Cruise, Sydney to Southampton (Pt 2: Sea days – San Francisco to Southampton)

Wednesday 1 April

Penultimate talk from Michael Kushner on the sinking of the Bismark – fascinating.

Captain’s joke for April Fool’s day was to say that the Panama Canal was closed following “an incident”, always plausible, and would have resulted in a two week detour around the bottom of South America!

Ship's flags.  different flags for different situations / locations
Ship’s flags. different flags for different situations / locations

Good show from the 4Tunes, a 4 part male singing group with especially good songs from Jersey Boys.

Thursday 2 April

Today’s talk from Michael Kushner, is on spies and we are in celebratory mode as Bryan celebrates his 81st birthday today.

Evening concert by 4Tunes & Kenny Martin, a clarinetist, followed by a classical concert from Huw Wiggin & Edward Leach, pianist and Saxophonist.

Saturday 4 April

Port talk on Puntarenus, a town on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Not a pleasant town by the description given so we opt for an Eco tour up a river. Might get use of my mosquito repellent trousers then. Pre dinner Drinks in Sharon and Bryan’s room, very civil.

Sunday 5 April

Actually spent a brief time (10 minutes) sun bathing, a first for the cruise?

Sea day
Sea day

Talk on Howard Hughes, the aviator, film director and recluse and another concert from Jon Courtney (Twistedpianist.com) whose song about Heart, Bart and Fargo was good enough to remember for a Panto sketch.

The Irish dance lessons sketch was also good.

Monday 6 April

Jon Courtney’s great talk on piano comedians including Elton John and another on Walt Disney. An early night because of early start tomorrow.

Wednesday 8 April

It is still very hot outside so a day inside is called for as we get closer to the Panama Canal. Port talk on Antigua today and we are told to look out for chattel houses, built by slaves when slavery was abolished.

A good show by Johnson Brothers although I thought their classical singing is better than their more modern singing. We round off the evening with another concert by Huw Wiggin and Edward Leach on the piano and saxophone.

Friday 10 April

A grey day with undulating seas
A grey day with undulating seas

Wind force 8 overnight whipping up the waves and resulting in an interrupted sleep overnight so amazing that we stay awake for the 3 talks today (on transatlantic ships, on modern film production structures and more clips of “the Human Planet”) in the Curzon Theatre.

Evening entertainment from the McDonald brothers and a girl trio, Sapphire who are young former West End stage girls and who were photographed around the ship yesterday whilst they sunbathed but whose singing was not the best but they did try hard.

Members of Sapphire sunbathing along with others during Panama Canal Transit
Members of Sapphire sunbathing along with others during Panama Canal Transit

Sunday 12 April

The talk today is on Hollywood, but due to popular demand, the film The Imitation Game is shown and although we have already seen it, having the talks earlier made the film more interesting.

The Evening concert was by Sapphire (not very good) and Clare Langan, flautist (very good).

Tuesday 14 April

Some good speakers today. Port talk on Punta Delgarda, another talk on RNLI by Mick Testoni and another on criminology – interviewing suspects by Terry Brown.

Manage to send Sarah an e-mail message by buying a pay as you go internet access. £5.00 for one e-mail!

Evening entertainment by Tom O’Connor who at age of 75 still has the ability to entertain an audience for about an hour with his jokes and tales without sitting, without script or prompting and then repeating the feat some two hours later to a different audience.

Wednesday 15 April

Another RNLI talk and on criminal interviewing but Deirdre not well so misses them. A talk by David Fairclough, Liverpool FC super sub from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s OK but not riveting.

An evening’s entertainment from The Octaves, 4 guys singing in harmony who were good.

Thursday 16 April

Statue on board Aurora
Statue on board Aurora

Another RNLI talk and one on criminal interviewing but drama in the evening whilst at dinner in the Medina where we had arrived at our customary time of 18:00.

The engines stop at about 18:25 and we drift around for about 35 minutes in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean after black smoke comes out of the funnel and covers some of the top decks.

It was just as well the sea wasn’t rough.

Sadly, this seemed to confuse the dining room staff as whilst we had eaten our first course before power had been lost, our main course was not delivered until we had been in the restaurant 1 hour 50 minutes well after others around us who came in after us had been served and after we had politely complained about the lack of our main course some 10 minutes earlier.

Poor explanation by staff and restaurant manager but at least the meal was hot although by this time Bryan and Sharon had given up waiting.

As it was, Deirdre had to forgo her desert and coffee to get to the film and John, Sal and I had to forgo our coffee.

Before we left, the waiter came over and gave us a more detailed explanation which was essentially different to what the manager had said but did explain the process better.

Fellow passengers on Aurora
Fellow passengers on Aurora

Overall, not a good P&O moment, what really was lacking was an explanation whilst we were waiting that was lacking.

The manager’s people skills also really left a lot to be desired, hovering around the table after apologising and giving his account of the delay.

Certainly one table around us had the same dishes that we had ordered and I can’t believe the table of 7 next to us was also served first didn’t have similar dishes.

The Headliners tonight were good with some Broadway singing and dancing.

Friday 17 April

The weather has now become more European Atlantic so it may be time to put the shorts away.

Indian meal
Indian meal

The usual (speaker) suspects were the guest speakers for the morning but nothing of note in the afternoon.

An evening meal at Sindhu, an Indian restaurant which was on John & Deirdre for thanks for the Australia planning I did.

What a difference in the standard of service and quality of food, especially the deserts. A free bottle of wine per couple as well – very nice.

The Octaves CD
The Octaves CD

The Octaves were excellent, their movement on stage and efforts they put into their show were wonderful – so good we bought the CD.

Saturday 18 April

A sea state of moderate, bordering on rough has resulted in some rocking on the boat this morning.

Temperatures are now definitely European and with no sun, there are some brown bodies walking around like lost souls (they had spent virtually all the time up to now sunbathing and were surely fully paid up members of the beached whale society), looking at parts of the ship they have never seen before despite the longevity of their voyages.

Again, the usual suspects talking to us although Mick Testoni’s talk was on his time in the Met police rather an a RNLI talk. Now down to 1 hour behind the UK time wise, 4 weeks ago we were 11 hours behind – that is the way to overcome jet lag, an hour every (just under) 3 days.

Monday 20 April

Our Cabin on Aurora
Our Cabin on Aurora

RNLI and policeman talks in the morning followed by a face to face with one of the two the UK immigration officials who got on at Ponta Delgarda to conduct all face to face “interviews” to save time when we arrive in Southampton. In fact, no words were spoken during the “face to face” so it must have seemed like a bit of a jolly really as the whole process for the passengers only lasted just over half a day!

Didn’t fancy the headliners tonight so went to the film showing of the Stephen Hawking film (The Theory of Everything). Very good acting by the guy playing Stephen Hawking, the film gave a bit of a slant to his wife’s devotion to him and it appears that without her, he probably would not be alive now.

Tuesday 21 April

Miserable day weather wise whilst the UK has a sunny day, just our luck. Missed the two morning talks today to go with Sal to the film, Gone Girl. Strange concept for a film, How do writers come up with these ideas? I have been to two films in two days, a record for me. Last clock change and we are now on UK time.

Start packing and find that the polo shirt bought in Curaçao with the country name on actually had the name of St Kitts & Nevis on instead! Good excuse to revisit Curaçao and visit St Kitts

Last entertainment from Bernie Flint (he won Opportunity Knocks for a record time) and Swedish classical guitarist, Nils Klofver.

Wednesday 22 April

Farewell lunch with Bryan and Sharon
Farewell lunch with Bryan and Sharon

Our last full day on the cruise and the usual RNLI and detective talks were followed by a “farewell” lunch with Sharon & Bryan in the Horizon and packing for me whilst Sal went with John & Deirdre to the film, Paddington.

Somehow we have ended up with 2 large and 3 small cases, a back pack and a carry bag! Have to put bags out before our last dinner in the Horizon.

Dinner time - Horizon style and all dressed up
Dinner time – Horizon style and all dressed up

Last night’s entertainment by Headliners cancelled due to illness so a drink in the Crow’s nest with Brenda & Mick, John & Deirdre.

Thursday 23 April

Bye bye cabin. Up early for breakfast on Sally’s birthday and wait in ship’s Theatre for disembarkation.

Absolute chaos in terminal where some people will probably have to wait 2 hours for a taxi but we are soon off – thanks Flic for picking us up – and we have finished our holiday.  All we have to do now is get home.

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