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Friday, 9 October 2015

So my journey starts

Friday 9th October 2015

Sue and myself had a pleasant day in Frinton today with a mooch around the shops, lunch, then a sit on the front 

We had just sat down to watch a bit of TV, when Colchester hospital called, and we booked my first session of Chemo for Friday 16th October, so further updates from then.

Another call from Colchester hospital, need a blood test before chemo ( to get a base line )
Normally this would not be a problem, but without transport it's a different story

Tuesday 13th October 2015

My GP surgery had managed to to find me an appointment for a blood test, but not in the surgery in the village, where I could walk to, but at the Kirby Cross Surgery which is 3 miles from where I live.

Helping Hands to the rescue !!!

Helping Hands is a local charity, that provides services for anyone over 60 or who is disabled.
Thery provide transport @45p mile ( min £5) 
Now they ask for 48 hours notice, but this time they pulled out all the stops and managed to find a driver ( they are all volunteers ) in a few hours, and I got my blood test.
This morning was not a good one for me. As I had servere ache in my leg joints which was not pleasant, but it did manage to leave the joints as the morning wore on.


Friday 16th October 2015

Soon to be off to Colchester hospital for my chemo, yesterday morning did not think I would make this today, as I did feel very crap, and even had to go back to bed. 
But I did improve during the day, and today , I'm fine. 
So it's into battle with Mr C with the chemo.

A little tip for any male about to undertake chemo, if the the back of your hands are quite hairy. I always shave the backs of my hands. This stops the pain of hairs being pulled out slowly as they remove the cannula 

So arriving at the Mary Barron suite I was surprised when I was called in from reception as I was very early. But Heho, nothing is ever as it seems and I did have a long wait.
They had to adjust the dose of one of the chemo drugs, as my blood results showed a border liver function.
But the transfusion was very quick, and soon round 1 was over, and on to round 2 on 5th November. 

I have not had too many side effects, other than I have been a bit wobbly the day afterwards.

So I think that's all for now, see you all on bonfire night

Bye bye 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

I'm back ( well maybe )

If you had read my last blog, you will know that things medically had gone a bit down hill for me.

Well I think the big man upstairs has smiled down on me.

I actually do not feel feel like someone who is going to "pop his clogs" in the next few months, and I'm not doing too bad.

I have had 5 sessions of radio therapy on my spine and brain. 

I went to see my Oncologist yesterday and they have performed even more tests on the bone marrow they extracted earlier, and he confirmed that I have " bog standard " ( non smoking related ) Lung Cancer.

So my Oncologist is very happy with the way I am at present, so we are going to attack Mr C with a course of chemo to keep him at bay.

Mr Oncologist even said I could take a cruise, and it just so happens I still have the transit of the Panama Canal on my bucket list. We are going to see once I have finished the chemo if we can find a cruise, and more importantly an insurance company, that will insure us, without me getting a mortgage.

I have also decided to blog whilst I take my journey with Mr Cannula for my chemo, but I promise it will not be gruesome 

So until I start,

Bye bye 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

And Goodbye

And so the time has come for me to write my last blog.

You will all know that my battle with Mr C started in 2009 with CLL, and I and the doctors thought it was returning. 

Well it seems it was all a bit more serious than that, and it had turned into stage 4 lung cancer, that had spread to my brain and bones. 

So the prognosis is just a few months left, which of course has meant a curtailment of our cruises, and my blogs.

So this will be my last blog, as I say goodbye, and thank you all for taking the time to read the blogs.

So fair weather sailing to you all, and may all your seas calm. 

And until we met in that big cruise ship in the sky. 

Bye bye.


Saturday, 6 June 2015

P&O Britannia B508 Photos

As promised, here are links to my photos

St Peter Port here

La Coruna here

Bilbao here

La Rochelle here

Views around Britannia here

Sunday, 31 May 2015

P&O Britannia B508 Cruise Review

7 nights from Southampton calling at

St Peter Port
La Coruna
Bilbao
La Rochelle 

Please remember that this review is my thoughts on the cruise, they are neither right or wrong, just my views.
Also, any observations made, are not moans, but just observations


The Ship

Britiannia had been a long time in the making, and was much publicised and eagerly awaited by many.
Your first thoughts as you board this grand lady and enter the Atrium is WOW.
All the photos and videos you may have seen, cannot prepare you for the view.
We all know she is the biggest of P&O's fleet, but she is a "step change" from Azura and Ventura.

There is a real contempary feel throughout the ship, with a "square" theme being picked by carpets, light fittings etc. throughout the ship.

Some observations now, I do like the overall colour scheme, I'm just not sure how it will cope with the heavy footfall. 
Now Britianna has only been in service a few months, but the light grey carpet in the corridor to the Epicurean and Crows Nest is showing the sign of dirty footprints. 
Another example is the white armchairs in the bar area of Sindhu that are looking the worst for lots of backsides sitting on them.
At the other end of the colour spectrum the tables in the Glass House which are a dark wood finish ( but they are not made of wood ) have lots of scratches on the tops of the tables.  

As there has been so much written about them already, I will just mention the lifts.

Having spent many many years in IT, I would like to meet the person who wrote the algorithm, as the sequencing is very strange indeed, but not the end of the world.
The lack of lifts in the centre of the ship, never did seem to be a problem to us, and never really thought about them.

The glass house is situated in the atrium on deck 7, I'm not convinced on the location, it's  good for people watching during the day but not so for eating, although the space at the rear of the bar is better. 
As I said in my blog, we once ate in a side room, which I did not like at all. I can't talk about Ventura, as we have not been onboard since the glass house took over, but on Azura, it has a real "buzz" about it, and sadly I did not find the same here. 
Sindhu however is enormous, but works very well and the side booths give it a great feel.
One of the major improvements IMHO is the horizon restaurant, the buffet on deck 16. Another enormous space that works really well  and serves good food. Never was there the normal " bun fight" to get either food or a seat, even at breakfast on disembarkation day. 

We did not use the limelight club, so cannot make any comment.

Our cabin was an inside on deck 15 forward, which was a good size, and as I'm sure you are aware, the dreaded shower curtain has been replaced by a proper cubicle with a door. Well done P&O

I don't think we had any seas to "try"  Britiannia, but we had no movement. Above us was the crows nest and for an insomniac like me, at 0400 the dragging of chairs across the floor ( well that's what it sounded like) was not welcome.

On deck, there were always plenty of sun beds, and no need for the sun bed police. We had booked this cruise last year whilst on Oriana for the Northern Lights cruise. At the time, we did not know that it was half term week. So you can imagine we had teenagers down to little tots on board.

A warning here, if you do not like loud up today's music ( unusually up to date for P&O) and very noisy children, especially when playing table tennis, then the upper decks may not be for you. They were not being unruly, just doing what children do.

The Weather

Was OK'ish but was warmer last month when we were in that region

Entertainment

We did not see a lot as I currently have a few medical issues, which cause early nights. But Jeff Stevenson and Rob Lewis that we did see were excellent.
Sue was disappointed that we never made it to any quizzes, but there is always next time.

Food

We had freedom dining, but only made it to the restaurant  for the priority lunch on embarkation day. We ate twice in Sindhu, and twice in the glass house, plus we tried the Epicurean, all of which were excellent. We also used the buffet a couple of times for the theme nights. so no complaints in any department there.

The Crew

I know I have read some reports recently of surly crew, and if they were on Britannia, then we never found them.

Conclusion

Did we enjoy our cruise ? Yes.
Would we sail on her again ? Yes, but not in school holidays again, but for us that is no different to Azura.

I will post links to my photos later, but on our return, we have a bit of a family issue so have to go away again for a few days.

This will also be my last cruise blog ( bar the photos) for about a year. I said above about the medical issues I have. Well my consultant has said I need some treatment now, hence the lack of cruises.

I will still be blogging, but this time it will be about my medical journey ( it will not be gory ).
So if you want to join me, please just "bookmark" my blog and drop in from time to time.

Thank you all for you comments, on the blogs, and as Arnie said 

I'll be back

Ray 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

P&O B508 Part V

And so we reach our final port, that is La Rochelle, before we start our last sea day en route to Southampton. And it turned into a bit of a media frenzy.

Our tour was not until the afternoon, so we sat around the Atrium as the weather was not very good, and I typed yesterday's blog.

I think it must have been Britiannias maiden call here, as suddenly there was a posse of local dignitaries along with a camera crew and radio interviews that came through the Atrium 

So after lunch, it was the main event of the day, our tour with Eric Lanlard


And what a genial host he was, and very witty with it. His English is as you would expect from someone who had lived the last 26 years in the UK.

He did raise a laugh when he told us all in the coach, before we left the terminal, that we would all be "squiffy" on our return.

Besides the walking tour, we went to an hotel by the harbour, for wine matching with patisseries.


When we boarded Britiannia, we were informed that a film crew would be onboard, filming for promotional material. They boarded in Bilbao, and were on deck that afternoon filming. And yes, they joined us for the tour.

We also had Martin Roberts with us, who is he I hear you ask ?


He is one of the presenters of the BBC programme " Homes under the hammer" and although is on a family holiday, got roped into the filming.


So after several glasses of wine and the tasting of the patisseries, and a Q&A session with Eric, it was time for this now lively band of passengers to return to the ship. The tour was running slightly over schedule and we did not get back to the cabin until just before 5:30, which normally would not have been an issue.

However, it was a formal night, plus we had a table booked in the Epicurean for 6 : 30, but we just made it, and found some room to eat after the afternoon's activities.

So all in all, an excellent day !! 

I will of course when we get home write a cruise review, with my thoughts on Britannia, plus links to all my photos.

So until then

Bye bye





Thursday, 28 May 2015

P&O B508 Part IV

And so to Bilbao, we have been here in the dim and distant past, and last year we were in Gexto and took a walk along the the prom.
 
There were local tourism staff in the Atruim giving out advice and maps, and we were soon on the shuttle bus to be dropped off in the centre of Bilbao, where once again more local tourism staff were on hand to give advice. All very well organised

We had no plans on what to do when we arrived, but as the Guggenheim museum was only a 10 minute walk, we went in that direction.
We had seen the building from a hill top many years ago on a tour, so it was great to see it close up.


And what a magnificent building it is, with no straight line in sight.

The queue to go in was not that long, and at only €8 a bit of a bargain.

Inside is even more stunning than the out side, and if you have any interest in photography, then it really is a dream building.


From a art perspective, I am the first to acknowledge that I know nothing about art.

However I know what I like, and what I don't.


Most of the art works I found stunning, but the aircraft hanger sized room with very large sheets of bent steel did leave me very cold, but then what do I know.

The weather had vastly improved by the afternoon, so we sat up on deck 17 in the glorious sunshine.

Then it was time to get ready for our meal in the Epicurean, as we made our way to the crows nest for a pre dinner drink, I thought I would just call in to check the time of our booking, only to find the booking was for today ( Thursday ) Oops.

So this afternoon we have our walking tour with Eric Lanlard, for patisseries and wine tasting.

As its a sea day tomorrow, my last blog will not be posted until Saturday when we return.

I will then write a cruise review following that.

So until then

Bye bye



Wednesday, 27 May 2015

P&O B508 Part III

And so we arrived in La Coruna, it's our third stop here this year, so it's becoming, home from home.

But back to the previous evening, as we dined in Sindhu. With Britannia being the size she is, everything is on the larger size, and the space for Sindhu is no different, but with small booths along the side of the restaurant, you still get that intimate feel, and the space works really well.
The food and service were excellent as always, and if you enjoy a glass or two of white wine, try the Indian Sauvignon Blanc, it really is good.

So back to La Coruna, we had no tour booked, so it was off for a walk


Although sunny, there was a chill wind about, and it was cooler than one month ago when we were here last, but still a pleasant enough walk

There were quite a few local fisherman in the harbour, not sure what they were trying to catch, I assumed some sort of shell fish, as they had very long poles with a metal basket at the end.

After lunch we sat out on deck for a while, out of the wind, but the ambient noise rose to such a level that we moved ( more about that in the cruise review )

We decided to give the Glass  House another try, and this time were seated at the rear, away from the passing throng, but not in the side room. 
We also sat next to Gill and Tony, a couple we had chatted to previously there, if you post on any cruise forums, you may know Gill as GillD46.

Our entertainment for the evening was the comedian Jeff Stevens, a consummate performer, who knows how to works his audience, and doesn't resort to smutty jokes.

Today we have reached our penultimate port of Bilbao, our arrival was greeted by lots of "cats and dogs" falling from the sky, so we are just waiting for that to clear up and we will be off for a walk.

Off to the Epicurean tonight 

So until next time

Bye bye


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

P&O B508 Part II

Our hotel was only a few miles from the dock gate, so it was only a short drive and we arrived at the Ocean Terminal by 11:15. Even at this early hour, they had started to "stack" the cars as the terminal was busy. 

But it was only a few minutes before we were alongside the terminal unloading the cases, through check in, and on board. We were directed to the Peninsular restaurant for lunch, and rather than the normal buffet, it was a full three course lunch with a menu, much, much better.

The walk from where you enter Britannia to the restaurant can only be 100 yards ( sorry, but I still work in old money ) but Sue had managed to lose her cruise card 😌, but a swift retrace of our route, and I managed to find it on the floor.

Lunch consumed, it was time to explore. I have to say, the first impressions are WOW.


Nw I'm sure you must have seen photos of the above "star burst" by the hundreds by now, but I had to include another one as it it so imposing.

We also met Eric Lanlard outside his market cafe, and stopped for a chat. We have also booked the shore exec in La Rochelle for a walking tour with him, so looking forward to that.

Our muster drill was delayed, due to a later arrival of a coach, and the subsequent sail away. By now the clouds had moved in to cover the warm sun of the morning, so it was a bit chilly on deck. 

We decided to eat in the Glass House that evening, which is situated on deck 7 by the atrium. We were shown to a side room for our meal. The food was very good, but felt the ambience that there is in the glass house on Azura, was lacking here.

The next day, we arrived at our first port of call of St Peter Port, Guernsey. 

One thing to note, if like us you have an inside cabin, and are used to using the mast web cam on the TV to let you know when it's light in the morning.  The TV's on Britannia go into "sleep mode" so all you get is the Samsung logo screen saver.

We had no tour booked, so it was just a wander ashore. Now I'm sure you know that Guernsey is a tender port, and the Captain had warned the night before, that it could take a while to get the 3600 passengers ashore, so we did expect a bit of a wait.

So at 09:15 we proceeded to the theatre to get our tender tickets, with no queue we were soon boarding the tender for a very smooth crossing to the harbour. There was a bit of a delay once we got into the harbour to dock, but not too long. 

We were landed at a different pier to what we were used to. Before it has been by the large mast in the middle of the road flying lots of flags. This time is was the other side of the marina by M&S



Being a Sunday, all the shops were closed, however, it was "Taste of Guernsey Seafront Sunday". The  road had been closed and had been filled with stalls, selling mainly food related items, but also cooking demonstrations, and it was very well attended.

The sea was a bit more lumpy on our return tender trip, and the coxswain had to use all his skills to get us back alongside, and the movement once alongside made for an interesting embarkation back to Britannia. 

We ate in the Horizon restaurant that evening as it was an Asian buffet. There is only one word I can use to describe the restaurant and that is "enormous" and it's the most "chilled out" buffets on any P&O ship we have been on.
There are also hand washing stations as you enter, which of course are ignored by some passengers 😡😡

Our entertainment for the evening was Rob Lewis in the live lounge ( it does fill up early ).
Rob is a tribute act to Phil Collins, and if like me you have a stack of his albums on your IPod ( Phil Collins that is ) then Rob is the man to see, his show was excellent.

So today is a sea day as we make our way across the bay, to La Coruna. I'm sitting in the glass house overlooking the Atrium typing this blog as its a little too chilly to sit outside at present, but maybe later.

First formal night tonight, and we are booked to go to Sindhu, so reports later.

So until then 

Bye bye





Saturday, 23 May 2015

P&O B508 Part I

So, at last our chance to see for ourselves what Britannia is like, we have read all the reports, plus all the negative views, but did they made any difference ? No

As it is a bank holiday weekend, we decided to make our way down on Friday. The last few times, we have stayed at the Grand Harbour, but their prices were quite high this time, so we looked further afield.

We finally booked Ellington Lodge Hotel in Eastleigh, and after having lunch we made our way down. The M25 was very busy ( as expected ) plus the top of the M3 in the longest road works in the world, was slow. But considering it was a bank holiday weekend, it only took us an extra 30 minutes, so I thought that was not too bad.


On arriving at the hotel, we found that they are hosting a Phonyfest weekend full of tribute bands. There was even a stage that had been erected just outside our bedroom window.

Luckily, that is not being used until Saturday night.

So it was a couple of pints for me, and evening meal and an early night.

After breakfast, we had a couple of hours to fill, so decided to go for a walk. At the rear of the hotel, is the Lakeside Country Park, with a couple of lakes, one which was being used by fishermen, and one by swimmers. It really is a real gem, and a very pleasant walk.

So now back in our room, and getting ready for the off for the short drive to the Ocean Terminal. 

Next stop Britannia ⚓️⚓️⚓️

Thursday, 7 May 2015

P&O Azura A508N Cruise Review

Firstly an apology that I did not blog from the cruise, but my Ipad decided to disappear up its own USB port, and needed a restore once I got home. So this review might be a bit wordier than usual.

The Cruise

12 nights from Southampton to the Canaries April 2015

The Ship

Azura was launched in 2010, and we were lucky enough to sail on her maiden cruise, plus we have sailed on her in 2012. But being 5 years old she needed some TLC, so prior to the cruise, she had been in Hamburg for a £6m refit.

She had a new paint job, plus new livery




















She had also had new carpets in all the public areas, it seems the neutral colours that had been used when she was built had not fared as well as the darker carpets on Ventura, her sister ship.
Its a pity they did not also replace the carpets in the cabins, as ours had seen better days.

Two new additions were the self service "wine by the glass" dispenser in the buffet (you still have to pay by swiping your cruise card). Plus the "Grab and Go" next to the grill on deck 15. We did think this was very useful and used it a lot for a lunch time bite when sitting out on deck.

When we first sailed on Azura in 2010 there seemed to be an issue with passengers queuing for the first show in the theatre, and you needed to get there at least 1 hour before curtain up to get a seat, and it seems the problem has reemerged, as whilst eating in the Glass House the queues snaked along the corridor. Also one evening we went into the Manhattan bar to watch a tribute act 45 minutes before the start, and not a spare seat was to be seen.

It was also the same at a lot of the ports, the Captain made his announcement that we had arrived and asked passengers not to congregate etc. etc. but still long and lengthy queues formed.

Disembarkation was also chaos, no information to passengers, tempers getting frayed. Our priority disembarkation was non existent, and even once we reached the luggage hall, our case with their priory labels were in with the other cases in deck order. So what the point of the labels are I do not know. I have emailed P&O and await with interest on their reply

And just in passing, on the last night we ate in Sindhu, where there was an infrastructure malfunction (I will give no more details), no one was hurt, and the reason for the mention was that the staff acted so professional and calmly, they were a credit to P&O.

The Ports

La Coruna

We have been here quite a few times before, the last time was in January on Oceana, but this time it was a bit warmer :-), and it was where the above photo of Azura was taken. There was no tour for us, so it was a walk into town, and then along the prom to the old fort, and what a very pleasant walk it was, and highly recommended if you don't fancy a tour. They are still improving the road etc. just outside the port, but its much improved even since January.

Madeira

This is another port we have been to quite a few times, but instead of taking the shuttle bus we decided to go for a walk along the new prom.

















Before long, our short stroll had taken us into town, and it was a pleasure to be there with the new prom which must have cost a pretty penny. So if you do not have any problems walking, then don't take the shuttle bus, walk instead, there are lots of places to rest along the way if needed, and plenty of refreshment stops.

La Palma

It was staring to get pleasantly warm by this port. We had booked a P&O walking tour, but then realised it was the same one we had done in 2010, but was still a nice tour.


The port gate is only a 5-10 minute walk from the ship, then you are in the town. A shuttle bus is also provided if you don't fancy the walk.

Tenerife 

Another island we had been to before, but this time decided to book a Jeep Adventure, it said not suitable for those with vertigo or a bad back, and it did go up to mount Teide. The views were stunning, and it was one of the best trips we have done. so even if you don't like heights (like me) give it a try. The only downside of the tour, we had three Jeeps carrying 8 passengers, and of course 3 drivers, but only one them (our driver) spoke any English, so whilst we had a very entertaining tour the others had a somewhat less fulfilling tour.



Grand Canaria 

The arrival was a Sunday and we were informed that most of the shops etc would be closed. But in fact it turned out to be an excellent port. It was 27C so that helped. Across the road just before you reach the main town centre, there was a very large market come car boot sale, with more stalls than you could shake a stick at. Plus there was some sort of motor bike show, where it looked to me that you could hire a bike to test it round some roads that had been taped off. There was also an area where youngsters (9/10 years) could test their bike skills on an  obstacle course. so there was plenty to see and do, and of course the beach is only a short walk. In the evening, we ate in Sindhu for the first time on the cruise as it was Sue's birthday (yes 21 again ).  

Lisbon

We had company when we docked in the form of Ventura and Adonia 


I have to say, that when P&O announced their new livery, I was not overwhelmed by their choice. But seeing Azura docked in front of Ventura, it was like a before and after shot, and I must admit, the new livery did look better IMHO.

Again no tour booked, so a nice walk into to town was called for, but with 3 P&O ships and a Celebrity ship, you can imagine it was a tad busy.

The Cabin

We had an inside cabin on C deck on a Saver fare. I have always found them  large enough, but as I said above, the carpet had seen better days. But for the price we paid, it was very sufficient.

Food

Being on a saver fare, we had no choice of dining, and were given Freedom Dining, but we never made it to the restaurant.

We used the glass house a few times, and Sindhu twice, plus the new Epicurean, and the themed buffets which we enjoy any way.

The food and service in the Epicurean was very good, and carried a £28pp cover charge. Sindhu was £15pp cover charge, with excellent food and service, so the question is, "is the Epicurean worth more then Sindhu ? " 

Well I think the jury is still out, so you will just have to try it yourself and decide.

We did try to get into the "Beach Hut" but it was full by 7 pm ( no booking )


Entertainment

Unusually for us we did not go to see any Headliner Shows ( it could be because we have seen them all) .
We did however see both shows of Manuel Martinez, a Cuban comedy magician in Manhattan. If you get a chance to see him don't be put off by his title. We have never laughed so much, his shows are excellent.

We also managed to get to see the second show from Tom O'Conner, who we had seen in 2010 on the Artemis farewell cruise. Tom is no spring chicken nowadays, but still manages to hold his audience, even though some of his jokes were as old as I am, but still good entertainment .

A couple of bands to note, I thought Catch 22 were excellent, and Pulse2 were at the other end of the spectrum IMHO.

The Crew

I have always thought that P&O' s crew members to have been excellent on the cruises we have done. This cruise however, things have changed and they have seemed to upped their game even more, and were even more attentive. Well done !!

The Weather

Could not really fault the weather, from leaving Southampton until our last sea day when we had some rain, it was excellent, could not ask for better.

Conclusion

Other then the disembarkation debacle, an excellent cruise  ( sorry I seem to be using that word a lot ) and for the Saver price we paid, we could not ask for more.

I will post links to my photos in a later blog

So it's not long now ( end of May) before we are off again to try out Britannia for a week.  It's likely to be our last cruise this year, as my regular readers will know that I will need some medical treatment this year.

So hopefully my Ipad will behave itself, and I will blog from Britannia, so until then 

Bye bye








Thursday, 2 April 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Cruise - Photos

There are quite a few, so you may need a coffee / tea and biscuts before you start :-)

Faroe Islands are here

Solar Eclipse are here

Alta are here

Northern Lights are here

Tromso are here

Trondheim are here

Alesund  are here

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Cruise Review

The Ship

Fred Olsen Black Watch, 700 passengers and with a few miles on the clock, so plenty of maintenance to do. For her age she is not in too bad a nick, but does feel a bit dated along side more modern cruise ships. That said, she has lots of loyal followers, so she must be doing something right.

Cabin

We had an inside on deck 3 at the aft end of the ship. For an inside it was large enough, with plenty of wardrobe space, the bathroom has a shower only, and was not the biggest I have seen, but adequate for its purpose. When we arrived onboard, the sealant around the bottom of the shower had seen better days. But even without a complaint, it was noticed by staff and replaced without fuss.

Ports

All the ports were excellent, with the exception of the Faroe Island, as there did not seem much to do. The other ports, either on a tour or just a walk round gave a good varied selection.

Weather

The weather was as you would expect for this time of year, snow in Tromso and Alta where it snowed for nearly the whole time we spent there.

The cruise gods were exceptionally kind with the sea. When we were on Oriana this time last year, I remember 10 metre swells, but this year beside a few occasions where it got a little lumpy, it has been fine.

Entertainment

The Theatre Show company have been excellent, not only in their shows, but also with all the other activities they have performed around the ship.

Out of the speciality acts, I thought only Lee Caroll, the comedian, was worth watching 

Lots of quizzes during the day ( if you like that sort of thing ), but I have to say, our performance has been abysmal on this cruise.

The lectures on the northern light and solar eclipse were well attended and seemed to go down well withe the audience 

Food

We ate breakfast and lunch mostly in the Garden Cafe, which is the buffet on Black Watch. This is however no bun fight, with white table cloths and lots of staff. Far better than anything P&O has to offer.
We also ate there one night when they had an Asian buffet.
All good quality food, but nothing outstanding.
Of an evening we ate in the MDR, 1st sitting on a table of 6. Our table companions, Chris and Gordon and Jean and George were great company. The food, as with the buffet was OK, but nothing special, but the Lobster was not too shabby 😜

The crew
Excellent and can not do enough for you is all I can say really, well done to all


Conclusion
Putting aside that  Black Watch is not my favourite Fred Ship, this has been an excellent cruise. I think the Captain at the farewell cocktail party last night summed it up by saying, " you have done more in this cruise, than some people do in a life time".

For me the high light was the Solar Eclipse. I have seen them before on land, but to be at sea was quite magical and difficult to describe, but it will remain with me until I say goodbye to this world

Thank you all for taking the time to read the blogs, and to Sue who makes sure I do not have too many spelling mistakes


And just to finish with, a final photo from our trip in Alesund


So until Azura

Bye bye



Saturday, 28 March 2015

Black Watch Solar a Eclipse Part XI

As with all cruises, we have sadly reached our last port, that of Alesund.

We were docked by 0800, with slightly overcast skies, but they did improve throughout the day.

Our tour was not until 1000, so we had a lazy breakfast before we left.

A short walk along the quay, and we boarded our Catamaran for our 3 hour cruise in Hjorundfjord, now this is not the cheapest tour we have ever taken at £85pp, however, it was one of the best.

I spent nearly all three hours on deck taking photo and video, it was breathtaking in parts.

On our return, it was a quick lunch, then as we docked extremely close, it was a walk into town.

I will leave you with just a few of the many photos I took today.







I will of course post a cruise review over the next couple of days, and will post links to the hundred of photos I have taken this cruise.

Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment on the blogs, and if I have not bored you too much, we are off again on P&O Azura in April.

So until then bye bye 




Friday, 27 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part X

Well so much for our lazy sea day yesterday (Wednesday) but as we passed some much amazing scenery that you just had to be on deck to enjoy it.


Later in the afternoon we also left the Arctic Circle and passed the monument marking this 


They also held a raffle and sweepstake in aid of the RNLI, who Fred have been supporting for many years now.
We won a Fred Olsen luggage label, only cost me £20 in tickets 😜😜 but well worth it.

After dinner we had a cabaret show by James, who used to be a production singer but on this cruise is working in admin, and very good he was too singing a selection from 50 years of musicals 

We then had the second show from Lee Caroll, the comedian, he is very funny with a silly non offensive act.

At the end of the show the CD announced that the Northern Lights had been seen from the aft deck, well it was quiz time, but after that I donned some warm clothing and went on deck which was quite busy.
And there in all their glory putting on a great show were the Northern lights


At the same time James Hadley from the current show team performed his cabaret in the lido lounge which was just by the aft deck.


So it was all very busy with passengers coming and going to see the lights. James show was full of energy and his vocals were excellent

So after all this excitement there was only one thing to do, have another drink, and boogie the night away.

Well it was Sue that had the moves 😜

And so for us it was a late night as we made it back to the cabin at 0100.

We docked at Trondhim at 1000 today and just took the shuttle bus into town for a walk round.

Tomorrow sees us in our last port of Alesund, where we have finally managed to book a tour, a trip on a catamaran.

Then it's two sea days and we are back in Southampton.

So until next time

Bye bye






Thursday, 26 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part IX

So after our 2 days in the frozen north, we left Alta yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) to some clear skies as we make our way south


Today, we have awoke to bright sunshine and 99% of the snow on deck has gone.

We pass out of the Arctic circle today as we make our way to Trondheim, and another lazy day ahead beckons.

It was the second formal night last night, and the ship was awash with DJ's and dickey bows ( and that was just the ladies 😜😜)

Not sure if I have mentioned this before, but the show team are also very active around the vessel.
Besides performing their shows, plus their individual shows, they also run two quizzes a day, plus they host a " Can we help with your mobile, or tablet " sessions.
And run Tap Dance lessons 

They also act as a tour escorts, so all in all work very hard.

And to finish today, I will leave you with a couple more pictures from our departure from Alta 



So until next time

Bye bye 



Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part VIII

I managed to tweak some of my photos of the Northern Lights with another app I had on my IPad 






Bye bye 




Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part VII

It finally stopped snowing very late in the afternoon, but still with overcast skies. We had had a note in the cabin that the assembly time to meet for the tour had been brought foward by an hour ( for the talk by Glod ). Now I know that the Black Watch came this way at Christmas, so I would have assumed that the tours department would have known that there would be a talk before the tour ?

So we all gathered in the Neptune Lounge at our new alloted time. I think the talk is the same one we had on Oriana last year, but our prediction of seeing the lights was 3. Last year it was 2 and we had a good display. 
But of course the main thing was the weather, of the three sites they use, the one in the north showed the clouds clearing by 2300, with a temperature of -8C, so that was the one.

It was about an hours drive in the coach before we arrived. It was a residential road which led down to a lake.

So the question is, did we get to see them ?

Yes we did, a bit fleeting, but at one time we did get a bit of a "dance" from them.

My photos are not the best, and when I converted them to use in the blog, they were rendered useless, so you will have to wait until I get home and can process them.

We returned to the Black Watch just before mid night and the staff were waiting as we boarded with hot sausage rolls and hot chocolate, which I thought was a nice touch.

Finally, I will leave you with this thought. Glod come on board with their predictions and take you to the site where you will have the best chance of seeing the lights. Oriana also stayed overnight, and I assume that their passengers also had Glod tours. But there were no Oriana passengers at our site, so where did they go ???

Just a thought !!

Bye bye 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part VI

Well today we arrived in a very snowy Alta, we did not dock where I expected us to near the airport, but further over in the bay.

The airport berth was later filled by Oriana ( I think she is stalking me ) 

We left Tromso a little later than planned, a taxi arrived at 2300 with three passengers with arms in slings. I wonder if they had been on a dog sledge ?

We took the shuttle bus into town today, and after some retail therapy in a large shopping mall, visited the Alta Cathedral 



It's been very over cast today, with frequent snow showers, so the big question is, will it clear so we can see some lights on our tour tonight ?

I think that's enough of a cliff hanger until the next episode 😜😜

So 

Bye bye



Sunday, 22 March 2015

Fred Olsen Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part V

So after our two sea days, we have reached the port of Tromso, it's a pity the weather was not better as it is a magical sail in.



We arrived before our allotted time, and were not allowed to berth due to "security issues" so we circled for about an hour before making the berth.

We had booked an afternoon tour to the Planetarium, we arrived, and look who we saw 


As we left it had turned into a bit of a blizzard 


And of course there was a queue to get back on board 😜❄️❄️❄️❄️

We do not leave until 2300 tonight as there is a tour to the Arctic Cathedral for a concert this evening, before we make our way to Alta.

As we have not fancied the entertainment the last couple of nights, we went to the cinema suitated in deck 3 .

The first film we saw was " The Riot Club", not going to make much comment, other than it was not my type of film.

Last night we saw "Before I go to Sleep" with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. Both myself and Sue have read the book, which we both thought was excellent, and the film lived up to the billing.

So now we  go in search of those elusive Northern Lights

So until then 

Bye bye
 




Friday, 20 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part IV

So here we are, the big day for the Solar Eclipse. We awoke to very angry sea, a large swell and very dark skies, it did not bode too well.

But at 0830 we donned our cold weather gear and ventured out to the starboard prom deck which was already filling with passengers clutching their eclipse specs in readiness.

It was a bit of a cruise ship fest, as there was a Carnival ship close by, and another further out. We were also joined by Braemar 


It still did not look very promising, although there was just the slightest glimmer in the dark clouds.

Then slowly, very slowly the cracks in the cloud get more and more as we moved towards totality 


And slowly it got darker and darker, which was quite magical and eerie at he same time.

It was then that the cruise gods smiled upon us, the clouds parted, and there was the totality in all its glory 


With many "Oh's" and "Ahs" from the passengers.

Was it worth coming all this way to see it ?

You bet !!!!

I have to apologise for the quality of the above photos, but it's the conversion from RAW files to JPEG on my IPad.
I will of course post links to all my photos once I get home, which will be of much better quality.

So now we are on our way to our next port of Tromso, but not before we have a quick RV with Braemar and Boudicca 


So until then

Bye bye 






Thursday, 19 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part III

Well our two sea days have passed and we now find ourselves in Runavik in the Faroe Islands.

The gods of cruising have smiled upon us so far, as we have had calm seas. The weather however has been a bit hit and miss. Day 1 was foggy all day, but it improved yesterday and we did see a bit of warm sun. 

The entertainment last night was a magician, now you will know that I do like a bit of magic. But this guy left me cold, now I don't know if it was just his style, but IMHO he was just a bad children's entertainer, but Sue  enjoyed his show, so not all tastes are the same.

I've not mentioned quizzes so far, but that because we have been rubbish,  I think we have missed Pat and Michael from our last cruise.


Just a note about our cabin.
If you remember from our last cruise on Black Watch, we were deck 4 mid ships, right next to the opening for the gangway, and that became a tad noisy.

We are now on deck 3 aft, now if you think P&O's Oriana has a few vibration issues, it's nothing to what our cabin can do 😝😝 you could churn butter in there some times.


This morning I was up on deck at 0640, and yes I was still wearing my shorts, but it was a bit chilly

The Pilot boat



We left the ship for a stroll around town at about 1000. The weather by this time, was dark grey clouds and that drizzle that soaks through your clothes. If you have not been here before, the town centre is very small, and in this weather, it was not a pleasant walk.

So all in all, not the best port we have ever visited, and if we did  pass this way again, we would do a tour.

So we were back on board by 1100.

You can see how low the cloud was



And finally the old girl herself



And so tomorrow, we have one of the main events of the cruise, " The Solar Eclipse ". The weather does need to improve though, else the spectacle will be a bit of a damp squid.

After that, we are on to Tromso, and Nothern Lights territory.

So let's all hope for some clear skies for the next few days, and you may even get a picture of the total eclipse, then some green skies

So until then

Bye bye 





Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part II

So here we are on our first sea day, calm seas and sunshine as we sail up the east coast of England onwards to our first port of call of the Faroe Islands. The sail away was slightly delayed as there was a "code alpha" call just as we were leaving the muster drill.

The crew had been unloading large sheets of MDF and other assorted items from the aft deck, and it seems one sustained an injury, so the Captain waited to see if he required to be off loaded. I assume it turned out to be not serious as no one left the ship.

Our meal ( first sitting ) along with our table companions was a pleasant affair.

As we were onboard last November for the mystery cruise, there are lots of familiar faces amongst the crew, plus some who had just started, and did seem to struggle with my order for a large Bells with ice. But I'm sure they will get the hang of things soon.

We have a couple of speakers on board to talk about the eclipse and the northern lights, so I'm sure we shall pop along to some of their talks.

Today has been a first for me in that I have purchased an on board Internet package. Now I normally wait until we dock and purchase a " bolt on" package for my iPhone.

But at £30 for 24 hours of access ( 2p per minute) I thought that was very good value.

As I said at the beginning, it's a lazy sea day today, and you can tell that a fair amount of the passengers are new to the Black Watch, as they walk up and down trying to find their bearings. Not sure how they would manage on Britannia.

We had been on a wait list for a tour on a train in Alesund, but have now given up with that, so we are going to book a cruise on the Hjoundfjord on a catamaran instead.

So until next time

Bye bye

Monday, 16 March 2015

Black Watch Solar Eclipse Part I

So it's 0630 on Monday 16th March and I'm laying in bed in the Grand Harbour Hotel in Southampton. Yes it's time for one of those "big white floaty thing" journeys.

Today we sail with Fred on Black Watch to go back up to the Arctic for the solar eclipse and hopefully some Northern Lights. For you regular readers, you may remember we did this last year on P&O's Oriana, so we know what to expect weather wise.

So I hope you will join Sue and myself on our cruise, and just to get you in the mood I thought I would start by including a total eclipse picture.


Bye bye 

Monday, 16 February 2015

P&O Oceana E502 Cruise Review and Photos

Sorry its taken me a while to produce this review, but the I pad was up to its normal tricks, and lost my previous version.

The Cruise
12 Nights Southampton to Southampton

The Ports
Lisbon
Agadir
Cadiz
Gibraltar
La Coruna

We enjoyed all the ports, and managed to get ashore for a walk in all of them, but especially pleasing was Agadir, a real jewel in the crown of Morocco.

The ship
Built in 2000, she still looks well for her age. As I said in my blog, not been on her since 2009, so it was like boarding a new ship, for all her good points, I still think Oriana is still my favorite of the fleet.

The Cabin
We had an inside on Deck 11 midships, on a saver fare, and very good it was too. First impressions of the wardrobe was "I'm never going to fit all this in there", but in the end there was plenty of space.

The Entertainment
The shows we saw from the headliners were good, but some of the vocals were a bit lacking, but they did have some shows we had not seen before, so maybe P&O are at last changing them.
The two comedians, Jeff Stevens and Adrian Walsh were good clean entertainment, so if you see them on a cruise, well worth seeing.
4Tunes were also on board, we did not go to see them, but there were rave reviews from talking to the passengers.
Some of the bands around the ship were excellent, others IMHO, were well below par.
It was also a rare occasion that Sue and myself did not win any quizzes, so better luck next time.

Conclusion
For the time of year (January) the weather was kind to us, and for the price, an excellent 12 night get away in the winter.

So next month we are off to the Arctic with Fred for the Solar Eclipse and Northern Lights, and have just booked a cheeky 12 nights on Azura for April to celebrate a postponement in my treatment for CLL.

So please join Sue and myself, and I promise to try to not bore too much.

The Photos are below

Misc

Lisbon

Agadir

Cadiz

Gib

La Coruna

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Oceana E502 blog part IV

The Great British sail away from Gib yesterday up on deck 12 was well attended, probably helped by the on deck BBQ held before hand. The weather is steadily cooling down since we left Agadir, which as predicted was our warmest port. I did manage with wearing shorts on deck,  but had to resort to wearing a fleece. We spent a pleasant afternoon and evening sitting in the Yacht and Compass, talking to Val and Derek and participating in a couple of quizzes as well. The only downside of the evening is the volume of "Power Supply" the resident band, makes it very difficult to talk.

At the sail away, the Captain mentioned that we would be passing through a patch of 5 metre swells in the early hours, and he was quite correct and it's still a tad lumpy, and the sickness bags are out. 

Not got much planned for today, other than the gym, but tonight is the Peninsular Cocktail Party, but at the strange time of 8pm.
As it was a combined lunch of the tiers for the lunch, so I can only assume that there are not sufficent on board to warrant two.

I did try to get to the gym, but it was closed due to the lumpy seas 🚣🚣

Well I can report back on the Peninsular Cocktail Party, and we did not win the raffle.  The Captain said  his anticipated progress on the bow painting, that's being done by contractors was slightly out and he was right.


Our arrival in our last port of La Coruna was just as the sun arose this morning, and we were greeted with very wet surroundings, but soon the sun was shining and we were off for a walk.

There are very pretty parks along the front, and you can bump into anyone.


And never be late for that all important meeting


There are lots of road works just outside of the port, plus lots of vendors trying to sell you tours. For a moment I thought we were back in Agadir 😜

We did however make it back on board safely. My phone seems to be playing up at present with access to the Internet, so I'm not sure if I will get to post this today.

I will in time post a cruise review and a link to my photos

So thank you all for joining  Sue and myself, and if I have not bored you too much, please join us again next month, as we cruise "up north" for the solar eclipse with Fred

So until then bye bye