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Cosying Up To Crocodiles, and Other Memorable Moments

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    Cosying Up To Crocodiles, and Other Memorable Moments

    This is the diary of a 27-night Springtime cruise from Miami to Barcelona aboard Holland America’s elegant Prinsendam. It may be of interest to those either contemplating a trans-Atlantic Grand Tour, or suffering from hitherto incurable insomnia…

    Day 1: Monday 12 March 2018

    On the KLM flight from Amsterdam to Miami refills of tea are served with a sachet of creamer. The contents include: E340ii (acid stabiliser), E452i (emulsifier and/or stabiliser), E171 (a whitening agent), E160a(ii) (food colourant), E551 (anti-caking agent), E471 (another emulsifier and/or stabiliser) and E472c (a third emulsifier and/or stabiliser). Now here’s an idea that’s so far out there that it may not even be detectable by the Hubble telescope - instead of using a colourant and a whitener, instead of using multiple emulsifiers and/or stabilisers (that, by the way, can contain animal fats) and instead of using an anti-caking agent, all wrapped up in a synthetic material that is choking the world’s oceans courtesy of a Belgian food packaging group, why not use fresh moo juice poured from a recyclable carton?

    A pleasant surprise awaits - cabin 491 (confusingly, on deck 5) is an outside cabin. It includes a lounge area with a settee and a fridge in a corner unit, and the en-suite is large and even has a bath. A note telling me about my cabin stewards and a copy of When & Where listing the daily programme are on the dressing table. There are; however, more pressing matters: food. Having not eaten since the flight, I tuck into a tasty dinner of rice, asparagus and salmon in the Lido Buffet on deck 11 whilst chatting with the history lecturer from England who will give eleven talks in twenty-seven days.

    Complimentary banana rum punch sundowners are served out on the Lido Deck on a warm, still evening in Port Everglades. It’s the Bon Voyage Sailaway party, except we don’t because a crew member is AWOL which means a lot of administrative headaches. The party is followed by a ‘taster show’ in the Showroom at Sea, the main theatre forward on Deck 8, introducing some of the on-board entertainment to be seen in the coming days. Only much, much later do we cast off on our 55-day Grand Tour (of which I’m doing the first half) and glide out into the Atlantic, apparently without the miscreant returning to the ship.

    Day 2: Tuesday 13 March 2018

    What a breakfast spread! Hot drinks; juices; cereals, porridge and meusli (or is it granola, or perhaps bircher?); breads and crackerbreads; waffles, crepes, pancakes and cinnamon buns; fruit and compotes; cheeses, meats and salads; eggs and potato; and much, much more. After eating too much I head down to the main theatre for the talk giving an overview of our first few ports of call - in the Caribbean and Cape Verde. For the latter we are told, “Tour buses may have plain, hard seating, or possibly padded seating, but you have time between now and then to add your own personal padding courtesy of the dining room.”
    These talks are repeated on Channel 27 which is very useful.

    First impressions are that it seems very sedate and relaxed around the ship even though it’s apparently full. Others have noted previously that the atmosphere of a country house hotel pervades.

    There’s a large audience in the main theatre for the first of the history lectures at 11 o’clock - a presentation entitled “Mercenaries of the Sea”, a brief history of piracy, dispelling the myths created by Disney and Johnny Depp. Starting in Roman times with the kidnappings of Julius Caesar she then moves on to the Vikings (those who hide in viks, or bays) through to Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd and, the most successful pirate of all, Ching Shi, the undefeated commander of the Red Flag Fleet which ruled the China Sea at the beginning of the 19th century. She was a strict disciplinarian, notorious for nailing dissenters’ feet to the deck before having them whipped. The presentation is very disjointed with broken sentences (much like a pub conversation) which unfortunately distracts from the interesting theme.

    Cod goujons and chips make for a light lunch before heading to the midday demonstration in the America’s Test Kitchen theatre for some breakfast ideas, peppered with snippets such as - how to tell whether a chicken will give white eggs or brown eggs? White earlobes generally mean white eggs and red earlobes mean brown eggs. At two o’clock it’s back to the main theatre for a more detailed port talk on the islands of Puerto Rico and St. John. There are ferries from the latter to the neighbouring island of St. Thomas but at the moment, because of hurricane damage, they only go to Red Hook. Two Virgin Islands called John and Thomas? There’s a childish joke in there somewhere

    It’s a calm day but quite breezy. It seems cold in some of the public places (the a/c, I guess) such as the main theatre although I quickly warm up in the first dance class of the cruise at three o’clock in the Ocean Bar where the Social Foxtrot is taught to a large group of willing students.

    There are two complimentary self-service laundrettes with washers and driers, on decks 6 and 10. I do my first laundry, just to see if I can follow the printed instructions on the machines, correctly calculating that neither of them will be busy so early in the cruise.

    For those that like to dance the evening starts at 7pm where the Ocean Quartet plays for forty-five minutes. There’s a second session at 8.45 (after the first show in the main theatre) and a final session at 10.45 (after the show is repeated). So far it’s been a smooth sail, in every sense.

    Day 3: Wednesday 14 March 2018

    Pleasingly, there’s plenty of room to find somewhere to eat a buffet breakfast as both sides and the back of the Lido Deck are used as a single restaurant. In the evening they’re divided up into the buffet and Italian fine dining. I learn that the way to inform the waiters that I’m still eating and the table shouldn’t be cleared is to leave the napkin on the back of the chair.

    We also have a Natural History lecturer, from Canada, whose topic this morning is “The Natural History of the Caribbean”. It’s full of interesting if at times incomprehensible facts such as twenty-four million cubic meters of water (the equivalent of 100,000 rail cars, apparently) move every second from the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico. He’s an excellent speaker and his obvious but restrained enthusiasm carries the large audience with him.

    The choice of sandwiches on offer at lunch is a nice alternative to a cooked meal. There are also several desserts on offer and I feel compelled to try the (American) apple pie. The pastry is fine but a tart apple such as Bramley would have been a better choice. Afterwards I take a post-prandial walk on the fine, wide, wooden Promenade deck where it is warm, breezy and sunny, and the sea is very blue.

    The afternoon dance class in the Ocean Bar is the rumba - which includes teaching the Rumba One. Sequence dance is unknown to Americans but the lesson is well-received. Afterwards I go back up to the Lido Buffet for an American lemonade (very sweet, and flat rather than fizzy) and notice bags of crisps in a basket by the sandwiches. Bliss! Crisps are the one snack I miss on cruise ships.

    I dine in La Fontaine, the restaurant on deck 7 which is open till 9pm (the Lido Buffet closes an hour earlier). By the entrance there’s a 3-tier tray containing glacé ginger, dates and mints - a nice after-dinner touch. Much later in the Lido I notice a couple eating delicious-looking desserts. There’s still some food available? No. They took them earlier from the buffet and kept them in their cabin fridge - they’ve travelled on the Prinsendam before.

    Day 4: Thursday 15 March 2018

    A fine, clear, warm day greets us as we approach Puerto Rico and sail in to our berth in San Juan to be docked at half past seven. I photocopy A Stroll Through Old San Juan from the Lonely Planet guide in the extensive library (curiously, not marked on the ship’s pocket map) before heading out. We’re berthed next to the Amsterdam, another Holland America ship and larger than the Prinsendam. There are other ships in town so a small tourist market has been set up along the waterfront paseo.

    I have a list of questions for the Tourist Information office, opposite the Plaza de la Darsena:
    Internet Café? El Murro? La Fortaleza? The Alcadia? Fort San Cristobal? Barranchina Restaurant? The ferry ride to the Casa Bacardi? Getting to El Junque? Where to salsa? As regards my last question, I’m told that the Latin Roots club just behind the Sheraton is a good place to go.

    Behind the plaza are the walls of Old San Juan, running along the Paseo de la Princesa, a wide, tree-lined walkway. The path through the small garden winds its shady way beneath the city walls, flanked by trees and flowers, statues and water features, at the conclusion of which is the Fuente de la Herencia with its five sculptures depicting Puerto Rico through the ages, through faith, liberty, bloodshed, society and cultural values. At the end of the paseo is another fountain, the Fuente Raices with its bronze deities of Taino, European and African descent, commemorating the 500th anniversary of Europeans discovering the New World.

    A guitarist sits outside the national arts and crafts centre playing for diners at tables set all along the narrow cobbled Santo Cristo street, at the top of which tourists have their photos taken with the hundreds of pigeons in the Parque de las Palomas next to the Santo Cristo chapel. High-sided ornate buildings with wrought-iron balconies provide welcome shade in the heat of the day. Round the corner is La Fortaleza, a classically beautiful blue and white mansion and the official residence of the island’s governor. I have forty minutes until the next tour in English so there’s time to see the cathedral, the last resting place of the conquistador Ponce de Leon, and the beautiful colonial-style dandelion-coloured El Convento hotel across the street that dates from 1646. A busker in the little plaza opposite is enthusiastically accompanied by two Guatemalan ladies from the Prinsendam that I’ve chatted to, in a rendition of “Cielito Lindo”. Cancion linda, in my opinion.

    In the waiting area for the tour of the governor’s mansion there’s a fragment of moon rock brought back by Apollo XI and presented to Puerto Rico by Richard Nixon. The short guided tour of the beautiful gardens and the chapel within the mansion (which is all we’re shown inside) requires that a designated photographer accompanies the tour and takes photos with your camera, free of charge. Men in dark suits and even darker glasses watch our back, and front and sides.

    The street of Caleta de las Monjas overlooks the huge Puerta de San Juan built into the city’s walls beyond which is a very photogenic view of La Fortaleza. Behind me is La Rogativa, a statue whose plinth explains that “during the siege by the English in 1797, the women of the city, led by the Bishop, prayed to Saint Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins to liberate the city.” The night-time torchlit procession accompanied by pealing bells confused the invaders who withdrew their forces believing that reinforcements from outside the capital had arrived. Which man wouldn’t flee from thousands of marauding virgins?

    I join the Natural History lecturer by the grassy expanse of La Perla Ravelin, a defensive structure guarding a fort built before the city walls. It lies above the neighbourhood of La Perla, a shanty town extensively damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria a few months ago. Between La Perla and El Morro, the city’s iconic fortress, lies the 19th century Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, the final resting place of many of Puerto Rico's most prominent natives and residents. We’ve both visited the fortress previously so head down the huge grassy expanse where locals fly kites back into town to Barranchina, “the house where the Pina Colada was born in 1963.” Really? Was it only six years before landing on the moon that man was inspired to test what might happen if the juice of fermented sugar cane, coconut and pineapple were brought together in a drinking receptacle?

    Later in the evening I dash out to Latin Roots for my first experience of authentic Caribbean salsa. I watch rather than dance and wish I had longer here, much longer. Unsurprisingly, I’m the last one back on board.

    Day 5: Friday 16 March 2018

    Curiously, the American version of Cheerios contains far less sugar than the version sold in the UK. Over breakfast I chat with a couple from New Orleans who, like me, are disembarking in Barcelona, the halfway point of the cruise. They tell of their hometown’s devastation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 where in excess of 100,000 people (perhaps a quarter of its pre-Katrina population) have left. Their own church congregation has dwindled from two hundred and fifty to only twenty-five. Whilst we chat, an announcement is made over the PA system telling us that non-ticketed tender operation is now in effect and we can go straight to deck 4 to board the tenders.

    It’s another beautiful day as we step ashore at Cruz Bay, St. John’s main town. The National Park Visitor Center, under-manned and offering a limited service since the recent hurricanes, provides me with all the information I need to enjoy a day on the island, including an excellent map and a leaflet of hiking trails. Across the dock, an open-sided jinty is just leaving for a tour of the island with Smithie who’s originally from Dominica but has lived on St. John for forty-seven years. He tells us that the island was devastated a few months ago by Hurricane Irma on September 6th and Hurricane Maria on September 19th. I’m astonished that in the intervening two weeks there must have been three other hurricanes! As we climb into the hills Smithie explains that the buildings with blue rooves have all been hurricane-damaged. Closer inspection reveals the blue to be polythene covering.

    At a scenic viewpoint where wild tamarind grows by the road overlooking the former capital of Coral Bay Smithie points out Norman Island which has a documented history of pirate booty and was reputedly an inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

    Onwards we drive through what looks like paradise at a distance, but hell on closer inspection. Above a road sign that reads “Ahead” somebody had scrawled, “Better Times”. Posters are affixed to telegraph poles advertising “free basic home repairs for storm damage”. Trees leaning at crazy angles, houses that have slid halfway down hillsides and masses of rubble line our route as we enter the Virgin Islands National Park passing repair gangs and stopping at idyllic viewpoints looking across to other islands that are probably just as damaged.

    We continue down to Leinster Bay and inland to the Annaberg Historic Trail which winds through and around the ruins of an old sugar factory bordered by papaya trees and wild pineapple plants, and fields of sugar cane used to produce rum and molasses.

    The excellent two and a half tour ends with short stops at some of the world-renowned bays and beaches which bless this island such as Cinnamon, Trunk, Hawknest, and, most devasted of all, Caneel Bay. I catch a taxi back to Trunk Bay to do a little snorkelling, but most of the markers for the Underwater Trail have been ripped up by the storms. The strange, knobbly fruit growing on some of the trees by the beach is Noni or Starvation Fruit which was amongst the first plants to recover after the hurricanes. An enjoyable if thought-provoking day ends with an exploration of the Lind Point Trail adjacent to the Visitor Center before dusk falls and I catch a tender back to my floating country house hotel.

    Tonight it’s Tropical Night so I change into my bright yellow, tailor-made shirt from India (where I lived for a short while) before the party begins in the Ocean Bar at 8.45. Why isn’t the party up on the open deck? A fine day ends drinking Pina Colada and nibbling nuts and goldfish in the company of new friends whilst listening to Jim the Piano Man playing in the Crow’s Nest till after midnight.

    Day 6: Saturday 17 March 2018

    The first of several days at sea as we sail for West Africa. At eleven o’clock there is a fractured talk (much knowledge but little flow) by our history lecturer on the seven wonders of both the ancient and modern world, the latter announced on 07/07/07. Before the talk I hadn’t appreciated that my travels have taken me to all the modern wonders (The Great Wall of China, Petra, Chichen Itza, the Taj Mahal, the Rome Coliseum, the Christ the Redeemer statue and Machu Picchu - not that I necessarily agree with the list) as well as the surviving ancient wonder.

    The cooking presentation in the kitchen theatre showcases Johnny cakes and salt-fish fritters, typical of British Virgin Islands’ cuisine. Guest chefs Neil and Erika Cline hail from Tortola where their business was wiped out by the recent hurricanes.
    “Fellate the fish,” says Neil to his wife whilst preparing the cod fritter batter.
    Excuse me! Did I hear that right? In public? Oh, I get it. “Filet the fish.” Perhaps I need to get my hearing checked out. The tasty results are available to try afterwards in the Pinnacle Grill.

    “How fast is the Atlantic Ocean widening?” asks our Natural History lecturer during his afternoon presentation on the body of water we’re presently crossing. “Hold out your hands in front of you. Go on. Don’t be shy.” We all do as bidden. “Now, watch your fingernails grow.”

    Today’s dance class is the Cha-Cha-Cha which some find challenging when turns are introduced. It reminds me of what I was like when I started dancing. Afterwards I enjoy a relaxing stroll out on deck. The days are getting warmer and the sea, bluer as we steam serenely along calm waters where no marine life is to be seen.

    The Ocean Bar is crowded for the St. Patrick’s Day party. Why isn’t the party up on the open deck? Everyone is wearing green as are the stuffed monkeys outside the restaurant. Jim the piano man joins the fun with renditions of Galway Girl and Irish Rover. Afterwards, the evening show presents songstress and comedienne Siobhan Phillips from the UK and with whom I shared a cab to the ship from Miami Airport. I like her comment about there not being a dry seat in the house after one of her more emotional songs.

    Day 7: Sunday 18 March 2018

    The Captain’s noonday report: We’re crossing the North Equatorial Current which moves from east to west (I wonder if that’s why there was so much juddering last night.) and is separated from the Equator by the Equatorial Countercurrent. The nearest land is 440 miles behind us - Kuala Lumpur. Excuse me! Did I hear that right? Either we need a new navigator or I definitely need to get my hearing checked out.

    Our historian’s lecture on architectural treasure troves, X Marks the Spot, is a yet another muddle. Fascinating stories from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the lost Fabergé eggs by way of El Dorado lose some of their fascination when punctuated with broken sentences and bad grammar. At two o’clock the clocks are set forward one hour so immediately following the lecture it’s time for today’s dance class teaching Beginner’s Rock-n-Roll. It always helps me to do beginner’s classes with different teachers as I can usually pick up something new.

    Day 8: Monday 19 March 2018

    After checking the map I think I may need to get my hearing checked - the nearest land is Guadeloupe, not Kuala Lumpur! At least my eyesight’s good enough to see the flying fish portside. The ship pitches gently in the warm breeze as we approach the halfway point on our way to the islands of Cape Verde.

    Day 9: Tuesday 20 March 2018

    Ask The Captain is always an interesting event to attend. Most of the questions, naturally, enough, concern him (the captain’s tour of duty is usually three months on and three months off), this cruise (the ship will refuel in Gibraltar for the Mediterranean where fuel has to have a lower sulphur content) and the ship in general (there is a legal requirement for ships to go into dry dock every two and a half years).

    On most seadays the clocks are set forward an hour which means compromises have to be made regarding the afternoon onboard activities. Two o’clock is the new three o’clock so what’s it to be? A lecture on Ferdinand Magellan? A dance lesson in the Waltz? An Arts and Crafts activity? A concert by the classical duo? Complimentary Tongue and Pulse Analysis?

    This evening’s main event is the Black & White Officer’s [sic] Ball. From the fixed smiles on their faces I reckon this night strikes more fear into them than a punctured hull in a Force 9 gale. I ask one of the dance regulars if she’d like to dance and within a very short time the floor is full. A prize is announced of a bottle of champagne for the passenger dancing with the right officer at the right time. There are no prizes for dancing with me so I’m immediately dumped with a rushed apology. I may never get over it.

    Day 10: Wednesday 21 March 2018

    It’s our last sea day before we hit the islands of Cape Verde (hopefully, not literally). I share a breakfast table with a native New Yorker now living in Atlanta (just off Peachtree - what a surprise) who lived in Lesotho for two years whilst working for the Peace Corps. She’s travelled widely and is interesting to listen to.

    Today is a twenty-four hour day so I can go to both the lecture on The Natural History of the Cape Verde Islands (which contains too many slides and overruns) and the dance class (where it’s a challenge learning the Quickstep on a small, oval floor). A couple from Manitoba who are fine Two-Step dancers suggest I look for Dancevision on Youtube where I can find some instructional videos. The timing is similar to the Social Foxtrot.

    Day 11: Thursday 22 March 2018

    Three months ago I arrived at the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean and now I’m back at St. Vincent, this time in the Cape Verde archipelago where we have an overnight stay. A note in the daily programme about wood carvings and souvenirs from Africa explains that these will be collected at the gangway and placed in the ship’s main freezer for forty-eight hours to kill any insects or pests that may be present.

    The ship is docked by eight o’clock and the complimentary shuttle service, which runs until half past seven this evening, drops us off at Marina Mindelo. The tourist information booth has now moved across the road to the Mamma Mia restaurant since my last visit. The cobbled streets and pastel-coloured buildings are mildly reminiscent of our first port of call, although many of the buildings are in a state of disrepair. With its relaxed island life, Mindelo is a gentle introduction to Africa where there’s a little hassle, but it’s rather desultory.

    Stepping out of the Cyber Kika internet café I hear the sound of beating drums. A large crowd has gathered near the seafront. I follow them into the Mindelo Cultural Centre where the spectacular performance of drumming, singing and eye-watering pelvic thrusting is one of the programmes comprising Micadinaia Fest, the island’s 13th Encontro Internacional Das Artes.

    Minivans to various parts of the island leave from Praca Estrela and the African Market (with its beautiful tile friezes of island life) and the service to Calhau runs frequently. I pay in Euros, but slightly over the odds, as I don’t have escudos which the driver would prefer. Calhau is a tiny fishing village half an hour away on cobbled roads on the other side of Sao Vicente. A cat sleeps in the shade of colourful, beached fishing boats and Atlantic waves break on the black volcanic rocks as I walk along sandy tracks around the village where it must be siesta time.

    Back in Mindelo I catch a van headed for Salamansa by way of Baia das Gatas, a holiday village where a couple of the other fares are staying. Salamansa is another pleasant, sleepy village but much larger than Calhau. Siesta time is over and dogs bark, children play and adults chat in the warm sunshine.

    I catch a shuttle back to the ship with a couple of girls who have just flown in via Lisbon from London and will perform two shows (they won’t tell me what - I’ll have to come and see) before flying back from Dakar.

    When the ship stays overnight, local performers usually come on board to give a show. Tonight it’s Gabriella and the Cape Verde Group which sounds like they’ve been hastily cobbled together, but she and her four musicians play an enjoyable, varied set including examples of Morna (blues) and St. John (religious-based).

    Day 12: Friday 23 March 2018

    The shuttle again drops us off again by the marina close to the statue of the eagle, built to commemorate the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic, which included a stop at Mindelo, by Portuguese aviators Cabral and Coutinho in 1922.

    Today I’ll just spend my time exploring Mindelo. There are still new things for me to explore even on my third visit, such as the beautiful, pink and white colonial Palacio do Povo with its façade of pink and white columns. Inside there are two exhibitions: one called Akuaba showcasing Cape Verde and Continental Africa art, and the other dedicated to internationally renowned singer Cesaria Evora, who was born in Mindelo.

    At five o’clock we cast off in sunshine and light winds sailing past a rust bucket called Abu Karim II and the lighthouse rock beyond, with the dramatic desert mountain landscape of the larger island of Santa Antao to port.

    Tonight’s show is Graffiti Classics (16 strings, 8 dancing feet, 4 voices) wherein the girls I met yesterday and their two compatriots perform classic and classical pieces in a uniquely slapstick style combining music, dance and comedy. Playing to a second, three-quarters-empty house comprising a tired audience, they strive hard in vain.

    Day 13: Saturday 24 March 2018

    If the Captain makes the morning call rather than the Cruise Director then you know it isn’t going to be along the lines of, “Good morning campers. Rise and shine. I have excellent news…”
    Gusts of up to 55mph mean that the preferred approach to Praia’s narrow basin can’t be made so the Captain will swing the ship around to see if that’s any better. An hour later comes the disappointing if not unexpected announcement that it isn’t, so our call to Praia is cancelled.

    We get another sea day, which is paradoxical because the mist is so dense we can hardly see anything at all. An early arrival into Gambia is an option which the Captain later confirms, telling us we’ll arrive at about 1pm tomorrow. A hastily constructed schedule is printed containing lectures, a cookery demonstration, a port talk and, after the clock is moved forward an hour, a dance class in ballroom tango.

    Our Banjul shore passes have been delivered. An accompanying letter tells us there is a charge of $100 for the Gambian visa. Curiously, the letter also states that guests, “without proof of a yellow fever vaccination will be charged €30 (approximately US$41) by the local health officials”.

    Day 14: Sunday 25 March 2018

    In the coffee lounge I chat a little with Cathal (the ‘t’ is silent), the leader of Graffiti Classics who studied at the Guildhall School of Music and started his 20-strong group in 1997. This is the only life he’s known but it’s difficult for him when he’s away from his family.

    Lunch provides a partial answer to the question of what happens to leftover food - breaded sole with Grandma’s bread dumplings served in a mushroom sauce. I have mine with some fish. They’re delicious and I go back for more. I should ask Grandma for the recipe.

    We’re approaching the mouth of the Gambia River and the most southerly point of this cruise. The bow thrusters slow the ship and at two o’clock, after passing the Kunta Kinteh ferry boarding passengers and vehicles to take to the opposite bank, the Prinsendam pulls alongside the pier and I complete my third trans-Atlantic sea crossing. I watch on with a retired lieutenant commander from the Australian navy. His was a lengthy journey to join the ship: a three-hour train trip to Brisbane, a two-hour flight to Sydney, a fifteen-hour flight to Dubai and a sixteen-hour flight to Fort Lauderdale.

    A complimentary shuttle bus will run until seven o’clock between the port and Albert Market two kilometres away. A large crowd has gathered just beyond the market at the top of the street. I don’t know what’s going on but I cross over to get a picture, and meet with disapproving looks from locals, and twitching soldiers. The presidential motorcade, comprising a ridiculous nineteen vehicles and which I nearly bring to a halt, is leaving the palace compound. The crowd waves to Adama Barrow, one-time security guard at Argos in London (to help fund his studies) and now the Gambian president.

    I explore along dusty, litter-strewn streets (you’d think the president could tidy up his own backyard) to the cathedral where worshippers of all ages clad in white are just leaving after a service. A few stalls are open, but trading is quiet as it’s Sunday.

    Back at the market I’m accosted by two persistent but not particularly annoying chancers: two cousins who offer to show me around for a few dollars. We head to the beach with its multi-coloured fishing boats where fishermen tend their nets, chat, smoke catfish and build or repair boats. A few metres offshore is the Koray Bey, a recently arrived Turkish powership which is contracted to help address chronic power shortages in the country.

    The walk continues inland from the beach past rickety housing outside which locals sit and chat, to the King Fahad mosque where vultures perch between the twin minarets looking out across the city from the roof, and goats graze the untended, parched garden. Further on is another city landmark, Arch 22 (named for the July 1994 coup date), supported by eight columns through which one can ascend an unlit spiral staircase to the top where there’s an excellent panorama of Banjul.

    Day 15: Monday 26 March 2018

    It’s another hot, hazy day, but the heat is manageable. At the entrance to Albert Market I meet our Natural History lecturer and his daughter who’s just arrived and is staying on board until Barcelona. They invite me to join them. She is excited by her first experience of an African Market with its vibrant colours and hustle and bustle. She’s also very pretty which attracts the attentions of local hustlers but she isn’t made to feel particularly uncomfortable. After buying some souvenir trinkets we end up back on the beach reprising my walk of yesterday which is no less enjoyable. A crowd gathers round, as do some little children who are happy to pose for photos.

    In the vicinity of Albert Market a local finds me a reliable taxi driver. Omar quotes me an acceptable price to take me to the Katchikally Crocodile Pool in his custard-coloured Mercedes. Heading out of the capital we turn off the Banjul Serre Kunda Highway, pass over part of the Tanbi Wetlands and enter the dusty town of Bakau, the location of the site held sacred by locals. There’s a very lifelike carving of a crocodile just inside the entrance. I have a closer look. Oops! It isn’t a carving….. Sarjo, one of the guides at the sanctuary, leads me to the pool where at least two or three dozen crocodiles swim or laze at the water’s edge. Under his guidance I nervously approach them and am even encouraged to stroke them - gently. Before leaving I look round the museum by the entrance showcasing local culture, whilst keeping a lookout for the roaming reptiles.

    The Graffiti Classics show is much better received this evening. You have to admire any group that can put Charlie Daniels and Pachelbel in the same performance. Cathal’s exaggerated display of boredom in the latter, induced by having to constantly play “the same bloody eight notes” in the famous canon goes down very well.

    Day 16: Tuesday 27 March 2018

    Today it’s much cooler today than yesterday even though we’ve travelled less than 200 miles north to reach Dakar. The shuttle takes us to the Place de l’Independence where, after changing some money into local francs, I bump into Jim the Piano Man for whom this is a first trip to Africa. As a veteran of African markets I offer to accompany him to the nearby Marché Kermel. He’s fascinated by the hubbub where, thankfully, the hassle is manageable. We chat with a trader selling musical instruments who shows Jim a balafon (wooden xylophone) and a kalimba (thumb piano) and, after much negotiation with me acting as interpreter (Ah, non. Desolé. C’est trop cher!), Jim buys the latter for $20, a third of the initial asking price, leaving both buyer and seller very happy.

    It’s a 20-minute ferry ride to Goree Island which, from the 15th to the 19th century, was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast. A local guide explains that the slave trade lasted for 400 years with twenty million Africans being traded (principally the Yoruba and Mandinka tribes) of which six million died. Such statistics are incomprehensible. I wish I’d allowed more time to explore the narrow streets, colonial houses and fort before having to head back.

    The pierside market is still in full swing with a huge array of wooden carvings, leather goods and clothing. I look at some printed cotton shirts and try on one decorated with figurines and musical instruments. Oh yes. That will do very nicely - a fine replacement for the colourful shirt I bought here many years ago, and ruined shortly after in the wash.

    Tonight’s featured entertainment is saxophonist and pianist Craig Richard for whom it took four flights and twenty-two hours to get to Banjul from the Seychelles. He’s a former contestant on American Ninja Warrior and occasional support artist to Kenny G, and plays beautifully but talks far too much. The arts and crafts instructor tells me later she went out to the bathroom when he started talking after finishing a piece of music and he was still talking when she got back. His constant harping on about his love for his parents and how his dad is his best friend makes me reach for the sick bucket.

    Day 17: Wednesday 28 March 2018

    The crepe, pancake and French toast guy displays disarming honesty when I ask, “How are you today?”
    “Tired,” he says.
    They must all be - the cooked-breakfast girl greets me with, Good morning, Madame.”

    One of the dance regulars, a long-time widow who walks with difficulty but will occasionally dance a side-to-side sway, is reading The Vacationers by Emma Straub in the cool of the Ocean Bar. It’s the current read from the ship’s Book Club Meets and she recommends it. I haven’t even opened the novel I brought with - there’s so much to read in the ship’s library. I enjoy settling back into one of the plush armchairs on a seaday like today, putting my feet up and flicking through some of the travel or current affairs magazines.

    Tonight it’s Gala African Night and everyone is more African than Gala, so I wear a black shirt and bowtie with my tux for my Africa By Night look. Why isn’t the party up on the open deck?

    Day 18: Thursday 29 March 2018

    This afternoon’s highlight isn’t the lecture on The Natural History of the Canary Islands or the Rumba dance class. It’s later, whilst nibbling tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole when I hear, “Dolphins! Dolphins!” I dash back to the cabin for my camera and head for the Promenade Deck watching transfixed as a pod accompanies the ship.

    At the second dance session a perpetually happy passenger is even happier than usual whilst her feet move in various uncoordinated directions. She’s just finished a seven-course dinner where each course was paired with a different wine. I tell her she should have had the previous dance - that was a Samba which includes a Drunken Sailor step. She looks at me disapprovingly, then starts giggling.

    Day 19: Friday 30 March 2018

    It’s cool and cloudy as we dock in Santa Cruz, the main town of the island of La Palma. Are we in still in Africa, or Europe? Politically, the Canary Islands are part of Spain, but after leaving the islands in a few days we’ll be heading north to Agadir, then even further north to Casablanca, and they’re indisputably in Africa.

    Whilst exploring narrow alleyways with pretty, wooden balconies draped with crimson cloth I hear the beating of drums. Crowds watch on silently as the Good Friday noonday procession solemnly wends its way along the main street of Calle O’Daly and past the cathedral. At its head, carrying incense burners, the faithful march in white robes bound by a crimson sash, crimson cloaks, and pointed crimson hoods embroidered with the shield of the brotherhood, their feet bound by chains. Behind, carrying the bier atop which is Christ crucified, are more of the faithful in white robes bound by a gold sash, green cloaks, and green hoods bearing a crimson cross. In Latin, Greek and Hebrew a sign proclaims, “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” Behind them, a slow-marching band of men and children in navy and crimson plays a death march with trumpets and drums past silent crowds.

    The grey overcast conditions give way to bright sunshine as the hourly guagua emerges from the clouds and drops over across the spine of the mountains to the western side of the island. The colonial town of El Paso is as pretty as I’d hoped. The bus stop is by the small, terraced Jardin El Paredon, with a bust of the town’s founder at its heart. Opposite is Jardin La Era and across the main street, the town hall behind which is the casco historico, a joy to walk around in the blazing sunshine with its decorated murals; cobbled, hilly streets; terracotta-tiled rooves and gardens with quirky sculptures.

    As we drive back, a stupendous waterfall of cloud gently cascades down the side of the Cumbra Nueva ridge that divides the two halves of the island. It’s an astonishing sight and anyone with a camera on the bus is taking photos. We enter the mountain tunnel and emerge back into the much cooler, grey and overcast eastern half of the island.

    We have a new Captain who will be with the ship until Lisbon where a third Captain will take her back to Fort Lauderdale. We’ll arrive early in Tenerife tomorrow, at about 1am, to allow for maintenance work on the stern thruster.

    Tonight is the Seder Dinner, held in the Lido restaurant portside which has been beautifully laid out with flowers, white tablecloths and napkins, ceremonial platters, and menu scrolls by every plate. There must be almost 100 people attending. The ceremony is open to all and, led by Rabbi Starr, one of the onboard chaplains, lasts for three hours. Stories of the flight from Egypt accompanied by religious insight and traditional songs, food and wine, and lively conversation (for many this is a new experience) all make for an extremely enjoyable experience.

    Day 20: Saturday 31 March 2018

    Another day, another Santa Cruz, but this time, de Tenerife where we have an overnight stay. At the pedestrian exit on the promenade lies the site where the San Pedro Fort once stood, helping to repulse the attacks of three English Admirals: Blake in 1657, Jennings in 1706 and Nelson in 1797. This is referenced also at the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre located just across the Santos Ravine and housed in an impressive neo-classical building. The display explains that the city’s coat of arms features three lions representing those three victories. I imagine the irony of this is lost on most England football fans. Amongst many fascinating items the museum houses an extensive collection of Guanche artifacts and mummies, remnants of the aboriginal inhabitants a thousand years ago who may have migrated from North Africa. It’s sobering to learn that their life expectancy was just thirty years.

    By good fortune I arrive at the bus station only minutes before a guagua departs for the town of La Orotava, and there are fine views of Mount Teide along the way. It’s a short walk up to the historic centre where turning the corner onto Calle Calvario gives a stunning view of the snow-dusted mountain in the sunshine. The historic centre is outstandingly beautiful, from the magnificent Town Hall Plaza to the 17th century House of Balconies and the 18th century Church of the Concepcion with its dome and cupola (built over the ruins of the original church destroyed by earthquakes). In Plaza Patricio Garcia behind the church sits the Homenaje Al Alfombrista (Homage to Carpetfitters) statue as the town is famous for creating carpets of flower petals for Corpus Christi.

    An overnight stay means a local performance on-board, at 9.30 in the show lounge, by Fuego, a flamenco troupe. Disappointingly, there are no live musicians, just recorded music. I’ve seen better at Alba Flamenca during the Edinburgh Festival.

    Day 21: Sunday 01 April 2018

    Today is cloudier and cooler than yesterday, but it’s still short-sleeve weather. I head past the fountain and pool of Plaza Espana to the Iglesia de la Concepcion and find a colourful flea market in full swing at the cobblestone Plaza Mellado. Close by is the Auditorio Tenerife, inaugurated in 2003 and which, from a distance, evokes the Sydney Opera House. The whole of the seaward side opens to give those enjoying a drink in the bar a fabulous view of the ocean. The upper walkways on the opposite side are open to the elements giving uninterrupted views to the mountains of the interior.

    I take the Tranvia up to the pretty colonial town of La Laguna, wondering at the engineering that allows such steep inclines to be negotiated by tramrail. I don’t try and follow any tourist map but just enjoy wandering the streets looking at garden plazas and pastel-coloured colonial buildings, arriving at Plaza de la Concepcion where the eponymous 16th-century church and 17th-century tower stands. I don’t see any familiar faces from the ship, but it is late afternoon. It’s the best part of the day as the sun comes out and the town looks even prettier. Sitting on a bench in front of the church listening to people chattering as they walk past or sitting outside bars and cafés opposite is very relaxing.

    Back in Santa Cruz, beyond the archway of the old Alameda by the pool and fountain, children sing and dance led by a couple of local women, “Mueve la cabeza, mueve la cintura…” A girl passes by wearing a t-shirt that says, “I have NOTHING to wear”. It’s time to leave and, as we drift past Cunard’s Queen Victoria, officers on the bridge and passengers on their balconies wave to us.

    Day 22: Monday 02 April 2018

    We’ve arrived in Arrecife, the capital of the sub-tropical desert island of Lanzarote. The earlier rain has cleared and it’s a beautiful, clear, sunny, warm day. Last time I was here I took an excursion round the island and saw nothing of Arrecife. This time I’ll explore the whitewashed town following the map given to me at the Tourist Information office in the marina.

    I buy too many hats on my travels, but I spot one with a wide brim that I particularly like in one of the souvenir shops that line the promenade. I’ve forgotten the Spanish word for ‘mirror’.
    “Spiegel?” asks the Chinese girl serving in the shop.
    I’m not wearing lederhosen, but no matter. “Como se dice ‘spiegel’ en Espanol?”
    A look in the espeja confirms that it’s a fine hat and suits me. It’s a steal at only 5 euros. It’ll probably just sit in the wardrobe back home with all the others.

    The Puente de las Bolas leads to the 16th century Castillo de San Gabriel on a small promontory, guarded by two cannons and now housing the history museum. Further along, the octagonal wooden bandstand now serves as the main Tourist Information Centre and beyond that, male foursomes are seated at tables playing dominoes watched by interested spectators comprising locals and the odd tourist.

    The small El Reducto beach is as far as I walk, resting in the shade for a few minutes before retracing my steps. A statue at the beginning of Calle Real looks out to the promenade and the ocean, in homage to a popular local personality: Heraclio Mesa, a former wrestling champion known as El Pollo de Arrecife. (Being known as a chicken, curiously, seems to have been a badge of honour for many local wrestlers.) He was also an actor and featured in One Million Years BC with Raquel Welch which was filmed on the island. Nearby, resembling a Spanish mission, is the pretty, whitewashed Iglesia de San Gines founded in 1574, rebuilt in 1665 after flooding, with the bell tower added in 1842.

    Dozens of small fishing boats dot the lagoon across from the marina. Surrounded by blue and white buildings with the mountains as a backdrop, it looks picture-postcard perfect. I can’t linger too long as the all-aboard time is half past three. As we move away the Captain tells us that fishing nets were removed from the propeller whilst we were docked in Tenerife.

    Tonight’s show features Jesse Kazemek in A Tribute To The Beatles - an uninspiring performance of insipid songs characterised by a general inability to hit the higher notes. He introduces his wife (and best friend - pass the sick bucket) whose contribution to the show brings the performance to a new low.

    Day 23: Tuesday 03 April 2018

    We dock at Agadir at seven o’clock on a bright, warm morning. For those that wish, the ship offers an overnight trip to Marrakesh, rejoining the ship tomorrow evening in Casablanca. For those not taking the trip, the all-aboard time is (a disappointingly early) 1.30pm. The complementary shuttle brings us to Bijaoane Square where local children are taking an outdoor art class with their easels set up in a circle. I’m quoted prices ranging between 40 and 50 Euros for a taxi ride to see the famous tree-climbing goats chowing down on the fruit of the argan tree, but as it’s perhaps a 40 km trip each way I’m not inclined to risk it with such an early departure time. Next time.

    I ask a patrolman on the beach to explain the Arabic words carved into a distant hillside. They’re the motto of the county - “Al-lah, Al-malik, Al-watan. Le dieu, le roi, le peuple.”

    A hawker selling raspberries approaches. I buy a pack as they’ll go nicely with some ice-cream back on the ship. A few moments later a local boy approaches. He’s hungry, so I give him the punnet.

    Tonight it’s Arabian Night and the monkeys outside La Fontaine are seated on embroidered cushions in an Arabian tea house, sheeshas at the ready. A few passengers have gone to town, looking like characters straight out of the Arabian Nights. How many suitcases must they bring with them, and why isn’t the party out on deck?

    The ship is very noisy tonight. I can’t fathom it.

    Day 24: Wednesday 04 April 2018

    I wonder what or where the ‘white house’ is, or was, that gave Casablanca its name. It’s exciting to be in this famous city, but is it only famous because of the movie which wasn’t shot within 5000 miles of here? The all-aboard time is 9.30 this evening so there’s plenty of time, unlike yesterday, to explore away from the city.

    The shuttle drops us off at United Nations Square a mile and a half away. In the cool of the nearby Hyatt Regency I sink into one of the plush settees and spend as short a time as possible checking emails. The hotel is just across the road from the Bab Marrakesh where I nearly get run over by a handcart - I’m lost in the sights of the market and the ramparts of the medina and not paying attention to where I’m going. I apologise to the extremely annoyed cart man.

    Casa Port train station is a bright, airy and modern station and trains to the political capital of Rabat run every half hour with the journey to Rabat-Ville station taking just over an hour. It may be very warm for me but locals are wearing padded gilets, pullovers or jackets. It’s a scenic ride in comfortable seats, and pounding ocean waves can be made out in the distance, but I can’t get a clean photo through dirty windows.

    Turning left out the station along the Avenue Mohammed V lined with palm trees is the parliament building, whilst in the opposite direction lies the Sunnah Mosque, the biggest in Rabat, where unfortunately heathens are not allowed in. Back at the station hawkers are selling tissues and I buy a pack for two dirhams from a blind man before catching a tram to the ivory-coloured mausoleum of Mohammed V. It stands opposite the minaret of the Hassan Tower, left incomplete since the death of its architect in 1199. Separating the two is a wide plaza of stone columns and beyond are vistas to the ocean. Fierce-looking guards in scarlet tunic and scarlet trousers tucked in at the ankles (plus eights?), cream cape and blue hat look down on us disapprovingly. Inside the mausoleum, equally impressively dressed guards wearing shades of green (the traditional colour of Islam) and a solemn demeanour watch over the marble sarcophagi of the first king of an independent Morocco, and his two sons.

    A short tram ride across the Bou Regreg river lies the ancient city of Salé, a former pirate haven and where demonstrations against French rule eventually led to the country’s independence. Opposite the station are the city’s battlements and through its gates lies the medina - a jumble of narrow streets, flower-bedecked alleyways, bustling traffic (automotive and human), crumbling buildings, and stalls crammed with trays of fragrant spices and sackloads of legumes.

    Returning to Casablanca, a 40-dirham (approximately $10) taxi ride brings me to the Grand Mosque where waves reflecting brilliant sunlight crash against the sea wall. I’m shooed away from the women’s section at the base of the world’s tallest minaret to the men’s section where, leaving my sandals outside, I can peer inside at the great, carved marble pillars and immense woven carpet averting my eyes from those engaged in private devotion.

    I walk back to Rick’s Café (a case of life imitating art) only to find it closed for a private function. It lies on the edge of the medina which is fascinating to walk through with its busy narrow streets, whitewashed buildings and small shops.

    Ding-dong! Immediately the band stops playing and the Ocean Bar falls silent. The Captain explains that there have been big swells all day, the mooring ropes have broken several times and the thrusters have been operating constantly. Currently there are four-metre swells which means it’s going to be a very wobbly evening so everyone should be particularly careful and grab hand rails wherever possible. Dancing is too risky so we sit it out and listen to the band.

    Day 25: Thursday 05 April 2018

    The 45-degree Rock of Gibraltar looks spectacular in the midday sun as we sail in whilst behind us, the peaks of the Atlas Mountains can be made out. There is an immense amount of building going on which includes land reclamation from the sea. I wonder if the Spanish are doing something similar Ceuta.

    This is a first visit for the arts and crafts teacher, but my fourth. Is there anything new for me to see? The number 4 bus from the Casemates Gates, destination - World’s End, offers an intriguing option and, in case we’re early for the apocalypse, we buy all-day tickets. Our optimism is well-founded - Armageddon is a whitewashed apartment complex set on a small, clean beach at the base of the rock with views across to Africa.

    Not surprisingly, it’s very breezy by the Europa Lighthouse at the most southerly point of mainland Europe where the lighthouse keeper tends his pot plants in the most southerly sheltered garden in mainland Europe. Something that’s new since my last visit is the Sikorski monument, dedicated to the former Polish Prime Minister killed here in a plane crash in 1943. It’s been relocated between the lighthouse and Harding’s Battery from the airfield to make it more accessible for visitors.

    A group of us are enjoying antipasti in Canaletto, the stern section of the Lido Buffet that becomes an Italian restaurant by night where my companion for the day tells us that a passenger had to be taken off today with breathing difficulties. She’s incredulous that the husband opted to stay onboard, hoping to meet up with his wife in Valencia where doctors told him she should be able to rejoin the ship. She’s even more incredulous that one or two of the menfolk don’t share her incredulity. Mars and Venus, eh?

    A fine day ends up in the Crow’s Nest where the dance instructors demonstrate to the late-night regulars how to do the Lambeth Walk (a jaunty promenade with thumbs firmly inserted in collar lapels) whilst Jim accompanies them on the piano.

    Day 26: Friday 06 April 2018

    I’ve only just noticed that all the waiters wear wine cups, although I didn’t know what the metal medallion-like things they wore round their necks were until I asked. I thought they were spittoons.

    Tonight is White Night and I spend half an hour before the first session of dancing trying to tie my cream jacquard bowtie before giving up, although a second attempt after the dancing is successful. Everyone wears something white (including the stuffed monkeys who sport white top hats and bowties) and the restaurant and Ocean Bar are decorated with white lanterns and streamers.

    This evening’s featured entertainer is flautist Andrea Amat. I wonder if wind players actually have a preponderance to suffer from wind - it would certainly explain their many peculiar facial expressions during a performance.

    Day 27: Saturday 07 April 2018

    My last port of call before disembarking tomorrow: Valencia, a city I’ve never visited previously. The shuttle brings us to the 16th century Serranos bridge where, across the road on a tiny traffic island is a stone archway with two millstones at its base. The plaque reads, “Soc l’arc del Moli de la Torreta” which might indicate the remnants of a gateway to an old flour mill. I wonder why it’s been preserved.

    The bridge across the dry river bed leads to the twin towers of the 14th century Serranos Gateway, a gothic fort guarding the old city where many precious works of art from Madrid’s museums were stored during the Spanish Civil War. Pausing to write some diary notes above the archway my entrance ticket flutters away in the breeze, landing somewhere between the two immense iron-studded wooden doors and offering the chance of a free entry to another visitor.

    Narrow streets lined with tall buildings in shades of ochre and white with wrought iron balconies provide shade from the sun, or would do if today wasn’t cloudy. In the Placa de Manises is the 15th century gothic palace of the Valencian Government with its gilded ceilings and lush furnishings, the first of many handsome buildings I explore. Its garden housed an air raid shelter built to protect against repeated Francoist bombings of the city during the civil war, but is now adorned with shrubs, flowers and lemon trees. Just beyond is the Plaza de la Virgen with the Fuente del Turia at its centre. The fountain depicts a reclining Neptune surrounded by naked women and referencing the Turia river in ancient times with its eight irrigation ditches that fed La Vega de Valencia, the city’s vale of fields and meadows. Behind the fountain are the rectangular, pink-faced Basilica de le Virgen next to the circular, sand-coloured Catedral de Santa Maria with an immense hexagram in the Rose Window above the doorway.

    The twisting streets of the old town are perfect for aimless wanderings and fortunately the hint of rain in the air doesn’t develop into anything worse. My ambling brings me to the Horchateria Santa Catalina, opposite the church and tower of the same name. This long-established café, famed for its colourful decorative tiles produced in the nearby town of Manises, is named for the eponymous Valencian drink, usually made from the milk of tiger nuts (that’s not a euphemism) and whose innumerable health-giving properties include (according to their website) expelling flatulence and fortifying the bowels. Perhaps the café buys the tiger nuts from the nearby iron and glass Central Market. The vast market looks like a railway station from the outside, especially when at first glance the word “Central” is so predominant and only on much closer inspection can the word “Mercat” be made out.

    Where the two main avenues of Maria Christina and San Vincent Martir meet is the Plaza Ayuntamiento with the ivory-coloured grand town hall facing an only mildly less grand central post office building with its ionic columns, arches, and allegorical figures above the entrance. Heading away from the plaza down a pedestrian passageway, a thunderous noise comes from the direction of the bullring. Trumpets and drums, and cries of “Es-pa-ña! Es-pa-ña!!” echo and reverberate to spur on Spain in the second day of their quarter final Davis Cup match against Germany. For those of us too cheap to pay there’s a gap in the fencing that gives a clear view of the net play in the doubles match.

    Day 28: Sunday 08 April 2018

    A fine end to a fine holiday, in the company of some wonderful people, ends in cold and wet Barcelona. Our Natural History lecturer and his daughter have also disembarked. She’s returning home to Canada but he’s heading back to Cape Verde to follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, visiting the island of Santiago where we weren’t able to dock, and the volcanically active island of Fogo. The bus to the airport should be here in a few moments (according to the courier) which leads our Canadian friend to pose the question, “How long is a moment?”
    Dismissing all answers he explains that, from a scientific perspective, it’s ninety seconds. I ask the courier for her perspective.
    “Cuanto tiempo, en Espana, es ‘un momento’? Mas que un minuto, o menos?”
    “Depende” she replies evasively.
    “Generalmente? Mas.”
    The coach arrives (after several more moments) and as suitcases are being loaded, I try again.
    “Si ‘un momento’ is mas que un minuto, cuanto tiempo es ‘un momentito’?”
    “Debe ser, menos,” she says with a smile.


    Other diaries:
    (Hopefully these links still work)
    Last edited by JakTar, Lytham; 30th June 2018, 02:47 PM.

    Too long, shouldn't this be in Reviews?


      A JakTar review? The longer the better. As good here as anywhere else. Always an entertaining read for me


        Brilliant, well written and very informative. Maybe you should consider becoming a port lecturer as some of the ones we’ve heard on board only know where to shop. Thank you.

        Take care, Helen


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