Day 6 – Wednesday 29th December – St. Maarten
Good morning from the beautiful tiny island of St. Maarten. I woke as we approached the port just as the sun was coming up, I think the slightly different movement of the ship as it slows is enough to wake me. Looking forward I can see several ships all docked including Britannia, a Royal Caribbean ship, a Wind Surf clipper, and Carnival Magic is about to berth alongside us. The Magic is one of those huge ships with water slides, climbing walls and basketball Courts.
As we approached the jetty, the captain swung the ship through 180 and we backed into our berth. This is good news as it means my cabin will be on the sunny side of the ship this morning. The weather for today is forecast to be 27°C and cloudless skies, so I can make full use of my balcony.
Breakfast in the restaurant, I refuse to use the self-service, unless it’s for a snack. I have paid to be served and I will be! Rice Krispies followed by two fried eggs, two enormous rashers of back bacon, mushrooms and black pudding, then toast and marmalade. Only two cups of coffee this morning, I don’t want to get fat. Time for a stroll ashore to get an appetite for lunch. I caught a glimpse of tonight’s menu it included a choice of halibut, loin of pork, roast beef and sirloin steak, plus other things I can’t remember except that one of the many desserts was treacle tart and custard.
Gosh, it’s hot and humid out in the sun today. An hour walking around and I had to find a bar for a sit down and a cold beer. The only recognisable brand was Red Stripe, not my favourite but it was wet and cold. So I was set fair for the walk back to the ship and in desperate need of another drink as soon as I got back on board. This time I demolished a Peroni in record time. A quick hot dog and French fries for lunch then back to the cabin for a sit in the shady corner of the balcony with a mug of tea (PG Tips) and my Kindle. I fully expect to doze off.
I had a great afternoon switching between sun and shade, reading and dozing. Eventually it was time to shower away the sunscreen residue and prepare for dinner. However, the onboard dinner reservation app has died again. The answer is just to turn up at the desk and as there are so few on board they find you a table immediately. They always ask if I am willing to share a table and I normally say ‘yes’ as you get to chat with all sorts of people. Last night one of the men was a retired bank manager who explained he worked an area as cover for mangers on holiday or sick. It turned out he had often been cover manager for my branch of Barclays!
Tonight I was first to arrive on a table for six, next along were two men in their thirties who I immediately pegged as gay. It turned out they were guest entertainers and two thirds of a trio who were performing a 50s, 60s and 70s act in the theatre on New Year’s Eve. They said it was full of the Beatles, Stones, Cliff Richard, Kinks, Small Faces type songs. I said that was my era and I would be there. They had been on a beach all afternoon with some of the entertainers from Britannia and the third member of the trio was sleeping it off. We chatted about sixties music and I told them that in the early sixties I used to play football in the local park with Steve Ellis of the Love Affair who had a No 1 with Everlasting Love. It seems that was one of the numbers that they do in the show. They have threatened to dedicate the song to me. If they do I think I will make out it is someone else.
Anyway, I know you only read this for the food news. Tonight I dined on prawn cocktail, tomato soup, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and treacle tart and custard. You couldn’t get much more British than that and it was most enjoyable. I think I will find a corner of a bar somewhere and have a couple of beers before bedtime.
Day 7 – Thursday 30th December – St Kitts
Another day, another island. Today it’s St. Kitts another of the smaller islands, but hilly and quite green, I suspect it was volcanic, I might check when I get home. This island used to produce a lot of sugar and one of the available excursions is a ride on the old narrow-gauge railway that used to run around the island collecting all the cane from the estates and delivering it to the central mill. It was then crushed to extract the juice to process into sugar. When I started work, back in the 1960s, the company I worked for were still producing steam boilers for the sugar mills of the world. The fuel was the waste crushed cane, known as bagasse, and the steam produced in the boilers was used to boil the extracted liquor for sugar and produce process steam to drive the crushers and other machinery. A time long gone, nowadays the manufacturing process is still much the same, but the cane is collected by huge trucks and the mill powered from the island’s tiny power station. I wonder what they now do with the bagasse?
The captain came on the Tannoy after dinner last night and apologised that the Caribbean Sea was expected to be a bit rougher than usual for the overnight crossing to St Kitts. There would be swells up to one metre and a 14-knot wind! That is nothing for a modern ship fitted with stabilisers. Well, this got the people sitting near me in the bar chatting, “Did I feel how rough the sea had been last night?” “No I slept like a log, lulled by the slight movement and one metre swell was nothing to worry about.” The woman sitting on the next table said she was going back to her cabin to take a seasickness pill! I was tempted to tell her of a few of occasions when I had been at sea and it had been really rough with a force 8 in the Bay of Biscay, the Med or off Mexico. I was beaten to it by a man sat the other side who told her that a month ago he had been on a cruise down to the Canaries and on returning the ship had to sail in a race track pattern off the Isle of Wight because it was too rough to enter the Solent.
You will be please to know that I had a great night’s sleep and if there had been any swell, I never felt a thing. I have realised what it is that wakes me every morning coming into port. It is the harbour pilot coming aboard, they use a door in the hull almost directly below my balcony, it was at 06:15 this morning. So I read until it was time to wash, dress and head for breakfast. This morning I had my usual bowl of Rice Krispies, followed by two fried eggs (they really are tiny), bacon, mushrooms and sausage. As I was having sausage I had to have brown sauce. The man on the next table, who received his full English with two additional poached eggs nodded and said he would also have the brown sauce. His wife turned her nose up and asked for red sauce. Red sauce is for chips.
I think it’s time for a stroll ashore, I really must find a present to take back for the Little Girl Next Door and a bottle of 100% proof rum is hardly suitable, she’s more into cuddle toys and Peppa Pig books. I have spotted a cuddly owl in the ship’s gift shop which I could buy if I see nothing better. There is also a stuffed unicorn but I’m less convinced she’s into unicorns. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a cuddly Puffin!
I returned to the ship for my lunch having not yet seen anything better than the owl. Still the next three days are at sea as our stop in Grand Turk has been cut out “due to Covid” which gives me plenty of time to consider the owl and the unicorn. The phrase “due to Covid” is haunting this holiday! I had a salad for my lunch Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, hard-boiled egg and spam. Most enjoyable. Then back to my cabin to read on the balcony, where the sun has finally reached. Gosh it is hot this afternoon. My Robert Galbraith book is a good detective murder mystery. Having read the previous books in the series I can hardly believe this yarn is actually by J K Rowling using another name. It is totally different to Harry Potter.
By the sailing time of 17:30 I was in need of a shower to wash away today’s application of factor 30! I was allocated a shared table for dinner this evening with some people I had dined with previously, namely the retired bank manager and Trevor who is hard of hearing and only picks up on half the conversation. I ordered a sausage and chicken liver roll in pastry starter, it tasted a lot better than its description. Sirloin steak or a gammon steak caused me a dilemma as I like them both, in the end I chose gammon as the sirloin steak is an “always on” item I could have any day. A hot chocolate muffin with chocolate custard for dessert. Then off to see two girl acrobats perform in the ship’s atrium, they were very good and drew a decent audience and lots of applause. And so to bed where I shall probably fall asleep reading. All this lazing around and eating is very tiring.
Day 8 – New Years Eve – At Sea
The second week of my break starts today. I always think the second week of a two week holiday always seems to pass twice as fast as the first week. No rush to get up this morning as it’s a sea day and with no pilot boarding early I didn’t wake so early. We appear to be in no hurry this morning as we chug along at a slow pace. The sky is a little patchy this morning with some dark patches of rain cloud. We appear to be altering course to avoid the showers and dodging from one patch of sun to the next.
I had breakfast in the restaurant as usual, which was a little busier than usual. I suspect that with it being a sea day and no trips ashore to rush off to more people are taking the opportunity of a having full leisurely breakfast served to them rather than picking up their own in the buffet. My usual Rice Krispies to start and two fried eggs on toast to follow. When I reached into my pocket for my pills I realised I had forgotten them, so instead of washing them down with my third cup of coffee I had to return to my cabin for them. I caught a glimpse of tonight’s New Year’s Eve menu, more of which later, but needless to say it has a Scottishland tilt. Entering my cabin revealed a lovely sunny balcony. I think I shall sit there and enjoy my book rather than battle for a sunbed around one of the pools.
A quiet morning on the balcony reading in the sun, then up to the sun deck for a hotdog from the poolside snack bar for lunch. There were loads of free sun loungers most unlike any day at sea I have ever experienced, it can only be due to the low numbers on board. I found a nice spot by the pool where there isn’t constant pop music and settled down to finish my second book, I didn’t guess the murderer. Next up is a Michael Connelly book, a Harry Bosch, a series I rather enjoy.
As the afternoon went on the sky became clearer and it became warmer and warmer. Eventually it became too hot in the sun for me and I had to retreat to the shade until I headed back to my cabin for a shower and to get dressed up in my dinner suit for the New Year’s Eve festivities. I was sharing a table with the same people as on Christmas Day so we greeted each other like old friends. Another super menu, but unfortunately we are not supposed to take them away with us, “because of Covid”. Anyway, we started with an amuse-bouche, then I chose duck liver and chicken pate with a hazelnut bread, chicken soup with garlic croutons, a kir sorbet and lobster with scallops. For dessert I had a raspberry creme brûlée, but I couldn’t manage the cheese plate so I just had coffee and a chocolate truffle to finish off a magnificent meal. Oh, I nearly forgot, we shared several bottles of Taittinger Brut Réserve NV.
Day 9 – New Year’s Day – At Sea
The sky is a bit grey this morning, but it is pleasantly warm. We should have been enjoying a day in Grand Turk today but it seems they are not yet prepared to accept cruise ships so we are skipping this call. Pity it’s one of the few islands I have only visited once before and I would have liked the chance to explore some more.
It seems that the same people go down to breakfast at the same time most mornings. It was a chorus of happy New Years from the regular crowd as I consumed my normal bowl of Rice Krispies and tucked into two poached eggs on toast washed down with copious cups of coffee. I must say the coffee in the restaurants is excellent and plentiful. As is becoming a habit, I forgot my pills, so I had to pop back to the cabin to take them. The stewardess had been in and cleaned while I had been to breakfast. She is most efficient and well-deserving of a tip when I leave.
I then went down to the ship’s general store as I have decided that I will get the LGND the cuddly owl which doubles as a glove puppet. It is rather cute. As her mum and dad are looking after my house and car I feel I should get them something as well. I see that in one of the shops they have those collections of miniature bottles of perfume and aftershave that you often see at airport duty-free shops, they will do nicely if I don’t spot anything else in the next few days. I think a few hours on the balcony, reading in the weak sun, should get me through till lunch.
As has become common on this cruise the clouds disappeared, the sun came out strongly and it soon became pretty warm where I was sitting so I started alternating between the sun and the shade. For lunch I decided to visit the buffet and made myself an egg salad. How they keep the salad stuff so fresh is a question.
After lunch I found a lounger around the pool at the stern of the ship. Very few people seem to use this pool prefering the one midships, where there is always pop music from a DJ or a group. The pool with the open air cinema screen is also fairly popular but I find it distracting if I want to read. The afternoon passed in a mixture of reading, snoozing and a couple of dips in the pool. I must say there always seems to be loads of freshly laundered pool towels available.
Back to the cabin to prepare for dinner. A nice hot shower and some smarter clothes. Later I headed for the restaurant for dinner. I still find this so called “Freedom Dining” a little frustrating, despite making a booking via the app I still have to give my cabin number and be asked if I want to share a table for every meal. Tonight I ate with a number of people who I have dined with before. I might as well be on a fixed table! Tonight it was pate, tomato soup, slow-cooked beef, cabbage, carrots and roast potatoes on a bed of lentils. Can’t say I like lentils greatly, I find them pretty tasteless. Apple crumble and custard for dessert. Off to a bar for a couple of beers before bed.
To be continued…
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