September 2018

So much has happened since we last spoke but the intense heat has got to me and I can’t remember didly squat!.

The excitement for a while was the World Cup and England’s climb through the various stages. I actually thought we have a shot of it against Croatia but then in a puff of smoke our dreams for 2018 were shattered. The fact that we were actually in St Petersburg for some for the matches made it more exciting, well except going through the immigration inspection after Russia had lost. Our cruises since the start of the games was football orientated and all the matches were streamed live. In fact in one of the games England were due to kick off at 3.00pm and being embarkation day in Southampton, Celebrity Cruises were forced to change the muster drill time from 3.00pm to 2.00pm in case of mutiny. In fact urgent emails were sent by the cruise line asking passengers to arrive at the port earlier than previously stated on their cruise documents so that everyone could be processed early and at 3.00pm every theatre, bar and room with a large screen was packed to the gills with England fans. I was on Deck 12 writing and I could hear the roar from downstairs when England scored. It was an exciting moment.

As most of you know by now, I popped home for a few days in the middle of my contract to watch my son graduate and I have to say it was one of the proudest days of my life. When I was first offered the work I mistakenly had the graduation down for September so Turned down work from that month and October so this will be the first year that I finish my contract at the end of August. Contracts signed for the year I find out a few months later that in fact I am working for the date of the graduation, 7th July. A quick call to the States to explain my faux pas and Clint rectified the situation by allowing me to go home in between contracts. I couldn’t wait and that last cruise dragged by until finally I was driving home. Because of the problems with flying anyone in or out of Russia, or indeed a lot of the Baltic countries, it was deemed safer for me to get off and on at Southampton which meant I had a whole two weeks back home. I’d been on the ship since May and now that the weather has turned into full blown summer I was able to pack up several cases worth and take it back, while the rest went into storage on the ship. The first night home I went through piles of hard post as well as near on 2000 emails and messages. I only went through the emails, I couldn’t possibly reply to the all in matter of hours but I feel like I made a dent. It was late by the time I started unpacking and Michele decided to step through the case instead of walking around it. I fell in a spectacular fashion having trapped my foot between the two metal parallel bars that act as the handle. I was bloody lucky I didn’t break my hip although I didn’t come away completely unscathed, I broke my 4th toe, the one next to the little one and boy did it hurt. By the next morning it was some weird shades of purple and by the second day mostly black. I was relieved that the graduation wasn’t until the following week and in the meantime I kept my feet swathed in slippers scared that I’d knock it again. I don’t know about you but once you have an injury, for some reason you are continually knocking it or bumping into it.

It was great being home as I worked full out on my book. I find it extremely difficult to work on the laptop n the ship primarily because the tables are the same height as the seats so I am continually hunched over and I am used to typing on a full sized keyboard and anything on the laptop takes me twice as long and is usually filled with spelling errors as I’m sure you’ve noticed from past updates, lol. The second reason is that I have full access to the internet, which is vital when writing a book, not just for the research but spelling words in a foreign alphabet, especially true of Norway and the Baltic. I got so much done in a week that I felt quite pleased with myself.

When you are writing a book for the cruise market the best thing I have each day at my fingertips is market research for the passengers themselves. As well as the able-bodied I was able to interview oodles of wheelchair-bound tourists who could give me first hand feedback on the difficulties in port and that is the most valuable. Even after more than 30 months, I still find out new things but I’m setting a deadline so the book is published in October, otherwise I’ll still be working on it next year.

There wasn’t a port guide on the market so you can imagine my absolute shock to sing an A4 advert in Lonely Planet magazine for the month of August announcing the launch of their new series of books “Cruise Port Guides”. I was absolutely devastated and that is why I’m always advise to putting your endeavours on the internet prior to release as people either steal your ideas, or decide to beat you to the punch. I didn’t have the time to go and buy a copy so I could decide whether my work would have to go in the bin but I was able to buy a downloadable copy and having scanned through it, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I actually found it very bitty with one destination speed over the course of the book in between other ports. There are three in the series (at the moment), Alaska, the Caribbean and the one I was worried about Scandinavia and Northern Europe but unless I’ve read it wrong there only seems to be two Norwegian ports in there. I don’t like technology at the best of times so maybe I haven’t got access to it all yet or it is likely Lonely Planet are going to release a dedicated Norway book along with other popular European destinations. If they are, I’m sure they will be announced soon but judging on what I have seen it doesn’t deter from my format. I won’t lie, I’m gutted mine will now not be a market leader but it is better to be the best rather than the fastest. More news next month.

Max came over for a rare day on his own and we had a great time. I wanted to give him his graduation present in advance as I didn’t want to lug a MacBook down to the ceremony, nor did I want to risk leaving it in the car. As it happens I had to take it back when we went out to lunch as Max was going straight to football from me and there was nowhere safe to leave it so I ordered it online and it was delivered to Max the next day. Result. He was absolutely delighted and I was absolutely jealous. The new machine seems to do almost anything bar wash the dishes but it’s exactly what he needs now to do his Masters and should see him through the next couple of years. We had a great lunch out at Pizza Express and had the luxury of eating outside. This heatwave gives you the feeling you are on holiday although watering my plants every night is a right bore. After lunch we went back to the house and played Crash Bandicoots. It used to be one of our favourite years ago when it was on the SNES (I think it was that) but now it is fully revamped and it every bit as enjoyable as way back then. I loved every minute of our day and now was looking forward to the 4th July itself.

I’d bought a new dress for the occasion but I had my neighbour with me when I bought it and I didn’t even think that I couldn’t do the dress up without help. Sod’s Law of course meant that Pat was out for the day at her sons’ which meant I had to drive with my dress open so that Max could do it up when I got there. I had bought a white pair of ankle boots a size too big so I could puta padded innersole in it to make it more comfortable for my toe. I hadn’t put on a pair of shoes in 10 days and the boots felt all right when I tried them on in the shop, (famous last words) and I sensibly drove to Birmingham University in my slippers. If I haven’t told you before I’ll tell you now, I absolutely love my SATNAV as there is no way I could have navigated around the huge traffic build up or find the one entrance out of maybe 10 that I needed for the University ceremony. Max was waiting for me by the side of a disabled space and it was as near to the ceremony as I could have got. Fabulous. It was just as well as my boots had only been on my feet for 10 minutes before I was in acute agony, not helped by the campus’ cobbled walkways. But at least my dress was zipped up and I was there.

Max went to collect his hat and gown and when he came out fully dressed, I could easily have burst into tears. He looked fabulous. It’s been a long hard 7 years to get to this day and I was bursting with ride, love and admiration for my boy who’d overcome a million heartaches to finally emerge victorious. He so deserved this day and it was even more special when his Head of Year for Physics gave Max a special mention in his end of year speech. Justine’s parents arrived as did my brother and his wife Chandrika and they went to take their place in a special viewing chamber where they could watch the proceedings live on a large screen. Meanwhile Justine and I went in to the Great Hall to take our seats. Because Justine was slightly late meeting her parents and bringing the round, by the time we got in there were no double seats left so we split up and I managed a seat in the third row while Justine grabbed one on the first. I gave her one of my cameras so that between us we could capture every moment and then it started.

I’ve never been to a graduation before so I was pleasantly surprised to see so much pomp and ceremony with a parade and orchestra playing the main players in.  It made every achiever feel important and was certainly a day they could be proud of. It seems to take an age before it was Max’s turn and when his name was called out and he mounted the stage my heart was fit to burst. I wanted to stomp and cheer but managed to contain myself for the sake of embarrassing the leading man. It amazed me that some of the achievements they read out meant nothing to me but damn they sounded good, things like “for research into the black hole and the particle dust created by the ozone layer and its structures”. (Don’t worry if you don’t get it as I made that one up but you get the picture.)

After the ceremony we went up for the official family photos and then were able to join the others in the grounds for an iced cold drink, while I continued to take a  hundred more pictures. Don’t laugh because Justine and I between us took more than 300!!! It is a day in a million and I didn’t want to miss a thing. It’s better to take dozens that you the delete just to capture those special few which are amazing, then to take a few and get left disappointed because someone blinked or the picture is blurred. That happens a lot with me because of my shakes. I’d taken my Rebel Canon, which Matt had given me a few years ago at Christmas but it is too heavy at times and today was one of this times so I offloaded it to Justine who did an admirable job, catching the best picture of Max on stage that comes from having a front row seat. We really were lucky because Justine’s seat was opposite the side that Max came onto the stage from so it couldn’t have been better.

Max had booked Pizza Express by the Mailbox for 7.30pm for everyone but we didn’t get there until nearly 8.00am. He had rung the restaurant to tell them so they were cool. The time flew by and we all had a wonderful night. I was still busy taking photos while Matt picked up the bill for everyone, which was totally unexpected, but so like him. And suddenly it was time for everyone to go home. Diona and Greg were staying at a hotel almost opposite the Mailbox so they were able to walk back as they had dropped the car off on the way there. Matt and Chandrika had to drive back to London and I dropped the kids back home before I headed for Telford, but not before asking Max to unzip me so I didn’t have to sleeping in my dress. I just prayed that the police didn’t pull me over as I would have had a hard time explaining what I was doing driving half-dressed, lol

It was worth every minute of the six-hour round trip to Southampton and the broken toe (which is refusing to heal) but three days later I was bacon Silhouette to work out the rest of my contract. Maybe it is because I had the break in the middle but the rest of the time has flown by and I now only have 18 days left. It has gone in a flash. Before leaving I’d popped into the official photographic site for the Graduation Day and ordered a bundle so everyone has a keepsake and I am eagerly awaiting their delivery but when I spoke to `max yesterday they have still not come. He hasn’t had time to chase them as five days after the ceremony Max started his Internship at Birmingham University (complete fluke) and the hours are long. Although Justine has finished school (permanently) she has driven to London and is staying with her parents while she looks for a flat for the two of them. She starts her new job before Max finishes his Internship and then starts his Masters at Imperial so they have a lot on their plate as every Friday after work, Max catches the train to London so he can do his bit and spend time with his wife. Justine is then driving them back on Sunday night, packing up more stuff from the flat and taking it back to London on her next trip. The good thing is I’ll be home two weeks before Max moves so I am hoping we get a couple of days together. (But as Max says I can hope!!).

My girlfriend, Rose, a fellow speaker came on as my guest last cruise and we’ve had a ball. We’ve been off at every port and she has helped me with my research before we have a few hours for ourselves. We’ve had some fabulous meals (all in the way of research), gone on a canal trip in Copenhagen (all in the way of research) searched out unique shops (all in the way of research) and come back laden with shopping (all in the way of keeping happy), lol. The only disappointment was a tour we did in Russia which was an exploration into local life which gave us a chance to try out the Metro and the visit a market. The tube stations are opulent both in St Petersburg and in Moscow but sadly not the ones the tour guide took us to and what we thought would be an open-air Camden-like market was an inside food market which had my stomach doing flip-flops over the smell, so much so that I and several others on the trip had to stand outside but unfortunately the odour still pervaded the air around us. The guide made people stand in the 90 degree heat why she explained local life. I don’t know about local life but I’d given up the will to live by that point. Finally we were taken to an airless restaurant which had seven steep steps to access it and no handrail but we were all desperate for the toilet so 41 people queued for two cubicles while the waiters waited to serve us tea and coffee and cake. I didn’t bother, I bought a cold coke and went outside and stood by the coach, which had come back to collect us. To take us to a non-air-conditioned eatery was pure madness. More than 30 people complained and asked for their money back but it is a useless exercise on any cruise line. Once they have your money, they ain’t giving it back. I was just happy to be back on the ship. And was dreading another tour we’d booked for the following night.

OMG, burble, burble and more burble for more than three hours, all without a toilet break. It’s no longer ‘From Russia With Love, more like ‘Walk Away’, well in my case, run away! It was nearly 85 degrees and I was stuck on an airless coach. My friend Rose and I had gone out an hour earlier than needed to allow time to get through the Russian Immigration Inspection and to make sure I got the front row on the bus. An hour later the side asked us to move. I have never known car sickness to take precedence over disability!! By then most of the coach was full so we had to move to the back. I should have got off there and then because the result was that by the time we got to our first picture stop, I was sick as a pig and there is nothing worse knowing you still had nearly 3 hours to go. Anywhere else in the world I we would have caught a cab back to the ship but without a visa we were not allowed to leave the group. I was also sick at the next stop, no longer interested in what palace I was outside. The only good thing about the tour was the last stop was an hour and it gave my stomach time to settle. Why were we given an hour - to watch a bridge go up, which took about 7 minutes. These tours are padded out just to justify the huge cost. It was the Annual Navy Day Celebration, the climax being a fabulous firework display but we were on the coach and missed the lot. Great forward thinking these Russians. Because the tour centred on the lights of the city and the sun didn’t set until 9.38pm, we didn’t set out until 11.15pm (later than planned because 5 people didn’t bother turning up) but we didn’t get back until 2.40am - was it worth it? - hell no.

I was relieved to leave Russia, three days is too long and on every cruise I’ve done since May, passengers get back on the first day after a 12 hour tour and subsequently cancel some of the others they have pre-booked. They lose their money but they don’t care. In fact it is usually the men who opt out preferring to stay in sight of a cold beer at the bar. Our next stop is Rostock, the gateway for Berlin. We usually dock in Warnemunde, which is a fabulous German seaside town, whereas Rostock’s main attraction is their university (that says it all). I shall spend a few hours on research and then Rose and I will hotfoot it over there. It takes 25 minutes on the shuttle bus to get to Rostock City centre and 11 minutes in a cab to get to Warnemunde. Being that we are going to be there until midnight we have plenty of time.

So I’ll sign off for now so that I can catch an Internet signal before our day at sea and catch you next month.

Don’t forget it’s not too late to let me have any recommendations for shops, eateries, tours and the places that have impressed you in Europe. 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 valid. This project is important so if you have any suggestions of things to include please email me at michele@mattmonro.com.

Cruise Dates 2018

7 July – 21 July – Celebrity Silhouette
21 July – 4 August – Celebrity Silhouette
4 August – 18 August – Celebrity Silhouette

Cruise Dates 2019

3 January – 27 February – P&O

Each time I’ve been away I’ve been posting a travel blog with pictures and video 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

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 here’s wishing everyone good health, happiness and a lot of sunshine.
See y

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 Troggs

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 about doing so. For that reason, I have printed step-by-step instructions on 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 dad’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 goes 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 August with more tales from the sea.

Warmest to you and yours

Michele

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