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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby judgegeoff » 20 May 2020 08:47

Day 8 – Wednesday 4th May 2005 - At sea

After breakfast in the Main Dining Room Chris and I went to the morning Trivia Quiz in the South Pacific Lounge. We were joined by two elderly Americans and then by a third, and we managed to get 16/20 but were still only third.

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The South Pacific Lounge.

We met up with Arne and Sue for coffees and then Chris and I went on a ‘Backstage Theatre Tour’ which was very interesting. The costume store was shown to us by Sharon and Nikelai, the two main singers in the shows. Nikelai was an ordained Pastor with a church in Chicago and had taken a 6 month sabbatical to take a contract on the cruise ship (one of his life dreams!). Both these singers had fabulous voices. The dancers’ dressing rooms were tiny and it is hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for so many people to use such a small space – especially as some shows required eight costume changes.

We had lunch in the Windjammer Cafe and then Chris went to watch an ice carving demonstration by one of the chefs on the pool deck.

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++++++++++++++++++

I thought I might take a little time to share my thoughts on the difference between cruising in 1971 (our last previous ship) and cruising in 2005……

The Royal Mail Ship “Edinburgh Castle” was a Union Castle Line ship that ran a regular service between the UK and Cape Town, South Africa. She was a two class ship - 1st Class and Tourist Class. Chris and I, together with our toddler son Mark, were returning to Africa after a 3½ month leave in the UK. Our fare had been paid by my company, but they would not stretch to 1st Class accommodation for us. We were returning with a new car in the hold. The “Grandeur of the Seas” was a specifically designed cruise ship and so direct comparisons are really possible.

I do remember that 1971 were very different days from 2005 when it came to security. When we first went aboard the “Edinburgh Castle” in Southampton my parents, Chris’ parents, Chris’ sister and our best friends all came aboard with us (nine of us in total). We showed them our cabin and then went into a lounge for drinks until they were called to go ashore. It was a different, more innocent and better world then in my opinion.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that of scale. The “Edinburgh Castle” was 28,705 gross tonnage, was 747 ft long, had a beam of 84 ft, with 755 maximum passengers and 400 crew. The “Grandeur of the Seas” (now a mid-sized ship) was 73,812 gross tonnage, 915 ft long, had a beam of 118 ft, with 2,446 passengers and 760 crew.

The “Edinburgh Castle” had been built in 1948 and so was 23 years old when we sailed on her, whilst the “Grandeur of the Seas” was just 8 years old. The décor of the “Edinburgh Castle” was much darker than on the younger ship, being predominately dark wood with brass fittings whilst the "Grandeur of the Seas" was very light and pastel in decor, with much plastic.

Throughout the 1971 ship there were a lot of doors that had the sign “First Class Passengers only" beyond this point. We did take the occasional peek through these doors and there was no doubt that the décor and furnishings were more luxurious than ours, but we were quite satisfied with our lot.

Entertainment was very different on the two ships. The “Edinburgh Castle” had no theatre, so no shows, and much of the entertainment involved the passengers themselves. We had dances, horse racing (without horses!), talent shows and a fancy dress competition. I remember that I spent hours and hours making a full set of ancient Roman armour for a fancy dress competition. The competition was won by somebody wearing a cowboy costume, all of which had been brought aboard! I do also remember that a few of the 1st Class passengers used to come into our lounges in the evenings as they said it was a bit boring on their side and much more lively on our side. They always stood out as they were in formal dress clothes.

The food on the “Edinburgh Castle” was excellent and, in my opinion, at least as good as that served on modern cruise ships. Here was a Tourist Class Farewell Dinner menu :-

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One really big difference was the ship’s lifeboats. On the “Edinburgh Castle” the lifeboats were open boat with just a tarpaulin cover, but on the “Grandeur of the Seas” they were much bigger and had enclosed cabins, rather like cabin cruisers. Tendering on the older ship must have been quite an experience (we didn’t have to tender on that cruise).

The lifeboats on the older ship were propelled by a motor, but apparently they weren't very reliable, so we expected we might have to rely on manpower in an emergency. In the middle of each row of seats (wooden benches) there was a lever that was pulled backwards and forwards. I remember the Purser (who was in charge of our lifeboat) telling us that, in an emergency evacuation the ship would be propelled by members of the crew. When they died they would be replaced by Tourist Class Passengers but, by the time they died, it was considered that we would have reached land or a rescue would have been made. One of the advantages of First Class! :lol:

On the 20th August 1971 the “Edinburgh Castle” crossed the Equator and the crossing the line ceremony was a much more violent and messy affair than on the modern cruise ships. The pollywogs (those who had never crossed the Equator before) were doused in the most foul-smelling concoctions before being shaved and tipped backwards into the small swimming pool. The ship’s Doctor operated on several of the polliwogs and this involved large quantities of liver, sausages and ‘blood’ being pulled out of the patients. Modern ceremonies are very tame affairs now.

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A 1971 Pollywog being tipped into the ship's pool after being shaved.

One night on our 1971 cruise, Chris and I were woken up because the ship’s engines had stopped and it was silent (on the old ship there was always a background noise from the engines). After about 40 minutes the engines were restarted and we went back to sleep, assuming that the stop was due to a technical issue. The next morning we were advised that one of the passengers had been buried at sea. He had been suffering from a heart condition and had suffered a major heart attack and, because there were no suspicious circumstances, he had been buried at sea. This would never happen on a modern cruise ship which has, by law, to have a morgue on board.

Our son Mark was a toddler, under two, on our 1971 cruise, but took it all in his stride and was no trouble. The ship had a creche which had a stable door, with the top section always open and, eventually, they persuaded us to leave Mark with the nurse there. He didn’t like being left and started crying, but the nurse assured us that he would settle down after a couple of minutes. However, wherever we went on the ship, if we listened carefully, we would hear Mark screaming at the top of his voice. So, after about 15 minutes, we went and released him, much to the relief of the nurse!

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Mark in 1971 (he is now 50!). Our drive from Cape Town to our home in Kitwe, Zambia was 3,284 km (2,041 miles) and Mark was very good, but was certainly delighted to get back into his paddling pool!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the afternoon we went to the Theatre to watch the film ‘Meet the Fokkers’. After the film we joined Arne and Sue on the sports deck where we watched a Shuffleboard competition. After the competition ended we had our own Shuffleboard competition which was good fun, but a little warm under the hot Caribbean sun. Needing to cool ourselves, we then went to the Windjammer Cafe for chilled orange juice and iced water.

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Shuffleboard.

This evening was a formal night and, when we were showered and dressed in our finery, we met Arne and Sue in the Schooner Bar for ‘Bahama Mama’ cocktails – dark rum, Malibu, splash of triple sec, all filled up with fruit punch. Mmmm.

We then went to the Palladium Theatre to see ‘Headliner Showtime’ starring a married couple – comedy impressionist Jonathon Clark and singer Colleen Austen, who were very good. After dinner we went to the South Pacific Lounge to watch a couple of silly game shows – ‘Who want’s to be a Millionaire’ and ‘Battle of the Sexes’ before retiring to our cabin for the night.
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby Gillzajoker » 20 May 2020 09:07

It was very interesting hearing the comparisons between the two ships, Geoff. Although I'm more
reserved at home, on board I've joined in many of the activities (thinking nobody is likely to see me
again!) and consequently won quite a lot of prizes. But after winning 'Millionaire', I'm still waiting
for them to send the money!
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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby judgegeoff » 21 May 2020 08:18

Day 9 – Thursday 5th May 2005 - Oranjestad, Aruba

In the morning, whilst we were enjoying a buffet breakfast, our ship glided gracefully into the lovely port of Oranjestad on the island of Aruba.

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Aruba is a Caribbean island.

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Aruba.

After breakfast we went ashore with Arne and Sue and joined the excursion tour of the island that we had booked. When our small coach was full, the guide introduced herself and our driver and we set off on our tour. Firstly we headed for the elevated centre of the island, to an area named Casibari, where the coach stopped for a while. We climbed to the top of a huge rock formation and were rewarded with panoramic views over the whole island.

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The rocky viewpoint.

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Panoramic view over Aruba.

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Flat terrain (apart from the rock!).

We were then driven down the coast to a natural beauty spot named ‘Nature’s Bridge’, a rocky area where the strong tides had created a natural rock bridge. The area, although very beautiful, was quite notorious for suicides – many people had jumped off the rocks into the sea, been badly cut by the sharp volcanic rocks and then been eaten by sharks! There were thousands of little piles of small stones in the area and we were told that if you made your own pile you would return in the future. (Sadly, not long after our visit, on the 2nd September 2005, the Natural Bridge collapsed).

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The Natural Bridge as we saw it.

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After the collapse.

Not far from the Natural Bridge we stopped at the Bushiribana Ruins – an old gold smelter, looking rather like a fort or castle. It was built in 1825 and, during the following 90 years, processed 3 million pounds of gold. Whilst there we saw the ‘Banana Bus’ pass us – a yellow painted tourist bus with a big model banana on its roof.

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The smelter ruins.

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Right by the sea.

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The Banana Bus.

Our tour bus returned to the ship, passing through some very charming little villages. Back on the ship we refreshed ourselves and then went to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch. After lunch we left the ship and explored the town of Oranjestad with its lovely Dutch Colonial buildings.

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Shopping centre near the port.

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A colourful shop.

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Souvenir stall.

Unfortunately today was a public holiday in Aruba and most of the shops, markets and public buildings were closed for the day. However, we did find a shopping centre that had a few shops and cafes open. The shopping centre was linked to the sea by a sort of canal and some people were arriving by speedboat!

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Coming in from the sea. A different way to shop!

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Ready to make fast.

We found a nice bar overlooking the harbour and stopped there for a couple of ice cold drinks whilst watching the activities in the harbour. The bar ceiling and walls were decorated with various things that previous customers had left, including currency notes, clothing and (oddly) a Bill Clinton and Monica clock set in a frame made from cigars!

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The bar.

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Bill and Monica clock – bizarre.

We then returned to the ship which departed Aruba at 6:00 pm. It was a pity that it was a Bank Holiday as I don’t think we saw this lovely place at its best.

At 7:00 pm we went down to the Palladium Theatre to see the ship’s singers and dancers show ‘Jump Jivin’ Swing’ which was extremely entertaining. After dinner we went to the ‘50s & 60s Rock ‘n Roll Party’ in the South Pacific Lounge, which evoked many fond memories. After the party we retired to our cabin after a walk around the decks.

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50s and 60s party in the atrium.

+++++++++++++++++++

Continued tomorrow.
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby Gillzajoker » 21 May 2020 10:02

As Aruba is only a small island, I was surprised I hadn't seen the Natural Bridge, but I must have
visited after 2005. We toured the island on a tourist bus - not the banana one - and our guide
was a madcap Glaswegian lady who was married to an Aruban. (Our Dutch friends and neighbours
lived there for quite a few years). I'm sure you are aware of the significance of the cigar 'frame'
for Bill and Monica, Geoff!!!! I certainly would have enjoyed those two shows in the evening. :D
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Re: MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby Camela » 21 May 2020 17:03

I would love to visit Aruba so I think it has to be on the itinerary of our next Caribbean cruise.
"Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise"
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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby judgegeoff » 22 May 2020 08:17

Day 10 – Friday 6th May 2005 - At sea

As we had a full day at sea, we spent our time today relaxing and sunbathing. After a buffet breakfast in the Windjammer Cafe, Chris went to see a cooking demonstration by the ship’s chefs and then went for a swim in the open-air main swimming pool whilst I caught up with some reading.

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Cooking demonstration in the Atrium.

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The main swimming pool.

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Chris loves swimming.

We had a very enjoyable and leisurely lunch in the Great gatsby Main Dining Room and then Chris left me to go and watch a demonstration of towel folding. Afterwards we met up with Arne and Sue to play another few games of Shuffleboard. We also participated in the afternoon session of the Trivia Quizzes, with the usual disappointing result.

At 7:00 pm we went to the Palladium Theatre to watch the ‘Farewell Showtime’, starring comedian Bernie McGrenahan and the ship’s singers and dancers.

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Comedian Bernie McGrenahan, a very funny man.

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Showtime!

At 8:30 pm we went to the Great Gatsby Main Dining Room for our final ‘Farewell Dinner’ (for this first cruise) and said farewell to those tablemates who were leaving us in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After the meal we went to one of the lounges to listen to a group of young musicians.

As the first of our two back-to-back cruises would end tomorrow we went to the reception desk to collect our Sea Pass cards for the second cruise. This would allow us to exit the ship in San Juan and then re-board without having to queue to register for the next cruise. Members who have done back-to-back cruises will know how convenient this is – it is rather like being crew!

We had a walk around the decks and then went down to our cabin, passing all the suitcases that had been left outside cabins in the corridors. Tomorrow we would be in Puerto Rico.

+++++++++++++++++++

Continued tomorrow…………...
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby Gillzajoker » 22 May 2020 09:16

Nice photos of the ship, Geoff, and a pleasant, relaxing day in the sun. :D
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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby judgegeoff » 23 May 2020 08:19

Day 11 – Saturday 7th May 2005 - San Juan, Puerto Rico

We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, quite early in the morning. Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island and is an unincorporated U.S. territory with a landscape of mountains, waterfalls and the El Yunque tropical rainforest. In San Juan, the capital and largest city, the Isla Verde area is known for its hotel strip, beach bars and casinos.

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As it was the end of the cruise most of the passengers were disembarking and we were really pleased that we were staying on for a further week. It was nice having a leisurely breakfast whilst all around us was hustle and bustle.

We had booked a ship’s excursion tour of San Juan in the morning, so we left the ship and boarded a small coach that was waiting for us on the dock.

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Going ashore in San Juan.

The coach set off when everybody had boarded and headed for the city centre where we were given a very interesting tour of the principal buildings and sights, including several churches and the Governor’s House. La Fortaleza(The Fortress) is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. It was built between 1533 and 1540 to defend the harbour of San Juan. The structure is also known as Castillo Santa Catalina (St. Catalina's Castle).

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Governor’s House, San Juan.

It soon became clear to us why our tour coach was so small – the streets were very narrow, but full of parked cars and, even with such a small vehicle, I was very difficult for our driver to get down some streets. The vast majority of the cars were covered in dents and scratches!

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Narrow streets not suitable for large coaches.

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We then left the city centre and travelled to the lovely fort of Castillo de San Cristobel, one of the two main forts that protected the walled town. It was built between 1634 and 1771 and was known as ‘The Gibraltar of the West Indies’, rising 150 ft and covering a massive 27 acres. It had formidable defences consisting of 5 independent units, connected by a tunnel and a moat. Each unit was self-sufficient with water, stores and ammunition. A series of intricate channels throughout the fort ensured that any precious rainfall was collected and diverted into huge underground stone-clad tanks. The views from its walls, over the town and the sea were absolutely stunning. Even though our tour allowed a lot of time for exploring the fort, we still did not see everything and we promised ourselves that we would return one day – we did!.

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Castillo de San Cristobel.

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Inside the fort.

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A turret watchtower – they remind me of the films “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

Our final stop was supposed to be the Bacardi Rum Factory, but this (at least for us) turned out to be rather disappointing. We had expected a tour of the actual factory but, in the event, it turned out to be a sort of cross between a museum and a theme park.

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The Bacardi Rum Factory.

At the car park we were served samples of Bacardi’s different drinks while we waited our turn for transportation. We were then taken from the car park by Disney style tractor/trailer unit that deposited outside the huge Bacardi building.

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Drinks samples whilst waiting in the car park.

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The outside bar.

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All aboard the Bacardi Express!

Once inside we moved from area to area where a series of interactive and animatronic displays showed us (in our selected language) the history of the Bacardi family and their rum. It was, in its own way, quite impressive, but at no stage did it even mention the actual factory. We were then led into a room that was set out like a bar, complete with bow tie clad barman, where we were able to order samples of the company’s wares for a while, before going back out onto the tractor/trailer unit for our ride back to our coach.

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The Bacardi factory tour bar.

Perhaps our expectations were wrong, but I was disappointed that we did not see the rum being made, bottles being filled and labels being attached!

Our tour coach returned us to the ship and we went aboard to freshen up and then have lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. After lunch we left the ship and had a long walk along the defensive walls of the city. We really enjoyed the walk and vowed that, should we ever return, we would do our own thing rather than take a tour. (We did return a few years later and spent a few days there).

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Keep a lookout for Captain Jack Sparrow!

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Rooms with a view – old and new.

It was very hot and Chris bought a ‘Crocodile Dundee’ style hat and was thereafter known as ‘Terrapin Dundee’! We stopped off at a bar for refreshing cool drinks.

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‘Terrapin Dundee’ quaffs the amber nectar!

We had enjoyed a great day in a really interesting and spectacular location and it was nice to just stroll back onto the ship like it was a regular port whilst most of the other passengers were queueing for check-in. Before the ship sailed we had to attend another emergency muster drill as we were starting a new cruise.

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Our ship in San Juan.

In the evening we did not go to see the ‘Welcome Aboard Show’ as it was a repeat of the one we had seen a week ago. So we went to one of the bars with Arne and Sue, listened to some live music, had a cocktail (Bacardi rum one, of course) and talked about the things we had seen that day.

We went to the Great Gatsby Main Dining Room for dinner and met some new tablemates and afterwards went to a lounge where we listened to live music. Our legs were rather tired after all our walking that day. We went to sleep very quickly that night!

+++++++++++++++++++

Continued tomorrow…….
Geoff

Booked cruise :-
"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby Gillzajoker » 23 May 2020 09:54

Thoroughly enjoyed today's adventures, Geoff, with really interesting history and photos.
Whoever 'christened' Chris with the nomenclature 'Terrapin Dundee' deserves a medal, very
witty! :lol:
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MEMORIES - "Grandeur of the Seas" 2005 - The Caribbean

Postby grannyM » 23 May 2020 10:53

Geoff, As usual I've been playing catch up so just squeezing in a big thank you for the first part of the back-to-back cruise before beginning on the next part today.

True to form your narrative and photographs are fantastic and certainly brighten up the forum. :thumbup: :clap:
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