ISSUE 23, October 2007

Editorial
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Pro Grand Master : Quarterly Communication
Grand Secretary: Exciting times ahead
Historic: Telford - Mason extraordinary
Travel: Cruising round Sicily
Samaritan: Helping the distressed
Younger Masons: The common bond
Jersey: Local Masons guard the Duke
   Classic car run: Down memory lane
International: Joseph Brant - a Masonic legend
Universities Scheme: The way ahead
Grand Chancellor: The importance of external relations
Education: Events : Understanding the symbols of the craft
Specialist Lodges: Australia link
Royal Arch: Why join the Royal Arch?
Lbrary & Museum: Major award for Library & Museum
MQ Signs off
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity : NMSF : RMBI : RMTGB
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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The most exciting part of the trip came on our last day with a visit to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, approximately 11,000 feet high. I had not realised that it has four main craters plus another two hundred smaller ones.
     Although the last eruption was in 2002, destroying a ski resort, we were assured that we weren’t in any danger as there is always sufficient warning of any serious eruption.
     A cable car takes you some of the way up the mountain, but then you need to walk to the top. That is, to about ten thousand feet, where there is a defined walkway. Another way is to be driven there in a four-wheel drive mini-coach via what appeared to be a somewhat winding, steep and treacherous route.
     Although when we started the weather was well into the eighties, at the top there was snow on the ground. In fact, the landscape looked surreal, with large patches of snow spread on the black lava. Because of the height, we were accompanied by the ship’s doctor, who had brought emergency supplies of oxygen which, fortunately, weren’t needed. An interesting phenomenon is that, despite the high altitude, the area attracts ladybirds.
     A bonus with the Hebridean, whose prices we worked out to be around £600 a day, is that virtually everything is included. This means that you don’t have to worry about how much and who to tip; you can drink whatever you want within reason – spirits, wine and even champagne – and excursions which includes meals off the ship that are part of the itinerary.
     The majority of the passengers were English, with the décor very much that of a country house hotel, with a cosy atmosphere as it only takes a maximum of 96 passengers, and 60 crew. A big advantage is that because it is small, the ship can access ports that larger vessels can’t.
     Conversely, however, this means that if you are looking for exciting night life, with lots of entertainment, you would be better on a larger vessel. Because of its size, and particularly during my cruise when it was not full, you get a chance to get to know, or at least chat to, most of your fellow passengers.
     Facilities are five-star with, on most occasions, long and leisurely fine dining in the evening and, more importantly, only one sitting.
     On larger vessels, there can be several sittings. Cabins are spacious with only those on the top deck having a balcony.
     There is a choice of either a bath or a shower, although the suite has both plus a jacuzzi, but no balcony. The ship is airconditioned, which can’t be turned off, which, for some, could be a problem.
     The ship is built with walkways outside the cabin window. This can be rather unnerving, particularly initially, as the glass is one-way so that no-one can see inside from the outside unless there is a light on. However, from the inside you can see out normally. Meals are always served in the restaurant, although as an added bonus, when the weather is fine you can have both your breakfast and lunch on the outside (mizzen) deck.
     Here is located the plunge pool, more the size of an outdoor hot tub, in which I never actually saw anyone during the length of my stay. However, there is a small gym, and a different movie is shown every night on your cabin television.
     All the cruises have a guest speaker, in our case Graham Archer, a former British diplomat and High Commissioner of Malta, the latter being one of the destinations visited before I joined. We were told by one of the guests that because of his connections, they and the rest of the party had been invited into a former colleague of Graham’s private home, and offered refreshment – a nice personal touch which added something special to the destination.
     The company runs its own charter flights from Stansted, who provide a business class service. An option is to stay on at a particular destination, extend your holiday, and make your own way home. Sicily promotes itself as a year-round destination, with plans to extend the number of golf clubs, including two championship courses, to ten by 2010.
     The Hebridean Spirit, the sister ship of the Hebridean Princess, which cruises around the western and northern side of Scotland, was the venue for the Queen’s 80th birthday celebrations.

Below
Mt. Etna – Europe’s largest active volcano




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