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This is a first post.  It’s a chilly and damp Sunday and I am binge watching Columbo.

I’m not quite dreading Monday morning as usual as I only have three more days of work.  The official retirement date is 30 September, but I have accrued annual leave.

It will get more interesting than this, when there is more to talk about!

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Around the British Isle cruise – June 2018

19 June (Tuesday): home.  I spent my 66th birthday taking Honey to the cattery and packing my bags for the cruise.

20 June (Wednesday):  en route.  I got up early, checked my cases and documents and waited for the taxi, which got me to the station in plenty of time for the train to Woking.  Note to self:  book a later flight next time.  The train was reasonably empty from Havant, but filled up on the journey.  Because of the timings I was on a packed commuter train, and felt that I was in the way somewhat.  I didn’t have too long to wait for the coach at Woking and got to Terminal 5 in plenty of time to buy some food for the flight.  It’s a short flight to Amsterdam, so by the time I had finished my lunch we were there.  The only hitch at Schipol was the amount of time it took for the luggage to appear – there was some cheering when it did finally arrive.  The railway station is easy to find in the airport, and a train was in when I got down to the platform.  It was a direct train to Amsterdam Central.

It was extremely hot when I came out of the station.  I had decided to walk to the Movenpick because it’s not far and I knew the route.  That was a mistake as the spinner wheels on my case did not travel well over the block paving.  I arrived at the hotel hot and bothered – so much so that the receptionist offered me a glass of water on arrival!  My room on floor 5 overlooked the terminal, and Azamara Journey was in port.

I showered and rested before venturing out.  It was still very warm, but at least there was a breeze.  I passed a supermarket so bought a boxed salad and fruit for dinner, and took it back to the hotel.  I tuned into Radio 4 on the laptop, and even managed to hear the Archers before having an early night.

21 June (Thursday):  Amsterdam.  I woke up and opened the curtains, to see Brilliance of the Seas docked outside, with MSC Magnifica behind.  The weather was dull so I made tea and listened to Radio 4 again.  I checked out of the hotel at around 10am and took the very short walk to the terminal to drop my case and wait for embarkation, which was at around 11am.  Diamond and above passengers were boarded early.  Having had no breakfast, I went straight to Windjammer for an early lunch.  Usefully, I was able to use the hotel wi-fi while on the shore side of the ship.  The cabins were due to be ready at 1pm.  My corridor wasn’t quite ready, but other people decided to go in anyway.  My first stop after unpacking my carry-on was the library (the Book Nook), which was small but adequate.  I did a walk around with my camera, but it was cool and breezy outside.

My suitcase arrived early, so I managed to unpack before muster drill.  At the drill I was in a row with some people who were quite disruptive.  I went to check out the Diamond Club after that.  Happy hour drinks were 5.00 to 8.30 pm on this ship.  I first sat with an older couple (Terry and Tony) who went to an early dinner.  After that I was joined by another couple.  The man had a thin moustache and wore a stetson type hat.  For some reason he told me that he was a CPA (certified public accountant).  I strongly suspect, from his conversation, that he was a Trump supporter.  Apparently the weight of taxes due to illegal immigration is forcing retirees out of their homes.  I had consumed too much wine to form an argument.

Second sitting of dinner was on deck 4 at 8.30.  I took two glasses of wine from the lounge.  I shared with a couple from Vancouver and a family of three adults from Chicago.  My choice of dinner was caesar salad, fruit medley and butternut squash risotto.  After dinner I am sorry to say I went straight to bed.

22 June (Friday):  at sea.  I woke in the early hours and couldn’t get back to sleep, so went up to Windjammer to get some tea.  I had asked the cabin steward for a kettle for the cabin, but was unable to have one.  The policy on the ship was no kettles in cabins, only in suites.  I went to the MDR for a breakfast of fruit, then feta and arugula omelette.  As it was a sea day I took my book up to the diamond lounge for a coffee.

The Cruise Critic meet & mingle was at 10am, and I managed to confirm arrangements for the excursion to the Falkirk Wheel and Kelpies.

There was a solo meet-up in the R Bar for lunch.  There were three of us to begin with, but the only man left, so we were down to two.  I didn’t bother to go to any more meet-ups.  The tutti salad in the MDR was good as usual, and I had apple/peach cobbler.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in napping and reading.  I got ready for formal night and went to the Diamond Lounge where I met Terry.  I had a couple of drinks and then went to the Beatle Maniacs show, which was a good singalong.  I chose fruit medley, caesar salad and vegetable casserole for dinner.  After dinner I took a look at the silent disco but didn’t stay.

23 June (Saturday):  South Queensferry.  I woke in the early hours and heard noises, it seemed to have come from the MDR on the deck above (my cabin was on deck 3).  Again, I had to go up to Windjammer to get some tea.  Breakfast in the MDR was melon followed by mushroom omelette.  I got a tender ticket when I was ready to disembark, and didn’t have to wait too long to board.  I bought a combined ticket for the shuttle bus into Edinburgh, and the HoHo bus.  Unlike some other HoHo buses, the ticket was only valid for one route.  I took the Majestic route and got off at the stop for the royal yacht Britannia.  I did the self-guided tour, which was OK except for when a couple decided to turn up the volume on their handsets – meaning there was a delay in what I was hearing between mine and theirs.  It was a bargain – they charged a senior rate and gave a discount for the HoHo bus.

When I had finished the tour I went back into the shopping centre (who’d have thought that Britannia would be accessed through a shopping mall).  There was a Simply Food so I bought a Grauniad, and a bean wrap for lunch.  I was fortunate in that the bus was at the stop when I got outside.  I had intended to get off by the Scottish Parliament, but the bus didn’t stop there, as I had expected.

I got off the bus near the city centre and strolled along the street.  I went into the National Gallery (free entry), and looked into some shops on the walk back.  After a Costa latte I walked back to find the shuttle bus.  We we got back to South Queensferry I took some pictures of Brilliance and some of the Forth Railway Bridge.  I was quite pleased with a couple of the pictures.

The Diamond Lounge was busy as usual, and I left to see the production show, which I had seen previously.  I spent a short time in the lounge before going to dinner, where I had mushroom soup and vegetable casserole.

24 June (Sunday):  Invergordon.  As usual went up to Windjammer for tea.  I breakfasted in the MDR with fruit and then herb omelette.  As we weren’t due at Invergordon until 9am, I had a coffee and read some more until it was time to disembark.  I had nothing planned for the port, but as I expected, there were tours on sale outside the port.  I bought a ticket for a tour to Millionaire’s View, Dornoch and Dunrobin Castle.  I walked to the gorgeous beach in Dornoch and strolled around the town.  The cost didn’t include entry to Dunrobin Castle so I bought a ticket.  The castle has stunning views.  I bought a sandwich and walked down the gardens to watch the falconry display.  It was an interesting display, and I got some reasonable pictures of the falcon at the end while it was on the ground.  It was hard work walking back up to the castle in the heat to wait for the coach back to the port.  Everyone was ready to leave, so we went back to the coach and asked to leave earlier than planned.

The Diamond Lounge was crowded, but I managed to squeeze in.  The show was a confusionist, who was reasonably entertaining.  The diamond lounge was less crowded after the show.  I chose beet/orange salad followed by vegetable korma for dinner; ordering a dessert was a mistake, so I left most of the pavlova.

25 June (Monday):  at sea.  I read some of my newspaper while drinking tea in the cabin.  I treated myself to fruit and eggs benedict (minus the bacon) for breakfast, then went for a walk around the deck, but the weather wasn’t too good.  I had a coffee in the D Lounge, then went back to the cabin for a nap, and did fall asleep.  Lunch was another Tutti Salad in the MDR.  The weather had improved when I went outside for another stroll.  I read for a while then went to an enrichment lecture, which was delivered in a rather pedestrian manner.  The D Lounge was busy again when I returned for happy hour.  I was lucky enough to be sitting by a window as there was a dolphin swimming alongside for a while.  I tried a lemon drop martini, which was delicious, before going to the tango show (Tango Buenos Aires).  It was good, but I had seen it before on another ship.  Dinner, after another visit to the D Lounge, was fruit medley, Caesar salad and risotto.

26 June (Tuesday):  Greenock.  After tea in the cabin I breakfasted in the MDR then prepared for the trip to the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies.  I found my companions, Sherri and Mike, in the Centrum.  We disembarked together and met our driver (George) for the day.  As I needed some cash we stopped and Tesco and George suggested we buy a picnic lunch – a Tesco meal deal – yay!  We drove to the Falkirk Wheel and got there in time for our booked barge trip.  It wasn’t noticeable at first, but then we realised that the barge was being lifted up to the next level of the canal.  We drove a short way and then turned around to go back to the lift.  This time another barge was being lifted as we went down.  We were told that the lift only uses the equivalent electricity as boiling 8 kettles – impressive.  I took a few pictures before it was time to leave for the Kelpies.  We had our picnic then bought tickets for the talk, where we walked around the Kelpies and went inside.  They are absolutely magnificent, huge!  They are made from pieces of stainless steel, and not so many as one would think by looking at them.  We were quite early so stopped at a castle on the way back, I just wish I could remember the name.  We did have to climb up to it.

The safe in my cabin wouldn’t lock (failed battery) so I spoke to Mario (diamond concierge) who arranged housekeeping to to my cabin.  By the time I got downstairs the crew member was there!  Of course, I went straight back to the lounge for another Martini before going to the comedy ventriloquist show.  I had seen the couple before, although the act was different.  Another visit to the Diamond Lounge before a dinner of cauliflower soup and a tofu dish.

27 June (Wednesday:  Dublin.  I decided to have breakfast in the Windjammer.  Sadly it appears that they don’t make omelettes to order any more.  I had fruit and eggs florentine for a change.  After breakfast I sat on deck and watched the approach to Dublin; we were followed by a pod of dolphins for a while.  I had bought a two day ticket for the shuttle bus to use some of my OBC, so joined the queue to disembark as soon as we were able.  I bought a two day ticket for the HoHo bus.  The heat was intense that day, so I only got off the bus once, to walk around Trinity College.  I sat on the bus for the rest of the route and got the shuttle bus back to the ship.  As I hadn’t had lunch in Dublin, I went to Windjammer for a salad.  I the went to the Diamond Lounge for a drink or two and read and chatted for a while.  Having had a late lunch, I wasn’t really hungry, so just had another salad in Windjammer.

28 June (Thursday):  Dublin.  I had fruit and an omelette in the MDR, then went ashore to get the first shuttle bus into Dublin.  I was too quick, it meant that I was too early for the first HoHo bus so I walked around the park and then found a department store.  The first stop that I got off at was to see the Little Museum.  It lived up to its name, it was little but was interesting.  Entrance was free with a ticket from the HoHo bus.  My next stop was by the river Liffey where I looked at the boat trips, but there were no convenient times so I walked to O’Connell Street.  I would have liked to have taken a tour of the GPO, but stomach cramps got the better of me.  I would have liked to have got off at a few more stops, but really didn’t feel well enough so stayed on the bus until the shuttle bus stop.  I thought it would be pleasant to sit on deck for a while.  Sadly there was a lot of noise from the working port on one side of the ship, and the sound of pile-driving on the other.  I went to the Diamond Lounge to read instead of being outside.  After a while it was time for Happy Hour.  There was no show that evening.  I had dinner in the MDR:  tomato soup, tomato salad (which was more mozzarella than tomato) and cheese tortellini.

29 June (Friday)Holyhead.  I decided to have breakfast in Windjammer and had fruit and omelette.  We were able to disembark at 7.30 am,  and got on a shuttle to the terminal quickly.  I found my Busybus tour easily.  I was expecting a mini bus tour, but they had so many passengers that there were coaches as well as a mini-bus.  I understand that some people complained, but the coaches were comfortable and weren’t filled to capacity.  The tour took us to Caernarfon Castle, Snowdonia, Bets-y-Coed, Conwy and the village with the long name.  We walked around Caernarfon Castle, went a short way into Snowdonia, ambled around Bets-y-Coed and Conwy.  I bought a sandwich and sat by the sea in Conwy.  It was another exceptionally hot day.  There was a show that night, so I went to see a singer/pianist (Claire Maidin).  Again, I had seen her on another cruise.  After a short visit to the D Lounge, I went to the MDR for a dinner of Caesar salad followed by mushroom risotto.

30 June (Saturday:  at sea.  Of course, I woke early so read for a while before breakfast.  I had another treat of fruit followed by eggs benedict.  After breakfast I took advantage of my free 24 hour period of wi-fi and logged into a computer to read my emails.  After that I sat on deck for a while where it was sunny but rather breezy.  I logged into the computer again for a while.  I had received an invitation for a backstage theatre tour, so I went along.  It started with a Q&A session, which I thought went on for far too long.  After that I had a lunch of pizza and salad in the Windjammer, followed by a dessert.  The weather was still cool so I went back to a computer.  The Diamond lounge was busy at happy hour,  but I managed to get a couple of lemon drop martinis.  The evening’s entertainment was a production show which I had already seen on another ship.  Dinner was asparagus soup, garlic mushrooms and gnocchi.

1 July (Sunday):  St Peter Port.  I saw that we were approaching Guernsey when I went up to get tea.  Breakfast in the MDR was melon followed by mushroom omelette.  I got a tender ticket when I was ready and quickly boarded a tender into the port.  The weather was reasonably pleasant, and not nearly as hot as it had been in the other ports.  I walked to Castle Cornet and went in.  I seemed to have wandered around the whole castle, and kept getting back to some of the same places.  I stayed until just after the noon cannon went off.  I then decided to stroll around the town.  As it was Sunday most places were closed and some of the cafes were turning people away as they were so full.  It took a while to find an ice cream, and then I had to have one in a tub.  I was walking through back streets when it started to rain.  I decided to go back to the ship, along with hundreds of other passengers!  We had to wait a while in the queue for the tender, when we got back to the ship the crew had trouble in getting alongside as the currents were pushing us away.  As I hadn’t managed to get lunch in Guernsey I went to Windjammer for quiche, salad and fries.  I went to the D Lounge to read and went back on deck when the rain had cleared.  I had two lemon drop martinis during Happy Hour then went to watch the Motown show, which was entertaining and a good singalong.  As it was my last night on board I had a bigger dinner than usual.  I had mushroom ragout, eggplant parmigiano and a cheese plate (which wasn’t very interesting).  I had taken a glass of port to accompany the cheese.  I said my goodbyes to my dinner companions before going back to my cabin.

2 July (Monday):  Dover.  I had arranged to disembark in Dover rather than going back to Amsterdam and flying home.  As I was awake early I packed my suitcases before breakfast in the MDR.  After breakfast I checked the cabin and then went to disembark.  I had to produce a card that had been provided by Guest Services.  The crew wanted to keep my seapass card, but I managed to persuade them to let me keep it.  Maybe it was because it was early, but there was no taxi queue outside the terminal.  However, I didn’t have to wait long, and the journey to the railway station was short.  I bought my ticket and got on the next train to Waterloo East.  The train seemed to stop at every little station before getting to London.  I had to get an escalator down to the mainline station, which is no joke with a heavy suitcase (although only 16kg) and a carry on.  I was lucky in that there was a train in, which was due to leave in 5 minutes.  I got to Havant in reasonable time and got straight in a taxi home.  The first thing that I did was to phone the cattery before going to pick up Honey.  Holiday over!

Notes:

  • This was my fourth time on Brilliance, although not deliberate.  Much as I like the ship the itinerary was the decider
  • There was only one vegetarian option at dinner.  That was mostly OK but the meals didn’t always seem to be nutritionally balance – a few more vegetables would have been nice
  • I had sailed in a deck 3 cabin before, but this one was under the main dining room on deck 4.  It sounded like it was being cleaned in the early hours.  I’d be more careful in future.
  • I booked the cruise in March 2017, the day that the itineraries were released.  I couldn’t have imagined the temperatures that we experienced on the cruise.  We were in the middle of a heatwave!  I did find it rather uncomfortable a lot of the time.
  • It was a shame that the ruling was no kettles in cabins below suite level.  I had to go up to deck 11 in the early morning just to get mugs of tea.  There was hardly anyone else around.  The lift came instantly going up and then back down, with no stops to pick anyone else up.
  • I’m pretty boring.  As dinner was 8.30pm.  As it was around 10pm when we finished, I went straight to bed.

 

 

Nearly there!

Today was the penultimate day of work.  As I’m such an anti-social person my leaving do was afternoon tea with a small number of colleagues.  It was very nice.  We had sandwiches, scones and small cakes with tea.  Gracie Ann’s is a pleasant tea room with views over the yachts at Port Solent:  http://www.gracie-anns.co.uk/

I feel stuffed – I ate everything but for a small chocolate cake.

It’s strange, but I feel disconnected from the job already.

Last day tomorrow!

Last Monday!

Today, Monday 4 September, was my last ever ‘getting up for work on a Monday’ day.  There will be no more waking in the morning unhappy about the rest of the week.  There are only two more days in the office!

My writing skills have been stilted over the years by writing of minutes, and I am hoping that writing this blog will free my mind from the constraints that I have been under.