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.

Disembarkation, Not! – Saturday 27th November

We had everything packed and shipped out ready for disembarkation last night and were taking advantage of the extra hour in bed as the clocks had gone back overnight. We’d decided to have a late breakfast as our disembarkation time had been put back to 13:00, so after a relaxed shower we headed up to the PG for one last time for food and collect the menus that our waiter had been collecting for us. After breakfast, we said our goodbyes and on leaving the restaurant Ionel, the Head Waiter said see you later which I thought was a little strange.

Back in the cabin, Jane set the timer for 30 mins as she wanted us to do a lateral flow test before going to her Dad’s. While waiting for that to happen there was an announcement from the Captain saying that it was far too dangerous for us to enter Southampton and that we would now not arrive at the Mayflower Terminal until tomorrow morning. This isn’t massive issue for us, we’ve not a long drive to Jane’s Dad’s place, and the dog is with a friend plus I’m not back at work for a week. I can imagine it is a real issue for others though.

I’ve heard tales of a Canadian couple for whom this is really problematic because of COVID test timings and having to reschedule flights.

They are making calls for people requiring their luggage to collect it from the Queen’s room.

I grabbed a couple of ours so that I had a Jacket for dinner and Jane wanted a complimentary top for her slacks. I nearly had a heart attack carting them up three flights back to our room wearing a facemask.

Jane wasn’t feeling well as the swell was bringing on her nausea, so I was dining alone again. While in PG the ship was canted right over with the cross winds with the horizon just sitting at the top of the PG windows and my glass of water showing a distinct tilt

It was a pain not to have a phone signal, but as one guest observed we were sailing outside British waters to allow the shops to open. Every so often we got within range of a phone mast and we got occasional service, but not enough to make a difference. The afternoon Trivia quiz was on as usual in the Garden Room so we headed up to meet our table mates for that at 4pm. We made a fairly dismal showing, only scoring 14/20 made worse since we’d recognised some of the questions from August and still got them wrong!

The outside decks were closed and had been pretty much since leaving Gibraltar, so crossing to the Commodore Club was made more awkward by having to descend a deck to be able to go from Stair B to Stair C, so we went to the Grills Lounge for drinks. Jane had a Dark and Stormy, but found it tasted strange. It smelt like it had been made with Whisky to me so she had a chat to the barstaff and it was replaced with a much better one made with Dark Rum.

After a rest back in the room it was back to the PG restaurant for what was hopefully our final dinner. Jane was feeling queasy as it was getting lumpy again so only had soup and salad. I, on the other hand, was feeling fine so started with ham hock terrine and pepper steak.

Final Sea Day – Friday 26th November

That was a lumpy old night. The wind had really got up and coupled with quite a heavy swell we were rocking back and forth all night, accompanied by crashes and the ship’s bow ploughed into the heavy seas. 5001 is a lovely suite, but not one for travellers that are sensitive to noise. Jane never made breakfast, but I popped up to Lido to grab her some Danishes to keep her strength up. Me I headed up to the PG restaurant for a proper breakfast before today’s lectures.

It was the final round of lectures, first up was Dave Mallinder speaking about Frank Sinatra. The second lecture was Cathy O’Dowd who talked about her attempt to conquer the last unclimbed ridge in the Himalayas, Manga Parbat, Pakistan’s infamous “Killer Mountain” She certainly has a flair for the dramatic, and the talk was very entertaining.

Lastly came Dr Sheona Urquhart, who went off on a tangent to her usual Cosmology lectures to talk about a life without satellites and on pre-industrial navigation.

I managed to leave my Kindle in the theatre and by the time I had realised the doors were locked for rehearsal. After a bit of a faff and with help from the Purser’s desk I retreived it in time for lunch in the PG

The weather had taken hold with the outside areas all closed off with red barriers in place at all of the doors to the deck. We decided to sit in the Grills Lounge to chill for a while, but the lumpy seas were making Jane feel unwell so we headed down to the stateroom where Jane could lie down. We missed the 4 O’clock quiz, a combination of sea sickness and last night’s lack of sleep catching up on us.

We decided that since both this and Commodore O’clock were wash outs, we should make the effort and have pre prandial drinks in the Grills Lounge. This allowed Jane to have a Ginger Cosmopolitan, as it would settle her stomach. I rather boringly had my usual.

The menu wasn’t very inspiring for a last night, so I had the Crab Scotch Egg from the A La Carte menu paired with fillet steak. Jane had soup and had a punt on Coconut and Pineapple encrusted Prawns, a good choice apparently.

We got some more news of tomorrow’s arrival, breakfast will be available 8 to 9:30 and the Grills Lounge will be open from 10am. Then it was back to the room to pack up dinner clothes and put the  cases out for collection.

Heading Home – Thursday 25th November

It was obvious overnight that we’d entered the Atlantic, my bed was moving around, and not in a good way. The crash of the waves on the bow had also resumed, not to the same extent as when we passed Cadiz, but noticeable. It’s a sea day so I’ve three lectures lined up starting at 10am, so a reasonably early breakfast was required. After a nice omelette we quickly popped to see the Concierge as, like a fool, I’d forgotten the Internet login for Jane’s allowance. That will teach me to register the account as required and not both at the start of the cruise.

My first lecture was with Dr Sheona Urquhart and her talk on our planetary neighbors. Hers have been my favourite series of lectures so far on the cruise, always delivered in a relaxed and informative style.

The second was Everest Explorer and mountaineer Cathy O’Dowd. She gave a very inspiring talk  on the trials of climbing Mount Everest. It was very good Indeed. I’m looking forward to her following lecture tomorrow.

The third and final of today’s lectures is the return of Dave Mallinder and his “Singers of the Great American Song Book” Tony Bennett. His lecture was scheduled to start at 12:15, I assume, so as not to clash with the Captain’s daily announcement, needless to say, the Captain was late with his announcement and cut Dave’s lecture just as it was starting.

We went to the PG for a late lunch and since we were at sea decided to take a constitutional around the Promenade Deck on 3 to walk off lunch. We did four windy laps before giving into the cold and heading up to the Grills Lounge for a coffee and stab at the crossword puzzle. Jane’s friend Lorna was there so she and Jane chatted until it was time for the Trivia quiz. We weren’t particularly good, only scoring 15/20 but we had fun.

Keeping true to habit, post quiz we headed for Commodore O’clock in the Commodore Club. Jane started with a Cosmopolitan followed by a Moscow Mule. I unsurprisingly had an Old Speckled Hen.

It was our final gala night, with a theme of Roaring 20’s. Jane had her special spangley dress and was looking the part. I had been very apprehensive about fitting into my Tux trousers, after 10 days of Princess Grill dining, but I released the last of the waistband buttons and I had just enough room to breathe. I had another excellent dinner, surpassing yesterday’s tandoori lamb cutlets, it was a prawn curry, possibly the tastiest prawn curry I’ve ever had, and I’ve had more than my fair share of curries. Jane chose to revisit the Corn Fed Chicken breast from the A La Carte menu and had the theatre of Crêpe Suzette for dessert.

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!!!

Valencia Actual – Sunday 21st November

 

The rain had abated overnight and we’d both had a better nights sleep with the ship docked overnight in Valencia. We had another walking tour booked ashore with an early start so the alarm was set for 07:30 ready for breakfast at eight. The Dock at Valencia is a bit of a distance from town, I’m not even sure that you’re allowed to walk out as a pedestrian, so we had a bit of coach ride to get to the start of our tour, hampered also by some road’s being closed for a Marathon.

We start the tour just across the river from Torres de Serranos and walked around the centre of Valencia being shown the sights by a very informative guide. Past the Cathedral, multiple bell towers, the central market and the Silk Exchange with its pillars of depravity.

Valencia was very nice, a bit too crowded for Jane to feel comfortable, so rather than going for a womble around town we headed back to the ship for lunch.

After lunch it was sunbathing time for Jane as it was quite nice with a little broken sun, I was rather boring and headed inside to watch the Grand Prix instead.

I was summoned to the Commodore Club for cocktails at 5 where we were joined by one of the ladies from our Lisbon tour. This suited me as Lorna and Jane could chat amongst themselves while I caught up on some reading. A couple of Old Speckled Hens later we headed off to the stateroom to get ready for dinner.

It was rack of lamb tonight so Jane was happy. We’ve decided that Sachin, our waiter, is a feeder. He came along with a second portion of lamb rack as he knew it was Jane’s favourite, and is constantly trying to get me to have two desserts, and I really don’t need any encouragement on that front. There was a lot of flambé activity again with Crepes Suzette on offer.

Valencia A Day Early – Saturday 20th November

We broke the storm overnight, it was much calmer and although I was woken a couple of times by waves crashing into the bow we slept much better. We are arriving in Valencia ahead of schedule and will be docking at 12:30. They have put on some extra shore excursions for today, but we’re not going to bother. The weather looks pretty poor all day, so we may not even go ashore today.
We had a light breakfast before heading down to the theatre for today’s insights lectures. First off was Dave Mallinder speaking on the life of Sammy Davies jnr. Jane joined me for this one again as she likes a bit of pop music. The second one was Dr Sheona Urquhart with a fluffy lecture covering the mythical side of cosmology.


After that I headed back to the stateroom to meet up with Jane before lunch. We were arriving into port, as I got there, so we’re back with a phone signal, this allowed me to catch up with work and do some geeky housekeeping.

It was pasta for lunch, so we both opted for the Carbonara, I had spicy crab cakes as a starter and custard tart for dessert. We went back to the stateroom to watch Chelsea’s demolition of Leicester. Jane rapidly got bored by this, so we went up to the Garden Lounge for the quiz, even though our quizmates we’re off on a tour. We didn’t win, but we didn’t disgrace ourself with 15/20.
After that we went to the Grills Lounge for Commodore O’clock where Jane met up with a lady who we’d met while on our Lisbon trip so had a good gossip with her. 

 

It was our second Gala night, Red & Gold, for which I was prepared with a themed bow tie and cummerbund, but Jane was relying on getting some accessories for her black gown in either Cadiz but missing the first and the constant rain meant we weren’t going into town, so Jane was off theme. She still looked wonderful and it didn’t detract from an excellent dinner. The head waiter was showing off his skills again, this time flambéing cherries for the baked Alaska. We took our first trip to the theatre after dinner to see the singers Forever Tenors.

 

Cadiz or Not – Friday  November 19th

It was extremely lumpy during the night as we hit 45 KT winds traversing from Lisbon to Cadiz. I was woken at 00:45 by a massive crashing and then through the night multiple times. At least I managed to get some sleep, Jane didn’t. There was announcement by the captain at 08:30 informing us that the winds at Cadiz were outside the safety limits for a ship of out size to dock and that we would be carrying on to Valencia instead.

We had nothing booked for Cadiz so another sea day is no hardship for us.
I went to breakfast alone as Jane was exhausted, with the instructions to bring her something nice back. Sachin dutifully supplied me with an American bacon and Avocado Bagel, even volunteering to get room service to deliver while I had my fry-up. I declined as I wanted the plaudits for delivering.
After breakfast I popped down to the Pursers office to pick up revised daily programme. There were two new lectures planned, firstly,  Dr Sheona Urquhart explaining everything about the Cosmos, or as such as can be fitted into 45 mins. I’ve really enjoyed her lectures on this cruise.


Secondly Dave Mallinder spoke on Doris Day. Jane came to this one, so he’s honoured as that’s the second of his she’s been to now.
We went up to the Grills lounge to have a coffee, but there wasn’t a free seat to be had, so we walked back down to the Garden Lounge for a tea instead. We then went back up to the Grills for lunch. Whitebait followed by Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. Jane has cauliflower cheese soup and seafood pasta.


There were some free seats in the lounge after lunch so we had a coffee there before heading off to do a bit of laundry.
We were so near with the Trivia Quiz, 17/20 again with the winners on 18 – so close, with two 50/50 questions letting us down.
The Captain said the storm should have been abating at 18:00 but on return to stateroom after cocktails in the Commodore Club it’s just as noisy in the room and the winds are still hitting over 50 knots. There’s a lot of wind noise through the balcony doors and when a wave slams into the bow it sounds like a thunderclap. It’s no wonder Jane had such a terrible nights sleep.
Smart Attire again tonight for dinner where I’m having Jimbo prawn tempura and pork cutlet. Jane went A La Carte and had shrimp tempura and a delicious looking chicken and prawn dish