Thursday, 24 November 2016

One Minute There the Next Minute Here!

This is a big “catch-up” blog – so, where were we?


Our Caribbean cruise was drawing to a close – our penultimate stop was Grenada where we had the distinction of meeting up with “Azura’s” big sister “Britannia”. The two ships made for a great sight berthed together on the quayside.


With both ships in port we had the chance to catch up with friend David, an entertainment officer on “Britannia”, and so we all headed ashore to a good beach and enjoyed catching up again after quite a while.


Back aboard ship that evening in Grenada there was a combining of the ship’s entertainment teams who gave a very rumbustious performance at sail-away parties on both ships. Grenada gave us a VERY wet send off …….


……… with torrential and persistent rain but spirits were not dampened! Thousands of us got drenched to the skin on both ships but it was no hardship as everything was warm and wonderful. Here’s a very wet Doug and Pam!


And an equally wet Darren and Jenn who we only met during the party but had a great time with them. During these high jinks Doug slipped over on the wet deck (nothing to do with alcohol of course!) and cut his eyebrow open. There was lots of blood and he thought he was going to die but it was his own damned fault!


The last port of call was Barbados where the ship spent a two-day turn round and we were able to spend another hour with friends Peter and Margaret as they waited for their disembarkation. We were searching to find each other and Peter saw us first! We had a marvellous, if all too short a time with them during the cruise and we hope very much to catch up with them again.


After leaving the ship, friends Pam and Geoff and Bernard and Sandra were to spend another two weeks in Barbados in their fabulous villa in the St James region. Before flying home we spent our last two days on the island with them ……..


……… enjoying a lot of Champagne in their beautiful home and, of course, their terrific company.


On our last evening we had a riotous meal together at a local seafood restaurant. James, Sandra,Bernard, Geoff, Pam and Doug.


We spent our last hours on the island before flying home back at the villa soaking up both the sunshine and final moments of the most wonderful group holiday with these lovely friends. The cruise had been a great success.


More Champagne! – drinking it not swimming in it we hasten to add! (Half submergence in water does nothing to flatter the figure!)


After a good flight back from the Caribbean we spent a hectic 10 days at home (doing “home” things) but it was delightfully punctuated by the company of friend Cris from Manchester who came to stay for a couple of days. Here’s a semi-successful selfie of us all down at nearby Bosham.


We had great fun showing Cris around some of our part of the country and, of course, it had to include a trip to Brighton. James and Cris outside the Royal Pavilion.


Another “must” for us was to catch up with our darling daughters Vicky and Frances with partners Ian (here) and Kel (who couldn’t make it to our early Christmas celebration lunch at the Freke Arms near Highworth in Wiltshire).

Kel did arrive later when we all went back to Vicky and Ian’s home for an afternoon of family fun. The reason for this very early “Christmas with the kids” was that we were ………..


…… about to fly out to India. Here we are, after an excellent flight with Jet Airways, landing in Mumbai yesterday and exchanging temperatures of some 7 deg in the UK with 30 deg in India. “It’s good for bones” we’re told!


During our few days in Mumbai we are staying at the Aircraft Hotel in the Vile Parle district where we have a pleasant view from a pleasant hotel room. However, it doesn’t convey the cacophony of noise and the heat which makes India so marvellous for us.


After a shower and forty winks we ventured out into the local area where we found a great ‘locals’ bar. After a splendid Biryani and a beer ……


….. we took a walk around to absorb, and get used, to the delights of India after the nine months since our last visit.


This is India at it’s best! A man up a telegraph pole supported by a bamboo construction just before it collapsed!


The house could do with a coat of paint but then might spoil it!


Lots of fruit and vegetables on stalls – all clean and beautifully laid out so that’s our 5-a-day sorted.

Our own Exotic Marigold Hotel experience in Mumbai has begun – last night we had our first power failure. The whole neighbourhood was out and soon there was a knock on our door. There was an extremely apologetic man with candles for us!  

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Caribbean Odyssey


Dinner for “the six of us” is a joyful affair. Here's two of “us six” – Sandra and Bernard.


‘Long suffering’ Pauline with Doug.


James (who’s been long suffering for a long time Haha!) with friend Pam.


On one of our sea days, prior to arriving in the Caribbean, we were invited to a Whitewall Galleries Champagne reception where we had a a very good presentation, by gallery manager Sam, of all the art work currently on display. There was, as always, a couple of pieces on show by our favourite artist, Fabian Perez.


“Azura” is a very large cruise ship (for us) and we have been very impressed with her. Being able to get so high up at the rear of the ship there are some stunning views of both the ship and the way ahead. Constantly steering a south-west course across the Atlantic towards the Caribbean, each evening we sailed direct into the marvellous sunsets.


As we sailed further south the temperature rose and we took advantage of the balmy evenings to have pre dinner drinks on the open deck at Breakers Bar. Here’s “us six” – Sandra, Bernard, Geoff, Pam and Doug. (No 6 was behind the camera!)


Our first port of call in the Caribbean was St Maarten. Due to the engines not starting when we tried to leave the Azores we were 30 hours late leaving there. However, our excellent captain (Robert Camby) made up 27 of those hours during the journey and we arrived at St Maarten just 3 hours late. That meant that we were all up and able to see our arrival (normally the ship would arrive at a port of call early while were were all asleep!


Arriving in the daytime we were able to have an ‘arrival’ party. Here’s Doug with the lovely Linda who we spent quite a bit of time with during the Atlantic crossing.


“Azura” shared the berth at St Maarten with the much smaller “Azamara Quest”


The Caribbean wet season has taken it’s time to move on this year and the Orient Beach car park was flooded when we arrived with our own hire car!


After our time on the beach, with a remarkable coincidence, we were able to catch up with Matthew and Simon who had just flown in at 2:30. We met them at their hotel in Philipsburg for a drink before we left the island.


Sitting on the terrace of the hotel we had a great view of “Azura” and, while we enjoyed Simon and Matthew’s company the “liquid sunshine” started to descend with great force!


After saying good bye to Simon and Matthew our race from the hotel back to the car and then from the car to the ship in the deluge was more than enough to soak us through to our skin! It was nice and warm though and the ship’s company were ready with towels and umbrellas for the onslaught of soggy passengers.


The next port of call, on Tuesday, was St Lucia. We arrived late (again),this time due to a passenger boat excursion at St Maarten getting a rope wrapped round their propeller, getting back late, and causing the ship to leave 2 hours late. We had a new captain take over in St Maarten (Robert Camby left us in St Maarten to fly back to England where his wife had given birth to their first child prematurely!) and the new captain arranged for us to leave later in the evening thus giving us a good time ashore.


We used our time ashore wisely – first meeting up with ex-narrow boat friends (and avid blog readers!) Peter and Margaret who had also booked the cruise. Having not managed to meet up properly with them during the Atlantic crossing we enjoyed about three hours, in our favourite bar, in the island’s capital of Castries overlooking the harbour and keeping an eye on “Azura” berthed opposite. We had an absolutely marvellous time with them over quite a lot of beer!


After our lovely time with Peter and Margaret we took a short taxi ride to a beach for a bit of dip in the gorgeous Caribbean Sea. We had the whole beach to ourselves and, just to prove it, …………


…….. here’s a panorama shot from one end to the other!


An ‘artistic’ shot showing, again, this wonderful deserted beach.


St Lucia is a small island so things get squashed in somewhat. Next to the beach is the cemetery then, beyond that the airport, and then the port.


We stayed on ‘our’ beach until the sun began to set. This is James’ attempt at a romantic shot of Doug walking off into the sunset!


Before the taxi arrived to take us back to the ship we had an enjoyable hour with some of the locals playing dominoes and cards ……….


…….. while, on the other side of the road, the planes were landing and taking off!


Next port of call on Wednesday was Dominica. An island we’ve not been to before, the tiny capital of Roseau is full of quaint little houses, some in lovely condition and some ………


………. not so good!


Some present themselves as great renovation projects ……….


…… and others, dilapidated beyond sensibility, but functioning very well as a popular bar!


We spent much of the day with Geoff and Pam and found an upstairs bar in quite reasonable condition! It was so hot and stifling that spending time in a bar was a sane choice to make.


Stopping for more refreshment on the long walk back to the ship we found a good bar next to the sea where we had a brilliant view of “Azura”.


With Pam and Geoff at our midway stop off.


Further along, and not yet at the ship, we met up with friend and entertainments host Laurie and Joel, the drummer in the Caribbean band on board.

This cruise has not been without it’s various ‘happenings. Starting with a breakdown in the Azores, an incident with an excursion boat trip making us late again and the captain’s son being born early. But yesterday (Wednesday) we received a very very sad announcement from the captain to say that one of the ship’s excursion vehicles had been involved in a serious accident on the island. There has been one passenger fatality with another nine injured – 5 with serious injuries. P&O are doing their very best to deal with all the issues but our hearts go out to those involved in this shocking incident.