Friday 12th February 2010
I didn’t think we were arriving late for our 11.00am check in at Birmingham airport, but clearly 4 hours before checking for our 11.00am flight was not early enough. When we arrived there was a small queue for the health declarations prior to check in, but just at the time they decided to relocate the health declaration point, a group of about 20 appeared from nowhere and went straight to the front of the queue. The queue was then relocated and we ended up at the back of beyond. Then clipboard woman appeared (theres always one) handing out health declaration forms and looking at any large case and advising that if its over 23kg it wont be checked in! Truth is I didn’t see anyone turned away at check in so either we were all within the 23kg limit or point something over didn’t matter? Cleary flight seats must have been pre assigned as we were a couple of rows ahead of the rest of our party and they checked in 40 mins before us !
The flight was not the best. I didn’t enjoy the flight and the cabin crew were too interested in themselves to make sure the passengers were ok. Was this really the start of a Caribbean cruise. The crew were not very welcoming and the drink was not very forthcoming. I got the impression that the flight crew were more interested in their overnight in Barbados than the job in hand. Drinks were served twice and it was strictly one drink per time, no double measures. Why did I feel my holiday was an inconvenience to them? There was no chance of them even attempting to acknowledge the passengers. Food was ok, I chose the chicken but service was dire, it seemed like the longest flight in the world. First we were told we would land at 3.30 then 4, and it was finally 4.10 before the tyres hit the tarmac. I had a plan to get off the plane pretty sharpish and it worked, I was straight down those steps and into the 28 deg heat. We nipped onto the first small coach to leave the airport and Rooster was our driver. What a gem he was. He has been ‘off the road’ for the last 12 months and today was his first day back behind the wheel. I think every cab and bus driver on the island saluted him as he passed them. He gave us a guided tour from the moment we left the airport and sang to us, and crowed like a Rooster! We had a guided tour of South Barbados and he told us all about all the major land marks, sights and beaches. A lot of buses arrived at the ship side at the same time, but check in was pretty quick and efficient.
Once onboard nobody offered any guidance which I found odd, not that I needed any but I do wonder how first time passengers manage when they arrive? We were straight to the front stairwell, out of the lift at deck 14 and into R303.
I love my cabin. Massive! Lots of space and a little warm from the sun beating in through the balcony doors. Champagne is on ice, strawberries are dipped and looking rather tempting and a silver tray of fruit is laid out on the dressing table. A note on the champagne indicates that Z is Dead, but we can cope with that and proceed to pop open the champagne.
Caribbean Princess is berthed opposite and the sun is setting just off her stern. Its not long before something very windswept and interesting sweeps through the door to Welcome us onboard (good job somebody from P&O made the effort!)
We choose to just chill on our balcony with a glass of champagne in hand and watch Caribbean Princess set sail and the most stunning sunset you could imagine! Perfect start to a Caribbean cruise.
We meet at Breakers bar and decide it must be Pimms o’clock, closely followed by Kir Royale time! The most bizarre thing happened to me on the way back from paying a visit to the ladies this evening. Dinner time was approaching and I thought a visit to the ladies was in order (as you do) the ones in the spa were the closest. By back was aching so I was giving it a bit of a rub to ease it into position as I left the spa, next thing I knew the lovely Lillian, Russian spa therapist, had taken me by the arm and was leading me to her room (oooh err misses) I was instructed to take off my dress and lay face down on the couch!! The then proceeded to give a complimentary massage for 10 mins on my back to try and ease the pain for me. All the time I’m wondering if the rest of the gang are worrying where I have got to? Sure enough when I go back to Breakers Bar they had sent out a search party for me, and on hearing where I had been there was a few more people heading for the loo with an aching back.
We chose to eat in the Beach House Diner this evening. Excellent choice and highly recommended. American diner type fayre with waiter service. No cover charge although some of the more speciality dishes did have a small charge. My wind swept and interesting officer did something he hadn’t done for a 12 months. He laughed like a girl again!! Funny how we bring out the worst in people, especially Darren – he doesn’t stand a chance with us. Both service, food and host were top class this evening. It was a wonderful start to what Im sure will be a wonderful cruise.
Arrived back at the cabin at around 11.30 to find the cases had arrived, so I had to unpack them – much to Mr C’s disgust, cant blame him for being tired, it was getting on for 4.00am UK time.
We stepped out onto the balcony hoping to cool off but its still hot and muggy. Two large stingrays were floating around the harbour and it was quite a sight for such a late hour.
Saturday 13th February Barbados
I didn’t have the best of sleeps. My back was crippling me and if I snatched an hour here and there its as much as I could do. Breakfast arrived at 7.30 but I forgot to order toast so not a good start to my morning, it was lovely to sit out on the balcony in my nightie though, and drink tea and croissants on a very warm winter morning. I set too and organised the cabin and attended to a few bits and pieces, then Mr C tried to connect me to the internet. A word with the internet manager soon sorted out the connection problem and Im wired for work. P&O have increased the internet charge for the top 240 min package from £42 to £62.50!!!! what????? Why??? P&O how the hell do you justify that? Robbing gypsys spring to mind!! By the time I had paid the connection fee it cost me about £10 for 10 mins work this morning – talk about welcome onboard!!
Another one of ‘My’ ships! the amazing Royal Clipper was in Barbados for her Saturday turnaround. I used to work for Star Clipper a few years back. I love this ship, totally different cruise experience and one I must return to in the not too distant future.
Time to head for a beach and after much deliberation we decide to go back to Mullins where we went last year. They have the most amazing sunloungers with thick mattresses so I was already dreaming of a big snooze while Mr C tried to hitch a ride on a jet ski to see the turtles. We negotiated a fare of $10pp each way, but when we arrived we were disappointed to discover the waves were huge! Bigger than I have ever seen them along St James coast and the beach couldn’t be used. The rest of the passengers in the mini cab paid the driver to take them back but we chose to stay and sit on the terrace with a few cocktails. We sat on the terrace decking area and watched the huge waves crashing into the foundations of the steps and the actual terrace that we were sitting on. Mr C commented that it was actually washing away all of the foundations and much of the Terrace was suspended mid air, but the cocktails made everything right with the world! I have to say that Mullins do do some wicked cocktails! We decided to have lunch and we had a lovely table overlooking the sea for a lovely long lazy lunch washed down by a few more cocktails.
You can view the beach and restaurant on the webcam at www.royalwestmorland.com and even take control the camera. Since returning back to the UK we have learnt that the strong waves did get the better of Mullins Bay and washed that very terrace more or less into the sea. The foundations collapsed and they are in the process of rebuilding it. We had asked Watson our driver to collect us at 2.00pm but he appeared at 1.30 so soon after we were back in the cab and heading for Bridgetown.
The port was deserted and the duty free shops had nobody browsing around. I bought my holiday hat and a couple of postcards then we headed back to the ship. Went upto Breakers but it was too hot, so I decided the balcony was a good plan. But 5 mins out there and I was frazzled. Mr C chose to knock out a few Zzzz’s on the bed and I just pottered then showered ready for my hot stones massage.
There was quite a long wait in the ‘Relaxation’ area for my appointment, but it was more like Clapham junction than anything with people constantly coming and going. My hot stones massage didn’t live upto my expectations. The setting could have been a little more tranquil, but instead the room was a mess with a pile of dirty towels kicked out of the way while I was in there. The couch wasn’t ready and she had to strip that down and replace the towels. The work surface had dirty tissues and discarded sugar packs laying around. I felt more pummelled by the end of it than relaxed. She recommended a course of 6 over the 14 day period and she will do me a special price! £66 per session instead of £88. Errrm I don’t think so I didn’t come on holiday to spend £400 of massages. She then presents my bill for today ‘Special Price £66’ Erhh No – Half Price treatments (including Hot Stones) while in Barbados. She seemed unaware of this, which I find hard to believe as the ship has a two day turnaround every 14 days, but by bill was amended to the agreed £44. As I say it wasn’t anywhere near as good as other hot stones massages I have had in the past. I didn’t leave smelling of the nice oils, I hadn’t received any head, feet, arms massage. I didn’t feel the slightest bit relaxed.
Its still baking hot out on the balcony, so I tried a little snooze on the bed but that wasn’t happening so I decided to get ready for dinner. A rather large plate of hand made choccies arrived this evening, the strawberry creams were to die for and the Turkish delights weren’t bad either. Getting ready turned into a bit of an effort but I got there in the end. Just as we were ready to leave the cabin, the horns blasted as we pulled away from our berth and hooted to the port of Bridgetown.
We had arranged to meet in the Red Bar and immediately we are pounced on by a waiter. Pet hate of mine but I do like to sit and decide on a drink. I found it easier to order a Cosmo and be done with it. Soon after the rest of the gang arrived, closely followed by the new face of P&O, Mr Windswept and Interesting himself. When the drinks arrived we asked for nibbles, but its ‘turnaround night’ and you cant have nibbles! Strange I thought tonight had cost me the same price as the rest of the cruise?
Dinner was in your allocated restaurant this evening but sit anywhere. John, Restaurant Manager, was on hand to greet us into the restaurant and welcome us onboard. We went to look for our table, table 46, but someone had already taken it so we sat on one next to it. It was my first look at the menu, and I was beginning to wish that I had checked it out before deciding to eat in there. The menu was a new one on me and not one starter or soup appealed to either me or Mr C, and we struggled with a main course. We both ended up with an ‘always available’ prawn cocktail and steak and fries which wasn’t exactly inspirational. The waiter was winding me up. He put my cutlery anywhere instead of just taking time to make sure they were in line etc. when coffee came I asked for brown sugar but he never returned with any.
I was cold, sat under a draft, hadn’t enjoyed my meal and in pain with my back. I just wanted to get out of there. We headed for Metropolis. Tamarind was busy as we walked through and a good sounding band were playing. Metropolis was deserted, but a good duo were playing and the volume was just right to create an atmosphere. Vanessa came home over to greet us and was impressed this time that I had decided to bring Mr Chadwick onboard with me, lol, but where was Mrs W? My friend? According to Vanessa we used to sit every night and chatter, chatter, chatter. No that cant be right, she must have us mixed up with two others! I had a nightcap of southern comfort. Amanda had the Shanghia cocktail as that was where the wall was telling us we were tonight, but no star fruit garnish – you guessed it, no star fruit because its turnaround day. Poor excuse!
So far P&O haven’t left a last welcoming impression on me, but then its ‘turnaround’ day! Tomorrows a new day so I will give them another chance.
Sunday 14th February Valentines Day – St Lucia
Im wide awake at 6.00am and the pink sky is just outlining the coast of St Lucia. Mr C is ordered out of bed to make tea and we lay and watch Castries grow closer to the ship. Anthony bought our breakfast dead on the dot at 7.30 and he went that extra mile and said not to bother placing the order every evening, he would make sure it was delivered every day at the same time.
We were very undecided about what to do today, so I had a wander down to the port to see if the information centre was open, but it was too early. A taxi driver told me that the beaches were not good today and it sounds like the sea was a bit too choppy as it had been in Barbados yesterday. The only place he could recommend was Marigot Bay for $20 return each. He was leaving at 9.30 and he would take us to a boat which would take us out and bring everyone back at an agreed time. I had been to Marigot Bay, and I wasn’t keen on having my return time dictated by others so we opted for a lazy day up on deck by Breakers Bar. It was lovely as most of the passengers were ashore. A gentle breeze was just blowing across the deck to cool me from the sun. We decided on a Pizza from Frankies Grill for lunch followed by a little bit of salad and fresh fruit. Later in the afternoon we went ashore to Pointe Seraphine for a browse around the duty free shops and a drink at the karaoke bar to watch the crew enjoying a few hours off. Mr C seemed to enjoy his two Piton beers for $3 so he had a few!
Back onboard I fancied a hot chocolate with all the fattening bits, I didn’t expect to find Theo down there though making coffees and hot chocolalates though. Nice to see him but I do think he is better suited to cocktail making!
I had sent two dresses for pressing this morning, (lazy I know but I’m on holiday) they were returned at 5.00pm and look far better than I could have done, but at £8 per dress they dam well should do!
We were due to depart St Lucia at 5.30 and I could have done without the Captain announcing through the cabin that we were delayed by an hour as Marco Pierre white was due to join us but had been delayed, plus we were waiting for two new crew members who would be arriving 30 mins after MPW. MPW arrived just after 6.00pm to raptures of applause, but the crew members got a tiny ripple of a clap. As soon as they jumped onboard the door slammed behind them and the Captain was back on the tanoy in the cabin to tell us we were letting go our lines. How come Mr C can sleep though Captains bing bong?
Pre dinner drinks in the Red Bar followed by dinner in the Saffron Restaurant. Mr C is causing the windswept and interesting one great amusement tonight as he has caught the sun rather badly. Mr C has no choice but to retire to his cabin half way through dinner with a bottle of aftersun. Elton John was on in Havana, (not the real one, just the P&O one) and I fancied an hour in there but with no Mr C to escort me it was a nightcap in Metropolis. It was very busy in there with no seats to be had. Straight away the bartender spotted us and asked to men to move from the stooled area just to the left of the bar. I can only presume that they were crew of some description. At least the ladies had a sat while the men stood.
I returned to the cabin via deck 7 and stood and watched the closing 2 songs of Elton. He was very good and it had probably been an entertaining 40 mins or so. Tamarind Club was busy with the dancing and then through into the Areana Theatre I caught a bit of Night Fever(?) oooh dear, it was dire, and judging by the amount of people in there it didnt look to be one of the more popular shows!
Monday 15th February ~ Grenada
Guess what, it’s a hot sunny one again to day. Anthony arrives spot on time with the breakfast and offers to take it out onto the balcony for us.
Im on a mission today and want to be across on Grande Anse Beach before it gets too busy. We were one of the first boat loads to arrive. Water taxis can be picked up just outside the duty free area to the port side of Ventura. Its $8pp return and takes 10 to 15 mins. We were instructed to go and see Captain Jack Sparrow for the best loungers and service, and to be fair he probably wasn’t far wrong. It was $20 for two loungers, mattresses and an umbrella. A little further down it was $10 for two loungers, but no umbrella or mattress, plus the seats were the old battered variety. Ive never made it across to this beach before although I have been to Grenada many times. It’s a beautiful beach, if a little too busy for my liking, but there was plenty of space and it was such a long beach that we were all spread out. There was a lot of hawkers on the beach, touting their wares, but to be fair if you gave them a polite ‘no thanks’ they did wish you a good day and went onto the next one. I did have a sweet old man sing me a song with his guitar while Mr C was in the sea, and he was worth the $2 for the entertainment. I also bought a leaf bird off Eddie but I obviously hadn’t considered how I was to get him home at that point? (he made it home safe and sound by the way!) The bar lads were constantly touting for business, and all of them telling you that their service and measures were better than the next blokes. We stuck to the same guy and he kept us supplied with soft and strong drinks all day. The sea was lovely, very calm, quite warm and just had a small ridge to negotiate to get down into the deeper water. I had to keep wandering in just to cool off. It was sooo hot!
Just after 1 o’clock we packed up and returned to the water taxi station on the jetty and got back to the ship to shower and freshen up. We then went back ashore to check out the shops in Duty Free and had a little wander into the harbour, taking our life in our hands, through the tunnel to get there.
Back onboard it was snooze time, but that was rudely interrupted by the Captain again to tell us that we would be late departing due to the lack of a pilot! I swear he said he would only disturb us in the cabin if there were an emergency?! I hardly call waiting for MPW yesterday and waiting for a pilot, and Emergency!!! If he does it again, he and I might have to have words!
Drinks were being served on the Crosslands balcony at 6, but I was too grumpy from the Captain disturbing my sleep plus my back was about crippling me and I had sunburn starting to make its self known to me, so I laid in bed while Mr C went for a beverage or two.
Pre dinner drinks in Ramblas this evening, but I couldn’t have a Bellini! I don’t really get why I cant have some drinks in some bars? It all got too complicated again and so I chose southern comfort. No nibbles either served in Ramblas! Oh dear!
The meal in Saffron this evening was dire. I sat in the seat under the aircon outlet which didn’t help so I was frozen. Service completely went to pot and we waited forever for a main course, I do almost mean forever. People were served their mains, and sweets and were finishing their coffee before our main put in an appearance. What amused me was that the section waiter was going around doing his meeting and greeting bit, but after spotting that we still hadn’t been served he had a word with the waiter and decided not to come and greet us. Could be something to do with the scowl on my face maybe. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t have been so cold and chilled from the draft and maybe I should have taken the gents offer to swap seats at some point. So we had waited pretty much forever for this main course so you would expect it to be worth waiting for, right? Well my salmon was dry, so dry it stuck to the roof of my mouth and didnt want to attempt to go on a journey to my stomach, I’m guessing it had been kept warm somewhere for the lamb shanks to cook. Both Amanda and Mr C had lamb shank and Amanda couldn’t even get a knife through hers, it must have been bad for Mr C to abandon it. I could have quite happily left at that point and gone in search of a toastie somewhere. I chose the warm apple and blackberry crumble for sweet not because I fancied it but I needed something warm!
60’s & 70’s party out on deck and it was really busy, both Breakers bar and the deck below were really busy with not a seat to be had. Me & Mr C found a couple of stools by Breakers bar and enjoyed a nice drink and soaked up the warm balmy Caribbean evening air.
Tuesday 16th February at sea
Oh, no pretty island to greet me this morning, just a calm blue sea and a few flying fish to observe as we had breakfast on the balcony. I had a bit of work to do in my ‘office at sea’ which just happens to be a dressing table in my cabin, but its a nice office with a great view.
We decide to have an hour on deck and I got a couple of loungers in my usual spot without too much effort. They were preparing a BBQ on the deck below around the pool so we decide to go and join the others and have a couple of cocktails before having some food from the BBQ. I knew that if I went to the BBQ to serve myself I would come back with far more than I wanted so I sent Mr C to just get me some pork and stuffing from the hog roast (yes I’d never seen that at sea either) and I had a rather yummy pork and stuffing roll. I may only be early afternoon, but already my bed was calling me. I had to go and look at the insides of my eyelids and catch up with some of the sleep that I had missed in the run up to this cruise. It was a good sleep, and one I needed. I did make it to the Crossland Flowers balcony this evening for a drink, but only a swift one as there was the Captains Cocktail Party to attend and I couldnt turn up in my bathrobe!
Pre dinner drinks in Ramblas, and like most places it was busy as the main atrium area and Havana was being used for the Captains reception, so decided to partake in a Kir Royal at the bar. The rest of the gang arrived closely followed by the windswept and interesting one. Darren then escorted Mr C and I to the Captains Reception and he was the perfect host. Introduced us to lots of interesting people and he made sure our glasses were never empty. Note to self to always stand near a bar at reception, preferably Theo’s bar! Captain did come to his balcony to say a few words, but there was far to many people to see him – sorry Captain, but I prefer to keep you as my voice over the tanoy, lol. We were rather late making it to dinner, but Im sure we were within our 15 minutes grace period. Ooh yes I remember now we bumped in to the Captain on the way to dinner and we had a little chat about his cabin announcements : )
I wanted to go and see Robbie and Elton tributes after dinner but after I made a visit to the ladies we lost the rest of them. Havana was very busy, but the caberet hadn’t started yet, so we went for a romantic stroll on out on Prom deck. Only those of you that have experienced the Caribbean will know just how hot and humid it can be at that time of night. We got to the other end and had a little sit down in the theatre observing the Rob Boyde show. He is a good singer and performer I will give him that, but I couldnt help thinking it was a bit of a cop out show, (backing singers were dire by the way) then we strolled back through the lounges and down to Havana. Not a seat to be had in there so we gave up, one final stroll along to the front of the ship and all the way around the bow, then back in, up in the lift and there it was R303, air conditioning and a big comfy bed!
Wednesday 17th February – Curacoa
Well we docked port side too for a change this morning which is rather frustrating as I had got used to seeing land on starboard side. Not to worry though. Anthony was spot on time with breakie, so we took it easy and dined on our balcony.
We headed ashore early and it was a pretty enough place, lots of brightly coloured buildings lining the water with a Dutch influence. The usual purpose shopping area is built around an old fort and the moving bridge to get across into Punda, the town area. Lots of nice shops and a floating market. But oh it was hot, very sticky hot. We decided to head for a beach and asked at the information centre in town. Mambo and Kontiki Beach were recommended and another couple were heading in the same direction so we shared a cab. Cab fare was $15 and wasn’t far from town, but was too far to walk. I got the impression it was a purpose built beach resort area in a bit of a lagoon. Lots of palm trees, gazebos and choices of double sun beds or the usual sun lounger. We had a couple of chairs right on the waters edge but we ended up surrounded by foreign families with little children, so a combination of the sun attempting to burn through what little skin I have left and screaming playing kids throwing sand around prompted me to stroll back to the other end of the beach. We decided to have lunch and chose a lovely restaurant bar set back from the sand.
Very trendy and comfy with Wicker sofas etc. I had just got my first drink and food ordered and then this ‘creature’ appeared to my left. A ‘big’ blue, purple and green lizard type thing and yes he was big, not a little gecko type thing. That was it I was freaked. I hate the things with a passion. Mr C sent him on his way and assured me he wouldn’t return, but he did didn’t he, for a photo shoot. Im on edge now and despite a bad back, I’m curled up in my seat with my knees under my chin, wrapped in a towel (maybe I figured gecko wouldn’t see me if I hid?) then his smaller brown mate came for a look. I might as well have been in a lizard pen and my heart is starting to beat a bit irregular (felt like it stopped at times) the waitress assured me that they wouldn’t hurt me, but to me they were not words of comfort. I could see one about 3 tables away just sitting wondering where to go next, there was one under the stool to the left, and just as I considered leaping onto the sofa next to me, there was another basking n the sun on the sofa! Im crying by now and not a happy bunny. The food arrived and little flakes of lettuce and crumbs were blowing off the plate. Next thing I knew one looked me in the eye and made a run for me. He might as well have been a pitt bull terrier because I fled screaming and waving a towel around like a mad woman. Mr C wanted to laugh, I know he did, but he couldn’t or daren’t! He was now stranded in a restaurant with two meals to eat and a bill to pay. I wasn’t going back in there and paced the path waiting for him, not once taking my eyes off the ground or rocks. I was petrified. Eventually Mr C emerges and we can make a hasty retreat for a cab. But big purple and blue lizard had to have the last laugh didnt he and run across my path!! Well I hope the little git is deaf from my screaming now!
We jumped in a cab and she took us all the way back to the ship, but just to freak me out a little bit more she took us over that huge suspension bridge. It just looks like you are driving up a huge steep hill into infinity before tipping over the edge and coming down the other side. The ride back to the ship was $20 as it was further than town that we had walked to earlier. Before getting back to the ship I needed a fridge magnet so we walked back to the shopping centre and sat on a bench with an ice cream to calm me down. Just when I thought it was all over another little lizard appeared across the path and I was on edge again. Its boiling hot and Mr C has had to carry all the bags and towels from the beach just incase they are laiden with lizards.
As lovely and picturesque as Curacoa is, I will not be sorry if I never set foot in that place again all thanks to some lizards that should go back to Jurrasic Park!
I had a snoozle in bed but woke with a start as a picture of that stupid purple lizard flashed through my brain. Next thing I know the Captain is back on the tannoy with his 6 0’cclock announcement to tell us we are ready to set sail. Obviously he didn’t take the hint when I told him yesterday his 6.00pm wake up calls in my cabin were not appreciated.
It was V Factor tonight, which I have decided translates to a bit of a shop/onboard spend promotion with a bit of engine room and bridge info thrown in for good measure. It must interest some I suppose but does little for me. We had pre dinner drinks in Tamarind Club this evening. A couple of nice Martini cocktails set me up nicely. Guess what? No nibbles though! Five nights onboard and we have only found nibbles once pre dinner.
We chose to dine at the Indian Buffet tonight and very nice it was too. Very busy with hardly any tables but its always a popular night. Food was very good though and we all enjoyed.
Thursday 18th February – Aruba
All the main jewellers and tanzanite stores but lots of smaller shops selling everything from souvenirs to clothes. Lots of 2 to 3 hour trips were on offer from the port for around $20 finishing off at a beach. Mr C wanted to go snorkelling and he knew that the best beach for that was quite a distance away upto the north. We asked a cab driver and he wanted $24 one way, but then another couple, Paul and Mandy, appeared who also wanted to snorkel so we were able to share the cab. The beach was called Eagle beach and was as far north as you could get by the lighthouse. Beautiful azure sea and lots of coral for them to explore. The beach was nice but up by the coral part there were no beach chairs or facilities. They said the snorkelling was amazing but I don’t do water over the head so it wasn’t for me. Lizards were spotted up near the cactus and trees but as long as they stayed away from me that was fine. A bus runs past the beach every 30 mins and we were about on time for the quarter past one, but a cab stopped and offered to take us back for $5 each. He might not have been an official taxi but he was very good and knowledgable. Everyone here has been very friendly. He took us back via the resort hotels and gave a running commentary of them all.
Back in the town we went to Senor Frogs and sat in the sun on the balcony over looking the ship. We had two amazing plates of food to share and I was drinking yards of cocktail which were rather strong! Maybe one would have been enough.
Words will not describe how hot it was and the short walk back to the ship was draining, so a dip in the Rivera pool at the back was the order of the day. This pool is now adult only which is good, but I still refer to the place as the ‘ashtray’ as the whole area stinks from the smokers as they all sit puffing away on their ciggies, it’s a shame as it’s a lovely deck area. The dip in the pool was lovey and the water very warm from the heat of the sun. Drinks at the Crossland Flowers pad at 6, but gaining entry proved a little difficult as they were all on the balcony with the doors shut, but we made it. A little late leaving there and a very quick change of clothes and we were out again for Pre dinner drinks in Metropolis. Old Man Bob joined us for a few laughs this evening and it was nice to see him. The usual amount of giggle followed, which followed us all the way down in the lift and across to the Saffron Restaurant. I don’t know what was in the wine tonight but it made the laughter rather loud this evening, much to the annoyance of many around us I think!
The evening was rounded off by sitting under the stars on top deck, listening to the steel band and enjoying a nice nite cap.
Friday 19th February – day at sea
Its Gold Portunus lunch day and despite me vowing that I would never ever attend one on principle again, my acceptance for the invite was given practically before the formal invite arrived at my cabin. I was feeling a little queasy this morning and I hadn’t slept well (yet again) so it took a while to get ready but was ready for noon.
We had a very windswept and interesting officer hosting our table whom we had never met before, but its fair to say that table 98 had the most fun. Im still not a convert or lover of such a thoughtless event, and the fact that our Portunus miniatures were just left at our place setting for us seemed even less thoughtful. Just as well I don’t mind a drink hey? Not that I think I have drank the last two lots yet and I think they are still kicking around at home. Thank goodness for purple stripes that’s all I can say because our host was the perfect ambassador for P&O.
After lunch we had a stroll and bumped into the others having tapas in Exchange, so stopped off for a cocktail of the day. We went outside and sat up by Breakers bar for a short while but the sun was intense and the heat unbearable. I don’t know whats wrong with me as I love the heat, but I cant stick this.
Down to the Crossland Flower pad for drinks at 6 and I’m pleased to report that the entry problem has been resolved. It was another quick change session and upto Red Bar for pre dinner drinks. A quick check of the dinner menu confirmed to me that there was nothing I fancied and so Mr C and I opted to dine up in the Beach House diner. We arrived at just gone 8.30 which is always going to be a popular time so were given a pager and advised it would be about 20 minutes. The pagers work all over the ship apart from cabins but we chose to sit out in the cool breeze just by Laguna Pool. We were soon called through to our table. I like it in here and there is no cover charge unless selecting the surf and turf or a couple of other select dishes. Mr C had the surf and turf and it did look amazing, the cover charge for that was £6.50. I had the combo sizzle again which was delicious, but there is a good variety of food on offer including steaks, sausage n mash, fish n chips, curry etc.
We are oh so tired again tonight and my bed is calling me even before I have ordered my sweet. The pool out the back looked very inviting but by the time we had walked the length of the ship back to R303 I was beat.
Saturday 20th February ~ Tortola
It was a lovely sail in this morning through little islands and past lots of inlets etc. Thomson Destiny was already berthed and we berthed alongside which spoilt the view a little bit!
Mr C and I are on a tour this morning (those that know me know that I never do tours) but I have always wanted to go to Virgin Gorda and P&O excursion seemed the safest way to be able to do it. It was £36 per head for the half day tour. We were taken by fast ferry type boat across to Virgin Gorda and the journey took about 30 mins. It was very blowy and a little bit lumpy up on top deck but a pleasant enough way to start the day. We were then transported by open sided bus about 10 minutes along to Virgin Gorda Baths. The guides explained that swimming today was very dangerous with strong waves and strong undercurrent so she didn’t advise it. From the top of the hill there are two paths, one to the left leads to Devils Bay and is longer and steeper, the other to the right, takes about 5 minutes and leads to the Baths. As the majority took the easy route to the baths we decided to go to Devils bay and see it before it got crowded. It was about a 15 min walk, through very uneven terrain, and a bit like being in the jungle at times (remember I don’t do flora and forna!) but once we made it to the other side it was stunning. White soft, very deep sand, bolders rising out of the sea, blue sky and very fierce seas. It was the best time to see it before many arrived. We had to climb through to Devils Beach and it soon filled up. But why people cant see or understand how fierce that sea was is beyond me. Families were letting little kids in and they were getting thrown back on the beach by the waves. Even grown adults were getting pushed over by the waves and dragged back in under the waves. One woman obviously very shaken had to be rescued by a group of people. I didn’t even dip my toe in it. The pounding of the waves was pretty deafening so after a while we headed for the caves. I knew that I was going to be knee deep in water in the caves and have a lot of climbing to do so I had to swap my long floaty dress for Mr C’s shirt.
You do have to be fairly fit and agile to negotiate the tiny steps and crawl through some quite narrow passage ways (not easy with a bad back, large beach bag, and wide brimmed hat) but somehow sheer determination got me through and I did enjoy it, so highly recommended. The caves werent spooky or claustrophobic and no signs of bats either! Im not quite sure why the Baths were called baths as it was more like a little beach to me, but maybe when the sea is calmer little pools form amongst the boulders and rocks? Why is it called Virgin Gorda by the way? Well, the bloke that discovered it (it might have been Columbus, but I wasn’t paying attention as usual) said that all the rocks looked like a fat virgin with her legs open so he called it Virgin Gorda – I didn’t see it myself! We walked back upto the top of the hill to a restaurant for our complimentary rum punch and it barely touched the sides, so another had to be purchased and that went down much better. The taxis transported us back to the ferry at 1.00pm and we were back at Ventura at 2.00pm. It looks like we had made the right choice to head to Virgin Gorda as Tortola was shrouded in black cloud and drizzle. We had lovely sunshine where we had been. The ferry took us right to the ships side so we were able to nip back onboard for a quick shower and to freshen up before heading out to Pussers bar to celebrate the start of my Birthday. Mick and Amanda were already in there, and the waitress wasnt quite as grumpy as she usually is! I had a delicious jerk chicken wrap and Mr C had chips with cheese and bacon plus some wraps. It was washed down with a couple for Painkillers, another Pussers special and a round of Painkiller shooters with a rendering of Happy Birthday to finish it off.
Back on the ship the bed was calling me and I went out like a light. I didn’t see, hear or feel us sail and I have finally beat the Captain and his stupid 6’oclock announcements through the cabin, and slept right through him! I vaguely recalled him advising that Aron who fell from the silks in the theatre during last nights performance, had been ashore for full medical checks and was ok, so he must have disturbed me a bit. But whatever it was that he felt important enough to come through the cabin tanoy didn’t wake me.
Pirates night tonight, but the deck party was cancelled due to the weather (it only drizzled earlier) That happened last year and resulted in the Pirate wedding of Ms Crossland and Mr Flowers, they celebrated with an anniversary card over pre dinner drinks in Metropolis. The gang dressed up, while I had a dress crisis as I don’t do pirates, lol. We met in Metropolis for pre dinner drinks and they were the only pirates to hang out. Didn’t really see anyone partake in the restaurant either but they raised a few laughs as they entered. Amanda had started on the grog too early and was starting to fall asleep in her pud. Her moustache was running down her chin and the coffee was an effort for her, bless!
Mr C and I headed for the pirate party and Robbie tribute in Havana (it should have been on deck) but as suspected it was rammed so we checked on Metropolis and no seats to be had in there either. Next stop bed!
Saturday 21st February – At sea, My Birthday!
A lovely sunny February Birthday morning., I sat up and opened my cards, then Anthony arrived with breakfast so it was out onto the balcony to soak up some rays and enjoy my breakfast. Some lovely flowers arrived next, and its going to be a good day!
Went for a bit of a stroll and it was kisses for me from Brian at Breakers bar and a lovely cocktail of the day just to get me started. Its hot, very hot, and passengers are moving around like little colanys of ants trying to decide where to sit. There seems to be a fair choice of available sun loungers but people are being choosy. We had a wander up to the very top deck aft to see the new sports court and watch the bungee trampolines in action, but as my back is playing me up we decided against it.
Down for a bit of a browse in the shops and P&O have a new idea, set up a market in the Cinnamon Restaurant! Flaming hell, what a load of tat, and I could only feel sorry for the poor crew who had to clear and stack all the chairs out of the way to accommodate such an event.
Ive had Birthday emails from all departments of the ships company this morning but the bridge has so far let me down. Maybe the Captain is flying the GoCruisewithJane flag today – I must check the mast next time Im up there. Or maybe he will mention it in his 6 o’clock cabin announcements – he did say on day one he would announce important things only through the cabin systems!
We dined in Ramblas for lunch and I had my favourite Orange chicken, Mr C had Catalina Paella but it was massive and even he couldn’t finish it. We decided to find a quite place to chill after lunch and opted for the Riviera pool right at the back of deck 14. We had two lovely chairs overlooking the stern and the wake but oh boy it was hot. I tried in vain for over 40 mins to catch a waiters attention for a drink but I gave up out of sheer frustration in the end. Getting out of my chair wasn’t really an option as they were rammed tight into the row and I had to climb over them to slither into them! We decided to head back to our balcony and I collected an ice cold cocktail of the day and a beer from Brian up by Breakers Bar, that was better and far more civilised. Then it was under the duvet for a quick snooze before getting ready for the night ahead. My wakeup call let me down tonight and I over slept, but it turned out that my wakeup call person also overslept, lol.
Portunus Party in Tamarind and when we arrived the queue was right around the Atrium, but we got through pretty quickly via the Captains door where nobody was really queuing. Brian looked after us with drinks but the hor d’erves were lacking, they actually got close at one point but never made it over to us. I couldn’t help feeling as if we had been ‘processed’ at the party. We were invited, we attended, thank for coming, sort of thing! No sense of occasion or any real reason to be there.
Looks like its someones birthday in the dining room – oooh that’ll be me then. Balloons and a lovely gift on the table. I actually enjoyed the menu this evening for probably the first time this cruise in the restaurant. Oh I had a choir, a big birthday choir and the Baker had gone the extra mile for me, (so had the person that arranged it for me) and produced a fantastic cake in the shape of a big white cruise ship with a giraffe ontop (an ongoing joke that you may have to refer to last years Birthday blog for) it got some very strange looks from the tables around anyway, but I loved it and wanted to preserve it forever, but we had to eat it. Waiter has promised me that the remainder will be delivered to my cabin later.
I quite fancied a spot of formal dancing in Tamarind tonight but it was very full in there. US Halfpipes were making a noise in Havana so we headed upto Metropolis and it was packed in there too. A nice Melon Martini was just what I needed and eventually the barman found us some seats over at the far end. After another drink Me & Mr C decided to see what was happening in Havana and it turns out that Deal or No Deal had just finished, but we stayed anyway and sat at the bar drinking until it closed.
Monday 22nd February – St Maarten
Oh no, it looks like it has been raining all night and as we dock its grey and drizzly. We step ashore early as usual and they have obviously had a good downpour but at least its warm. We decide to walk into town this morning. We usually take the water taxi but I’m always curious as to what the other way is like. It was a 15 min walk along a main road so not a particularly picturesque one. Water taxi is $4 one way or $6 return and you can use as many times as you like during the day.
As soon as we entered the resort area Mr C had spotted a dive shop so he was inside. Top Secret Excursions.He had forgotten his PADI DiveMaster card this cruise so hasn’t been able to dive. But Mr Laid back ‘I’ll look you up on the data base’ said it was no problem if he wanted to go out on a dive that afternoon, so he signed up. I cant recommend Top Secret Excursions enough and after looking at their website I see that they can also arrange private boat trips and tailor made excursions so that might be something I keep in mind for next time.
We had a long stroll around the shops and most of them were only just opening up. The jewellery here is lovely but non tempted me enough to buy today. By now its hot, mega hot and my back is killing me. We walked all the way down the main shopping street and back along the prom in the blazing sunshine. I could hardly walk at times it was so bad. We walked into The GreenHouse just as they were opening and ordered ‘anything strong that would fix my back’ well Im not too sure what went into in, but two white spirits filled a tumbler two thirds, then some punch mix was added and it was finished off with a good measure of rum. Whatever it was it went down very easily and had the desired numbing effect! It was early but as we had breakfast hours ago and Mr C had his dive booked for this afternoon we decided to eat. Mr C had Jerk Chicken wraps and I had some loaded potato skins (which were to die for) and some barbeque chicken wings, I washed that down with a strawberry daiquiri and I was cured! Shame I cant get it prescribed on the NHS.
It was a bit of a dash to get back to the ship for Mr C to get his swim stuff but after a fast turnaround we were back on the watertaxi and heading into town. I got off downtown as I felt ready to browse the shops without my back attacking me, and Mr C carried on to the next stop for his dive.
I was nearly melting as I walked back along the prom. Bumped into the gang and had a life saving can of coke to rehydrate me before heading back to the ship. Just as the water taxi came in we had a shower of liquid sunshine, but my little brolley was on hand to save me from getting drenched. I quickly perused the shops in the duty free area and was back onboard in the tranquillity of the air conditioning of the Chadwick suite.
Mr C returned from his dive absolutely gushing and couldnt wait to tell me what he had been upto. The dive he had booked for had been cancelled due to lack of interest, but he was invited onto a shark dive! He said it was thoroughly amazing and is up there with the best dives he has ever done. They went out to an anchor point on a small boat and he said he could clearly see the bottom of the sea bed which was some 20 metres below. They got kitted up and entered the water and a guy started to feed the sharks. Mr C is not easily scared but he reckons that coming face to face with a shark is pretty scary (now he knows how I feel with those dam lizards in Curacoa!!) at one point he had dozens of sharks all within touching distance of him. In short he loved his dive and for him it was the highlight of the cruise. I cant praise Top Secret Excursions enough for their friendliness and customer service and satisfaction. They could have just cancelled the dive full stop but they most certainly went the extra mile to make sure that Mr c wasn’t disappointed.
It was a lovely sailaway and I could hear the party up on deck, but we are yet to make the effort to attend one this cruise. Really have been quite lazy, but that’s what its all about.
Captain and Senior Officers Private Party up on deck this evening. It’s a glorious evening (as they all have been) and the drinks and nibbles are flowing. Captain comes around for a chat and I advise him that I have now mastered the art of sleeping through his 6.00pm announcements that he insists on putting through the cabins, couldn’t tell if he was impressed or not!
Dining in East this evening so we had to make a swift exit. I didn’t think that the service was quite on par with previous visits but its always nice in East and worth the visit. I had the Tandori special which was very nice and finished it off with a poached pear. The chicken noodle soup was possibly the best bit for me though. Very,very tired this evening and now I’m full too so the duvet is calling once more.
Tuesday 23rd February – Antigua
The sail into Antigua is amongst my most favourite so I made sure I was on the balcony to see it from start to finish. Breakfast arrived just as we approached the berth. Its hot glorious wall to wall sunshine and clear blue skies. What a way to start the day. We were up and dressed and amongst the first ashore. Talk about run the gauntlet with the taxi drivers, they were coming at us in packs. We got the message that a cab out to Darkwood was going to cost us $32, but a two and half hour tour to Shirley heights and Nelsons Dockyard was far better value! Maybe it is, but I just want to go to ‘my’ beach. Eventually we were introduced to Mikey who agreed to take us for $25 each way.
Perfect, we arrived at Darkwood and it was deserted, not one other person on the beach, just the bar owner who soon whipped the hatch up as we arrived. Darkwood looks better everytime and the sea is that lovely aqua Caribbean colour and the sand soft and white. By 10 past 9 I had settled into my $5 sunlounger and had a rum punch in my hand. What a fab way to start the day. (By the way I had earnt it as I had already done and hour or so’s work at the laptop before I left the cabin) it was over an hour before anyone else turned up at the beach and even then they went further down from the main area. I had a little dip in the sea when it got too hot but basically I just lay and soaked up the sun and rested. We had arranged to have lunch in St Johns with the ‘Windswept and Interesting’ one at 10 past 12 so we needed to leave Darkwood at 20 past 11 to give us time to get back and get changed etc. I enjoyed my couple of hours at the beach and it was quite busy by the time we left so it was just the right time to leave. Mikey had waited for us so he was ready to take us back to Ventura.
We ate at the Big Banana, where everything seemed to be big! A small pizza was huge and the large was massive. I had wraps but I couldn’t even attempt the second half. The Banana punch about blew my head off and maybe I shouldn’t have tried to counteract it with a passion fruit daiquiri! I think the others ‘broke ‘ the Windswept and Interesting one as they trawled around the many bars of Antigua as he was later seen sliding down a pole with sheer exhaustion of trying to keep up. Well done gang, lol.
The shops were calling me so I left the table and went for a wander. I went into a fab designer dress shop which I think might have been called Phillipa Norman (note to self to look up on internet when I get home) she has some amazing gowns that she designs herself and was on hand to do any alterations to ensure any dress fitted before the ship departed port! Tempted as I was, I left the shop without trying anything on because I know how lethal that can be with me! I had a nice time browsing the gift shops and stalls and bought a few bits and pieces. We nipped into my fave tanzanite shop but nothing jumped out at me so Mr C’s wallet was safe.
Its hot and we were melting so another refreshing shower and I was ready for a bit more work at my ‘office at sea’ Captain Paul was on the tannoy at 6.00pm to welcome us all back home. As much as I find his voice blasting through the cabin irritating (especially if I’m asleep) he is a nice Captain and usually has something witty to say, and it is nice to be welcomed back! (ooh am I warming to these 6 0’clock announcements?)
We are a little later leaving the cabin this evening and after a little browse of the shops we get a nice seat in the Red Bar and I discovered a new ‘exclusive’ cocktail! How did I miss that one? Maybe something to do with the bar waiters pouncing on you as soon as you bum hits the seat and not giving me time to think. I was in prime people watching spot and amused myself with all the people clambering around the many shop stalls that were dotted around the place. It was perfume promotion night and in the bottom of the atrium the entire centre floor was taken up by the jewellers. I just cant see why the shops cant be content with the lovely huge walkthrough shop space that they are given? The shops were basically empty and the stalls blocked most of the main walkways around the ship – just a pet hate of mine! People watching kept me amused for ages. Range of dress code was very visible, it went from very elegant cocktail wear to what can only be described as a cross between resort wear and something comfy for lounging about in! We stayed way too long in Red Bar (should have took the hint when the place emptied for dinner) and we had gone way past meal time. It didn’t really matter as we weren’t really hungry. I did quite fancy a filled roll from Tazine but on checking the chiller cabinet was now full of wine, so I was steered away from that. Decided to do a walk by of top deck to see if Frankies was open. We caught a whiff of the American Diner in Beach House as we got out of the lift. That was originally our plan to eat in there as we really like it in there, but we were too late for that. As we walked through Waterside some fajitas and noodles caught our eye so we settled for some of that which was extremely nice. Unfortunately I arrived at the same time as what seemed like the entire ships theatre company and why do they feel that they need to perform 24/7? They flounced and danced around the entire serving place it seems I had my invisible clone on! We ate out by the pool and it was lovely, peaceful, calm and a warm breeze.
We walked through Tamarind and saw a little of Andrea Dickinson, seemed ok, typical cruise ship singer. We made sure we were in Havana earlier enough to get a seat (at the bar because I could kill two birds with one stone, lol) Anthony Scott was on with more of his obscure and bizarre thoughts on life. We were warned more than once that if you are easily offended not to bother staying. Mr C thought he was hilarious so he was pretty good. I found him funny in places and cant say I was offended by anything he said but I could see that some might be. It amazed me how many parents allowed children to stay despite all of the warnings before the show and he even warned everyone himself at the start of the show. He had a very strong Scottish accent and I did struggle a bit at times to keep up with him, but then I’m busy multitasking with my drink and people watching.
Wednesday 24th February – St Kitts
We have a strong wind approaching for the South so Captain has just advised that he has had to swing the ship around with the bow facing back out to sea and we are port side too with another ship due in at about 9.00am. I eventually spotted said ship on the horizon and quickly worked out that it was a Celebrity Solstice Class ship and was quite chuffed with myself to have it later confirmed that it was Celebrity Solstice. We were advised that gangways would have to be closed when she came alongside so we disembarked before we became trapped onboard.
Im not a fan of St Kitts but to be fair I have never been out and about to see much of the island. I just find the people here a bit scary and the town itself not offering a lot. There were monkeys in the duty free area being launched on you for photos and they freak me out – might as well have been flaming lizards. Mr C had to steer me around them every time but then I was a bag of nerves knowing they were behind me and I couldnt see them. The duty free area doesn’t offer a lot. Its mostly souvenir shops, offering everything from tshirts to fake bags etc, plus lots of jewellers.
We decided on a quiet chilled out day on deck. Brian was pleased to see us and kept us supplied with drinks and cocktails all day. The Celebrity Solstice was creating a lot of interest from all those on deck and we had excellent views of the open deck and balconys as we were so close. I was surprised that so many people did not realise that her sister ship would be sailing out of Southampton this year, but of course I re-educated them and dispelled a few myths such as expensive drinks and ‘cruising with Americans’ etc. It was easy to see from the dockside that Celebrity had the edge. Sun loungers with padded mattresses, cold flannels handed out at the foot of the gangway along with cold drinks and the opportunity to be seated for a while. It was almost as if Celebrity had gone all out to show P&O how it could be done, but they hadn’t its all standard across the Celebrity fleet. And theres us on P&O don’t even get offered a bowl of nuts pre dinner to enjoy with our drink! It certainly made me want to be on ‘the other side’. Im very lucky to have already been onboard a solstice class ship and know what they have to offer, and because of that I was able to make a comparison. But most could see just by looking at the ship on the other side of the pier that she had a lot to offer and that the staff really were treating you like guests, and not just another passenger!
We had a lovely pizza from Frankies and a bowl of salad out on deck and spent the next couple of hours dipping in the pool and strolling in the shade in an effort to try and keep cool. The air con for the cabin and the sunny balcony were soon calling me and we had to leave the deck to chill out and cool off. I thought about doing a bit of packing, but that’s as far as I got.
Formal night tonight. Pre dinner drinks in the Red Bar. The windswept and interesting one is a broken man! He must be glad to get rid of us soon so he can have a rest. A nice meal in the restaurant with Parade of the Chefs. Ooh there was a lot of them but I was sad not to spot trevor the Baker as I wanted to give him a pat on the back for my Birthday cake and say thanks. It was also the handing out of menus. Some people still have two nights to go after this one, and I wouldn’t be too pleased to have it made to feel like my last but one night.
There wasn’t a lot going on tonight which is a bit poor for the final formal night. Game show in Havana, after dinner speaker in Tamarind (about the weather, yawn), and a show in the theatre. I think there had been some sort of classical concert in Metropolis but there was nothing happening in there for the time that we sat there after dinner. As we walked through the Atrium they were doing the champagne waterfall and I have to say I was disappointed.
Ihad always imagined these champagne waterfalls to be huge things reaching at least to the next floor with ladders etc in use. But not P&O style it was just 7 layers of glasses high and pretty pathetic really! I had my pic took with it though as I may not rush to ever see another.
Thursday 25th February – St Vincent
Here it is, the last port of call fast approaching in front of me in the blazing glorious sunshine. It really is hot, a very sort of indescribable hotness. We had fancied the excursion to Mustique here but the cost was way OTT for the time spent there, so we gave that one a miss. Bequia was our next option but again even though it cost less at £46 per person it still seemed a steep price for the time given at the place. We asked in the information centre ashore and was informed that the ferry to Bequia runs every hour and is only $15 per person, so thats worth a try next time we were there. But for now we just had a stroll though the gauntlet of cab drivers with what seemed like everyone of hundreds of them asking if we would like to go to a beach. We walked as far as the port gate, then turned and run the gauntlet through the cab drivers yet again. We were here last year and walked into town and it is a flea pit of a port really. We went to a beach last year but that was crammed and not the best of beaches. If it hadn’t have worked out to be the last port of call again, we might have made more of an effort and gone out and about and seen a bit more of the island. Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed here and that seems a very popular trip to go on.
We were more than happy to sit up on deck and let Brian keep trotting across to us with the next cocktail on the menu. We took a few dips in the pool, which was hot from the heat of the sun. Every so often I would nip back to the cabin, stand under the cold shower and then stand and do 20 mins packing before returning to the sun lounger and a fresh cocktail. It was the only way to do it really!
I chose a lunch of a Frankie chicken grill, and Mr C choose a Frankie pizza. We were going to have a Frankie ice cream to follow but decided it would melt too quickly – oh the difficulties we face in the heat of the mid day sun.
At 5.30 there was one of the biggest and best British Sailaway parties ever. I was stood on my sun lounger bouncing and jigging away to the songs and waving my flags in the air. Somebody close by commented that we were all mad, which of course we all are! The Captain was having a right old blast of the ships horn and I’m not too sure who he was tooting at? Maybe he had visitors on the bridge again?
Back in the cabin those two big cases were still haunting me but I dealt with them and got ready for dinner. We had pre dinner drinks in the Ramblas and then Mr C and I had decided we wanted to pay one last visit to the American Diner up in the Beach house, so he nipped downstairs to tip the waiters. But our last night in the diner wasn’t to be. There was already a waitlist of 50 diners, so I would think it would be a miracle if the last on the list of that one actually got served that night? We decided to take our luck at East and were were lucky to be seated straight away. I do like it in East but I think the Arcadia Orchid still has the edge for me.
The ship was very busy tonight as it always seems to be on the last night, but we took to a fairly early bed considering.
Friday 26th February Barbados
I was awake really early and watched as Bridgetown port drew on the horizon, until we were berthed exactly where we had started two weeks ago. Breakfast arrived for the final time and we only picked at it as Mr C wanted the full English down in the restaurant.
Every passenger has to pass through immigration on the Friday morning, despite whether you disembark Friday or Saturday. We had a 10 minute time slot at 9.30 but Mr C nipped down at 7.30 and was processed without any wait.
We had breakfast in the Saffron. Well I had a bread roll and two rashers of bacon. Mr C had full English and a cheese omelette, followed by pancakes and maple syrup. I don’t know where he puts it, but he did.
Day cabins can be purchased for the last day but you have to be quick to get the cheaper ones. Insides are £40 rising to £70 and £85 for the balcony cabins I think. It means that you have somewhere to rest, store your hand luggage and shower before the flight. if you choose not to have a day cabin you can store your bags in the theatre and shower in the spa. We dumped our bags in the cabin after breakfast and headed ashore. We strolled all the way into Bridgetown and then out the other side again and down a little alley until we reached the white sandy beach. We kicked off our shoes and cooled our feet with a dip in the sea as we strolled all the way along the beach, past the Boatyard and beyond to Dee’s Bar. It was certainly a place with character but the location and view was perfect, his rum punch had a right kick to it and I amused myself watching the oldest deckchair attendant in the Caribbean deliver drinks back and forth from the shack of a bar. His rum punch certainly had one hell of a kick to it thats for sure and went down rather nicely. I couldnt restrain myself any longer and I had to get into that oh so inviting azure blue sea.
Oh it was heaven, crystal clear and warm. I could have stayed there all day. Mr C thought I was never going to get out, and I’m not a lover of the sea. Neither of us wanted to go back, we wanted to stop there forever and work in Dees ramshackle of a bar, but reality said we had to head back to the ship of dreams, have some lunch and shower for that dreaded flight home. our journey back to the ship had the highlight of seeing a big turtle swimming in the yacht harbour. He looked pretty hot and bothered too and was just gently plodding away. We dragged our heels all the way back to the ship and walked up the gangway for one final time.
The ship had turned into a glorified waiting room. Think Southampton disembarkation morning in every public lounge and seating area! I would be oh so cheesed off if Friday wasn’t my last day and I was onboard with passengers with bags at their feet and nonstop flight announcements.
We had a final lunch of Pizza and salad up at Frankies and an ice cold sprite to wash it down, then it was to the cabin for a shower and change into something that could accommodate the heat of the Caribbean and the chill factor of a long flight, followed by the big freeze of the UK. Our transfer was delayed by 30 minutes until 4.00pm, then it was down the gang way for the last and final time.
The roads though Bridgetown were at gridlock in many places so the journey to the airport seemed to take forever.
We had booked the Executive lounge airside which is a lot more comfortable that the airport in general and we had food and drink included, so although we had a fairly short stay in the exec lounge it proved its worth and I would say we got our moneys worth. If we had experienced any flight delay it would have been a god send as Barbados airport has very little to offer in the way of comfort or refreshment.
Once we were on the aircraft there was a further delay waiting for a time slot but we were soon on our way. The flight crew this time could not have been more different to the outbound flight crew. These were cheerful, happy chatty bunch and obviously there to please. Drinks flowed, as much as you liked. Food was good and served with a smile, we had a choice of chicken curry or sausage n mash, plus a salad pasta starter and cheesecake sweet. Lashings of red or white wine, then tea or coffee. I even managed a bit of sleep, which is not like me on a flight, so time passed really quickly, once they dimmed the lights after the main meal. Next thing I knew lights were back on for breakfast. Breakfast was basic for economy (they had cooked English breakfast in Premium) but we had yogurt, orange juice, ginger cake and lots of tea which I rather enjoyed. I hadn’t dared look at the time up until then but was rather excited to learn it was less than an hour until landing. In no time at all we were on the ground and through the airport waiting for bags. Unlike last year, cases appeared very quickly and we were soon out and on the other side. So quick infact that our lift hadn’t arrived and he only lived 20 mins form the airport.
So that was it. It was all over. We were back in cold, miserable blighty. It was raining, it was grey and I just could not believe that less than 24 hours ago I was walking along Barbados beach in a bikini kicking the waves between my toes. Its like I had arrived on another planet.
So how was Ventura this time around for me? Well, I still love the ship and the facilities that it has to offer but somehow I think it has lost the little spark that it should have. There were just a few trivial little bits that would have taken hardly anything to put right, but just made it not quite right for me. And they really were only minor things, such as the tatty bits of card on the tables in red Bar promoting shaken Martinis at the table. These are premium cocktails at £5.50 per glass, so did they really warrant a worn out, faded, tatty little colour photo copied bit of card to promote them? And to make matters worse it was late on in the cruise that I actually realised I had been drinking those very ‘special’ Martinis all cruise and not one had been shaken at the table. Only on the very last night did both Amanda and I get one shaken at the table, and that was because we asked for it to be! Even then it was presented in the wrong glass!! Yes I am that particular!
Pre dinner nibbles or the lack of them was another of my little niggles. Im not talking canapés here Im talking about the simple jar of nuts, Bombay mix or crisp type things that have always been present on the tables in bars pre dinner. For the first two nights there was non because it was ‘turnaround day’ Like, what does that have to do with anything? Its still a night of my cruise. The first few nights just seem to offer a different excuse of varying reasons from ‘turnaround night’ ‘not served in this bar’ ‘not fetched any from stores yet’ etc, and when nibbles did miraculously appear they were those tasteless long thin one, which curiously make you nibble more, just to see if you can find a tasty one. Bar service seemed to go from extremes of a waiter appearing at your side for your order before your bum had hit the seat, and even when I tried asking them to giove me a minute while I decided, they still insisted on hovering in front of me until I came out with ‘cosmo’ or other such drink just to get them to move on. On the other extreme you could sit within yards of an outside bar, but trying to catch a waiters eye became an art. Thank goodness for Brian patrolling up by Breakers to keep my cocktails flowing.
Speaking of drink, we were advised that any drink bought ashore would be confiscated at the gangway and returned at the end of the cruise. this rule is set to continue on Ventura for all of her cruises, including the ones of southampton. I later read at the end of the cruise that you had to go and collected at allotted times on the last day. Most cruise lines deliver it to your cabin on the last day. Bringing alcohol back onboard wasn’t an issue to me as I didn’t intend to purchase any because of the thought of it having to be packed into a case with my clothes for the flight home. There was a table set up in the foyer at the top of every gangway, and I only ever seen one couple handing over their bottles. I don’t know if this is because everybody was being really good and not taking it back on, they weren’t getting caught, or I was just not around at the right time to witness it. Litre bottles of spirit was sold in the shop on deck 5, which I have never seen on a P&O ship before. Usually it’s all done via the cabin steward or via promotional tables onboard. I did ask in the shop one day and was told I could purchase it from the shop and have it returned at the end of the cruise, or I could order it off my room steward if I wanted to drink it in cabin, but there would be ‘a couple of £’ corkage fee per bottle for all drink bought off the cabin steward. I did get as far as looking for a pricelist in the cabin, but couldnt find it as I would have like to have had this confirmed for no other reason than research. Maybe the ‘in cabin’ drinks prices were on the TV, but don’t get me started about the TV because I couldn’t work the dam thing to save my life – much to the amusement of Mr C! You should note though that I’m not very good with technology!
I also investigated a take ashore picnic that was being promoted, which I thought was an excellent idea and was something they used to do back in the Canberra days, but it was nothing to get excited about as it was nothing more than a can of pop, a packet of crisps and a choice of snack bar for £2.99.
There seemed to be a few little money making schemes going on. One of the more noticeable ones was the Bridge Visits promoted by the photographers. £20 per person or £30 per couple, that included a free photo, but I fail to see how it warranted such a charge. I know bridge visits have become a thing of the past for a good few years now, unless by special invite, but what exactly was the fee for? If it were for a charity it certainly wasn’t stated so I cant really understand what the fee was used for other than revenue in general? Im sure they get plenty of takers as there are many that would love to see the bridge.
Internet prices seem to have shot up and I know that it must be hard work beaming the satellites towards those golf ball things on top deck but I just don’t understand how they can justify the charges for use of the internet. Its always been expensive and its something I just have to swallow as I have to be able to use it while at sea, but there seemed to have been a dramatic increase this time around. The top package now worked out at 25p per minute (was 16p last year) 250 minutes for £62.50!!!! 00 minutes was £35 and pay as you go was 50p. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a fast internet speed but some days I just watched it tick over as the emails came through at a snail pace.
As you can see, I do work, even at sea. Bit of a messy office space, but its a multifunctioning space!
Entertainment isnt usually too much of an issue to me as we are usually occupied in a bar somewhere, but on the few occasions that we did go looking for the entertainment we were disappointed with our findings. Late meal sitting shows in the theatre seemed to be happening pre dinner which was a no no for us. Some nights everything seemed to be on all at once and other nights hardly anything happening. The planning of the entertainment schedule just seemed to be all over the place. Maybe this was caused by the total rescheduling of the ports, and I appreciate that some entertainers might have only been on for certain portions of the cruise, but surely some things could have been rejigged so that there was an even spread of entertainment in the evenings. It has to be said that at least the type of entertainment seems to be heading in the right direction with the tribute artists etc, but some of them that I did hear in passing left a bit to be desired.
The dress code was a bit hit and miss and didn’t seem as dressy as it had been the previous year when we did the Caribbean fly cruise, but I do appreciate it was only 4 formal nights and the rest smart casual. Some peoples interpretation of smart casual is obviously different to mine and anything goes!
If there is one thing I don’t like its the constant reminders of the end of the cruise in the last few days of the cruise. I know that the flight info has to arrive in the cabin, along with the questionnaire, but what I don’t like is the big screens telling us that ‘excellent’ means we have had an amazing time etc. Talk about brainwashing, I think most of us onboard were capable of determining what ‘excellent’ equates to and we can be left to make up our own mind. The little videos were running in a constant loop and I felt it was just reminding me that the end of the cruise was closer than I thought. Everything seemed to happen a day early, especially for those staying onboard until Saturday. Menus given out on the last formal night which was 2 days prior to disembarkation for some, and the constant flight announcements etc from the early hours of the Friday morning with the whole ship turning into a two day waiting room. I don’t suppose that there is an easy solution, but I don’t like ‘turnaround day’ being used as an excuse for lack of some services. In my opinion Friday is the best day to start and finish the cruise. We arrived after the Friday ‘waiting room’ had departed, and we were ashore for the Saturday ‘waiting room’ those flying home on Saturday may not have had a choice as they would have been packing etc.
So is Ventura still my favourite P&O ship? Not sure the jury is out a little bit on that one at the moment. I feel it need the touch of an experienced Senior Officer or Exec Purser to fine tune one or two things and bring them back upto scratch. I fully understand that Ventura and Oceana are promoted as the more casual ships in the fleet, but while they still all come under the P&O flag I don’t think standards should be allowed to slide. I maybe to critical, but you cant change me.
You can view the full photo album of Ventura Caribbean February 2010 by going to by ‘Photo Album’ tab at the top of the page.
or click here to view the slideshow