Saturday 1th May 2007
As I knew it was going to be a busy day on the motorways due to the football traffic for Wembley, and plus the fact there were 4 ships in Southampton today, I thought I had better have an early start to make sure I didn’t miss any of my Arcadia time.
Arrived at Southampton at 11.00am. Drove straight into the carpark (self park for a two day cruise) and there were only a handful of cars already there. We only had one case with us so Lizy wheeled that across to the terminal and handed it to a porter to be delivered to the cabin. There were people still disembarking from the cruise before – they all looked a little glum!
Went into the Departure hall and one lone couple were stood at the front of the snaking queuing system. A few other people were sat around on the chairs in the window. Much to Lizy’s disgust I decided to walk onto the goldie carpet and form our queue. Lizy just thought this was crazy because there was nobody else there, so why queue. Well, a steady trickle of people came through the doors over the next 10 minutes and by 11.30 the queue was massive. By 11.45am the whole hall was rammed and the queue snaked out of the door and right around the front of the building. Checkin ladys were all at there stations but didn’t get the nod to start checking us in until 11.55am. Check in was very painless and quick. Straight through security with our handbags scanned. Into an empty lounge, where we were asked to wait until boarding started. Hadnt even warmed the chair up and I overheard clipboard woman being told that Priority Boarding could now commence. Me and Lizy were through the door like a puff of smoke. First on the tunnel, security photo taken, in the glass lift and straight up to Crows.
I did think it a little odd that we embarked and disembarked on deck 3 so you miss a nice entrance into the Atrium.
So anyway we arrived at Crows for Gold drinks. It would have been nice to have been greeted, but instead we were just ‘met’ my the new Loyalty Manager, with her clipboard and asked our cabin number (not even names) where she ticked us off. I noticed it wasn’t our name she ticked off as we had been upgraded (more about that in a bit) so I pointed that out. She wanted to see my gold Card as proof! Guess what? I’d forgotten it!!! Really thought we were going to get turfed out of there, but I quoted her my Portunus number, which she
wrote down so that she could check on us later!! Next thing we were given a bit of printed paper saying Gold Drinks and asked to display it on our table so that the waiters knew to serve us. Flippin heck! Nice waiter came and asked ‘what’ we would like to drink so lizy asked for Vodka, and me Southern Comfort. He was very obliging and walked off to get the order only to return 30 seconds later very embarrassed and told us that he was so sorry but we couldn’t have those drinks as she had blocked the order!!! I really felt for the lad and asked him to bring champers and a bucks fizz. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the waiter had approached us with a tray of bucks fizz and champers and we asked for other drinks, but he actually came across and asked us what we would like. Then we were hit with the next bit of news – no sandwiches and soggy crisps!! Soggy crisps are legendary at Portunus drinks I was not happy. On the way out to use the facilities, I asked nice Portunus lady if we were having sandwiches (not that I doubted the waiter) only to be told our lunch was in the Belvedere. Mmmmm…did I feel welcome? No most defiantly not. The people sat on the next table were equally not impressed. Portunus lady didn’t have a lot to do as not many people were there but she made absolutely no effort at all to be a good host to the room, no welcome back, no small talk or pleasantries to anyone. But every so often she would walk around and tell every table again that lunch was being served in the Belvedere. We took the hint and left.
Maybe she was just having an off day, but if that was my first cruise booked into a premium grade suite she wouldn’t have formed the best of first impressions of P&O Cruises for me.
So, at least we didn’t have cases to drag around the ship with us and we set off for a little tour as Lizy had never been grown up enough to go on Arcadia. We walked into the spa and had a laze around on the hot beds just to try them out (even nicer when your not paying for them lol) We took lots of photos and then they announced that cabins were ready.
So, our cabin – eeek! Well I cant call it a cabin. It was a Mini Suite! B99 perfect position midship. Didn’t know quite where to look first. We had a huge bathroom (if you compare it to an F deck inside like Im used to lol) Double sinks, plenty of mirrored cupboards, Jacuzzi bath, shower over the bath and separate shower. I do have to comment on the towels, very tatty and frayed, and a little grey looking, (the sort you would keep in the back of the airing cupboard just in case you really need them to mop something up one day) Yes I know I could have asked the steward to change them, and I know he would have without a fuss, but it was a luxury just to have a bathroom so I couldnt care less what state the towels were in. (Bathroom in refit at home and Ive been without bath or shower for a week)
The mini suite was a good size with plenty of space. Two double wardrobes and then one other double cupboard full of shelves and the safe. Iron and ironing board in the wardrobe. Large dressing table with 3 drawers either side and tea and coffee making facilities to the side. Large deep sofa, which made up as a single sofa bed. Bed was made up as a double but the nice steward sorted that back into twins for us.
Lizy had the bed by the wall so she had less chance of falling out. We both had bedside tables. There was plenty of space at the side of my bed and there was a large writing desk with chair and window above. Mini bar/fridge. Plasma screen TV and shelves full of glasses and ice bucket etc. We also had trouser press, atlas, P&O books, magazines, DVD list, wine list, dinner menu, chocolates, flowers and champagne Umberella, binoculars, slipper and what was described as fluffy bathrobes, but they were infact the honeycombe ones. We also had large boxes of Moulton Brown toiletries in the bathroom . On the balcony, we had two steamer chairs and two teak upright chairs with cushions!! Plus a teak table. We were three decks up from the lifeboats but I didn’t like the fact that we looked down onto them and I do much prefer to look straight down to the sea. But, All in all it was lush. We loved it.
We decided it was time for a proper drink after our disappointing Goldie drinks. We went down to Intermezzo to sit in my favourite barstools and Lizy bought me her first ever legal drink she could sign for on a P&O ship. No hang on let me re phrase that – Lizy ordered and signed for two Cosmopolitans that were charged to my credit card lol. The ship was like the Marie Celest – not a soul about. I think embarkation took quite a while today with everyone turning up all at once instead of at there allotted times, because I spoke to someone who turned up at 2.00pm to check in and the queue was still huge with long waits. Plus, I think a lot of people were in the Globe or rising sun watching the football.
We were soon joined by a few friends who got side tracked from their tour of the ship and we had a nice little drinks party at the bar.
But we had a cocktail party to attend at 5.30 and time was ticking on. A few friends came up to look at the Mini suite, then it was muster drill. Well we did our muster on the balcony with a bottle of champagne (please don’t be led by my example) We all sat in the bathroom for a while drinking champagne and watching the Jacuzzi bath fill – it doesn’t take much to keep us amused lol, then we went back to the sunshine of the balcony.
As much as I love one of my fellow collegues we had to send him on his way because it was 10 minutes to the cocktail party and had to get ready. Lizy went in the Jacuzzi while I got ready. But then oh no, we were moving and horns were being blasted. We were on Starboard and Aurora was on Portside – we just ran on the balcony, semi dressed, did a bit of screaming and eeeking at the horn blasting and ran back to get ready.
I did make my cocktail party, an half hour late, but hey I was there! Phew.
6.30pm and first sitting for dinner was being called. Not happy about having early meal sitting but what could we do? We were such a large party that we had to be accommodated where we could.
I have to say I didn’t like first meal sitting, but then I had been rushed to even get there. Late meal sitting means I can go for pre dinner drinks for 45 minutes but that just couldn’t happen if you were early. The whole ambience of dinner was wrong for me that early in the evening. I did feel rushed to what I am used to and can honestly say that I never enjoyed either of my evening meals onboard, but only because I wasn’t ready to eat that early
The admin team were invited up to see my mini suite of a pad. Oooh they liked. We opened the choices and every one had a good nosey around, but bars were open places to go etc. But then Lizy noticed we had an answer phone message. It was Captain Ian Walters welcoming Lizy and me onboard and he commented how nice it was to welcome Lizy onboard now that she was 18 etc. I wish we could have saved the message some how and I thought that was so nice of him to take time out of his day to do that. Sadly we never saw him as he was a very busy man for those two days, plus I was locked into a darkened room for hours on end.
Lizy wanted to go to the theatre. Yes I had looked at Arcadia today, and yes I had saw that Brian Connelly was on, but it never registered who he was (just thought he looked familiar so he must be one of those old P&O acts lol) Oh he was so funny. Even I laughed and I don’t usually laugh at comedians. He was so good that I could have gone and watched the second show. Needless to say that he bought the house down!
Then it was back to the Rising Sun to see a bit of Kareoke. Lizy wanted to gamble now she was of age so she had £5 worth of chips and sat at roulette but she came away empty handed – that got that out of her system, phew!. Electra was packed. Well it was busy in there to say the least. An excellent night which finished for me at 4.30am, but Im told that the music only stopped as we docked in Bruges at 8.00am and judging by the amount of people in there when I left I can well imagine it.
Sunday 18th May
Oh dear what happened to my head? Thankfully Lizy had ordered me breakfast in bed for 9.00am so I had toast and jam, a cup of tea and two paracetamol in bed. That was hard work! Then I ran myself a nice bath, turned on the Jacuzzi and had more tea and croissants in the bath. I did have to keep turning the jaccuzzi pump off for awhile as it was having a nasty effect on my poorly head. I dont recommend a Jacuzzi if you have fake tan on. My bath water ended up looking like a frothy coffee! So I jumped out of there and into my separate shower cubicle to wash my hair. Just about had time to dry my hair and head down to the Bay Room for my meeting. This bit was hard work. My concentration wasn’t up to much and I did a lot of fidgeting while charts, graphs, figures and %’s were displayed on a over head screen. It was a long time until lunch but a pleasant relief when we did break. The room is long and thin with a low ceiling and all the curtains drawn. I felt like I was shut in a box and had to get out to walk around the prom. It was very pleasant and sunny. People were getting off the shuttle in their shirt sleeves and all looked like they were enjoying themselves.
Lunch was a very impressive finger buffet, but nibbling at food while trying to natter to colleagues is never easy so I didn’t get to eat much.
Ding ding afternoon session was in full swing and I was struggling. But interesting stuff. A P&O and Ventura presentation so they had my attention. Then she said that she had a very special guest onboard to come and say Hello to us all, well some might have been expecting David Dingle but I knew it was Noddy!! He is the man! At first they couldn’t get in touch with him and it seemed he might not come, but he made it. He was fab. I loved him. We’re having drinks on Ventura Im even going to his private cocktail party on Ventura Maiden. Thankfully I had my camera with me and I could record the event. I didn’t want him to leave, but he had to go because he didn’t want the passengers to see him.
P&O then made some presentations for quizzes and things and recognised the top bookers etc. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t confident to be at the top for P&O bookings out of GoCruise but didn’t expect anything different to what the others were given. Sure enough I was top, which was enough for me and went up to collect my gift. But I wasn’t allowed to return to my seat. They wanted to make another presentation. P&O (or Complete Cruise Solution to be correct) select a Travel Agent of the month each month, but apparently there was no contest and I came out top against all other agents( high street and specialist) for our region. I was gobsmacked. Totally dumb struck (yes me speechless!). Couldn’t believe it and don’t think I said anything. Got back to my seat and I was awake now. I was bouncing now infact! I couldn’t wait for the meeting to end so I could run out and tell Lizy my exciting news. We eventually got let out with 40 minutes to spare and give us time to get ready for the Gala Reception. I left the room loaded with booty. Ventura pack, Champagne flutes, Emerald Princess Champagne, another bottle of Champagne and my framed certificate.
I got back to the cabin to find lizy laid out on the sofa with a duvet watching a film. She had a fab day. She went into town to buy chocolates and a waffle. Went to the spa, had a Jacuzzi and done her hair, painted her nails, had room service (£1.50 for a steak baquette) and just generally did enough chillin for the two of us!
Getting ready so fast was mad. I was putting my makeup on while trying to talk to Mr C on loud speaker on the phone.
But biff bash bosh, we were out of the room and on our way to the Gala Reception by the Neptune pool.
Dinner again I didn’t enjoy, and the section waiter was mortified I hadn’t eaten again, but it didn’t matter whether it was good or not I couldn’t enjoy it as I wasn’t ready for it, but he gave me a double helping of Brandy on my Flambe Cherries so that was a nice bonus. Havent seen them do the cherries and fire for a while so I enjoyed those. But we left the table early and went to Intermezzo, and much to James the barmans, amusement we asked for some bowls of vegetable crisps and Cosmo’s, but he obliged and we had fun while it was nice and quiet. It wasnt long before Rich & Katy, Ted, Martin joined us. We had a good old giggle, but before I knew where I was Lizy was dragging me off to the theatre again. What a performance to find her a seat. She wanted to sit in the egg boxes so she trecked me round to those and then decided that the view wasn’t good for that sort of show. So up we got and went further around disturbing a whole row of people only to discover that the reason they had left a gap was because the pillar was blocking the view. Up we got again, and so did the rest of the row, to treck to the opposite side right on the front row top tier. Thank goodness for that, she was settled. The lights went down, on they all came the stage was moving the rope came down and so did my eyelids!! I was gone. Not the most comfortable place to sleep as the seats don’t have high enough backs but I was out of it! I only woke up with the firework finale thing. Gosh I felt better though. Just like Id been revitalised. Apparently the show was excellent by the way, and thankfully I had seen it before. We left the theatre with me thinking in was the middle of the night. It was still flippin daylight outside! It was about 9.30pm which is when I like to be in dinner! Flippin first sitting. Couldn’t believe it when we got back to Intermezzo and the others were still there. So we took up our place on the barstools again and it was like we never left. Plenty of cocktails and southern comforts followed and we just made our own fun and entertainment. Not that there wasn’t any going on around the ship. 60’s & 70’s night in the Globe was packed, and I mean packed solid. You just couldn’t move anywhere. It was a struggle to even get through to the Rising Sun. Electra was equally as packed. I was sad we never made it up to Orchid Bar at some point but we figured it may be closed by now so we headed for Crows which was just closing, we managed a drink. Then it was a final walk to Electra which had no signs of stopping. Back to my mini suite for me. It was 2.30pm and some sleep sounded good before I got in the car to drive home.
Monday 21st May
I have had terrible issues with the time today. I knew the clocks went forward to go to Bruges but as I hadn’t had my watch on all weekend I knew I hadn’t changed it. So I thought it was 7.00am. I got up and packed as quick as I could, found ways of transporting all my extra goodies etc, kicked Lizy out of bed, left the steward his tip and felt bad about vacating the cabin at 8.20 as he had been so lovely and I knew he had things to do. Had to stop by reception for something. We hadn’t been to breakfast as it had finished at 8.00 but a bloke in the queue couldn’t understand why I was loaded up with bags and was ready to go, why I hadn’t had breakfast etc. How could I it was too late? Then he pointed out I was on the wrong time. Don’t know when I altered my watch then. Was just thinking about going for some breakfast, But we were in the right place at the right time because they said we could disembark so we were first to leave. Bit appropriate really, first on and first off. We were in the car at 8.04am and home for 10.30 – now that is a record!
Arcadia is still one of my favourite ships. Aurora is still way out on top though. I have to say that Arcadia surprised me that she looked a little tired in some areas. Things like the towels, the lounger cushions were very faded and grubby, some very worn carpet which I have never seen before. Usually the carpet fitters jump on at Southampton and refit new carpet here and there, but one sair carpet was so worn I could see the white weave underneath. Our duvets were lifeless, lost their fluffyness, just small things I know but things easily put right. The decks still confuse me and Lizy just cant get her head around where everything is at all. Deck 2 & 3 will always throw me.
Me & Liz did take a wrong turn on the way back to our mini suite last night and ended up outside B72 – well, we giggled ourselves stupid with comments like ‘oooh I bet that’s a nice cabin etc’ Yes you’ve guessed it – it was the ‘Nice Suite’ We even took photos of the door. It would have been so funny if someone would have opened the door and the flash had gone off in their face.
There was quite a few people not dressed formal and some were very down dressed in casual. I don’t know if that may have been because they stopped on from the cruise before and had maybe had enough and had packed ready to go, or whether they just couldn’t be bothered? But why cruise P&O if that’s not what you want? I saw people enter the main restaurant unchallenged without collar and tie, let alone dinner jacket and bow tie. Even if they had eaten in the Belvedere they should dress to the code of the evening – if they don’t like it they have NCL and Ocean Village to try. Two nighters are great but they don’t reflect a true cruise to anyone who goes onboard to see if they like it.
I had a great time. Loved my mini suite and loved the little touches like a voice mail from the captain. I saw crew I hadn’t seen for years. Most couldn’t get over how Lizy had grown. So all in all, a very special weekend for one reason or another.
I cant wait for QM2 to come for me now and I can just chill and do my own thing.
Working and cruising defiantly don’t mix for me, its one thing or the other but not both together. Ive been on a ship for the weekend. Ate virtually nothing apart from Vegatetable crisps (Mc Doanalds at TotHill was a most welcome diversion this morning), ran up a bit of a bar bill, not set foot off the gangway, hardly saw daylight yesterday, and now Im done in!
But like I say I had fun …. Ooh and met Noddy!
Please feel Free to leave a comment below and you can view the rest of my pictures here in the Arcadia may 07 slideshow