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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise - Photos

As promised here are my photos from the cruise

Vigo

Gibraltar

Malaga

Cadiz

Lisbon

Leixoes

Lorient

Misc


Enjoy




Saturday, 29 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Review

The Cruise
A14 night mystery cruise onboard Black Watch, sailing from Tilbury, London

The Ports
Vigo
Gibraltar 
Malaga
Cadiz (overnight)
Lisbon 
Leixioes 
Lorient

I think Fred played "safe" with their choice of ports, and we did hear one or two complaints of "I have been here before", but when you go on a mystery cruise, you can't mind where you go.
Having said that, Fred's USP, is smaller ships that can get into ports that the big ships can't. So why with the exception of Lorient, why did they pick major ports ? As I said, playing safe IMHO

The ship
Black Watch had just left Hamburg from a refit, where beside planned maintenance, added extra cabins on the Prom deck. Now I mentioned this in my blog, and IMHO a bit of a daft idea.
This is only our third Fred cruise, the first for 3 nights on this ship last year, then 12 nights on Braemar earlier this year, and I have to say out of the two ships Braemar is my favourite as the flow of passengers, and the space  works much better, and feels a better ship. Having said that we are back on the Black Watch in March for the Solar eclipse cruise. But I don't think we will cruise on Black Watch again after that.


Shore excursions 
This was a subject I blogged about before we left. Fred sent us a shore ex brochure, and it was very difficult to choose a tour, not knowing where you will be. 
Having said that, if you had the time, you could compare the description in the brochure to that on Fred's website and work out where you were going. I think Fred could take a leaf out of Saga's book who have been running mystery cruises for some time ( and yes our first mystery cruise was with Saga) and include a shore ex within the price.
As always some shore ex were better then others, with the winery and flamenco dancers the best.

Entertainment 
When we saw the first show by the theatre company I did think they were quite poor. They have however gone from strength to strength and are well worth watching
The Magician Peter Wardell was excellent, but I do love magic
The Singers, we did not go to see as they do not appeal so can't comment

The talks during the day, on all things Mystical given by Mei Trow and Prof Terry Keefe were well worth attending, both factually and entertainment wise.

A note of course has to be made for the "Crew Show" with some very talented people. 

As always, quizzes featured a lot, and the evening quiz saw us team up with Pat and Michael from our table, and Val and Brian. We saw a lot of second places, but did manage to win a name that tune one night, by a sterling effort by my good lady Sue. The chilled bottle of Cava the following night ( our prize) tasted even better for all the effort.


Murder Mystery Evenings
Run by Brad and Tamara from Black Watch Entertainment, they also ran  some acting workshops as well. Due to the intimate surroundings required for a murder mystery, they were held in the garden cafe, which limited the number of people who could attend. The original plan was just to run two evenings with two different murders. This caused some disquiet amongst passengers, so they soon had to double up on the evenings. Now I'm not bragging, but after solving a murder mystery at our local before we came away. We were also in the winning team on both evenings on board.

The food
We were 1st sitting in the MDR on a table for 6, and it's fair to say we had some interesting evenings 😜 I will say no more.
There has been nothing that has stood out food wise. It's been hot and adequate, but I have not said " I really enjoyed that" after a meal.
Breakfast we mainly took in the buffet in The Garden Cafe, and lunch in the MDR, but they did have a buffet there, and the Sunday Roast Beef for lunch was the highlight.


The crew
Excellent as always and a credit to Fred

Conclusion
It's been an OK cruise, but I think Fred could have made it a lot more exciting and interesting. I know it's wrong to compare, but as I said above, we have cruised with Saga on a mystery cruise, and left saying it was one of our best cruises. Sadly I will not be saying that this time. 
Fred, you need to improve.

And finally

I would not normally add this to a cruise review, but felt I did have to mention it. On our last sea day (Friday) in the afternoon, we were in the Lido lounge taking part in a music quiz. The Lido lounge is on deck 6 and overlooks the aft deck. Mid way through the quiz, the CD announces that there is a medical evacuation about to take place by helicopter. 
Now when you see this on TV etc., it does look spectacular, but watching in real life, it was amazing. I hope the person who was evacuated makes a full recovery. But this is just a vote of thanks to the men and women who risk their own lives  to help people who are ill.

Also next time you pass someone shaking a tin for these brave people, please put your hand in your pocket and be generous . 

And finally, 

Disembarkation was fine, but 200/300 passengers with luggage waiting for the coach to take them back to the long stay car park was utter chaos. Not enough coaches, took us 1.5 hours 😁😁😁😁

Until next time, bye

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Part IX

So we arrived at our last mystery port, most of the speculation had been on La Rochelle, but no, we arrived into a very foggy Lorient, in Brittany. It's a port we have never been to before, and also a port I have never heard of before.

After breakfast the fog started to lift so we took the shuttle bus into town. We had also bumped into Pat and Michael on the bus, so it was the dynamic foursome again 😄

As we all alighted the bus, there were some local guides offering a 1 hour walking tour for €5 per person. Now when we do walking tours as part of a shore exe it's normally £26 per person, and if you are a regular reader, you will know that this price does get under my skin.

So off we went on our walking tour. It's seems Lorient was the largest of submarine pens for German U Boats during the Second World War. As they were so fortified ( 12 foot reinforced walls) , the only way the allies could find a way of disrupting the U Boats was to bomb the town of Lorient, which ened up totally destroyed. 

Our first stop on our walking tour was a bomb shelter from WWII.


From there we moved onto to some windmills and watch tower, some of the only buildings to survive WWII



We made our way back to the pick up point for the bus, via a cafe for some hot chocolate as the temp is now down to 10C, only to find it had stopped for lunch.
 
However, a band of us intrepid explorers managed the 20 minute walk back to the ship.

So tomorrow is our last sea day, and we are back in Tilbury on Saturday.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog, and I will write a cruise review and post links to my photos once we get home.

I found an app to convert my RAW files, so I hope they are better now .

So until then, bye

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Part VIII

Well here we are at our penultimate port of Leixoes, the port for Oporto. 

We were here in May on Braemar and took a tour on the river ( see previous blog)


So this time we just took the shuttle bus into town, which took about 30 minutes as the traffic was very busy.  We had only been in town about ten minutes, when we bumped into Pat and Michael from our table. Pat had decided she wanted to take a tram ride,so we tagged along for the ride ( see what I did there)
The trams had been imported from Pittsburgh USA and were of a vintage variety. 


It's was only €2.50 so excellent value and great fun. We alighted at the South end of town close to the river, and we could see the bridge that has several levels through the buildings. So we found some steps and started to decend. The steps twisted and turned downwards and were very steep. It must have taken us what seemed ages to decend to the bottom  after about 250 steps.

But made it we did, after a short walk along the river bank we found a delightful cafe with tables out side, so we sat in the sun for a coffee. This then increased to include a glass of Port ( well it had to be done)   We then moved on to include some Tapas like nibbles,which included Octopus, some thing I had not tried before, but can now tick that off my list.



We then found a less arduous route back up into town.

Where we finally made it back to where the shuttle bus picked us up

It had been one of our best times ashore this trip, so thanks to Pat and Michael for their company

This afternoon sees us on the aft deck again. It's warm with patchy cloud, in fact I have to stop writing the blog when the sun comes out as I can't see the screen on my iPad.

So we have three days left, which will be a sea day, somewhere in France, another sea day, then back to Tilbury

So until next time, bye


Monday, 24 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Part VII

Firstly I must apologies for the quality or lack of, of my photos on my blog.
As I said,I have a new camera for this cruise with an upgraded sensor 24Mb, plus I shoot in RAW format so the files are very large. They import into my IPad OK, but it seems my blogger app can't deal with the large file. I will have to look for an app when we get back so I can re format them to JPEG on my iPad. I will of course post a link to all my photos once we are back and I have sorted them out.

So did you guess from my clues yesterday where we were going .

Well today we are in a very sunny and warm Lisbon.


Our shore exe firstly took us to Sintra the old town being a World UNESCO site 


We spent a pleasant hour walking around the old town, where cork and linen seemed to be the major items for sale, and I never knew cork could be made into so many different things.

From there we went on to Cascais, a sea side resort, which also housed the rich and famous by the look of some of the Villas we saw on the shore line.


By now it was wall to wall sun shine and quite warm, and there was also some local art


So now we only have two more ports to call at, plus another country to visit, so it could be another port in Portugul and one in France, to just two in France.
But as always on this mystery cruise, we will have to wait and see.

So until next time, bye



 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Part VI

Well here we are, a hazy Sunday morning and still in Cadiz. We sail at 1 pm today, as we make our way back to the UK.
We still have three ports to go, two countries, and a capital city to go. So I would not think any bookies are taking bets on our next port 😄

Back to our excursion yesterday, it was a short coach ride to a local village to visit a winery  that makes fortified wine.
But first our tour guide, excellent English, a very dry wit, and so so funny. You know you have mastered a foreign language when you can tell a joke and have a coach full of passengers in uproar. He had also mastered a few profanities, but all were within context, and again a coach in uproar.
One of the best tour guides we have ever had.

So we arrived at the winery, not a tourist attraction but a working building, so after a short talk on its history and how they make the wine, we were shown into a flagstone covered courtyard where we were plied with 5 different wines to taste, along with some tapas. All the while being entertained by a small group of very talented flamenco dancers


The tour was chalk and cheese from our tour in Malaga, and a great afternoon was had by one and all. We did not get back to the ship until 6pm, so it was the buffet for us last night.

As we were here overnight, I took the opportunity to take some long exposure night shots on deck.


This morning we took a short walk into town, and are now sitting in the sun on the prom deck, looking foward to roast beef and Yorkshire puds for lunch. Not a bad Sunday, even if I do say so myself

So until mystery port 5 ( have you worked out what it will be yet ?)

Bye

PS I have a new camera for this cruise, and when I put them into the blog, they look a bit pixelated to me, I'm hoping it's just the app on my IPad and they are OK for you 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Part V

Well here we are in our fourth mystery port, and it's  not the one I expected. I soon realised this yesterday when I looked at the map, and saw it was too far to reach there over night. 

My guess had been Barcelona as it all seemed to fit, plus we have an overnight stay in port 4.

I had expected us to go further into the Med. But when lights were seen on the shore on the starboard side last night. It became obvious that we had in fact turned back and today docked at Cadiz.

Lazy morning today, hence the blog, and this afternoon off for a shore exe to see some national dancing, and a taste of the local tipple.

If I have time tomorrow I will update you  on that, but if not it will be a couple of days as we have a sea day when we leave here.

It was interesting yesterday afternoon, as we sat out on the prom deck as the crew performed a lifeboat drill of lowering the lifeboat. The interesting part was the fact that none of them were seaman, but one was from the galley, another a waiter and so on. The whole point being that in an emergency with no seaman about for what ever reason, then they knew to operate the lifeboats for the passengers.
Something I had never thought about.

And for no other reason than I like the picture I took yesterday


Until then, bye

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Part III

Day 4

Another dark morning greeted us as the alarm went off at 7am, a quick look out the window confirmed  that my research had been correct, and our second mystery port was in fact Gib.

Now in all the years we have been cruising, and our many calls at Gib, we had never done a shore excursion. So today we put that right.

As we docked today we saw what can only be described as a rather large craft


You can see its size, docked next to Black Watch. It is named Kismet and a quick google showed that it is a charter yacht, with six cabins, taking a max of 12 passengers and 28 crew.
It's all yours for €1,200,000 PER WEEK 

So we w ere soon on board our small coach ready for our trip. We were soon driving across the Gib runway up to the border with Spain, and then off to Europa point, which is the end of Europe. As I said at the begining it was a dark morning that greeted us, and the day continued to be very overcast. Europa Point then added some wind and rain to the overcast sky making it a very bleak spot today. We then made our way up the rock to St Michaels caves.


And of course we had to say hello to the apes


On the way back we popped into Main Street but managed to spend £0

So all in all a very good day 

We do not leave until 11pm tonight, so I don't think we are going far

So until then bye 





Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Part II

Day 3

Clocks went forward an hour last night, so it was still dark as we approached our first mystery port. I was fairly certain what the first port would be, and I was correct, it was Vigo in northern Spain, a port we had been to many times before, but not for quite a few years.
If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that Fred did indeed send out a shore excursion brochure for this cruise, and we had booked one for this port.
All we knew was that there was just over an hours drive, then two hours walking. 
I assumed that once we docked, or at least on the coach, then we would know where we were going.
But no, the tour remained a mystery, or should I say a pilgrimage.

And yes, we arrived at Santiago de Compostela for our walking tour of the old quarter and a visit to the cathedral where the remains of James the apostle are interred.



We finished our tour at a hotel in the square by the cathedral which is one of the oldest in the world. It also used to be a hospital for the pilgrims in times past, but today it served up some very tasty wine and nibbles.

The weather had been overcast all day, with a cold wind, but it had kept dry and the rain kept off until the journey back to the ship.

The evening saw us attend our murder mystery dinner, which took place in the Garden Cafe. Which for the evening had been turned into Wimlington Manor for an auction of the late Hortense Thornley Cruttocks jewellery.
The evening saw many characters introduced to us as events unfolded, such as Arthur Chance, Cilla Bus, Heidi von Osterhagen and many more.
I'm not boasting, but our team did solve the puzzle and win the bottle of bubbly.
And just between you and me the guilty person was....









Sorry, if I told you, I would have to kill you 😜

It was a very enjoyable few hours, and you can find out more at www.blackwatchenterainment.co.uk


On the quiz front, we do seem to be the Cinderellas as we came second once again 😠 

Today, Wednesday is a sea day, after which we have a few ports in a row. I'm still certain we are heading for the Med, and my clue to where I think I our next port will be is "its a bit of a pinch point"

Until then, bye 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Fred Olsen Mystery Cruise Part I

So the day had arrived, and it was time for our short journey down the A12 to Tilbury dock to board Black Watch for our 14 nights of mystery.

I had done some extensive research to try to get a clue on the general area for the cruise. It was only when we received the shore excursion brochure that I managed to piece together that I think we are going to the Med. I think I have worked out three of the first four ports, but stopped my research at that point, as I still wanted some mystery.

So after brunch, we packed the cases and made our way to Tilbury. Having never sailed from there before it was another new experience for us.

For those of you that have cruised from Southampton and are used to the slick parking and boarding process, then Tilbury is a bit behind. After dropping off our luggage at the terminal you then have quite a drive back to the main port of Tilbury for the long stay car park, and then you are bussed back to the cruise terminal.

Fred must have had problems with their IT, as check in was a manual process with lists on sheets of paper etc.. This caused a queue or two and few frustrated "priority" passengers who felt they should not have to queue 😜

But finally we boarded and found our cabin, only to find no key to be able to lock same, but a quick visit to reception soon solved the problem. I'm not sure if these issues were a hangover from the refit she had just had.
One thankful note, was that at muster, we were not made to process " crocodile style" out to the lifeboat as by now it was dark and it could have been a receipe for disaster.

Going back to boarding, I can only assume the port staff were trying to lessen the queues, but we were waved past the security screening and x-ray of hand luggage to board, which IMHO was not good.

We have a table of six for dinner, and for a first night it was pretty lively, we teamed up later with Pat and Michael from our table and another couple to tackle the evening quiz, we managed a resonable 17/20, but were pipped at the post by the winners who had 18/20.

The red herrings by the crew have started already as the daily news paper stated the clock would go forward, but the CD later announced it was a fishy tale, and it would be a sea day.

So here we are the first day at sea, and lots of passengers trying to work out where we are going. A quick squint  of the sun today, and I think my prediction still holds true.

We have a talk this morning from the group that have been bought on board to run a couple of murder mystery dinners, so looking forward to that.

First formal night tonight, with the Captains welcome party.

If my research is correct, tomorrow will be another sea day, before we dock the next day at...........


Sorry,  but you will have to wait for my  next blog to see if I am correct


Day 2

It's another sea day today, so I thought I would add a small piece  to the blog. It's been a tad lumpy overnight, and still is this morning, which by my reckoning means we are in "the bay" and our first port of call tomorrow (Tuesday)

As you may know, The Black Watch had been for a refit in Hamburg before we boarded. The major part of this refit was the addition of 27 cabins with balconies on deck 7, which happens to be on the prom deck.
I have to say that it's the strangest configuration I have ever seen as the balcony is just part of the prom deck, and it looks like someone has just put up some railings and called it a balcony, all very strange.

But back to yesterday, as I said above we went to a talk about the murder mystery dinners which are being hosted by a group called "Black Watch Production" who specialise in these events. They are hosting two dinners to be held in the Garden Cafe, a small area which normally is the buffet for breakfast/lunch etc. 
Because of its smaller area you have to "book" to join in. We heard last night that the first dinner was fully booked,with 100 on the waiting list, so obviously very popular, but we did manage to bag our seats, so I will report later as the dinner is Tuesday evening, which just so happens to be the good lady and mine's wedding anniversary  (42 years)

We also attended a talk by Mei Trow, an historian and crime writer on the Mary Celeste (and according to Mei it is Mary and not Marie)
It was an interesting talk on various scenarios on what have could happened, and there was also a big clue to our second port of call IMHO

We did better in the quiz last night, and got to a tie breaker (height in metres of the Eiffel Tower) but we lost out on that.

Today will consist of some more talks, with the odd cookery demonstration thrown in. 🍕🍔🍟🍜🍲🍝🍖🍟




Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Well it had to happen

I knew it would happen at some time, as sure as eggs is eggs. 

The postman came a knocking, and there it was, but it's still a bit of a mystery


Yes, it's  the shore excursion brochure from Fred for our upcoming mystery cruise.

Now the last mystery cruise we did was with Saga, and it included in the price (amongst other things )  a half day shore exec, and when we docked, you could pick up a leaflet to tell you what the excursion was, and you could then decide if you wanted the tour.

Since booking this cruise, the issue of how the shore exec was going to work had crossed my mind many times.

So inside we have port 1 to 7, again more news, the original itinerary stated 6 ports. With a sort of description of what the tour involves. So at the top end you can book a full day tour in port 4 where there is an overnight stay for £80. The description is a panoramic drive and walking tour somewhere.

So would you book a tour that is £160 for two people that you really know nothing about.

I really think this is something Fred has not thought enough about.

So we may book one or two of the shorter half day walking tours ( we do like them ), and hope we have not done them before.

But internet availability dependant, you will of course be able to follow our travels as the mystery unfolds with this blog.

And just to get us in the mood, our local in the village are holding a murder mystery evening this weekend, so we are going along to that. 



Saturday, 11 October 2014

Retirement, the story so far

Well here I am two and half months in since the day that I hung up my boots and gave back my uniform.

Well what have I been up to ?

Well as you might have guessed, besides the Adonia cruise (see my previous blog) I have also managed to book another three, one of which is the mystery cruise with Fred (see previous blog), plus 35 nights with P&O in 2016 to the caribbean and USA. Also a very short  one with Fred from Harwich next year.

Taking of Harwich, my older brother is currently on a cruise from Harwich on  the Celebrity Infinity to celebrate his birthday (it has an 0 in it), its only his second cruise, but he seems to be enjoying it so far.
















Before I retired, all of my friends who had taken the plunge had said "you will not know how you had time to work", and I have to say it true !!! the days and weeks go so fast.

I do spend some time out and about on this


As I am sure you all know, I did cycle a fair bit at work, and needed to do some sort of exercise, so it seemed the obvious choice, plus I do enjoy it.

I also have the joy of taking my daughters dog (Woody) for a walk occasional, he is only  five months old so still playful (Image courtesy and © JRM Photography)


And of course the garden is looking the best it has for many a year, plus retirement has given me time to cook which I do enjoy, in fact this weekend we tried one of the christmas puddings I made last month, just to try them out of course,

So, if I ignore my ongoing health issues, which seem top be making a come back :-(, life is very good, and I can recommend this retirement lark.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Competition Time

In November, the good lady and I are off on a Fred Olsen Mystery cruise. We did a Saga mystery cruise a few years back and enjoyed it so much, when Fred announced one, plus the fact that I have just retired (Sue is still working, but only part time ) there really was no other option than to book

You can find all the details of the cruise here



The good ship Black Watch, leaves Tilbury on 15th November 2014 for 14 nights bound for ? ( well it is a mystery cruise).

The marketing information, state 6 ports, in 4 countries, sailing in the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Med. Plus there is one iconic landmark, and a top port as voted by Fred passengers.

So, the competition is :

Can you name the ports that we will call at ?

I have spared no expense on the prize, which is a CRUISE.....
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Brochure ( to be picked up from any local travel agent of your choice )

Well I'm not made of money ;-)

So please join in the fun, and tell us where you think we may be going in the 14 days.

And just to help you, here is short video


    

Sunday, 14 September 2014

P&O Adonia Cruise Review and Photos

The Cruise

7 nights from Southampton 5th - 12th September 2014, calling at

St Mary's, Scilly Isles

Cobh ( for Cork )

St Peter Port, Guernsey

Honfleur, France

We booked this cruise sometime age, for two reasons. Firstly Adonia was the only ship in the P&O fleet we had not sailed on. Secondly, we had only been to one of the ports on the itinerary.

The Ship

Adonia is the smallest of the P&O fleet with circa 700 passengers, and fills the gap left when Artemis left the fleet. Adonia is marketed as having a "Country House" feel about it, and I would tend to agree with that description.
I think the cruise was sold out, but never did it seem overcrowded, and you could always find a seat, either on deck or inside.

Now there are lots of myths and stories about Adonia, mainly that everything stops at 20:30 of a night and all passengers take to their cabins.

Yes it is true that Adonia attracts an elderly spectrum of passengers, but if you had ventured into the Crows Nest in the 60's / 70's night, you could not move for the passengers "boogieing" the night away thanks to the excellent efforts of the entertainment team.

Ports of call

As I said above, 3 out of the 4 ports were new to us

St Mary's was a tender port, and if you read my blog, you will remember that we had to use "local tenders" and not the ships.
Now I don't think  I met anyone who thought that was a good idea. But once landed, we did enjoy our time ashore with a walking tour, and then some free time. Being a Sunday, not all the shops were open, but sufficient for what we needed.

Cobh ( pronounced Cove) 
Again, another port we thoroughly enjoyed, and such a very pretty town, and plenty to do within an easy walk from the ship, even if you do not want a tour. Also the railways station is opposite where the ship docks. Plus if you like a tipple, I can recommend the tour to the Jameson distillery. 

St Peters Port, another tender port, but this time using the ships tenders, so much more civilised. St Peters Port ( as it is a tender port) is one of those that you never know before you start your cruise if you will make it. I would think it's about 50/50 from the number of times we have been there.
But again another port that there is plenty to do if you just want a wander.

Honfleur, another we have tried a few times to visit, and failed, but this time we made it. It really is as pretty as the pictures make out, with a very busy harbour for sailing vessels, and lots of artisan shops for you to wander around. In all a delightful port of call.

Entertainment 

Being a smaller ship, and not having a theatre, all the shows are performed in the Curzon Lounge, and subsequently the Headliners are reduced to just 5 vocalists, and no dedicated dance troupe.   
We saw all but one of their shows ( we ate in the Ocean Grill that night) and they were very good.
Of note though, must be their afternoon performance of the play Opposite Sex, and well worth seeing if you get a chance.
Now if you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know in March, we were onboard Oriana to see the Northern Lights, and in my blog I mentioned an entertainment office called Chris Reynolds who performed an "Elvis" show. We did not attend the show as impersonators don't a lot for me. However it seems the show is a lot more than just Elvis. Well Chris has jumped ship, as is now on Adonia, and once again performed his "Elvis"
If you get a chance, please go and see the show, you will not be disappointed :-)

We only went to see one of the speciality acts, who was the comedian, funny in parts, but sailed very close ( too close IMHO) to racial jokes.   

There were the normal quizzes hat we normally take part in, plus we won a couple as well, which always helps.

The Weather

The weather was STUNNING, wall to wall sunshine for the whole week, could not have asked for more.

Conclusion

It really was an excellent cruise, good ports, good weather, excellent company at dinner, the perfect recipe for a cruise.

If I have not bored too much you can view my photos.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Adonia the final lap



Well it had to happen, we have reached the last port, and the final day of our short 7 night cruise on Adonia. 
We had been informed by the  Captain, that we need to arrive early, as there is an eight metre rise and fall in the tide at Honfleur and he needed sufficient water under his keel to make it up the river.

As the clocks went forwards last night, I missed the sail in as I did not get up until 0745, and we had already docked.

We decide to take the shuttle into town. Now here is an interesting point, in the horizon magazine, it stated that the shuttle bus was only free of charge for those passengers paying the select fare.

Were any checks made as we boarded the bus ? NO ! So how does that work then ? 

And whilst I remember, for those that asked about the "Action Stations" I never did find out what it was all about, sorry.

But I digress, and back to today. We have managed a full house on this cruise, as today was again warm and sunny.




This was our first visit to this very picturesque town. We have tried before, but have always been thwarted by weather, or a strike by French dock workers, so it was good to finally arrive, plus it was well worth the wait.



So after a couple of warm hours around the town, we decided to walk back to the ship. Not the best road in the world, but it did only take about 20 minutes.

Now if you have been paying attention ( I will be setting a test later ) you will remember I said there was an eight meter rise and fall in the tide. When we disembarked to go into town, the gangway from the prom deck to the dock side was level. During our walk in town, high tide had arrived and we now needed ropes and climbing gear to get back on board due to the angle of the gangway.
Oh the joys of cruising ;-) 


All too soon it was time to pack the cases and off to the crows nest for me to compile this last blog.

I will write a cruise review when we get home, plus a link to all my photos once I have sorted them out.

So what's next ? Well we are not sure really as it's a Fred Olsen mystery cruise next in November, but more about that nearer the time.

So thank you all for reading my ramblings, and HAPPY CRUISING !!!




Thursday, 11 September 2014

Adonia Blog Part III

Another day and another port, and today is St Peter Port Guernsey, back to yesterday first.
It was a very lazy sea day for us, although I did manage to get to the gym, and in the afternoon, we teamed up wih Liz and Stephen from our table, and won another quiz.
The evening saw us venture into the Oceana Griil for our evening meal.
The food was excellent as normal. However, the normal cafetiere of coffee and Belgian chocolates, had been replaced by just a cup of coffee and a coffe cream chocolate that we had had in the MDR a few nights before. More cost cutting  ?

But enough of my whinging and back to today. After a lazy breakfast, we went to the Curzon Lounge to pick up our tender tickets. 
As luck would have it, we were given our tickets and went straight down to the tender, being the last to board, after a short tender ride, we were the first to alight from the tender into the port.


It's been wall to wall sunshine all day, and after a very pleasant two hours ashore, with of course a coffee and cake stop, and a bit of shopping, it was time to get the tender back to the ship. We were warned as we left the quay side that is was going to be a lumpy ride back to the ship as the winds had increased. 
I have to say though, we have been on far worse tender rides.



Still bathed in sunshine, we have been sitting around the crystal pool, although we have now retired to the shade as it was getting a bit hot !!!!! Did not think I would be posting that in September.

Not sure what has just happened, but a bridge announcement of " Action stations forward" has just been made.

We leave at 1630 to and off to our last port of Honfluer, before we reluctantly head back to Southampton.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Adonia Part II

And so we waved goodbye to the Scilly Isles, and made our way overnight to Cobh, the port for Cork.

After our near miss in our last quiz, we decided to bring up the reinforcements with 4 members from our table to help us in " majority rules". It did get a bit raucous, but we came through in the end, and are now the proud owners of a bottle of wine.

On Monday we awoke  to a glorious day, and I was soon up on deck with my camera as we sailed into port.


If you have never been to Cobh before ( like us ) you dock very close to the town, and as our tour was not until midday, a walk into town was needed, and what a very pretty town it is.


Cobh was previously know as Queenstown after a visit by Queen Victoria, but independence saw it revert to its original name.
It was also the last port that the ill fated Titanic stopped at before it made its way across to the USA.

The original White Star Line ticket office, is now a Titanic experience 


I know the Titanic story is well known, but to stand in the footprints of the passengers that boarded the tender to take them out to Titanic, gives you a different perspective, and is worth a visit.

Midday saw us board our coach for our city tour, and then a visit to the Jameson distillery.

Cork is a very vibrant city as the local university causes an influx of students to the area.

It was then time to go and see how they make the amber nectar. We were greeted by a very unusual  piece of furniture.


As part of the tour, they asked for volunteers to take part in a tasting, well, it would have been rude not to volunteer.

So Sue and myself are now certificated tasters :-)

We decided to go to the Conservatory for the evening buffet as it was our favourite, Indiian.
But before that we watched the sail away from the Crows Nest. 

We had been blessed with wall to wall sunshine all day, and this continued well into the evening such that after our evening meal, we saw the most glorious sunset, as a bright orange sun dropped to the horizon behind wispy clouds that Sue called angels wings.

Made you feel good to be alive.

Tuesday is a sea day as we make our way back eastwards to Guernsey.






Monday, 8 September 2014

P&O Adonia Part I

So, the had arrived and we were off to sample the last of P&O's fleet that we had not sailed on, yes Adonia.
Our journey down to Southampton  was only slightly delayed by the never ending road works on the M25, and arrived at the Mayflower terminal by 1140,
There was no need for priority boarding today, and we were onboard and eating lunch in the Curzon lounge by mid day ( plus the odd glass ).

After muster stations, it was sail away time around the crystal pool with the theatre company and entertainment team.


Any P&O regulars may well recognise Terry Gleed ( above ) as he has been performing on P&O ships for many a year.

The entertainment for the evening was the normal " welcome on board" show. However special note must be made to the theatre company's performance of "bridge over troubled waters" which was excellent IMHO

Saturday started a bit on the grey side.


But still warm enough to sit out.

After lunch, we went to see the play Opposite Sex performed by the theatre company, and excellent it was too.
I won't divulge the plot, but it does have an adult theme.

The evening saw us trying our luck in a quiz, we reached a tie break at the end, but was let down in our Cliff Richard knowledge ( no pun intended )

On Sunday, we reached St Mary in the Scilly Isles. We were informed it was a tender port ( no problem ) but was not told we would have to use local boats and not the ship tenders.

Now the craft we boarded was a cross between an overgrown rowing boat, and a Viking long ship. Let's just say it was an Interesting trip ashore and back ( it did get a tad wet at times )

It was our first trip to the Scilly Isles, and what a lovely little port it is. We had booked the 2 hour shore exec walking tour. It was a great walk with an excellent guide who knew her stuff, but I do have to have a soap box moment.

This is something that I have blogged about before. there were 28 of us on the walk, all paying £26 each, for one guide and a cup of coffee at the end, I will let you do the maths :-(


We saw this fine fellow as we walked back to the quay, and I could not resist





Monday, 18 August 2014

A week in Suffolk

Im sure I  have bored you all silly, with my talk of retirement, but the day arrived, and now I'm a man of leisure ?

Because Sue had some leave left (after booking time off for the cruises). We decided to book a cottage for a week in Suffolk.

Sue chose The Old Dairy in Middleton, a village we stayed in at Easter this year, and liked it so much we went back.

It was also a chance to try out my new toy













So after lunch on Saturday, we packed and drove the 50 miles to the cottage. We arrived in glorious sunshine (with a hint of black clouds) but managed to sit out on the patio area once we had unpacked for a few glasses of vino.

The cottage was compact, but well appointed, and we were made to feel at home by the owner Liz. So if you venture up this way and want a cottage to stay in, this one comes recommended by us.

Sunday morning saw not very pleasant weather, so it was a mid morning trip to Saxmundham to purchase some essentials.

In the afternoon we popped down to RSPB Minsmere, in the hope that the rain would stop, and we could have a short walk. But it was not meant to be as there was no let up in the rain (until we left of course).
But we did manage a coffee and cake before we left.

On Monday we took the short cross country trip to near Stradbroke to see my brother Gerald and his wife Carole, and what a great day we had.

As Tuesday dawned the weather take a turn for the better, so we went back to Minsmere. If you are a fan of the BBC spring watch programme, it was broadcast from Minsmere this year.


Having been here at Easter, Minsmere looked very different as there were less birds about, but the butterflies helped make up for that















Wednesday, we travelled south to Snape Maltings, which as the names suggests is an old converted maltings in the village of Snape. We only thought we would be there for an hour of so, but no, we spent most of the day there, wandering around the many shops, then lunch in the local pub, and then a boat trip after that.
Culminating in a very nice ice cream sitting on the river bank.

For Thursday, we went cross border to Norfolk to Diss, another market town we had not been to before, but again how charming it was.
Just a word note to all you gents out there, at the top of town on the right hand side, there is a jewellry shop that also has a workshop that makes unique pieces (the wallet did take a bit of a battering), but as I had my new toy, I had to treat Sue.
The evening saw us go back to pick up Gerald and Carole and go out for a meal at their local pub.

And so to our last day Friday, my brother had recommended that we go to Aldeburgh as we had not been before. I managed a bit of celeb spotting as I saw Michael Gambon sitting outside a cafe taking his morning cup of coffee.

As you can see above, we were bathed in sunshine, until about 5 minutes after I took the photo, then the heavens opened for a short, but very sharp shower. 
Time for lunch saw us go back to the White Hart where we had stopped at Easter just to see if the food was still as good. And the answer is YES.

The chef must have known I had been there before as I ordered the rabbit pie, and it came with a big R on the pastry.

So our week came to an end, and what a week it had been, we had visited some great places that we had never been to before, and fell in love with Suffolk even more.

If you want to see some more photos I took, you can find them here

And so in a few weeks, we are back to cruising on P&O Adonia, it's great this retirement lark !!






Monday, 4 August 2014

Lest we forget

I'm sure you all know that Monday 4th August 2104 is 100 years since the start of World War I.

To mark theis notable anniversary Kentwell Hall held a recreation of "The Eve of War" the weekend before.

Most well known for their Tudor recreations, the Hall is steeped in history from Tudor times to modern day.

So, on the Sunday, we took our grandson Josh so see this living history.



The recruitment tent was kept busy for most of the day. they were fairly lenient with the age for recruitment, and said that they could have taken our 9 year old grandson Josh :-)

But it was soon time for a tea break



Some of the gentry played ball games on the lawn

Whilst some of the locals tried to "object" to the army officer




But amidst all of this, the post mistress still had to sort and deliver her mail.

And so the glorious day came to an end, we had all leant a small something of that time, and the sacrifice that had been made.

If you ever stop on a cruise across the sea, and you like your history, then a visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery comes highly recommended 



Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Where has the time gone ?

Sorry its been a while since my last blog, but I have been very busy at work outside of my local area of Harwich. Plus I recently decided, to move my retirement date a bit earlier, and I stop work at the end of July 2014.

So its been lots of discussions with my IFA on options, and company pensions.

It has also been quite sad going around the schools and play group that I go to, to inform them of my retirement.

But as I am sure you are all aware, I have not had the best of health over the past year, so its the right decision for me.

So we have 4 cruises to look forward to over the next 18 months, and, as I now do not have to worry about booking annual leave, we might squeeze in some long weekenders (Sue is still working)

So as long as the weather holds fine for August, you will find me in the garden, looking at the wildlife




Monday, 23 June 2014

Kentwell Hall Mid Summer Fayre

You can see from my last blog, that it was last weekend that we went to Kentwell Hall.
We liked it so much we went back again as it was the mid summer fayre

You can see my photos Here

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Kentwell Hall

If you have ever thought " I have been here before", then perhaps you should go to Kentwell Hall.

It's a 500 year old house in Long Melford Suffolk, that we have visited many times before, and is only a one hour drive from home
So that's what we did today (Saturday) as it was Tudor recreation time, with a 200 strong cast of all ages, dressed and acting tudor times.




Kentwell hall also does other "time themes" as it has a long long history.

But back to today, it was a shame after such tremendous weather, that today was very cloudy and cool, we even encountered some rain on the drive there. But don't let the weather put you off,  you will have a great day what ever the weather.

We have taken all of our grandchildren at some stage to Kentwell, as its  a real "living history" event for them, and they can learn so much, whilst having so much fun.


The "cast" are always willing to engage with you, give you some history, and explain their role, all the time keeping in character.
Today Sue had a long chat with an Alchemist apprentice, and very knowledgeable he was too for such a young person.

If you want to view some more photos I took today, you can find them here 

So go on, treat yourself to a slice of history 


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Flash Bang Wallop, what a picture ??

With credit to Tommy Steel for the title of this blog, this is a subject that I never thought I would write a blog about.
Photo Processing

Now from the outset, you have to know that I am a beginer at Digital Photography, and post production processing, but it just so happens I know a man who is a bit of a wizz.

My son in law Matthew has been a photography for many a year now, and guides me on all things photographic. You can see some of his work here and here

If you had read my previous blog on cruise on MS Braemar, you will have seen some pictures I took at Harwich.

For those of you are technically minded I use a Nikon D3100 with a Sigma 18-200 Lens and use Photoshop elements for post production, where I perform minor tweaks to my photos.

The photos below are all the same

As shot with no post production













After my post production













Then after Matthew had worked his magic


It just goes to show what software and expertise can to to a digital photo

Thursday, 5 June 2014

MS Braemar - Photos

As promised, here are the photos from our cruise on Fred Olsen MS Braemar

Leixoes here

La Coruna here

Aviles here

Santander here

Getxo here

Bordeaux here

Harwich here

Sunday, 1 June 2014

MS Braemar Cruise review

Fred Olsen MS Braemar 20th May to 1st June 2014

The Cruise
A 12 night Cheese and Wine cruise sailing from Harwich in Essex, calling at Portugal, Spain and France
And with it sailing from Harwich (20 minutes from home) made it ideal

The Ship
MS Braemar,  all of Fred's ships are of the mature type, she holds circa 1000 passengers and is similar IMHO to P&O Artemis ( as was )
As do ships of this age, you do not have all the mod cons you would expect of today's modern ships, but she gave a comfortable cruise.

Ports
Besides sailing from Harwich as an attraction for us, a lot of the ports were new to us
Leixoes ( for Oporto )
La Coruna
Aviles
Santander
Getxo ( for Bilbao )
Bordeaux 
The pick of the ports has to be Bordeaux and docking in the heart of the city. It's a pity that the planned use of three gangways to cope with the rising/falling tide could not be accommodated by the local authorities.
This meant only two could be used, with the one up to deck five, being more like a mountaineering expedition than boarding a cruise ship.
This meant those with walking difficulties had a real problem 



Entertainment
As I said in my blog, this was the first cruise for the theatre company, and we both thought they were excellent. It was also interesting to see them rehearsing in the lounges, something you never see on a P&O ship.
The quizzes were varied and plentiful, and we even won a few, and I think we have found our niche in "name that tune" as we won this twice with 20/20.
The crew show was a delight, with songs and dancing from their homeland of Thailand.
Special mention though must go to one of the entertainment team Wilmar for his demonstration of sand drawing, I have only ever seen this on YouTube, but to see it live was excellent.
The band In Tune which played primarily in the Coral Club, were the best I have seen / heard in all my years of cruising.
The comedian we had on board was Don Reid, we saw a couple of shows from him, which were OK, even if some of his material was older than me.
The flautist Stephen Clark and singer Jane Beaumont we did not go and see so cannot comment.

The Weather
As this was a May cruise and we did not go that far South, it was not a hot cruise, but pleasant enough to sit out on deck when the sun was out. The "Bay" did not trouble us too much, so that was a bonus. 

Food
Fred has a reputation for good food, and on this cruise we saw or tasted nothing to dispel that. Evening meals in the MDR come already plated, of good quality and variety .
The portion control is also better IMHO.
For breakfast and lunch we mainly eat in the Palms Cafe. Now for regular cruisers on P&O who eat in the buffet, you would not recognise the Palms. Crisp white linen table cloths, and you are shown to your table. It really is a million miles away from P&O and for the better.


Cabin
We had a superior outside cabin, which meant it had a picture window. The cabin was spacious enough, but the bathroom especially the shower was very cramped.


The Crew
Again another thing Fred is well known for, and they were all delightful, also it being a smaller ship, the really do get to know you, and us them. 
Top marks Fred !!

Summary
This is only our second Fred cruise, the first being a three nighter.
So it was good to be able to compare with other cruise lines on a longer cruise. Now although Fred ships are NOT adult only, they do attract an older passenger base. There were a few families on board with young children, celebrating an uncles 85th birthday and were a delight to have on board.
So all in all a very good cruise. Did we like Fred on a longer cruise ? Yes we did, which is good news as we are already booked for next March for the Solar Eclipse.

So as we say goodbye to Fred, we say hello again to P&O again later in the year to sail on Adonia, as she is the only one of the fleet we have not sailed on yet.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

MS Braemar the Final Part


Once again my Ipad ( OK it could have been me) lost today's blog, so here we are ,day 2 in Bordeaux, trying to remember what I typed yesterday.

On our sail out from Getxo ( for you P&O fans we passed Oceana docked in Bilbao ) the Captain announced that we would be picking up the pilot at 0330 for our long journey up the river  into the heart of Bordeaux, plus he would be arriving by helicopter. Well, 0330 is too early even for me, but I did get up on deck by 0700.
Of course there were not too many people about, so it was very quiet and all you could hear was the morning bird song from the trees along the  river bank


  Along with the mist banks rolling along the river, it was stunning and surreal in equal proportions 


We then went under our last bridge, before we arrived in Bordeaux
 

We had booked a lazy tour today, a panoramic (aka coach ride)  around the city, then a visit to a Chateau for a tour of the vines, and some sampling ( well we are in Bordeaux)


This is where it all begins


These hold one or two bottles :-)

Before being aged in Oak Barrels

You could of course then have purchased a bottle or two, but they were a tad expensive for my wallet.

By the time we had returned to the ship, the weather had closed in and yes, it was raining again .

Day 2

We were greated by blue skies this morning, plus other guests had joined us in this beautiful city.


No tour today, so it was out for a walk, and some retail therapy and time to enjoy the stunning architecture.


The children really seemed to enjoy this mist fountain 


Well that's all from Sue and myself for this cruise as later today we start our journey back to Harwich.

I will write a cruise review which I will post when we get home, i will also post some more photos.

Thank you all for joining Sue and myself on this cruise, and taking the time to read my ramblings

Until next time