Newsletter May 2008

by: Carol Carpenter

During the middle of March we started to demolish our kitchen, so the beginning of April was a little fraught to say the least. I have waited eight years for a new kitchen and if it wasn’t for the fact that every morning Roy went downstairs to find a missing cupboard door I would probably still be waiting. After finding one morning that all cupboard doors were missing, he finally got the message. Having no interest in choosing kitchen units or tiles himself, he left everything to me. He also gave me a strict budget saying, “That’s what I am prepared to pay and not a penny more.” Some of Roy’s client’s had been to Cozequipa in Lagoa and so we decided to give them a try. I spent the next two weeks returning to the shop every other day until a kitchen plan was worked out to my satisfaction whilst sticking to the budget. At first everything I choose was way over the budget, pull out cupboards with racks for the groceries, wine racks over the fridge, not to mention the self- shutting draws and the corner unit with the carousel.

I am sure that I must have drove Telma (Thelma in English) insane at times. Mostly because all I kept saying was, “No he won’t pay that.” Finally, with Telma’s help we came up with a design within the budget, well almost. The following week was spent looking for tiles and as always I end up buying them from - Socoporches, who are really helpful and have a very good selection. Feeling really pleased with myself I just couldn’t wait for the end result. However, the next day I received a phone call telling me that it would take six weeks for the kitchen units to be delivered. I never thought it would take that long. PANIC!! Friends were due to arrive on 7th April to “house sit” whilst we cruise the Med with Sharen and Michael. Not only do they not have a kitchen, they also have nothing to cook on. Roy had a great idea, “I’ll go and buy one of those portable ovens” he said. Back he came with the oven but it never came out of the box, as it was a hideous “Bright Red”. Yuk! It was back to Makro with that one. Well at least they had the barbecue.

Now for the long-awaited news of our Med Cruise – It was a Thomson Cruise and our ship was The Celebration. She is a lovely design and actually looks like a ship rather than a very square, floating hotel. Every line on the exterior of the ship is angular and in 1993 she was voted ‘Ship of the Year’ by the World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society. She has nine decks, 625 cabins, carries 1,250 passengers, with a crew of 520 most of whom are Philippino. The amenities on board were - Three Restaurant options, ‘24hr Lido buffet Restaurant’ ‘The Meridian Restaurant’ (waiter service) and Zilli Restaurant which was a la carte. We decided to have a meal at this restaurant one night and paid £15 ahead more, but although the presentation was good (see photo’s) we were disappointed with the actual main meal. The boys choose suckling pig and were extremely disappointed, very little meat and fatty. Both Sharon and I choose different fish dishes, which were vastly over-cooked. We much preferred the ‘Meridian Restaurant’ for both food and service. We got to know our waiters and they looked after us very well. ‘Art’ our main waiter (who definitely fancied Sharen) was great and saved us a table every night together with the help of Freddi and Jay-Jay who was the wine waiter. Every night we arrived to find our drinks ready and waiting on the table, talk about first class service.

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Please find these and more  photos in large formats here

There were five bars on board, of which two became our favourites ‘Horizons’ and ‘Hemmingway’s. The ship also boasted a nightclub, two lounges, casino, boutique & shops (Sharen and I spent a lot of money here) children’s club, cinema, (Sharen feel asleep) card room, library, fully staffed Medical centre (Sharen had a very uplifting experience here) three laundries (we had spent the first hour ironing in one of them) two swimming pools, Jacuzzis, beauty salon & spa (who ruined Sharen’s hair) together with a gym (I paid only one visit but it looked good) sports court & saunas.
The day we arrived the boys went ‘awol’ - we had spent a good hour ironing their shirts, whilst they had been sunbathing on deck. Honestly they were like a couple of schoolboy’s on holiday without their parents for the first time. Sharen spent a long time walking the length of the ship, checking all sunbathing decks and getting stressed, looking for them while I took the ironing to the cabin. Afterwards I decided to search for all of them, but to no avail, so I ended up having the cocktail of the day in the Broadway Show Lounge, whilst listening to the shore excursions team telling us about all the exciting tours on offer. I eventually found them in Hemmingway’s Bar.
Saturday was the first day at sea and at 09.30 we were all summoned to the emergency drill on deck 6 wearing warm clothing. We were surprised at the amount of passengers who arrived wearing shorts, tee shirts and flip- flops. I was also surprised, to find Roy standing there with his lifejacket on the wrong way round, well I suppose it had been a late night. I was very impressed with the crew, who had everyone under control from the time you left the cabin. I’m not sure whether in a real emergency it would go as smoothly but it was very convincing, and I certainly had faith in them.
The rest of the crew were also fantastic they could not do enough for you. They always greeted you with a smile whatever time of day or night. The cleanliness on the ship was first class and our cabins were cleaned twice a day morning and evening, after which they turned down the beds, leaving a chocolate on the pillows. Outside every restaurant there was antiseptic gel that you were expected to use before entering. Saturday was also the day of Captain Alan’s Gala Dinner and for those interested, they could have a photograph taken with the Captain. Of course we all dressed up in our posh attire.
The multitalented Entertainments Team along with the Cruise Director Keef Maynard were absolutely fantastic, all the dance shows were brilliant as were their costumes. The shows ranged from West End Classics, Jump ‘n’ Jive, Rock n Roll Dreams, an Africa theme and Moulin Rouge, They performed the best ‘Can- Can’ any of us had ever seen, which lasted a full 7 minuets. The afternoon plays were also performed by the show-team. Unfortunately we missed Saturdays play ‘Lunch Hour’ but we thoroughly enjoyed Sundays “A Fish out of water” this play was about the package holiday industry and how often it attracts some very different and interesting people. It was absolutely brilliant and had us, along with the rest of the audience in hysterics.

On Sunday and Wednesday evenings we also had the comedian Stan Johns who was also really funny, except I didn’t get one joke at first until the penny dropped, which Sharon couldn’t get over and was doubled up with laughter - Ok so I didn’t understand ‘Cook my Sock’!!! [This is one for the anagram experts – Roy]

Various other entertainments were going on in other venues, such as, Mr & Mrs, Play Your Cards Right,The Weakest Link, Family Fortunes and other Quizes. This along with ample entertainment outside on the decks and Lido kept everyone busy.

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Please find these and more  photos in large formats here

The Captain, Alan Leach, gave an interview with Cruise Director Keef Maynard, both of whom are great characters and have interesting pasts. Captain Alan was born in Wallasey in 1963 and raised on the Wirral, on the banks of the River Mersey. As a boy he used to watch the ships on the river. There was also a seafaring history in his family so he decided to pursue a career at sea. He has held command of Thomson Celebration since January 2007. He told us the most impressive thing he has found about this ship is the atmosphere on board. He is convinced that this is due to the professionalism and enthusiasm of his officers and crew. The Cruise Director Keef Maynard is the son of a vicar and called himself the ‘black sheep’ of the family as he chose entertainment for a career instead of the church. He has just recently got engaged to a member of the show team and wants to pursue a career in acting. He is 34yrs old and has wanted to act from child hood. He is a great guy very entertaining and we all liked him very much (if only I was 20yrs younger!!). We wish him the best of luck in his chosen career and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on television in the not too distant future.

Everyone enjoyed the tours except those who visited La Goulette, (Tunisia) on Sunday, which they all thought was a complete waste of time. We abstained from this trip, as we had seen it before - I don’t do Arabs.

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Please find these and more  photos in large formats here

Monday we arrived in Civitavecchia, Italy. We had a fantastic time in Rome but, unfortunately, Sharen was unwell so they had to abandon the trip. We did not take the tour, deciding instead to go it alone, catching the train into the city and then picking up the open-top tour bus. Doing this you get to a round tour of the city, getting on and off at all the main places at a cost of 27 euros compared to the tour cost of £ 89. Vatican City is awesome, with the huge St Peters Cathedral as is the Colosseum which once held 50,000 seats, the Spanish steps and the Trevi Fountain which I adored.. I would love to go back and spend longer in this beautiful city. We found a small Restaurant and decided to stop for lunch as we were feeling a little warm and tired by this time. The waiters informed us that ‘La Dolce Vita was filmed in this restaurant. You will find some photos of this restaurant, along with some other restaurants that we came across, because they looked so romantic. This is truly a remarkable city.

Tuesday we arrived in Livorno, for Florence and Pisa. We joined this tour as we wanted to visit both places. I was impressed with Florence with its ancient cobbled streets, and would have loved to spend longer at Ponte Vecchio an old bridge that is now lined with no less than 45 jewellery shops. This visit also took us to the Famous Duomo cathedral, the Santo Spirito church and the magnificent bronze doors of the Basilica, aptly named ‘the gates of heaven’ by Michealangelo. We then had about two hours free time to wander around and have lunch. It was a very wet and cold day so we all made our way to a local restaurant, where we all ordered soup and stayed for the whole two hours. After this the coach took us on to Pisa but we only had 45 minuets to wander around, which gave us very little time to go inside or visit the magnificent cathedral, which stands next to it.

Sharen and Michael chose a Tuscany wine tour instead of our trip as they had seen Florence before, they enjoyed the tour but thought the wines were rubbish and expensive.

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Please find these and more  photos in large formats here

Wednesday we docked in Marseille, France where we all decided to walk around the city instead of the tour. I think it was a wrong move as we were unimpressed, finding it very dirty and uninteresting. Everyone who had gone on the tours had a great day - I guess we made the wrong choice. That evening dinner in the Meridian restaurant was a night to remember as our waiters presented us with the world famous Baked Alaska parade.
Thursday we arrived in Barcelona, Spain and I was really excited about this having had a really enjoyable visit a few years ago. But I am afraid the weather was against us and it poured big time. Roy was unimpressed, as he hates rain but we did manage to walk the famous pedestrian street of Las Ramblas whilst getting soaked through. This street is famous for its countless outdoor cafes, colourful flower stalls, jugglers and street entertainers who have turned living statues into a real art form. However, we only managed to see one very wet statue having coffee whilst trying to shelter from the rain. “Enough is enough” Roy said and we made our way back to the ship. Sharon and Michael chose to stick it out and headed for the city tour bus. This was open- top and quite pointless in the rain, so they carried on for a while before joining us back on board. Everyone ended up with clothes in the dryers. The rain was so heavy that the crew even had to empty all the lifeboats. Sharon and Michael decided to return the next weekend, which I’m sure they enjoyed. You might have noticed that I have been referring to Roy and Michael as “The Boys” this is because they insisted on sitting together and drinking Snowballs? Roy then started to drink Long Island tea and about three other males followed suit, in the end they were all on Snowballs or Long Island Tea????

This was a really fantastic cruise and although we had only met each other for short periods before this cruise, we got on really well and had a great time, I will refrain from using the word “HOOT” as the pair of them were taking the rise out of me. I am sure I have missed something out and I am equally sure that Sharen and Michael will correct me. One thing I have missed out is the amount of time they spent “Watching Dolphins” some stamina hey!!!

Joking apart we enjoyed it so much, that Sharen and Michael have already booked another cruise for January and have asked us to join them. We are now busy looking into this so hopefully we will. Is anyone else interested? I‘m sure we’ll have a HOOT.

Wow this is one hell of a newsletter, I’ve just checked the word count and I haven’t even mentioned Carvoeiro yet. So here’s a little bit of local news.

The April weather here in Carvoeiro has been disappointing, the wind has been cold and it has rained. St Georges Day went down well with Ma –Ja’s having celebrations along with several other bars. This year we were invited to the village of Amorosa as we have friends there, it was different but we enjoyed it. Afterwards we headed back to Carvoeiro and the Jailhouse to join Alex and Louise at their wedding celebration. Alex has been here many years and is a well-known character in Carvoeiro, you will often find him behind the bar at the jailhouse during the summer months. His father supplies most of us with logs for the winter. Alex and the beautiful Louise make a really stunning couple and we wish them both health and happiness for their future.

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Please find these and more  photos in large formats here

Because we still don’t have a kitchen, most of our meals are at restaurants. We have enjoyed really good meals at ‘Happy’s lately. Roy enjoys their huge fish and chips and I have been choosing the mixed fish kebabs, both are excellent. We have also been seen a lot in the Roundup Bar, as our friends are fans of Karaoke. Our friend has an amazing voice and sings all Frank Sinatra songs really well.

Unfortunately we missed Rene (Gambrinus) 30th birthday celebrations at the Innside Café. We had a bowl’s tournament on the week we returned from our cruise, we played six games in five day’s winning one game, but alas no money. We were so tired that somehow we lost track of the days, thinking his birthday was on Saturday, but it was actually on Friday. Apparently it went really well and everyone had a great time, they also raised 500 euros for the Pirilampos Childrens home, as Rene requested no gifts only donations for this charity. I think that was a really great thing to do. I have asked for photos but as yet we have not received any.


Anyone who is thinking of visiting the Algarve in May, don’t forget that the International Algarve Fair is on the 10th and 11th May. Opening hours are 11.00 until 20.00. This is always a good weekend with plenty to do with features including Motor Show, Property Show, Arts and Crafts market, children’s adventure area and all day entertainment. The Fiesa Sand sculpture festival is also due to start on 22nd in Pera. This year’s theme is Hollywood Films and it will be open everyday from 10.00 to midnight until October 22nd. From May 8th to 10th we have the Portugal Vodafone Rally 2008 - International Rally Challenge for more information).

The summer visitors have started to arrive - Intermarche was really busy today and it took me half hour to get through the checkout so I hope the weather starts to change. I have just read in this week’s Resident that following a series of renovation works, the commercial port of Portimao welcomed its first cruise liner. “The Thomson Celebration” (our ship !!) with 1,125 passengers on board which docked on Wednesday morning. The welcoming committee was lead by Portimao Camara president, Manuel da Luz. We wish we had known about this as we would have gone to see them and also, if we had known, we could have extended our cruise and disembarked at Portimao.

Well, all good things must come to an end as I now have writer’s cramp. I hope you all enjoy this news albeit not a lot on Carvoeiro. I shall be out tomorrow in town catching up on all that I have missed.

Bye for now