Thursday 14th January
The first of four days at sea as we cross the Atlantic to South America.
Most days Martin has set the alarm so that he can see the dawn break but this morning decided not to, and woke up just as a early! Our cabin is an inner cabin without a window but is not in complete darkness because there is an inch/couple of centimetres gap under the door where a strip of light shines through from the corridor. The gap allows the steward to post the programme for the next day under the door, and the small amount of light means that you can get to the bathroom in the middle of the night and just be able to see the outline of the furniture! Every so often you get a glimpse of other cabins when the doors are open for cleaning - our is much longer than most of them and is L-shaped rather than square/rectangular and I think it makes it look bigger.
We went to the Excursion Presentation on Rio de Janeiro at 9.45 and had a glimpse of what was in store for us in a week's time. The Shore Excursion Manager says this is her favourite port of call in the whole world.
At 11.00 I went to Sue Walsh's presentation '10 Tips on How to Live Longer' - a very interesting talk looking at some of the results of studies of individuals and groups of people over 100 years old, and the commonalities between them. As well as the obvious ones that they ate healthily, didn't smoke, took regular moderate exercise, there were also those of being positive & optimistic, laughing loud & often, being adventurous & enjoying life, but finding time to be tranquil, thoughtful and mindful, and, 'considering yourself healthy' - service yourself like a car, get tests done (MOT) and take prompt action when necessary so that it is not too late and you break down. Judging by most of the people on board a lot of them are already following these philosophies. I overheard the gentleman in the wheelchair telling someone his annual travel insurance from NFU was only £180, but he did have his house and car insurance with them too and that gave him a special deal. He had moved to NFU from Liverpool Victoria when LV wrote to him on his 70th birthday and advised him they would no longer be able to provide him with travel insurance...but that was 20 years ago. He hated just sitting at home and had to be 'out doing something' (although he mostly reads and falls asleep with his book in his lap!)
The sea has been very calm and today we have seen lots of flying fish - they fly out of the water at the front of the ship, each side, just before the bow wave gets to them. They fly for several metres/yards just above the surface of the water, sometimes changing direction, before plunging back under again. We also saw a turtle floating by, just metres from the ship - the shores of the Cape Verde Islands are important breeding grounds for loggerhead turtles.
This afternoon I went to a talk on Albatrosses - we should see some as we go down the South American coast towards the Falklands.
After dinner we went to see the UK Guest Act, Steve Terry. An OK comedian, but a very good singer covering a variety of songs.
Clocks go back another hour tonight.
Friday 15th January
We went to breakfast in the Waldorf Restaurant today and found that the food was exactly the same as in the Bistro, but the buffet was laid out nicely on round tables with table cloths. The coffee was nicer (fresher?) though and served by a waiter at your table. We were seated with two other couples (strangers) and again the topic was travel, both couples having travelled extensively over the years. In one couple the gentleman had had a stroke in the last 18 months and the lady had had a heart attack, but they were both determined to keep going for as long as they could and already had several more lengthy holidays planned this year.
At 11.00 I went to a 'Watercolour Painting' Session and learnt colour mixing and tonal exercises. It appeared that the session was building on drawing work that had started several days ago and most had 'signed up' for the session, which I didn't know you had to (nothing in the schedule about that!), but the tutor managed to fit a few of us newbies in.
The weather was hot and steamy, humid day but we both managed to get a bit of sunbathing in in different areas of the ship. The race for the sun beds is the same as any other resort, and every other day the daily programme reiterates that sun beds should not be reserved, and that any item left unattended on a sun bed (towels, books etc.) will be removed to the Reception. But it never happens. There is one lady who is out on deck very early and bags the same place each day. She has been wearing a leopard pattern fleece dressing gown during the day and now that it is warmer it has been replaced with a rainbow striped sarong. She is well known on the Marco Polo, as her and her husband have spent over 500 days (not consecutively) on this ship so far.
We dined in the Waldorf Restaurant - it was an Informal Night, which for the men means Jacket and trousers, with or without a tie, and ladies can dress up a little bit if they want to. The menu usually consists of a choice of three starters, 2 salads or soup, 4 main courses, 3 sweets or cheese board, and coffee. At the entrance to the Restaurant a table is laid out with each of the dishes as they would be served. Afterwards we spent the evening on the Pool Deck, listening to live music and singing from the Excelsior Musicians and watching a rendition of Blankety-Blank with members of the entertainment team as the panel and 4 passengers as the contestants. Later the Cruise Director Ross Roberts gave a Solo Cabaret performance and proved to be an excellent singer. We retired for the night just as the Late Night Disco started at 11.30pm and were surprised to see many of the (much) older passengers up on their feet gently bopping away.
Saturday 16th January
Another hot and steamy day - we later learned the temperature got up to 34 degC (sorry!) - but we were going to cross the Equator today so no wonder it was hot!
At 9.45am we went to the presentation on the Shore Excursions in Buenos Aires and Montevideo - although we are not going on any of the excursions we went to see what the highlights are, to decide for ourselves if we want to go and see them independently. After a coffee we then went to a talk on 'Wildlife of Brazil's Atlantic Coast' by Sue Walsh, which told us what birds and other sea and land creatures we were likely to see from the ship and on land as we sail down the Brazilian coast and visit the towns and cities. Whilst we were in this talk the Ice Sculpture Demonstration had started on the Pool Deck but we just caught the end of it and I was able to take some pictures before it quickly melted in the heat. The sculpture was entitled 'Angel Bird' - it had up stretched wings held out like a swan would do, but a much shorter neck and bigger head. The sculptor was also responsible for the fruit and vegetable carvings - flowers made from melons and birds made from cabbages and other veg - that were dotted around in the Bistro and Restaurant.
Yay! Our shower is now working fine! Yesterday at dinner I asked the others on the table what their showers were like - one couple's cabin is on the deck below us and the other on the deck above. They all said their showers were OK and had no problem with them at all. So I went to Reception and told them our shower was just a dribble and they said they would call the plumber. Five minutes later he was at the cabin and had done something to increase the pressure and now it is perfectly acceptable and the temperature adjustment works - no more boiling hot or freezing cold dribbles!
Later on we had the 'Crossing the Line Ceremony' which is a where the ship asks permission from Neptune, the God of the Sea, to cross the Equator. Of course the Entertainment Team took the chance to make it into a big event and most of the ship's passengers were out on deck to witness the ceremony. Some of the Entertainment Team were dressed up as Neptune and his followers in bed sheet togas. Then some more of the Team plus volunteer passengers were symbolically accused of 'crimes' by Neptune - the crimes mentioned included one of the Entertainment Team not dancing in time to music, passengers of hogging sun beds and seeing the buffet as a challenge to eat as much as they could before it shut. They were then grunged with eggs, foam and jelly as punishment and thrown in the pool or 'briny sea' to cleanse them of their crimes. They then asked Neptune for permission to cross the Equator, he said yes, and cheers all round! We actually crossed the equator a couple of hours later and the ship gave three loud blasts on the horn. We thought it was hilarious that there were people out at the front of the ship taking photos at the time, but later realised that newer cameras have an inbuilt GPS which tags the photo with the global position of where it was taken. So whilst it might have been a photo of a bit of the ship and some sea, the GPS tag on the photo will show that it was at the Equator.
I did more sun bathing in the afternoon on the topmost deck, which was quite empty. This was where the whirlpools were and up to now have been empty and closed off. Today they have been filled and are bubbling but are still closed off - 'Sorry Close' the sign actually says.
Tonight was the second 'Formal Night' in the Restaurant - which for the men means Dinner Jacket or a suit and a tie, and ladies can dress up as much as they like. There was an extra course of Soup on the menu tonight. All the courses are quite small so it is easy to get through them all if you want to. For example, my starter of mushroom medley vol au vent with mozzarella was just that - a single small vol au vent with mushroom filling and a sprinkle of cheese on top. The main courses were the usual choice of fish, meat (turkey or beef today) or vegetarian. Each came with a few veg or couple of spoonfuls of rice or other accompaniment. The sweets are not usually more than the size of two matchboxes stacked on top of one another, or one scoop of icecream with a spoonful of fruit purée, or a cheese board of 3 half match box sized pieces of cheese and 2 Ritz crackers. Oh, and a grape! It was strange eating roast beef on a sweltering hot day, but at least the dining room was air conditioned, although not freezing cold.
Sunday 17th January - Day 13
Martin woke up really early (before 7am) and came back to the cabin an hour later to say there were several Boobies and a Frigate Bird flying around the ship, so I got up to see them. They had been mentioned in yesterday's wildlife talk. The Frigate Bird, although a sea bird, isn't waterproof and doesn't land on the water or dive in it. It gets its food by waiting until another bird (e.g. a Boobie) has caught something and then hassles it until it lets go of its food which the Frigate Bird then catches. Boobies are named from the Spanish word for stupid (pronounced something like boboss) as they were easily caught by sailors who used them for food. As we hadn't seen any land or wildlife for several days this was quite an event and there were quite a few of us taking photographs of them circling around the ship.
It was a very grey & cloudy day all day today, but again hot and humid, only the breeze made it bearable on deck. At 10.00 we went to the morning quiz to try and wake ourselves up again and got 12 out of 20 - the joint winners got 13, we were only 1 off winning! We missed out on a bookmark! Then we went to Dr Clive Leatherdale's 'Brazil - Sunny Smiles and Dark Secrets' talk at 11.00, which turned out to be a bad idea as it was in the Show Lounge in semi darkness because of the slide show. By the end we were both half asleep again and weren't the only ones as many heads were nodding around us as well.
Today we read in the Daily News Bulletin that you have temperatures up to minus 10 degC and snow in Britain? I sympathised as there was no sunshine here today (but it was 25 degC)
People are the funniest creatures! I overheard someone ask another if they were going to the afternoon talk on Hummingbirds. The reply was 'No, we're not going anywhere that we will see them'. At Sue Walsh's talk on Hummingbirds that afternoon - with lots of wonderful photos - she told us that there were 340 species of hummingbirds and they were only found in North and South America (excluding Alaska) and many were exclusive to Brazil...where we were going...to 7 different places...so we might see some!
I forgot to go and have a peak in the Lounge at 17.30 as I was intrigued to see 'Friends with Bill W - Meet Up' on the Daily Programme, and wondered who they were. It wasn't his birthday - the birthdays of the day are listed by name each day on the Programme - so far there hasn't been a day without someone's birthday, and one day there were 4 of them.
This evening most of the other entertainment was suspended as we had our first Deck Party to celebrate our arrival in South America tomorrow. All the Entertainment Team were out on the Pool Deck taking it in turns to sing live and we had a Split the Deck (teams of left and right) Lyrics game where we had to continue singing the lyrics for as long as we could when the music stopped, and points were given for the length of time we sang. The teams were 1960's and 1970's and although we were in the 1960's team, luckily the songs were very well known and I was able to sing along. There were extra points for how many people were up and dancing (me yes, Martin no - in the corner having a cigarette) and at the end the teams were level. The bonus was given to the 1970's team and they eventually won.
Clocks go back another hour tonight