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Monday, 30 December 2013


Now I know its not a cruising theme, but as my last blog had a cruising link, I just wanted to share this photo (copywrite JRM Photography) of my grandson Josh at his panto (see previous blog) with you know who.

I hope you all had a great Christmas, and Santa brought you all you asked for.

Next blog will be about our next cruise to the Northern Lights, which is getting ever closer.

Til then byeeeeeee

Saturday, 14 December 2013

It's a small world

This afternoon , Saturday, we went to see our grandson Joshua ( aged 8 ) perform in his his first ever professional Panto in Clacton on Sea, with Jeff Brazier in the lead of Peter Pan.
I will get to the cruise link in a minute I promise.

So, at the interval, we are sitting in the bar having a lemonade. ( yes honestly ) . When my daughter ( who has been taking Josh to all the rehearsals, so knows all the cast ) said " look that's the director walking through".

Well his face did seem familiar, but Sue said,  I know him, we have seen him on a P&O Cruise, and he was part of the Headliners.

So a quick look in the program showed his name as.........

Neil Couperthwaite

A quick google later for his performance history, and yep, he had worked on P&O.

Sue never forgets a face !!!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Why we Cruise

Whilst I was posting yesterdays blog, it reminded of the following blog.

P&O used to have James Cusick, Executive Purser of Arcadia (in those days) write a blog for P&O ( and very good he was to), they sometime had "guests", Carol Marlow contributed to the blog.

At the end of 2010 P&O ask for passengers to write a blog and "guest" on James's blog

Well, mine got accepted, and I think it went live either Christmas day or Boxing day, whilst we was on the Artemis cruise you read about yesterday.

So here it is.............

Well I made it, but how do I stand in the shoes of such greats as James, Nigel and Carol, well the answer is I can’t, but I will try my best, so here goes….

Sue and I started cruising in 1998, and as a lot of folk say “It’s a one off holiday of a lifetime, we will never do it again", but we did.

Yes, we were well and truly bitten. We missed 2000 due to a family bereavement, but by 2001, we were back in the saddle, and this time with the old Arcadia (aka Ocean Village as was) to the Western Med with Captain Hamish Reid, one of the best Captains I have sailed with, such humour, and a real gent.
From then, barring 2004 to 2006 (the dreaded redundancy) we have managed to have at least one cruise per year, and have been lucky enough to sail on all of the current P&O Cruises fleet.
Our last P&O Cruises holiday was on the maiden cruise of Azura, a first for us as we had never “done” a maiden before. Now I’m not overly keen on the larger ships, I much prefer the medium size ships (Oriana is my favourite). But I have to say we had a wonderful time, even when Malaga was closed due to the weather, although a great alternative was found the next day at Palma. A fuller insight for those not having “done” a maiden can be found at my blog on the community site - and my photos are below.

I think many of colleagues at work think I’m obsessed with cruising, as it's one of my main topics of conversation. “What’s so good about a cruise ?” they ask.
My answer is always, a cruise is whatever you want it to be, it can be very busy, or you can just sit on the deck and watch the world go by, and everything in between.
You can dress for dinner if you want, or go on a more informal cruise, there really is a cruise destination, and cruise ship for ALL tastes out there.
Well, did I make it to the blog ? if you are reading this, then we will be at sea on Artemis for her Christmas cruise. Thinking about that statement, even if you’re not reading this, we will still be on the cruise.
So if I have not bored you too much, I will be blogging from Artemis, as we have never been away before at Christmas, so even after all these years, there are still “firsts” to have.
I do feel privileged to have been able to cruise and see such wonderful sights, from the Arctic circle and Russia to the wonders of Greece and the Acropolis, and Ephesus in Turkey and everything in between. These are sights that I am sure I would have never seen on any land based holiday. We have also met some great people, some of which after many years we still keep in touch with.
Thank you all for joining me in this blog, and….
Happy Cruising

Ray & Sue
PS and a special thanks to James for allowing me to “share his space”, and for all his blogs that I, and I am sure many others, read with great joy.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Cruising at Christmas

If this is something you have never done, and have often thought "Whats it like ?"

Well, my good lady and I were lucky enough to cruise aboard P&O Cruise Artemis in 2010 for the Christmas and New Year.

Below is my blog as published on the sadly now defunct P&O Community Forum

Well, due to the weather, we have booked a room at the De Vere and came down the day before ( thanks to Steve our driver). So we are here, dinner tonight, then cab in the morning to the Mayflower. Artemis here we come 
Merry Christmas everyone 
Artemis P023 embarkation day 

The journey from the De Vere hotel was not too arduous, just a short taxi ride. We were in the Mayflower terminal by 1100, and check in started at 1130, and we were on board eating lunch by 1210. I write this blog as we wait for the announcement that the cabins are ready ( not sure when I will get to post it ). 
I have to say after all the snow, it's great to be on board for our first Christmas cruise, and looking forward to some sun and some gentle warmth. 
Sharon looked to be busy selling her Artemis book in Tiffany's 
Cases now all unpacked. Went to safety drill (as always ) they now talk of Carnival UK and not PO cruises. 
Sail away was one of the best ever, with the Police band, a choir, and lots of carols  

Any question during the cruise, then please ask, and I will do my best to answer them.  

Artemis P023 Tuesday 22nd Dec 2010 Sea Day 

Woke this morning to an overcast sky, but calm seas. At 0900 we had an outside temp of 6C, so it's getting warmer slowly. 
Last nights entertainment was the Headliners with a "swing" medley. Not really my cup of tea, but they were OK. We had booked table for 8 ( as per normal ) but we had two empty seats, we shall see what happens tonight. 
I do have to say, that Artemis looks very festive with very tasteful Christmas decorations and especially the Atrium with the gingerbread village. 
Sue found a LBD in the shop that she liked, so the credit card has started to groan already :-) 
Now pm, it's been a very lazy day, lots of reading, walking, and drinking. Met a couple at lunch who have been on lots of world cruises, so it was a very enjoyable and informative chat we had. 
The "Bay" has been very kind so far, with just the minimum of movement.  
As we have already booked for 2010, we went the future cruise desk, and paid our £50 pp deposit, so we can enjoy some extra OBC when we book for 2010 
It's now 1715, getting ready for dinner, but horrors of horrors, no hot water. Reception has said 15 minutes, so we will wait and see.  

Hope the snow and bad weather is not causing  you too many problems back home, and you can get to where you want to go.  

Artemis P023 Thursday 23rd December 2010 Sea Day 

Was a bit of a lukewarm shower last night before dinner, due to the water problems, but by this morning we were back up to temp. 
Last nights entertainment was the Headliners again with "Radio Days", a selection of songs from the 40's, a bit before my time, but I knew a lot of them. We then tried the Pub Quiz, joining forces with a couple from our table, but we were still a miserable failure, still always another night. 
I forgot to add before, Mr & Mrs Christmas were onboard on embarkation day, Sue had to have her photo taken with them both :-) 
It's another overcast day so far (0830), with a temp of 10C but you can just make out the sun behind the clouds, so it may brighten up. 
Our missing couple at dinner arrived last night, so the table was up to full compliment. 
And then the Sun popped out, we found the small area on deck outside the Horizon Lounge, no wind, and had a 10 min sit in the warm sunshine, before it disappeared behind the clouds again. 
Poor old Artemis, does seem to be having problems with her water works. Mid morning, and no hot water again, as long as this does not become a theme of the cruise :-) 
What a small world we live in. Got talking to a couple today at lunch,and they live in the village next to ours, 3 miles away. 
Then after lunch, the clouds melted away, and we spent a pleasant couple of hours sitting on deck around the crystal pool. 
The "Bay" is still behaving itself at present, so all is well. 
It's Lisbon tomorrow so a chance to stretch our legs. 

Artemis P023 Friday 24th December 2010 Lisbon 

Well the world is getting smaller again. Got chatting again to the couple we met yesterday, who live just a few miles away, seems they also work with the couple who bought our old family house 5 years ago. 
Still dark outside at present, as we sail the last bit into Lisbon 

We are off on a tour this morning I will tell you about it when we get back. Off for breakfast now.  

Bit late docking today,the pilot was held up in traffic :-)  

Entertainment last night was comedian Lee Wilson, did a good set, and lots of laughs were had by one and all.  

Our tour today was to Medieval Obidos, it's about 90 k north of the town, and it's a walled city. Was a pleasant couple of hours spent wandering around the little shops etc.
Now sitting  in Tiffany's and the Atrium is now decked with balloons as well as all the Christmas decorations. 
There is an air of anticipation about the ship, as we await the arrival at 1645 of Mr C. 
There is high cloud today and no Sun, so Mr C should have a good journey here.  It's still 14C, but our tour guide still said is was cold for Lisbon. 
It's the Christmas show tonight by the Headliners, so looking forward to that. 

Well, it's happened, Mr C has arrived from the top of the funnel, the decks were full, listening to the Artemis Choir singing Christmas Carols, and he received a warm welcome. But then it started raining, which did put a damper on proceedings, and helped clear the decks. 

Artemis P023 Saturday 25th December 2010 Sea Day 

Well it has finally arrived, after all the present buying, wrapping and planning. 
We have woken to partly sunny skies today, the forecast is for 16C, so we are hoping to be able to sit out on deck later today ( one of Sue's ambitions is to sit on deck on Christmas Day ). We are currently cruising along at 9 knots, so there must be plenty of time to reach our next port. 

The Christmas show last night by the Headliners was good, but they do suffer, IMHO, from a lack of a stage, so you do not a full "production" as you do on other P&O ships, but still a very talented group. 

As always ( Internet connection willing ) I shall post this blog tomorrow morning, so by then Christmas Day will be over, so a belated "Merry Christmas" to everyone in P&O land, and I hope Santa delivered what you asked for. 
The balloons that were put up yesterday, are looking a tad worse for wear today, as they slowly sink towards the floor, but a lot did go "pop"yesterday. 

It's now just after lunch, and we are on deck sitting around the Crystal pool with a temp of 17C, very pleasant. 
A few hours later now,  and I think I have the beginnings of a tan. 

It's Casablanca tomorrow, and an early start as our tour leaves at 8 am. But, not been here before, so looking forward it. 

Artemis P023 Sunday 26th December 2010 Casablanca  

Alarm went off at 6am, but I had been awake for some time. I tried to post my blog first thing, but have been unsuccessful so far. 
Sue is not feeling too good today, so our planned trip ashore will have to wait for another cruise in this area of the world. 

Being Christmas day, it was a formal night last night, it looked like 100% DJ's in Coral Restaurant, although I did see a few in casual dress in other public areas of the ship. 

Entertainment last night was a variety show with the Headliners, Lee Wilson, and a new vocalist who flew in yesterday. I'm not a fan of cabaret singers, and the new vocalist just reinforced my view on the subject, so I will not be going to see him again. 

Outside temp is currently 15C within forecast high of 18C so I might have to get the shorts out. 
It's now just before 8am, and the sun is up, and looking very pleasant, so it could be a day sitting deck to work on the tan. 

Well the Sun was a bit of a flash in the pan, as the sea mist has rolled in. We have however spent a very pleasant morning sitting in Tiffany's with a couple from our table, but at present it does not look we will be sitting on deck today. 

Its now after lunch and we managed to sit out on deck, even with the absence of the Sun, it was still warm. 
I hope you all had a good Christmas day, and I see on Sky News, that you might even get a bit of a thaw, which would be good, as I think coming back from this cruise to snow on the ground, would be......... 

Artemis P023 Monday 27th December 2010 Sea Day 

I am not prone to this, but I do have to start this blog with a RANT 

Last night Sue and myself returned to the cabin to get ready for dinner, and once again we had no hot water. 
I am now losing count the number of times this has happened, or that we only have enough hot water for one shower. 
Now I understand that Artemis is old, and you must expect problems, but this has now been going on for days. If you cannot provide a basic function, of hot water to a cabin, then IMHO, it's very poor customer service, something that I do not expect from P&O.  
So please get this sorted P&O as it's beginning to spoil was is otherwise an enjoyable cruise. 

We woke to sunny skies this morning, so it hopeful we can sit out on deck later today, current forecast is for 17C, so I have bit the bullet, and the shorts are on. 
Entertainment last night was the Headliners, with "Les Girls" it's was OK, but it had a lot of " old tunes " which, even with all my years in amdram, I had never heard of. So maybe it was aimed at an audience older than I. 
Another pleasant morning has been spent in Tiffany's chatting to our table companions.

Once again, as the sun swept across the open decks, we ventured outside, where each day the temperatures climb, so it was a beer and the suns rays to soak up for the afternoon. 

La Palma tomorrow where the temperature is forecast to be even better than today. You know, I could get used to this cruising lark :-) 
Artemis P023 Tuesday 28th December 2010 La Palma 

Well, what a day !!!! Woke to blue skies and warmth. 
Did a morning " Walking Tour" of Santa Cruz, the capital of La Palma, which I have to say was one of the best tours we have ever done. Temprature was 70F + and it a gentle stroll around the town, with a very good guide. We even had time for a short refreshment stop of Tapas and drinks. It was warm enough to welcome the aircon of the ship when we returned. 
Even managed to find an English newspaper in the terminal on our return. 

Last night was the Portunus party, no mention of any potential changes, in fact the only changes I saw, were no free bubbly, or canap├ęs, more cut backs ? 

I don't normally make much comment of the food onboard, as I find it the  normal P&O standard ( which is good ), but the Roast Beef I had last night was excellent and well worth a mention. 

So it's now after lunch, and guess what, yes, we are out on deck in the sun. 

Last night was "the vocalist" again, so we gave him a miss, and went up to the Horizon Lounge for the 10pm quiz. Well, we seem to be getting better, but still not won one. 
It's seems from Sky News, that you still have it a bit chilly back home, it's seems ages ago since we were there, even though it was only one week ago that we left. 
I do have to say "well done" to the English cricket team out in Oz, as it looks like they will be bringing the ashes home :-) 

Entertainment tonight is the Headliners, then Linda Bellingham, so will report tomorrow.

Artemis P023 Wednesday 29th December Tenerife 

We woke to partly grey skies, but a temp of 19C and a forecast of a few more degrees to be added later today. 

Last nights entertainment, was the Headliners with more show songs, and were OK. Then we had Linda Bellingham and her husband Mr Spain. Linda is obviously here to plug her autobiography, which is fine by me, it was an entertaining "chat", funny in parts, and very serious in other parts on a couple of subjects very close to her heart, namely, domestic violence and Alzheimer's. She is doing another slot on New Years Day, and will be interviewed by the CD. 

Afternoon tour today, Tenerife Wine and Tapas Experience, I will update later about the tour, as long as the keyboard is not a blur :-) 

If the sun stays out long enough, we might just work on the tan on deck. 

Well the sun did say out for a while, so the tan was worked on. 

Now for the tour, well, we went to the north of the island to a wine museum, for a short video on the history of the island wine making, then to some tasting, which went down well. From there we went to a wine cellar for more wine and tapas. I think it's fair to say at this point, that some members of the tour began to enjoy the tour more than others, and on one table the volume did increase and continued on the coach back to Artemis. So a good day was had by one and all, but I'm not sure if they will make dinner tonight 

Artemis P023 30th December 2010 Grand Canaria 

Again, sunny blue skies today, no tour booked today, so a walk into town today is planned. 
For those of you who are not bored enough with my ramblings, then I have taken over the " passenger blog" and I'm very grateful to P&O for the opportunity. 

Last nights entertainment was the Headliners with "Thank You For The Music" it's a show I've seen a few times on various P&O ships, and I am not the worlds greatest Abba fan, but I did enjoy the show, and thought it was their best so far. 

Pleasant walk into town today, and to the beach on the far side, where the temperature gauge showed 23C and the beach was quite busy. 
Back for lunch, and then on deck, but it was a tad hot, so we have retreated 
to the shade for the afternoon. 
But as it seems to be the trend for these islands at present, the clouds rolled in, but still warm enough for sitting out. 

Well it's Maderia tomorrow ( it will be today when you read this ) and looking forward to the fireworks, so I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year, and health and happiness for 2011 and beyond, with many more cruises. 

Artemis P023 Friday 31st December 2010 Madeira 

Well, nice sunny skies again, we were slightly delayed in our arrival as it was a top speed dash from Grand Canaria, and there was quite a swell over night. We arrived just outside the harbour at 8am, and there was already a Fred O ship anchored outside, and another in the harbour, along with the Qeen Victoria, and Saga Pearl II, so it's a tad busy. 
I can only assume that something special is happening here ? Somebody did mention something about a few fireworks later :-) 

We did not go to the show last night, as it was the vocalist, so we went up to the Horizon Lounge for the trivia quiz, but could not compete with the 20/20 team that won. 

No tour again today, so a walk into town later. 

One thing I have found strange, is that there has not been any clock changes on this cruise. At first I thought it was just a "ship" thing, but looking at the local time, it's not the case. 

Well what a pleasant morning that was, Madeira was heaving, but full of festive spirit. I keep coming back to this theme, but what a small world. As I have already said Saga Pearl II is here. We were waiting for the shuttle bus to take us back to the ship, when I heard "Hello Ray" and it was one of the crew members from the Saga ship that I know, who lives in Harwich where I work. If only I could buy a lotto ticket now, I think the odds on me winning will be smaller than meeting Michael. 

It's a bit like musical ships at present, Queen Victoria has left her berth and is now anchored outside the harbour. Oriana has now taken her place on the berth, and my friend from the Saga ship said she will be going out to anchor at 2pm. 

So, everyone is getting excited about tonight, the small barges are already outside the harbour, and I assume full of fireworks, let's hope for good weather and no rain. 


Artemis P023 Saturday 1st Jan 2011 Sea Day 

Wow, well what can I say about last night ? Lets start with the meal, I went for the beef again, and I have to say it was excellent, and Stilton to finish was not bad either. 

From there we went to the International Lounge to watch The Bachelors , not sure what I expected as they were my Mums favorouite group. But I knew most of the songs and the audience had a good singalong. 

After the show, we quickly returned to the cabin to collect the cameras and then to Horizon Lounge for drink. By 1130 pm the upper decks were filling up, so we went out on deck to the forward part of the ship. 

Now I have read lots of reports of Maderia and News Year Eve, and in fact we had booked on Oriana just for the Christmas cruise, but changed later to the Artemis cruise, so that we could see the fireworks. 

I have heard many times that Maderia was a "must see", " once in a lifetime" so as the bewitching hour approached, and the decks filled, it was with great anticipation. 

Then the countdown began 5, 4, 3, 2, 1........ 
And WOW, there was such a cacophony of sounds as we were enveloped by the the sounds of the fireworks, and the blasting of all the ships horns.  
And the fireworks went on, and on, and on.  
I just wish I was able to do justice in this blog to the sights and sounds, but unfortunately my literary skills, will not allow. 
So you will just have to come and see for yourself. 

As this  really is a MUST SEE. 

Once the fireworks had concluded, we returned to the Horizon  
Lounge for a drink and to watch the sail away. We slipped our lines and sailed past Oriana at 0040, to much waving and tooting of ships horns, and then we slipped into the night, on our way back to Southampton, and reality. 

And so to today, we woke to sunny skies and a temp of 17C, and it does feel cooler. 

So three sea days now, before we land in Southampton, and back to work. 

I'm not sure if I will continue with a daily blog from here on, but I will do a full review of the cruise at some stage. 

So it just leaves me to say, THANK YOU for joining Sue and myself on this cruise, and reading and commenting on my blog. 

And we look forward to our next cruise, which is the Artemis farewell cruise. 

Ray & Sue

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

No drinks for me

Sorry the blog has been a long while in coming, but I have been a bit poorly, which meant me spending 10 days in Colchester Hospital at the beginning of October with acute pancreatitis. I am now at home resting and trying to get my energy back.
So what has all this got to do with cruising I hear you all ask ?
Well, the two main causes of the above are gall stones or alcohol, both of which have been ruled out in my case.
But as part of my recovery plan, I have been told " no alcohol for six months"
And guess what ? Yes, there is a cruise booked (Northern Lights) that falls in that six month period 
So it will be a first for me, a cruise and no alcohol :-(
Still it could be worse

Thursday, 26 September 2013

P&O Arcadia weekender September 2013

My review of our short little cruise on Arcadia

We called at Zeebrugge ( for Bruges ) and an overnight ( until 1am ) to Amsterdam
Both ports we have been to many times before, so at Zeebrugge, we just took the shuttle bus to Blankenberge, a little sea side resort for a walk. 
Last time we went here was in December a few years ago, and was a tad quiet, but this time the place was really alive with people in the main high street and along the sea front, even for a Sunday
So we spent a pleasant couple of hours ashore walking, but it was soon time to walk back to the shuttle bus and return to Arcadia.

From there the next stop was Amsterdam, and as I have already said, we have been here quite a few times before ( if you look down the blog you will see we came with Fred a couple of months ago ) 
Even with all these visits, we had never visited Ann Frank's house, so this time we decided to put that right.
It is much better to take a organised tour from the ship, unless you don't mind a long wait, as the queues here go round the block.
Now I know in our day to day lives, we can sometimes think that the whole world is against us, and we have such a terrible time. Well, visit here, and then think again.

So made it back to the ship by 4pm, just enough time for a drink or two, and a quick bite in the buffet, before we where off again for a night time canel boat ride.
But no coach trip this time, we walked out of the passenger terminal walked 100 yards ( sorry it has to be old money, it's my age) and on to the canel boat.
We have often taken boat tours around cities as it gives you a different perspective, and this night tour was a first for us ( have done many in daylight ). I have to say it was a charming tour, and Amsterdam does look great at night. The cheese and wine on the canel boat were not too bad as well.

It was quite a barmy night, which allowed to go to one of our favourite places on Arcadia, the aft deck
This was not something we thought we would be doing on this cruise

I know a lot of people do not like these shorter cruises, but as Sue and myself both still work, these help pad out the year, and we enjoy them.
The staff on board were excellent as always, we even saw a few faces from April when we went to the Caribbean on Arcadia.
As it was only a short cruise, we did not bother with the MDR, so ate in the buffet of an evening, with one night in the Ocean Grill, which of course as this was a shorter cruise the price was raised to £17.95. I felt the standard of the food in the OG was a little below prt, and the salt marsh lamb ( one of my favourite meals) was overlooked IMHO, but they would not cook it rare.

So all in all, a good break away, but as always too short.
Arcadia will soon ( end of November ) be off for her refit and new cabins to be added, it only seems a little while ago she had this done before.

Not sure when we will get to see the changes, as next year sees us on Oriana and Adonia plus a Fred cruise, then in 2015 we have another Fred cruise booked.

So, until the next time, happy cruising 

Friday, 20 September 2013

Northern Lights

Well, the good lady and I have just sat down and been through the shore excursion for our Northern Lights cruise next year. As I said in a previous blog, some of the tours were a tad expensive. However you don't do this sort of cruise very oftern, so we have booked a Husky Sledge tour in Tromso and a tour to try to find the Majical Lights in Alta, which starts at 10:30 pm, so that will be a late one. 
So all we need now is to win the lottery to pay for the tours :-) 

Will blog soon about our upcoming P&O Arcadia cruise 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Health and Safety ?

We are lucky enough to have booked a cruise for March 2014, that goes up into the Arctic Circle to see ( hopefully ) the Northern Lights. 
Today we received an email from the cruise line, informing us that it will be extremely cold and to pack warm clothes, which was just as well, as I was going to pack T shirt and shorts. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

We did it

Yep, we booked a Fred Olsen cruise to Spain and France for 2014.
There was quite a few pluses which swayed our decision. The main one that it is a round trip from Harwich in Essex, which is only 20 minutes from home. It also only has one port on the Itinerary that we have been to before, so lots of new places to visit.
So today it was a call to Fred to book the cruise, only to find that the upgrade to to all inclusive was only £6.99 pppn, so it did not take long to take that option.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Where to next for 2014 ?

Although we already have a couple of cruises booked for 2014. I have looked at my annual leave for that period, and I think I can just about squeeze another in.  So last night it was time to pull out the brochures and see what was about.
The Ipads also came into there own as both Sue and I searched the web as well.
Well we found a cruise leaving from Harwich, with only one port that we have been to before, so I just need to check at work today that no one else has that time off already booked.

And we shall be going to.............

Well, you will just have to wait until we have booked it to find out

Happy Cruising 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

New DJ

Now I don't normally do advertising, but some time ago I made a purchase from  An on line shop, and so ended up on their mailing list. A recent email showed that they have a very good sale on DJ's (the wearable type) and dress trousers, for £39.99. Well, always up for a bargain I purchased the same, and I have to say excellent product for the price, so if you are in the market for one, then I can recommend.

This of course is my old DJ

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Cruise Photos

Should you get bored and wish to peruse some cruise photos, Here are mine

Friday, 9 August 2013

It must be getting close

We received our information booklet today from P&O that has all the shore excursions in plus our luggage labels. I was not sure if we would still receive one of these booklets as we have already booked our shore excursion on line. But it will give us something to look at as we count down the days until the end of September.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Shore Excursions

Well, at last we got around to looking at the shore excursions on line for our upcoming cruise in September. We have been to Amsterdam on quite a few occasions now, the last time only being a few weeks ago on Fred Olsen Black Watch (see previous post).
Even with all these visits, we have never made it to Anne Franks house, so we thought we would fix that this time. Also, as we overnight in Amsterdam, we are taking a night time canal cruise, and if it's any were near as good as sunset tour we did in Boston last year, it will be something to look forward to.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

And on to the next one !

Well our Fred Olsen cruise seems a distant memory now, as we look forward to our next cruise, and our last for the year (I never have enough leave).
We are going back to P&O and Arcadia, for a 4 nighter later this year.
It must be getting fairly close, as I have had an email form P&O to update the cruise personaliser which is now completed, and just for good measure I booked the car park today also.

As the balance was paid some time ago, we just need to look through the excursions to see if any grab us for Amsterdam as I think we will just take a walk along the prom at the other port.

Looking ahead to next year, in March we are sailing up to see the Northern Lights, so if anyone has any tips on photographing said lights, they will be gratefully received 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Fred Olsen Black Watch

Fred Olsen Black Watch June 15th - 18th

The Cruise
A short 3 night cruise leaving from Harwich, calling at Amsterdam,  and terminating in Newcastle.
The cruise was specifically the Sir Bobby Robson Memorial Cruise.
Sir Bobby managed amongst other clubs, Ipswich, PSV in the Netherlands and Newcastle, hence the itinerary of the cruise.
A donation of £5000 from Fred Olsen and a raffle and auction on board raised £3800 that went to the memorial fund. Sir Bobby's widow along with retired footballers were also onboard for Q&A sessions and photos.
If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know that we have sailed primarily with P&O, so there will be comparisons with them I'm afraid.
It's also a small world, an ex work colleague who I have not seen for 10 years, but I know was an Ipswich fan, and has cruised many times with Fred, was also on board, so it was a bit of catch up as well

The Ship
This was our first Fred Olsen cruise, and we had heard good reports about Fred ships, so it was with much anticipation that we stepped on board. Also sailing from Harwich was a very big bonus as we only live 10 miles from the port, and I work in Harwich, so know the port very well.
The Black Watch holds c800 passengers and is of the "old style" traditional design. As soon as we stepped  onboard, both Sue and myself said it reminded us of Dear Old Arty ( P&O Artemis ) but with a much greater sense of space and openness, at least on our deck. Black Watch is also about the same size as Saga Ruby, which we have taken a couple of cruises on, but again , she seems to have more public spaces. With none of the spaces feeling crowded at all. 
The MDR is light and airy, and being a smaller ship, there are large picture windows down both sides.
My big whinge, was the Muster drill, after attending the drill in the MDR, we were lined up in single file, and  taken out to our respective life boat, all of which I have no problem with, even though the weather was atrocious, and it was chucking it down. But the fact that they made us stand there for 10 minutes or more, and when the staff were questioned as to why, the reply was "well you would have to stand here if it was a real emergency". All in all, not very good customer relations at all.

The Cabin
Leaving Harwich after the storm
We had upgraded to a junior suite after the original booking on deck 7, it was a large spacious cabin, and well appointed with TV, fridge, tea and coffee making facilities, and a well stocked mini bar which we did make use of as the prices were reasonable. The only thing that let the cabin down IMHO was the lighting in the bathroom (which had a full size bath with a shower over). Now it might just be a male and age thing, but I do need a bright light when I'm having a shave ( even with my glasses on) and this bathroom was very dull. But other than that minor point a very nice cabin. Now I know all cruise lines do things slightly differently, but I failed to understand the logic of the evening "turn down" service that saw the quilt being folded up at the foot of the bed. Very strange

Food & Drink
We ate in the MDR for dinner, the menus had a good selection of food all of which were plated meals. It was also nice to see a different menu, as my view of P&O menus are that they need to change more. The drink prices seemed to be on par with P&O aka normal pub prices. For breakfast and lunch we ate in the buffet Garden Cafe, but it bears no relationship to the experience on a P&O ship, it was much quieter, relaxed and pleasant. You were escorted to your table, so always had no problem trying to find a seat, and never a "bun fight" well done Fred !!

We saw a couple of shows from the on board  theatre company in the Neptune show lounge. This was similar to the show lounge on  Artemis, but had better sight lines. A very talented group of singers and dancers made up the group, plus they also hosted quizzes etc. on board. 
We watched one of the comedians early show which we found very "clean" and entertaining, although we heard his late show did get a bit "blue"

We had pre booked via Fred a city and canal boat tour. We had previously done this tour some years ago with P&O, but the cost was very reasonable at £35 each. Being a Sunday the driver found it very easy to get about, so a pleasant tour was had by one and all. Being a Sunday did not stop the queue around the Ann Frank museum stretch around the block. 

The Crew
As I think with most cruise lines, it's the crew that makes or breaks a cruise and Fred Olsen are no different, but I can report they were excellent, so top marks.

I don't think I have so much rain fall down out of the skies as it did just before sail away. We had family and a work colleague on Halfpenny Pier to wave us off that had to dodge the rain, not what you would expect for June. Now I have seen many a cruise ship leave from Harwich, and they seem to a lot closer to the shore then they are when viewed from sea

Being a football themed cruise you may have thought, the cruise would be filed with rowdy football fans, but as they were of the mature variety, there were no issues what so ever.
One difference I did notice from P&O was the lack of cabin stewards trollies in the cabin corridors, and I'm sure they came out of secret hideaways  as we rarely saw them, but the cabins were always serviced very quickly. So our first experience with Fred, did we enjoy the ship, cruise etc ? Yes we did, the experience was closer to a Saga cruise than P&O IMHO, with an overriding feeling of calm and relaxation on board.
The disembarkation was very painless, and was done in deck order, and by 0825 we were off to the complementary coach back to Harwich, which has given me the time to write this review.
So will we cruise with Fred again ? There is a good chance that the answer will be "Yes"

So now it's a wait until September when we go back to P&O on Arcadia for a 4 nighter , and yes we will be going back to Amsterdam.
So until then

Bye bye

Friday, 14 June 2013

PO Arcadia Caribben April 2013

Arcadia J302 Cruise Review

The cruise
A  24 night Southampton to Southampton cruise to the Caribbean, calling at Ponta Delgada, Antigua, Tortola, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados and Horta

The Ship
Soon to have a major refit, with the introduction of single cabins etc. I think the old girl is begining to show her age, as in port alongside other ships, she did look a bit tatty on the outside. 

The weather 
Once we had left the calm waters of Southampton ,the sea swell was high, and continued that way until we reached Ponta Delgada 3 days later, as I said in my blog, I have not known it last that long on any cruise we had done before. After leaving Ponta Delgada, the weather steadily improved, and the sea calmed. The weather around the islands was typical Caribbean, very hot, with showers. The return trip has been much better with flat seas, although the Captain did say when we left Horta that conditions were going to deteriorate, so if it does get lively, I will let you know.
Unusually for us, we only went to see two of their shows, as I have said many times before, the shows do get repetitive, year after year. They were an OK troupe, but I personally did not "click" with them, but that's probably me rather than them.
One of our favourite pastimes but no wins for this cruise, they also seemed to repeat the format every few days, there also seemed to be less quizzes in the day.
I can only assume that it is very popular, but Karaoke seemed to have been in the Rising Sun a lot lot more than I remember from previous cruises.
The Village Fete seems to have been a hit, Sue said it was heaving around the Neptune Pool. I did not attend as I was laid up in the cabin with the ships cough. 
We did not see any of the speciality acts, with the exception of The Beatles Experience, who were OK, nor attend any talks, so unable to comment. 
One of our favourite pastimes of an evening ( in the warm weather ) was just to sit under the stars on the aft deck with a drink in hand PERFECT .

They have run some very recent films in the afternoon in the theatre, which has been good for sea days. I have never understood the logic in Arcadia's last major refit when a cinema was installed with 30 odd seats for a ship that holds C2000 passengers 

As always P&O's greatest asset, but I do feel that some of them are being pushed to the limit workwise. This, plus my observations below, IMHO is P&O trying to minimise costs in what must be a very competitive market place. ( Also I don't like the new biscuits )

Ports of call
With the exception of Tortola and Horta, we had been to the other ports before. I think we both fell in love with Tortola, but all the islands have their own character, and if you have never been to the Caribbean, you don't know what you're missing and it really is a must see. Some say, when you have seen one island you have seen them all, but it's an argument I do not agree with. 

As always the food in the MDR was OK if not a bit repetitive, with a lot more offal on the menus ( never seen tongue before ) . But on the whole I would class it as uninspiring but adequate. On three evenings we ate at the buffet in the belvedere, all three occasions it was Indian cuisine, and I have to say, it was jolly good, and a nice change from the MDR.
We also ate twice in the Ocean Grill ( both menus ). Both Sue and I agreed, that we prefer the menu that has the salt marsh lamb on ( not for Sue of course). The belvedere for breakfast and lunch was OK, we did use the Neptune Grill for lunch, and also the sandwiches there.

Some things I have never seen on a P&O cruise before
Face cloths in the cabin with holes
Towels in cabin, where it was obvious they had seen better days, 
Cracks in mugs in the Belvedere
Cracks in dessert bowls in the Belvedere
Stains on table cloths in MDR
Having to order your dessert at the beginning of the meal
And the above were not a"one off"

Did we enjoy the cruise ? YES SIR, things I would have liked to have changed ? Well the first three days of weather, and catching the "cruise cough ".
I think the P&O product is changing, but nowadays we are in a very competitive market so it has to with a squeeze on margins etc. Still we can't think that it's that bad as we booked 2 for 2014 whilst on board.
But we are about to try Fred Olsen, so P&O beware

Until the next time

PO Arcadia Caribbean 2011

Arcadia J112 Cruise Review 

The Ship 
Arcadia was due a small refit, but due to overrunning work on Oriana, there will be no dry dock for her. However, at St Kitts ( I think that was that port ), they had a diver feeling her bottom all day, the Captain reported that evening, that this was a requirement by the insurance company etc, and she passed with flying colours. Other than that, beside the wifi being a bit hit and miss sometimes, the old lady looks in good fettle, which is good, as we are back on her on December for the Derren Brown weekender. 

We were on a table of eight on the lower tier of the Meridian Resturant, but for most nights we went down to four, as the buffet in the Belvedere was a great attraction to our fellow table guests. The food was to a good standard as always, but I am finding it a bit repetitive, and with less choice on the menu. As a vegetarian, Sue gets a choice from the main menus, the lunchtime menu, and a specific vegetarian menu, and even Sue has said the choice is getting smaller. I can only make the assumption that this is where P&O are trimming their costs. Also no flowers for the ladies, more cost cutting ? 
We did however eat in Arcadian Rhodes on two occasions, the quality (as always ) was a level above the MDR food, and the whole eating experience was excellent. I know the going of Rhodes from the fleet has been done to death on the forum, I even quizzed Carole Marlow about this when she was on Artemis. I'm sure it's just a commercial decision, and they feel they can make more money with MPW, but I still think it's a great loss. 
The Neptune grill, we used as an alternative for lunch sometimes, their cheese cake is well worth a try. I'm not sure how the staff work in there on the "hot days" as you could see how hot they were.  

The Belvedere we used for breakfast and lunch, ok for breakfast ( we are early risers, so no problems) . Lunch times, again, choice seemed to be less, and repetitive. Sue also struggled to find something she liked.  
We were going to try the Orchid Resturant, but there were only three  menus for the whole twenty three nights, therefore limited availability for a vegetarian choice, so we gave that a miss. 


I have never seen a poor troupe onboard a P&O ship, and this troupe kept up the excellent standard. Polished performances all round, and it was nice to see a couple of shows we had not seen before.  One thing that did stand out for me, was how much more multi talented the troupe were. Normally singers sung, dancers danced etc. but this time, it was sometime difficult to know which was which.  

 Cabaret Singers 
Only went to see Gerard Kenny, and as you know, not my favourite form of entertainment, but Sue enjoyed the show, have had mixed reviews from other passengers. 

Lee Wilson 
we did not attend his shows, as we have seen him recently, reports from our table companions were good though.   

Matthew McGurk   
Both shows were highly professional, and well worth seeing if you like a bit of magic.  

The Sunshine Band 
Not my favourite band of the cruise. 

The Amethyst Duo 
Good duo for the Rising Sun, he certainly knew how to play a guitar 

As you will have noticed from the blogs, we did our fair share of quizzes, in fact a lot more than we have done before. They have been varied in their subject matter, and well attended, but ( unusually for us ) we did not win one quiz. So I think the grey cells must have been on holiday also.  But excellent entertainment, if you like to pit your knowledge against others. 

We did not attend any of the talks, as we preferred to take the air on the open decks.   

For This section of my review, I could just copy and paste from previous reviews, as always the crew have been excellent, and it's this that make P&O cruises what they are. WELL DONE TO ALL THE CREW !!! 

Ports of call 
Besides Madiera, where the heavens opened, all of the ports have been new to us, as this has been our first Caribbean cruise, and having read and heard a lot about, "seen one Caribbean island, you have seen them all". I can honestly say that we didn't agree with this, as we have found each island different in its landscape, and in its maturity. One thing they all have in common is the warmth of the people. Never have we met people, who take out so much time to talk to you, it was so evident on the tours we did, as guides went around making sure they chatted with everyone who was on the tour, not something we have found on tours around Europe. 
Also the tours we did were varied, different from the norm, and we enjoyed them all. Can highly reccomend, the railway St. Kitts and the sub in Barbados. 

This has been our longest cruise to date at 23 nights, and also our first to the Caribbean, and as such has been a totally different cruising experience, with lots of sea days, plus the new ports. It has certainly wetted our appetite for longer cruises, so we will have to see what we can do for 2013, but this has been a very enjoyable experience, and comes highly recommended. 

To everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on my blogs, I have to say a very big THANK YOU, as without you, my blogs would be meaningless ( some say they are anyway ) but thank you for your time, and sharing our cruise with us.  
To our table companions, June,  Marleen, Liz & John, and to Roger and Chris with whom we spent most time with at our table, and shared the most laughs with. Thank you all for sharing our cruise, and help making it such a delight. 
I also have to thank my blog Editor, Sue, for checking my speeeling and punctuation. 

And so it's the end of another cruise, but we are back in a few weeks for the Derren Brown weekend, but after that it's a long wait until next September for the USA and Canada cruise, so until then....... 

Bye bye