Approaching the US ports

14 January

fullsizeoutput_36dbA couple of sea days before we reach the US coast and some warmer weather to explore the outside of the ship including the distinctive aft shape of Oriana.

So, we were supposed to be heading to Port Everglades after Bermuda but is this cruise turning out to be the cruise that goes wrong?

1. We couldn’t get into Ponta Delgada
2. We have to go to Port Canaveral instead of two nights at Port Everglades
3. A computer breakdown resulting in all passengers being sent to their rooms & us missing a concert
4. Departing Hamilton, we suffer an engine failure and go round in a circle whilst the engine is fixed
5. Today, Captain Box says that whilst in New Orleans, the ship has to move from 1 berth to another overnight
6. Now the Internet is broken, not that this affects us.

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Arguably the best manager Watford FC ever had

A Football morning, watching Spurs score 4 but in an emotional day for Watford (Graham Taylor died on Thursday morning) it ends goalless.

A nice tribute on the Oriana’s daily newspaper the day after he died which I tried (a few days later) to update to the Watford Fan page on Facebook without success, sadly.

Watch the Harmony Duo in the afternoon and a couple of singers in the evening interspersed with Chris Martin playing the Clarinet and Saxophone in the Crow’s nest.

Tonight is a dressing up night and we decide on a pre dinner drink – however, we seem to have managed to gate crash a Captain’s drinks party in the Crow’s nest by not having an invitation but still managing to get in and get a free drink with a photo with the Deputy Captain.  Whoops!

At Dinner, a guest on an adjacent table was so incensed with a person apparently wearing jeans in the dining room on a dressing up day, she left her meal uneaten and left the dining room in a huff! How childish.

15 January

A talk today on Louis Armstrong by Chris Martin which is timely as we will soon be at New Orleans and dinner with Mick & Brenda, Colin & Wendy and another show by The Unexpected Boys. They were so good we bought their CD.

Bermuda

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12 January

Land at last, Bermuda, a country of over 180 islands of which only 8 are populated. We are going to be berthed at the Port Terminal rather than in the centre of Hamilton but by the time we get on shore it is well past 10am. A bit of a queue on land to get a bus ticket for day travel for us on the local buses and ferries as John & Deirdre are off on a cycling adventure.

A one day travel pass is the cheapest way to get around it seems and covers the ferries as well as the buses.  Sadly, the ferry to St George is seasonal and today is out of season.

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Hamilton Port buildings

Travel ticket bought at the quayside, we then queue up for a bus to Hamilton along with many others, but nothing turns up so head back to ferry for a speedy crossing to Hamilton although there was not a lot to see as the wind was kicking up the waves.

A short walk from the Hamilton dock up the hill to the bus station past an impressive City Hall and we catch a No. 11 bus towards St George.

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Hamilton City Hall

Although it is midday, there are many school children on the bus who were exceptionally well behaved with those standing exiting the bus and returning after fellow school children ( from a different school ) at the back exited the bus.

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Colourful houses with a sea view

Everywhere we go, the houses are brightly coloured and well kept and there is a theme to them all as all the roofs are painted white with what looks like a treatment of the roofs that seems to seal the tiles together. Gutters run down the top of the roofs in places, obviously to catch water.

There is also an air of wealth in the air by the way they are dressed. We go past the airport, over bridges that link the numerous limestone islands, we follow the old railway track Eastwards on our bus which by now is mostly devoid of youth as they left to catch another bus (to St David’s?) just past the airport.

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St George Town Hall

St George is reached about 50 minutes from Hamilton and we all depart our separate ways.

A brief walk finds us entering a clothes shop with a sale on. We had been told that it was an expensive island but a waterproof jacket for $29.95 didn’t seem too expensive.

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St George stocks

We are told by the shop owner about a good restaurant for lunch and true to her word, it was good, populated by locals and with a huge BLT and two coffees for $12.75 that seemed reasonable especially as we managed to get wi-fi, an expensive commodity on a P&O cruise ship.

St George was the first capital and the first place on the island to be inhabited, so there are some interesting buildings in the town, including some stocks and monuments.

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St George waterfront buildings

As Bermuda has over 200 churches on the island a good fair smattering of them are here, all, as with all the others, well kept.

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Phone Book needing TLC

Walking back to the bus stop, we are looking for a hat for Sal but find a polo shirt for $15.00.

Who said Bermuda was expensive? (We were told that Bread and Milk are particularly expensive and some of the restaurants and clothes shops in Hamilton did apparently charge high prices.)

As in many rural parts of Great Britain, the advent of the Mobile phone has made the use of telephone boxes redundant. Bermuda is no exception here and being a British Overseas Territory, phone boxes were British Red. One was spotted doubling up as a Book exchange – ingenious.

Hoping for a different numbered bus back but get the first one which again was a No. 11. Quite crowded and bus does the journey back past the airport and caves before it stops at a school for some time.

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Expensive waterfront houses

This is obviously doubling up as a school bus but this time for little uns. A bit more boisterous this time but still well behaved although some did get on and then off again at the same stop.

Back in crowded Hamilton we head for the ferry back to the cruise ship area past the magnificent waterfront houses, dinner and another wonderful performance from the two violinists, Electra.

13 January

A tour for a change for us, this time of the South Coast area whilst a sail & swim tour was scheduled for John & Deirdre.

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One of the oldest buildings in Bermuda with water pipe

Our transport for our tour today is a taxi for 6 driven by a sprightly 79 year old local who tells us the reason why the the house roofs are all painted white and sealed as well as lots of stories about himself, the economy and Bermuda life.

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Sealed roof

(The design is to catch the rainwater which pours into an underground or adjacent tank as there are no springs or reservoirs on the islands).

He then shows us one of the oldest houses on the island as well as some of the views from some of the side roads that large buses would not be able to get down.

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Colonial Style buildings

Drive into Hamilton takes about an hour and we are dropped in town just by M&S but quite honestly there is not a lot to see in 45 minutes in Hamilton so we just walk through M&S and around some of the other shops, heading back to the waterfront by the old cruise terminal, now used only for small ships.

Some of the Colonial style buildings are being refurbished, perhaps in advance of the influx of visitors for the America’s Cup.

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Horseshoe Beach

Drive back along the South Coast with some marvellous views of beaches including the Horseshoe Beach where many youngsters have learnt to swim and the Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse with its marvellous views of the archipelago of islands that makes up Bermuda with it’s turquoise water.

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Gibb’s Hill lighthouse

We leave and make another detour onto some small roads that pass through small farms with some cattle and some vegetables in evidence in the Somerset area.

Back to the Oriana over the Watford Bridge that is the smallest lifting bridge in the world, allegedly and only opened one day a year.

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Turquoise Sea – what more do you want?

I go back on shore to find some internet access which with John’s help find it at a gift shop (free with a purchase – of Rum cake in my case!) to try and catch up with emails etc.

I had tried to meet up with Lewis Exon who used to work at Trident in the Isle of Man but get a text message to say he is unwell, having had some Wisdom teeth out yesterday which I will forgive him for!

Sadly, my phone will not allow me to send any text messages so have to send a Facebook message when I get some internet access in the dockyard area.

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Leaving Hamilton

We are off tonight on our way to the USA and will be sorry to leave Bermuda.

Oh and yes, we have another difficulty at Clearwell with another leak in the downstairs toilet and with water turned off until it can be fixed. Might have to phone when we get to Port Canaveral as phone does definitely not want to work at all here in Bermuda.

Having been signed off the ship manually, I was back well in time for the 3pm deadline but there is a computer problem on the passenger details and after being signed back on to the ship manually, all crew are asked to get to a central point for counting and then all passengers asked to return to their cabins so that a manual count can be made. All present and correct, we are eventually released from captivity.

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The Unexpected Boys signed CD

As a result, dinner was somewhat delayed and slow resulting in us not being able to get to  a concert with music by Burt Bacharach.

Tonight’s main entertainment however is by a 4 man Frankie Valli tribute band, the Unexpected Boys with some fantastic renditions of some classics and a good storyline.

The guys were all at one time on Broadway in Les Mis, with one of them, the base, having a fantastic range. They were so good, we went to the 2nd showing as well!

We are on our way to the USA.

 

Heading for Bermuda

Happy_birthday8 January

A sea day as we head for our first “new” country on this adventure since retirement – Bermuda.

I had misread the daily newsletter – the Horizon – and had put my iPad forward by an hour overnight but in fact it is tomorrow they go back – twit.

Consequently, we get up late but are still in time for breakfast – Sunday special is Smoked Salmon in Scrambled Eggs and still we have a lovely calm sea, aren’t we lucky.

The Port talk today is on Key West, a place we were at 3 months ago just before the Hurricane hit the northern part of Florida, but are always happy to go back here. One new point that we didn’t know about is the origin of the Key Lime Pie, which was created by Aunt Sally in her kitchen.

We meet an Isle of Man person after lunch, travelling on her own and just assumed that we knew everyone on the island, as they do. We never saw her again!

We even venture into the golf practice area – the first time we have hit a golf ball in years – enough exercise for the day though!

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Fore

 

Sal & Deirdre off to see Bridget Jones Baby whilst John & I opt for a talk on the RAF’s Vulcan bombers. A somewhat disjointed talk, but the two violinists, Electra made the evening along with the earlier performance by the Harmony Duo, a classical pianist and his female Russian violinist.

9 January

Today’s Port talk is on New Orleans and was interesting although we intend doing our own thing during the day but have opted for an organised Jazz dinner on the Paddle Steamer as we are overnighting there.

The evening entertainment is by an American juggler, not something that I would have rushed to see but he was good and a bit of a comic to boot.  Just as well the ship’s motion was not too violent to start with – it got choppier later on though.

10 January

 

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Birthday couple

Now this is one of the reasons we are here – John’s 70th and Dierdre’s “not quite” 70th birthdays are today, so presents at breakfast, pictures at every meal but very inclement weather, with a Force 8 for the day, driving rain, high waves and as the captain put it, “a number of potholes in the sea”.

 

As a birthday treat we all went to the cinema in the afternoon to watch “Sully”, a film about the crash landing of the passenger plane on the River Hudson in New York a few years back.  Isn’t it “wonderful” how insurance firms try to wriggle out of paying up after an incident like this.

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Chocolate desert – Yum!

 

P & O have a separate restaurant (for which you pay a cover charge) called Sindhu which is an Indian Restaurant so, with the added bonus of a couple of free bottles of wine we settle down for a celebratory meal.

Not perhaps as good as another occasion when we dined in Sindhu on another ship but nevertheless still a good evening, especially the deserts although should I be eating so much chocolate?

It is a shame though that the waiter came up to John near the end and said “shall I bring out the surprise cake now?”.

John of course wasn’t aware that the cake was a surprise for him from Jill, Pete & Lizzie! Too much food so the cake will have to be eaten later.

Fogwell Flax was the comedian tonight with lots of impressions of not only people but helicopters, washing machines, bikes and many other items. Very talented guy but you have to question: “How did he know he could do these things?”. Let us hope we get a better night’s sleep after the previous night’s loss of sleep with the bouncing around on the waves.

11 January

A better night, with less bumping around and not so many waves hitting the boat and somewhat surprisingly, we are hungry. Port talk today on Montego Bay followed by a talk on Elvis Presley and lunch in the Peninsular restaurant as there was no room in the cafe upstairs.

Still a bit rough but now easing slowly although it is still cool. Night time entertainment was another rendition of Destination Dance by the Headliners Theatre group. It is Bermuda tomorrow.

 


The Azores – Praia da Vitoria

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Our revised port of Praia da Vitoria is situated on the southern coast of the Cape Verde Island of Terciera and about 90km from Ponta Delgada which was our original destination.

Praia da Vitoria is not the largest of the two towns on the island and is a 50 minute walk from the cruise berth so we are glad of the shuttle bus. In fact the change of port suits us as we haven’t been here before so even though it is not another country, it is a different island.

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The main shopping area

Dropped at the top of a hill in town, we meander down the hill stopping to buy a belt (I forgot to bring a brown one) and watch some folk dancing that was obviously hastily put on when the locals knew we were visiting.

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Deirdre joining in

Quite entertaining and interactive as well, as Deirdre was able to join in at one stage.

We then find our way to the main church, Igreja Matriz, which is sumptuously decorated in gold and then down hill to the Igreja do Santo Cristo  which is in complete contrast, very light and white inside with some stunning blue and white paintwork outside.

As it was just after Christmas, a creative nativity scene and some well presented flowers were still on show inside with some local guides on hand to assist with any questions – thoughtful.

 

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Igreja Matriz

Now down to the harbour to find a couple of cafes that will suit us for our internet fix. €1 each for a coffee and Internet access is pretty good value and the coffee was good as well.

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Igreja do Santo Cristo

 

Unfortunately, there is not enough time for me to download all my e-mails before Sal and I head back along the coastal path and then slowly up the hill to the shuttle bus and lunch on the ship.

Meanwhile,  John & Deirdre join the few hardy souls who venture up the zig zag path up to the lookout.

 

 

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The zig zag path to the lookout

The locals, obviously delighted to see us at such short notice were very friendly although what you would do on the island for longer than a few days, as there don’t appear to be many beaches to serve the 15 hotels is an unanswered question.

 

Well, the change of port destination from Ponta Delgada, which we had been to 2 years earlier, was a change for the better and we think we liked this Azorean island better.

Football on the television occupies my afternoon – F A Cup 3rd round – whilst Sal, Deirdre and John see a film about American spies, ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ before we all then see the late show in the Theatre Royal, a stand up comic, impressionist and musician, Liverpudlian, Fogwell Flax. How on earth did that name arise?

Oh well, the ship sails tonight with another two days at sea before we reach Bermuda.

Heading across the Bay of Biscay

 

Calm Sea

Just a calm sea

4 January

 

We have some “bad” news as we set sail, we are now not having two nights in Port Everglades (near Fort Lauderdale) as advertised, we are having one in Port Canaveral and one in Port Everglades instead! Apparently the US Authorities have dictated that there was to be no overnight berthing in Port Everglades.

Whilst we wouldn’t have particularly minded but where did we go to just over 11 weeks ago? Yes, Cape Canaveral ( see our blog on http://www.morereadrovers.wordpress.com ) and the main thing there is the Kennedy Space Centre so we may just stay on the ship unless some exciting tours to other than the Space Centre are conjured up by P & O between now and then.

This also scuppers my plan to hire a car on the first day of our stay in Port Everglades.

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Our position at 2:10pm on 4 Jan

Anyway, back to the crossing of the Bay of Biscay which is surprisingly calm all day, as we head down from the South West of Cornwall towards the north western tip of Spain although a bit wind by the end of the day.

We settle ourselves into the first of many port talks given by a very confident Emma, this time on our first Port of call: Ponta del Garda in the Azores and a talk on Frank Sinatra.

After the usual visits to the eateries on the ship – will we get off weighing more than when we got on? – our evening entertainment is from a sixties tribute band, The Revolvers in the badly designed and configured Pacific Lounge at the rear of the ship followed by in the Theatre Royal at the front of the ship,  Bernie Flint (he told the same jokes as he did when we last saw him on our 2015 cruise returning from Sydney) for John and I whilst Sally and Deirdre watched “Florence”.

5 January

Sea now a bit rougher, lots more wind and rain but of course it is still January and we are in the Bay of Biscay.  Today’s port talk is on Bermuda, one of the places new to us and we choose to spend the afternoon watching the new  film based on Swallows to Amazons.

The Cinema is absolutely packed but then we are all of a certain age as the original book was very popular when most of the ship’s passengers were growing up.

The film kept broadly to the original script (but why did they have to substitute Titty with Tatty?) with some good, and some not so good performances by the child actors and a new twist on the Swallows and Amazons story, perhaps reflecting the writer’s possible past as Arthur Ransome was rumoured to have been a spy for the Soviet Union! An interesting story nevertheless.

Lucy Williamson in her Judy Garland tribute act was very good tonight.

6 January

Another sea day as we head for Ponta Delgada, or do we? Captain Box announces that due to an expected high sea and high winds at Ponta Delgada, we are going to Praia da Vitoria instead. There will be a free shuttle bus into town which is about 4Km from the port – just as well.

The port talk today is on Port Everglades and then a talk on Sammy Davis Jr., who was by all accounts a troubled character.

An afternoon talk on the filming of “Walking with Dinosaurs ” with Chris Martin, who had appeared in the films.

Another good performance by Bernie Flint followed by the Revolvers both of which John & I went to whilst Sally and Deirdre watched a somewhat strange film which included a scene where a guy hides inside the carcass of a horse!

The clocks go back one hour tonight, we are moving away from England and we get to get off the ship tomorrow.

 

 

 

Settling into our cruise for 50 days

3 January

IMG_3126We are now situated on the P & O ship Oriana and in about two hours time we will set sail on an epic 50 day cruise (yes, 50 days of cruise!) that takes in the Azores, Bermuda, 4 US ports (should have been 3), Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, St Vincent, Barbados, Tobago and 3 stops up the Amazon before returning via the Cape Verde Islands and Tenerife.

This is one hell of a trip and is at least a week longer than our cruise back from Sydney two years ago.  Will we survive?  Will we go crazy?  Only time will tell.

As with all cruises run by P & O, one of the first things to do even before your luggage arrives in your cabin is to attend the usual safety drill and this cruise is no exception, cabin staff checking all cabins and public areas to ensure all have attended before releasing us from our bright orange life vest.

We then unpack, hanging carefully those clothes that might be needed for the formal nights on board – there are 14! but our main case won’t fit in the cupboard or under the bed so our cabin steward takes it from us for us to see it hopefully in 50 days time.

 

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Our cabin for 50 nights

We do have to complain about the configuration of the cabin as there are two bunk beds folded up which restrict our movement somewhat.

 

That is not what we expected when we booked and we can not even stand up straight beside the bed. Reception not helpful but to be fair it was in the small print on the brochure he showed us (you would realistically need an extremely large telescope to read the small print though!) so we will have to make do.

Sail away a bit of a damp squid as we are late leaving so opt for dinner early, a good move as restaurant is virtually empty.

We have opted for Freedom dining although in practice will turn up at just after 6pm each time – sadly though there is no sign of Raj, our friendly waiter from the last two cruises.

Our friends from earlier cruises, Brenda & Mick are on the cruise and they get seated next to us, along with their other friends, Colin & Wendy,  just as we are finishing: we will catch up later.

Headliners opening show is OK as is the singer but we are all tired and opt for an early night afterwards.  The Bay of Biscay tomorrow and you know what that is likely to be like.  See you on my next post.

How long did you say this cruise was for?!

1 January

Late ferry and a very empty one with no one else in the Executive lounge and a short drive to Preston for an overnight at the Holiday Inn Express. The new Sat Nav doesn’t work, no maps!

2 January

Drive to Aintree for a bit of shopping at Hobby Craft and Boots. Halfords were good in explaining the problem with the Sat Nav, it may have wiped the maps on uploading changes & registering the item. Maybe Flic & Gary can sort it whilst we are away.

Another blockage on the M6 so yet again we decide to tackle the southward journey by getting across to Wrexham and down the A5 / M54 rejoining the M6 near Walsall. Possibly longer but less frustrating.

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View  over the River Thames

Arrive in Reading at about 6pm & check-in to the Crowne Plaza at Caversham, Flic & Gary picking us up an hour later for a meal at the newly opened Cozzee’s.

3 January

A bright morning with the usual bird life on the Thames and after breakfast we drive to Flic & Gary’s, finalise the packing and head off in Flic’s car for Southampton.

Lunch stop at an M3 service station and bump into John & Deirdre quite by chance who had just had their lunch there. They are of course joining us on the cruise to…?

(Well you will just have to wait and see where we are going to and for how long).

Hassle free drive onwards to Southampton cruise terminal and checkin somewhat beset by slowness in front of us – one guy with a foreign passport not having the correct visa holding us up. In the end we are one of the last on for an epic 50 (Yes, FIFTY) day cruise.