Port Days

Bergen From a Distance – Monday 28th March

We arrived in Bergen at about 7am, not that it made any difference to our plans. We hadn’t any excursions booked for Bergen so had decided to stay in our room for the day.

Being stuck in the room in quarantine, you end up getting into a bit of a routine. Mainly around ordering meals, the daily round of requesting new mugs and glasses but mainly meals. We ended up waiting 90 minutes for lunch as that had gone missing, but a chasing phone call brought about by rumbling stomachs resolved that.. We had a phone call from our erstwhile quiz mates to say that they had actually won one and that they wanted to donate the prize of a bottle of wine to us to cheer us up. Thank you Sarah, Andy, Mark and Pam it will be very much appreciated.

Narvik – Friday 25th March

My hip has been playing up for a while with a bit more pain than I have had recently so I had decided not to leave this ship today, we hadn’t had any excursions booked so it was going to be a quiet day on board for us.

We went down for breakfast first thing before heading off to the Grills Lounge for a nice coffee. While I was sat there sipping my flat white Jane commented that I was sniffing a bit and I had noticed that I had a bit of a sore throat, so it was decided that we’d head back to the room where we had some LFT test kits and I would take a covid test. 20 minutes later and I had two bright lines at C & T showing I was Covid positive. From then on it was action stations, first calling 911 to inform the medical team. They dispatched a blue suited medic to carry out tests on both Jane and myself. Mine came back positive as expected whereas Jane was negative. This left us with two options Both of us go into quarantine or I go into quarantine and Jane into Isolation. I’m not sure what isolation would involve apart from not being cooped up with me and it’s only 5 days until we return to Southampton so we decided to get locked up together.

We packed up all our gear, donned masks and were escorted into the crew elevator and down to deck 6 where we were shown to room 6138, a standard balcony room in the quarantine area. Apart from the disappointment of going from a Grills Suite to a standard room we found that the room hadn’t been prepared to receive guests and not to same configuration as we had. There weren’t enough pillows, no bottled water and missing tea making facilities. The bed was set up as a double, where we’d had it set up as a twin to facilitate my dodgy hip.

I expressed my disappointment to the purser’s office that there weren’t any Grills quarantine rooms so we’d have to make do. The first half day was all a bit moany. Every time we went to do something we found bits missing, towels in the bathroom, dressing gowns, slippers, menus, all the things that you need when confined. That involved a lot of phoning around with us finding the purser’s office to be less than helpful, luckily as Grills passengers we have the dedicated Grills Concierge, Cynthia, who has been superb, always helpful and has been able to handle all our requests with zero fuss.

It was time now to dig in for the next five days and try not to kill each other, time will tell………….

Snowy Sea Day Heading South – Thursday 24th March

It was another quiet sea day today, only two lectures again which is disappointing. Not the lectures themselves, but the fact that there are only two per day. First up was John Mclean and the mythology of Norse Astronomy followed by Stuart Musgrave’s talk on Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon Tiki and Rah II expeditions

Because of this I’d missed out on the morning’s trivia and Jane was beside herself waiting to tell me that they had got 17/20 without me. After lunch we met up with the rest of the quizzers for the Music Intro’s quiz – 70’s intro’s were right up our street, unfortunately given the demographic it was up every elses street as wall. We were rather smug with 38/40 but we didn’t win. I had got very excited while the compere was teeing up the quiz she played the intro for Rammstein’s Sonne knowing I was probably the only person that would know that unfortunately it was 70’s and not 2000’s Industrial Metal

We chilled in the Grill’s Lounge with a coffee until it was time for the trivia quiz at 16:15, More success, this time 18/20 but it not to be our lucky day someone had gained 20/20

Ah well, it was rime to drown my sorrows in the Commodore Club with my usual Doombar. Jane had a Brandy Alexander followed by a Margarita. There have been canapes served every night in the Commodore Club so far, which is a nice return of an old tradition.

It was another non-gala night so we were up in the PG dining room at 8pm. It was lamb cutlet tonight so Jane got a basin full of those. I ordered a Thai Red Prawn Curry with extra spice, lovely. Jim at the next table was very quiet and when Jane enquired of him his wife Rosa said he had a bit of a cold.

Tipping it Down in Tromso – Wednesday 23rd March

The Red and Gold Gala dinner was a roaring success for Jane as she looked wonderful in her new frock, and I didn’t look too shabby either, if I say so myself. We were looking so good we went in search of a photographer before dinner down on deck two only to be thwarted by the long queues. Not one for queuing for anything we decided to come back after we’d eaten, and try again.

Dinner itself was very good, with Jane ordering Scallops, I nearly went for the wellington, but decided on the Langostine Ravioli from the a la carte menu to make the wine choice easier, an excellent Pouilly Fume. Dessert was a whole load more exciting with Jane having Crepes Suzette and I had Baked Alaska. They were both “flaming” nice. I have one complaint though, surely a “baked” Alaska should have been somewhere near an oven during its construction.

Firey Dessert

We had no trips planned until our chase the Aurora trip at 19:30 and with it being a port day there were no lectures schedules. The weather was miserable, so there was no chance of getting me on a shuttle bus into Tromso either. So after a hearty breakfast in the PG restaurant we headed down to the Garden Lounge for the early trivia quiz. None of our quizzing pals were around so it was down to just Jane and myself to uphold the honour. Needless to say we outdid ourselves gaining a measly eight points, 8/20. mind you this must have been a very hard quiz as the winning points were only 13/20. I don’t think we’ll be coming back from this cruise weighed down with prizes.

The rest of the day involved lounging, eating lunch and more lounging before we met up with Mark, Pam, Andy and Sarah for the afternoon trivia. We were back to our normal 13/20 score. for this one.

Our View Over Tromso

We had decided to eat in the Lido tonight, as our trip departed right on dinner time. I have to say I was not impressed at all, we had pizza from the pizza station and a salad from the salad bar, both were uninspiring with the pizza having a very hard biscuit base and the salad was just a bit meh! We were sat with Andy and Sarah and their meal of roast pork didn’t look appetising either. The choices of dessert was also limited. All in all I don’t see why people would choose to eat here in preference to the MDR.

The Northern Lights Mmmmm!

At 19;30 I limped my way down to deck A and the gangplank and waiting coaches, ready to whisk us away in search of the elusive Northern Lights. It was an hour’s drive to the car park out beyond the reach of the light pollution of Tromso. Here we would spend the next three hours shivering in the cold looking skywards. Apparently the Aurora was dispersed and everywhere but I couldn’t see it and ended up back in the coach to rest my leg. When we were given the nod that it had been spotted and although weak was there. Jane went out with the camera and came back about 30 minutes later with a bunch of photos, some of which might have the Auroa in them. All in all it was a bit underwhelming. The journey back was nice especially as the driver took us on a shortcut under the sea tunnel which enabled us to beat the other coaches back. We waited to disembark and were the last off as Jane had lost an earring and glove some time earlier. Luckily I spotted both and we were off and in the Lido grabbing a tea and nibbles from the midnight supper service.

Alesund in the Sun – Monday 21st March

Last night’s dinner was much less stressful than the Black and White Gala night, mainly because I wore a pair of trousers that weren’t actively trying to chop me in half, that and I wasn’t wearing a tie your own bow tie.

I’d forgotten to pack gloves, which is a bit of a schoolboy error on a trip above the Arctic circle, so after a hearty breakfast we headed into Alesund to do a little shopping and maybe a bit of sightseeing. We’d bearthed right in the centre of Alesund, so it was just a short hobble off the ship and before long we’d found a glove and hat shop which fulfilled my needs and 225Kr later I was the proud owner of a pair of thinsulate mittens.

I was getting quite tired by now so we headed back to the ship for a coffee and maybe to sit in the sun for a while before our excursion at 12:30, a cruise on Hjorundfijord. It was glorious sitting on the grills sun deck with a cappuccino. I left Jane out there to relax on one of the loungers as the sun was too bright for my screen.

The cruise was very enjoyable, with the stunning Norwegian scenary taking centre stage. It was quite long at three hours, but we’ll worth it. We had missed lunch, hence the hearty breakfast, but we had hoped to make it back to the ship for Afternoon Tea, which we did manage by the skin of our teeth. Jane was very impressed with the tea which was both hot and not dishwater, which was our previous experience.

From there we went down to the Garden room where we hoped to meet up with our erstwhile quiz partners Sarah and Andy, but they were nowhere to be seen, but another couple from the Cruise Critic group were there, so we joined them. We didn’t win but we did get our highest score so far for the Afternoon Trivia quiz.

Commodore O’clock coincided with us leaving Alesund, which meant that all the window seats were taken, this wasn’t an issue as there were still plenty available where I had my ubiquitous Doombar and Jane had a QE II cocktail.

Embarkation, Norway Here We Come – Friday 18th March

We’d bundled the pooch off to “Aunties” for his holidays on Thursday, so our alarm clock wasn’t around to get us up this morning, but no problems, I couldn’t sleep because of the pain in my mending pelvis, so I was up nice and early and ready for the drive down to Southampton as a passenger this time with Jane doing the driving duties. The journey was uneventful and we were at the testing centre at Mayflower well ahead of schedule. This part of the cruise is unchanged with the LFT testing going smoothly and us heading out and onto Dock gate 4 and Ocean terminal. The trek from dropping the car off to sitting in the waiting area, post check in was the furthest I’d walked since my accident in December so I was glad of the wait for security to open. It wasn’t long before we were in stateroom 7064 with our bags piled up outside waiting for us.This room is a standard P1 and very nice but not a patch on room 5001 for size and layout, but hopefully it won’t have the incessant crashing from the bow hitting waves in rough seas.

First things first, dinner time, ooops sorry I forgot we are in the Grills, lunch time. We got the lift, no stairs for me yet, up to the PG restaurant on deck 11 for sustenance. Pasta at lunch is always excellent, no matter which restaurant on Cunard and the Italian Sausage Papadrelle was delicious. It’s good to have lunch on embarkation as you get to meet the waiters while things are more relaxed. After lunch it was a quick pit-stop in the Grills lounge for a cappuccino as I fancied a nice coffee before unpacking all those cases back in the state room.

We attended muster on the way back to the room, but when we got to our allotted station there was no one to scan our cards, we had to go down to deck 2 for that. Then it was all go suits, shirts and trousers all unpacked and hung up, all sorted which exhausted me again so I had a lie down while Jane finished up hers bolstered by a glass of the dreaded “Pol Acker”

Commodore O’Clock was calling, and who are we not to hear. It’s only three flights to deck 10 but we got the lift for obvious reasons and grabbed a seat away from the windows and near the band, yep a full on jazz band which is a first for me in the Commodore Club. It’s like putting on a comfy pair of slippers, sitting down with a Doombar and a Cosmopolitan just feels right. We are going to be late getting away as a lady has been taken unwell and we are waiting for an ambulance to pick her up. After a second drink and the rarely sighted Canapes we had an announcement from the Captain to say the lady was in safe hands and we would shortly be on our way.

Southampton At Last – Sunday 28th November

I woke before my 07:00 alarm with lights twinkling through a gap in the balcony curtains as we sailed up into Southampton. It was nice to be on calm waters again after the last few stormy sea days. It was also nice to have a phone signal.

We were scheduled for departure at “Cowboy Time”, so we didn’t need to rush up to breakfast. The PG restaurant was open for an early sitting from 07:00 to 08:30, so after a final shower it was nice to be able to go straight up in Lift C to deck 10 and walk across the deck to PG. We were greeted by a lovely sunrise and clear blue skies, it was very chilly though, so I was glad to be wrapped up warm.

Fully fueled I was now ready to get off the ship, so we said a final farewell to Sachin and Karen who had, so ably, looked after us for the last 13 days and headed back to the soon to wait for our departure time. We have been instructed to leave directly from the room, which is the same as our August disembarkation. Unlike August though the Air Bridge seems to be working.

We picked up our hand luggage and after checking the room for one last time, headed down at 09:45 to finally leave the ship. Departing was painless and after collecting all our bags, we had the short walk to CPS to collect the car and head off.

Gibraltar – Wednesday 24th November

My early morning alarm was a little earlier today, I was awakened by the ship’s arrival into Gibraltar at 06:45. This is no bad thing as I wanted to get ahead of the curve ready for an exciting morning’s shopping (btw this is sarcasm/irony) in Gibraltar.

I was alone for breakfast, Jane had booked room service ready for the rush out to the rock, so I went alone to the PG to collect postcards from our table mates that required posting at the Post Office, so saving them a trip if they were back late from their  tour.

I was all done by 8:45 and picked Jane up from the Stateroom before we descended to Deck A and off the ship into Gibraltar. We walked to the centre rather than take the ship’s shuttle buses, yet another futile weight management attempt. Needless to say a fortune was saved on our purchases…apparently. We wrote and posted postcards, then headed back to the ship to enjoy the last of our winter sun. The lower of the Grills terraces was mainly in shade, but it was glorious sunshine on the upper,  deck 12. It was lovely in the sun, but the chill in the air is very noticeable if the sun is obscured by a cloud. When this happened we decided it was Fish and Chips time in the pub. I followed this, with half a sticky toffee pudding dessert as Jane, “didn’t want a dessert”

After the pub it was back upstairs to get the last of the sun and watch the departure from Gibraltar from Deck 12’s vantage point. I didn’t last very long as the clouds came over and with the sun obscured and the wind picking up it was cold and a nice hot cappuccino had my name all over it in the Grills Lounge.

Jane eventually gave up trying to get a tan and joined me for a coffee before it was Trivia Time In the Garden Lounge. Jane felt very uncomfortable with my table choice, in the middle of the room as that was where the braniacs sat. It mustn’t have rubbed off on us though, we ended up with our usual 17/20 final tally.

Commodore O’clock followed, in the Commodore Club for a change. It’s always a quandary, Grills Lounge or Commodore Club. The Grills Lounge has better nibbles and canapes as well as free coffee, but worse views and less ambiance.

I had my best dinner tonight, tandoori lamb cutlets and Jane had roast beef. Mine was excellent, nicely spiced with just the correct amount of chilli kick.

Malaga – Tuesday 23rd November

We’ve nothing planned today so had a lie in before heading up to the PG for a leisurely breakfast. I tried to keep it light with an omelette again, but the pastries looked too nice so succumbed to a cinnamon danish.

We headed back to the stateroom to get some laundry out of the way as today is a quiet day for us. I was tasked with ironing several of Jane’s dresses, she’s left handed and apparently the fixed ironing boards are difficult to use. I find all ironing boards difficult to use so I’m not sure that washes with me, but anything for an easy life.

Once that was done I headed up to the Grills Terrace to bag a couple of sun loungers. It’s not as chilly today, even out of the sun. I’d even taken my top off, to get some sun, much to the dismay of my fellow travellers. We had a late lunch in PG with the intention of sunning ourselves for an hour after and the heading into Malaga for a walk.

We were out for a couple of hours, just walking around. The shuttle into town seemed very slow, and it also felt uncomfortable, so rather than getting it back, we decided to walk back. It’s a very nice walk, with a lovely promenade followed by the beach rather than just an industrial dock side.

Once back it was Commodore O’clock, so we headed up to the Grills Terrace again where one of the tables were free, so we sat there in the sun. Jane had an Aperol Spritz and surprise, surprise I had an Old Speckled Hen. We were joined by our mad Welsh friend who had spent the day in Mijhas. Jane then changed up her drink to a Margarita.

It was another Smart Attire night, so I didn’t have the worry that I can fit into my trousers that I have on Gala nights. Jane explored the new A La Carte menu opting for Chicken breast with a mushroom Ragu and potato rosti. A much better choice than my bacon wrapped pork fillet, which was a little overcooked and dry. Not enough to complain about as the staff would have swapped it out in a blink, but I’ve had better.

The show was the Fly Rites and as Jane had been very impressed with them on our August Staycation cruise she insisted we attend their show. I’ll just say they weren’t my cup of tea and leave it at that. Other members of the audience obviously disagreed with my assessment as they were dancing in the aisles.

Cartagena – Monday 22nd November

We arrived in Cartagena at 8am this morning to glorious sunshine, which has been lacking on this cruise so far. We, again, were booked on a walking tour. This time it was a Tapas Trail, there’s nothing I like better than an eating tour. It wasn’t such an early start today so we had a leisurely breakfast. Not too much, just an omelette, as we’ve made the mistake before and struggled. We made the right decision as the Tapas was very generous, with 4 different Tapas and a beer with each or a glass of red for Jane.

Our guide, Sirena, shepherded us though the Roman amplitheatre, showing us lots of Cartagena’s history all the time plying us with various savoury treats, ending up with a boozy coffee before we returned to the ship.
Jane was determined to get some sun, so after dumping our bags back in the room we headed to get a sunbed on the Grills Terrace. But the weather gods intervened and before we’d got an hour in it started to rain.
We escaped the rain in the Grills Lounge, taking advantage of the free coffee and had a cappuccino.

The sun did come back out but the stewards had cleared the terrace of the beds so that the cushions didn’t get wet. There were sun loungers on the upper terrace sheltered from the rain under the shades, so we grabbed a couple of those until the ship departed Cartagena at 16:30.
We had Commodore O’clock in the Grills Lounge as Jane fancied snacking on olives. We never got the olives, but the waiters did come around with some cold canapes which were very nice.

I had my usual Old Speckled Hen and Jane had a Moscow Mule Deluxe which she enjoyed.
Dinner was Surf and Turf and as usual Jane got the biggest portion, I’m suspecting that our waiter has a crush on her!!!