We’re now onto day 19 of this wonderful 108-night cruise and I am loving every moment – even the non-sunbathing days that force me to sample the bar menu and try my hardest to get more than 2 points in the morning quiz! I’m doing well so far and even managed to WIN one day. Everyone has settled in and we’re one big happy, ocean-going Family.
Since my last blog, we’ve called into Bermuda, Havana and Cozumel, and I’ve got lots to tell you.
Bermuda was fun. Our original itinerary had us arriving on Monday morning, but leaving Ponta Delgada and skipping Horta because of the weather meant we were full steam ahead across the Atlantic. The Captain bribed the Bermudans with fine Scotch and we were able to come alongside on the Sunday evening. I visited Bermuda for the first time in March 2017 on Balmoral and I liked the island, but it didn’t blow me away. As the weather for Monday looked quite bleak, Marian and I decided to head ashore on the Sunday evening and spend Monday doing some laundry. We found a bar right in the heart of St George (The White Horse Pub) that was open until late and that’s where we stayed. A few other passengers also made their way there and had food and drinks, but by the late hours, it was just Marian and I, some of the ships crew and a group from the US Air Force. We had a great night. If you’re about to visit Bermuda for the first time, you should absolutely do an island tour when you arrive and ideally one that takes in St George, as it’s a lovely parish with lots of history. Points of interest include St George’s Historical Society Museum, St Peter’s Church and Fort St Catherine. If you’re visiting with Fred. Olsen, I recommend the ‘Quintessential Bermuda’ tour. It takes in virtually all the island, it’s reasonably priced and it’s just the right length of time – around 4 hours.
We stuck to our plan on the Monday to do some laundry onboard and off we went with our washing machine tokens. It’s £2 per token for the washing machines but the tumble dryers are free to use. Unfortunately, I put my washing powder in the wrong drawer, so a £2 wash ended up costing me £4 as I had to run the machine twice. I guess we live and we learn.
We sailed from Bermuda and spent the next 3 days at sea, sailing for Havana, in Cuba. The first sea days was quite rocky and although it was warm, there was little sun and a lot of wind, that’s when I started writing this blog. I like to sit in the Lido Lounge when I write as it’s relatively quiet first thing in the morning and if I feel like it, I can also join in on the morning quiz at 11AM without moving an inch.
Our second sea day was colder than the first, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits, we spent some time in the onboard casino and then playing games on the deck. In the evening, Marian and I dined in The Black Watch Room – Black Watch’s steak and seafood specialty restaurant. Marian is vegan, so she doesn’t really get the full experience, but she’s happy to accompany me and the crew make sure she has something just as delicious to eat. In fact, every night for her is “surprise” night. She doesn’t want to pick out her main meal the day before, so when we first boarded, she told them to surprise her and I have to say, she’s had some rather creative dishes. I don’t like peppers, but one day at lunch she had a bright red bell pepper stuffed with rice, spices and vegetables – it looked delicious! So, back to the steak and seafood. I ordered the charred scallops to start, they were served with snow peas and they hit the right spot in my tummy. My main course choice was a 10oz 35-day aged filet mignon served with lobster tail, prawns and potato and it too was perfect. My meat was cooked exactly as I like it and the service was exceptional. I savoured every mouthful and I left very, very satisfied. The additional charge for this dining experience is £20pp and it is worth every penny. Since Fred. Olsen introduced the steak and seafood specialty restaurant across the fleet, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling the offerings on all 4 ships, but I have to say that the meal I had last night on Black Watch was the best.
We finally arrived in Cuba and I couldn’t wait to get ashore, it was one of the ports that I was most looking forward to on the cruise and I wasn’t disappointed. WHAT a destination! Marian and I had pre-booked a tour with Havana Journeys before we left on the cruise and our convertible, classic American car was there waiting for us when we left the ship. Our 6-hour tour included everything you could want to see while in Havana. Miguel 1 and 2 (our guide and driver) were exceptional, I can’t thank them enough for our day. We explored Old Havana, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, taking in Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Plaza de la Catedral. We spent several hours exploring on foot and taking in the colonial charm of this fascinating destination. By noon, we met our driver, also Miguel, and his beautiful Buick, I was completely charmed by the classic cars and I hadn’t quite expected to see as many as I did. Almost every other car was an old classic. We continued our tour with visits to Revolution Square, the neighbourhoods of Vedado and Miramar and a drive alongside Columbus Cemetery. There are 2.5 million people buried there – incredible! We spent 6.5 hours exploring as much as we could, I couldn’t possibly list everything, but aside from what I have mentioned above, other places to note if you are visiting soon include: Capitol Building, Museum of the Revolution, Prado Promenade, Malecon, 5th Avenue, La Bodeguita del Medio and the Ambos Mundos Hotel.
We stopped for lunch at Bue Naventura, a restaurant in the middle of a residential area that was literally a hole in the wall that led to a beautiful outside space with open-air kitchen and bar and several seating areas. The staff were welcoming and friendly and the food was delicious. A little on the pricey side, for what you’d expect in Cuba, but worth it. I was told that the Tamal Campesino was worth trying, so I ordered that to start and followed it with garlic shrimp and traditional Cuban rice and beans. It was full of delicious flavours and the portions were huge.
Cozumel was our next stop and I usually like to join the Cozumel Bar Hop during calls here, but as we were in port on a Sunday, the CBH doesn’t run on Sunday’s and the weather forecast looked less than great, we decided to stay in the port area, shop and eat. It was stiflingly hot and humid and when the sun did break through the clouds it was incredibly strong, but we did our shopping and then decided to stop at Senor Frogs. We enjoyed food and drinks there and met up with several others from the ship. We had 1 torrential downpour, but that was it – we were very lucky but also annoyed that we made the decision to skip the beach! I love Cozumel, you can’t really go wrong with anything you do there, whether it be a beach day, bar day or a cultural day, there’s something to suit everyone.
There are lots of things to do on sea days and the most popular options seem to be the quiz, the craft classes and deck games. On the 16th, there was even a pottery class, the first one at sea. I didn’t go, but I’m told that it too has been a hit. I imagine it is something that will be expanded in time. Passengers can also join in with golf, bowls, art classes, Eukele lessons and more.
At this moment, we are just about to begin our transit of the Panama Canal! It’s a little overcast outside but still very humid. We’re approaching the West Lane and the entire transit will take approx. 11 hours.
Our next ports are Callao, Manta and Paracas, so I’ll be back soon! Until then, don’t forget to check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for regular image updates.