Category Archives: Canada and Greenland

Friday – Last Day At Sea – The Grand Exhibition



Today was our last day at sea. To mark the occasion, Rudolph Nureyev (a statue of the iconic dancer is situated on the Pool Deck, aft) was sporting a flowery red and white bikini and knickers, holding a plastic CMV carrier bag, and wearing a stripey bathing cap. It’s not the first time someone has adorned him in such a fashion on this trip; earlier on in the cruise, he was given some pink rubber gloves and a sunhat, and had a blue ball of wool strung between his hands; culprit or culprits unknown. Most people seem to find it funny (I think it’s hilarious), but the odd one or two passengers seemed mortally offended by such an outrage. All I could think of was; how did they get the knickers on him?

I spent the morning producing some last minute paintings from the trip and after a leisurely lunch, it was time to set the exhibition up.

Fortunately, I had lots of helpers. Many eager passengers from the classes turned up to muck in; I had three people applying blu-tack or masking tape to the backs of paintings while about half a dozen others took on the task of sticking them up on the walls of the corridor outside the Craft Room. It left me with not a lot to do except orchestrate the positioning of the paintings, and make sure that they were ‘hung’ as randomly as possible, avoiding being in subject order or artist order.

The 150 or so paintings were up in no time at all (about thirty minutes), and ready for the official start time of 2pm. Peter (the wood) Counsell had a table set up for his wooden items in the adjacent Columbus Lounge, and Barbara and Kathy set their stuff up inside the Craft Room. For a couple of hours, it was busy, with fellow passengers marveling at the sheer volume of talent on show.




It all looked fantastic, of course. Despite a few reservations, and a reluctance on the part of a few participants to provide paintings for the show, even those who were worried about whether or not their work would be good enough, all agreed that when they’re hung together in this way, they look good (they never believe me… but they do… they always do…). Like a mother hen, I felt proud of my group, and enjoyed the fact that they, too, seemed to feel proud of their own individual achievements. All the paintings seemed to shine.

In the immortal words of Mary Poppins and Bart Simpson… My work is done here.

Tomorrow morning we will be arriving back at the Port of Tilbury, where the trip began five weeks ago, and I’ll be travelling home to North Yorkshire.

It’s been an interesting cruise, with some notable highlights. Speaking for myself; the icebergs in Greenland reign supreme (the mosquitos were memorable too, but for the wrong reasons), and it was nice to see Iceland in a more positive light. For me, also; visiting Canada was an entirely new experience, of which Quebec City stands out in my memory as a particular highlight.

I hope that everyone reading this has enjoyed sharing the voyage with me (I know there are a fair number of you because I can see the statistics). My next cruise assignment is in October, when I’ll be returning to the Mediterranean on Swan Hellenic’s Minerva.

In the meantime, it only remains for me to say once more…

Happy 50th Birthday Marco Polo!

Thursday – Ringaskiddy, Cork, Ireland

Today, we arrived at out final destination; Ringaskiddy, which is on the opposite side of the River Lee to Cobh, and a thirty-minute shuttle-bus ride to the city of Cork.

As we weren’t arriving until 11am, I busied myself throughout the morning with a few little jobs I’ve been meaning to do.

One of those jobs was to sew a button onto a pair of trousers. Actually; the button hadn’t come off, but it has been hanging on by only a couple of threads for a while now, and I didn’t want it pinging off at an inopportune moment, so it needed re-sewing to secure it.

When you first board the ship, there are a few little freebies in the cabin; nothing spectacular – shampoo and shower cap, for instance… also a small sewing kit, which I retrieved to do the long-overdue job. I’d taken it out of its box some while ago, and now that I came to look at it, I was slightly miffed to notice that it didn’t have a needle in with it. It had threads and a safety pin, but no needle, and I wondered if I’d inadvertently thrown it out out when I’d discarded the box.

I collared my cabin steward and asked him about it; he confirmed that the kit should have a needle, and proceeded to get me a replacement kit – two, in fact.

So, I sat down to do my needlework, but… could I get the thread through the needle?….

Try as I might, I struggled away, but to no avail. I inspected the needle closer, and came to the conclusion that there was a problem with it. When I took out the needle from the other replacement pack, I discovered the same thing. The hole – if there indeed was one – was tiny, and no amount of coaxing and shoving was going to going to make it any bigger. By now, I was getting pretty grumpy. I hate needlework jobs at the best of times, and a defective needle was all I needed. I went in search for the cabin steward again, but couldn’t find him… my neighbours, from two cabins down, however, were just leaving, and I pounced on them, asking if they had a decent needle and thread. The lady was very helpful, and was in the process of sorting me out something from her own sewing kit, when the cabin steward reappeared. I explained to him that I was having trouble threading the needles, and told him that both of those he’d given me were defective. At which point, he insisted on looking at it… and in an instant, he’d threaded the needle…

My eyesight isn’t quite what it used to be, but I’d swear there wasn’t a hole; I was mightily impressed with his performance… I’d have been even more impressed if he’d sewed the button on for me, but he wasn’t having any of that.

I wasn’t on tour today, so after lunch, I decided to take the complementary shuttle bus into Cork City Centre.

Unfortunately, the weather was on and off all afternoon, showers and brief sunshine being the order of the day. And when it rained… boy, did it rain!

After being dropped in the city centre, I took a walk around. The centre of Cork is built on an island between two forks of the River Lee. It’s nice enough, but I was restless, and wasn’t really in the mood for shopping, which, as far as I could see, was the only thing on offer. I’m sure there are lots of things to see and do in the city, but the rain wasn’t helping, and eventually, I fulfilled my primary objective… When in Ireland, find a pub and drink a pint of Guiness… it’s the law!

I spent a happy hour in Canty’s Bar, savouring my Guiness and troughing my way through a packet of salted peanuts, while checking emails and doing updates on my tablet and phone on the free bar wi-fi, before heading back towards City Hall. Just before I got there, the heavens opened yet again, and by the time I climbed onto the bus, with only seconds to spare, I was absolutely drenched.

This afternoon, we were treated to what can only be described as an impromptu, bonus performance from a classical singer called Amanda Neary. I’m not sure where she came from, or how it all came about, but the performance was announced at 4:45pm, telling us that it would take place in the Show lounge at 5:15pm. She sang us a few operatic ditties and songs from the shows like Les Miserables and My Fair Lady, concluding with ‘Dannny Boy’ and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’, to an appreciative, if sparse, audience of 70 or 80 people, who happened to respond to the announcement.

We’ve now left Ireland and are on the final leg of our voyage, heading towards Tilbury, in London, where we are due to arrive om Saturday morning. Tomorrow will be our last sea day, and in the afternoon, we will be holding our Grand Exhibition. Bring it on…

Wednesday – Last Lessons

Today, I held my final lessons of the cruise.

After the alarm clock malfunction of yesterday, I made sure that I was up bright and early, to a 7:30am alarm, so that I could spend the morning painting. I painted yet another iceberg (they realy are addictive), and some gannets from Bonaventure Island, and was in the Craft Room settting up by 12:30pm.

After the last class, I held my brief ‘Jumble Sale’ of all the work I’d produced during the sessions of the last five weeks, and this evening, after I’d finished packing away the palettes and brushes, and cleaned up for the last time, I just felt drained of all energy. It’s always nice to get to the end of things, but it is like the brain and body just seem to go into freefall and all I really want to do is sleep.

Of course; it’s not quite the end of all things. Tomorrow, we will be in Ireland and then on Friday afternoon, our final day at sea, we will be holding a grand exhibition of everyone’s work.

It’s Formal Night tonight… that’ll be a takeout and a movie in the cabin for me, then…

Tuesday – Not So Rocky

This morning I awoke suddenly. I’m not sure if I slept through my alarm, woke to the alarm, turned it off and went back to sleep again, or if I’d completely forgotten to set the alarm in the first place. Either way, I awoke slightly disorientated, realised the time was almost 9am, got dressed quickly and dashed upstairs to Marco’s for breakfast, which would be finishing at 9:30am.

It doesn’t help with the deadlights being closed; those are the bolt-down hatches that cover the portholes during rough weather. It doesn’t matter what time you wake up, it always feels like the middle of the night.

The good news is that the deadlight locker-upper came around this morning and opened them up. The rocky seas have subsided somewhat, hence their opening… daylight! Luxury!

The rest of the day was pretty humdrum. Although the sun made an appearance, it’s still been cold and windy outside (apparently), so the lounges have remained busy.

I held my penultimate classes today, in which I ran through the ‘Composition Checklist’; a list of dos and don’ts for designing a new painting (or fixing a broken one), and urged everyone to bring along their paintings in readiness for Friday’s exhibition. Some folks are reticent (as they always are), but the pile of work is growing nicely.

Tonight, we put our clocks forward one hour for the last time; tomorrow, we will be in UK time, and approaching our final destination, Ireland.

Monday – Just Another Day At Sea

Not a lot has happened today; such is life at sea…

My general routine is to set the alarm for 7:30am, have breakfast around 8am, then take a short walk through the ship, stopping off to chat to Barbara and Kathy in the Craft Room or Peter (the Wood) and Jean in Palm Garden, and picking up a ‘Britain Today’ from Reception, which keeps me up-to-date with anything that’s happening back home.

Back in my cabin, I’ll spend an hour writing emails or the blog or catching up on my online students before heading back upstairs to the lounges where the wi-fi signal is, to check for new emails and update stuff. However; one of the problems with the weather being horrible is that it drives folks indoors, and it’s almost impossible to find anywhere to sit. Even having got up at 7:30am, and had an early breakfast, I was amazed to discover how many people had already bagged seats in the Captain’s Club for the morning quiz and bean-bag bowls.

By 10am, I’m generally back in my cabin, where I will continue working on online student work, or, as this morning, I get my paints out to do some painting of my own. Today, I painted the rocks along the beach at Cap-aux-Meules. By 12 noon, I was packing my gear away, listening to the Captain’s noon-day address, when he tells us how far we’ve come from the last port and how far we have to go to the next port. He tells us how deep the sea is beneath us, what the temperature is outside, which direction the wind is coming from, and at what speed, and how high the sea swell is in metres. He always finishes by advising us to take care when walking around the ship and to hold on to the hand rails when the ship is rocking, and wishing us a good day on the Marco Polo. His address is usually followed by Richard the Cruise Director giving us a quick lineup of what’s going on around the ship today.

At 12:30pm, I’m in the Congference Room (Craft Room), setting up the tables for my first class to the accompaniment of awful piped lift-music, which, when it’s playing in the Columbus Lounge, also plays in the Craft Room, and drives me completely nuts, it’s so bad. I’m generally finished by about 1:10pm, giving me enough time to go and grab some lunch in Marcos before letting folks in at around 1:45pm, fifteen minutes before the class is due to start (even though they’ve been queuing outside the room since about 1:30pm.

Almost without fail (even after almost five weeks), I have to pop across to the bar on the opposite side of the Columbus Lounge (which is where the Craft Room is situated), to ask them to turn the piped music off because I can’t hear myself think, never mind try and conduct a class through it. Today, the barman actually caught my eye before I loped across the lounge, and all I did was perform a quick universal neck-cutting gesture (cut!), and he knew what I meant; someone asked if, by that, my gesture was meant for the music or the barman…

My first class is at 2pm, and the second class is at 4pm, giving me roughly thirty minutes to change the water and straighten things between classes. I’ve trained them all to clean their own brushes and wipe out the small ceramic mixing palettes at the end of the session to save me some time.

The class times have fluctuated slightly throughout the voyage. They started out at 1:30pm and 3:30pm, but got changed so that the earlier group had a little more time to get their lunch (which suits me fine, because it means I, too, get lunch). Today, however, several folks in the later group asked me if the time could be changed back to 3:30pm, because those on early sitting for dinnner in the Waldorf Restaurant don’t have much time to get themselves ready for that. Wednesday (our very last class) will also be the final Formal Night, so they need extra time to glam-up… so the time will be reverting to 3:3pm on that day.

My last class finishes, and I’ve usually got everyone out of the room, by about 5:30pm, and have everything packed away and the room tidy by 6pm. I return the Craft Room key to Reception and head back to the cabin. I have about an hour then, to pop back upstairs and use the wi-fi to check emails, and am back downstairs, showered and changed, ready for dinner in Marco’s at just gone 7pm.

At 8pm, I’m generally heading into the Show Lounge, where the barman has my pint of John Smiths poured out and ready for me almost before I’ve sat down on one of the bar stools at the back of the theatre. Tonight, the show was ”The Magic of Musicals’, which I’ve seen loads of times before, and is a good show… but nothing beats the magic of a pint of John Smiths after a long, uneventful day at sea.

The clocks go forward one hour again tonight, so it’s a takeout from the Columbus Lounge bar and a movie (‘Fury’ with Brad Pitt) in the cabin.