Have I really only been back in the UK a little over a week? The Caribbean sunshine seems as if it was months ago! Catch up with the last two days at sea before our day in Barbados, and the journey home.
Wednesday 19th January 2011 – at sea
Its a bit breezy on the open decks today and that has bought a lot of people inside the ship so everywhere is a little busy as we wander around after breakfast. They were setting up the equivalent of Azura’s A Factor in the top and bottom of the Atrium. We hung around for a little while and watched the cabin stewardess making beds and various towel animals. Mr C, being a firefighter, was rather interested in the fire fighting equipment but i could tell that some of his questions were a bit beyond the poor cadet put in charge of that section at the time as he kept suggesting Mr C might be interested to move along and learn about the bridge equipment, lol. We wandered in and out the various shops, but didn’t buy anything. I spent a fair bit of time people watching looking down into the Atrium and friends were spotted! It was decided we should try one of the new, much talked about Costa coffees in Java, but getting a seat wasn’t to easy. At one time we were tow to a seat until my eagle eyes spotted a couple more becoming vacant. I had the mocha with whipped cream and a flake, but it seemed to be lacking said toppings! Waiter did manage to produce a flake though and as that was the main bit I was after I let him off. Once the A Factor (or whatever it was) was declared at an end I was amazed how quickly it was all packed away and dismantled and in no time at all it was as if it never happened. A little army of crew appeared from nowhere. Each new their duty, and equipment, table cloths, tables , beds, chairs were all gone in an instant. Before you knew it it looked as if nothing had ever happened in the Atrium.
Back up in the cabin the sun was blazing on the balcony and the breeze could not be felt. Mr C was out there like a flash, but some of us had work to do! At one point we decided to have lunch on the balcony and fetch a bottle of Canadian Fizz up from The Glasshouse, but we soon decided to be civilised and go to the GlassHouse for lunch. Not my best experience of the GlassHouse this cruise. Clearly a lot of other passengers, and crew, had decided to do the same thing at the same time. We found a seat and eventually a waiter came to advise that he couldn’t take any food orders for 10 minutes as the galley was busy, but he could take drinks order and would be back for food orders shortly. Canadian fizz was ordered only to be told that it was now all sold out! He then reeled off another 4 or 5 wines that I couldn’t have, due to them being sold out! Oh dear : ( Another wine was decided upon and we sat back and waited until we could order lunch. But my idea of 10 minutes was clearly not the same as Glasshouse 10 mins. It was some 35 mins before we could catch the waiters eye again, only to be told that the galley was still not taking any new orders. We did get our lunch eventually, but you have been warned – it does get very busy on sea days, especially when the weather outside is not ideal. So plan your timings outside peak meal times. Mr C had the Bison Burger, which he had been meaning to try all cruise and he said it didn’t disappoint.
Back up on the balcony the sun was glorious and I thought the whole ship was bathed in it, but apparently it was still windy up on top decks. I pottered between balcony and laptop doing a bit of work and not a lot else.
Formal night tonight and Portunus Party in Manhattan. But before that its drinks in Blue Bar with lots of frock watching opportunities. Garden Martinis, salmon canapés, and a pot of nibbles. All very civilised. Then its onto the Portunus party at the other end of deck 7. Ooh kisses from Captain Paul again, hugs from the lovely Neil, and Avalon is on hand to make sure drinks are in hand. A new Portunus gift is won by a lady on E deck, so new that they don’t even have them onboard. Looks nice though. It was a very nice party, but we were stood by the bar which is always convenient.
Chaine des Rotisseurs Gala dinner tonight, not my favourite, but as has been said before Im not a big foodie person. I struggled to make a choice from the menu tonight and ended up with a sirion steak, but my idea of a medium steak should not mean that its still red raw on top so that was soon making its way swiftly back to the galley. It came back cremated so all in all not the best of culinary delights. I have managed to stay away from exploding coffee cups though.
After dinner we had our usual wander, and us ladies were walking about with folders full of menu’s so kindly donated by the waiters, I headed for the cabin to freshen up and put the menus away. It want hard to track the others down and I found them in the 21stCentury Pub night in Brodies. Oh my, how things change from the pub nights in Champions not so many moons ago. It used to be a casual night with Neil, in his pre Cruise Director days, singing “Pack up your Troubles” and “Its a long way to Tiperrary” etc, with another favourite ents officer of mine, Simon Jason. But now its pop quizzes, karaoke, party songs, fun and games and of course the streamer throwing finale. Oh and much flag waving. It was no sooner over than the streamers were all gathered up in bundles from the floor, the bar staff rolled down their shirt sleeves and put their waistcoats and bow ties back on as if nothing had happened in there. As the place emptied out a little bit a couple of bar stools became vacant and we could sit at the bar and have my favourite barman mix me a Cosmopolitan, just the way I like it.
Thursday 20th January 2011 – At Sea
Oh dear, my head. But we have an appointment with Breakfast in the Aurora Suite. It would have been nice to finish as we started with breakfast on the balcony, but as its the very front suite on the ship, if the wind is in the wrong direction that balcony is neither use not ornament. Mr C and Rod went out and tried to stand on it, but they were struggling even when hanging onto the rails, so its not the best of suites if you want to make use of the balcony on sea days. A poor design which we are sure could be rectified with some Perspex screening. A bit of reorganisation and we had breakfast inside. Deepak was spot on time, just as he had been all cruise. Well, we knew what time to expect him despite what time he said he would be arriving. He usually gave a ‘between this and that time’
Its the dreaded packing day today. I hate these days. Everything seems to take forever, but in reality, once it was under way it wasn’t so bad. Then there was the where to have lunch debate. We decided whilst having a drink at Breakers Bar. I was surprised that it wasn’t al all windy up here today. I had just presumed that as it was so windy when we were about to have breakfast that it must be windy up on top deck. It was really hot by the bar and the cocktail of the day slipped down nicely. My choice for lunch would have been something from the grill, maybe a jacket potato and salad. But Mr C insisted we go and investigate the buffet. Im not a lover of these places on any ship but on the few occasions when I have nipped in the food has always been excellent and well presented and constantly replenished. I opted for some chicken tikka, rice and salad. Very nice, but what i didn’t enjoy was the fact that Mr C decided we should sit indoors. What? The sun is blazing outside and he decides to sit inside. It would have been nicer in the sunshine with an ice cold drink, but at least I can say I have eaten in the ‘cafe’.
Back to finish that dreaded packing, re label the bags, add security tags make sure they are locked and thats that done for another cruise.
We are out super early tonight and are in the Planet Bar for 6.30pm. The waitress recommended a martini cocktail to me, but oh dear it was like a yogurt in a glass. So that was passed onto the human dustbin known as Mr C. Despite the fact that most people have just gone to early meal sitting the place soon fills up again. Clearly a lot of people are out on a mission tonight. We headed down to Blue Bar at 7.30pm and usually its really easy to get a seat in here, but not tonight! Its standing room only. We ended up sitting at the bar. Our Garden Martinis were mixed to perfection and we reminisce about the past 13 or 14 days and nights. Oh happy days!
We amused ourselves at dinner watching the white envelope giving and the very annoying habit of the waiters to mark each envelope with who gave them each envelope. We end the night in our favourite bar the Blue Bar with our favourite drinks, The Garden Martini. Then its a quick walk through Brodies to get some hugs and kisses from Clifford, and say our Goodbyes – until next time. And so to bed!
Friday 21st January 2011 – Barbados
Oh dear, there it is again. Barbados and that can only mean one thing! Its all over! Well, not quite, we need to make the most of what short time we have here and un be known to us there is to be a little twist to the day. Mr C was despatched with necessary forms and passports to immigration at 7.30am in Manhattan and he was soon back advising that we were cleared to go ashore. Breakfast was a very sombre affair. We know its the last one and the party is over. I know its only a matter of time before the big Goodbye, so I find it easier to eat up in near silence. The parting was painful and tearful. Its just been the best cruise in absolutely ages. Well apart from the Queen Victoria pre Christmas, but it was easy to end that one knowing that this one was only 3 weeks away!
Despite the tears, me and Mr C still had enough time to venture ashore in Barbados. As we got back to the cabin, Sidney our cabin steward knocked to tell us he had made our day cabin ready for us and we could move the bags across. We disembarked the ship just as the heavens opened and oh boy did it lash down. I did have a brollie, but the rest of me got drenched. Mr C was able to run off into the terminal but after 14 days of lounging around I didn’t have the energy. Once we were inside the terminal building I had to take out the towel and at least dry my feet and flip flops or I could have broken my neck, slipping and sliding about. I had the briefest of looks in the shops, but I thought time was precious and we wanted to get to the beach. Back outside it was starting to drizzle again and the sky was grey but Mr C assured me it would clear. The walk in was quite entertaining. There was a gang of taxi drivers beyond the port gates having the most almighty argument. I would have liked to have stuck around for the outcome but no time. I have an appointment with a beach, some sunshine and a rum punch or three. As we are walking along the seafront path a man in a tricycle taxi things stops and asks us to listen to him. I really politely told him we had to be somewhere but he wasn’t letting us past, so we were forced to stand and listen to his entire speech about the town being closed due to some presidents birthday or something and where he could take us for $20 or $10 etc. He was really sweet, but we really needed to get on. Eventually he took my No to mean no, but he didn’t look best pleased about it! So we headed on our way. With the interruptions it took us about 25 mins to get into town and it really was like a ghost town. Whatever the national holiday was about, everyone was taking full advantage and staying out of town. Not a things was open apart from a bar in the harbour. A couple of taxi drivers stopped and tried to convince us we were on a lost mission by trying to find somewhere open, and they could do us a super doper price for a taxi tour of the island. But my beach was in sight. Over the bridge and a few hundred yards along, down an alley by an oily garage and we had reached our destination. The soft white sand, and the stunning calm blue sea of Barbados. Flip flops off and we walked along the shore, under the pier, past the Boatyard and The Lobster Pot and there it was the rickety old rum shack known as Dee’s! He has battered old tables and chairs, hand painted signs and a short row of sunloungers. Its such a prime spot but it always makes me smile that you take the place as you find it. Ive never ventured inside his rum shack, Mr C has, so I must ask him what its like. The man himself is out and recognises me from last year, which surprises me given the amount of rum n coke he must have consumed already today, let alone the last 12 months. But my rum punch and Mr C’s Banks is on its way and Mr C heads for the sea leaving me to pay the man. He confuses hell out of me with his local accent when he asks for ‘five n tree’ what? Surely he cant been $53, so I tried him with $5. No tree! So I took that off him and gave him $3. Soon resolved $5 + $3 = $8! That was hard work, nearly time for another drink by the time that was resolved. I had a look at funds and calculated how many could be consumed before the pot of $ was empty. One rum punch did try to get the better of me though, and had clearly been in cahoots with the exploding coffee as it took a dive all over the table and drowning my sun hat and camera! Oh no the camera is not working now! I blame the coffee, it had it in for me from that night and got the rum punch to attack when I least expected it. Sunhat was not looking to good so it was put to sunbathe ontop of the parasol.We tried to revive the camera and put all its components to dry in the sun but it wasn’t looking good. I went off into the sea to sulk. The sea was bliss. No chill to it. Crystal clear and easy to walk straight in and out of. Two local ladies were practicing a bit of Thai chi on the edge of the beach which amused me as they were not putting too much effort into it. Sort of striking the poses, not quite getting it. All the time we are clock watching. We could have had longer on the beach if we used some of the dollars to get back to the ship, but that would eat into my rum punch fund. So we spent the last dollar on another drink and decided we needed to have a very brisk walk back to the ship if we were to have time to shower, change, get some lunch and be ready for transfer to the ship. Dee didn’t want us to leave, and tried very hard to persuade us to stay, but we had a plane to catch unfortunately. I had to have a final dip in the sea before finally putting my flip flops back on and going up the back alley for the walk back to the ship. We had only just reached the harbour when I got a text message advising me not to rush back as it had just been announced we had a four or 5 hour delay for the flight back to UK. If only we had some dollars in our pocket we would have headed back to the beach and made a day of it, but instead we steadied our pace and strolled back to the ship.
Straight up to Breakers and not at all surprised to see Sandra and Phil sat at the bar. Some people may not have been happy with the delay, but it wasn’t bothering us four. We were in Barbados, in the sunshine, on a ship. What was there to complain about. ‘Caribbean Cruise’ was the cocktail of the day, which seemed rather appropriate so I sampled a few of those. Turns out Phil had been buying me large ones!The ship was looking particularly deserted but it wasn’t long before new faces starting arriving. Only two weeks ago it would have been our fellow passengers faces that were new. Isn’t it funny how the ship soon starts to feel like its your own once you are onboard? Or is it just me that feels so at home? Its only something that happens on P&O and it certainly hasn’t happened on different ships that I have been on outside of P&O. So it did feel like people were entering our home without an invite.
We had to give the day cabin up at 3.00pm which is a bit of a shame as we were due to leave the ship now until 5.30pm. I did ask at reception if we could keep it a while longer but it wasn’t to be. So at 2.00pm I had to go to our inside cabin day room and shower and change ready for the flight home. I couldn’t face the thought of trousers and jumper ready for the UK weather so I opted for long cool sundress. I might regret that decision at 9.30am tomorrow morning as I step off the plane! It was nice to have a shower and wash my hair after a hot day in the sun. A cabin steward knocked the door twice whilst I was in there in the hope that he could reclaim the cabin. I was out well before 3.00pm and I tried not to disturb the place too much. We only used the bathroom, hairdryer and dressing table mirror, so he didn’t have much cleaning up to do after us. One thing is for sure I cant go back to having an inside cabin again. There was only me in there drying my hair and i felt claustrophobic. There didn’t seem to be enough room to swing a cat. Not that I had a cat with me to swing! It wasn’t so long ago that I was happy with and inside and ecstatic if I got an outside with window, but I need my balcony now. Cant imagine what its like to not be able to step outside and feel the fresh air, check the temperature of the sun, and see what the port of the day is looking like.
We decided to have a meal in The GlassHouse and spend our last couple of hours just chillin. The boys seemed more than satisfied with their rib eye steak and us ladies had catch of the day. All the time more and more new passengers are filtering through the ship. We give a couple of ladies advice on where to drink and what the best martinis are. We recommended the Garden Tea Martinis of course!
Time had soon ticked round and the call went out for us to disembark and join the coaches waiting to take us to Barbados airport for the flight home. All day I had been praying for a longer flight delay and a transfer to a hotel, or to be invited to stay onboard the ship again, but it wasn’t to be. Before we knew it the cards had been scanned and final ‘Goodbye’ from the security scanner had been spoken. We were on the coach and on our way in no time at all. We weren’t even out of the port gates and Phil was snoring. We drove through the deserted town and onto the highway and before long the airport was infront of us. We showed our passports, had our hand luggage scanned through security and prayed that our suitcases did leave the ship as planned and we ready to be loaded onto the correct aircraft. We did have a bit of a giggle at the security scanner as we were in the queue behind some Japanese. First of all security pulled out some spanners and tools and told them off, then fed the bags back through again, only to find a cut throat razor in their bags. The Japanese men couldn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about and were protesting that they needed to keep them. Even the security guard at our side found it amusing, and needless to say they weren’t allowed to keep them and their bags were searched more thoroughly as we were allowed through.
We had booked the airside Executive Lounge for our time at the airport. Despite having recently had a refurbishment it isn’t the best of airports in the world and facilities are a little limited. The Exec lounge was deserted with only one other group of four in there. Mr C was soon stocking up on Scooby snacks and rum & coke but I couldn’t face anymore and settled for a nice cup of tea and a cake. I went onto have some sprite and cola but Mr C seemed on a bit of a rum mission. There is plenty of choice of drinks including spirits, wine, beer, soft drinks and hot drinks including Horlicks! Snacks range from crisps and nachos, sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and sweets. Its nice just to sit in the cool and unwind.
We heard the call for our flight to go to gate, so decided we had to face facts and go home. We had the same seats going back as when we came but some of the crèche had moved. It was strange having new faces around us on the way back and it seemed that only the pre booked seats were occupied by the same people. The safety checks were done and it wasn’t long before Barbados disappeared into the darkness below us. A few minutes into the flight Mr C encountered a bit of locker rage. A man opened the locker above and someones camera fell to the floor leaving someone else to retrieve it. He had a bit of a rummage around and something else fell, hitting Mr C on the shoulder. Still the man carried on regardless. Lets just say that Mr C wasn’t to impressed! I told him it was a good idea that he went back to sleep and thankfully he did as he was told. I was soon looking at the inside of my eyelids myself and I woke up to see that the cabin crew had already been round with drinks! What? How did I miss that one? I will reclaim it next time P&O ; ) I didn’t need or want one and was soon back to sleep for a while until I heard noises relating to food being distributed. I wasn’t hungry either but thought I might as well indulge. The choice was sausage & mash or chicken curry. I had the sausage and mash and it was quite nice. I didn’t care much for the other bits that came with it and I saved the mini twix for my cup of tea and went back to sleep. Next thing I knew the lights were back on and it was time for breakfast. A yogurt, a piece of cake and tea or coffee. I had the tea and cake. We landed on time into the most miserable sight of Birmingham airport you could ever see. Grey, raining, miserable UK weather. A long walk through to baggage reclaim, a rummage around for a £1 coin for the baggage and then the long long wait for the cases to come around on the carousel. It took forever. I called Lizy for our lift home and she was still asleep, but she had time to wake up, get dressed and drive to the airport and get parked before the baggage handlers had got the cases on the carousel.
My final amusing event was as we cleared customs and a passenger had spotted a Thomson representative and was giving her hell about the ‘unacceptable delay’!!! I had to smile. We were back where we had started with people around us complaining and moaning about the flight delays. Why? Who is in a hurry to get back to the UK? We saw it as a bonus. We had just had more or less a full day in Barbados instead of a few hours. In effect it was what we missed out on at the beginning of the cruise. But you cant please all of the people all of the time!