Friday, 25 March 2011

Cruising on the Saga Ruby

Ships Log Day One 13 March 2011

The Saga Ruby docked today in Auckland and we were able to board her at about 1700hrs. We have a nice large cabin (they call it a suite) with a balcony. Debbie has been unpacking for about an hour and I have unpacked my laptop. That’s about right in the nature of things.

The previous occupants of this cabin, oops, suite, bent the earth springs in the sockets so one of the cabin stewards, Rod, shoved a screwdriver in to bend it back. DIY rules.

The first thing I saw on the TV was a documentary on underwater exploration and featured the Titanic. At the same time the butler, Noli, put two lifejackets on the bed. What are they trying to tell me?

Of course I asked Noli about the tsunami, seeing as how the media has been awash with it. (Yes I KNOW it’s a pun). Although it was awful in Japan, this ship never felt it at all as it sailed from Australia to New Zealand, which is where we are as I type this.

I already know I will be doing my first show on board the night after tomorrow. Good, I will have time to sort out the rubbish I call entertainment and put it into some kind of order.

After dinner I will familiarise myself with the layout of the ship, have a look at the theatre/performance space, and set out my daily timetable for my time on the ship. I intend to be a good boy and stick to a regime that will let me enjoy the voyage but also get some serious work done. When I get back home in about four weeks time I will be SO organised. I will I will I will.

2145 and we have had a very nice dinner, met up with one of the lecturers on the ship and his wife, walked round the ship, played a bit of table tennis and now back in the cabin ready for beddibyes.

Ship Log Day Two 14 March 2011

Spent most of the morning in Auckland, wandering round the shops and finding out that one of my Canon lenses is not going as wide as it should. Then we came back on board and ‘checked out’ with the immigration guys ready for the ship leaving the port. Did the safety drill and then watched the shoreline as we sailed off on the next leg of this ship’s world cruise. It will be over 1100 nautical miles to the next landfall. Just imagine, ships used to do this stuff only with sails.

I am always overwhelmed with sadness when I leave a port. Will I ever see this country again? Who knows? I always feel so mortal and aware of life’s short span when I want to live forever and visit everywhere again and again.

We have cleared the harbour; the pilot has stepped onto his own boat and left us and we head out across the Pacific Ocean. It’s a beautiful balmy evening.

Ship Log Day Three 15 March 2011

Morning has broken and it’s a bit cloudy. Fantastic ‘solid’ rainbow seems to be following us. Quite a calm sea with very little movement as I walk about. This evening I have to do a show but FAR more importantly it is my son Gary’s birthday and I have no way of communicating with him. Yes, I did send messages and cards and all that jazz before we sailed but it’s not the same as hearing his voice on the day. L

Tonight I will be performing in a ballroom type venue and this will not be what I call my ‘best’ show. Experience has taught me that if I do the best one first, my other shows are then held up for comparison, so tonight will be an introductory show where we will get to know each other whilst I perform a wide range of magic tricks. We shall see!

A lot of complimentary booze has arrived in our cabin. Such a waste as I rarely drink. Debbie will get a surprise when she comes back from the gym.

I am now back in the cabin after the show. I am not happy. It seemed very quiet to me but Debbie says they were all laughing in the right places so perhaps it is one of those rooms, which I have worked before, where the sound of the room does not reach the stage. Certainly people were very complimentary afterwards so it would seem to be only me that didn’t enjoy it.

Tomorrow is another full day at sea.

Ship’s Log Day Four 16th March 2011

Nice and warm, cloud coming and going with blue skies in between. I am typing this on the balcony of our cabin.

Most annoying thing yesterday was realising that one of our cases had gone missing and we suspect it is still in the Rydges Hotel in Auckland. We left some luggage in their holding area when we nipped across to OZ and we think they forgot to get it out when we left for good. Darned annoying ‘cos I had hoped to edit some videos that I had in that bag. I have sent an email.

Emails to and from a ship are really slow. When I have finished these notes I am going to see if I have got a reply. You can’t get them on your laptop when you are at sea, only on the ship’s computers, so I will make the journey into the bowels of the ship.

It seems so odd, when we are 200 miles from the nearest land, and that is just a tiny atoll, to see birds skipping across the waves. They look like gulls of some kind. The Captain has told us the sea below the keel is 4,000 metres deep. My brain can’t seem to fathom that...

Debbie went to the library and got us a DVD to watch because it started to rain. It was a very old Joan Crawford movie set in Pago Pago, and we’ll be there soon. The movie was called Rain, so we had the stuff on the screen and on the balcony.

After that we watched a talk about where we are going tomorrow and apparently we will be sailing in through a gap in the reef and berthing in Savo in Fiji. Two things of interest were that the Methodist Church leaders have been imprisoned for disagreeing with the Government (THAT wasn’t on our news, was it?) and also that Raymond Burr, of Ironsides fame, lived here and had a huge garden featuring, literally, thousands of orchids. The clocks will go back an hour tonight.

Ship’s Log Day Five 17th March 2011

We woke up early today to see us sail into Fiji. A cloudy day and yet we could see the main island clearly and I was surprised at how large it was. For some reason I have always thought of the Fijian Islands as small and most of them are, but not Fiji.

The advertised gap in the reef was a bit of a disappointment as the reef surrounding the island just about pokes its head above the ripples. There’s not much to see or do in Suva, the town, either, and it is the only place on earth I have found where I can’t log onto a free hotspot for wi-fi. Even McDonalds didn’t have it and there isn’t a Starbucks. What???? No Starbucks? Unbelievable.

The ship sailed early and we are now headed for Pago Pago. It has rained quite a bit but we shouldn’t complain. This is the cyclone belt but we haven’t seen one and we don’t want to see one.

Ship’s Log Day Six 17th March 2011

Groundhog Day. Check this day’s date with yesterday. It’s the same. We are having a 48 hour long St. Patrick’s Day because in the night we crossed the International Date Line and so we gained an extra day.

Very pleasant at 85 degrees with a breeze to keep us cool. We will be all day at sea today. All the reception staff are in Leprechaun outfits, to be sure.

As I type this, in the afternoon, we are passing a very large island but there is no phone signal coming from it so I have no means of communication, again. Think of the months that sailors in olden days would be totally incommunicado. How things have changed.

Perhaps I should have mentioned this before but this ship is by far the steadiest ship in similar waters that we have been on . Admittedly we have only been in 1 to 2 metre swells but you really can’t feel it and there is no sideways rocking at all.

She used to be the Coronia and the Vista Fjord before becoming the Saga Ruby.

Ship’s Log Day Seven 18th March 2011

What a very nice day. Great weather and we docked early in Pago Pago which is American Samoa. As we left the ship we were immediately surrounded by a great market of Polynesian clothing and souvenirs with no pestering to buy or to get into this or that taxi. The people are truly friendly and helpful and I did tricks for the children that we met along the way.

The little museum was fantastically interesting and they had a good collection of wooden canoes, all fitted with outriggers.

We found an internet cafe and managed to get a couple of messages off to Debbie’s family but the island has its own telephone system so we couldn’t phone anyone. Talk about being cut off from the world.

Sadie Thompson’s Hotel was where we had a couple of drinks. Look her up if you don’t know who she is; it’s a long time since she was made famous by Somerset Maugham and Hollywood.

Funniest realisation of the day? We saw some Samoan women in one of the open sided huts all sitting on the floor and obviously engaged in some ‘artistic’ pursuit. From a slight distance they seemed to have some form of paintbrush in their hands so we thought they may be stamping patterns onto material. Being me I got nosey and went into the hut. They were playing Bingo and marking off their numbers.

I’m not sure how the locals get along with computers and suchlike because I couldn’t buy a memory stick anywhere.

Back on the boat it was great to see a couple of long canoes in action as they rowed past with 36 oars each flashing across the blue waters of the harbour. We will sail soon, but this is one island that I felt I could live on quite happily.

Now.... party time as we go to a chap’s 60th birthday party in another cabin. Oh, the wild life we lead.

Ship’s Log Day Seven 18th March 2011

After dinner last night Debbie and I were on stage telling stories of our lives and I felt a bit guilty afterwards because I hardly let her get a word in. All the questions seemed geared to me and that is a shame because Debbie has had a very interesting life. Afterwards we went into a piano bar and I did card tricks for the bar staff.

I didn’t sleep to well last night so I got up at about 2am and went down to the Lido cafe where they leave facilities for making your own drinks and I wandered the wet decks with a mug of hot chocolate. The decks are wet, by the way, not from rain but from the crew working through the night washing the ship down.

So it was that I was sound asleep at 8am when Noli, the butler, woke me with breakfast and I had my corn flakes, boiled egg and toast on the balcony. At some time in the night we crossed the Equator and are back in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s warm with fluffy white clouds against the blue sky and once again a rainbow arced against a cloud in the distance. I sat on the recliner on the balcony and went to sleep only to be woken by a couple of crew members servicing one of the lifeboats that hang alongside our deck. Debbie has gone to the gym.

Ship’s Log Day Eight 19th March 2011

I was wrong. We haven’t crossed the Equator yet. The stars are still those of the Southern Hemisphere. Why can’t I sleep at night? I spend the days in a constant state of napping and I guess that means that I only do the same at night.

One big difference about being on here is that we do have conversations with strangers, something you tend not to do when you are at home.

This will be another long day at sea. This ocean is a damn sight bigger than you realise. Huge.

I wrote those last few sentences in the night. Now it is morning, the fluffy white clouds again dot around the blue sky and still the ship ploughs on through the waves. I slept in .... again... and I see the butler has left a breakfast for me but I think I will pass on that one. Today I must get my head for sale to magicians and will contain some of my best kept secrets.

Sometimes people think that they ‘know’ the secret of a trick and then copy what I have done, but they get it so wrong because they do not understand the subtleties and the psychology in the creation and the presentation. Hopefully this book will take a step towards redressing that situation.

Later... I plead guilty to only writing one chapter. All I have done is slob around the ship, fill in forms trying to get my missing suitcase back, watch Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Indiscreet and marvel at their astonishing acting abilities. Ingrid Bergman once came to see my show in the West End and in my dressing room told me how wonderful I was and all I could mumble was a sort of ‘but, but, but’ sound. I think it was Isabella Rosselini who was with her.

I am going to install a ship’s engine under our house when I get back and sleep my days away like I do on here. Well, look at that, the clocks have gone forward again this afternoon and it’s time to eat.... again.

Ship’s log Day Ten 21st March 2011

What happened to Day Nine Paul? Nothing really. It was, like today, another day at sea with no sight of land or anything else.

Today is very similar with nothing much to report other than now we have 5,200 metres of water below the keel. That’s quite a hole in the earth, isn’t it! I do have stuff to do though because tonight I have to do a cabaret show. That means unpacking the magic bits and pieces and deciding what to perform and which order to do it in.

The show went well, very well in fact, even thought it was not my normal selection of tricks. Somehow I still managed to ad lib my way through the material and made best use of the passengers. Saga cruises don’t have young people on board, but they are generally a great bunch and appreciative.

Afterwards we went up to the bar at the top of the ship and Paul the singer and Jo the Cruise Director put on an impromptu performance. Good stuff to end the night. Jo, by the way, is easily the best Cruise Director I have ever worked with.

Ship’s Log Day Eleven 22nd March 2011

Well what a to-do. We were supposed to enjoy the lack of delights on Fanning’s Island (look it up). The Tannoy announcements had told us that the tenders were going to take us ashore to a place that had no toilets, no electricity, no medical facilities and so on. Good news for the husbands in that there were no shops and the inhabitants, non English speaking, relied on three supply ships a year.

The seabed falls away very steeply from the shoreline and goes far too deep to drop an anchor. The Ruby was to ‘hover’ all day whilst the passengers visited what turned out to be a huge atoll and were asked not to take sweets ashore as the islanders had dental problems. Lots of passengers bought colouring books, crayons, toys and the like for the kids and I don’t know what they will do with them now because the wind was too strong to get passengers onto the tenders and we had to sail on by. Such a shame.

It’s been a tad rougher all afternoon and apparently we are going to be in a cloudy rainy shower situation for the next two days.

1100 miles to our next port of call. Dinner tonight with the Captain.

Later... the dinner was really good, and good stories from the Captain and his wife and Jo the Cruise Director. Bedtime now, although I do seem to have slept for most of today.

Ship’s Log Day Twelve 23rd March 2011

Overcast and still rolling a bit but the wind is warm out on the balcony. This will be another long day at sea. The ship has a library which includes DVDs so all I seem to do is either sleep or watch Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth... To my surprise I find myself more ‘hooked’ into these films and their scenarios than I do into modern films.

A couple of things of interest, perhaps, on this endless sea: this morning we saw a flock, or a shoal, of flying fish. They do travel amazing distances over the water and you have to imagine that they must do it for fun.

The other thing is that twice now, on this voyage, we have been completely stumped by a crossword clue and I, the great sleeper on the ship, have both times woken up saying the answer. So perhaps I do my best work whilst I am asleep.

After dinner Debbie and I went to see a remake of South Pacific in the Ship’s Theatre. We left a third of the way through and went back to the cabin. I saw Glenn Close’s name as an Executive Producer on the credits at the beginning. That was the only way she could have ever given herself the part of Nellie Forbush. Ms Close is a really good actress, but this was so misguided as she was far too old for the part. Bloody Mary did not have the charm of the original. The sailors, who had according to the plot, been on the island for months, were astonishingly white and lacked tans. To be avoided if the film comes your way in any form.

Ship’s Log Day Thirteen 24th March 2011

Last night was a bit rough. At about 4am all the bottles on the sideboard went over, taking the glasses with them, making an almighty crash. Debbie and I struggled to find light switches in the dark and eventually laid towels over the heaps to stop them rattling for the rest of the night. Then I slept, as they say, fitfully.

It might be something to do with the time difference. For example right now it is 1150am but it is 2150 in the UK.

I see in the morning newsletter the great Elisabeth Taylor has died. Another one gone. For the benefit of any young person this woman could not only act with great onscreen presence, but was also startling beautiful. It may surprise the modern audience to realise she was a brunette, as most screen ‘beauties’ are blonde.

Death is an oddity, isn’t it? We hardly ever, if ever, talk about it yet all of us must realise it is coming. We are so very disposable. Although I have no fear of death (because I think it will be just like going to sleep, and I can’t remember doing that at all, I just go into oblivion) I do feel frustration at having to die. Being the nosey parker that I am I want to know what is going to happen. My father was exactly the same.

I have just been talking to Roderick, one of the two Philippine men who clean the cabins. Every night he phones his wife and two children back home. He is at sea for 11 months at a time and misses his family tremendously. He says Skype has made a big change to him but it’s still not good, is it?

Hey, I finished the crossword today. Am I getting clever or is it getting easier?

This afternoon is overcast so we watched Pal Joey before Deb went off to Pilates. I do not believe there is a better delivery of a song that Frank Sinatra singing ‘That’s why the Lady is a Tramp’ in that movie. The presentation is SO cool.

Sent from Honolulu

3 comments:

RG9 said...

I don't know - nothing for weeks at a time and then all the buses - sorry - blogs arrive at once!

You do know it's unlucky to change a ship's name? And yours has changed twice . . . so I'd keep those life jackets handy!

fairyspangles said...

All sounds absolutely beautiful!!!Life can be FABULOUS cant it!!!!! Have fun and we miss you! xx

Bill's Blog said...

I think my comment on your blog got lost. Still it is a long way to Honolulu. Keep having a fabulous time.
Love from Bill