The Fall

A summer spent in southern Spain, and cruising around the Med and northern Europe is a very good way of spending ones post retirement years. However, sometimes the pressures of producing lectures and shows to an audience acceptable high standard can be a little daunting (you’re only as good as your last show!), and a little tiring. Whilst most people would envy the lifestyle (and I do not wish it away in any way), a succession of cruises can lead to a feeling of not ‘where are we’ but ‘what I am doing today’….but long may it continue, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania still seem to find the odd place where I have not been and, of course, meeting new people is always a pleasure…well almost always!

But the recent cruise of the wonderful Seven Seas Explorer (from Athens to Venice), brought home an important reflection. There are seasons! And it was when we arrived in Croatia the mixture of burning sunshine in Split, followed by a day of rain in Zadar brought home the fact that October was passing and November was very close…and these are the Balkans with their attendant weather issues. And so leaving Koper in Slovenia for a drive to the capital city of Ljubljana, again in pouring rain, it became even clearer that the season had changed. The 75 mile drive is pleasant on a nice day and still interesting on a wet one. But the colours of the trees as they turned on their autumnal hues were a sight to behold. Slovenia is 75% wooded, and with its lakes and rivers and its hamlets, towns and cities echoing its history of occupation by Venice and Austria in a charming architectural style reminiscent of a more Alpine location, it made one think that even the lure of New England could be seriously challenged here at this time of the year.

The people in Ljubljana are known by their neighbours as ‘the frog people’, because of their rain-filled existence. Yes it rains a lot here evidenced by the dense green foliage and flora. A three hour ‘free-time’ stay in the city was unanimously curtailed to two by the travellers on bus 19 who could not envisage stopping that long having seen the main sights of the river, its bridges, the castle on the hill and the cathedral.

I headed straight for the closest and snuggest looking bar that was serving something hot. I was not disappointed. The Café Antigua was serving beer and a piping hot potato goulash with smoked Slovenian sausage. A football match was replaying on the TV and I wasted a very pleasant hour. The Cathedral offered brief sanctuary from the rain and the half covered market was a damp fascination. Not surprisingly we were all present and correct for the return journey after a day of contrasts…notably between sunny Spain and soggy Slovenia!

The cruise had been a great success and the following morning we sailed into Venice for a dawn view of this amazing waterfront….I flew away to the UK to reminisce on a cruise that had given me a night in Athens, a few days through the Greek Islands, and a return to the Dalmatian coast of what was once Yugoslavia. 6 lectures, 2 shows and a hundred conversations in the 9 days and I felt my duty was done. With pleasure.

And now, after a few days to recoup in Rochester it’s off again on Monday, back to Venice, to join the Oceania Marina for a two month assignment through to Valparaiso…35 lectures and a good few shows…and no doubt (spoiler alert) the job of covering people in gunk as we cross the equator…yes it’s me King Neptune again!

Autumn leavers!

September has passed by and the autumn is coming on, but it remains warm and sunny here. Vincenzo came for his show on the 17th and it was very popular with the guests in the Plaza del Castillo. It was a pleasure to have him to stay with us, and no doubt our paths will cross again soon on the high seas.

Jan and Sue’s beautiful new house high above the town of Jayena north of Canillas was a super venue for a house warming do, where I played for about 3 hours, all on solar power! Good people, good food and a good time. We stayed the night and listened to the dogs baying at the wild boar roaming around outside.

We met with Rosemary, a friend and correspondent from SAGA as she called into Malaga on the SAGA Sapphire. With her we chased around the back streets of Malaga trying to find a parking spot close to the music shop where I was to collect my new guitar, a Yamaha Silent, one that can packed small to avoid airport ‘check-in’, (the last two trips I have done, I have arrived but my guitar has not!) We ticked all the boxes and Rosemary made it back to the ship in time! A pleasure to meet up and chat. And she presented me with a pastel portrait, showing me in a relaxed posture (!), but more importantly demonstrating her amazing talents for art. I hope we might meet again somewhere – if SAGA keep their word to me.

And then an evening gig at Popi’s Bar, at the swimming pool in Canillas. A chance to entertain friends in a new environment. Eva and Raffa did themselves proud with a great meal, and I did ok for about 90 minutes of fun and songs…maybe to be repeated next year.

And so we are soon to go away again…yes, more cruises, and a brief trip to the UK. We will be away over Christmas and the New Year (Falklands!), so all the best to everyone….or anyone who reads this.



Yes, we are still cruising the world, troubadouring wherever and whenever the call comes, and 2016 has been very busy and not finished yet. Two assignments remain.

October 12-22 on board the new RSSC Explorer in the Med, and then a short break before joining the Oceania Marina in Venice on the 1st November, to finish in Valparaiso on January 4th 2017, 65 days including Christmas, New Year and Boxing Day (on the Falklands!) About 200 days for the year, at sea!

Then 2017 looks like the year of the Navigator – Regent Seven Seas Navigator to be precise. The current list of assignments looks like this:-

March 9th – May 13th  Darwin to Miami, as part of the World Cruise (with the Suez Canal transit)

June 17th – July 20th    Miami to Vancouver, then to San Francisco via Alaska (with the Panama Canal transit)

Sept 14th – Sept 26th    Stockholm to Dover (with the Kiel Canal transit)

Nov 13th – Nov 25th    Miami to Miami (Caribbean) (WHAT! NO CANAL?)

Nov 25th – Dec 11th     Miami to Los Angeles, (with the Panama Canal transit)

This makes about 161 days at sea for the year.

And we will still try and arrange a couple of concerts in Canillas if we can….!

Luxury we could get used too!!

Not quite at ‘rock-star’ status, but we clutch at straws, and being met at Nice Airport by a chauffeured limo and being whisked away to the 5 star Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo (yes, the one right on the hairpin bend of the Grand Prix circuit), for a night of luxury – and a cheap(ish) pizza and a bottle of wine just up the road was the start of an amazing 22 days. Another limo the following morning took us to the Seven Seas Explorer, docked in the harbour of this amazing city. We were joining the much advertised ‘most luxurious ship ever built’ for its first two public cruises. It was an honour to be chosen to be the first ‘Smithsonian’ speaker on this ship, and it certainly has luxury oozing from every chandelier and furniture fitting. There were some teething troubles but all manageable, and we are certain some adjustments will be required at the first dry dock sometime in the future. But for a large ship which would ordinarily cater for about 1200 guests, the 740 capacity complement certainly allowed for a feeling of space and freedom. We cruised around the Med, from St. Tropez to Barcelona to Mallorca and on to Malta and eventually via Kotor and Koper to Venice to change guests (most of them), for the return trip to Rome.

I was able to give 7 talks on the first leg and 5 on the second, and to take to the main stage for my one man show on the inaugural cruise! A special show for the Titanium, Platinum and Gold rated guests (complete with a duet with the star flautist Stephen Clark) was my highlight of the second cruise.

And so we completed the two trips, in good weather and with some special moments – a big pizza just outside the walls of the great Roman theatre in Verona, a trip across Lake Bled to the island church, a day trip to Gozo island (Malta) and many amazing meals with a great selection of friends both old and new. If you are thinking of taking a trip on this vessel then you will be amazed at the service and ambience of the Pacific Rim Asian style restaurant – quite superb.

And so on we go, with a few days in Rochester to sort the bags and get ready for the next assignment on the Seven Seas Navigator – where? Back to Rome of course with a finish in Athens!

Explorer – and exploring

The usual routine of unpacking, laundry, preparation and then repacking during a brief sojourn here in Spain will be interrupted, most pleasantly by the concert in the town on the 2nd July, with the lovely Sally Jones flying in to present her tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber – with a few bits thrown in by me, and maybe a duet or two!

But the memories still linger of the last few weeks with the two cruises on Nautica, out of Rome heading first to Barcelona and then on to Southampton. With the initial panic of my guitar not actually leaving Malaga airport when we did, failing to arrive in Rome, but eventually achieving a reunion in Monte Carlo, there were highlights of these trips to linger in the memory banks – drinking chilled Provencal rosé wine at the Zinc bar in Antibes, the roar of the classic cars navigating the streets of Monte Carlo, finally buying a Portuguese guitar in Lisbon, the sail-in the Bordeaux (where I was allowed to do a two hour ‘talk-in’ for the guests in the upper observation lounge and the emotional visit to the landing beaches of Normandy in driving rain and gale force winds. Julie picked me up in Southampton and having visited good friends in Havant we made our way to Rochester for a few days….coinciding with the ‘Dickens’ weekend when Doug and Ruth (from the cruise) were able to join us for a day of costume, live bands and fish and chips. No stay in Rochester is complete without a list of jobs to do for our daughter, and with these tasks completed I was able to return to the air, and arrive back in Lisbon, with luggage and guitars intact to join Oceania Marina for two cruises, via Southampton again and on to Copenhagen, The first seven day cruise was dominating by a large contingent of Mexicans who did overpower most of the venues and eateries. The highlight was the chance to explore St. Malo where we will return in due course. Southampton meant a lovely lunchtime catch up with Captain John McNeill and his delightful wife, and off again to Le Havre and a revisit of the Normandy beaches, this time in more pleasant weather conditions. And so on to Zeebrugge (Mussels and chips), Antwerp and reunion with the multi-cruiser Captain Jan, Amsterdam to join in the fun of watching England beat Australia in rugby at an Irish Bar complete with 19 blue painted Smurfs enjoying a stag weekend!

Hamburg, and another reunion, with Blue and Siggi Weaver, and another show with Blue describing his life in the music industry, with a few interjections and songs from me. Great fun.

And so to Norway, Sweden and eventually to Copenhagen, with a range of stories to tell the guests and even the chance to perform a cabaret or two. It was a delight to be able to share my time with headline entertainer Vincenzo Martinelli who will be in Canillas in September. We had a good time. And so back to Spain to plan for the next assignments, the concert on the 2nd July, grandson Jakob’s christening in Rochester and off to the spanking new RSSC Explorer on the 19th July for two cruises.