NEWS

November 2017

Not only has another month zoomed by but it is only seven weeks until Christmas. That is ridiculous; I only just seem to have cleared up from last December. Is it just me or has time sped up?

Going back to sea after Max and Justine’s wedding was incredibly hard as I felt I was missing out on all the post nuptial events, like the lowdown on their honeymoon in Cancun and not seeing the photos or videos. Having said that there was no other company I would rather have been back at sea with. Celebrity has the upper edge as far as I’m concerned. There are lots of fabulous ships out there to choose from but what sets this cruise company apart from so many others are the crew, they are simply fantastic, from the lowest paid right up to senior officers, everyone has a smile and a kind word. While every cruise company have made cut backs and are pinching pennies from a wide area of things on offer, Celebrity don’t seem to be scraping in all areas. For instance when you return from port, you still get a cold drink and iced flannel, very welcome on a hot day. This was sadly lacking from P&O on a 90 day Caribbean stint. Celebrity invariably has between 30/40 free Celebrity Life activities each day and the Captain and his officers mingle with the passengers at least twice over the course of a cruise. It is done in a non-formal setting where the Captain is approachable for a chat or pictures with your own camera whereas on P&O you have to queue up to have 30 seconds to chitchat and photos can only be taken by their own photographic team and at £20.00 a time that is penny pinching and to my mind cheapens the brand.

Celebrity treat their staff like people and not just a number and that makes a difference and their doesn’t seem to be as much in-house political shenanigans rippling under the counter. I worked P&O for several years and on a Caribbean cruise on Oceana I flew out to join the ship for a month. The Cruise Director snubbed me from the get go. I stood in the office when I went to sign on and he just carried on typing at his computer. After seven minutes he looked up and said, “Yes” I said I’d just joined and had come to say hello and pick up my work schedule. His reply was “I’m busy, it’s obvious that you work on sea days and you can look in the daily paper for where and when” and with that I was promptly dismissed. My merchandise wasn’t set up after my talks and there was a horrible atmosphere. After a week I wrote him a letter, saying I wasn’t sure what I’d done to offend him but I’d like to meet up for a coffee and clear the air. I didn’t even get the courtesy of a reply.

I was genuinely pleased to get home only to find I’d been fired. I’ve never been fired in my life and was floored. The reason given was my ratings had been poor and I know that simply wasn’t true. I’d done the Strictly Come Dancing cruise prior to the one on Oceana and scored 91 and Neil Oliver was very complimentary.

Before that I’d been on Adonia on a ship that had always provided two speakers so the passengers were disappointed to find there was no choice. The cruise director showed me his report, which was that the ratings were lower than normal but his recommendation was to use me again. The ship was sadly tired and was just about to be removed from that market and be repositioned, after a refit, to the Caribbean and renamed Fathom.

The next day I received an email from Cunard relieving me of all my future bookings. Cunard and P&O are two very different products so I was gob smacked and argued that my feedback on their brand had always been excellent but I got some flimflam about being sister companies blah, blah, blah. It was a typically nasty case of a cruise director having too much control and playing god. He was heard to say he hated the fact that I earned my living by playing on my father’s name!!!!!

 

That was one of my lowest days as I had been proud to represent a staunchly British company and I felt like I’d been kicked in the teeth but that is the sort of nasty backbiting that goes on behind the scenes. What is good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander. A member of the “Strictly Come Dancing” team, who’d come on as a special guest was one of the vilest people I’ve ever met. The language was like a guttersnipe, she continually smoked in areas that were not permitted and when confronted answered “those rules were only for the plebs”, was continually drunk and on one occasion so much so that she missed her book signing. She went to the Crew Bar, which is not allowed saying as she left that she was going to find a STD. I have never met someone so distasteful in my life and yet there were no repercussions because “Strictly” was a massive cash cow to the cruise line. On that same cruise one of the dancers insisted P&O put them up at the airport hotel the night before their connecting flight but still missed the plane. The whole schedule had to be changed to accommodate the missing person who arrived the day after.

This might well sound like sour grapes but I’m really fed up of these big companies pandering to those in power. The passenger questionnaires typically delivered to your cabin two nights before the end of the cruise were continually doctored and some that might not have been favourable to the cruise director or his team would end up in the bin. That is the main reason most lines send them to the client directly by email now but that again isn’t a fair assessment because a lot of the people that attend my talks are of an age that they don’t do email.

I’m grateful to be working for nearing all the other cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity and Fred Olsen but interesting that the majority re American. I am happy to accept the work as long as it is forthcoming because the cruise business is changing and fast. A lot of lines have already got rid of their Enrichment offerings including speakers, Bridge Hosts, Crafters and Dance Hosts. It is quite sad especially as for the most part these don’t cost the lines any money, only a cabin. Some companies have sprung up posing as agencies and you actually have to pay them to work on the ships!!! Cruise & Maritime, on their world cruise in 2017 actually made their speakers pay for their own flights. You just aren’t getting the best in the business when those sort of restrictions are put in place. The budgets have been cut so much so that you rarely get a celebrity name on board now unless it is a major holiday like Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Lines like Royal Caribbean rely mainly on their own cast to provide shows and their entertainment team to provide any other entertainment like “The Voice” on Princess. They in turn have even got rid of their Cruise directors altogether, which is tragic. Several lines have disbanded their live musicians and rely on backing tracks, which is awful. The one thing that separated a cruise line from a ferry was the live entertainment and I think too much is spent on gimmicks and outdoing each other. Unfortunately that’s life. At the same time that the cruise industry is growing year upon year, the cutbacks are becoming more evident. We’ve already lost midnight buffets, ice carving, free Bridge visits, free shuttles at port and chocolates on the pillow every night as well as having to pay extra for specialized restaurants, exercise classes and ice cream, I’m wondering what is to come next. P&O quote “you’re paying the same price as five years ago” and that might well be true, but we’re getting so much less for the fare.

I’ve already mentioned that there is no welcome back cold drink or flannels on some lines but on the Cruise & Maritime Maiden World Cruise this year, there was no sail away band, not free drink, fireworks or countdown, no specialized speaker on the Panama transit and 80% container ports, cutbacks are rife in a market that is ultimately going to suffer in the long run.

My only advice would be to research your cruise in minute detail and ask questions before booking. A cruise once conjured up exotic travel and a trip of a lifetime, now for past passengers, who see the cutbacks first hand, mores the case they come off disappointed and their longtime loyalty to a brand sees them jumping ships and trying out someone else. It’s amazing how many new clients Fred Olsen have gathered by keeping smoking on the balcony and by keeping their dance hosts. Some traditions shouldn’t be touched.

On a happier note I’m excited about being home because Matt and I are going to be working together for the first time ever. My friend and ‘mucker’ Rose Cook has organized a booking at Dudley Civic Centre on the 16 November. After writing the book it seemed the natural progression to adapt it for stage and theatre and Matt Jnr has been touring it successfully around the United Kingdom for the last few years. It was originally my hope to tour with him but my health wasn’t up to doing the strenuous travelling that the tour involved. The gig in Dudley is a one off and I’m really looking forward to it so if any of you live locally we’d love to see you there. We shall be coming out front of house at the end of the show to say hello.

Tickets are available here:- http://www.boroughhalls.co.uk/matt-monro-jnr.html

Matt’s new album came out to coincide with the tour. “A Father’s Legacy’ is the first album since “If He Could See Me Now” which was in 2007 and “Dancing With His Father’ in 2010.

Fourth Blue Monday
Didn’t We
For Once in My Life
Georgia on My Mind
Let Me Sing
One Morning in May
Gonna Build a Mountain
One Voice
You’ve Got Possibilities
So Little Time
This is the Life
Wonderful World
On Days Like These
You Made Me So Very Happy
Yesterday When I Was Young

We hope to have both Matt Jnr’s album and my book for sale at the venue together with some of dad’s harder to get CDs. Since EMI disbanded dad’s catalogue has been virtually wiped out and I completely understand the frustration a lot of you have had in purchasing anything. If you are coming to Dudley and are looking for something specific, do let me know and I do my best to get.

I have kept this next post on the site every month for a specific reason and that is because I don’t want anyone to buy it. Jasmine records issued an erroneously titled "Complete Recordings 1955 - 1962" set by dad on 9th December. This in all likelihood steals all Richard Moore’s remasters, as this record company doesn’t have the rights to any of the original masters. Certainly they don’t have the masters from Decca, Love is the Same Anywhere or The Complete Singles Collection.

This is either a substandard release or they have taken our masters for their own gain. There is never any finesse or research taken. Thy have listed the Parade of the Pops LP tracks as BBC Transcriptions. Where they pulled that from I don’t know as they are EMI tracks recorded at Abbey Road and have nothing to do with the BBC apart from being the same name as the radio show.

Strange Lady took us years to get hold of and Richard lovingly worked on the disc to give it its best possible treatment. Jasmine can’t have got the masters anywhere else so I urge you not to buy this product. I’m so fed up with these fly-by-night companies coming out of the woodwork to make a buck off other people’s work.

I’ve been working on a new project for the last 25 months and all being equal the book will be ready to go to print in April or May so I have it ready for the Celebrity cruise season.  The working title is ‘Travel Yourself’ and includes a ‘Mobility Challenged’ section which is something sadly missing from other guides. I had hoped to have it ready this year but things have been manic apart from the fact that they keep adding new ports to the itinerary. A few months ago Fredericia replaced Bruges on the schedule. This is the oldest port in Denmark and although they only have about seven visiting ships a year, I felt it had to be added. Any factual book that comes out on the market will always date but I am trying my best to make it as current as possible. All the notes are done now, it is just having the time to type everything up and I find it impossible to work on the laptop at sea. The screen and buttons are far too small but in retrospect if I’d typed the notes up as I’d gone along it would have been ready months ago. The first book out will be the Baltic and Norway followed by the Mediterranean, which will include the Canary Islands. I tried to look up Madeira in a Port Guide a few weeks ago and was shocked to find it missing from the index, as was the Azores even though they belong to Portugal.

PLEASE HELP
I’m relying on all of you to let me have any recommendations of shops, eateries, tours and the places that have impressed you Even if you have a valuable tip I want to hear it, you might know the best places for duty free and if anyone has issues with their mobility please share your stories with me. It could be that you need to tell me a place to avoid and that is equally important. This project is important so if you have any suggestions of things to include please email me at michele@mattmonro.com. Please don’t be shy, everything is valuable and you’ll be helping future travelers.

 

Cruise Dates 2018

5 January – 18 February – P&O Oriana
7 May – 19 May – Celebrity Silhouette
19 May-26 May – Celebrity Silhouette
26 May 9 June – Celebrity Silhouette
9 June 23 June – Celebrity Silhouette
23 June 7 July – Celebrity Silhouette
7 July – 21 July – Celebrity Silhouette
21 July – 4 August – Celebrity Silhouette
4 August – 18 August – Celebrity Silhouette

 I’ve been writing a travel blog like I did in 2012 and have uploaded some pictures and video footage onto my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/michelemonro every time I’m in port with an Internet connection.

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them. This month we look in on the ever-popular Martha and the Vandellas

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to mattmonro.com’, which is available towards the bottom of the Homepage. If you don’t know how to access certain areas of the site or in fact are unaware of new areas, this guide will explain how easy this website is to get around, once you know how.

There is also another information box “How to Use the Forum’. I know a lot of people have been tempted to join in on some of our conversations but are slightly nervous of doing so. For that reason I have printed step-by-step instructions of how to access it. It really does only take a few minutes.

Whatever the coming year holds, suffice to say that I shall be plugging Matt Monro’s music at every opportunity.  That is the wonderful thing about working the ships, it gives me a brand new audience each time and if then, a small percentage go home a fan, then it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the Bay of Biscay!!!!

Until next month take care of yourselves and don’t forget to check my travel blog out at Facebook.co.uk/MicheleMonro. See you all again in December

Warmest to you and yours

Michele   

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