Here I go

Out to sea again

The sunshine fills my hair

And dreams hang in the air

This is Oriana X721 and we are off to the Med. In October. Heading south as the weather in the UK cools and the nights get darker.  Boarding was surprisingly painless, and we arrived in time for the free buffet lunch (we’ve never got here in time before!). It wasn’t worth the excitement, to be honest. And it was a good thing I was a cynic and made myself some GF sarnies, because all they could offer was curry (not something I would eat for lunch, even if I wasn’t allergic to coconut!) and fruit jelly (which was forest fruits and delicious, but hardly filling).

The only issue so far has been with our table for dinner. When we booked, about a year ago, we requested a table near a window. In all the eighteen years we have been cruising, this request has never been a problem. Here and now, apparently, it is. We were put near the middle. We knew this as soon as we got on board, and Dad went to see the restaurant manager immediately to request a move. The head waiter made a fuss about it but we got moved to a different table. But when we went down to dinner a few hours later, the table was full. The head waiter had moved us to SECOND SITTING!!!! No. Not possible. Dad rarely gets his dander up, but this really got to him. He was seething. We were put back where we started for the time being. We had a nice couple with us, but they weren’t very talkative, and I felt like I was carrying on the entire conversation pretty much on my own. During the meal, the head waiter had the bloody cheek to come over to us and explain that WE HAD REQUESTED TO CHANGE SITTING. Yeah, we’ve eaten at the same time for nineteen years, but now we fancied a change, just because you couldn’t be bothered to do your job properly. The next night, the non-talkative couple had been moved (without their knowledge)! So we ate alone – just the three of us. Dad now EXTREMELY annoyed.  During the meal, the head waiter came over and announced we would be moved from tomorrow, to a table by a window, as originally requested.  When we got to the table, this evening, the people are LOVELY (Di, Geoff, Jill and Ray) and they had ALWAYS had four empty chairs at their table.  Dad still quite annoyed (unsurprisingly).  There was absolutely no reason we couldn’t have been seated there from the start.  And our old table now has six new people on it (which may explain why the other couple were moved as well). All in all, pretty shambolic, but I think everyone is now happy.


Oriana has had a facelift. There is no rust in sight and all the carpets have been replaced. Unfortunately, they were replaced by an idiot with no idea how P&O or Oriana work. The little map they give newbies, to help them find their way around, explains that the forward lifts have green carpets, the midships are blue and the aft lifts are cream. It’s a brilliant trick to help orientate people. Ships can be very confusing, and Oriana’s layout is particularly tricky. Only, now the new carpets are down, everywhere is cream! Oops. Someone needs a good slap round the back of the head for that one. Idiot.


The new decor extends to the Conservatory canteen/self-service restaurant on deck 12, where we grab a bite to eat at lunchtime. New blue tiling, new silver and black chairs, the blown double-glazing has been replaced – which meant we could see the dolphins we passed today – and there are new counters and flooring. It all looks very nice indeed. However, the new head chef up here neither knows nor cares about feeding coeliacs. Now, don’t get me wrong, if the only options are chips and GF bread, I’m quite willing to eat chip butties for lunch two days in a row, but I’m not sure how my doctor would feel if it continued like that for three weeks! Luckily, today I found our old friend Clarence, who is now head waiter up here. He has arranged for my GF pasta to be resuscitated from tomorrow (well, Sunday). Why the head chef couldn’t have said yes to that request when I made it, I have no idea, but when I watched Clarence relay it to him (he continued to shake his head), Clarence then came back and said it was sorted.  And THAT’s why we love him so.

Into the blue of the ether. P&O has changed its wifi plans. Now you can pay £7 per day for social media only, £13 per day for email and social media and a bit more for video whatsitting, which I don’t think I need.  As it works out, when you pay for the whole three-week cruise at once, I’m actually paying quite a bit less than I was paying eighteen months ago. Nice for me, but I’m not sure that’s what P&O had planned! But woohoo all the same. It’s nice to win one occasionally!


Went to the show tonight – Stage Door – whose central colour theme was red. It was an excellent compilation of songs from classic musicals – My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, Porgy & Bess, Carousel, Mack and Mabel, Barnum and so on. It was superb and this team of Headliners are excellent. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.


We have had a gentle two days at sea – with a little rolling, but no pitching and nothing too bumpy (not even at the Western Approaches). This evening we hit a bank of thick fog just as I went for my massage, which meant I could listen to the mournful foghorn while I relaxed under Julianne’s expert ministrations.  It’s a very soothing sound, considering that the best to probably describe it is a prolonged tuba parp at three minute intervals (the interval and the note tell you which ship is about to run you down – no two in the world are the same (allegedly)). The fog came down in the minutes it took me to cross the deck and lasted only as long as my massage, oddly, which meant a sparkly sunset over the sea, which we enjoyed from our new window view dinner table.  All good. All in all, not a bad day for a Friday the thirteenth.


Again, it’s not me, it’s the ship

I sometimes get told off for sounding quite negative and a bit moany when I talk about conditions on board ship.

So here is someone I have never met or heard of, talking about a cruise on the Arcadia – the ship about which my last cruise posts were about. So, he was on board the same ship I spoke of but seven months after I disembarked. You may find a few of the themes somewhat familiar…

Click here, please.


I don’t often post on this blog in between cruises, but this was something I simply had to share.

It’s just a headline, but I think it tells you all you need to know about the story.

Personally, I laughed til I cried. It probably wasn’t funny for those involved, mind you…

“The ship was waiting in Dover and the passengers were in Tilbury!”

Well done, Fred Olsen Black Watch. You have absolutely made my day.


Wednesday 4th May 2016 – Sea Day 3 of 3

The last sea day for what will probably be a very, very long time.

Mind you, eight hours solid kip was lovely, and that was only ended by a bout of screaming cramp. Something I ate last night disagreed with me, but I’m good at finding the upside of that particular situation and I am happy to sit there and think of the weight loss.

Met the parents for lunch. Then back to the cabin for a nap. But I couldn’t sleep worrying if all the last bits I have unearthed (including one whole cupboard I had forgotten about) would fit in the space left available, so I had to get up and do the packing, to be sure. THEN I went to bed.

I have ended up with two jute shopping bags and a yoga mat that don’t fit in anywhere else. Not bad for four months of unmitigated shopping opportunities, and most of that is probably just down to my poor packing and could probably have been solved with more effort.

Went to the parents’ cabin and dad managed to house the contents of one of the bags, almost in its entirety, so now I’m down to one extra bag and the yoga mat, which will be much more manageable. Just must remember to get my stuff out of his case before I leave London on Friday! He taught me a very useful packing trick for one of the hardest items to deal with – belts. Every day’s a school day!

Dinner was mostly talk of travel plans and goodbyes. I think I have seen everyone I wanted to. Some of the waiters seemed genuinely sad to see us go. I suppose, thinking about it, if you go to the same restaurant every weekend (and let’s face it, not many do), you’d only see the staff 52 times a year. These guys have been with us for 114 nights in a row. That’s two to three years of friendship in the real world! Life can be very intense on a cruise ship, and the friendships can either last a lifetime or vanish in a puff of exhaust smoke. There is no in between. I hope some of the friends we have made on here will stay in touch – we haven’t made many, but those we have have been really lovely people, and I would like them to continue being part of our lives and social circle.

I really ought to start my next essay – due to the extension I needed because of that ridiculous lurgy, I now have only three weeks until the deadline for the next – but now that all my decorations and notes and magnets have come down and been packed away, sitting here at the computer, I see nothing but my own reflection staring back and me in the mirror that covers the whole wall in front of the dressing table/desk, and it is surprisingly distracting! I don’t want to watch myself while I type!

Talking of distracting, the hangers now have nothing stopping them really going for it with the jingling and so, although it is actually quite calm here in the English Channel, they are not stinting themselves on the moving about any more. It’s like being next door to a school music room, and every few minutes, someone drops a boxful of sleigh bells on the floor.

Watched The World’s End on the telly, which, I believe, is the one remaining part of the Cornetto Trilogy that I had never seen before, so that was both thoroughly enjoyable and a useful completion of that canon. Very satisfying.  And P&O had not noticed/ removed the swear words, so I got to see an unexpurgated version, which is rare on these ships.

That’s it. The end of the longest cruise we have ever done. TTFN.

Tuesday 3rd May 2016 – Sea Day 2 of 3

Bad night. Barely slept a wink. Didn’t feel like I had, anyway. Woken by announcements that started at 8.45am – no, really – for non-UK residents’ immigration. Met parents for lunch. No appetite – just fruit and a drink – well, two drinks – a pint of orange juice and a pint of diet coke. Then back to bed. Meh. I’m aware of my To Do list, thanks very much, but I’m no good to anyone like this.

Got up at 4.30. Shower, etc. Ready for last formal.  Black and white, although they forgot to say that in the paper. *sigh* Captain’s drinks. Said goodbye to him – he’s off to Adonia next – and chatted to some other people we like. Had a bit of a laugh and a free orange juice.

Then dinner at the Ocean Grill with mum and dad. Very pleasant. The steak was astonishingly soft – it was amazing. Bit boring there, though. Wouldn’t want to eat there too often, I’d be bored to tears. No one to talk to. No regular waiters. And dinner takes over two and a half hours. You’d never get anything else done ever again. Some people have breakfast there – if you have a suite, it’s included. No, thank you.

Then back to the cabin to sit on some cases and stare blankly at my essay notes for a bit.

That was Tuesday, that was.

Last day tomorrow. A bit sad, but a bit relieved too. I’ve had enough now. It stopped being fun about two weeks ago, and since then, we’ve just been counting down the days, til we can get back to some form of normality. Talking of normality, this essay won’t write itself…

3AM UPDATE: done, printed, bunged in the parents’ postbox for proofing. Bed.

Monday 2nd May – Sea Day 1 of 3

The LAST three sea days. *sigh* and including the Last clock change at lunchtime today, after the Last face-to-face immigration inspection (woohoo!). We will move from GMT to BST and then the end will truly be in sight. Once we’re back in the same time zone as you, it’s just a matter of time – if you see what I mean.

I have to say, you have clearly been trying very hard with the weather for me, just as I requested. Words like ‘heatwave’ are very reassuring, but I don’t think I’ll put away the fleece and scarf just yet…  It’s still less than half of what we had a week ago. But bless you all for (a) trying and (b) thinking that 19 degrees constitutes a heatwave in May, even in the UK.

So, anyway, one proper night’s sleep later – lovely – immigration, fruit, pasta, Sudoku, siesta, massage. Last one of those too, sadly. Michelle really is VERY good. *sigh*

Then dinner and chores – picking out the photos worth keeping/paying for, trying to arrange the apology meal that is all we are clearly going to get for all the lies that were told about San Francisco, emails and the usual stuff. Busy, busy, busy. Who has time for packing?!

I really need to crack on with that essay…

Sunday 1st May 2016 – Ponta Delgada

Fever/cold day, I dunno, six? Did not sleep last night. Dreadful night, frankly. Got dressed. Ate something.

Met parents. Went out. Got as far as the end of the shops on the quayside, before I had to lean against something. Went back to bed. Mum and Dad went shopping without me. No postcards from here.

Ambition for today: getting dressed in time for dinner and managing to get there and eat and hold conversation. I imagine that will be enough for today.

UPDATE: In the end, I managed all of the above, and also fitted in a walk through the photo gallery afterwards, to check if there was anything worth buying. There wasn’t. I don’t take a very good picture, so I was hoping the law of averages would provide something decent with four months of trying. Will take another look tomorrow. But at twelve quid a pic, I’m not sure anything less than SPECTACULAR will cut it. Their prices are getting utterly ridiculous.

Films: Today, in between sleeps, I watched Inside Out (again) and No God, No Master, the story of the anarchist bombings and political machinations in the US that led to the formation of the FBI. Rather good, but not one to watch while you’re doing other things, unless you have very fluent Italian, which bits are subtitled.

Dilemma: In San Francisco, I had to buy new mouthwash and toothpaste, due to miscalculation of need (also under-budgeted for cotton buds, cleanser and moisturiser)(by contrast, vastly over-budgeted for conditioner, shampoo, deodorant and sun cream). Anyway, my teeth look whiter (to me, at least). Trouble is, I now don’t know whether to thank the mouthwash or the toothpaste! #firstworldproblems.