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Everything posted by Fletcher

  1. I've been sifting through a lot of old photos, mainly prints and slides which I converted a few years ago into digital files. Now I'm backing them up from DVDs to a portable hard drive. Don't worry. I'm not going to bore you with them. But maybe only this one which might amuse some of you. I love immersive wildlife experiences and count my trips to Africa and Antarctica, for example, as one of the best things I've ever done. As a young schoolboy I had a friend whose big sister worked at London Zoo and I remember going behind the scenes there and holding a lion cub. But in the mid-1980s I was able to meet many Hollywood actors and directors and one day a friend took me out of Los Angeles to the Soledad Canyon to meet Tippi Hedren, the actress best known for two Hitchcock movies - The Birds and Marnie - and also for her Shambala Reserve where she kept a great number of big cats. While Tippi never let us get close to the tigers she did let us walk with her pride of lions and, I have to tell you, sitting on the ground with a fully mature male lion towering above you is something I'll never forget. I don't have a photo of that but I do have this shot of me and one of her leopards.
  2. I had some fun yesterday. A week ago I learned that the most famous steam locomotive ever built in the UK, the Flying Scotsman, was being hosted by a nearby heritage line, the Mid Norfolk Railway. It was doing runs for paying train buffs but yesterday it was leaving the area and heading for a town called Carnforth in Lancashire, about 250 miles away, and famous for its steam heritage as well as being the location for David Lean and Noel Coward's classic 1945 movie Brief Encounter. Anyway, I got up early and took this snap of the train as it thundered past -
  3. I've not seen any foodie pics lately so I thought I'd show you all last night's supper, courtesy of Jamie Oliver. It was the first partridge dish of the season and the birds were shot locally but not by me. Firstly I took the breasts and the legs and thighs off the carcasses. Then I enriched a homemade chicken stock with the carcasses. Next I simmered some pearly barley in water for about 40 mins and allowed it to steam dry. For the final preparation I sweated a red onion in olive oil, added frozen peas and the pearl barley and simmered in the stock for ten minutes. Then I thickened it slightly with beurre manie and added a shredded little gem lettuce. In a frying pan I cooked the legs and thighs, then added the breasts, some pancetta and thyme. Heaped it on top of the barley mix. Voila!
  4. I see your logic about the workers with more money and less time, but as someone for whom the reverse is true I didn't think the cruise down Chile and then up to BA was a waste of time. It was nice to relax, acclimatise, admire the scenery, enjoy the ship etc before the 'hard work' started south of Ushuaia and then wind down, enjoy the ship, work on photos etc on the way up to BA. The flights worked well for us so that we flew direct to the ship and back again without bothering with hotels anywhere. And we avoided the hassle of the cramped charter flight.
  5. Chile and Argentina both OK - no quarantine on return - for UK citizens from Monday. So maybe, yes, they cancelled too soon. But there might be other reasons behind the cancellation.
  6. Regent has a Baltic cruise which visits the mysterious Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
  7. Catlover . . . I can't do better than Sunprince above. I've not seen the Fall spectacular in this area but I always reckoned it was a road trip, basing yourself in a couple of hotels and waiting for the right light, the right time of day, the right reflection and colour. I think some of these lodges are linked to a 'Fall Watch' system in the same way that safari lodges know where the lions are. Cruises in this regard are pretty inflexible. Our only cruise in this area was mainly to see Greenland so we were too early for the colours.
  8. All part of the service . . . Colombo has a few architectural survivals but nothing worth the hassle of checking in and out of a hotel. A drive through will give you the flavour. The beach area near the newishly renovated Galle Face Hotel is very buzzy, a bit like a mini-Mumbai. Otherwise there is a nice boutique hotel near the airport called Wallawwa. I like the look of this trip, especially the Andamans. The Burmese islands are a bit off the map, like those Bangladeshi islands the Explorer visited a few years ago.
  9. If you have the time, Ceylon Tea Trails is an unmissable hotel experience - five converted tea planters' bungalows, each with four or five luxury suites, set in the glorious tea plantation scenery. The company which owns it, Resplendent Ceylon, also have two coastal properties in the south, one of them a sort of safari lodge, the other on a clifftop. You can get a seaplane taxi between them all. As far as beach resorts go, we loved Saman Villas, a relatively easy drive south from Colombo. Sea swimming can be treacherous at any time of year - there is no reef - so a great pool is essential. Beach walks are spectacular, especially if there is a fishing village nearby as there was when we also stayed at Calamansi Cove. I might add - along with many other Asian and SE Asian nations, I think Sri Lanka is best done as a land-based trip. The pool at Saman Villas -
  10. Personally I prefer the vibe on the Seabourn ships - a little more relaxed perhaps and a more flexible approach to the dreaded dress code thing. Silversea also has butlers for every category of cabin. Not a fan of this either - it just adds to the overall tone of starchiness and snobbery that ever so slightly pervades the Silversea ships. Regent is also far more relaxed than Silversea and even Seabourn. All three offer virtually identical levels of service and luxury. However, Seabourn Square is unique - Silversea has nothing like it and is the poorer for that. There may be more Europeans, like me, on the Silversea ships than there are on Seabourn. Yes I totally agree that food is subjective - but I also prefer Seabourn and I say that without liking the Keller restaurant at all. Silversea has this appallingly naff 'hot rocks' thing which encourages you to grill your own steak and cover your neighbours with smoke. Some people seem to like it . . . Silversea also charge extra for some dining venues which is a drawback for me and adds to the tone of snobbery and 'exclusivity.' In the end it's always the itinerary for me and with their current fleet of four expedition vessels Silversea has by far the most interesting itineraries.
  11. The OP was asking about small ships - about 40 passengers, so the Saga ships with 1000 passengers are rather too large. This is the sort of thing the OP is looking for - https://cruisecroatia.com
  12. I seem to remember that James Bond once spent the night in Dover . . . in the novel Goldfinger.
  13. I wouldn't spend two minutes in Dover. It has a great castle, the famous Vera Lynn cliffs and 1000s of migrants but you will see all that from the ship. The train station is quite a long walk from the port. We landed back here on the Ovation and organised a car to take us to Heathrow where we had left our car. You might be better off staying in London but the best sort-of-nearby hotel choice would be Gravetye Manor - the perfect classic country house hotel and ideal for a pre-cruise stay, especially if you fly in to Gatwick. It's still an hour's drive from Dover. However, a taxi would be easy to arrange. Canterbury is another dump and in August overrun with tourists assuming we are back to normal by then.
  14. I hardly ever use a travel agent - can't see the point of them really, although I did use one for organising our last big trip to South America which involved 11 flights and 11 hotels. But for the Galapagos portion of the trip we booked directly with Silversea who gave us a tremendous discount and highly detailed service. Our TA's arrangements got us to Quito, Silversea took over from there until Guayaquil, then TA took over again and got us to Colombia. As far as Antarctica is concerned, do make the effort to book a trip which includes South Georgia and maybe the Falklands as well. I believe the market leader in this sector remains Lindblad/National Geographic, especially with their new ship.
  15. Thanks people. Discovery remains moored off the beach at Portimao and now looks set to make Lisbon on the 20th and back on schedule.
  16. I started the thread to show what cruising is like these days. Over on the Seabourn and Silversea boards we get live reports all the time and they are very helpful and interesting. Very few people report live from Saga ships but I guess that the majority of Saga passengers might just be content staying aboard anyway and don't bother that much about ports of call . . . I just happen to be someone who really only cares about the itinerary and this Saga cruise is a perfect illustration of why I am not booking anything with any cruise line just yet.
  17. I may be wrong but I'm not so sure the Discovery made Dubrovnik on 13 September. The ship seems to have moored a long way off and did a few turns before heading away. Whether or not the ship landed people at Dubrovnik means that the crew member who tested positive, cancelling their planned visit to Ajaccio four days later, must have caught it elsewhere, such as on the ship itself.
  18. I got the full Grandeur brochure today with all the pics and deck plans. It looks far less bling than the Splendor, which is a good thing, but the big drawback for me is the shrinking outside deck space and Regent's bewildering refusal to provide a forward-facing outer deck. There is this big Observation Bar but no outside space, such as you get on the Seabourn ships. Some of us like to see where we are going. This alone is enough to stop me climbing aboard this ship - that, and the same-old, same-old itineraries.
  19. Friends of ours are aboard the Discovery which sailed from Tilbury on 2 September. Our friends have never heard of the internet so I have been monitoring things myself and this trip so far has been full of surprises, perhaps disappointments. The original itinerary included stops in Gibraltar, Valetta, Venice, Hvar, Split, Kotor, Ajaccio, Lisbon and Porto Leixoes. Venice was dropped before departure. Gibraltar, Valetta and Split were visited as per schedule. Dubrovnik replaced Kotor which is in red-listed Montenegro. Ajaccio was abandoned for unknown reasons so the ship has sailed non-stop from the Adriatic into the Atlantic. Discovery now appears to be heading for Portimao on the Algarve which would be its first stop in six days. I guess this sort of thing has become commonplace.
  20. According to the Seabourn website the Quest is only doing one Antarctica trip in 2023 and that also includes South Georgia and two stops in the Falklands. That might explain the hike in prices though prices everywhere have gone up significantly. Seabourn's new ship Venture will be doing several Antarctica trips in 2023 based from Ushuaia and some of these are cheaper than the Quest trip.
  21. They all have their unforgettable aspects. As far as the Falkland Islands is concerned, the best wildlife experience I have ever had was on New Island in the Falklands, up on a clifftop where there were penguins galore and vast numbers of albatross. You just sat down and let them literally walk all over you.
  22. The 'Deep South' trip strikes me as being a game of my-longitude-is-longer-than-yours through much the same sort of landscape and wildlife that you get on regular trips. Maybe I'm wrong here. I would be more interested in a trip that gave you guaranteed sightings of emperor penguins - ie, down the eastern side of the peninsula. I've also been attracted to a cruise that visits the seldom seen South Sandwich Islands. I remember once sailing around the Solomons aboard the wonderful expedition ship Orion when the Aussies dismissed the Antarctic Peninsula as being only for softies and that the real Antarctica was the Ross Sea, Mawson Bay and Macquarie Island, the Antipodean answer to South Georgia. Last time I looked, the Silversea Explorer was supposedly doing this run this winter season.
  23. I have sailed from the Falklands to Punta Arenas because Argentina at that time banned UK cruise ships which went to the Falklands. That route, while quick, was scenically devoid of interest. I mainly remember a long narrow channel between flat marshlands. Antarctica to PA, without calling at Ushuaia, should be spectacular after the Drake.
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