Friday 22nd July 2011
The sun is blasting through the bedroom window and today is cruise day! Its still early at 5.30 am but things to do, last minute checks to make, and before I knew it we were in the car and heading for Southampton. Arrived at Ocean Terminal at 11.20am which wasn’t bad considering we left the house at just gone 9.00am and I hit two slight delays due to accidents on route. CPS put us into a holding queue, but we were right at the front, so were soon called across to check the car in. Car was soon checked in, a porter unloaded the car and took away the cases and assisted while Mum got in her wheelchair. I left Mum with the hand luggage while I went in search of some wheelchair assistance and I found them all having their briefing just inside the terminal. A very nice man was soon assigned to assist me and stayed with us all the way through to embarkation. The terminal was packed with passengers waiting to be called to check in. The Gold Portunus queue was already checking in, but the wheelchair man diverted us straight to the mobility check in desks, which weren’t officially open, so we were soon processed and walked straight onboard.
Gold embarkation drinks was very busy, but the fizz soon arrived. To my surprise Mum tried a sip – she must have been thirsty! I think the screwed up face confirmed that she didn’t like it. The curly sandwiches and soggy crisps have disappeared. They were legendary! Instead we were presented with a plate of 10 fingers sandwiched with salad garnish. Very enjoyable. Mum asked for a cup of tea, but was told non was available. I took the trek upto deck 15 to acquire a cup of tea, and by the time I got back with it, Clifford had met Mums request for tea and arranged a tea pot full for her from Java. Clifford’ a star! But now Mum has requested cake, fruit cake to be precise, so back I trecked to the buffet for a slice of fruit cake. Oh dear, no fruit cake! It must have been the already consumed 3 glasses of fizz but I thought a bowl of fresh fruit and a choux bun was a pretty good substitute?! Mum was less impressed with my efforts. Well it was fruit and a cake!
Just before 2.00pm I decided to beat the system and head for the cabin, making it easier to call for a lift before the masses got on the move. I took the hand luggage first, and arrived at the cabin with mum and the wheelchair about 3 mins before the announcement for cabins was made. Cases were already close by, so I wheeled them along to the cabin and was unpacked in no time. I struggled a bit with storage, but it all fitted in somewhere.
Whilst mum had a lay down, I went for a much earnt cocktail of the day up at Breakers and met up with Denise & Chris. Cocktail of the day was Caribbean cruise, so it had to be done! And it went down very nicely.
After Muster drill Captain Keith Dowds informed us that we would soon let go our lines and head off for the Mediterranean, but first we had to let Oriana come down from Mayflower Terminal. There was some good horn blasting as she went past our stern and very elegant she looked too.
Sailway party was a bit of a damp squib, due to some drizzle, so I went in search of the internet manager.
I’m having a bit of a stress about connecting to the internet. Im not the most technical of people and there is a note in the cabin informing me that they are ‘trialling’ a new internet package. It was bad enough when they charged £62.50 for 240 mins, but at least I could see how many minutes I was using and how much I had left etc. Now they are charging per MegaBite. I’ve since received a few quick lessons in what that translates to in English, and for me its not good. Due to my line of work, I receive all sorts of emails and updates from various cruise lines, that are massive, compared to a normal email. Plus I need to use a booking system etc. 240 MG is £100!!! I know I might be an exception to the rule in the usage, but why am I being charged by the MB?! Its totally scandalous the amount of money that cruise lines charge passengers for internet usage in the first place. It must be a big revenue earner for them. I don’t mind paying for the service, but £100?? To me internet is just internet, it picks a signal up from a satellite and connects me – maybe an over simple explanation but thats the way I see it. I have no idea how long 240MB that will last me? Because its a ‘trial’ I will be invited to answer a questionnaire at the end of the cruise and might win a bottle of wine and meal for two!! Meanwhile I have spent a couple of hundred pounds on a service that was already there – and Ive just paid through the nose for it! Why didn’t P&O advise of this change before, for me it could have determined which cruise line or ship I travel on and could affect it in the future? Anyway, its completely stressed me out, I have no control over it, I have to bite the bullet and purchase said package – but it does feel like daylight robbery!
Meanwhile, back at the cabin Mum is getting impatient and wants her tea! Oh no its too early to dine so I distract her with a phone call to Mr C. I had taken mum for a tour of the ship earlier and informed her that they served her favourite, fish & chips, in the Glass House, so maybe we should go and eat there tonight. I fell about laughing when she told Mr C on the phone “Oooh you should see the fish & chip shop on here! You would love it!! We are going there for our tea” ‘Fish & Chip shop’!!!! Olly I hope you are impressed by the title of your signature restaurant because thats what it will always be to me from this day on now.
Mum has changed her blouse, touched up her makeup and is making it very clear to me that I cannot have any getting ready time. Tempted as I was to just go out as I was, I simply couldn’t. I threw some makeup at my face, put a comb through my hair, put a dress over my head and was ready to walk out the door within 10 mins. That wasn’t fast enough though. Mum wants her tea!
Arrived at the Glass House at around 7.00pm and found a seat easily. A glass of Canadian Fizz was soon ordered and Mums fish & chip order placed. I went for spring chicken which was lovely. I could quite happily have sat with another glass of Canadian fizz or three but the shops were calling Mum so off we went. We went in the jewellers and I must have looked wealthy because they seemed to be falling over themselves to offer me glasses of champagne and talk to me about the great Tanzenite unveiling – oh that old chestnut! Tempted as I was to take up there offer of a glass of fizz, mum informed them we weren’t stopping so off we went. A stroll down the photographers and a very nice man checked over my camera to double check that I had all of my settings correct. I had been left to mess with it myself this morning in an effort to delete all old photos before I started taking new ones, and I was hitting everything and anything in an effort to find the correct menu. Apparently I had done no damage so after thanking him for his help we were on our way. We were too early for embarkation photos today, but I had to smile at a group of three lads checking out all the girls photos, and making their ‘selections’ for the 14 days ahead. I suppose its a very good way of checking out all available eye candy and knowing who they want to look out for onboard. There are a lot of teens onboard. More than I have seen in a long long time, but then I haven’t done a summer cruise, on a family ship since 2003. But I have to say that all that I have encountered to date have been really polite and helpful, moving to allow the wheelchair to pass, assisting with lifts etc. So we will see if it continues I’m sure it will.
Next we checked out the shops on Deck 6, but every where is very busy, so its hard work with the wheelchair. I made the mistake of walking through Brodies on the slots side! Oh no, mum wants to play. The casino isn’t the most wheelchair friendly of places on a busy evening, and Mum thinks she can select her slot machine and as if my magic I will get her parked infront of it. Eventually, I got her parked up infront of a 10p slot, a £5 note was inserted and I slumped on a stool behind her. A croupier laughed at the look of exhaustion on my face. I needed a drink, Stan was behind the bar, but it was rammed. I knew I had no chance of sitting at the bar for 10 mins, so I watched the reels going round and round and listened to the jungles and clanks of the stupid machines. I just don’t get what enjoyment they provide, but clearly they do too many.
Mums bed is calling her. I lay on the bed myself for 5 minutes and was oh so tempted to go for it. But no, I’m on a cruise! The night is young – only 8.00pm infact, so once mum is tucked up I head off out to see whats what. Its pre dinner to most people, which is what it should be to me too, but at the moment it feels like about 11.00pm. oh its been a long day. There appears to be people everywhere, but I think thats more the way it feels due to my tiredness. I wondered along deck 7 and headed to Planet Bar. At last sanctuary, it was so peaceful and quiet. I know I have moaned in the past that Planet Bar has been to quiet and the new ‘Meridian lounge’ of the sea, but tonight I more than appreciated the total tranquillity of the palace. I sat at the bar and had a cosmo. It was perfect. The barman, Sid, was chatty and welcoming, but not in my face and I think he could tell I just wanted to sit quietly and chill. He seemed disappointed when I said I was only having the one, but I have told him I will be back and he said there will always be a place at his bar for me. I will be back because he made me feel welcome.
Back down to deck 7 and every where is still busy despite one sitting still being in dinner. Glass House was quiet and I bumped into Al, and sat at the bar chatting and drinking Blind River for well over an hour. Ive suddenly slipped into holiday mode. All is well with my world at sea (as long as I don’t think about the internet situation!) Me and Al had a big catch up and its been 11 years since his first contract when I met him. I should have bought photos of him as a waiter in Andersons on Oriana, maybe one for FaceBook at some point, lol.
I was heading for my bed, but couldn’t resist sticking my head in the theatre. It was packed, but the show was excellent and before I knew it I had found a seat and was enjoying Headliners show of ‘My Generation’ it was fabulous. I really really enjoyed it!! Might give the theatre another whirl during my long evenings, that seem to be starting late afternoon lol.
I was in bed for 11.30pm but it somehow felt like about 3.30am. maybe I should start my late nights earlier in future, maybe its the way forward for more sleep time?
Saturday 23rd July 2011 – at sea
It was difficult to ignore my 4.40am wake up call, closely followed by the 5.20am wakeup call. At 6.45am I decided I could ignore mums requests for tea and toast no longer, so I got up and very grumpily boiled the kettle. Gosh they are noisy those kettles – or was it my head that was a little sensitive?! Unfortunately P&O have not stretched to the facility of providing a toaster in the cabin, and I knew that Mum would not approve of tinder cold toast bought via room service. Her simple response to that knock back was that I should ask them to bring some hot toast. But my explanation of the fact that the room service steward has to carry it from the galley, all the way forward to C deck, plus make some other deliveries on the way was lost on her. I begrudgingly introduced myself to the shower and the White linen toiletries and within 20 mins I looked almost human again.
I really didn’t expect to see so many people in the Peninsular Restaurant for breakfast, but it was packed. I asked for a table for two because Im not feeling very sociable. My request was met but the table was not an easy location to negotiate with a wheelchair. We were soon seated, wheelchair was whisked away for safe keeping and cheerful waiter appears and offers tea or coffee. Mum was straight in with her request of apple juice, bacon egg and tomato not forgetting the toast and marmalade! Melon followed by fruit and fibre did me just fine. You will be pleased to hear that the toast was warm and met with Mums approval.
After a walk around deck 7 & 6 the shops were open and the biggest blue ring had caught Mums eye. It wasn’t long before that was in a bag!
There is no sign of the sun this morning, but it wasn’t really expected given the UK weather recently. Mum was tired after her early morning efforts to wake me so she is currently checking the insides of her eyelids!
My funny story of the morning was an elderly lady that I bumped into on deck 5 forward by the stairs. She was looking very bewildered so I asked if I could help. She looked up and pointed to the green Exit sign just inside the corridor, which pointed in towards the stairwell and lifts. She was stood looking around by the lifts looking for the door to outside. I explained, as best as I could that we were inboard, so she cant get out, plus there is no open deck on deck 5 and she needed deck 7. “But it says Exit” she kept insisting “and I want to get out for some fresh air. My outside cabin is inside” Clearly her travel agent didn’t explain that one very well! Anyone know a good travel agent?! I didn’t know which I was going to do first – laugh or loose my patience trying to explain, so when she suggested she was going to walk down the other side toward Java I let her go on her way.
Noon announcement from the bridge has just finished. I can only guess that the officer of the watch was on some sort of a challenge because he was coming out with some pretty random facts. Not sure why I needed to know that this was the day that Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson? I would have liked to have know what the weather forcast was but all we were told was that its currently 15 degs. At least its calm and we are nearly out of the Bay of Biscuits.
Mum is now awake, and she has decided its lunch time, so we must go in search of food. I don’t think I am in the mood for the buffet bun fight so might have to go civilised and dine in the Peninsular again.
Peninsular restaurant it was. I had the healthy option of lentil soup followed by berries with fromage frais for desert, but I had a little less healthy option of mousaka in between. The food was hot and nicely presented, just as breakfast was. Enrico, gave me his recommendation for the wine choice, after the one I selected didn’t meet with his approval. I have known Enrico for many years now, so I think he is qualified to tell me what I should be drinking. I liked it so much I bought the bottle and it will be available in the Freedom dining restaurant for me later. After lunch we perused the shops for what must be the 7th time in less than 24 hrs!
Kings Speech was on in Malabar and it was packed out. Hopefully they will show it again later in the cruise and I get to see it. We walked through deck 15 buffet dining areas and immediately a Head Waiter asked how I was. I confess I hadn’t got a clue who he was, but he informed me it had been 12 years since he last saw me on Oriana and even told me which table I sat at in the Oriental! How do they do that? I was surprised at how many people were sat on deck and in the pool. It really is chilly, overcast and quite windy. Back in the cabin now and my bed is calling me. I wonder how long I have?
Well, it was one hour and 3 minutes to be precise! And a very nice little snooze it was too. Back to my lap top for a bit more stressing over internet connection or total lack of it in the cabin. I keep being advised that too many users are online. Blake and Ancy my right hand IT and Media experts have been superb at trying to sort me and my internet out, and I think it might have something to do with the age profile of pax onboard hence the high amount of people on line. Either that or its an excuse! So still no work done for me!
Its Captains Gala Reception this evening, and somehow we were both ready 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Decided to go and chill in Glass House with a glass or two of Canadin Fizz. Mum was more than happy to sit and watch all the dresses parade through. I wasn’t too bothered about Captains Welcome party but we lingered for a while on deck 7 and it was way to busy. I decided I could beat the system by getting into Freedom dining before the party got started properly, but when I turned up at the restaurant I was told it would be at least 9.00pm and was given a pager. Went back out to the ‘party’ but nothing exciting. Didn’t even get offered one drink!! Enough waiter passed me but more with empty trays than full. His cheap fizz would have only spoilt my Canadian Fizz. Went into dinner a little nervous at the thought of sharing a table, but we were so lucky, it was a fab table. We all had a good laugh and a natter and I want to sit with them every night now. It was very late when we left the restaurant, about 10.45pm I think so it was straight to bed for Mum. I had a wander through deck 7. Lots dancing in the Atrium and Malabar. Bradley Walsh (I think it was Bradley?) was on in the theatre. I headed up to Planet Bar but it was packed. No chance of my seat at the bar I thought. But straight away the bartender spotted me and waived me in. A bar stool was located for me and people at the bar made room for me. A nice Appletini to start off with. Lovely family to one side of me, who were actually my next door neighbours and they challenged me to name one of the European views on the screen that they couldn’t identify. It looked like Iceland to me and I was correct. I didn’t know I knew my locations that well myself! I was soon chatting away to Mary and John to the other side of me and several Cosmos and a southern comforts later I decided it was time for bed. Oh dear 10 to 3 in the morning. Im going to regret that in a few hours time! But a very enjoyable evening.
Sunday 24th July 2012 – at sea
Bliss, I got a lie in until 8.00am! I couldnt face the bun fight buffet so suggested to mum thaty she got up and we went to breakfast in Peninsular. We made it by 9.00am and that was a lot of hassle saved. Straight out onto Breakers and got my usual spot. Laid there in the sun until lunch time. It was Sunday and dint want to exert myself. I had a delicious lemon chicken baguette from the Grill and Mum had the fish goujons. It was getting very hot by now so we retreated to the cabin, so mum could lie down. I had to have another few issues with the new internet log in, but Blake and Ancy were again superb and sorted me out. I have been such a pain, but at least we have had a few laughs too. They will be glad to see the back of me I’m sure.
Its baking hot on the balcony. So hot that it can only be dealt with in short bursts. But its a lovely way to spend Sunday afternoon.
Semi Formal night tonight, or the new wording is Smart – Jacket required. It became apparent to me as soon as I got out of the lift on deck 7 that too many people had taken the word ‘Smart’ too literally. Gone of the days of cocktail dresses thats for sure, and a lot of men without jackets. I honestly thought I had read the dress code wrong but I checked with ents team on theatre doors and I was correct. Certainly not a lot to see from our ‘frock watching’ seats.
Went down to Freedom dining at 7.45,and straight in because we agreed to table share. We got allocated a table of 10 which was too big for mum. The table were struggling to communicate and mum only wanted a main course but had to wait for the other 9 to be served two courses before she could eat. So it was a long meal for her and wanted her bed by the time we were out of there.
By the time I came back down from the cabin Zoe Tyler was just finishing in the theatre, so I didn’t get to see her. I headed for my usual place in Planet Bar and it was packed with everyone watching a stunning sunset at the stern. Straight away the lads found me a bar stool and cosmo was served. Fair play to the barstaff, they were trying to ensure that dress code was upheld and that gents who entered were wearing a jacket. Later in the evening, as it got warm, Alan and John slipped their jackets off and hung them on the back of a barstool. We were mid conversation, when a rude man appeared and asked where their jackets were. He was clearly not happy because he had been sent away to get one, or choose another bar. Top marks to the barstaff because thats the way it should be. Jackets required is what it says. He was clearly trying to cause a lot of aggravation and went off around the room checking for jackets. I had to smile and comment to the barstaff and ask why some ladies were ‘allowed’ daywear. P&O take note – the definition of the dress codes is poorly worded. ‘Elegant Casual, jacket required’ would be better than smart casual, jacket required. Personally I cant see what was wrong with Semi Formal?
It was about 2.00am when we left Planet. Mary & John went for scoobie snax and I was tempted, but knew I shouldn’t. I couldn’t face the long corridor walk of deck 10 so opted to go down to deck 7. Teens were everywhere. Manhattan was packed and playing some very loud thumping music. There were teens out on deck, teens congregated in the photo gallery, there were alot everywhere. Non of them doing any harm or causing any mischief from what I could see but just enjoying themselves.
Monday 25th July 2011 – still at sea
Yes, we are still at sea. Seems a long run down to the med this time. My morning wouldn’t be complete without my visit to see Ancy in the Library and discuss my latest internet issues. Connection to the internet in the cabin on wifi is causing me major issues, a problem I have never had before, but this new fangled way of internet usage is meaning some are taking all the bandwidth – ooh get me and my new learnt lingo! I will be a total expert by the time I get of this ship thanks to Ancy and Blake.
Gold Portunas lunch today and you all know how much I love them! (rolls eyes) Didnt want mum to miss out so I have again agreed to go. Bring on the days of my super special Ligurian event, and slippers!!
So 12 noon, and the Goldies are gathering outside the Medridian restaurant. Table 97 for us and what will that bring I wonder. Well, we had the fortune of a lovely host by the name of Danielle who runs the Whitewall gallery, plus one other couple. The remaining 4 seats were set but they didn’t arrive, then a gentleman came to join us who had had his family split up over 3 tables, and he had left his designated table to allow his teenage children to sit with their mum. Danielle was lovely and certainly saved the day, but as I have said for a long long time these events are no longer that special to those of us that cruise frequently. Kathy Jones Exec Purser did come round the tables to say Hello etc but I do wonder why some Captains address the room and others don’t bother? There were no words from the Captian for us. Mr C will be delighted to learn that I have managed to offload my lovely shiny Portunus gift. I don’t wish to sound ungrateful P&O but there is only so many silver coloured coasters that I actually want or need. Mr C curses the little blue boxes at home that take up space in every random draw he seems to open. I had them last Feb & May, I had them this January and I really thought someone else would appreciate the shiny coasters a lot more than I did, so that was my good deed for the day. So yes, lunch was very pleasant, but not something I needed a couple of hours after getting out of my bed.
Back to my laptop and still I cant connect. I just want to sit in a dark room and cry now. Unfortunately for Ancy its time for me to visit her again. She reaches for the phone and pages Blake. They really are absolute stars. Their patience is amazing. They have this new system in place that they have to trial and then they have people like me to deal with that don’t understand the first thing about Megabites etc, although, I do know a lot more now that I did 3 or 4 days ago! Blake refuses to give up on me and he is well on his way to going beyond the extra 10 miles for me. Every time I leave the library I know he must be hoping its the last time lol. But in a nice way because I know he and Ancy just genuinely want my internet issues to be resolved, or a solution worked out and I can carry on as normal enjoying my holiday and keeping on top of my work.
The sun was balsting on the balcony. As it had been all day, so I grabbed and hour. But then made the fatal mistake of fetching a Cuba Libra and by the time I got back the sun had gone over the top of the ship. Time to check out my duvet and mattress then!
Sleep time was good. I managed to grab a whole hour. Formal night tonight and I decided it was time we paid a visit to Blue Bar for my Garden Tea martini. Oh no!! They don’t have it on the menu anymore. Had to settle for a cosmo. Linda and Chris joined us for a pre dinner drink, so that made for more than a pleasant change. Enjoyed it so much we had two pre dinner drinks. I also spotted that they served my Canadian fizz in there too so I had a glass of that. Mum was in her element watching all the formal gowns coming and going up the Atrium stairs. She even saw a wedding party but didn’t think to inform the rest of us so we could have a nose too. Chris was despatched for a bleeper to Freedom dining, but he failed in his mission because the queue was massive. I went to see what I could do and found that the blonde hair and eyelashes helped. I had a lovely meal of tiger prawns with rice and sweet and sour sauce, followed by banana soufflé.
Cher tribute was on in Manhattan, not as busy as the other tribute acts so I managed to see a snippet of her before venturing up to Planet Bar. I was only going to have the one drink but then Sid offered to make me my Garden Martini. That turned into two. John and Mary went to bed and I was seriously considering it, but to late another drink had arrived. Two blokes were annoying me at the bar, just speaking about me and clearly were out without their other halves and presuming I was on the pull or something. Those sort of blokes really wind me up! I was glad when they left, but could see their reflections out in the stairwell and the one decided he was coming back for another try. He seemed quite put out with my brush off, which was quite blunt, the bartender clocked it and he looked after me. He even escorted me out of the room when I left to make sure I wasn’t followed. Thats what I like about P&O I always feel safe, and the bartenders must know to look out for that sort of thing. Thats another member of staff who have gone the extra mile for me. meanwhile, I hope the idiot on the pull thinks about his actions in the future!
Tuesday 26th July 2011 – Barcelona
I cant quite understand why the nights are getting shorter? How come there is no time for sleeping? My early morning wake up announcement from the next bed informed me that I needed to get up. We have to go to breakfast! We aren’t even inside the harbour wall of Barcelona yet, whats the rush. The sun is blazing through the balcony doors and its scorching on the balcony. Its not even 8.00am yet. I scraped into breakfast at 5 to 9 just before doors closed. Lots of tea later I was starting to wake up.
We didn’t dock until 9.00am but it seemed like the entire ship was queuing to get off. I have never seen anything like it. The queue went right round deck 6 atrium and back through Brodies. We went back to the cabin to avoid that one. I think it was just a combination of docking later, first port, 3 days at sea and them all needing to set foot on land. Queue for the shuttle buses doesn’t look fun either, so will give them an hour to clear before venturing ashore.
By the time we were ready to go ashore there was no hint of any queues. We walked straight off, assisted all the way through the airbridge by two wheelchair pushers, through the terminal building and straight onto a bus. There was a wheelchair adapted minibus, but it was only taking one chair at a time, which didn’t seem that efficient, and there were already two wheelchair users waiting. The Barcelona ground crew suggested I board the next bus first with mum and he kept everyone back while I got her on the bus under her own time. Las Ramblas was hot and packed as usual! Not very many living statues though so there was no little bottle necks as I tried to pass them. I was paranoid about getting my bag lifted but a handy little pocket in the back of mums wheelchair meant I could stow it away out of sight. We walked two thirds of the way up las Ramblas, through the shopping precinct, round the top and back down the length of las Ramblas. That was enough excitement for one day. Back down to the shuttle buses and straight onto the wheelchair adapted one and straight back to the ship.
Upto Breakers Bar for a long cold drink. It was getting on for 2.00pm and it was deserted. Even the pool below was empty. Thats just how I like my ships! Cocktail of the day was a Hurricane so it went down very nicely. No queuing at Frankies Grill today either and mum had her usual fish goujons and I opted for the chicken and bacon baguette, washed down by a second Hurricane. We really were melting so it was retreat to the cabin. I could see we were about to loose the sun on our side and sure enough, by the time I had changed and cooled down, the sun had popped over the top of the ship and cast a shadow on our balcony. Mum had a snooze so I escaped to the Terrace Bar right at the back of the ship and baked for 10 minutes while I sipped on another Hurricane. Time for a snooze after my busy day, lol.
Casual night tonight and oh boy do some take that literally! I managed to slip in my glass of Canadian fizz en route to dinner. Dinner was very quiet tonight due to the Indian Buffet upstairs. I like the Indian buffet but Mum wouldn’t enjoy so traditional dining for us. We had a nice table again and lovely meal. I asked if ‘always available’ was still available because I hadn’t seen it mentioned anywhere on the menus, but after some checking the waiter informed me that they no longer offered it as an option. I didn’t want any alternative, I really was just curious. I had a lovely meal of Salmon followed by strawberry shortbread.
Zoe Tyler was on in the theatre and people kept telling me how good her first show was, so I wanted to see her. Her show was packed with standing room only. I stood at the back but it was so warm I had to leave after about three songs, but yes, she was indeed excellent and well worth going to see if you get the chance.
Malabar was also packed out with a comedian, and there was a lot of laughing going on so can only presume he was good too. Planet Bar for me, and John and Mary were already there. I told them all about my experiences from the night before. The two men didn’t return tonight so all was well. Sid made us some excellent cocktails again including a Raspberry Creme brule which was like a meal in a glass, and a lovely margarita with salt rim. Time for bed and I was escorted by John and Mary to keep me out of trouble. We went via deck 7 and was going to walk along the outside. Oh my goodness how many teens were out there smoking. The deck was rammed and we struggled to get by. I would also guess that some of them had been drinking too so maybe supplies were obtained ashore?! I have seen the kids security out and about so I’m sure they are keeping an eye on them. I wouldn’t be happy to know my youngster was out in such a big crowd though.
Wednesday 27th July 2011 – Toulon
Oh dear, grey skys and a bit of drizzle but its early. I couldnt be bothered to make the effort to get breakfast in the restaurant so I braved a walk upto self service and acquired some toast and a couple of pastries. It wasn’t too bad as it wasn’t busy. We had been to Toulon last September and personally I didn’t think it worth the effort to take the 30 min shuttle bus into Toulon from the dockside. Last year it cost a shuttle bus fee of $48 for the four of us with Celebrity 😮 which I would not pay again, and is one of the reasons Celebrity wouldn’t be my own personal choice of cruise line. Im sure it is the port authoritys that are keen to have us in the ports so Im never too sure why P&O can provide complimentary shuttle services and other cruise lines cant. The complimentary shuttle service is greatly appreciated though. The weather still isn’t brilliant and it made a couple of attempts to drizzle while we stood in the queue for the shuttle bus on the quay side. There was already a queue for the wheelchair adapted one, so we opted for the non adapted coach and two gentlemen very kindly moved from the front seat to allow mum to be seated without too much hassle. It is a long boring drive into Toulon, hampered by stop start traffic. Mum has a unique way of marking her ports of call for enjoyment, and for Mum Toulon scored 11 out of 10. Which loosly translates to she got plenty of bargains on the market. It is a nice little market and a pleasant enough shopping street. The street does open up into a more commercial town centre and shopping mall but we didn’t venture that far. Back through the harbour and we joined the queue for the bus back to Azura. We were quite lucky and we were only one shuttle bus length back, but the queue soon formed because all the shuttle bus drivers appeared to be in lunch, and loads of buses were parked up on the side of the car park. We managed to get on the second bus back, but by then the queue was way back across the car park and back to the gates. A lot of fed up looking passengers. The drive back was a little quicker than getting there at around 25 mins, but just as we stepped off the bus the heavens opened and we got drowned running to the front of the ship for the wheelchair access gangway. We went straight into Peninsular because I wasn’t sure what time it closed and had a very enjoyable lunch with a glass of wine.
The weather wasn’t going to improve so it was time to catch up with some sleep.
I woke up and decided I was going to ‘Recreate the Majic’ of our first formal night dining table and contacted Debbie and her boys, plus Linda & Chris to arrange to meet for pre dinner drinks in Blue Bar followed by dinner in Meridian. We had a lovely lovely evening, and a nice meal with lots of chatter.
At about 5.30 this evening there was an announcement form the purser reminding all of the dress code of the evening. It was a ‘semi formal’ evening, and like I said the other day, I feel that the termination ‘smart – jacket required for gents’ is getting very misinterpreted. It sounds simple enough to understand, but the mixture of bold and normal print in the daily newssheet leans more towards the casual, and I feel thats what a lot of people dressed as last time. So tonight passengers have been warned that gents must wear a jacket if dining in Peninsular, oriental or Meridian, and drinking in Blue bar, Planet and somewhere else which I cant recall. What a shame the restaurant managers didn’t uphold the dress code because I saw a few gents come into dinner in check shirts, open neck shirts or tshirts – all without a jacket. There were certainly plenty dressed the same throughout the ship later too.
A lot of people were heading for Rome tomorrow so many had taken to their beds early. I went to my usual spot in Planet Bar and joined Mary & John for drinks. They had been to XVII for a meal this evening and said it was superb. I will get to try that place one day. Alann decided to grace us with his presence this evening so he some catching up to do with all the recent events of dodgy men at the bar etc lol.
Thursday 28th July 2011 – Civitavecchia
Its a hot one today! I had looked out and had wrongly presumed we were berthed a little closer to the port gate this time, so after breakfast in the Peninsular restaurant we went ashore nice and early. I thought about getting the shuttle bus to the port gates, but non of the mobility ones were there and I just couldn’t be doing with the hassle of boarding mum on and off the non adapted one. So I decided it wasn’t far to walk. Well, it might not be far to walk on a normal day, but in the searing heat, complete with a delicate little hangover, and the sun blasting onto me, it felt like a trek across the desert. When I eventually reached the port gates I recalled that the precinct was on a slight incline and I had to push the wheelchair up it. Oh boy this market had better be open when I got there. Thankfully it was, and it was in the shade, which was bliss and greatly appreciated. A bottle of ice cold water would have been appreciated more but Mum was on a mission. Bags and shiney things to be looked at. Mum is very good at bartering and does the ‘oh I don’t have enough Euros left’ thing. She managed 3 handbags and a necklace today. Not paying more than 12 euros for any of them. I got a lovely white sparkly kaftan swimwear coverup for 5 euros and a much needed fushia pink handbag, for 10 euros. So we were able to leave happy after a successful shopping mission. I was hoping to get the bus back to the ship, but once we were through the port gate the pavement was very uneven and difficult to negotiate with a wheelchair. There were people getting off buses and people clambering to get on buses, with 5 ships it was too chaotic and I gave up within about 30 seconds. Yes, I walked all the way back again. In that heat!!! I really am crackers. Got to the cabin and Mum was ‘worn out’ how does that happen then? Nice comfy ride in a wheelchair v’s pushing the dam thing and she is the one in the need of a lie down. Mum opted for her bed, I opted for a very quick change, my sunlounger up by breakers and a cocktail. A Missionarys Downfall to be precise and very nice it was too! Ahhh thats better!! Im really surprised at how many people have stayed onboard today. Civitavecchia usually means an empty ship but not today. I keep the suntan lotion and cocktail levels nicely topped up, and also keep checking on mum.
I bought her back on deck for some lunch but it was too hot for her so I pushed her into the shade for a while. Then I started to melt, so had to do something about it and went and sat in the shade for a while. As I wandered over to the railings for a nosey I felt a lovely breeze. Oh it was bliss, so I parked mum against the railings and she was happy watching the passengers arrive back on the buses and supervising the workmen who have been extending the harbour defence for over 12 months now. I laid on my lounger and let the breeze glide over me, oh it was heaven. I kept nodding off, goodness whats wrong with me, anyone would think I trekked into town this morning. Mum needed her bed again, so I took her back down and then came back to my sunlounger. I put the light out and I was gone in nanao seconds. Trouble was a woke up dribbling which is never good.
Disaster when I got to the cabin and could see that I had caught the sun all the way down one side of my face and not the other. Have to sort that out tomorrow.
Casual night tonight and a suitable maxi dress was sorted for me, but mum was not so easy to please with her choice of wear this evening. A much welcomed, nice relaxing pre dinner drink or two in Glass House. This has become one of my favourite spots for pre dinner drinks. Its chilled and relaxed, it has my favourite Peller Canadian Fizz and my favourite wine Blind River. Lots of people watching opportunities as they come and go to the various locations, so plenty of dress code watching opportunities and there were some interesting ones this evening. Its amazing how some can interpret the ‘casual’ element.
Went for dinner in the Meridian at about 10 past 8, after stopping for a photo in the Atrium. Not so sure it will be to my liking in casual attire but thought I would give it a go. Very pleasant table for 8 this evening, and a lovely meal again. Dover sole was very nice, treacle tart was very fattening.
A little browse of the shops but it was toy sale night so nothing much to see. We walked through Brodies and it was busy as usual. This was our usual hang out last time we were on Azura but it just seems too busy this time around for me to even consider.
After mum was in bed I went for my usual little wander. I caught the end of the Cher and Queen Tribute, which was ok but I didn’t think they particularly went together to sing the finale.
I was at Planet Bar before Mary and John this evening. I asked Sid for something long cold and fruity and he obliged with a Raspberry Mojhito. Highly recommended! Everyone is tired this evening, the heat of Civitavecchia has zapped us all, plus lots of people had spent the day in Rome, so the ship in general was quiet. I had my earliest night ever of the cruise and headed for my bed before 1.00am. its the first time I have walked past Malabar and Blue Bar when they have been open on my way to bed lol.
Friday 29th July 2011 – Naples
We have berthed port side too again today so no quay side for us to observe, but I do think we might get the sun this afternoon. We have been port side too in every port apart from Barcelona so far. MSC Sinfonia has just come in and berthed behind us. We have a clear view across the bay and I expect the sun to be on our side later this afternoon.
After a bit of breakfast out on the aft Terrace we ventured ashore. At last they have dragged the Naples terminal building into the 21st century, although I did quite like the charm of the old fashioned little shop units within the original terminal. Its now more of a designer oultlet. Some very nice shoe and fashion stores and nice jewellery etc. We didn’t buy anything and I didn’t venture any further than the upper floor of the terminal. We were back onboard within half an hour and sat at Breakers bar enjoying a large rum punch. It is very very hot again, but there is an occasional gentle breeze just wafting across the deck. It is a struggle to sit it out though and we manage it until noon when we go down a deck for a spot of lunch in the shade. But then Headliners started to rehearse for tonights deck party. Blimeys, I know it was a sound check, but I hope it sounds better on the night!! Had to get away from that din.
Back down to the cabin and result – the balcony is in full blown sunshine. Mum has her bed to curl up in, I have the balcony to sunbathe on and I can nip in and out to check my emails from my laptop.
Decided this afternoon would be a good time to do some laundry. No, I got that wrong! It was extremely busy in there! I stood around and waited for a washer, and I did get lucky with a tumble dryer becoming free when I needed one. Some people looked like they were doing a weeks wash for a family of four in there. I just did the essentials and got out. so a very lazy afternoon really just pottering, chilling and lazing on the balcony. Most strenuous thing I did was walk a few yards to the laundrette.
Tropical Party tonight, so tropical gear was donned, well for me a long bright dress. Pre dinner drinks in Blue Bar with Linda & Chris, Debbie Christian and Kieran. We are dining together so I am despatched to obtain the bleeper. This is where Freedom dining falls down for me. We are enjoying some pre dinner drinks and we know that we want to dine as a party of 7. Not quite ready now, so try and pre empt the situation by trying to get a bleeper for a table becoming ready between say 8.20 and 8.50. But no, restaurant manager informs me it cant be done. We can go in now – but we are all enjoying a drink, or we can come down when we are ready and take pot luck. If there isn’t an table we will get a bleeper. Isnt that a bit antiquated? its a lot to get mum in her wheelchair and down to deck 5, only to be sent away again to sit and wait. We did go down at about 10 past 8, so as to avoid the 8.30 rush and did get a table allocated to us. Trouble was it was right under an airvent and it was very chilly. It was like the north wind blowing down on mum and I had to go back to the cabin and get her a woolly cardigan. We had a lovely meal again and lots of fun.
didn’t stand much chance. I decided to retreat to Planet Bar and enjoyed a quiet couple of drinks sat at the bar. The ship had got that little bit of a bobble on and the gentle rocking was making me sleepy. For me it was an early night, but it was good to snuggle under my duvet. It was even early enough for me to comprehend and order some room service breakfast.
Saturday 30th July 2011 – Ajaccio
My eyes opened at about 5.30am this morning and there was the most stunning sunrise. I should have made the effort to get out of my bed to see it properly but I couldn’t . Next thing I knew room service was knocking on the door at 8.00am. Yay, toast was still warm so race was on to get it buttered for mum before it went cold. I enjoyed my cornflakes and juice out on the balcony as we made our approach to Ajaccio. It was a stunning sail in. We had a helicopter along side, presumably taking photos for a brochure or a video perhaps. Im sure we have always been at tender here, but looks like they have built a new berth because we docked. Starboard side to, too. The church bells were ringing, we are overlooking the harbour and it is just stunning. Very very pretty. And I can see the market is open today so Mum will be happy.
Napoleon and his men came down to the quayside to great us. They did a little parade and a changing of the guard. Only trouble was they decided to put two of Napoleons guards on the main gangway, and do a changing of the guard every few minutes. It was fun, but P&O officers in white suits didn’t think so, and came and marched them on a bit further down the ship. They looked very impressive but were causing a bit of chaos by the main gangway with everyone wanting photos with them as they came down the gangway. They drummed on their drums and marched about for a bit before retreating back through the port gates.
It was only a short stroll into town, but the market didn’t score too highly with Mum. It was packed, the alleys were too tight and it was all on raised pavements with kerbs to negotiate all the time. Not easy with a wheelchair. I pushed the chair up the hill and across the square in the hope that I could get down the other side to the beach, but it wasn’t to be because there was no wheelchair access. I walked all the way back across the square and tried to cut down to the beach along a side street but the pavements were just ridiculous. Very uneven, and the stupid French had parked their mopeds on the pavements! I got out to the main road and then couldn’t negotiate the deep kerbs because of the gulleys between road and pavement. So instead I walked along the road and held up all the traffic. Lots of inviting little cafes and bars in the harbour, but no Mr C to share the experience with so straight back to the ship. We were so quick that Minguel hadn’t made up the cabin. Poor lad was horrified! So I felt obliged to retreat to Breakers Bar for a cooling drink. Had a bit of trouble obtaining my Moscow Mule today. They aren’t on the menu, and I was told today they aren’t on the micros, but I know they are and I had one or two the other day. Showed him the bill to prove it, and then barman and barsteward set too to find it for me. Its on page 2 under E if any of the seniors in the bar department would like to put that right for future reference!
Lunchtime was approaching and Mum has agreed at last to return to Glass House. She really likes the food in there, but being ‘old school’ cruising she objects to paying a supplement for food on a cruise ship. No point arguing with her about it because I wont convince her otherwise. Anyway, we made it to Glass House and it was total tranquillity. So cool in there, totally empty and we were the only people along with about 7 bar staff. We had a nice table by the window with big comfy chairs that made me want to curl up and just go to sleep. I ordered myself a bottle of Blind River, not with the intention of drinking it all, but it means I can take it back to my cabin and drink at my leisure. Mum had catch of the day and I had 3 dishes. Oh my goodness, just the tempura prawns would have been enough for me. I also had the ham risllette and the salmon fishcakes. Even went beserk at the end and had the morello cherry desert to share! Mum soon squirreled the cherries of the top, so it was left to me to dive down for the cherries at the bottom. Lunch had left us both stuffed. Straight back to the cabin and mum was soon under the duvet. I retreated to the balcony and before I knew it my eyes were closed and I was fast asleep. I spent the afternoon laying on the bed and on the balcony. Most strenuous thing I did was fetch a glass of cola from Breakers.
Semi formal night tonight, or the new ‘Smart with jacket required’. 5.45pm and the fashion police were on the tannoy again very sternly stating exactly what the expected dress code is this evening. Like I said, it would be a lot clearer if they went back to the ‘Semi formal jacket required statement, cocktail dress foe ladies’!
We had a little browse of the shops this evening, then a formal photo at the top of the atrium, then it was pre drinner drinks time in Blue Bar. Linda and Chris were not far behind us and then Debbie and the boys arrived. We went down to dinner at 8.15 and no problem getting a table today. It wasn’t the best dining experience tonight for me. First of all I asked the wine waitress for a glass of pinot gris but she was most insistent that they didn’t serve it by the glass. I was pretty dam sure that they did, but opted for the safe bet of sauvignon blanc instead. I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t have that and to read the menu which she would fetch. Wine menu never arrived. So I had to call her again. Oh look Pinot Gris, large glass please!! First time I have experienced that, but like I have said before they no longer employ dedicated wine waiters and instead just rotate the bar staff to wait in the restaurants. Sometimes it clearly doesn’t work. I had chosen Maple glazed chicken for my main, but when it came it looked like a grey poached piece of chicken. Not appetising at all. I took one of the French fries, stone cold. The chicken – even colder. All of the food had been really good up until this point. I checked mums duck and that was ok. Why me? Eventually the waiter appeared to check if all was well with everyones meals, but I had to inform him mine was far from ok. No apology, he just informed me ‘it shouldn’t be’ and took it away. No rush was made to get me a replacement, and my dish went back with the waiter when he went to fetch another tables order. He didn’t even make an effort to serve me first on his return and served the other table first. Of course everyone at our table had long finished their meal, so for me the moment of wanting to eat had passed. Oh dear, just one of those nights I guess. Best part of tonights meal for me was the absolute stunning sunset outside the window.
I was going to see ‘Blame it on the Boogie’ in the theatre, but it hadn’t started by the time I put mum to bed, so instead I went upto Planet after stopping for a brief look at the photos. Oh dear, we had a laugh in there tonight. I have no idea what was going on, it really was all a bit random, but it was very funny and me and Mary laughed and laughed! Alan put in an appearance, and Debbie came up to see what a night out in Planet was like, so all in all a good time was had by all. The drinks were flowing, nothing unusual there. It was a late one and I had to creep into the cabin in the dark. Its not easy to be quiet when you are still giggling.
Sunday 31st July 2011 – at sea
We are just gliding along and hardly breaking the sea this morning. Its like glass, with barely a ripple as we pass through it. There is some land to the starboard side, but I have no idea what it is. The bridge have just announced a pod of dolphins down the port side, so all is good for a Sunday.
Pursers department have just made a very stern warning about the reservation of sunbeds and the Horizon daily paper also had a big piece in it stating that anyone who goes out early, for the purpose of reserving sunbeds, will have their belongings removed. There will also be regular 15 minute checks throughout the day and belongings removed. I have just walked through decks 16 and 15, and there were pairs of officers all along both decks watching for the reservation of sunbeds. Its also very clearly stated on the big screen.
Breakfast is not going well this morning. Mum doesn’t want to get up so I had to fetch toast from the self service. Of course it was cold by the time I got it back to the room, so that has not gone down to well. I have had to call room service to come and save the day, but mum is having trouble comprehending why its taking him more than two minutes. Room service breakfast was a total disaster this morning. The tea was a pot of warm coffee. The Danish pastrys were two bread rolls and the toast was cold and crunchy. It did take a long long time to arrive too.
I ended up with a refreshing glass of Pimms by Breakers this morning. Thats a cool way to start a Sunday on a cruise ship lol. I soon spotted two sunloungers becoming available and we settled down on there for a while to soak up the rays. After the disastrous breakfast I fetched mum a nice early lunch of cold meats and salad. She was ready for her bed after that. I had planned a nice chilled out day on the balcony with my bottle of wine, but the sun decided it was going to spend the morning directly above the ship and then took the lean towards the port side. I went back on deck for an hour, had some goujons and fries, but the fun in the sun by the pool was a little too much for me today. I needed peace and quiet so eventually retreated to the cabin.
I couldn’t settle in the cabin so went for a wander. I have to say mid afternoon and I could have found a sunlounger in nearly all of the locations, and I’m sure if I had ventured upto deck 19 etc I would have found virtually empty decks. I walked through the buffet and the smell of chocolate from the chocoholics buffet was to sickly for me. It is nowhere near as impressive in the buffet dining venues as it used to be set up in the main restaurants. Gallley walk though too today, but not sure how popular it was. Linda was having a quiet 5 mins down by the Terrace Pool so I joined her for a cocktail and lots of girly chat.
Meanwhile, back at the cabin. Mum was cold and the heat hit me as soon as I walked through the door. Doors shut, heating whacked up to the extreme. Oh dear soon got that sorted and went out on the balcony for some fresh air. Despite the sun lingering over the top of the ship, one corner of our balcony is now basking in sunshine, but its very very hot. I cant win today.
Portunus party and black & white night tonight. Had a lovely chat with Captain Paul, who isn’t actually the Captain this cruise, but he is my current favourite Captain so I was really pleased to see him. Hopefully the feeling was mutal ; ) Then I chatted to Blake the Media Manager who has actually been my new best friend this cruise. Blake and Ancy have just been absolute starts with helping me get my head around this trial of MB internet usage, and for me, both of them have gone the extra mile. If I personally could give the awards for CRUISE Award then both of them would receive one. They both really have gone the extra mile for me, shown sheer patience and are both a credit to P&O. Captain Dowds made his speech and he isn’t the most engaging of Captains at gaining attention, but the people at the back of the room were so dam rude and continued to speak all the way through his speech, even when shh’d they continued on in their own little world. Very very rude! I was happy to leave. Met up with Linda and Chris down in Blue Bar and Linda was in control of obtaining a bleeper tonight. 10 minutes later we were into dinner. I had the exact same problem this evening with ordering a glass of wine that I did last night. Different wine waiter, because different section. “Glass of Pinot Gris please” ‘Madam we don’t serve Pinot Gris by the glass’ the whole table laughed out loud, obviously thinking ‘here we go again’ the nice wine waiter took some convincing, and was just about to fetch me a wine menu when he found what I wanted on his little hand held device. At least he was willing to look for it! Lovely tomato soup this evening. Yummy!
On the way out the restaurant the restaurant manager stopped me to apologise about last nights meal and the way it was handled. I had mentioned it to the F&B manager earlier I the day when we stopped for a catch up. I knew that it was unusual for the way it was handled at the time, so I was happy to learn that it had been noted and dealt with.
Mum went off to bed and I had a couple of emails to send that flatly refused to send earlier. Always a bit paranoid about messing with my internet after a few drinkies, but I double treble checked I had logged off and headed for Planet Bar. Oh we had a fab evening this evening. We laughed all night long. Neil and Matt came up for a drink, because Neil had heard about our legendary nights at the bar. For once we entertained the entertainment team. Apparently poor Matt had a bit of a blonde moment earlier and really thought we were going to Vigo. Poor Matt he took some stick for that. I cant really tell you a lot else about the evening other than a lot of cosmo’s and a lot of photos were involved. And treble the amount of laughing that we usually do. I even did a bit of dancing to Lady GaGa of all things! The night ended when we were the only ones left and the bar staff retreated to the corner for a lie down with their paperwork. We had kept them busy this evening. I wonder what we look like from the other side of the bar, lol.
You would think my evening ended there wouldn’t you. Well it didn’t. I always insist on taking the scenic route to bed, via deck 7. I was escorted by Alan. Bumped into Christian and some teens outside Manhattan who were very surprised to see us. Must have wondered what oldies were doing up at this time, lol. Alan and another teen in a kilt had a discussion about skidoo’s or something and we were on our way again. By the time I reached the cabin I realised I had a bit of Cinderella moment and had lost the tip off my heel of my shoe. Thankfully I spotted it further down the corridor.
Im no sooner through the door and Mum wants to inform me that a) its late, and b)the clocks have gone forward! Despite countless cosmo’s I managed to work out that Mum had read tomorrows newspaper and the clocks actually go back tomorrow night after Gibraltar. Easy for me to say, but you try explaining that one to a confused 89 year old who is having non of it! She also insisted on lecturing me about the lateness of the hour and wanting to know who, what, where and why I had been out until this hour! What hour? I had no comprehension of what time it was by now. I found taking the key card out of the energy slot by the door, and plunging the cabin into darkenss, put and end to mums whitterings and lectures because she had no idea where I was! Not so sure I did either!!
Monday 1st August 2011 – Gibraltar
Ooh I’m fresh as a daisy this morning. No, I really am. Drinking cosmo’s until the early hours must be the way forward. Up, washed, dressed and into Breakfast in Peninsular before 8.30am. Gibraltar big cloud of mist and drizzle is hovering over the rock of Gibraltar and the rest of the weather looks non too promising. I walked into town and back pushing the wheelchair. There are one or two new supermarkets opened up in the new units on the way into town. Every year when we come here there is a little bit more to the development of the walk into town. I managed to walk as far as M&S but Gib isn’t the easiest of places to negotiate with a wheelchair, so I was soon on my way back. We dodged a couple of showers this morning, but the by the time I got back to the balcony there was just a glint of sunshine. I fetched a wrap and a burger from Frankies Grill and enjoyed my lunch in the sun on the balcony with a glass of wine.
Sailaway was at 1.30pm, so I sat at Breakers with a Caribbean Cruises and along came Mary. So we sat and had a singsong together while Neil and the team exerted all their energy on the stage. I know I will get the blame for leading her astray later on. I had to go in search of some glue to fix my shoe from last night. The Emporium obliged with that. Bumped into Debbie and we went for a coffee and a Natter in Java. No escaping it, my bed is calling me. The weather isn’t brilliant and I cant be bothered to fight the wind for the sake of a bit more of a tan. So I had a meeting with my duvet. It was bliss. Until the call came out for ‘half a cup of tea’
The sea had a bit of a bobble on this evening and getting ready was a bit of a struggle. I couldn’t decide what to wear but settled for purple.
Had a bit of a wander looking at photos and then managed to get a seat in Blue bar for pre dinner drinks. That bar is getting busier and busier. Earlier and earlier. Lovely dinner in Meridian this evening. I had the Tandorri chicken, which was perhaps a little spicy for me, but very nice non the less. Negotiated a really nice Bin End this evening. I actually got one of the more experienced wine waiters for a change., which makes all the difference.
My usual spot in Planet Bar and it was buzzing up there again. Mohito man, Agi, was mixing me some very acceptable flavours of mojhito this evening. One of the bartenders went the extra mile and went to another bar to get me a glass of Peller Canadian Fizz. I also enjoyed a little Samba (thats a dance not a drink), not easy in high heels! I had to take the blame for leading Mary astray too earlier at the deck party. Im always in the frame for something! Alan put in a bit of a guest appearance too. I have no idea what time it was when I left but I know that I was the last out of there. Didn’t appear to be many teens down on deck 7 either. Battle of the clocks resumed when I got back to the cabin again. Mum has put them back and forward so many times now, that even I’m confused what time it is. (don’t think the peartinis, mixture of mohitos, Canadian Fizz, and cosmos helped much!)
Tuesday 2nd August 2011 – Lisbon
You might not believe this but mum woke me at some unearthly hour to ask if the clocks were back, forward or on their head! Fed up of time now!!! She tried to tell me it was ‘half a cup of tea time’ but I was having non of it! I heard the buzz of the bees on the 25th April Bridge as we glided underneath it, but even that couldn’t raise me from my bed though. I caved in eventually and obliged with a half cup of tea. Getting mum out of bed for breakfast wasn’t easy. Anyone would think it was mum that had been out sampling the delights of the bars until the early hours. Made it to breakfast in Peninsular and I opted for a cooked breakfast for once. I find it quieter than the crunch of the cereals.
Lisbon is very over cast and we disembarked and were straight onto one of the wheelchair friendly buses. Meant I had to stand a wheelchair watch though. It drizzled as strolled around Lisbon, nothing too drastic but some sunshine would have been appreciated. Mum added to her hoard of treasure she has purchased this cruise and added a ring and bracelet to the cache of 4 handbags, 2 rings, pair of shoes and a necklace! I was happy with my box of 6 warm custard tarts. Way too early to partake in some chicken & Chips so straight back on the bus to the ship. The sun is coming out just as we arrive on the dockside. Quick change and upto Breakers bar for me. Mum needs a lie down, again!
Collected mum at lunch time and we had a nice lemon chicken baguette in the sun. Sat for a while longer but it was getting too hot for mum, so we retreated to the balcony. I went for a wander around Prom and up to the bow on deck 8, before retreating to the balcony and catching a few more rays, because I have no idea how many are left?!
Great British Sailaway and you either love them or hate them, personally I’m a lover. Obviously I have attended a few in my time but this one seemed to have the entire ship in attendance. It was buzzing, the sun was beating down and Neil and his team were full of energy. Oh please Neil can I have a little bit of it. It was possibly one of the longest sailaway partys too. First we had to wait for a latecomer back to the ship (always one!) so a few party dances, then the Great British traditional ones were belted out as we let go the ropes and turned to go back under April 25th bridge. Anyone on that bridge must have thought we were totally bonkers, waiving our flags and cheering loudly. Hope it made them smile. The party just kept going, Pimms seemed to be coming at me from all directions and it was taking some keeping up with. Neil and his team finished with a walk through of the decks, lots of kisses and hand shakes and then back on stage for Azura theme tune and the elbow dance. Hats off to Neil and his team they are the very best at sea!
Meanwhile, back at the cabin I have 50 minutes to do a turnaround and get showered , dressed and out. Somehow, I don’t know how, I managed it. Pre dinner drinks in Planet this evening for a change, and I was going to be so good and have a cola, but somehow I heard myself asking for a Margeritta with salt rim! Really don’t know how that happened! We were eating in Trattoria this evening so at 7.30 I went to deck 15 to enquire about a table for 7. Impossible! Maximum is a 6, and we cant even have that one and squash because someone is already earmarked for it. Im told the best they can do is a table for 4, plus a table for 3, but wont guarantee they will be together or at the same time. I was given a laminated piece of paper with a number on it and told to come back at 8.30pm. No bleeper? No, madam we don’t give bleepers. Im not impressed, a very hit and miss service. Just after 8.30 we headed back down to Trattorria only to be told, not ready, and to come back in 15 to 20 mins. Is it me but would a bleeper system, like Meridian not be about 50 times more efficient? All way to hit and miss and he could tell I was not best pleased. We were invited to sit in the Cafe next door and wait. Not very pleasant as it was being cleaned at the time. Eventually we were seated, on a squashed table for 5, plus a table for 2! Not ideal. Best of it was there was a table for 8, two 4’s pushed together which had just left and could have been cleared and prepared in less than 5 minutes, but no attempt was made to accommodate and the table wasn’t used for the rest of the evening. Mum had no glass, no side plate etc and it wasn’t ideal. Wine service was slap dash, lighting was far too bright and no ambience created, and generally it wasn’t anywhere near as good as I had experienced on Ventura. But it could have been a one off and I need to try again at some point.
After mum had gone to bed I headed for my usual spot in Planet. But who are all these strangers? Why have so many people chosen this evening to visit ‘our’ bar? It was 60’s & 70’s deck party outside, Headliners were on in the theatre, there was a man singing in Malibar He could have been a vocalist, he could have been a comedian – it would help if I paid attention to the Horizon daily sheet, but no time for reading! I just wing everything and hope for the best. It works for me.
I was having a dress malfunction this evening but I’m guessing the lads behind the bar appreciated it. One of them was a bit shocked when I asked for a glass of cola at one point, I think he had to go for a lie down after that.
We were relatively early leaving, well early for us of late anyway. I went via deck 7 to check on the boys and girls and to see what they were upto. There has been a bit of trouble at mill, but I have to say that all of the teens that I have experienced have been a polite and very pleasant young adults.
I managed to get into bed, in complete darkness and mum never stirred, not even for half a cup of tea, or to ask what time the clocks went back forward etc.
Wednesday 3rd August 2011 – at sea
Last night I was asked what my perfect day would be. I responded with, sun on the balcony all morning so I could chill without any effort and then an afternoon in bed, followed my an evening of partying. Well, I got the blinding hot sun screaming through the curtains at what seemed like silly o’clock, and I would have appreciated it not being quite so fierce on my bed. Out of bed and into breakfast before 9 this morning – how do I do that? Even I don’t know! Cabin steward advised me enroute to keep my shades on. Apparently red slits for eyes is not a good look for a lady. Thought it rude to eat in my shades so they were removed and I hope nobody noticed.
Bun fight, summer sale, in Meridian this morning. Not my idea of fun at all, but a certain octogenarian likes a bargain so I had to oblige. It was packed. I couldn’t get near anything with a wheelchair so we were soon out of there. Bumped into Linda and Chris on the way out, and linda just laughed at me, so I threw the shades back on. Chris had to take a double look. Oh dear, where’s my bed?
The sun was beating on the balcony. I considered a glass of cold wine, but opted instead for a custard tart and half a cup of tea! I had some form filling to do, some cruise nominations to complete, errands to run etc. By the time I had done all that, the cloud cover had come and the sun was gone. Decided I would partake in a little bit of packing, just incase the sun puts in a full days appearance tomorrow. Then it was time to investigate lunch and met up with Linda & Chris for dining in the Peninsular. Mum spotted the FitFlops on the way out of lunch and really fancies a pair. I had a woman in fits of laugher when I pointed out to mum that a pair of Fit Flops were a bit pointless to her. Christian was causing chaos at the jewellery stall, making his purchase. Im not so sure that the contribution from his two new aunties was helping. Back to the cabin and one glance at the duvet and I was in.
Pre dinner drinks in the Planet Bar again this evening and tonight we were joined by Simon and his boys, who were due to dine with Debbie, Kieran and Christian but may not have realised at the time that we came as a package lol. I was worried that a table of 10 would be difficult to obtain on the last formal nite, so poor Kieran got the job of runner for a pager. He soon returned to inform us that a table was ready and we could go now. Bit of confusion with drinks still arriving, and it would have been nice to just sit and chill for a while. Debbie Simon and the boys went ahead, while we waited for drinks, got mum back in the wheelchair, and got the lift to deck 7, walked across and then back down to deck 5. Not an easy task on a busy night I can tell you! We arrived at the restaurant a little flustered and I quickly explained to one of the F&B staff that we had been trying to get here. She knew exactly who we were, exactly who we were joining and exactly where they were sat. Oh dear, we must have made an impression over the last 12 nights. I don’t think the poor lad next to me realised what he had let himself in for and he had some very quick, swift lessons in dining etiquette. Only 89 yr olds are excused any etiquette! Simon made the mistake of telling me he worked for Virgin Media, oh deary me did I go off on one (well he did ask) we had received the most appalling customer service from Virgin Media since our house move, and he did ask for my comment, so he got them! Sorry Simon!
Christian tried to prepare the other lads at the table for the fact that all after dinner chocolates go to Mum. They were not impressed, and indeed refused to belive that it could be so. I showed them mums empty black evening bag, prepped and ready for a new delivery of after dinner delicacys. Fully lined with clean tissues. Sure enough two plates of handmade chocolate truffles arrived. Mums daggers were in her eyes. The plate infront of her was hers! The plate at the other end of the table was offered up by Christian, and they glided effortlessly into Mums black beaded evening bag. Mums mission was complete and it was signalled that she wished to leave the table!
Earlier on this evening I had called by reception and swapped my disembarkation passes for the early ones. Just after I left the cabin, after putting mum to bed, I realised the passes were still in my evening bag and preventing them from shutting properly. So, I decided to remove said passes from my evening bag and slip them back under my cabin door, to save disturbing mum again. Only trouble was I had walked a few yards down the corridor, so the cabin door I slipped them under was not my own! What a totally stupid thing to do. I hope the occupants appreciated the benefit of the early embark passes, durr! Back to reception to explain myself. We got there eventually and the receptionist obliged with another two early passes.
My stool in Planet Bar was waiting for me. My Cosmo was perfect. The company was first class and all was well with the world. Alana nd I were on a mission tonight to dance at the ‘adult’ disco. Why oh why did we get the ents officer, on the last big night, that was the least interested in playing a few tunes for us. Clearly the adult disco is an after thought. The teens get the DJ, adults get an ents officer with a laptop. The last couple of nights had been jumping, and clearly there was a lot in planet bar this evening up for a good boogie. But the room was oon half cleared. Us die hards persevered and put in a few requests, I even asked if she could turn it up a little as it wasn’t quite as load as it had been in previous nights and could hardly be heard over by the bar. DJ informed me that the volume could not be increased. Still we danced. Alan was highly amused by the glares we got each time we approached the dance floor. Some seemed amused by the fact that the ‘woman from the bar’ actually moves! It was a late one tonight. A very late one. Of course it was already tomorrow when I signed my bill, and ‘tomorrow’ was not a good day. I needed my quiet moment in the wing. On reflection I probably needed a coffee, but a visit to the cafe was not on the cards. Back at the cabin, I needed to see the stars but at 4.00am I didn’t think it wise to disturb mum by opening the balcony doors, so headed instead to Prom deck. Disaster, the fog had taken the stars away. I was so upset about that and sat and cried : ( time to find ‘my teens’ they always bring me back to earth. I actually thought I had beaten them tonight and they had all gone to bed. But no, Christian and Co were spotted and even at that time of the morning Christian was a perfect young gentlemen and hugged away my tears. They were actually trying to teach the young lad, who had earlier been receiving etiquette lessons from me at the dinner table, how to hug. So Aubtie Jane was tasked with the mission. I confess he was not an easy subject. More like a bent banana, who seemed to think that toes and shoulders touching constituted a hug. He seemed horrified that a bit of chest, with a hint of thigh should be included. We were getting there so I left him to practice on someone a little closer to his own age. 4.30am is not a good time to be hitting my pillow and I know this is going to come back and bite me in a couple of hours time.
Yes, sure enough, less than two hours later Wednesday had blended in with Thursday and I was preparing ‘half a cup of tea’
Did Wednesday end and Thursday start or did they just continue though each other?
Thursday 4th August 2011 – at sea
Oh dear I’m struggling today. The sun is out and the sea is calm so all is well, but not in Janes world : ( there is also the mammoth task of packing to tackle. I need some sleep. I need some food. But a cocktail of tablets and water were the only things I could face. There was hardly a sole on deck 15 by 9.30am. all either packing or hungover? Mmm, I wonder which. Maybe they were just being sensible and having a lie in? Oh a lie in, I wonder what one of those is? I managed all of two hours in bed last nite. Mum has got it sussed. Sleeps all afternoon, wakes for dinner, and back in bed by 10.30pm. I should try it, but I don’t have the time!
I did the majority of mums packing yesterday, but today I have my two cases to unpack. Seems like a mammoth task, but it was soon done. I had been invited to lunch in sindhu but was still feeling a little more than delicate. I decided to take mum upto Breakers bar and get her some fish goujons and see how I feel. No, it still wasn’t good for me, not even after a full fat cola which always helps, but didn’t appear to be doing it for me this time.
I bumped into Linda and Chris in GlassHouse who had just ordered the tempura king prawns. Mmm, they looked as good as always, but still I couldn’t face them. I fian;ly settled on a jacket potato and baked beans from Frankies grill and sat on the balcony with a glass of water. It was good! It was really good. Now, I just needed to sort my sleep deprivation out and all would be well with the world. No chance. When I sleep, mum awakes. And when Mums awake, no chance of sleep! ‘Half a cup of tea’ was soon echoing around the cabin, so I did my duty and obliged with half a cup of tea and allowed her one of Mr C’s Lisbon custard tarts from the fridge. I retreaded to the sunshine and peace of the balcony with my last glass of wine and mesmerised myself with the sea.
We were out of the cabin early this evening, so I had time to kill before pre dinner drinks in Blue Bar. Shops is always a good diversion for mum, but I would no sooner bring her out of one of the deck 6 shops and push her across to the other shop on the other side, than she would spot the one on the opposite side and insist we looked in that one too! I was dizzy, and too tired to explain we were going from A to B and back again, so took advantage of a lift, and threw myself at a sofa in Blue Bar. My final glass of Peller Canadian Fizz was soon ordered and mum went a little mad and ordered a pineapple juice instead of her usual lemonade, small, no ice! Linda and Chris soon arrived and we were soon on the cockatils. A hush came over the entire ship when the Captain came on the address system asking for passenger assistance to give blood, so anyone of a certain blood group and carrying their donor card was asked to go to the medical centre. Apparently many responded. Linda Kieran and Christian were next to arrive. Tut tut boys, you haven’t packed yet!! Poor Debbie. Allocation of tables for dinner hasn’t been a problem for ages, but Keiran was despatched to check as usual. Shock horror it was only 10 past 8 but he was given a bleeper. We never got a table until 9.00pm tonight, and yet all around there seemed to be many tables that were empty and not made up. Infact the section that we were sat in was surrounded by empty unlaid tables so it wasn’t the best ambience for our final meal. It was a lovely meal though. I had the lemon sole and it was lovely, all except me and mum had the sirloin steak and they all declared it extremely good.
Goodbyes at the dinner table were painful tonight. I had made some lovely, lovely friends. Friends that I had looked forward to seeing each evening, and sharing some laughs and chats. Mum had been totally mesmerised by all the laughter and banter. Who would have thought that on the first formal night, we could have all sat down at Freedom dining, not knowing who we were going to get, and we just hit it off and decided we had to do it again. Such a broad age range from 16 to 89, but we could all laugh together. Christian and Kieran even learnt to accept that the after dinner chocolates were not for sharing, and did infact all belong to a certain 89 year old!
Christian and Kieran had to go to their cabin and sort that packing out! Boys I hope you sorted it?! I took mum upto her bed and headed to the Planet Bar for one final time. My emotions are all over the place still and me and Mary are up and down of the barstools like jack in the boxes. Even one of Sids Cosmo’s couldn’t sort me out. In fact I tried several combinations of beverage, including even water at one point, but still I was on another planet. Oh, ‘That woman at the Bar’ was getting some attention tonight. It gave the rest of the room something to chatter about. Mary and John have been tow other wonderful friends I had made and I truly hope to meet again. Me and Mary have laughed, been on totally the same wavelength, nattered, sampled the cocktails, assassinated a few people and met a few nutters. All seemed pretty normal to me. John is still trying to work me out I think : )
I didn’t intend to go to bed late, but it happens. For the first night this cruise I didn’t check on ‘my teens’ I had said enough ‘Goodbyes’ and was feeling as if I couldn’t handle anymore. So it was bed for me, but not before a final struggle with the last case. Thankfully I didn’t get locked out of the cabin in my nightie – can you imagine!
Friday 5th August 2012 – Southampton
I stirred in my bed just as we were coming past QE berth, then we turned and slipped into Ocean Terminal stern first. I delayed it as long as I could but finally pulled myself out of bed at 7.00am and did the last few minute bits of sorting, and got ready for breakfast. I even took the giant leap of daring to look at my onboard account. Is it me, or does anyone else understand the new format of billing. Took me ages to get my head around how much I had actually spent onboard.
I think someone had it in for me at breakfast. I don’t mind chatting at breakfast, but I prefer a quiet time if I’m honest. I was allocated a table of carers and octogenarians. Carers were talking over the old folk like they didn’t exist and swapping stories of their antics. I had to walk away from my cornflakes and leave them to it. Went back to mum when she had finished her bacon and egg and wheeled her out of there.
I was enroute to the cabin, to collect some bags etc, but as we entered Brodies (the allocated room for wheelchair assistance) a wheelchair attendant advised me to go and book in with the lady with the clipboard. Yes, it was a fully fledged ‘clipboard woman’ she had clip board so that made her in charge. I booked mum in, ‘what colour disembarkation card?’ White. ‘Well where is it?’ in my bag in the cabin. ‘I need to see it’ ITS WHITE!!!. I decided to leave mum in the room and I would collect the bags. Straight away she wrote a comment next to mums name and refused to allocate a wheelchair pusher. I went upto the cabin for the bags, said my goodbye to the fantastic cabin steward Minguel, and was back down in the lift in a jiffy. By which time clipboard woman had allocated all wheelchair pushers to someone else, including those holding later disembarkation cards then ourselves. I was not amused! Despite mum being left in Brodies she had been dismissed and ignored.
Disembarkation was from deck 6 rather than deck 5, and it worked a lot better than via deck 5 atrium. Usually wheelchairs meet in Meridian restaurant and then cant get out because of congestion in the atrium. Once we were in the baggage hall the porter and wheelchair pusher worked together to locate the bags for me. That was soon achieved and we were soon outside, over to CPS for the keys and being helped into the car and the bags and wheelchair loaded for me. I wish one of them would have gone the extra mile and offered to drive me home. 9 mins past 9 and I was driving away from Azura, very sad to see her behind me, but hopefully she will be infront of me again soon!
In summary – Internet, that has to be the biggest bone of contention of the cruise. Pay per MB was only a trial, for a few cruises I believe, but it didn’t work for me. I have to use the internet whilst Im away, for business not social reasons. I felt restricted in what I could and couldnt do on the internet, basically because I had no idea which applications ate up the MB’s quickly and which used hardly any. But there were two members of the ships company which honestly did go the extra mile for me and shine. Blake, IT Media Manager, and Ancy Librarian Internet Manager, were both absolute stars. They understood my problems and barriers that I faced with the internet. They took the time to explain, in simple terms, what a MB was, how the internet was working etc. They both worked with me to make best usage of my internet and ensure that I was using it as efficiently as I could. They both delivered first class customer service to me, and always took the time to keep upto date with me. I didn’t just disappear back into the mass of passengers once my initial feelings re the internet had calmed down. They did everything they could to make sure the stupid internet didn’t impact on the overall enjoyment of my cruise. A credit to P&O both of them!
Food – No complaints from me about the food. On the whole it was nicely presented, always hot enough, and for me came with enough vegetables’ etc. Side vegetables’ and potatoes were served with the main meal, but personally there were always enough on the plate. And yet, yes, I did hear whingers around me stating that there wasn’t a big enough choice of vegetables or potatoes, and ‘its not like it used to be’. The thing is the extras were there if you wanted them. I did have the one cold meal served, which wasn’t dealt with at the time the way it should have been. But I know it was dealt with the following day. We ate quite a few times in the main restaurant for lunch which was always pleasant and gave a more relaxed atmosphere. I try not to frequent the self serve buffet venues on any ship. Way too much hassle for me. Frankies Grill was working to full capacity given the amount of teens onboard. Time it wrong and the queue was long, but P&O dealt with that by putting more chefs on the grill and had a team constantly preparing burgers etc at peak times, so any queues were quickly dealt with.
Lovely canapes pre dinner in Planet and Blue Bar, plus the bowl of nibbles, that came with the first round of drinks. Not that I was ever hungry enough to need them, but once they are infront of you, you just cant help it.
Dress Code – Something wasn’t right this cruise. Whether it was the passenger profile or the new wording of the three dress code types I don’t know? Personally, I prefer the ‘Formal’ ‘informal’ and ‘elegant casual’ status. The wording was too loose in the Horizon. Even I had to look twice at the definition of ‘smart’ Some nights it was Smart casual, no jacket required. Other nights ‘smart’ was no jacket required. The no jacket or jacket then determined what the ladies dress code was supposed to be. For that I will choose to make no comment! The days of cocktail dresses seemed long gone. Some made the effort, many did not. It always amused me that the ‘fashion police’ chose to make an announcement before 6.00pm on ‘jackets required’ evenings to emphasise the level of dress code required. They went to some lengths to specify that if gents were without a jacket they would not be able to dine in Oriental, Peninsular or Meridian. And yet, I saw many gents in Meridian enter without a jacket. If P&O are going to make the statement that they will maintain the dress code for the evening they should stand by what they say. As I say, I prefer the wording to be ‘elegant casual’ some take the ‘casual’ element way to literally. Informal/cocktail wear needs bringing back. Shops are flooded with a wide range of cocktail and party wear so no excuse for not adhering.
Peak season cruising – this would never be my first choice and I do still prefer to cruise at the quieter shoulder seasons. The ship did feel busier in places, such as around the pool and certain bars during the evening. But having said that, they were all places that I could easily avoid. I didn’t go on deck that much during sea days, but when I did I had no problems getting a sun lounger in the locations that I preferred. And for those that were able to get to the less accessible spots of deck 19 etc there were loads of sunbeds to be had. There were a lot of children onboard and it was nice to see families enjoying themselves. Some family groups spread over several generations. The teens were an absolute joy. Some of the nicest and politest young people I have ever met. They often stepped out of busy lifts for me to allow me to enter with the wheelchair, held doors, assisted when I was struggling with wheelchair manoeuvres both ashore and onboard ship. They always looked smart and dressed to the dress code of the evening. ‘Sunbed police’ made announcements on sea days and were stationed across the open decks to ensure that sunbeds were not reserved etc. It did seem to work well and deterred people from coming out and selecting chairs before going off to breakfast or back to bed etc.
Film Crew – there was a film crew onboard. Im not sure if they were making a promotional video or a crew training video. I need to apologise to the film crew that were filming in Galsshouse one morning towards the end of the cruise. I walked through innocently to get to the forward stairs and was stopped at the port side forward, by a film crew mid shoot. I did think it a little stupid that they hadn’t placed a warning or no entry sign, but I stopped and waited for them to finish so I could pass. As I looked around, wondering if it would be quicker for me to back track and go the other way, a cheery waiter waved from the other side of the bar and called out ‘Morning Mrs Chadwick’ well, I responded didn’t I!! Let’s just say that producer and cameraman were not amused!!! Like I say, Mr Producer, try closing off the area next time!
A useless observation – did you know that the voice in the lift changes from female to male once you get to deck 14!
For me, it was yet another excellent P&O Cruise. The crew were at their best, service was spot on. Entertainment was there if I wanted it. Miguel our cabin steward was amongst the best, and for us Freedom Dining worked well. I have no complaints, not even about the internet, because my issues were dealt with proffessionally by Blake and Ancy. My only gripe would be the dress code, but I will just continue to be old school and wear what I feel appropriate.
To all the lovely people I met during this cruise – Thank You! Linda & Chris, Christian, Kieran and Debbie – excellent table mates. Dining was a pleasure and a real treat every evening. We have to do it again some time! Mary & John, oh how I miss my nights in the Planet Bar. Thank you for all the laughs. ‘Random people’ you don’t know who you are but we do : ) Alan, I still have Lady GaGa whirring round in my head, and for that I blame you! As for ‘the woman at the bar’ no doubt she will be back!!
To view the full set pf photographs from Azura A117 22nd July – 5th August Mediterranean CLICK HERE