermined speed, the electronic governor admits fuel to the engine and closes the start air valve. The engine now accelerates to 45 rev/min which is dead slow ahead or stern.

How Big Are Her Propellers?

Each of Saga Sapphire’s 2 propellers is 4.75 metres in diameter and weighs 11.4 tonnes. Each propeller has 5 blades and can be compared with the size of an average person.

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What Is The Bunker Capacity and Fuel Consumption Of Saga Sapphire?

Saga Sapphire operates on two types of fuel: IFO 380 and MGO.

Total Capacity: IF 380 – 338,000 gallons – 1460 tonnes | MGO – 325,000 gallons – 1250 tonnes

At a service speed of 16 knots, Saga Sapphire has a fuel consumption of approx. 150 feet to the gallon, or 184 litres per knot mile.

Did You Know…

Engineer Officers wear gold stripes with purple because when Titanic sank, all engineers went down with the ship. King George V decreed that the Royal Purple will be worn in their memory from that date on.

The information contained in my blog today comes to us courtesy of 2nd Engineer Officer Luke Doyle.

Posted in Saga Cruises

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ‘Top 10 Special Event Cruises’ In 2017/18

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Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has released its ‘Top Ten Special Event Cruises’ for 2017/18, all of which showcase its commitment to offering cruise guests ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences! From the colourful Rio Carnival, the lively atmosphere of the Seville Fair to Norway’s National Day in Stavanger, Fred. Olsen has a host of unique cruise holidays that are sure to suit even the most discerning traveller.

Fred. Olsen’s ‘Top Ten Special Event Cruises’ for 2017/18 are:

1 – Balmoral’s eight-night L1706 ‘King’s Day Celebrations in Amsterdam’ cruise, ex Dover on 22nd April 2017.

Enjoy the annual Kings Day celebrations in Amsterdam, where the streets will be alive with locals and tourists enjoying the festivities and wearing their national colour, orange.

2 – Braemar’s 14-night M1710 ‘Rivers of Spain & France with the Seville Fair’ cruise, ex Southampton on 28th April 2017.

Be part of Seville’s most important event, the Seville Fair – take a horse drawn carriage through the festivities and watch the colourful displays of dance and theatre.

3 – Balmoral’s nine-night L1709 ‘Scenic Fjords & Norway National Day’ cruise, ex Dover on 15th May 2017.

Be immersed in Norwegian tradition on a visit to Stavanger for Norway’s National Day, with live music, locals in traditional dress, flag-waving and a chance to taste local delicacies.

4 – Black Watch’s 16-night W1705 ‘Sun, Sea and Monaco Grand Prix’ cruise, ex Southampton on 19th May 2017.

Take in the undisputed jewel in the Formula One crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, plus, with two full days in Nice, there is also the chance to watch the qualifying round too!

5 – Boudicca’s 26-night D1713 ‘Bermuda & the America’s Cup’ cruise, ex Liverpool on 9th June 2017.

Working with the preferred tour provider, enjoy a host of shore and ship-based festivities to get in the America’s Cup spirit, ahead of two full days to watch the races.

6 – Black Watch’s nine-night W1708 ‘German Waterways & Kiel Week’ cruise, ex Dover on 21st June 2017.

Be part of one of the world’s largest sailing events, Kielerwoche (Kiel Week); relax by the harbour, admiring the boats and sampling traditional German food, drink and entertainment.

7 – Braemar’s 10-night M1718 ‘Tall Ships and Cultural Trips’ cruise, ex Southampton on 26th July 2017.

Enjoy the jovial atmosphere and admire over hundred classic sailing vessels at the Tall Ships’ Races spectacular regatta, which has been held annually since 1956, on a visit to Klaipeda in the Baltic.

8 – Braemar’s 10-night M1722 ‘The Braemar Highland Games’ cruise, ex Southampton on 29th August 2017.

Take advantage of an extended stay in Dundee in Scotland to see the famous Braemar Highland Games, which are attended each year by the Queen and Prince Phillip.

9 – Balmoral’s 16-night L1728 ‘Canaries Christmas & Funchal Fireworks’ cruise, ex Southampton on 21st December 2017.

Enjoy a festive atmosphere on board this Christmas and New Year sailing, arriving in Funchal in Madeira for the impressive firework display to see 2018, in style!

10 – Balmoral’s 46-night L1803 ‘Rio Carnival & River Plate’ ‘Grand Voyage’, ex Southampton on 23rd January 2018.

Take in the euphoric atmosphere of the world-famous Rio Carnival with four days in the city to soak up the samba beats, vibrant parades, brightly coloured floats and thrilling performances.

If you have never cruised with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines before, then the above itineraries give you the perfect opportunity to change that! I am a BIG fan of Fred. Olsen and my first cruise with the line was during Kiel Week back in 2014. It was a fantastic experience and one that I highly recommend. I’ve visited all 4 ships and cruised aboard Braemar, Balmoral and Boudicca, so if I can answer any questions for you, just let me know.

Posted in Cruise News, Fred Olsen Cruise Line

Adonia Returns To P&O Cruises Fleet In 2017

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P&O Cruises will welcome small ship Adonia back into the fleet in 2017 with a range of attractive cruises taking in off the beaten track ports of call across Europe, the Mediterranean, Iceland, eastern Atlantic Islands and the Caribbean.

Adonia’s first cruise following the return to P&O Cruises will be a seven night round-trip tour of Europe’s west coast on June 16 2017 (Cruise D708P), taking in the pretty ports of Bordeaux, St Peter Port and Honfleur.

Following that, a 14-night Iceland cruise (Cruise D709P), on June 23 will first take in Ireland’s largest fishing port of Killybegs before sailing to Reykjavik and through the Icelandic fjords, with an opportunity to experience ‘The Home of the Viking Kings’ for cruise stops in Isafjordur and Heimaey. The cruise will then sail to Klaksvik in the Faroe Islands; Portree on Skye and Londonderry.

Adonia will then embark on a European summer cruise schedule taking in western Europe, the western Mediterranean, the British Isles, the Iberian Atlantic coast and the Atlantic Islands; before a trans-Atlantic sailing to the Caribbean and a six-month stay for winter cruise itineraries around the Caribbean.

Among the unusual ports of call for Adonia are:

  • A river transit and overnight call at Bordeaux, one of the world’s major wine capitals
  • A river transit into Seville, the capital of Andalusia
  • A call at Portofino, a pretty fishing village on the Italian Riviera known for its pastel-coloured houses and picturesque harbour
  • A maiden call to Puerto Banus near Marbella in Spain, a city awash with super yachts and beautiful beaches
  • A visit to the dramatic island of Heimaey off Iceland’s south coast, which is dominated by the two volcanoes Helgafell and Eldfell

The summer programme will also include a selection of ports with accessible UNESCO sites for guests with an interest in heritage sites which include:

  • Þingvellir National Park in Iceland (from Reykjavik)
  • La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (from Valencia)
  • The remarkable monumental complex in the heart of Seville, the Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias (from Seville)

Highlights of the programme include:

  • A 14-night British Isles cruise (Cruise D711P) on July 14 during which Adonia will visit perennial favourites such as Belfast, Greenock, Portree, Liverpool, Dublin and St Peter Port as well as quirkier ports such as Killybegs in County Donegal, Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands and the tiny settlement of Scrabster on Thurso Bay in Caithness.
  • A 15-night Atlantic Coast Iberia cruise (Cruise D717P) on September 17 taking guests to a selection of fabulous Spanish ports such as Seville, Puerto Banus, Valencia, Ciudadela and La Coruna as well as Praia da Rocha on the Algarve and Gibraltar.
  • A selection of 21-night Transatlantic and 14-night Caribbean fly cruises featuring some of the most intriguing islands in the Caribbean. There is also the option to travel beyond the Caribbean and experience the Amazon.
Posted in Cruise News, P&O Cruises

Saga Sapphire Mystery Cruise 2016 Part 3

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Our tenth and final port would be Lisbon and the day started without a cloud in the sky. The tour offered was a city tour, which included a visit to the maritime museum. As I’d previously experienced both, I decided to head into town and do my own thing. I’m not a huge fan of Lisbon, but as I hadn’t ventured into town the last time I was there, I thought I’d have a walk and see if I could find some interesting items I could give as gifts for Christmas. I wasn’t ashore long and in the end I didn’t actually do any Xmas shopping, but I did have time to grab a Pastel De Nata each for my friend and I – which is obligatory in any Portuguese port as far as I am concerned. I returned to ship, had lunch and then sat in the sun for a few hours before readying myself for the evenings pre-sailaway surprise; an impressive firework display that went down very well with passengers. It was a lovely way to finish our days of port exploration – we knew by this time that our next destination was likely to be Southampton.

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All the crew on Saga Sapphire were excellent, but those that organised the shore excursions and the debarkation for those excursions, I really take my hat off to you as the organisation was EXCELLENT! People often wonder how tours work on a mystery cruise, so I am going to tell you. On this voyage, we were all offered 1 included tour in every port and it was entirely up to you whether you joined it or not. The tours (aside from the one in Tangier) were staggered either by cabin number or the first letter of your surname, so roughly half of the passengers were leaving at the same time – half in the morning and half in the afternoon. It was so swift and efficient. I think the longest I waited to leave the ship was 15 minutes! In Tangier, the entire ship went on tour at the same time and even this went smoothly. I actually think the 15-minute wait that I spoke about above was that morning. Everything was planned very well and then executed seamlessly. You all did a superb job!

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‘Captain Rentell’s Final Mystery Cruise’ was in fact my first mystery cruise and I would do it again in an instant. There was so much suspense and excitement. Every day was quite literally a surprise, as we had no idea where we were going until we got there. Like any other cruise, we received a daily paper in our cabins each evening for the following day, but even if we were in a port, the paper didn’t tell us which port it was, nor did it disclose what the included tour would be. We didn’t find out anything until we had docked. Even the Captain’s announcements were full of mystery and surprise – and the occasional deliberate interference! I observed Captain Rentell walking around the decks carrying various books, including those about the Caribbean, Canary Islands, Croatia and Pompeii – all were ways of throwing us off our own courses, I’m sure. This lead to all sorts of chatter among the Saganauts with regards to where we thought we could be going. I did hear one lady tell the Captain that “he better not be going north again”, luckily for us all, he went south!

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As we had to be kept in the dark (not literally, of course), we couldn’t even have simple things feature on the daily paper, such as the weather forecast. It may sound silly, but I’m sure if we were told the air temperature every day or the sunrise and sunset times, we would soon work out to some degree which way we were heading. To give you an example, these were just some of the “weather forecasts” that we had during the cruise:

Wind: Blowing South, West, East and North | Sky: Twinkling | Temp: Sizzling

Wind: Gone With The | Sky: Up | Temp: 90C

Wind: Windy | Sky: Present and Correct | Temp: El Scorcho

Wind: Breezy | Sky: Chance of Snow | Temp: 24C

Wind: Blow Dry | Sky: Wet Rain | Temp: Gas Mark 7

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There were various entertainment options available during the 24-nights onboard, including lectures from Terry Waite CBE, International Affairs Speaker; Peter Sissons, News Broadcaster; Captain Tim Orchard, Concorde Pilot; and Lt Ben Moloney, Royal Navy. We also had live music from Harry the Piano, Jazz Legends, The Tiffany String Quartet, and high-energy musicals from the Explosive Productions cast.

One thing I haven’t mentioned in huge detail is the food, and that’s because I am going to do a separate set of blogs that focus solely on the delicious culinary options that are available with Saga Cruises. I will tell you, however, that the food onboard was excellent, as always! The menu had changed slightly in East to West (Saga Sapphire’s specialty restaurant), so it was nice to sample some new and tasty options in there, and the range of dishes available at both lunchtime and in the evening (in Pole to Pole and The Verandah) was varied. I tried a variety of new things during the cruise, including frogs’ legs, Barramundi, and beetroot – the latter of which I am now addicted to. In fact, it became a running joke, with several passengers passing me at various lunchtimes and saying “I thought you were laying off the beetroot today!”. Until my food blog arrives, here’s a Biryani to help the taste buds get ready 😉

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The cruise was excellent and I am once again having Saga Sapphire post-cruise blues. Her crew and the friends we made during our time onboard really made the cruise something special. I always feel like we are one big family on Saga – there’s a real sense of camaraderie among guests and crew, and it certainly feels like home.

Where will my next Saga adventure take me? Watch this space…

If you have any questions about the mystery cruise, then please drop a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible 🙂

Posted in Saga Cruises

Saga Sapphire Mystery Cruise 2016 Part 2

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After two exciting days in the Canary Islands, it was time to spend a few days at sea, three to be exact. Day one was beautiful; hot sunshine and barely a breeze, but it wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in and blocked the sun from our view. Although it wasn’t as sunny as we’d hoped, it was still very humid and evenings out on deck were very enjoyable. We spent several nights outside playing Cards Against Humanity, a game they say is for “horrible people”, but we thoroughly enjoyed it and eventually our little group grew and everyone wanted to get involved.

Our next port of call was Porto Praia, Santiago, Cape Verde. I’d wanted to visit the Cape Verde islands for quite some time and I couldn’t wait to get off the ship and explore. The weather wasn’t great and it was VERY windy, but I enjoyed our excursion, which was titled ‘The African Roots’. We visited the former capital, Cidade Velha, and had a taste of its history – it was once the centre of the slave trade and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also had a walk along Banana Street which was, for me, quite lovely. You got a feel for the place and what life on the island was like. We did some brief shopping here before heading back towards the port area for a cultural demonstration. By now, the sun had shown itself and the atmosphere was wonderful. There were dancers, groups of men and women playing traditional music, and even a lady offering coconuts from which we could drink the water and then eat the meat. It was a nice way to end the tour.

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The following morning, we docked in Porto Grande, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde. My first sighting of Praia the day before hadn’t been quite what I expected from a Cape Verde island, however, Porto Grande was and I was thrilled. The sun was trying to break through the clouds and our view from the ship included a lovely beach, a small marina and a busy dock area where local fishermen were offloading their catch. My friend and I decided that we would simply do our own thing during our time in Porto Grande. The included tour looked good, but sometimes you just need to go and explore on your own. We found a seat on the shuttle bus and had a walk around the town, which was most enjoyable. We explored the vibrant vegetable market, had a walk by the Town Hall and then we found ourselves outside a shop which was aptly named ‘Mindel Gift Shop’. To my delight, the shop was FULL of African art and other treasures. I literally spent all the money I had on me in that gift shop and left with 2 stunning pieces of African art. I had to head back to the ship as I was now with empty pockets and laden down with bounty. Upon arriving at the ship, our Executive Chef and Head Chef were both on the dockside buying fresh fish from the local fisherman. They brought onboard Tuna, Marlin and Swordfish – another reason why I love Saga Cruises! We grabbed some lunch at The Verandah and then had a stroll along to the beach, it took no more than 15 minutes. The water was a beautiful mix of blues and the beach itself was covered in pretty little shells. I’d imagine on a hot and sunny day that it would be packed, but by now the clouds had rolled in and the wind had increased. We stayed at the beach for about 2 hours before making our way back to the ship, we arrived at the gangway just as the heavens opened – someone was clearly looking out for us!

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We waved goodbye to the Cape Verde islands and spent the next 2 days at sea. On one of those days, we had a Jalfrezi demonstration on the open deck. The smell was incredible! I couldn’t wait to tuck in to it. A selection of dishes were cooked in front of us and then served by Executive Chef George. It was delicious. I had the seafood option and it was bursting with flavour. My plate was packed full of prawns – just how I like it! It was quite a windy sea day and we lost quite a few poppadoms!

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The port of Santa Cruz in Tenerife appeared as the sun began to rise and our included tour here was titled ‘Esperanza Forest, Guimar Pyramids and Candelaria’. We enjoyed a wonderful sunrise before leaving the ship on our included tour, where our first stop was in Candelaria. Here, we could visit a local church and enjoy a walk-through town before making our way to the pyramids. It was early in the morning, so most stores were closed but it was still a pleasant walk and an easy way to start the morning. A short drive then brought us to the Guimar Pyramids. The pyramids were rather impressive, but not quite like the ones that you will find in Egypt – they are ‘step-pyramids’ like those in Peru and Mexico. There are six in total and each one is constructed from angular blocks quarried from lava flows. It is said that the complex is astronomically lined to the summer and winter solstices. It was very interesting and I enjoyed the video demonstration about Thor Heyerdahl – the world-famous adventurer who led the Kon-Tiki and Ra expeditions. It was Heyerdhal who discovered the pyramids on one of his voyages. I certainly recommend a visit here if you are ever in Tenerife, I felt like I learned a great deal about the pyramids, but also about Heyerdhal. I had never heard of him before my visit here and it’s left me intrigued – I’m going to do some studying on him and his expeditions when time allows.

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As we sailed from Tenerife, we were sure that a sea day would follow, but we hadn’t bargained for arriving in Madeira in the early evening and then staying there overnight. Although I have visited Madeira many times, I was quite pleased that we would be spending the evening there – it also meant we were sheltered from any winds and rough seas, so we could enjoy the deck party until late. The following morning, my friend and I decided to head into town. We had a walk through the town and then to the market which was a hive of activity. It’s not the best fruit and veg market in the world, but it was a new experience for us both and we certainly enjoyed our stumble into the fish area where we watched a gentleman clean a Espada fish – a popular local fish (although not very pretty) which our Executive Chef also bought when ashore and added to the menu that evening.

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Where would the rest of the Mystery Cruise take us??…

Posted in Saga Cruises

Saga Sapphire Mystery Cruise 2016 Part 1

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I have just returned from a 24-night mystery cruise aboard Saga Sapphire and I’m incredibly excited to tell you all about it. I had wanted to blog live throughout the cruise, but unfortunately the internet just wasn’t on my side – I’m here now, so let’s get started…

We spent the first few days at sea and it was much appreciated – a chance to relax and once again enjoy being aboard this wonderful ship. I took part in a few of the quizzes, although I didn’t do very well, and I enjoyed 2 evenings in Cooper’s listening to Ben playing the piano. I also had the pleasure of bumping in to several crew members and passengers that I met on my previous Saga cruises, so we all had a good catch up and chatted about where we thought we were going on the cruise – speculation was spreading like wild fire.

Coopers-Saga-Sapphire

Our first port of call was Cadiz in Spain and our included excursion was a visit to the Gonzalez Byass Wine Cellars. I was only in Cadiz a few weeks previous to Sapphire’s visit, so decided I would go with the included tour as I’d never been to Jerez before. I admit, the tour wasn’t something that I would usually choose myself, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the sherry tasting – I am definitely a ‘sweet’ girl! I also found the tour of the various cellars and function rooms quite interesting, and the story about the mice – they leave a glass of sherry out for the mice and prop a small ladder up against it (so the mice can reach the top of the glass). Turns out mice like sherry just as much as humans do. The visit there ended with a show from some Andalusian horses and a flamenco dancer. It was a nice way to end the tour and I think everyone left feeling like they’d had an authentic taste of Andalusian life – it was a nice start to the mystery cruise.

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It turned out that we were also in port the following day and this time we had a stop in Motril, Spain. The included tour here was ‘Flamenco and Wine Tasting in Hacienda Senorio de Nevada. As much as I’d enjoyed our tour in Cadiz, I’d had my fair share of Flamenco and alcohol tasting, so I decided to jump on the shuttle bus and head into town. I enjoyed the stroll, but it’s not one of the best places that I have been. I think our stop here was a way of throwing us off balance with regards to where we were going, and briefly, it worked! As we sailed, we were treated to a wonderful BBQ on the open deck. The food was incredibly good and everyone enjoyed dining al-fresco beneath the warm Spanish sky. It’s these little touches that set Saga apart from some other cruise lines.

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Saga-Sapphire-Dining

Our third port of call was Tangier in Morocco and as it was another new port for me, I was raring to get off the ship and explore – I do like Morocco, very much. Our included tour here showcased a Tangier Folkloric show at a local hotel which was good, but it went on far longer than it needed to and eventually the ships tour escort’s made the decision to move us outside for a display of tribal horsemanship. The setting was very impressive and I was eagerly awaiting a fun show, however, it wasn’t quite what I’d expected and I was slightly disheartened by the treatment of the horses. After a few minutes, I left my chair and moved away from the field. I found a black and white kitten that was clearly looking for some attention, so while the other passengers enjoyed the rest of the horse show, I played with the kitten – I was tempted to try and smuggle him onboard, but I didn’t! Once the show was finished, we got back on the coach and enjoyed a drive through the city, up to Cap Spartel (where we met a gorgeous baby donkey) and then had a walk through the Old Medina. The latter part of the tour was wonderful, I absolutely loved the city and would have appreciated more time there. Our guide, Hassan, was fantastic. He knew everything, he waited for everyone and he was simply a pleasure to be with. Thank you, Hassan, I enjoyed my time in Tangier and I can’t wait to return!

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tangier-morocco-horses-saga-cruises

We awoke the following morning to a sea day and as the sun was beating down on us, I spent most of the day on deck, relaxing. Only moving occasionally to forage for food! Sometimes you just need a day of doing absolutely nothing and I’d found myself a book in the onboard library that was holding all of my attention. It suited perfectly.

Our next mystery port was Lanzarote and I thoroughly enjoyed our drive around the island. We briefly went through the Tumanfaya National Park; made a stop at El Monumento al Campesino, where we sampled some rather delicious potatoes that were coated in a garlic oil; and enjoyed stunning views across to the island of Graciosa from the Mirador del Rio view point. I love the volcanic landscape in Lanzarote, it’s certainly unique, but you need to venture away from the port area (as we did) to see it and appreciate it – so do some exploring when you visit. Before this particular trip, I wasn’t a huge fan of Lanzarote at all, but the tour Saga provided really did change my view on the island.

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Once back onboard, my friend and I went along to the ‘Catch the Killer’ murder mystery that was being held in the Britannia Lounge. I enjoyed these during a Baltic cruise on Saga Sapphire last May, but I’m not very good at putting the clues together – I never get the killer right! We had several more throughout the cruise, including one where crew were the suspects. It was hilarious! Captain Rentell and his lovely wife also joined in and I must say that for me, the star of the show was Mrs Rentell. My sides ached by the end of her performance, she had the entire room in fits of laughter. She owned her part. We sailed from Lanzarote quite late and before doing so enjoyed a fantastic Mediterranean BBQ on the open deck – actually, it was more like a royal banquet than a BBQ and everyone relished in it.

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We stayed in the Canary Islands and found ourselves in Fuerteventura the following morning – another new port for me. Our included tour was titled ‘Uncover Fuerteventura’ and our first stop was at an Aloe Vera farm. We all know how good for the body aloe vera is, both inside and out, but it was also interesting to learn what to NOT buy when it comes to aloe products. The lady at the farm told us that if your aloe vera product is blue or green in colour, then it has lost a lot of its properties as additives have been included, the best aloe products to get are either clear or white. You also want to try and get a product that has more aloe vera in it than anything else and some of their products are an impressive 98% pure. The wonderful potions on sale were quite pricey, 20 euros for 1 bottle of aloe gel, but it was so worth it – you could instantly feel that your skin was moisturised. We also made a stop in the village of La Oliva which was nice, and then a stop in the fishing village of El Cotillo which was even better. El Cotillo was beautiful and it allowed us the opportunity to explore on our own and grab some refreshments. Fuerteventura grabbed my inner travel lover with both hands, I was transfixed by the ever-changing scenery and the desert like landscape. It certainly found its way onto my ‘must visit again’ list.

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The Saga Sapphire Mystery Cruise will continue with part 2 very soon……

Posted in Saga Cruises

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines Balmoral Food Blog

My first Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines food blog was a big hit, so I thought it only right I do another one, this time showcasing the food from two of my sailings aboard Balmoral: one in May 2016 to the Norwegian Fjords and the other in October 2016 to Spain and Morocco. All of the dishes were delicious, I’m yet to have a bad meal on any Fred. Olsen ship, and my vegetarian friend who joined me in October said the options available for her were the best she had ever had at sea! My Braemar food blog was the first in my Fred. Olsen food series and I am sure you will enjoy this one just as much!

I’ve noted down with each image where onboard the food was served, so you can get an idea of what is available in all areas and not just in the Main Dining Rooms (Avon, Spey and Ballindalloch). I do still like the fact that the MDRs also offer a buffet option, you get twice as much variety.

Classica Prawn Cocktail with a twist - Main Dining Room

Classic Prawn Cocktail with a twist – Main Dining Room

Tzatziki dip with extra pitta bread - Main Dining Room

Tzatziki dip with extra pitta bread – Main Dining Room

Bauletti pasta filled with Lobster - The Grill

Bauletti pasta filled with lobster – The Grill

Prawn and Avocado salad - Main Dining Room

Prawn and avocado salad – Main Dining Room

Tomato, mozzarella and onion salad - Main Dining Room

Tomato, mozzarella and onion salad – Main Dining Room

Roasted garlic soup with a cheese crostini

Roasted garlic soup with a cheese crostini

Seafood Paella - The Palms (buffet)

Seafood Paella – The Palms (buffet) it was very impressive in appearance and taste!

Mahi-Mahi fillet on sweet potato mash

Mahi-Mahi fillet on sweet potato mash – Main Dining Room

8oz fillet steak with shrip - The Grill

8oz fillet steak with shrimp – The Grill #Delicious!

Spinach and ricotta pasta with pine nuts - Main Dining Room

Spinach and ricotta pasta with pine nuts – Main Dining Room

Tournedo of beef black and white - Main Dining Room

Tournedo of beef black and white – Main Dining Room

Chicken Tikka Masala - Main Dining Room

Chicken Tikka Masala – Main Dining Room

Fried chicken with buttered spaghetti and tomato sauce - The Palms (buffet) - so simple, but it was SO good!

Fried chicken with buttered spaghetti and tomato sauce – The Palms (buffet) – so simple, but SO good!

Garlic and herb roasted chicken with roast potatoes - Main Dining Room

Garlic and herb roasted chicken with roast potatoes – Main Dining Room

Fettucini pasta in a creamy sauce - Main Dining Room

Fettucini pasta in a creamy white wine sauce – Main Dining Room

Filo basked filled with mushroom ragout - Main Dining Room

Filo basked filled with mushroom ragout – Main Dining Room

Collops of beef with mashed potato and green vegetables - Main Dining Room

Collops of beef with mashed potato and green vegetables – Main Dining Room

Pork Cordon Bleu - Main Dining Room

Pork Cordon Bleu – Main Dining Room

Sun dried tomato and Parmesan Carbonara - Main Dining Room

Sun dried tomato and Parmesan Carbonara – Main Dining Room

Chocolate fondant with salted butter caramel sauce - The Grill

Chocolate fondant with salted butter caramel sauce – The Grill

Chocolate cake (the best at sea!) - The Palms (buffet)

Chocolate cake (the best at sea!) – The Palms (buffet)

Applie pie and ice cream - Main Dining Room

Apple pie and ice cream – Main Dining Room

Fresh fruit served on the open deck to cool us down - I thought this was a nice touch.

Fresh fruit served on the open deck to cool us down – I thought this was a nice touch.

I’m sure you are pretty hungry now, so don’t let me keep you a moment longer…go, eat! 🙂

Read more about my Fred. Olsen ‘Balmoral’ cruise by clicking here.

 

Posted in Food and Drink, Fred Olsen Cruise Line
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A show from a beautiful #AndalusianHorse during a visit to #gonzalezbyass in #Jerez #Spain. Best thing about this picture? There was only 1 horse in it originally - thanks #Google! #live #life #love #travel Saying goodbye to #NewYork and #America was hard to do...but I had 7 wonderful nights aboard #QueenMary2 to enjoy! #live #life #love #travel #brooklyn #cruise

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