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Itinerary = ports at anchor
3rd March
- Fly overnight to Hong Kong
Thursday-Hong Kong - embark Arcadia
Friday-at sea
Saturday-Da Nang, Vietnam
Sunday-at sea
Monday-at sea
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-Phuket, Thailand
Friday-at sea
Saturday-at sea
Sunday-Colombo, Sri Lanka
Monday-at sea
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-at sea
18th March
-Port Victoria, Seychelles
disembark and Fly to UK

Full Ship Report at Arcadia Ship Gallery & Report >>
(above left) The magic of Hong Kong by night.

Our first trip to the Far East, at the end of which, in the Seychelles, I famously spent the day exploring the island, still wearing my pyjamas!

This was part of Arcadia's World Cruise and it was our first of 3 cruises aboard her; it was also Anny's first cruise and she was to have her Birthday aboard. It was on this trip that we met Joyce!

Wednesday 3rd - Thursday 4th March
Flight to Hong Kong
We were back with British Airways again for our long-haul overnight flight, arriving at 10am the following day at Hong Kong's brand new Chek Lap Kok Airport, built largely on a reclaimed island and opened 8 months earlier in July 1998, replacing the city's notoriously hazardous Kai Tak Airport.

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Thursday 4th March
Hong Kong
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By midday we were aboard but after a flight of more than 11 hours, we were all too tired to enjoy much of Hong Kong, although I did manage to summon the energy to take the famous Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island.

Star Ferries have been carrying passengers from Kowloon on the mainland to Hong Kong Island for over 100 years and although there are now tunnels, they are still a popular means of transport for commuters and tourists alike. But once on Hong Kong Island, I was too tired to stray far; sitting in the main square, I was "interviewed" by a group of giggling Chinese girls doing a school project!

A Piece of History
Hong Kong Island was first ceded to the British in perpetuity following the The First Opium War 1839-42, followed by the peninsula of Kowloon in 1860. The "New Territories" were later granted on a 99-year lease from 1898. Occupied by the Japanese during the Pacific War 1941-45, otherwise Hong Kong remained British until all the territories were finally handed back to the Chinese on 1st July 1997. Recognising by this time its unique cultural and economic status, which the Chinese did not wish to jeopardise, it was made a "Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China", retaining a degree of autonomy.

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Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower Arcadia at the Cruise Terminal
from the Star Ferry
Old Supreme Court (1912)
Legislative Council Building
Victoria Harbour
"Traditional" Pleasure Boat

On the Kowloon side, Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower dates from 1915 and is all that remains of the old Kowloon Railway Station, once the terminus of the Kowloon-Canton Railway. Over on the Island, the Old Supreme Court Building, was designed in 1912 by Sir Aston Webb, who was also responsible for The Mall in London, the Queen Victoria Memorial and the new frontage of Buckingham Palace. Since 1985, the building has housed the Hong Kong Legislative Council.

Toe-nails Under the Bed!
Our first dinner aboard was pleasant enough, although Andrew seemed unimpressed, as was Anny for her first cruise, not helped by discovering the remains of a toe-nail under the bed! We had also arranged a bottle of Champagne for her and this didn't arrive until after we reminded them. Perhaps we have become spoiled, travelling on 5-star ships; Arcadia is only 4-stars after all!

After dinner, we all went ashore and Anny came with me on the Star Ferry, just to go there and back but Andrew came ashore only long enough to take one photo and then went back to bed! Even I couldn't stay up much beyond midnight, so I retired at 12.15am. Arcadia sailed from the Kowloon Cruise Terminal at 1am in the morning. (right) The skyscrapers of Hong Kong by night. Show Picture Full Size

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Friday 5th March
A Day at Sea
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After the tiring journey yesterday, today was a day for finally unwinding from the stresses left behind at work, with a port-talk on Singapore in the morning and "Posh" Afternoon Tea in the Pacific Restaurant, which was quite nice but popular and busy, with us being "coralled" into sitting awkwardly at a table with strangers.
(left) The ships 3-deck high Atrium and its kinetic sculpture - which looks rather like a Swiss Army Knife!

Our first Formal Night commenced with the Captain's Cocktail Party, held in the ship's 3-deck high Atrium, where we struck up conversation with Jasmine, an attractive young lady travelling alone. Wearing an emerald-green dress and matching jewellery, we nicknamed her "The Green Goddess". We were greeted by Captain Rory Smith, whose confidence and British wit soon had us all relaxed.

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Century Lounge
E Deck (deck 6)
Our Formal Portrait Pacific Restaurant (Prom Deck 7)
The Maori War Canoe from SS Canberra
Welcome Dinner Menu
Open Dinner Menu >>

This was followed by the Welcome Aboard Dinner in the Pacific Restaurant, the meal much better received by Anny and Andrew than last night's, thankfully. Our Dining Room Stewards throughout the cruise were Alex and Elvis, who were friendly and efficient, while our Wine Steward was Vinay.

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Saturday 6th March
Da Nang, Vietnam
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The devastating Vietnam War of 1964-75 having ended just 14 years ago, our arrival was an education in humility because we were greeted by rows of young girls, all singing and dancing in welcome. The people are so poor and have suffered so much, and yet they made us all so embarrassingly welcome. I was just thankful that we were on a British ship, rather than an American one this time!
(above) Rows of young girls, singing and dancing their dockside welcome

Da Nang is little more than an overgrown fishing village and we docked at a commercial facility outside the town. Today, we had booked an all-day excursion to the Imperial City of Hué. It doesn't look that far on the map but at 70 miles (112km) from the ship, it was 3hrs each way over bumpy roads and with local humidity of 95%, it proved to be an exhausting, albeit enlightening day!

Show Picture Full Size The Imperial City of Hué
Built between 1804 and 1835 by thousands of workers for the Kings of the Nguyen Dynasty, the walled and moated Citadel covers more than 4 sq km and faces the Huong or "Perfume" River.
(left) The Noon Gate to the Imperial City of Hué

Within the Citadel is the Purple Forbidden City, with a number of palaces, temples and tombs, many of which were badly damaged or destroyed during the war. In 1993, the Imperial City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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Local Vendor Thai Hoa Palace
Hall of Supreme Harmony
Dragon roof-motif
(to ward-off evil spirits)
Gateway to the Hien Lam Pavilion
and 4 of the 9 Dynastic Urns

Just outside the Imperial City is the Thiên Mu Pagoda, the country's most famous Buddhist shrine dating from 1601. The temple complex includes a 3,285kg bell, cast in 1710, said to be audible 10km away. The 7-storey 21m tower was added in 1844.
(far right) The Phuóc Duyên Tower (1844) at the Thiên Mu Pagoda complex
Show Picture Full Size At the Huong Giang Hotel across the river, in a setting like that of an Agatha Christie novel, we were given a traditional Royal Lunch of Vietnamese dishes and entertainment by local singers & dancers.
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The Perfume River
Hué, Vietnam
Huong Giang Hotel, Hué
Lunch on the Perfume River
The Royal Tomb of Tu Doc (1847-83)
Lakeside Xung Khiem Pavilion & "supposed" Sepulchre

A Friendship that cost just $3
It was during lunch that they came round offering more drinks and it was only after taking a can of coke each that we realised we had to pay for them; somewhat strange since everything so far had been included and we had all been given a gift of a beautiful, hand-made laquered trinket-box, not to mention a conical Vietnamese hat!

But during lunch, we struck-up conversation with Joyce, a diminutive woman from Manchester travelling alone for the first time since the loss of her husband and, temporarily embarrassed for cash as we were, it was Joyce who gave us $3 for our cans of coke, thus beginning a friendship that would last many years and involve quite a few cruises!

Our visit to Hué concluded at the The Royal Tomb of Tu Doc, a 30-acre lakeside complex of temples and pleasure gardens built in 1867 for Emperor Tu Doc, who reigned from 1847 to 1883. His sepulchre is here but he was so afraid of grave robbers that his body was actually buried secretly somewhere else and the 200 workers involved were all beheaded! So they say....

Returning to the ship past paddy-fields and villages, our guide described, in a strangely matter-of-fact way, the devastation heaped on the landscape and its people during the war and how the vegetation, stripped bare by napalm and mass-bombing, was only now beginning to recover. Although the British were not involved, I still felt somehow guilty. Show Picture Full Size

Sunday 7th - Monday 8th March
2 Days at Sea - the South China Sea
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Having already discovered that Tiffany's did liqueur coffees all day, I introduced Andrew to what would become a mainstay of our mornings at sea for many years to come! Casual lunch in the Conservatory Buffet was unremarkable however, aside from it being marked by tinned fruit-salad!

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"Special" Morning Coffees!
The Conservatory
(tinned fruit-salad!)
The Card Room for Quizzes
The Palladium

We did respectably in the TV Themes Quiz in Trumps but Anny went on to win the phone-in quiz on the radio "Name that Tune" and I won the "Name that Film Theme" later-on. We both won prizes.

Sunday was our 2nd Formal Night and the after-dinner show was "The Sound of Their Music", with songs of Rogers & Hammerstein performed by P&O's Stadium Theatre Company. It was quite good.

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Tuesday 9th March
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We docked at 8.00am alongside Europa (1982 33,819grt), once the highest-rated cruise ship in the world, sold last year to Star Cruises of Malaysia but chartered back to her original owners, Hapag-Lloyd until June 1999.

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The once 5-star plus
Europa (1982 33,819grt)
View from Mt Faber
& the Sentosa Island Cable-Car
The Botanic Gardens

Our morning sightseeing tour began with a view from Mount Faber, 300ft above Keppel Harbour, across which the Aerial Cable-car leads to the pleasure-grounds of Sentosa Island.

Then it was an all-too-brief stop at the Botanic Gardens, a 183-acre park, begun in 1859 and today encompampassing (amongst other things) a natural rain forest and the National Orchid Garden. Unfortunately, given only a few minutes and no map, we hadn't a hope of discovering much of it!

The Cable-Car Disaster of 1983
Opened in 1974, the Singapore Cable-Car was the first in the world to span a harbour, connecting Mount Faber with the pleasure gardens on Sentosa Island via one intermediate station above the Harbour-front, an overall distance of 1,300yds. The ride takes around 12 minutes. However in 1983, an oil-rig was being towed from the harbour when the derrick of the rig became entangled in the cables, causing them to break. As a result, 2 cabins plunged 180ft into the sea, killing 7 people and leaving 13 others trapped in 4 other cabins. The Cable-car was closed for 7 months. Nevertheless, it celebrated its 25-millionth customer in 1995.

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Orchard Road
and the
Mandarin Hotel
Singapore Cricket Club (est.1852)
and the Supreme Court Building (1939)
Sri Marriamman
Hindu Temple (1827)
Trengganu Street

Our sightseeing tour continued at a hectic pace, stopping briefly at the Cricket Ground, the historic heart of the city before giving us "free-time" for shopping in Chinatown.

Another Piece of History
On an island at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles as a trading post of the East India Company with permission from the Sultan of Johor. The British obtained sovereignty by further treaty in 1824. During World War II, Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, returning to the British after their surrender in 1945.

Singapore declared independence in 1963, initially joining the Federation of Malaysia but bitter disagreements with the other states resulted in Malaysia expelling Singapore from the Federation in 1965. Singapore was already a diverse, multi-ethnic society with high equality aspirations but, suspicious of Singapore's large Chinese population, the other Malay states insisted on a pro-indigenous society. Singapore is today a thriving, independent city-state with a population of more than 4 million; it is one of the world's major commercial hubs and is the fourth-largest financial centre in the world.

At the waterfront, the Merlion began as a Tourist Board logo in 1964; a mythical fish with the head of a lion, it represents Singapore's origins as a fishing village but development around it has left it somewhat beleaguered. (Now a National Icon, in 2002 the statue was moved to a better position)

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The Merlion
National Icon
Sir Stamford Raffles
Founder of modern Singapore
Keppel Harbour
Europa (1982: 33,819grt) with
Arcadia (1989: 63,564grt) behind

Show Picture Full Size Afternoon Tea at Raffles Hotel - "An island fortress in a seige of traffic."
We were back at the ship for barely an hour before we were off again to Raffles Hotel, founded in 1887 and considered the colonial heart of British Singapore. Tea was very nice, although we arrived at the rear entrance of the hotel and our group was served in the Billiard Room, which didn't seem quite as "grand" as we had expected. But afterwards, we explored further and we discovered the quiet verandas and Rattan furniture of the Fern Court.

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Afternoon Tea
in the Billiard Room
The Fern Court
Rattan Furniture Fountain
The Fern Court
The Main Lobby

The Singapore Sling
The famous "Singapore Sling" cocktail (gin, cherry brandy, lemon juice and soda) was invented in the Long Bar at Raffles in 1903. Sadly, in the hotel renovation of 1989-91, the original Long Bar frequented by the likes of Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and Ernest Hemingway was relocated and when we found its new location on the 2nd floor, we also discovered that it wasn't only the recipe that had changed over the years but the price too! Luckily, we didn't have enough time - or enough money - to enjoy one!

Again we were back at the ship for barely an hour before departing again at 6.30pm on our 3rd trip of the day, to the world's first "Night Safari", about an hour's drive north from the city.

I was a bit cynical at first and the tram-ride around the park was a bit like a Disney theme-park ride but some of the animals were quite endearing and while we didn't see any "big cats", the best bits were on the other "Trails" you could explore on your own. The Bats were quite an experience!
(Photos below from the Night Safari booklet)

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Night Safari - a Bharal
A Tibetan mountain sheep
Frolicking Otters
at the Night Safari
The Lodge
substitute for dinner on board
"Raffles" Menu Cover
Open Dinner Menu >>

But it was just as well the Park's cafeteria was quite good because to do this 3rd trip of the day, we had missed dinner on board and when we finally returned to Arcadia around 10.30pm, we had to visit the Midnight Buffet for another snack before the ship sailed at midnight!

Singapore was wonderful and we loved it, although I dubbed it "The Frantic Utopia" for all its traffic; but the city was so clean and well organised, with such a cosmopolitan mix of peoples and styles.

Wednesday 10th March
A Day at Sea
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After such a hectic day of tours in Singapore yesterday, we needed a day to recover and the warm sea breeze was a welcome change from the hot and humid air on land. Arcadia was now heading north-west through the Malacca Strait and in his regular noon announcement from the Bridge, our verbose Officer of the Watch wished us all "a mellifluous afternoon"!

"Wieldy", our verbose Officer of the Watch
We were becoming used to the friendly voice of Arcadia's Officer of the Watch in his announcements from the Bridge, especially his colourful use of English. Each day, he would have a new word for us; it might be "a scintillating afternoon" or "zipping zephyrs across the deck"; the other day, he wished us "a magnanimous afternoon"!

Anyone who watched "Dalziel & Pascoe" on TV around this time might recall a character by the name of Det. Sgt. Wield, or "Wieldy" to his colleagues. Played by Manchester-born David Royle, he became a regular secondary character and his voice sounded so much like that of our Officer of the Watch that I got to calling him "Wieldy". I've no idea what his real name was!

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Thursday 11th March
Phuket Island, Thailand
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It was already a humid 84-deg C when we dropped anchor off Patong Beach on the western side of the island to tender ashore. I wanted to visit Phang Nga Bay, the location of "James Bond Island", but there was no organised tour there and I wasn't brave enough to go independently, so we took the only ship's tour available...
(left) Arcadia at anchor off Patong Beach, Phuket Island, Thailand

James Bond Island
About 25 miles north from the other side of the island lies Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park, an area of coastal mangrove forests and numerous coral limestone islands, the most famous of which is Khao Phing Kan, used as a location in the 1974 James Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun".
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Today, we teamed-up with new friend Joyce for this 6-hr tour, high-spot of which was a visit to the temple at Wat Chalong (or Wat Chaithararam), a colourful example of early 19th-century Thai architecture and the most visited of Phuket's 29 Buddhist temples. Here we removed our shoes to enter the prayer hall and see the golden Buddha.
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Preparing the tenders Me, Andrew & Anny
with our new friend Joyce
Wat Chaithararam (Wat Chalong)

Show Picture Full Size Outside, locals lit fire-crackers in a kind of oven, a traditional way of showing gratitude for a wish having been granted. There were other buildings too, including a 60m-tall "Chedi" housing a splinter of Buddha's bone in a glass case. However, as is typical of tours like this, we weren't given enough time here to see everything properly.
(left) Internet photo of the 60m-tall Chedi at Wat Chaithararam (Wat Chalong)

Frustratingly, there was plenty of time for the seemingly interminable Thai Village Show. Though it was colourful and interesting in parts, it seemed to me that even some of the dancers looked a bit bored! It was very hot and humid and in the middle of it all we experienced a "monsoon" downpour.

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Village Show
The Elephant Show Arcadia's stranded Lifeboat
A tender fouls a propeller and has to be rescued by one of the other tenders

There was an Elephant Show too but while some of their circus-style tricks were endearing, I couldn't help feeling that it was all a bit degrading for these majestic creatures.

Lunch consisted of lots of tasty local dishes, many of them fish, which didn't please Andrew and this was followed by a visit to a gemstone factory. Meanwhile, Joyce realised that she had lost her purse and was convinced that it had been stolen!

Back at Patong Beach, a ship's tender fouled its propeller on some fishing line and had to be rescued by one of the other tenders, resulting in long queues on the beach waiting to get back to the ship.

Friday 12th - Saturday 13th March
2 Days at Sea - the Indian Ocean
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Back at sea, there was another respite from the high humidity ashore; although it was 84-86 deg.C, the sea breeze made it much more pleasant. Anny was proving to be a bit of a "lay-a-bed" on sea days but once she was up, she and Andrew sun-bathed a lot!

Exploring the ship, I discovered the quiet Canberra Room, a writing room opposite the library, dedicated to the ship's illustrious predecessor, SS Canberra. Memorabilia included a wonderful ship model and a watercolour by Andrew Dibben, a rare copy of which hangs on our staircase at home!

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Promenade Deck
The Canberra Room D-Deck (8)
& Watercolour of SS Canberra by Andrew Dibben
Festival Theatre
Dedicated Cinema (Deck-5)

Show Picture Full Size For 2 days, we enjoyed the more passive ship's activities; morning liqueur coffees (except Anny, who wasn't up yet!), watching ice-carving on deck or the flying fish and porpoises at sea, pizza or the Asian Buffet for lunch and the ship's cool haven, a dedicated cinema, where we wasted an afternoon watching "The Avengers"!

Being part of Arcadia's World Cruise resulted in us having 5 Formal Nights on this cruise but only one "Informal Night" ie. Jacket & Tie - and Saturday night was it!
(left) Starboard Bear! I am "nabbed" for a photo with a cuddly bear outside the Pacific Restaurant!

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Sunday 14th March
Colombo, Sri Lanka
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Described as an "Emerald in the Indian Ocean", nothing prepared us for the squalor we would witness in this country rich in 3,000 yrs of cultural history.
(left) Arcadia alongside in Columbo, Sri Lanka

Perhaps the fact that Sri Lanka was still in the grip of a civil war with the Tamil Tigers in the north had something to do with it, although thankfully, we did not experience any trouble of that nature.

The Tamil Tigers
Although rich in a long history of kingdoms, colonisation began with the Portuguese in 1505, when the island became known as Ceylon, then with the Dutch and eventually the British in 1815, initially through the British East India Company but later as a Dominion, eventually leading to independence in 1948.

70% of the population are Sinhalese Buddhists, while 20% are Muslim or Hindhu Tamils, predominantly in the north. Inter-racial problems broke out in 1981 and escalated into civil war in 1983, the army of the north (the "Tamil Tigers") demanding a seperate state. Amidst reports of human rights violations and accusations of ethnic cleansing, between 80-100,000 people are believed to have been killed in the war, many of them civilians, but it would not be until 2009 that the Tamils would finally surrender.

Sadly, our tour began badly. The PA system on the coach wouldn't work and the air-conditioning was faulty; we changed buses but it wasn't much better. Our guide was useless and the unbearable heat & humidity made matters worse. We saw nothing of Colombo but squalid roadside shanties on the way to Pasgama Theme Village. We were greeted with fresh pineapple and salt, a traditional and welcome refreshment, but there was a lot of standing around and our promised "Lunch of Kings" proved to be a disappointing buffet served in a smokey and claustrophobic "theme-village" hut.

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"Theme Village"
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
(established 1975)
Youths Bathing
in the Maha Oya River
Adult Elephant
at Pinnawala

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a government-run sanctuary founded in 1975 to save young and baby orphaned elephants found in the wild, although the sanctuary also now has its own breeding programme.

Here the elephants are penned at night but free to roam by day and they are herded twice a day to bathe and drink in the river. Some adults are trained for work and are later sold, a practice being called into question by the sanctuary's detractors.
(right) A young Python is draped over the shoulders of one of our passengers!
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Beside the busy track down to the river were various hawkers and snake-charmers, all begging for money. Fortunately, we arrived just in time for the elephants' afternoon bathe but with all the time wasted earlier, we only had 45 minutes here. My irritation was compounded by an unscheduled stop on the way back to the ship at a Batique Factory outlet - although Anny was quite pleased!

Show Picture Full Size By the time we got back, we were all fractious but it didn't stop Anny buying herself a birthstone in the quayside market before reboarding the ship!

After dinner, at which we all drank water, the others joined the deck-party, Dancing Under the Stars, while I went to the Show, an interesting choice of moving songs performed by P&O's own Bruce Morrison. He was rather good.
(left) "Inspiration" with Bruce Morrison, Musical Director for P&O's Stadium Theatre Company

Monday 15th - Wednesday 17th March
3 Days at Sea - Crossing the Indian Ocean
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Spent most of the first morning queuing; queuing with everyone else to complain about yesterday's tour to the Elephant Sanctuary (as a result of which, we all got a 40% refund), then queuing again for luggage lables for Thursday's flight home! Consequently, we missed the quiz! However, Anny made up for it later by winning the afternoon Pop Quiz on a tie-break question!

Today we passed through the Maldives by way of the middle or "Kardiva Passage". see Map >>

Arcadia's Horizon Lounge

One of our favourite spots on the ship was the Horizon Lounge up on deck-14. With panoramic windows all around and a good dance-floor, this lovely circular lounge was seldom too crowded and it became our lounge of choice for pre-dinner drinks each evening. It was also where Joyce & I got to know each other better over a night-cap, talking well into the wee-small hours.
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At Sea
The Indian Ocean
The Pacific Restaurant
Well-designed in "zones" around the funnel casing
Yours Truly!

Tuesday 16th was Anny's birthday and we invited new friend Joyce to join our table for dinner. It was the last of 5 Formal Nights and Anny, who got distinctly "tiddly", was given the traditional treatment of a birthday cake and waiters singing "Happy Birthday!" - out of tune but great fun!

Crossing the Equator - but no celebrations!
During the night, Arcadia crossed the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere but I was disappointed there was no "Crossing the Line" celebration the next day. Never having crossed the Equator before, we had heard all about the traditional "dunking" games usually played at such times, and with it being the last day of the cruise, we could all have done with something to distract us from having to do the packing for the long flight home! However, disappointment would be the least of our concerns.....

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Thursday 18th March
Port Victoria, Mahé, Seychelles
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Docking opposite the local fish canning factory, the romance of our first port in the southern hemisphere was rudely broken by the smell of raw fish! But frustrated that we would see nothing of this beautiful island, events would take a surprising turn...
(left) Port Victoria, the island of Mahé, Seychelles - opposite the fish canning factory!

Our Monarch Airlines P&O charter flight to London Gatwick was due to depart at 12.10 but at 8.30am, the Captain announced that our flight had been delayed and we wouldn't be leaving until this evening, some 12hrs late. In the meantime, we could still have the use of our cabins until 6pm!

However, having packed and sent-off our luggage the night before, all we had were our overnight things and the travel clothes we were wearing. Meanwhile, the temperature was already in the humid 80's! But I was determined not to miss this opportunity, so while the others tried to make up their minds what to do, I changed back into my (rather stylish) shorty pyjamas and went ashore!

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The Clock Tower (1903)
The RC Cathedral
of the Immaculate Conception
Capuchin House (1833)
once a priests' seminary
The Bus Station

The Victoria Clock Tower is a copy of the clock known as "Little Ben" that stands near Victoria Station in London and was made by the same clock-makers, Gillet & Johnson of Croydon, England. Shipped to the Seychelles in pieces, it was assembled and erected in 1903, the year the Seychelles became a Crown Colony, but it has never chimed, owing to a faulty striking mechanism that was never repaired (NB - until the clock was refurbished in September 1999 and a new quartz movement installed!)

Heading for the bus station, I bought a ticket on the No.5 bus all around the coast to the south of the island, past quiet, sun-kissed beaches, eventually getting off near the beach at Baie Lazare.

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The Beach at Baie Lazare
South Mahé Island
A hill climb!
West Coast Road
On the bus

It was so beautiful and tempting; if only I had been dressed for the occasion, I would have gone in the sea. As it was, I made the mistake of deciding to walk on up the road, which seemed to get steeper and hotter, the further I went. Fortunately, I found a nice restaurant, where I had lunch and an ice-cold drink before taking the nearby No.11 bus back to Victoria through the mountains; a wonderful scenic tour of the island, if an exhausting day, and yes, spent entirely in my pyjamas!

I got back to the ship by 4.15pm, just as Anny and Joyce were returning from a free city tour of Victoria, hastily arranged by the ship's Tours Office. Andrew had stayed aboard, trying to avoid the smell of fish wafting over the decks from the canning factory! Meanwhile, we learned that our flight was now going to be even later than previously expected and that we should all have dinner aboard.

After dinner, the others joined the Under the Sea Party on deck while I went to listen to the lovely voice of Bruce Morrison again in his show "Bruce Morrison sings Passion".

Friday 19th March
Our Monarch Airlines Flight to Gatwick

Eventually assembling in the ship's Festival Theatre at 1.15am, we were transferred to the airport in the dead of night, where the terminal facilities were all closed. Our plane arrived at 3.30am, carrying a load of visibly weary passengers making their way to Arcadia, but the plane then had to be cleaned and serviced, so it wasn't until 5.45am that we finally took-off for the UK.

After 4¾ hours in a cramped Boeing 737, we landed at Luxor, Egypt for refuelling, where the authorities insisted on fumigating the plane (and us) and then leaving the doors open, while we sweltered on the tarmac for 1½ hours. With another 5½-hour flight to Gatwick, we finally arrived at 1.30pm local time, almost 12 hours after take-off and 17½ hours later than originally expected!

Fortunately John had been keeping track of us and having taken another day off work, was waiting at Gatwick with the car. However, the Friday afternoon traffic on the M25 was dreadful and we didn't get home until nearly 5pm.

Although I threatened never again to do a cruise involving a charter-flight, within a year we were back again with P&O and Arcadia, with Anny and Joyce and John! The Homecoming Cruise 2000 >>

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 4,988 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 68,651 n miles