Saturday 30 July 2016


Cartegena, Wednesday 27th July

Zika Virus Health Advisory. We have been advised to cover up and apply insect repellent because we are now going into that zone.  Thankfully only 1 in 5 people infected experience nasty consequences including fever, headache, skin rash, joint pain, red eyes and in extreme cases Guillain-Barre syndrome.  We have also been made aware that it can be sexually transmitted.  No problem there then!

Having read that and considering I came here last year and how hellishly hot it is out there I respectfully decided not to go to Cartegena today.  Instead I chilled out on the ship, wandering around until I came across the maddest thing I have ever seen in my life. A large group of mixed age and sex people all playing Ukuleles, singing “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane”.  Ah! this must be the
“Common Interest Group: Intermediate Ukulele. Join you follow passengers to discuss a common interest or two“. 
I am yet to find the
“Common Interest Group: New Vogue Sequence Dancers.  Join you follow passengers to discuss a common interest or two“. 
I dread to think what this is all about.

Panama Canal, Thursday 28th July

Today is cooler, unlike when we did the Panama Canal transit last year, and it was possible to stay on desk to observe the whole spectacle.  We entered the first of three locks, the Gatun Lock, at 07:30, the second, the Pedro Miguel Lock at 13:30 and the last lock, the Miraflores Lock at 15:45. Hard to describe except to say that there were only a few inches lea-way each side of the ship which took precision driving.  Oh! And I was invited to take part in the Intermediate Ukulele Common Interest Group.

Mantra, Equador, Saturday 30th July

As we arrived at dawn this morning we could see all the lights from a multitude of tuna fish trawlers lining up to off load their catch.  Quite a sight. 

This village suffered a devastating earthquake in April.  My facts might be slightly dodgy because wifi is not good on the ship and I can’t check this statistic out but I’m sure our tour expert said 700 people were killed. 

We are the first cruise ship to land here since then so we were encouraged to spend money to help the local economy. Being the compliant person that I am I took the free shuttle bus into town where I immediately bought 3 panama hats. 

One little known fact is that although they are called “panama hats” they are actually made here in Manta but were originally sold to the merchants etc passing through panama before it became a canal otherwise they might have been called panama canal hats. I think I may call this cruise “My Hat Trip”.

I did dabble with taking a selfie of me in one of my hats but I look so daft that I decided not to inflict that image on anyone.  Hats really do no suite me, in fact not much does suite me.  But I did my bit for the village. 

Tuesday 26 July 2016


Tuesday, 19th July

Left for London Gatwick at 9.30 am for a 5pm flight.  A journey of approx. 4 hours max! But you have to allow for road works, accidents, flies in the ointment and the 3 hours it takes to check in!
I flew Norwegian Air Shuttle to New York on the new Dreamliner.  One of the cabin crew told us the plane was lighter and faster with lighting designed to reduce jetlag, purer air, roomier seats, bigger windows and more luggage space. 

The flight was uneventful (thankfully!) until we reached New York where we sat on the tarmac for 1.5 hours while ground crew got their act together.  So much for a speedier crossing! The technology worked a treat.  It was, as usual, the humans that let it down.

Making my way to the taxi rank I was approached by a driver asking where I wanted to go. I told him, he took my suitcase and started heading across the road. The rank gaffer asked him where he was going and was told “I’m taking this lady to the Wellington Hotel”.  “OK” he said, and to me “follow him”.  So off we go at speed across the road into a car park and we are on our way. 

My first clue was that there was no meter or licence number in the car.  My second clue was when we reached the hotel he told me the fare was $150!  What can you do?  Just put up and shut up!! At this stage I wasn’t even sure that he wasn’t going to pull a gun on me.  He didn’t take cards and I didn’t have that much cash so he took me to an ATM where my cash card was eaten up!  We had mild words and he finally agreed to accept that I only had $126 and had now lost my main source of finance. I wrote that up as a close shave.

New York was not kind to me that night but I did manage to put a block on the cash card.  Now I had no cash, only had my Debit and Credit Card to rely on and I couldn’t remember if I had told the bank I was taking this trip! Cheers! I remembered mentioning it when I let them know about the Norwegian trip but, in hindsight, wasn’t sure if I was told “let us know before you go”, or did I imagine that?!

The following morning I met up with my friends Jill and Angelo. At last, someone to look after me.  We set of for the ship in another taxi.  After a while I said, “are we going the right way”? Angelo reassured me that we were and half an hour later, when we pulled up at an empty cruise terminal in Brooklyn, we found that actually we weren’t!  We should have been at the cruise terminal in Manhattan, where we had just come from.  I didn’t want to say “I told you so” but I did. 
It transpired that Angleo had received an email with incorrect final boarding instructions so we had our taxi fare refunded. 

Bliss to be on the ship, safe at last, but with the nagging worry, what am I going to do about money? But I’ll worry about that when we get to Saturday. 
Saturday, 23rd July

The ATM on the ship offers me $60 for a charge of $6.50 + any other charges my bank may make (no “may” about it mate). But needs must.  So we set off for Hamilton to have a wander around.  Now Bermuda is a place I could happily live in.  Picture perfect, smiley people, lovely day.  Bliss. 

Then I spot an ATM.  Should I take the risk? Yes, be brave.  This is when paradise turned into something a lot less appealing. The ATM won’t let me have money and my bank started sending me frantic messages which my phone wouldn’t let me respond to, panic.  I rush back to the ship and spend a gut wrenching hour trying to contact the bank by ships phone. Finally sorted!  Whew!  Now I can relax.

Tuesday, 26th July

Two uneventful days sailing through the Bermuda Triangle and incidentally, according to the Captain, the most dangerous waters in the world. I thought the danger was that the triangle would eat us up, just like my card, but apparently the danger is that we are navigating through narrow channels between reefs.  Now I did wonder why he couldn’t have kept that information to himself but I guess he was just trying to big his job up.