Thursday, 1 March 2012

Singapore And Home – The Last Post

Monday February 27th – Day 54

Woke up to thunder, lightning and pouring rain…welcome to Singapore.
We had to vacate our suite by 8am this morning - although I did stretch it to twenty past eight – so then it was off to breakfast in The Colonnade with our hand luggage. Despite the rain we sat outside under the covered area and had our last breakfast (for this year!!) on The Quest. We spent most of our time saying goodbye to friends who were either leaving as well or continuing on for the next segment…lucky devils!!

From Cape Town to Singapore we have travelled 6575 nautical miles which makes our total half world cruise distance 15333 nautical miles and we enjoyed every one of them. Thank you Seabourn.

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We disembarked from deck five at 9am and we were waved off by Michelle, Vitor and the captain who said “Where are you going, I thought you were on to Dubai”….. for a moment I thought somebody had forgotten to tell me that Seabourn had extended our stay but no it was just a confused captain moment so after kisses and hugs all round we left the ship and our quest was finally over…boo hoo.

I’d like to thank Seabourn for giving us another wonderful experience and also the crew and staff, who make Seabourn so special, for all the wonderful service and the friendly ambiance they created. Special thanks also go to Barry Hill of Thomas Cook Cruising who worked tirelessly all last summer  to get us moved from waitlisted to confirmed booking; to John Delaney and Melody Kelly of Seabourn Seattle for their help in getting us our midship (almost) V2 suite; the captain who steered us safely and is one of the most friendly and approachable people I’ve met; Adam from The Patio bar whose smile really brightened my day and John who seemed to work day and night to bring us such wonderful entertainment …..don’t forget to sleep John!!

As for the guests, the mix of ages and nationalities made for a wonderful eclectic mix and it was a pleasure to spend time with them ….. apart from one or two guests who were unfortunately obnoxious and rude… to both other guests and staff …. luckily the ship was large enough to be able to avoid their presence most of the time (well the guests could but the staff just had to smile and bear it)…. and hopefully we will never meet them again.

After standing in the queue for over an hour to clear immigration…. a private car was waiting to drive us to the Conrad Centennial Hotel where we had a day room until 7pm.  After checking in we decided to walk to Bugis Street market for some last minute shopping and yes, I did buy another pair of shoes and a beautiful white ceramic watch.

As it was nearly twelve noon we were frantically looking for somewhere that sold Corona beer and for something to eat…starving by now…but it was not to be, so we settled for a Big Mac and a large coke….not quite the same.

On the way back to the hotel we called in at Raffles Hotel and in the Long Bar we met some of the Quest entertainment staff enjoying the traditional Singapore Sling and eating the monkey nuts.

The afternoon was spent swimming and lazing by the pool on the fourth floor and enjoying the last of the sunshine.

At 7pm our private car returned to drive us to Changi Airport where we met quite a few of our fellow Brit cruisers who were also on the 11pm, thirteen hour BA flight home. Luckily we were travelling business class so after a goodly dinner and several drinks we managed to sleep in our fully flatbed seats for over eight hours.

We landed at Heathrow at 4:38am where our friend Peter was waiting to drive us home.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog as I’ve certainly enjoyed writing it. Big thanks to Vance for his accompanying picture show complete with his captions to my photos …what a team!!

I can’t resist saying…. “I’ll be back”…. because we have booked to be on The Quest next January for another half world cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Hong Kong via The Panama Canal……sailing the right way round the world this time….well right to left/east to west …if you see what I mean.

So…That’s All For Now Folks…until next year.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Sunday February 26th - Day 53

Cruising The Strait Of Malacca
The Strait Of Malacca is a narrow five hundred mile stretch of water between the Malay peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is named after the Malacca sultanate that ruled over the archipelago between 1414 and 1511.

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Weather is not brilliant this morning but as I have to start the packing...boo... I guess that's a good thing. It rained all morning but we still had our noon beer ritual...it's the last one!!

The sun came out for lunch so we dined at the Patio Grill to make the most of dining out of doors....we won't be doing that when we get home.  The sun shone hot and bright all afternoon so a group of us made the most of our last afternoon on board and partied noisily in the pool and drank the odd cocktail or three...hic...

Remember I told you about the 'Guess The Weight' contest well one of our group, Mike, won first prize so he now has a $2500 rock containing an uncut emerald as a reminder of the cruise...Mike I think wife Jackie will be getting that set for a pair of earrings.
This evening twelve of us had a special Brits going home curry dinner in The Restaurant (well Melanie is from the US but we made her an honorary Brit as she is married to Peter, a Brit).

After a few more drinks in the club it was back to the room to put our luggage outside of our suite for the midnight luggage pickup. That really brought it home that we are leaving tomorrow.
It will be a sad day tomorrow saying goodbye to newly made friends...there will be lots of hugs and kisses and perhaps a few tears.

Techie bits: At 9:55am we were:
3° north and 100° east
Travelling on a compass course of 170°
Speed = 14 knots
Apparent wind speed = 10 knots off the starboard  bow
Air temperature = 27°c (81°f)
Total nautical miles sailed = 15039
Depth = 56 metres
Humidity 67%
Sunrise = 7:31am  Sunset = 7:32pm

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Last Day At Sea And Penang

Friday And Saturday February 24th & 25th - Day 51 & 52

Friday - Our third day at sea and for some reason everybody is talking about going home except for Vance who keeps changing the subject.....you've guessed it...he wants to stay on for another month!!
Our clocks went forward thirty minutes this afternoon which means we are now eight hours ahead of UK time and it will stay this way all the way to Singapore.

At 6:30pm tonight it was the captain's farewell cocktails and the final of the 'Quest Factor' where the final five of the crew talent competition performed in front of the guests who will decide who wins the grand prize of $1000. We didn't quite make the live final but watched it in our suite on the tv as Vance wanted to watch the Cycling Championships on ESPN so we had to keep switching channels.
After the formal dinner in The Restaurant where we managed to get one of our favourite tables - thank you Andre - we went upstairs to the Grand Salon for the variety show.

Tonight there were three artists - Siobhan Phillips - singer and comedienne, cellist - Mariusz and comedian Jeff Stevenson. All three were fantastic and Siobhan dedicated 'Hallelujah' to Vance as she knows he's a great fan of Leonard Cohen. At the end of the show the talent show winner was announced...it was...(drum roll)...Jerry the singer and our onboard tailor...well done Jerry.
Drinks and dancing again in The Club then to bed...zzzzzzzz

Saturday - Couldn't get Vance out of bed this morning - it must have been a really late night last night...at breakfast he was half asleep and I thought he was going to ask for vodka with his orange juice as a pick me up...but he didn't.
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It is so hot now and the humidity is eighty-five percent and it's only 11:30am and I'm really melting.
We docked in Penang at 1pm and everyone is rushing to get ashore for private and Seabourn tours.

Penang comes from the Malay words for the betel nut - Palau Pinang and is an island state in Malaysia. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite. Established in 1786 as a trading post by the British today Penang is favoured by travellers for both its scenic beauty and its places of ethnic and historic charm.
Our tour today was the north island tour, We left the waterfront and journeyed to a beautiful Thai Buddhist temple which houses the fourth largest reclining Buddha in the world - one hundred and eight foot long. The smiling Buddha is made of gilded cement and has eyes and toenails made of pearl. The outside of the temple is guarded by impressive dragons.

While wandering around the temple we found the statues that represented the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. Vance and I are both dragons and 2012 is also the year of the dragon.....could be a lucky omen!!
Afterwards we crossed the road to another Buddhist temple where I was blessed by a monk and sprinkled with holy water and had a yellow cotton bracelet tied around my wrist for good luck.

A leisurely drive towards the northerly tip of the island took us past the beautiful coves, beaches and hotels on Ferringhi Beach. We then visited the craft batik workshop where we were shown the intricate art of printing cloth with wax and dyes.
From here we went to the Butterfly Farm with its walk-in aviary providing sanctuary for over one thousand live butterflies, as well as tropical insects lizards and frogs. Vance took a fabulous photo of the Iguana feeding.

It was an amazing place but as they spray steam into the aviary every few minutes for the insects and butterflies it was even more humid inside than it was outside.
It was such a hot day that we were all looking forward to getting back to the ship and jumping into the pool but unfortunately as we drove back to the harbour a tropical storm blew in and the rain hammered down.

However that evening we were determined to eat under the stars so we waited until the rain stopped at 8:30pm and the patio grill staff laid us up a table and our wish came true.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Another Day At Sea

Thursday February 23rd - Day 50

Didn't wake up until 9am this morning - it's these one hour time changes, two nights in a row - it's a killer...nothing to do with the late night drinks though!!

Cloudy again today and quite windy but the temperature is still in the mid eighties.

We moved from the pool area (deck 8) up to deck 9 at 3:30pm so that the staff could start the setup for tonight's 'A Taste Of Madagascar' party - it was funny to watch them struggling with the draperies in the high wind and also to watch John our cruise director trying to float two giraffes on the swimming pool - we have pictures!!

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At 6:30pm we enjoyed cocktails and canap├ęs in the African setting by the pool. The entertainment team sang excerpts from The Lion King and other songs inspired by this beautiful country...like real troupers they continued with the show despite the rain starting to fall...doesn't it always.
Between 7pm and 9pm there was a Madagascar themed dinner (with some really spicy soup...yummy!) in The Colonnade which had also been decorated in an African theme.

Then at 9:15pm the desserts and 'Rock The Boat' show had to be moved to The Club as it was still raining. We danced all night - and thanks Luis for putting up with my attempts at dancing although he kindly said he awarded me ten out of ten for effort.
I forgot to say.... at 7pm Vance had an acupuncture appointment for his sore shoulder (golf inflicted!!). He came back a changed man (well almost) and said "this acupuncture stuff really does work"...hope they do it on the national health at home or any more sessions will be eating into my cruising fund.

Techie bits: At 11am we were:
5° north and 88° east
Travelling on a compass course of 085°
Speed = 12knots
Apparent wind speed = 32 knots off the port  bow
Air temperature = 28°c (82°f)
Total nautical miles sailed = 14188
Depth = 3890 metres
Humidity 66%
Sunrise = 7:50am  Sunset = 7:50pm


Friday, 24 February 2012

At Sea - Day 1 Of 3

Wednesday February 22nd - Day 49

Feel quite tired this morning after losing another hour (clocks forward) last night and I'm reading the daily Seabourn Herald and find that as we are now going directly east they are going to 'pinch' another hour off me tonight!!
Cloudy start today but still hot and balmy so we should be able to spend a pleasant afternoon on deck.

As there's not a lot going on today I'll give you a quick photo tour of Seabourn Square and some of the artworks around the ship.
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Seabourn Square is the meeting place on the ship for teas, coffee, snacks, reading the papers, doing the jigsaw  and generally getting together. It also holds guest services in the centre of The Square who take care of any problems that may arise and generally give advice on matters around the ship and with destination services  and future cruise sales on one side of The Square...it can really be a busy hub especially when the weather is not too kind. If you like your tea & coffee in relative peace and quiet there is an outside area at the back of The Square with comfy chairs and settees with a view over the stern of the ship.
As we are coming to the end of our cruise - only five days to go... boo hoo - I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the blog followers both at home in the UK, onboard and around the world for all their lovely comments about the blog and a special mention to Brian and Margaret, previous world cruisers, who I'm sure won't mind me sharing their blog comment to us with you...

"Hi Helen and Vance.
It sounds like you are having an amazing time. Helen's blog and all the photographs have brought back so many memories of life on Seabourn and we've spotted quite a few familiar faces on the pics.

I bet you can't believe that you are on your last week. Life on the' outside' is hard to adjust back to. Actually I think that Helen has missed her calling. Her blog is such compulsive reading and so funny and informative that I think that Seabourn should pay you both to constantly cruise on their ships and write blogs of your travels. It would be the best marketing tool ever.  If it comes off don't forget your friends will you!
We'll keep in touch and we'll keep reading your blog and hope that you have another wonderful week on the ship.

Bye for now.
Love and best wishes
Margaret and Brian"
Thanks Brian and Margaret - great idea re Seabourn marketing. I will suggest it to them!!

Another hour forward tonight making us now seven and a half hours ahead of UK time...I think.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Colombo - Sri Lanka

Tuesday February 21st - Day 48

Colombo is the largest city of Sri Lanka and is a busy and vibrant city with a mixture of modern and colonial buildings. Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the east-west sea trade routes Colombo was known to  ancient traders over two thousand years ago.
Originally known as Ceylon it became famous for producing the world's finest teas. It is also known for its fragrant spices and sparkling sapphires. The interior is a land of jungles inhabited by leopards and elephants and ruins of the great civilisations of the past.

After three days at sea we decided to go for a long walk along the coast before turning inland to the main city area. There were some fabulous old building but the thing that struck us most was the terrible pavements - all broken and missing. We learnt later that they are restoring the inner structure of the city but are starting from the outside areas first.

The other thing that struck us was the number of tuk-tuks and it was only later that we found out that the blue tuk-tuks were government controlled whilst the red and yellow ones were freelance. One crew member told us he got in a red tuk-tuk having been told the fare would be $2 to take him to the market only to be told as they drove off that the fare would now be $20...he quickly got out!!
At 6:30pm there was a show of traditional Srilankan dancing up on deck. The dancers wore richly decorated and colourful costumes and some had face masks. The energy of the male dancers was amazing with them spinning and performing acrobatics to enthral us guests.

Surf 'n Turf in The Colonnade tonight and it was really busy. The chef was really accommodating as I ordered a shrimp and avocado cocktail - without the shrimp and heavy on the avocado please! - and then my Surf 'n Turf main course was requested to be without the surf. Seabourn service at its best.
The show in the Grand Salon tonight was with Siobhan Phillips, a comedienne and unique vocal artist from Wakefield in Yorkshire, UK. It was also John, our cruise directors birthday and the audience gave him a rousing 'Happy Birthday to you....'

After the show Siobhan joined us for drinks in the club and two of the ship's other performers, Luis and Taylor, also joined us for a funny and entertaining hour before we were off to bed because the clocks go forward another hour tonight...zzzzzzz

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

At Sea On Our Way To Sri Lanka

Monday February 20th - Day 47
Happy fourth anniversary to us both!! and thank you to everyone on board and at home for your cards and kind wishes. We will be having a special anniversary meal tonight but more about that later.
There is a 'Guess The Weight' contest today - no not a person but some rocks in the onboard jewellers. We have to guess the combined weight of two rocks containing emeralds in their natural rough form. The draw will be made on Friday. I can't decide whether to do some research on Google or just rely on luck. Apparently one rock is valued at $1000 and the second at $2500 and the two people who have guessed the closest weight will win a rock each...hope it's me.
Happy anniversary beer at 12 noon (of course)....the bar staff suggested champagne but a ritual is a ritual.
Thought I might get the day off from Kinesis but Vance insisted I needed the exercise.
Graeme our exec chef cooked a special dinner just for us in the main restaurant tonight. We had lobster thermidor with pineapple rice baked inside the pineapple and our friends Cass and Julie from Sydney who we met on the first leg had kindly given us a bottle of premier Chablis which was perfect with the meal...thanks Cass and Julie.
Techie bits: At 10:05am we were:
5° north and 75° east
Travelling on a compass course of 066°
Speed = 13 knots
Apparent wind speed = 31 knots off the port  bow
Air temperature = 28°c (82°f)
Total nautical miles sailed = 13424
Depth = 2530 metres
Humidity 67%
Sunrise = 6:08am  Sunset = 6:06pm