November 2014

Well I find it very hard to write anything this month. I have just come back from a wonderful cruise on Fred Olsen’s Braemar and I was made to feel very welcome. It was also one of those rare trips where all the artists were fabulous fun an I walked away with several new friends.

Braemar certainly has the 'wow!' factor, with a glass-walled atrium stretching over five decks and a mural painted in the style of an English country garden. She has the space of a classic cruise liner and this attractive and elegant ship has a light and airy feel. Passengers can enjoy a moonlit stroll along the promenade, try the traditional cruise pursuits of deck quoits and shuffle board, practice in the golf nets and swim in the two pools.

The vessel was constructed in 1993 for Crown Cruise Line, operating under the name Crown Dynasty. Between 1993 and 1997, the vessel was also chartered by Cunard Line, who named the ship Cunard Crown Dynasty while under their flag.

In 1997, the vessel was transferred to Majesty Cruise Line, who renamed her Crown Majesty. This only lasted until the end of 1997, when the vessel was transferred again; this time to Norwegian Cruise Line, who renamed the vessel Norwegian Dynasty.

The vessel returned to her original fleet and name in 1999, but was sold to Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines in 2001, where the vessel currently operates under the name Braemar. Her sister ship, originally named the Crown Jewel and now known as the MS Gemini, is currently laid up in Tilbury Docks, UK, awaiting sale or charter.

When built, the ship had a gross tonnage of 19,089 but it was stretched to its present size 24,344, by Fred Olsen Lines in 2009, with the new middle section containing extra cabins, lounge space and swimming pools.

The ship's main, restaurant is the Thistle Restaurant but a second restaurant, the Grampian, was added when the ship was stretched. Lounge Deck 5 contains, from the front: The main show lounge, the Neptune Lounge, with stage and dance floor and behind that is the Morning Light Pub, then a general lounge (the Braemar Room) to port with the library, a small card room and internet room to starboard. Behind the Braemar Lounge, and either side of a diagonal corridor, lie the Boutique on one side and Shore Tours and Future Cruises offices on the other. Continuing aft, and now on the starboard side, you pass through the Photo Gallery before reaching Reception and then the Atrium, mentioned earlier. Finally you reach the Coral Club, a lounge with a dance floor and space for cabaret-style entertainment.

Aft on Lido Deck 6 is open space and the Lido Bar, just forward of which is the Palms Cafe, an informal restaurant where free tea and coffee are available most of the day. Aft on Bridge Deck 7 is the Skylark Club, another lounge fitted for use by entertainers. The Grampian Restaurant is above that on Marquee Deck 8, as is the Observatory with excellent views forward. Finally, the Fitness Centre and the serene Atlantis Spa and Salon is the perfect place to indulge in lush treatments such as an ‘Aromaceane Wrap’ or glam up for the evening.

I have been cruising for 30 years now and I have to say money for money Fred Olsen offers the most of any cruise line and while they may have made some financial changes they are not hugely apparent. They go the extra mile with their entertainment and on our two-week trip they provided three speakers, a craft lady, painting classes, dance classes and a great cabaret choice. What really impressed me was that they still provide live music even placing a trio in the Supper Club at 11.00pm each night. Secondly on the buffet each evening there is a full cheese board and not just the standard cheaper cheeses. I was very impressed and if I’m ever lucky enough to do a world voyage Fred Olsen is the line I would choose with its informal flavour and excellent staff.

It didn’t start well as the crossing was a challenge but once free of the Bay of Biscay we were welcomed to sunny skies and a wonderful array of ports. The ship had 900 passengers on board and so I was asked if I would do two shows each time as the Neptune Lounge can only seat 320 people at a time. I had fabulous full houses and met some very nice guests.

Lee Carroll was a very funny entertaining comic who did two fabulous routines while his wife, Lynn Sweet is a gifted singer giving the passengers a bonus by also hosting choir practices and an ultimate performance for the other passengers. Dain Cordean was introduced to me as a comedic magician and I thought oh dear but I was so wrong, I was genuinely amazed at the performance, which was mixed with very funny patter. If you ever see his name appearing in your area I urge you to invest in a ticket.

It was just the tonic I needed, although work it gave me the means to escape the reality waiting for me at Telford. I got back to Southampton on 19th October and drove the three hours with renewed vigor but my feeling of hope was soon deflated. Being Sunday there were no workman on site but neither was a shower, a sink, a toilet or any heating. What greeted me on driving through the gates was a portaloo and I knew it wasn’t a good sign.

The first week away I expected the plasterers in but they were delayed a week because of the electrics not being finished and that in turn delayed the flooring going down. That started a domino effect as the floor specialist couldn’t then come, the kitchen couldn’t be delivered and the carpenter has broken his leg. I am fighting the clock to be ready for Christmas and as we start the month of November I am still living in a concrete shell albeit a plastered concrete shell.

The build has become an all-consuming project and there has been little time to focus on anything else. This is definitely the house that EBay built and thank goodness as I have been able to save money in quite a few areas. As I have said to my builder I want a designer house on B&Q money and it is amazing what you can find at hugely discounted prices but of course it takes hours of research. I became a member of the ‘designer’ site ACHICA and they have also been fabulous except the let-down is that you have to wait up to five weeks for delivery and as it has now transpired there have been quite a few cancelled orders. It would seem that they haven’t ordered enough stock to fulfil all the orders but in several instances I haven’t found out until the five weeks were up. Whereas I thought I have finished furnishing the home I now find myself short of quite a few items. The other frustration is that the bathroom companies have a habit of sending boxed items without proper packaging around the product. I’ve had to send three sinks back and a damaged toilet. The other regularity is that you buy something on the Internet and pay for it and then, and only then, do they tell you there is a huge delay on delivery. I’ve waited a month for the main light in the lounge and on chasing it up after the four weeks I was then told there would be another three-week wait. If I had known it wasn’t in stock I would have bought something else but once you have paid it is such a task to get a refund in a timely fashion.

With regard to the planning application to change the windows and convert the garage into living space I submitted the plans in August. I received a letter saying they wanted extra dimensions and by the time the architect submitted everything I lost a month. I thought I would get a decision on 24 October but I now have to wait until the middle of November. You could really spit. The Council are so slow. The order was given to have the oak tree removed and I was told it would be taken away on Monday 6th October so I was shocked to see it still here on my return. I have of course rung Telford & Wrekin Council to be told the order was only put in the system on 16 October, ten days after it should have been taken down. It would seem that one department doesn’t know what the other is doing.

The only silver lining is that I decided to cancel my Cruise & Maritime bookings for the rest of the year so at least I can be on site until 4th January.

There is little Matt Monro news, suffice to say Richard and I have still not heard from Warner abut the release of the new album although Odeon have moved forward with the DVD project. We are going to discuss the final running order this month so there is still every hope that we will have a release for the anniversary.

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 Otis Redding.

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to’, 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
Warmest to you and yours


Past News - October 2014

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Past News - December 2011

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  - Press this link to see the Amazon Listing for The Singers Singer by Michele Monro


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