NEWS

March 2016

Just got off Magellan after my trip to the Amazon but rat's arse I got bronchitis three days before the end and I am in quite a bad way. I've had a antibiotic course but it hasn't shifted it yet.

Well I have to say I thought I had seen and heard everything at sea having cruise for nearly 32 years but boy was I wrong. Because the cruise was so cheap, so were a lot of the people. I have never had so many rude people in such a small area and it was shocking. The deck at night was like being in the worst Irish pub, all pissed out of their skulls and singing anything and everything and the rest of us had no choice but to put up with it.

It is all very well selling drinks packages but the passengers then want to make sure they get their monies worth. There were several tables off alcoholics, they sat at the same tables on deck each day and one had a bunch of old boys on it. One in particular who must have been near 80 kept falling over and then blaming the lurch of the ship which was interesting because on several occasions we were docked!!!!! He was travelling with his son, who must have been in his forties, who drank from the minute he woke up until he fell into bed. One night he came up on deck quite late. He was on his own, sat down with his drink, then leant forward opened his legs and was promptly sick on the floor. He did that three times in a row but made no attempt to get up, call someone over or clean himself up. He then ordered another drink. I was speechless and that doesn't happen often.

Alta da Chao

He tried it on with every woman going and we were all gobsmacked when two weeks before the end of the cruise got himself a girlfriend. I looked over at the deck party and they had tongues down each other's throats and I thought I was going to be sick.  Would you believe he then went round knocking on cabin doors asking if anyone had a condom and could they borrow the cabin. THIS WENT ON FOR SEVERAL NIGHTS I KID YOU NOT.

Having said all that I liked the Magellan. I thought the staff worked extremely hard and the entertainment was very good. Unlike P&O they had deck parties almost every night. There were five crafters on board, bridge and dance hosts and six speakers. There was Ukulele lessons and a choir both of which gave concerts at the end. There was a casino and Bingo and quizzes every day. There was live music in all the lounges and a jazz band that played on deck three times a week. In the good weather they also had a deck cabaret every night at 10.30pm and the deck buffets were phenomenal. You couldn't fault what was on offer even if it was not to your taste. There was something for everyone.

Boca da Valeria


You get a lot for your money and the items on board like photos etc were so much cheaper than the other lines. One couple I was friendly with bought a 3 DVD package and twelve photos for £80.00. The Spa was reasonably priced compared to its competitors and the cabins were great especially the bed and bedding, nice thick duvets if you wanted them. One thing that did impress was the water pressure, oh god the showers were fabulous and lots of hot water.

The other bugbear on ships is the Internet and once again C&M are much cheaper than its rivals. £10.00 for four hours and that wasn't consecutive; you could spread the minutes over the cruise. The library was good but the shops were lacking, maybe that's a good thing. The other bugbear is that you cannot buy duty free cigarettes until the last day, you can pay and order them on the first day but you don't get them until the day before the end of the cruise. That is because they charge £46.00 per carton on board (duty free is £31.00) so that way they are making an extra £15.00 per carton throughout the cruise.

I never go into the dining room but the buffet was excellent and they have fresh breads and soup every day. They have all sorts on offer including gluten free and a roast or speciality dish of the day. Pizza is offered throughout the day until 6.00pm and the outside burger and hotdog bar is usually open. In fact I was surprised that they were even open the last two sea days before Tilbury despite the weather, as was the pool bar. That was one terrible thing on Adonia. The pool bar closed at 5.30pm so the staff could open Horizon's upstairs. They were running a skeleton crew and it showed and they rarely had any deck parties despite the fact we were in the Amazon and Caribbean over 90 days last year.

They say you get what you pay for but I think you got a whole lot more on this cruise. For some it worked out at £34.00 per day.

The cruise itinerary was excellent; in fact this is the third year in a row I have done the Amazon and Caribbean, as I don’t like to be in England for the worst of the winter. Yes there are a lot of sea days because you have to cross the Atlantic but that never bothers me, it gives me a chance to get organised and get to know the ship and crew around me. The only thing that did irk was once we were in the Amazon we had eight port stops in a row. I get off at every port and try and get the most out of the area but that meant I was knackered after three days and I would gladly have taken a sea day in-between to recharge my batteries.

Manaus

Once we hit Manaus our winch broke which meant we couldn’t bring in one of the tenders. Obviously these are a main safety feature and not something we can sail without so it meant an extra night in Manaus while the crew worked 24/7 to fix the item. Admittedly Manaus is probably the worst of the ports you can break down in, not from the ship’s point of view as it is a bustling metropolis with most of the modern cons, but not from a passenger’s aspect. It is busy, dirty, loud and as it proved on this trip unsafe. Although we warned the passengers not to get off the ship with their jewellery, there are those that think they are exempt from the misfortunes of living in a poverty stricken area. This time round we have eleven incidents of theft, one person claiming that his £3,000 Rolex was taken. Odd that no one remembered seeing it on him before the incident!!!

Dolphin Swim in the Amazon

One poor waiter had gone out at night to a local haunt but somehow got separated from his friends. He was left to walk back to the ship in his underpants! We all felt sorry for the lad so the ‘deck smoking section’ did a whip round so he could at least replace his mobile. These kids work nine months at sea without seeing their families and so the mobile is their lifeline.

Village Trip up the Amazon

Having said all that I went out strolling the streets on my own each of the three days and I never felt threatened. I am fairly careful wearing a waist bumbag, no jewellery but in fairness I always have my camera dangling around my neck. Maybe I look as if I’m not worth robbing.

The highlight for me was Iles du Salut, a group of small islands of volcanic origin about 11 km off the coast of French Guiana in the Atlantic Ocean. The translation in English is Islands of Salvation, so called because the missionaries went there to escape plague on the mainland.

Ile su Salut

There are three islands, from north to south: Ile du Diable, Ile Royale and Ile Saint Joseph. Île du Diable, the most famous due to the political imprisonment there of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, is better known as "Devil's Island".

The islands were part of a notorious penal colony set up in 1852 for the worst criminals of France. The main part of the penal colony was a labor camp stretched along the border with Dutch Guiana. Île Royale was for the worst criminals of the penal colony where they were allowed to roam about in moderate freedom due to the difficulty of escape from the island. Île Saint-Joseph was for the worst of those criminals to be punished in solitary confinement, in silence and for extra punishment in darkness. Île du Diable was for political prisoners, including Dreyfus after his conviction in metropolitan France for treason.
This penal colony was controversial for it had a reputation for harshness and brutality. Prison violence was common, tropical diseases would kill many others, and a small core of survivors would return to France broken men. The system was gradually phased out and has been completely shut down since 1953. Nowadays the place is a popular tourist destination helped by the fact that the islands were featured in the novel Papillon, by Henri Charrière. He was imprisoned here for nine years.
Today the main complex is located on Ile Royale and with Magellan safely anchored the passengers were tendered over to the island. Most of the passengers went in search of the decaying jail buildings and ancient cellblocks while I went in search of the abundant array of wildlife including macaws, monkeys and agouti.

Boi Bumba Show

Magellan hosted a deck party the night before and I was able to secure about 40 bananas in my beach bag just for the occasion. It proved prudent. I took one of the overgrown trails and found myself in a small clearing, which looked as no human had ever walked its floor. I perched myself on a small boulder, took a banana out of my bag and held it in the air. It took about ten minutes but in that time a family of monkeys surrounded me. I was in my element using the fruit as bait and then holding on to it as the monkeys tried to wrestle it from my grip. I didn’t let go until I’d captured that all-important photograph.

The rustle of undergrowth behind me alerted me to the arrival of the alpha male. This was a monster in size compared to its mates and I wasn’t about to mess with him, throwing the banana in its direction rather than beckoning it to me. In the peace of the tree’s natural canopy I savoured the private audience noting that several agouti had come to see what all the fuss was about. I felt honoured as these relatives of the guinea pig family are usually shy and flee from humans.

Sadly the stash of bananas didn’t last long. I strung the baiting out for nearly an hour but when it became obvious I had nothing left to offer, the monkeys disappeared in a blink of an eye, and if not for the pictures I might have thought the incident had never happened. Even the skins of the fruit had disappeared and apart from my footprints you might never know someone had invaded their space.

I didn’t explore much further as most of the sightseeing posts were at the top of the island, a climb of more than 60 steps and with my surgery only being a few weeks ago I didn’t want to risk any injury or infection to my healing wounds. For me it was a magical day, the memories of which will last a lifetime.

Sugar Reef

Another highlight of the itinerary was the late sailaways in the Caribbean. Most ships won’t pay for docking after 6.00pm but C&M have recognised that passengers want to sample the nightlife in some of the ports. Hats off to the company as three of the Caribbean stops saw us sit in port until 11.00pm despite the loss of drinks revenue to the ship.

I’ve been fortunate to have visited Bequia five times before. It is the second largest of the Grenadines and at seven square miles it is possible to see the whole island in a day. One loses a few hours as it is a tender port but I sneakily got off on the first tender and hotfooted it up to a small boutique hotel at the top of the island. 98% of the passengers head for Princess Margaret beach but if you ever get the chance to visit Bequia then you need to catch one of the open jeep cabs to Sugar Reef, an eight bedroom resort set on 65 acres in the centre of which is an alluring reef-protected bay.

Meeting of the Waters

The staff greeted me as if I’d only been there last month and I headed out through the elegant great hall to the private palm-shaded garden by the sea complete with loungers and hammocks. Pure bliss. The hotel has won a ‘Best Food’ award for several years running so I reserved a table for four a week before the trip, at a front line table overlooking the sea. My guests thought it a slice of heaven and having been kissed by the warm Caribbean sun, wined and dined we reluctantly left at 9.00pm to ensure we caught the last tender back to the ship.

I won’t bore you with a rundown of all the fabulous port stops but suffice to say the trip was fantastic and as always you will find you’ve made several new friends along the way. A great way to escape some of the nastiest winter weather back home.

I opted to do a show on dad’s 31st anniversary and as you might expect it was very emotional. The weather was bright sunshine so I didn’t expect the volume of audience I got and I was knocked out by my reception. Rumour had been circulating that I was onboard; in fact one passenger went up to the cruise director and said, “Do you know Matt Monro’s daughter is onboard?” Jon replied that he did know. The passenger then asked, “Do you think she will sing for us?” We really did have a hearty laugh at this later on deck because for those in the know I can’t sing a note, in fact people pay me not to.
After the show I got changed and headed up to my usual spot on Deck 10. Coming out the double glass electric doors I was greeted by a standing ovation. That has never happened before and I was bowled over by the reaction.

I put myself down for the Magellan world cruise some six months ago but the office haven't decided on the entertainment yet so I am keeping my fingers crossed that they offer it to me. Magellan is going into dry dock in November to prepare for the inaugural world cruise and I think that being the first one for the company they will throw a lot at it.

While I was away I received a lovely email from my very good friend John Hannam, a popular disc jockey on the Isle of Wight letting me know that dad’s 1982 interview is now available on podcast worldwide and will remain there for many months to come. John has also included mum’s interview, which sadly turned out to be her last. Links are available from John’s own website www,johnhannam.com via the radio page. There is also a link from the Isle of Wight Radio website (www.iwradio.co.uk) and it is on i-Tunes. There is also an audio boom link


Anyway I am back trudging through six weeks of mail, email and washing in between coughing fits. Thank god for great neighbours. My friend Andrew came and climbed around in the attic the day after I got back because I had no hot water. He found a leak, went off to B&Q to buy a part and then came back and fixed it. Pat & Brian opposite brought over shepherd’s pie (enough to last a week), Vick and cough medicine but I declined the offer to rub it in!!!!

I’ve opted not to go back to sea for a few months in the hope that I can finish unpacking the boxes lined up in my garage. I cannot believe I will have been here two years in June, although admittedly I haven’t been in the house for more than a few months in total. In the small window I have when I come home, by the time I have brought the office up-to-date, laundered and re-packed it was time to get on the next ship. This time round I need to buckle down and it would be really nice to finish off the garden as well, if the weather allows.

Thank you all so much for your lovely messages on dad’s anniversary and for those that remembered mums on 26 February. I find it shocking that six years have gone as the memories are like yesterday.

My new dates for 2016 have been confirmed as follows.

Cruise Calendar 2016

6 June – 1 July – Fred Olsen – Boudicca
9 July – 23 July – Emerald Princess (TBC)
23 July – 6 August – Emerald Princess (TBC)
26 August – 3 September – Celebrity Eclipse
3 September 17 September – Celebrity Eclipse
17 September -30 September – Celebrity Eclipse
30 September – 3 October – Celebrity Eclipse
3 October – 16 October – Celebrity Eclipse
16 October – 29 October – Celebrity Eclipse

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them. This time round we look in on the ever-popular songsmith Barry Manilow.

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!!!!

I will catch you on the other side of this chest infection and hope you are all well and enjoying life. Until next month.

Warmest to you and yours


Michele

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