2017 YEAR OF THE NAVIGATOR

2017 – THE YEAR OF THE NAVIGATOR?

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.

CRUISES TO AVOID 2016 -REVISED!

I have revised the list of ‘cruises to avoid’ for the rest of 2016 following some very exciting news –

Whilst we were in the Far East on the beautiful Regent Seven Seas Voyager, I was invited to join the inaugural voyage of the brand new super luxury Regent Seven Seas Explorer…on July 20th out of Monte Carlo…and the following cruise also! A great honour, so how could I refuse? I couldn’t. So that’s it for this year….

I have assignments penciled in for 2017, but I can’t advise yet until they are confirmed. more news later…I hope

2016

May 10th – May 20th     Civitavecchia – Barcelona        Oceania Nautica

May 20th –  June 1st      Barcelona – Southampton        Oceania Nautica 

June 7th  –  June 14th    Lisbon – Southampton                  Oceania Marina

June 14th – June 24th   Southampton  – Copenhagen    Oceania Marina 

July 20th – Aug 3rd    Monte Carlo – Venice                     RSSC Explorer

Aug 3rd – Aug 13th    Venice – Citivavecchia      RSSC Explorer

 Aug 26th –  Sept 5th       Civitavecchia  – Piraeus            RSSC Navigator

 Nov 1st – Nov 11th     Venice to Civitavecchia                     Oceania Marina

Nov 14th – Nov 21st Civitavecchia to Lisbon                     Oceania Marina

Nov 21st – Dec 7th    Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro                    Oceania Marina

Dec  7th – Dec 19th       Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Airies     Oceania Marina

Dec 19th  – Jan 4th  ’17  Buenos Aires to Valparaiso              Oceania Marina

 

JAPAN March 2016

From the observation deck of the Tokyo Tower the city spreads like a haphazard heap of high rises. The harbour area offers some break in the landscape of concrete and glass. Somewhere in the middle lies the renovated acreage of Tokyo Castle, its renovated pagoda-like keep testament to the rebuilding that has raised Tokyo from the ashes of the Second World War. The fire bombing of many cities in Japan in 1945 caused massive destruction in a country where the main building material was wood. Operation Meetinghouse in March of ’45 caused more damage and loss of life in Tokyo than the two nuclear bombs that would follow later in the year at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The red and orange ‘Eiffel ’ copy  is a major attraction, both for those wanting to view the city and those wanting to indulge in perusing the tacky souvenir shops below. Fast food and a fast buck seem to be the order of the day here, but as darkness falls and the floodlights come on the tower shines like a beacon of a new Tokyo. Hidden in the back streets is a small but exquisite garden, in the ultimate Japanese style, a place of tranquillity and peace which is shattered by the screams and scrapings coming from the huge roller coaster that over looks it from the fun fair next door. What a genius of a planning officer allowed that?

For me, Japan is an enigma. The guides insistence of a people committed to community, calmness and compromise jars with my talks of the Japanese activities in the Second World War; the atrocities committed in south-east Asia; the evidence of the ‘Death Railway’ and the use of local women as ‘sex slaves’. Although 70 years have passed this ‘new view’ indicates either a complete change of attitude or a veneer over what could re-emerge under the right conditions. The cheers and waves of the schoolchildren on the dockside as they ‘played’ us in and out of port was emotional and gratifying, and hopefully a sign of a change in the make-up of this country to give us all hope.

Taiwan – the Republic of China – as opposed to its huge neighbour across the water – the People Republic of China is another enigma. Believing itself to be the true centre for the Chinese people it hangs on to its independence through its political compromises with Beijing (no nuclear weapons and no formal separation), and the backing of many big players, such as the USA. Populous and crowded, with many factories pouring out almost everything we need complete with the ‘Made in Taiwan’ labels it has an order and method to it more reminiscent of Europe than Asia. The streets are wide and clean, the traffic lights work and the signs are in Chinese and English giving some hope to the traveller.

The role of Buddhism plays a huge role here, and a visit to the Fokuangshan Buddha Memorial Centre demonstrates this as clear as day. Here is a place of unbelievable scale. The buildings, shrines, walkways, pagodas and the huge figure of Buddha are straight from the CGI workshops of Hollywood. It looks unreal, It is huge. The atmosphere is calm, the concessions shops sell only healthy food and the souvenirs are of a different class. But the walk to the main shrine is one to take your breath away. Even in the slight drizzle of a mid March day it was like walking in a dreamland, a religiously tasteful theme park. Words almost fail me. Where the money came from the create this, I don’t know. Where the money comes from for its upkeep…a similar response.

We dined in a restaurant dedicated to the preservation of the Buddhist vegetarian regime. We had enough to eat, but were not always sure which variety of bean curd we were tasting. But the vegetable were good.

And so a return to Hong Kong, Xiamen, Jejus (South Korea) and Shanghai and to finish this set of cruises in Tianjin…and settle down for the 20 hours of flying to get home”!