NEWS

May 2018

I’m very pleased with myself this month, although not in the fact I’m another year older. I’m not usually at home for my birthday so it was a lovely anomaly and I was able to hare the day with both Max and Matt who drove down to spend the day with me. I could have had the pick on any eatery in England, but I opted for Pizza Express because I love it. When I am at home I tend to be rather reclusive locking myself in the office for weeks on end so I can play catch up. I’ve never been one to go out at night since I was diagnosed with M.S. I think it has something to do with a safety blanket feeling. If I’m home and experience a spasm, crippling pain or have a mobility crisis then I’m not “on show”. I can just let the episode pass and then carry on. Being out can be too public and I suppose I have got into a habit of enjoying my home in the evenings.

Is this the Easter Bunny?

The point is I chose to have lunch out with the family instead of dinner and it was lovely. Max has a tradition in that he always buys a new board game at Christmas and last year he arrived with ‘Ticket to Ride’. Christmas is rather chaotic and the time went so quickly that we only had a chance to play the game once so he brought it over for all of us to play. I came a respectable last!! but it was a lot of fun. Because Max’s exams were looming he is on a strict study regimen so he went home about 8.00 while Matt, Chandrika and I settled down to watch ‘Eddie the Eagle’ (I do know how to live don’t I). It’s one of those films I’ve been meaning to watch for the last two years but it is rare for me to take time out to do nothing. Although it is somewhat slow, it has a real good feel factor about it and `I thoroughly enjoyed it, but that was helped by the fact I know it’s a true story.

I was completely shocked by how many physical cards, electronic greetings, texts and Facebook messages I received and I thank everyone so much, it was lovely reading all the sentiments of my friends. My birthday last year was a ‘silly hat’ deck party onboard Magellan and although it as terrific fun you can’t beat having time with the family.

So let’s get back to me feeling pleased with myself. Once I got the court case behind me I was able to focus properly on my new book and the last four weeks has been extremely productive. If I'm honest I had hoped to have it finished last year but as I have found with so many things, time is my enemy. That and the fact I find it hard to work on my small laptop on the ship. I love sitting outside and the tables on deck are extremely low so I have to stoop when I type. On a small machine, I find it hard to type without a million typos appearing in a single paragraph as my fingers seem to hit several buttons at the same time but the biggest reason is that I don't have access to the Internet. With a factual book, it is important to research the items several times over especially the stuff I wrote more than a year ago. It is so easy for something to go out-of-date with attractions closing down for renovation or that addition of a disabled toilet in the town. Being that the first book is on Norway there are a lot of very difficult spellings so it is time-intensive but hey ho, that is what I signed up for.

Titan Publishing has released me from my contract so I can publish elsewhere as they don't deal in this field at all so now I have to decide if I am going to self-publish or find another publisher just for this series.

With the biography all the photographs were mine but now I am trying to find out who to contact so I can use port maps or port pictures to enhance the text. If anyone out there knows how this works do let me know please. I have written to the Norwegian Tourist Board but there grasp of English isn't the greatest and although they sent some useful information I have had no resolution on how to source my content.

Having been home since the 18 February, I have to admit to having itchy feet in regards to working on the stage and in one week I’m embarking Celebrity Silhouette for the season. I haven’t worked on this ship before but it is supposed to be the twin sister of Eclipse so it should feel somewhat familiar. I am looking forward to getting back to work and welcoming past guests, some who booked just because I am back onboard. Sue Denning, one of the great cruise directors in the field, is presiding which is great news. We’ve known each other nearly 30 years and I’ve been exceedingly lucky to have her as my boss for the last three years on Celebrity.

I have worked most of the luxury liners and have never seen a cruise director work at the pace she does. She lives and breathes the job and whenever you look up she is passing through, presenting something or liaising with the gusts. What a force of nature. Contrary to what people think, she gets so little time to herself and we have often made plans to have coffee in port only for things to be cancelled or altered at the last minute.

I’ve done the Baltic run for the last three years and I love all the ports except………… St Petersburg (no hate mail please). Two of my favourites are Tallin and Warnemunde in Germany. Sue and I always try to have a coffee in the terminal’s outdoor coffee shop. Sue usually grabs an hour and I then amble into town.

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is among the oldest capitals in northern Europe with one of the best-preserved medieval town centers in the world. Twisting cobblestone lanes and iron street lamps. Gothic spires and medieval markets. If you're looking for that mix of historic ambiance and cutting-edge culture that defines Tallinn, you'll find it here.

Built up from the 13th to 16th centuries, when Tallinn – or Reval as it was known then – was a thriving member of the Hanseatic trade league, this enclosed neighbourhood of colourful, gabled houses, half-hidden courtyards and grandiose churches is, quite rightly, the city's biggest tourist draw. And the fact that it's all neatly packaged within a mostly-intact city wall and dotted with guard towers gives it an extra dose of fairytale charm. It’s small, compact, and I love it.

I have quite easily spent hours ambling the cobbled twisting lanes with the city’s walls. It’s really like stepping back in time and on days the market sets up in the town’s square medieval wares are aplenty from bows and arrows to reindeer pelts and home-made lace. It makes me laugh, one minute I'm savouring the rich tapestry of medieval England and a minute later I see McDonald's on the corner!

The great thing about Warnemunde is that because it is the gateway to Berlin, it is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world and the passengers leave in hoards to make the 2 ½ hour train journey to Germany’s capital.

Celebrity Silhouette docks I the heart of the city and it’s an easy 400-meter walk to the main thoroughfare along the canal. It's basically a promenade of pubs, restaurants, and shops, lined with dozens of working fishing boats and tourist boats carting people out and around the area. At the end of the promenade is a busy beach and it’s easy to understand why this is such a popular seaside town with its sweeping dunes and vast stretches of sand on each side of the river’s mouth.

Sue and I usually manage to escape by 11.00am and then we head straight to this gorgeous open-air restaurant along the canal that serves the best Bruschetta ever. Last year we visited Warnemunde 5 times, which gave me the chance to really explore this gem of a port. After our respite Sue and I head over the bridge to the other side of the canal, check out the shops en-route to the small supermarket so we can stock up on goodies. Sue then heads back to the ship and I chose a route I hadn’t tried before and off I went to explore.

This year I am there six times and the beauty of this stop is that we don’t usually sail until 11.00pm so one can experience the nightlife of the harbour and on two occasions we’ve been privileged to have a show f fireworks just before sailing.

In all the times I’ve been to the city I’ve never been to the neighbouring seaside town of Rostock, even though it is only a 20-minute train journey away so this year that is the aim. I haven’t been to Berlin because most of the long and tiring day is spent travelling. The transportation takes nearly six hours and I’ve heard from other tourists who have braved the journey that you are herded from one place to another and there wasn’t even time to grab a well-needed coffee. If I ever have the desire to visit the Berlin Wall I’ll catch a flight and enjoy a long weekend savouring the city rather than the interior of the coach.

Suffice to say that St Petersburg does nothing for me. I find the city, soul-less, sterile and officious. Admittedly it is the ultimate embodiment of artistic talent and the first few times there I made the rounds experiencing the works of Europe’s best architects and Russia’s foremost creative talents including Alexander Pushkin, Nikolay Gogol, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Dmitry Shostakovich and Joseph Brodsky, who left their indelible imprints on the city

Russia will host the FIFA World Cup for the first time in history from June 14 to July 15, with St. Petersburg being one of the 11 cities hosting the games of the tournament. The ship is docking in the city on 14/15/16 July!!! I can’t think of anything worse. Passengers will have to book ship tours as there won’t be any availability of private vehicles and during the peak dates there will be last minute sight and road closures. Deep Joy

This article appeared in The Independent:

Frequently, criminal gangs collude with the local police and operate with near impunity. Foreigners have become victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion by law-enforcement and other officials. Police do not need to show probable cause in order to stop, question, or detain individuals.

Preferred targets for criminals include underground walkways, public transportation and transportation hubs, tourist sites, restaurants, and markets. Petty-crime, pick-pocketing and mugging (sometimes committed by children) is common especially around tourist attractions

Racially motivated assaults occur throughout Russia. Attacks are often perpetrated by skinhead groups or ultra-nationalists. There have been several large rallies by nationalists and neo-Nazis to protest against the presence of foreigners (particularly people from Africa, Central Asia, and the Caucasus region) in Russia.

"In St Petersburg, there have been reports of street crime where tourists have been specifically targeted. Be aware of pickpockets in the main tourist areas and around the main railway concourses. Bogus police officers have harassed and robbed tourists. If you are stopped always insist on seeing identification.

So if I was thinking of getting off the ship when we are in port, I would quickly change my mind. On the other hand there is a bonus, I’ve just found out that while I m on the Silhouette between 19-26 May the ship has been chartered by BRAVO – Cruise for the Performing Arts – and will feature over 25 theatre, opera and classical artists in over 100 live performances Including Catherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe. That would be enough for me but Wynne Evans, The Celtic Tenors, Ruthie Henshall, Mirusia, Tommy Fleming, and Julian and Jiaxin Lloyd Webber are also on the bill backed by the National Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Guy Noble or Anthony Inglis. I am doubly excited. Advertised as the world's largest choir I will look forward to the Jonathon Welch Choir. I used The Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir for dad's tribute at the Grosvenor House Hotel and they were fantastic and there was a hundred on them! There will also be lectures and master classes with the performers so I will be a groupie for a week. I’ll give you an update next month.

In April’s updates, I mentioned having blood tests to determine if I had Malaria and I'm glad to report I don't although the matter isn't quite closed. The bottom line is I'm still experiencing nasty shivering fits in the middle of the night. It only happens every three or four nights so I obviously picked up some tropical lurgy but the good news is that apart from the night chills I feel great. I have to have another blood test the day before I sail so we'll see what the advances of modern medicine reveal this time around.

My son has been studying like a demon and Monday 23 April saw him sit the first of eight exams. Spread over the next month it has taken over his life and I’ve only seen him three times since being home although I do speak to him every day. The next time I will see him is at his Graduation, what a great day for a Jewish mother to revel in! I won’t just be proud, I’ll be bursting at the seams. In September he moves to London to start his Masters at Imperial University so no doubt this time next I’ll be going through all the anguish of exams again

 

NEWS ALERT

For those of you who follow my brother’s appearances, I am sad to announce that 2018 is the last year Matt will be touring with The Matt Monro Story. After more than 30 years in the business Matt is hanging up his hat and while he did say the same thing a few years ago it was the dangling carrot of The Matt Monro Show that tempted him into staying to complete my vision.

The British tour kicks off in September and carries through to the end of November although Matt has already done a lone date in Ireland.

For your last chance to see Matt performing the songs our dad made famous book your tickets now.

Cruise Dates 2018

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 – Home for Max’s Graduation
7 July – 21 July – Celebrity Silhouette
21 July – 4 August – Celebrity Silhouette
4 August – 18 August – Celebrity Silhouette

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 Four Tops.

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 you in June.

Warmest to you and yours

Michele

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