12. Feb, 2017

SATURDAY 4-2-17

I had a pretty disturbed night; my throat was still sore and inflamed. Clearly my tonsils are doing their job in taking the hit and protecting my chest. I don’t think I have ever been in such an unhealthy environment before in all my life. Surrounded by geriatrics coughing everywhere and never using a handkerchief, just coughing and sneezing in to their hands, then they go off and handle everything around the ship. Would you want to shake hands with any of them?

At breakfast this morning we discreetly gave cash tips to our two allocated waiters. We weren't obliged to do so, as we were on ‘Gratuities Included’ but we had always intended to. These people, along with the domestic staff, work so very hard for very little reward, they rely on their tips to make a living. Fred Olsen has a scheme where unless you tell them differently they take money out of your shipboard account at the end of the trip and distribute it, but we don’t agree with that. Furthermore we don’t put money in to tip kitties.

We learned our lesson whilst on a touring holiday in Jordan & Egypt a few years ago. Our Jordanian guide, Dugan, really did make the holiday, he was very knowledgeable and took good care of us. The Chef and I even slept under the stars on a sand dune in Wadi Rum. When it came to the end of that leg of the holiday we sat on the small coach at the port waiting for a ferry to take us over to Egypt.

Listening to the youngsters discussing how much they should give Dugan by way of a tip we were horrified by their intended meanness. We put a fair bit extra in to try and soften the blow for him, I have never been so embarrassed (well I have but that’s another story!) and I vowed from that moment on I would never again contribute to a kitty, which has put me on the wrong side of one or two groups since then, but who cares.

We had to vacate our cabins by 11:00 so that the domestics could make a start on preparing the rooms for the next batch of guests due on, and who were heading for the Caribbean later today. To try and make guests lives a bit easier, passengers could leave their hand luggage in the Card Room until disembarkation. It wasn’t a free-for-all, passengers had to queue up and have their luggage items taken from them,each item identified and a receipt issued. And what a long, slow moving queue it was. I swear by the time the people at the back of the queue reached the front to hand their luggage in, they would only have time to go to the back of the queue and line up to take it back out again.

We therefore decided to keep our bits with us and grab seats out of the way at the back of the Neptune Lounge. We took it in turns to go and have lunch, weaving our way through the crowds of people sitting and standing with their baggage on the way to the dining room. It must be like travelling on Southern Rail.

Then finally that moment arrived – freedom. I’d waited two weeks for this moment. I’m not sure what time we got ashore, but being in ‘Bilge Rats’ Class we were among the last off, which was fine, it made finding our suitcases easier, there were less of them.

Once we got the car loaded we were away. Just in time to get caught up in the traffic snarl up through Southampton town. It appears Southampton Football Club had been playing at home. This resulted in our taking a whole hour to clear Southampton, but it was an hour well spent.

My only regret about the cruise is that I didn't go on an excursion involving tobogganing. We would have thoroughly enjoyed it, but had I injured myself it would have caused complications because in two weeks time we head for Spain & France with the motorhome.

Would I do it again? Ummmmm .................. let me think about that, perhaps....... maybe.............NO - NEVER, EVER!

They've introduced 'No Fly' cruises, I think the time has come for ‘No Sail’ Cruises.

This is where the ship never leaves port. The advantages include:

Cruises would be cheaper as no fuel would be used by the engines. The green lobby would love that.

Nobody would get sea sick.

There would be no need to hurry back from excursions before the ship sailed.

There could be both a hearse and an ambulance on constant standby at the bottom of the gangplank.

Sick, coughing, sneezing passengers could be put ashore and locked in the adjacent baggage hall until they made a full recovery.

There would be more food, more drink, a sun lounger and a comfortable seat for all those still left onboard. 

I think I could be in the running for a Travel Industry Award with this one.

12. Feb, 2017

The Card Room

12. Feb, 2017

FRIDAY 3-2-17

This morning we were informed by the captain that due to our slow progress yesterday, our arrival at Southampton will be delayed. We will not now arrive until 15:00. So that’s Saturday taken care of. By the time we get ashore, find our luggage, then our car, it will be very late when we arrive home.

We joined a table with four other guests at breakfast. The elderly couple, even after two whole weeks, still hadn’t run out of non-stop cruise stories with which to bore people.

After breakfast I received a phone call from the comedian Micky Zany to say that he’d received my note and would deliver a signed copy of his book to our cabin, which he duly did within a few minutes. A very nice chap indeed.

After that I hung around the cabin doing some packing whilst The Chef took herself off for the morning Bridge session in the Card Room. During the session she got talking to a lady, experienced in cruising, who wondered why we had chosen this particular cruise as our first one, she said “It’s like a Residential Home, you’re much better off doing shorter trips in the Mediterranean, which younger people tend to do”.

For lunch I had a fresh fruit salad as my main course, and a fruit and jelly for my dessert, and as I was down on my fluid levels I washed it down with a nice large glass of chilled Rosé wine.

The Chef took herself off for most of the afternoon whilst I rested in the cabin. The cabin which is almost right across from the Games Room.

A few evenings ago we decided to have a mooch about and stuck our heads in to this Games Room, though it would be better described as a junk room. Amidst the junk there was a dart board and a table tennis table. We found no darts, nor bats, just a couple of balls on top of a locker. We ended up having an impromptu game of table tennis using one of the balls and the flat of our hands.

I felt quite miffed that they didn’t trust their guests with the darts or bats. As we were living in ‘Bilge Rats’ Class we were obviously not deemed worthy enough to be invited to a meeting with the ‘Balmoral Darts & Bats Committee’ where we would have been shown the secret handshake and given the code number to the equipment locker.

Having had our knock-about I noticed a roll of rubber matting on a small table. “Ooooooh” says I, “I’ve got a use for about four feet of that, it’ll teach them a lesson for being so mistrusting”. I had planned to return before the end of the cruise with my pair of Tuff-Cut shears.

It wasn’t until yesterday as I lay in the cabin resting that it dawned on me what the rubber matting was for. It was the piece which is rolled out from the wall holding the dartboard, and is used to measure the distance from which players throw their darts. I felt it would be a bit too mean to run off with four feet of it, especially as they probably wouldn’t have spotted the problem until they were back at sea on their way to the Caribbean

At dinner this evening we were again joined by Yvonne and Colin. They were telling us about the death of the ‘London Lad’ who they had got to know during the trip. Colin was saying that the whole matter had been very badly handled by the crew. Apparently the deceased’s wife had received a phone call in the middle of the night telling her to get dressed and go to the Medical Centre because her husband had died. It seems the poor woman has been left in limbo, she doesn’t know what the procedure will be when we get to the UK and nobody is telling her. I found this so hard to believe. Old people come on cruises and die, that’s what they do. So surely to goodness every cruise ship should have at least one nominated and properly trained member of the crew who can handle such matters, dealing with questions and concerns from family members and offer support throughout the ordeal.

On one of the fourteen flights of stairs on the way up to the dining room we had passed a lady talking on her mobile phone telling, presumably a family member or friend that ‘She’ was in the Medical Centre where ‘She’ would remain until we docked in Southampton. There ‘She’ was to be met by an ambulance and taken to Southampton General Hospital, Whoever 'She' was.

That’s now a hearse AND an ambulance we’ll need to meet us in Southampton. So no burial at sea then, though we came awfully close. This cruising business is tougher than people think.

This evenings original entertainment in the Neptune Lounge theatre was to have been ‘Pimp My Zimmer’ followed by ‘Mean Mobility Mama’s’, which is Fred Olsen’s answer to TV’s ‘Robot Wars’, where old ladies use their mobility scooters to bash, crash, and try to push their opponent off the stage. Unfortunately not enough old ladies had come forward for the contest and so it was substituted with ‘The Best of the Entertainment Team’. It would have been a short show, which The Chef went to watch whilst I continued packing. Our suitcases were to be left outside our cabins between 22:00 and 02:00. Obviously it made sense for us to get them out there before we went to bed.

The highlight of the evening was when, having both completed our packing, I began taking the suitcases outside to the corridor. After taking the third case out I was joined by The Chef. CLUNK... the cabin door shut behind her. We were locked out! There I was, in my dressing gown and flip-flops, and the Chef, fortunately, looking more respectable than myself.

So now she had to go up to the ‘Guest Service’ desk on deck 6 to explain our situation and gain access to the cabin. Back she came with a plastic key, programmed as single use. Well if it had worked just that once we would have been able to get it, but it didn’t work, so back off up there she went, back she came with a re-programmed key, that didn’t work either. It was at this point that I insisted she demand somebody with access to the room meet us here and get us in, no more crappy keys. And so it was. The Chef was issued with a completely new personal key for herself and she was accompanied by a member of Guest Services who got us straight in.

A fitting end to the day.

12. Feb, 2017

The Geriatric Wing

12. Feb, 2017

THURSDAY 2-2-17

My word that was a rough night. The ship was being pounded by a storm 10. We could hear the waves crashing against our portholes as we made slow passage through the sea.

The Chef kindly bought me three slices of toast and marmalade plus a nice cold drink of orange juice for breakfast. I could only manage half of the toast but that nice cold orange juice was most welcomed.

The captain came on the tannoy to update us. It seems we were only doing about 5 knots to make things as comfortable as possible, which is all very well, but we are due back in Southampton Saturday morning, and on Saturday evening the ship leaves Southampton again, this time heading for the Caribbean. So now the pressure is on to get back in time. I think the captain may just have to wait until tonight when everyone’s in bed and get his foot down.

Lunch was provided in my cabin by The Chef – two nice cold fruit and jelly desserts hidden under a serviette.

I stayed in the cabin for most of the day in my self-imposed quarantine. I got up this evening whilst The Chef was at dinner, and had a nice wet shave and shower. It helped me to feel human again, though I did have one scare after spotting my very red tongue, I thought I’d caught it with the razor, before realising I’d spent the day sucking duty-free cherry flavoured Strepsils.

Although I felt fairly weak I took a deep breath and went for a little walk about. I used the lifts as I didn’t have the energy to use the flights of stairs. My first stop was the Palms Cafe informal self service eating area. This is for people who want informal dining and for those who like to eat with their fingers, to whom ‘Smart Casual’ is an ‘Iron Maiden’ T shirt which has been both washed AND ironed.

I helped myself to a little cheese and biscuits and some fresh fruit salad. I then requested a long drink of cold fresh orange juice from the waiter. This was a non-starter, no chance.

I ate what I could and then went next door to the ‘Morning Light’ pub where I ordered two large orange juices with ice, then drank them slowly. My word they gave my burning throat some relief.

Then it was off to ‘Guest Service’ to see if I could get a signed copy of the comedian Micky Zany’s book. He’d been signing copies in the Neptune Lounge theatre after his morning interview in front of an audience, which I understand was hilarious, but I’d had to miss it as I’d been in bed feeling rougher than the sea. The staff there suggested I write him a message which they would deliver to his cabin.

That done, the final stop was to the Photo Shop where I ordered a couple of Northern Light images which I paid for and they would email to me. I’d taken some pictures of it myself but after a few glasses of wine after dinner I had completely lost the plot when it came to exposures and was left with numerous black images.

The Chef returned from dinner where she had shared the table with Colin and Yvonne. It seems the ‘London Lad’ who was objecting to dressing like a fool for the ‘British’ theme night, had died in the early hours of Wednesday night down in the Geriatric Wing. Seems he couldn’t sleep and so got up for a walk about and a sit down in ‘The Wing’.

The Chef wanted to go along to this evening’s entertainment, and so I took a deep breath and went along with her. My first job was to order a pint of Coca Cola with ice which, when it finally arrived, was lovely and soothing on the ol’ throat.

The entertainment was laid on by members of the ship’s crew who are predominantly Filipino. There was dancing in traditional dress, singing, and a very funny dance routine by the ships engineering department. They had their overalls off down to their waists, with the overall arms tucked in to the overall pockets. Their bare abdominal areas had faces ‘painted’ on to them, and they had black bin liners over their heads and held in place internally by their arms tucked inside. It went down really well with the audience. It was by far my favourite part of the show.