Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Days 4 - 6 - Still at sea - July 29/31st

The carpet bowls moved up a notch from pairs to ladies vs men.  The fun started setting in at this point and our entertainment staff member this time was  - Marcos... (yes another) and he proved to be a real fun host.  Again, we only bowled once but the choice is to hang around and cheer for either the ladies “Bambi”, or the men “Hippopotamus”... (with suitable grunting noises with each point scored).   It is exactly this sort of activity that opens up conversations with fellow passengers.  As Alana said later, when chatting to passengers on a 17 day cruise, she explained that the dynamics were totally different on a long cruise.  They thought 17 days WAS a long cruise!  When you only get a total of three or four weeks holiday a year, 17 days is a long cruise, but for retirees, it certainly isn’t, when you look at what we have been doing.

Apparently Marcos’s girlfriend on the ship, is one of the dancers – from Nottingham.  Small world.  Oh yes, the men won (do your own grunting noises...).

We went up on deck for a bit of whale watching before lunch. (see pics)

Although the sun was out, late afternoon, there was a distinct chill in the air, but at least we are dry.

We didn’t win the afternoon quiz, even with our 15/20.  Our quiz team is quite settled and we accept our non-winning status with good grace.

I spent some time on the internet and if you have read the earlier blog, this is when I discovered that although they had been sent OK, they didn’t seem to have arrived. I tried all sorts of stuff on line without success, so was somewhat reluctant to press on.

Our first formal night was the usual excuse for everyone to dress up.  Well, not everyone of course, as there is a sizeable contingent who are just not interested and who can blame them?  We often hear tales of the snobby set complaining about the casual dress at dinner or even on board generally, but what we like about the Australian based ships is that they understand the difference between a formal cruise and an informal one and we think Princess have the policy just right.

The photo shows one of the very few carry over staff from last year.  Our great assistant waiter Neil – still without sleeves.   He asked to be remembered to all of table 18 and wanted to know if Birdie was on this cruise.  Sadly, no.

Rather than go to the Production Show, we went to an American comedian “Jeff Wayne”. We thoroughly enjoyed it too.  Afterwards, to our usual late night spot in the Atrium with Alan & Alana.

Monday Day 5

Just for a change, there wasn’t much fruit out at breakfast (we must have caught them between top ups) so after some deliberation, I succumbed to a delicious fresh Belgian waffle, with maple syrup, and cream.  Bliss.  I think son Stewart, Paula’s daughter Julie and grandsons Lucas and Stephen would approve.

This time it was back to Bogdan running the bowls for the return match.  These guys are really good as once the men established a bit of a lead, he accepted a ‘phone call’, claiming the men had cheated or something and awarded the ladies 5 points!  The men still won (grunt, grunt, grunt...).

Speciality lunch (most days there is a speciality section) was sushi, but with no seating left in the buffet, we took our food out on deck, but with party band “passion” just below, it wasn’t exactly a peaceful spot.

Back to the vista lounge for a future cruise presentation, (Europe) but with a bewildering list of ports and cruises it wasn’t too easy to follow.

To the cabin and a curt message from Joanne on the comments that they had been leaping up and down on the Sydney wharf waving at us, but we ignored them!   Sorry, we didn’t realise they were there. (Grovel, grovel.)

Quiz was just 11/17.  Oh dear.

As we had been to the comedian last night, we wanted to see the production show and the timing was such that we opted to have appetisers in the buffet (because I thought they would have the prawns – wrong) before dining in the pizzeria with Pam & Jim plus Mal & Megan.   I asked for calzone, which is on the lunch menu, but not the evening menu, but two had the crepes with spinach and ricotta.  They were disappointed as we couldn’t find any evidence of the actual crepe. It was just a small portion of cheesy spinach!   Two had pizza and enjoyed it.  The lasagne wasn’t too bad, but very much a starter portion if it had been mine.  

On to the production show, with the ship’s singers and dancers.  We always enjoyed the shows last year on the World Cruise, but several experienced cruisers were not too impressed.  The first part of last year’s cruise, there were just 2 male dancers and 4 female, which was a small company.  This time, there are 4 male and 6 female.  We enjoyed the show “Moments to Remember”.   As this was the early show, we were then able to catch the vista lounge show “Pearson & Harvey. What a great show this turned out to be.

Straight man and funny man.  Straight man sings (well) and the other (smaller) guy does his stuff.  A great mimed Frank Sinatra number to a track sped up and slowed down (as per Brian Winchester’s excellent version on the guest talent show last year) but faster and funnier.  A very good “Frank Spencer” take off.  This was overall one of the funniest acts we have seen on Princess and we hope they do another show before Darwin.

The only show we have skipped so far was Chris Gable, a really talented clarinet and sax player, as we had seen him on three sectors previously.  The overall pool of entertainers is not that large it seems and later in this blog, I might well summarise our own assessments.  (Easier than doing all the historical and geographical stuff of the ports – I leave that to the others.)

In the Atrium again to finish the evening and this time, we had a bonus dance lesson from Alana – “The Chicago Swing”, another New Vogue dance,  which I coped with, probably as it was danced to one of my favourite tunes “The Charleston”.   (Paula learned it last year from Nigel & Marie, so at least I had seen it before.)

I had a comment posted on an earlier blog asking whether or not the dance classes were taken by the cruise staff or professionals.  Alana is the resident dance teacher (and evening atrium singer, with brother Alan on keyboard) and used to have a dance school.  So, yes, professional tuition and aimed at beginners, though a bit of advanced teaching later in the lessons and also specific dance practice 7-7:45 in the evenings, for revision and personal assistance where required.  Alana and Alan are without doubt a duo who have a great following from regular cruisers and this makes atrium evenings very pleasant and either relaxing or energetic.  They do a light hearted quiz alternate evenings, which is also very popular, usually with well over 100 people (in teams) taking part.  Our Diamond Princess cruise, the evening entertainer, Maurizio was quite loud and dominated the atrium area.  Alan and Alana are much quieter so it is easy listening and you can still chat.

Tuesday day 6 - 31st July

Yet another sea day.

A call from the Purser regarding our cabins came with the offer a small financial recompense and the option of moving to a port side cabin, well forward of where we prefer to be, at Beijing.  After some discussion between us (Paula and myself that is), we went down to see him but opted to stay in the current starboard side cabin, as by the time we get to Beijing, most of the interesting coastline on the port side has been missed anyway.  Paula had a small request (that was granted!) and we were offered a Sterling Steakhouse dinner too, so as far as we are concerned, the issue is now over, but we have requested that our cabin is locked in for next year.  We suspect that our change was because we now disembark at San Francisco instead of Auckland, so full cruise obviously takes precedence over early booking, though next time, we will of course be holders of that black card. 

It does appear though that even if you have chosen your cabin and locked it into your own system, by refusing upgrades, the company can still move you if they so desire.  (In that respect, it is just the same as booking your seats on a flight and not getting them once you arrive at the airport.)  A couple have told us that they think we are mad to turn down the (starboard side) mini-suite offer, but as we are generally quite happy with our cabin and overall location (other than the wrong side), we saw no great advantage in moving forward.   

Anyway, onto the normal routines.

After the bowls (grunt, grunt, grunt – guess who won), we headed for the Princess theatre for a lecture on comedy greats, given by the comedian Jeff Wayne.   Jeff had only been asked to do this presentation once on board, so had no notes or Powerpoint slides.  He focussed mainly on Bob Hope and then Abbott and Costello and gave a tremendous talk, which was exceptionally well received by the audience.  This was a guy who was not only a good comedian, but has seriously studied comedy from an early age and his initial focus was on stars who had made the transition from Vaudeville, to films, radio and television. 

Lunch, we raided the buffet for a very nice Indian chicken curry.

Quiz? A good score of 17/21, but alas, not a winning one.

Because I’d eaten (fairly) lightly, come dinner time, I was hungry and they had my favourite rolls, with a touch of fennel in them. The picture of the butter dishes should give you a clue as to what happened to the rolls.

The Princess Theatre entertainer was Bayne Bacon (yes his real name and yes, again). This must have been the 4th time he has been on the cruise and the 1 hour or 45 minute act is still the same.   Same jokes, same music.  A likeable enough entertainer, but recycling the same material when so many cruisers are now repeat cruisers is just professional laziness.

Like so many people, it seems that we were a bit tired (no idea why) and that meant fewer people in the atrium.  Bed was still after 12:30, but the clocks are back 30 minutes tonight.

One more sea day and then we hit Darwin – yet again.

(As I email this August 1st, I have no idea when it will be published.)    


  1. Ray can you tell paula to give Neil a really really big hug from me...


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  3. Done - She didn't need much encouragement.

  4. Thanks for the info on Alana and Alan, If they have a surname that would be great. WE are on Dawn next April, would you mind asking if they will be on the trip around Australia as they seem to have a great following and it´s good to have professional teachers on board