Tag Archives: Oriana

Crossing the Atlantic at speed

 

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Flying fish from a flying (along) ship

12 February

 

We must have been seriously delayed as we have now left the Amazon delta having spent a night with little sleep as waves are crashing onto our ship which is now doing nearly 22 knots on our way to Cabo Verde.

A very grey day with the hardy sun bathers at a complete loss as to what to do other than sit out under the clouds.

A talk today on Devil’s Island, a former brutal penal island owned by French Guyana and on Cabo Verde with dinner in the Beach House, it saves dressing up again, and more singing of lesser known, but good, songs from the musicals sung by Gerard Bentall.

 

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Ploughing through the sea

13 February

 

Another sea day and an audience with Captain Box, Oriana holds the Golden Cockerel as the fastest ship in the fleet – we are still doing 22.8 knots (about 27mph) which is pretty amazing for a conventional vessel.

A talk this afternoon on Tenerife and the old capital but a leisurely afternoon watching the flying fish.

We establish that the reason we had to go back into the Amazon for refuelling (bunkering) is that there wasn’t enough fuel to give us down the Amazon at Manaus.

Tonight’s entertainment is from the captivating flautist, the very talented Andrea Amat: so good we bought her CD.

11:30 pm we are informed there is a deep fat frier fire in the forward galley on deck 6 with First aid response required. An unusual request to be broadcast to the whole of the ship at this time of night!

Not that I had had much to drink but try saying “deep fat frier fire” after a few alcoholic drinks!

14 February

 

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Valentine’s day

The final sea day before Cape Verde/Cabo Verde and it’s Valentine’s Day. A rose for Sal, but not from me or, John claims, not from him. Sal has a secret admirer on the ship but two days later he and Deirdre admit it was from them!

 

Still doing 22.5 knots, the ship has a top speed of 24 knots; are we trying to break the transatlantic speed record?

A final talk from Bernard Purrier on the type of dolphins or whales we could see around the migratory islands of Cape Verde and the flying fish which we have seen over the last few days whilst crossing the Atlantic.

As the clocks go forward an hour, we forgoe lunch, buy the first Costa Coffee on board and then listen to Martin P Lee’s talk on the similarities between Hitler and Putin. Scary.

The traditional chocoholics display for tea and I sit next to a guy from Wexford who also does a WordPress blog.

 

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Healiners Theatre Co. (Publicly available picture)

Tonight’s entertainment is the Headliners version of a tribute to Queen in the Pacific Lounge with it’s very poor seating but the ability to be up close and personal with the dancers and singers who, if you were in the front row, would be virtually on your lap.

 

A few older gentlemen were in danger of cardiac arrest with the very tight costumes the dance girls were wearing right in front of them. 40 minutes of energetic dance and singing routine and they make it look so easy.

James Michael Stewart provided the entertainment in the theatre and whilst his songs were good, his voice fantastic, the technical crew once again failed him as some of the videos / pictures were not shown and on at least two occasions he asked them to turn down the Mike or the backing sound, with them ignoring him on one occasion. Poor technical assistance.

Tomorrow, our last “new” country – the Cape Verde Islands (Cabo Verde). We are certainly on our way home now.

 

Manaus, day 2

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An early start for an Amazon experience and although the weather forecast is for thunderstorms, the sky is clear, it is hot and over 90% humidity with a lovely view of the city hall in reflection on a modern building.

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City Hall reflection

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Bridge across the Negros River

Just a small boat for 60 people to start with as we head out to the Negros river turning briefly north towards THE bridge that takes a road another 100 or so miles, to Novo Airao, that is considered by the locals to be a bit of a white elephant – not many people use it.

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Passing a sailing boat motoring towards Manaus

We turn and progress downstream to the water’s meet passing a few more docking areas, the fish market, a few favelas, a few floating petrol stations, a sailing boat under motor and even a local ferry that has an ATM on board!

We did pass a small pod of pink dolphins but they were too quick to be photographed.

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Police stopping a tourist boat

 

We get a good 10 minute delay whilst the vessel gets stopped by the river police who are there to check the ship’s papers, a regular occurrence we are told.

Even the tour guide could be asked to show his authority to be a tour guide.

A couple of other tourist boats overtake us whilst we are stopped but when we get going again, at least one of them gets stopped itself so we manage to get in front of them.

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The meeting of the waters, Amazon and Negros, near Manaus, Brazil.

At the meeting of the waters, we and a couple of other boats swirl about in the brown water from the Amazon and the black water from the River Negros on which Santarem is situated.

The waters don’t mix due to the mismatch of the acidic content of each river until about 70km downstream when the brown water presides.

This is something that can be seen from space – a truly wonder of the world.

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Hope your flood defences are good!

Off down the Solimoes river past a house recently built on stilts that our guide says is in danger of being flooded when the river gets to its peak.

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Floating shop

On to a floating village that looks far better than those we saw in SE Asia a few years ago – it comes with a floating school, a church, a shop with a vending machine – what more could you want?

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Floating church

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Floating school

Back out onto the main river and on to a small restaurant and walkway where we disembark, climb onto the raised walkway for a view of the giant lily pads and howler monkeys.

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Giant Lily pads

The squirrel monkeys were friendly to the extent of trying to get into rucksacks and bags, just like the Gibraltar ones.

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Squirrel monkey

Lunch was provided, a fantastic buffet spread including battered Piranha – glad it was not alive.

The water melon and bananas were plentiful and we then had a short while to view the shop before we got into motorised canoes that held 10 people – we managed a front seat which was a great advantage.

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Water melon for lunch

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Motorised Canoe

We are taken into a nearby lake we were able to see a few birds, Hawks, McCaws, Vultures and Osprey to name a few but no Caiman or pink dolphin.

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Storm clouds gathering

By now the storm clouds had gathered over us and the rains arrived, the wind increased as we made our way back to the restaurant area to return to our boat that was to take us back to the Oriana in Manaus.

Short delay as the wind and rough water prevented our boat from mooring to the restaurant’s quayside and a bit of a choppy crossing back to Manaus.

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Rainbow at the end of the clouds

Even the tour guide thought the weather unusual, the effect of El Niño, as a rainbow started downstream, getting bigger and bolder by the minute; quite strange.

Back to Manaus harbour past a house with three Brazil Nut trees in the garden.

Brazil Nut trees are protected by law from being cut down so in the areas where deforestation has taken place, the odd tree still stands and that is a Brazil Nut tree.

Sadly, these will in due course die as a result of the land around it being eroded as a result of the deforestation.

At the dockside when we disembark our small boat and board Oriana, we are met by about 5 police with motorbikes, all with their engines running and one videoing us returning to the ship. Not sure what all that was about as he was not videoing faces, just our rear profiles! What were they looking for?

Entertainment tonight by the Headliners with their Motown tribute – again another one we had seen before.

 

Sorry to say goodbye to Manaus but as the Montenegrin hairdresser on board had his wallet stolen whilst he was in the city, not a happy place for all on board.

Back downstream to Pantarins tomorrow but a few pictures of a wonderful city to end this post.

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.

 

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.