Good morning everyone, before moving onto day 3 there are a couple of things from last night that are worthy of mention. It was one of those evenings when you know it is going to be good from the start. From pre-dinner drinks in the Discoveries Lounge with friends followed to an excellent dinner in the main restaurant. The Tandoori lamb on a bed of lentils was superb and dutifully washed down by a seemingly endless supply of Chardonnay. My motto for those questioning the choice of wine is, drink what you enjoy, not what someone tells you to drink with a certain dish. After dinner, it was off to the captains welcome party. Captain Johannes is an excellent speaker with a charming personality who goes that extra mile for his passengers. Who else would take the ship in a 180-degree turn at dinner time so that all passengers get views of the beautiful sunset from their table? This is all followed by one of my favourite entertainment acts, Brooks Aehron, a concert pianist with a difference. I have long been one of his fans since first seeing his act some years ago on the Celebrity Summit. A modern day, English, Victor Borge for those that remember him. Too soon it was all over with one of the largest standing ovations I have seen on a ship. That king-size bed was now calling.
The morning of day 3 I wake to a smooth sea and slightly overcast skies. Shower time. A warning to everyone, always test the shower before stepping in. This morning I turned the heat control the wrong way, stepped in and dived out again at double speed as an icy blast of water hit me. It certainly woke me up in very quick time. Having recovered, time for a healthy breakfast. I love breakfast on American ships as I can get my real hash browns, not those lumps of fried whatever we call hash browns in Europe. Together with corned beef hash and eggs done so many different ways, it’s a great start to the day. Healthy? Well, the fresh orange juice was. Time now to find the walking track on deck 10. On leaving the confines of the inner ship and stepping out onto the track it is windy, so much to my disappointment I decide to save this for another day. I know, excuses, excuses. Time for the trivia quiz where I join up with a couple from Australia who are on this trip in memory of their fathers who took part in the landings. Swapping papers for marking we get 15 out of 20 until we check our answers and find that one has been wrongly scored so now 16 out of 20. Still don’t win, but it’s good fun. Who played the part of T.J. Hooker?
Lunchtime brings the captains update, we are ahead of schedule and now due to arrive in St. Peter Port, Guernsey at 3pm. 2.30pm and the first of the Channel Islands come into view and an air of anticipation and excitement fills the ship. As we approach Guernsey, Ruby Princess passes on our port side as she sails for her next port. By 3.30pm we are anchored in the bay and the first tender is bobbing in the swell awaiting passengers going ashore. I wait for all the tours to leave the ship before going to the island, which brings back many happy memories. Will my favourite hotel and restaurant still be there? I wonder this as I sit on deck sipping a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio with the warm sun shining from a cloudless blue sky. Eventually boarding one of the tenders we make our way towards the harbour and the many beautiful yachts that are moored there. Stepping ashore you are immediately aware of the monuments as you walk towards the town, passing firstly the Foreign Workers Memorial erected in 2001 in memory of the foreign civilians who lost their lives during the German occupation. This followed by the Harbour Bombing Memorial, next the Deportees Plaque remembering over 1,000 residents deported from Guernsey and Sark and sent to internment camps in Germany and France. Then The Holocaust Memorial, The Evacuees Plaque and the Liberation Stone laid by H.M the Queen to commemorate the 60th anniversary of liberation. Finally, is the Liberation Monument, an obelisk built with 50 layers of granite and the top 5 layers sheared off representing the 5 years of German occupation. Acting as a sundial, its shadow on the 9th May each year points to the wording on the seating which recalls the liberation story of 1945.
Onwards into the small town of St. Peter Port and you see flowers everywhere. Growing in flower beds, window boxes, boxes along the roadside, petals in white, red, blue, yellow and tints of many more. Climbing the main street I find the Moore’s Central Hotel where I used to stay and a little further on the Bistro where I enjoyed some great meals. Nothing had changed. Walking along the sea front road back towards the tender point, I notice a large flower bed that is laid out to replicate a Red Poppy in the centre and the dates of 1914 and 2014 either side in remembrance of the First World War and the anniversary in August. Arriving back at the tender and making our way out of the harbour, Azamara Journey looks beautiful with her dark blue hull and white superstructure set against the blue sea and sky.
After dinner tonight is a concert given by the Cruise director Eric de Gray. One of the most talented cruise Directors, it has ever been my pleasure to watch. Magnificent voice supplemented by a glittering white long-tailed costume as he sings songs from the musicals. His rendition of songs from Phantom of the Opera were superb. A final gin and tonic at the bar before heading once more for that King size bed as we sail for our next port of call, Cherbourg.
Clocks forward one hour and the sun is streaming through my cabin window as we dock in Cherbourg. Today is the anniversary of the D-Day Landings but outside everything looks so peaceful unlike 70 years ago. Cherbourg situated in Lower Normandy is now a bustling port with memories. Taking the shuttle bus into town I find cafes, hotels and boutique style shops adorning the quayside area whilst the harbour is home to numerous small yachts. The streets are busy with tourists and many children who appear to be on school trips. Flags of America, Canada, UK and France are fluttering in the warm breeze from flag poles in commemoration. After coffee in a local café I return to the ship to find that many of the passengers have gone out on trips but with the main celebration area ‘locked down’ due to the many visiting heads of states I decide that tomorrow will be my time to visit the beaches and say ‘Thank you’ for my freedom. With so many passengers away, it is an ideal time to explore this glorious ship. Everything is well laid out, the furniture, curtains and general furnishings give an air of quality. The staffs have that ‘Can Do’ attitude, and they do it with a genuine smile. Most spirits and beers are included in the cruise fare, so there is no pressure for the staff to sell drinks and pester you every few minutes, as happens on some cruise lines. The higher ratio of staff to passengers is evident. Sun loungers around the pool area sport thick mattresses and head rests with towels of matching colour having the company name and logo embroidered on them. Everything is laid back and relaxing. Lots of hidden away areas for peaceful sunbathing if you don’t want to be in the pool area. As promised, I went to the gym. Running machines, weights, multi exercise machines. It made me tired just looking at them, so I left. Yes, I said I would visit, not use them!! Lunchtime arrives, and I decide to try a burger from the Pool Grill. It is delicious, if only all burgers were that good. Tonight is one of the Azamazing Evenings, for which Azamara are now famous. It is entitled ‘D-Day, The Liberation Party’. Now time to get back in that sunshine with perhaps a glass of Chardonnay, the wine of the day and relax in preparation for tonight, Party Time. Will report the evening in my next blog, so keep reading.
This article was written for the 70th anniversary of WW2 in 2014. The ‘Past to Present’ cruise has sailed, but do visit the Azamara website for similar upcoming voyages.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Azamara.