Marco Polo in the Canaries

The days in the UK were getting cooler. Falling leaves heralded the onset of another Winter. Time to head for the Sun. I had booked the cruise to travel South on  ‘Marco Polo’. This would be the fourth time I had cruised on this iconic ship. A taxi came to my Gloucestershire home at lunchtime and I was in Bristol Avonmouth before 2 pm. Boarding is straightforward – sign a health declaration; show your cruise ticket and passport; and collect your cruise card (for cashless transactions while aboard).

I had deposited my luggage with a steward outside the cruise terminal; and the next time I saw my luggage, it was outside my cabin door. I had an ‘Ocean View’ cabin on Amundsen deck. The standard safety drill was performed for all those who had joined the cruise that day. We left Bristol Avonmouth at about 8pm passing through the lock out into the Bristol Channel. The ‘Welcome Show’ gave a taste of delights to come. The dancing girls in their elaborate illuminated costumes were particularly impressive. The singers belted out numbers like ‘Oklahoma’ with gusto.

After a comfortable night’s sleep, we had a day at sea. Susan McKinlay the Shore Excursions Manager, along with her very able Brazilian colleague Danusa, described upcoming excursions in the first of several informative talks. Another speaker gave us the low-down on Gibraltar and its history. Guest speaker Lucy Holden gave us a talk on photography. Later on, the Captain’s Welcome Reception was followed by a Gala Dinner. Then the fab ‘ABBA’ tribute show capped off the evening. Clocks were put forward one hour.

Next day, La Coruna in Galicia, North-west Spain. I walked around the city and climbed Mont San Pedro for the great coastal views. Comedian Les Bryan entertained that night with his droll wit. Hearing him play ‘Apache’ and ‘Wonderful Land’ on his guitar was a marvelous addition to his comedy routine.

Thursday 20th October, we were at sea all day again. There was a talk on Admiral Nelson; and a solo travelers’ lunch in the Waldorf restaurant. Lucy Holden later gave a talk on travel photography. It was ‘Italian Night’. I had the privilege of being invited to the Staff Captain’s Dinner table. A special photo was taken. Later, we had reserved seats in the theatre for the ‘On Broadway’ show. We were travelling South but turned East to visit Gibraltar. There, I walked to see the air-strip then walked three miles to Europa Point and three miles back. Low cloud obscured the top of ‘The Rock’ for most of the day. There is always lots to see in Gibraltar. That night, aboard ship, tenor Laurence Robinson gave the first of his two singing shows. Songs like ‘O Sole Mio’; ‘Volari’; ‘San Francisco’; ‘Nessum Dorma’; and ‘Delilah’ - were hugely well-received. Clocks went back an hour.

Now we were really heading for warmer climes. We had a day at sea. There was a visit to the ship’s bridge; a photography lecture on landscapes; and a ‘Columbus Club’ cocktail party before a ‘Greek Evening’ dinner. The show ‘From Russia with Love’ is always a delight. I have seen it several times before. We arrived in Arrecife, Lanzarote on Sunday 23rd October. I went on the coach excursion to the Timanfaya National Park and Lava Coast.  That night, the ‘We Will Rock You’ show themed around the songs of ‘Queen’. Cruise Director Toby Campbell was brilliant in it.

Next day we were in Tenerife on the second of our three Canary Island visits in three consecutive days. I took a coach excursion up over the Anaga mountains and through the Mercedes Forest to the old capital of Laguna. Thereafter we went to a wonderful ‘wine-cellar’ in Tacoronte for wine-tasting coupled with the sampling of loval cheeses, meats, hot Canarian potatoes and dips. All excellent. Monday, we were promised rain but it never came. I took a coach excursion from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria to the Maspalomas sand dunes and the south coast resort of Mogan. That place has a very pretty harbour. Our ship left Las Palmas at 2 pm. We enjoyed a boisterous Sail-away party hosted by the multi-talented Toby Campbell. There was a ‘Pirates theme Dinner’ that night followed by the second of Laurence Robinson’s singing shows. When he came to sing ‘Time to Say Goodbye’, he captured the emotions of all the 200 people in the Marco Polo Show Lounge. Very good entertainment.

Our next port of call was Funchal, Madeira – a very verdant island after the somewhat barren Canaries. Rain was forecast and we had several bouts of torrential rainfall during the day. I took a local bus to the Botanic Gardens then later walked back to the ship for lunch. I then walked to see Reid’s Hotel and Cliff Bay Hotel. Funchal is a superb place.

We were heading for ‘home’ Next day was spent at sea. I was invited to a special lunch to celebrate qualification as a ‘Diamond’ member of the ‘Columbus Club’ having just totted up more than 200 nights aboard ships of the CMV fleet. Later Lucy Holden lectured on photo-editing software. Les Bryan entertained that night with more droll jokes and some music on his electric guitar. Back in the 60’s he was a member of the Liverpool pop group ‘The Marauders’. Later in his career, he was also a regular on the TV show ‘The Comedians’.

And so, to Lisbon. It was hot and sunny and this was my 5th visit in two years. I walked up to Castelo St. Jorge and enjoyed the views. After lunch on the ship, I walked to the main city squares. The Rocky Horror Show was performed on the ship that night – I was not that keen on that one. The following two days at sea, we were blessed with calm conditions in the Bay of Biscay. More shows; some time in the jacuzzi; some time in the Health Spa’s sauna. A photo competition. I entered but it was won by folks with pictures of: - ‘a seascape off Gran Canaria’; ‘a fruit tree on Lanzarote’; and ‘a lady selling flowers in the Funchal market’. We had, on the Saturday night, a Gala Dinner – complete with the ever-popular ‘Baked Alaska’ parade. On the Sunday, the ‘Around the World’ show was great as we approached our own ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. Clocks went back an hour. We arrived in Bristol Avonmouth very early on the Monday morning. We had travelled 3,753 nautical miles in the fortnight. A taxi took me home by 10 am. This was another, wonderful, action-packed CMV cruise; and it had been thoroughly enjoyed by all those guests to whom I spoke.