This is my original blog – all my blogs  since I started in 2009 - are here including those from The Ale Archive – all the beers I’ve sampled at home and on our travels since 2012.
 
Since 2012 most of our travel has involved a caravan. I now have a specific caravanning blog called (Get Your) Legs Down which not only documents all our trips but includes product reviews, site listings, storage locations, mobile service engineers and much more. It too is on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Don't be Scilly

We are now on the last leg of our journey - along the English channel having left the Scilly Isles yesterday evening. We are due to arrive in Tilbury at 7.00am tomorrow.

Guernsey was ok though we didn't do a lot. Was here four years ago on a certain other cruise line when we done a museum and had a tour of the island. It was a nightmare getting the old dears on and off the tenders though and it was decided that they would stay on board the next day.

The Scilly Isles were great. It was tender service again though this time local ones were used, which were bigger if not any easier to get in and out of!

We had a whistle stop bus tour of the island of St Mary's which was very entertaining thanks to the drivers knowledge and ready wit, then refuelled in a quayside boozer before getting the ferry over to Tresco. Tresco is very pretty, no doubt helped by the fact that there are no cars or lorries on the island. The bus service is a cart pulled by a tractor. Golf type buggies take care the rest of the islands transportation needs. We did not get the chance to see any of the other islands, of which there are many, although only five are inhabited. It was sunny most of the day but the constant wind kept it quite chilly. There was a lot of wind on the ship too but that’s a different story!

We've only done one main show - a medley of songs from some of the Lloyd Webber musicals. It was ok though the sound quality wasn't great. Most of our times has been spent in Scott's Bar - the late night bar at the back of the ship. They have had a very good duo on keyboards and vocals early evening then a trio from the entertainment staff singing later on - followed even later by a disco. The choice of music suited us lot as well - Abba, Bee Gees, Gloria Gayner - you get the idea. Most of the 'late shift' in our crowd have had a dance or two, and yours truly even got a round of applause from not only the 'audience' but the bar staff too for doing my stuff to 'Tragedy'. Well, the beer was flowing well!

The early problems aside its been fun. You could pick holes in many aspects of the running of the ship all day long. Whilst being well maintained inside, the outside is a bit shabby. A small number of the crew have a 'rather not' than a 'can do' attitude but many have been excellent. I should add at this point that Eric & Nina were able to get their cabin changed too - and the new one was much better.

Originally named as 'Alexander Pushkin' when it was built in 1965, for many years she was the flagship of the Baltic Shipping Company. The current operators lease the ship now in what is undoubtedly the autumn of her years. Tighter regulations concerning safety and engine emissions make it harder and harder for these old ships to keep going which in a way is a shame as they have so much more character than their modern replacements.

Anyway, there it is. Home tomorrow  and I think a few days drying out might be in order - and a diet if I'm gonna continue with the John Travolta nonsense on the dance floor!

Until next time.....

Thursday, 1 April 2010

It's not like this on Cunard

If I had a quid for every time I've heard that phrase being uttered the last couple of days I could afford another cruise - on, well er, Cunard!

As I type we are in the historic port of Rouen, 53 miles inland up the beautiful river Seine. It's been an interesting journey.........

We are on the Marco Polo, a 45 year old classic liner with more face lifts than Joan Collins. Accommodating 800 odd passengers (some of them very odd) and weighing in at 22,000 tonnes she is tiny compared to modern cruise ships but does retain some classic features such as the original wooden decks and genuine oily whiffs from the engine room. Seriously though she is a very nice reasonably well kept old crate.

Well, she arrived late in Tilbury having apparently picked up Brits still stranded abroad because of the recent air travel disruptions. It wasn’t a major drama though as we just decamped to the nearby pub for lunch. When I say we, there are quite a few of us on this jolly - myself, Trev, Joe from Hove Actually and Joe & Doug who were on the Queen Vic with us last year. We travelled up from Brighton together. Travelling separately were Kevin & Lawrence and coming from Cambridge were HRH (AKA Trev's' Mum), Trev's Sister & Brother-in-law; Ray & Rose and Trev's Uncle & Aunty; Eric & Nina. Hugh & Matt completed our contingent

Anyhow, the journey up was good, the weather was great and the beer was delicious and at about 3.30pm after a little mucking around with car parking we were on board. Our cabin was fine as was most of the others however Eric & Nina's was not nice particularly as they had paid the most for it and this was their first cruise. However, this was the least of their problems as we shall see.

We left on the (revised) dot at 5.30pm and when soon heading out to the Thames estuary, past Southend then heading around the corner past Margate and into the English Channel.

Dinner was at 8.15pm and were on a table with 'the family' and Joe, while the rest of the boys occupied a table a short way away. The food was good, though the portions were not over generous. HRH & Rose took more than one opportunity to avail Eric & Nina with tales of how much better everything was on Cunards ships. Considering the problems with their cabin this was really rubbing salt in the wounds. How come arthritis never occurs in the jaw?

Dinner completed we adjourned to one of the bars, Rose & Ray escorting the 'oldies' to bed. News soon came however that Nina had collapsed and fainted in the corridor and the crew had taken her to the ships medical centre for assessment. Nina had had a stroke a few years ago so communication was difficult and this helped to raise a question mark in the doctors minds as to whether she would be fit enough to continue the cruise. They elected to keep her in the medical centre overnight (cue the sound of a cash register) and run some tests (cue same sound effects). We called in before retiring to check that she was ok and to have a quick word with the doctor.

We awoke to a beautiful if slightly groggy morning and headed up on deck for some much needed coffee and fresh air. The old girl had already entered the estuary and was gradually making her way up the Seine. The scenery was absolutely beautiful - tree covered hillsides giving glimpses of idyllic French chateaux all passing by at a delightfully leisurely pace under a blue, if slightly hazy sky.

The news from the medical centre was mixed. Nina had had a reasonable night but the doctors were insisting that she must go to hospital once we reach Rouen - the reason being that they want independent verification that she was fit to continue the cruise. Regulations apparently and there was no argument - well there was (Trevor was doing the 'negotiating') but their position remained the same - hospital for tests or disembarkation!

Shortly after 2.00pm we arrived in Rouen. It was decided that me and Trev would accompany Nina & Eric to the hospital - my schoolboy grasp of French might come in handy - so we proceeded ashore to the waiting taxi. The ship had arranged for the taxi to take us directly to the door, which he did. Unfortunately it was the wrong door. 10 minutes of mucking around in the lifts before we did what we should have done in the first place and gone straight to A & E.

Now, no matter what you may say about the French (and who doesn’t?) the service could not have been better. The young ladies on reception summoned an intern who they knew could speak English and she got us booked in. An equally helpful chap on an adjacent desk processed the paperwork and in no time Nina was in a cubicle seeing a doctor.

The news was good, the doctor went through the sheaf of paperwork provided by the ship and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. He signed the 'fit to travel' section and in a short space of time we were on our way back to the ship.

The evening meal was, well edible however again the portions are not great so you do need to pick from all five courses for a good fill. Service was prompt though.

The ship was staying in town overnight so with suits discarded we headed ashore in  the hope of getting into the city to sample some of the nightlife. No taxis were to be seen however so we headed back. Some persisted however but only stayed for one drink.

The following morning was sunny but a little chillier. Blood ran cold though when it was revealed that the bill for the overnight stay in the ships hospital was nearly two and a half thousand pounds - yes you read it right - £2,500.00. Absolutely outrageous - of course they're insured, but really!

We didn’t venture ashore but just had a relaxing day on deck instead. The ship left on the dot at 5.45pm for our journey back up the Seine to the estuary at Le Harve and on to our next port of call at St Peter Port, Guernsey.

This evening was the Captains cocktail party, but we eschewed the lure of standing in a hot and stuffy lounge with a glass of warm cheap fizz and headed instead to our usual watering hole at the back of the ship for a  pre dinner drink.

Slower service in the restaurant tonight but the quality of the food more than made up for it, then it was back to cabin to get out of the dinner suits before returning to the bar for the late shift. A request to the DJ  was soon made and soon the opening bars of Abba's 'Dancing Queen' heralded the arrival of dancing queens on to the dance floor - well most of us anyway!

More to come soon all being well, that is if I can find the time around my new career of caring for the elderly. Honestly, If I hear the words 'I'm no trouble' once more I wont be responsible for my actions! At least it's something else to put on my CV though!