We left home on 15.07.09 at 10.00 & started the long journey down to Southampton, via M1, M69 , M40 & .eventually M27. We had intended to visit a NT house , but the weather did not encourage a lazy summer day in the countryside. This was a prediction of the cruise in general. We reached Southampton at approx 16.00 and booked into the Novotel, as recommended by Keith. It was a good choice, as City, QE2 & the new Ocean Terminal were accessible from there. It is also very close to the Railway station, but I would not like to do the walk with cruise luggage to the hotel! We rested with an adult beverage in the 'garden,' whiling away a few hours, until dinner time. We retired early for the night and I woke at 06.00 & watched both Artemis sailing up the river to her berth at the Mayflower dock and Arcadia manoeuvring into the dock beside the Ocean Terminal. We ate breakfast, which was included in the room price (£79) and then wandered around some shops,. We had to vacate the room at noon, so drove directly to the Ocean Terminal, where we lined up, waiting for our turn to off load our baggage.. This was dealt with efficiently and were in the Belvedere, eating our lunch by 1pm. It was interesting 'people watching.' One unfortunate soul, came up in a wheel chair, asked 2 people to move up at the table they were sitting at and then proceeded to get out of the wheel chair and proceed to walk to get his lunch! I am afraid that my sympathy for him was short lived. At 2pm we were allowed to proceed to our cabin, where most of our luggage was waiting. We had booked a cabin with a partial sea view, which was 'blocked' by safety equipment. Fortunately we were between life boats, so I had a decent view most mornings, for 'sail in.' By the time we had unpacked, it was time for 'Muster Stations.' I won't say Lifeboat drill, as we went to the dining room with our lifejackets, but did not go outside. We then had a tour of the gym, where Adrian won a 'G Form' treatment. This he took on the 1st Port day, at 5 pm on our return from Ypres. This entailed having electrodes put on his stomach- 1 hrs treatment was supposed to loose 2lb body fat. But at a cost of £50 per hr, it is a very expensive form of treatment. Adrian 'won 30 minutes', so should have lost 1lb, which he more than made up for on the cruise. I signed up for the Hydro Therapy Treatment- £10 per day, or £75 per cruise. However on the 1st day the offer was £55 for the cruise, which I thought was a good rate, so I used my on board allowance. I tried to get in every evening, when Adrian went to the gym. We went up on deck, where we watched 'Sail Away.' Artemis left first, I was surprised that there was no salute, as both ships are in the P&O fleet. As we left, we had a good view of the Ocean Terminal, but it was cool on deck 10, where I had gone in the hope that Artemis might catch me on the web cam as she sailed away.
We then got ready for dinner, where we met out table companions, Gordon & Claire from Kendal and Graham & Lynne from near Stonehenge. We were very grateful their company and fortunate that we got on so well together for the next 15 nights. We heard many complaints from other people that we ate breakfast & lunch with, but you cannot please everyone, all the time. . We were also fortunate with our waiters, Priyank & Suraj., who served at the speed of light.
We never had to wait,& Suraj soon realised that Adrian was partial to ice cream with any sweet course and also would have cheese & biscuits as well. He had a great deal of humour and would ask' Anyone for Cheese & Biscuits,' looking directly at Adrian! No wonder he had to go to the gym every evening.
Ypres- Fri 17.th July
We had problems in Zebrugge, the coach was pulled over by Belgian Customs & Exercise. I am not sure what they were looking for, but the bus driver didn't have all the necessary documentation, so another coach was sent for! We wasted 3/4 hr in the process! We had the whole tour, but in reverse, so we were late back to the ship, which fortunately waited for us, as it was a ship's tour! Eventually, the weather improved, so we got some good pictures at Tyne Got cemetery, with the battle fields in the background. Even though Adrian's Granddad survived the war, he was gassed during the battle of Passendale. ( the fields where the battle took place can be seen in the background) He suffered for the rest of his life.
We heard later that there had been problems with other morning tours when they returned to the ship, as the tide had changed and a gangway had to be moved. However the crane driver went off, as it was his dinner time, so more than 1,000 passengers were stranded on shore. Fortunately the Meridian restaurant remained open, even though it was past 1.45pm. One wonders if Belgium workers were on a 'Work to Rule,' or whether they are always like that. Not a good advertisement for Tourism!
1st Sea day We went to 3 port lectures, but decided that we would only take tours in Iceland, as the Norweigan Ports were accessible. We decided to book on the 'Jewels of the North' Tour in Akureyri. We left the theatre and went straight down to the Tours Desk, but were told that the Tour was 'wait listed' so booked on Nature & Flora. Fortunately we did manage to eventually get on our preferred tour. That evening was our first 'Formal Night,' held around the covered Neptune Pool. What a strange place to have the Commodore's reception party! I was spoken to by the Commadore, who asked me if I was Ok, to which I replied,'Well I would have been if I had had a Hair Drier(HD). I do not often use one, but as I had been to the Hydro therapy pool, my hair was wet. I looked for the HD and that & the kettle were missing. What a day to remove them for testing! In his speech, the commodore mentioned that if you find that you do not have a HD, then phone your room steward and they will provide you with one! Later one of the photographers annoyed me, as she pointed the camera at me as I was eating a roll! ( I did not buy that photo ,or any others on principle, they were so expensive) Later in the cruise the same photographer came to re-arrange us, just as we were being served dinner. Again I refused to move, but none of our table companions wanted a photo taken either, I was just the spokes person! Don't the photographers get training in Thinking Skills. It does not take too much intelligence to realize that passengers don't like eating cold food. I must be getting old to be grumbling!
Stavanger Sun 19th July
An early view of Stavanger from Cabin E126
Stavanger on a Sunday was lifeless until after mid-day. We walked around the town & I could not believe that a tourist place had nothing open, not even cafes. Fortunately, the Oil Museum eventually opened, so we were able to use their 'facilities.' We looked to have a cup of coffee, but could not find one listed on the menu, although Pills Larger was at a hefty equivalent of almost £9. This was the same cost as the entry to the museum. We eventually ambled back to the ship, where we had lunch ( having looked at a restaurant menu near to the ship & seen that soup was the equivalent to £12.00) Later walked through the old town ( as seen in the above image) This had plenty of character and so we sat on a bench in the warm sun for a short while. It was then back to the ship and to the Aquarius Pool deck, where we sat in comfort and promptly fell asleep. I must say that I favoured those comfortable chairs, but the settees were not built for people with short legs!
Eidjord was wet, so we went on a trip on the Troll train. When we got off, the rain had stopped, so we went for a walk up river. It took 40 mins to walk to the place where the Kayaking was taking place & 25 mins on the return. I am sure the area is pretty when it is fine,
Bergen Tue 21st July We took the free shuttle bus into Bergen and started walking towards the Bryggen district. On the way, we saw the Ulikren cable car shuttle bus, so we took it. The glass top gave good views, without getting cold. We had a shot of Arcadia, moored at the commercial port, through the mist, which kept swirling to & fro. On the return journey, the bus did a tour of the Harbour district, so we had an idea where to go, but there was no commentary. We later went to the Bryggen district & saw Discovery, Prinsendam & Astori and another cruise ship also in Bergen. The Fish market was colourful & interesting, but I was surprised that it was outside- I expected to be an indoor market.
Alusend Wed 22nd July
It was a much sunnier day in Alusend. Alusend was the start of the Shetland Bus during WW2. We walked around for a few hours taking photos, but returned to the ship for lunch. We then went back to look at the WW2 memorial near the Tourist Information centre, where we eventually spent some Kroner. I bought a mug & Adrian bought a hat& tie - the last of the big spenders. We then had a fire boat had a fire boat send off from Norway, 2nd Sea Day Today's Port lectures were for Reykjavik, Iceland & Dublin, Ireland. We immediately went to the Tours desk & booked the Golden Circle Tour. At the same time I had asked if we were on the 'Jewels of the North' tour in Akureyri, which included the Godafoss waterfall. Amazingly, they had just had a cancellation, so I was at the right place at the right time- unusual for us! We also had put our clocks back 1 hr, taking us back to BSTso had an extra hour in bed, which I was grateful for. I do find 4 port days in a row, rather tiring. We had sailed above the Artic circle overnight, but the seas were reasonably calm. I woke early in the morning, with the sun high in the sky, so thought it was about 10.00- it was actually 05.00. We heard later that the sun had actually setovernight, the 1st time for 2 months.
Iceland -Akureyri. Fri 24th July
12 buses in all set off on the trip Jewels of the North which included the 'Godafoss Falls,' A crater( filled with supposedly non biting mosquitoes, but they bit me) Lava formations The quide has one foot on the American Plate & one on the European plate in this Rift Valley.
and the mud pools. The trip was excellent, but was rushed as we were leaving at 2pm. We returned 15 minutes after scheduled sailing time, but 2 other coaches were after us. We just made lunch in the dining room- there was no way we were going to the 'Belvedere' after the manic queuing that we had to put up with that morning. They were totally unprepared for the influx of passengers. You would have thought that with 3/4 of the ship's passengers going on trips ,that they would have adjusted the time of breakfast in the dining room!
Sail away at 2 pm was superb as there was a fresh snow fall the previous day & the sun on the snow was stunning.
We again had a dusk & dawn night, at no time was it dark!
Sat 25th July Reykjavik, Iceland Again , I woke early, as the sun was so high in the sky. We had decided to order room service for breakfast, which arrived promptly. It was another early start, but this trip wasn't so rushed. Our German guide was well informed and again we went into Rift Valleys, which reminded me of Canada( it must have been the Loon which I heard)
We then went to the Gysir reagion, where we saw more mud, instead of the Earth's crust, Blue Pools and Gysers of various heights.
Unfortunately, while we were eating a lunch of Soup, Salmon and Salad, the clouds came and the sun went in. Gullafoss Falls were still stunning.
We returned, via a Hydro Eletric plant which is not yet complete, but utilizes the Thermal Springs and we also had a sketchy tour of Reykjavik, where we were taken to the 'Pearl.' There were excellent views of the town from the top.
Sail away was again stunning, as the air was so clear. My only regret was that I didn't see the Blue Lagoon, but as I was unwilling to shower with nothing on, before entering the water, we decided not to take that tour option. Sea Days 3&4 We were warned that the weather would become 'bumpy' once we were in open seas, but I believe the 3rd Officers comment from the bridge at noon on Monday was unnecessary. He was trying to inform us of the depth of sea below us, but when he continued his analogy by informing us that Arcadia would only take 5 minutes to reach the bottom, many passengers thought that he had overstepped the mark. I was told my another officer that he had been reprimanded! We went to Digital Living lectures and the ship's company 'laid out informative demonstrations. It was also our final Formal night, as we were in port for the 2 following evenings. The Commadore had told us at the 1st Formal night, that in 40 years at sea, he had never been to Ireland, so maybe we stayed in port for him.
Dublin Tue 28th July We spent an interesting morning finding a bank. We had omitted to take sufficient Sterling for our tips, so had asked to change N.Kroner on the ship. Adrian was unhappy with the exchange rate, so we decided to take a chance in Dublin. We were happy with the rate we were given, even though we had to change into € first then £. We then passed the statue of Molly Malone ( or the Tart with the Cart amongst other names for her)
We then jumped on the Hop on Hop off bus & were lucky with the driver that we had, as he was doing his own commentary. His opinion of the government cannot be repeated. We stayed on as far as the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, where we took the Tour. Adrian was a taster! We then had a wonderful lunch of Irish Beef & Yorkshire pudding!
We jumped back on the HoHo bus, as far as O'Connell street, where we tried to walk back to the place where the shuttle bus had dropped us off. It started to rain, so we jumped back on the bus again. We had thought of going round Trinity College , so that we could see the Book of Kells, but when we saw the queues, we decided that we would have to pay another visit to Dublin in the future. On our return to the ship, we saw that Boudicca was also in port.
Cobh Wed 29th July
The Sail in was during the morning, so we went up to the Aquarius pool deck to watch, where a sail in party was taking place! I am sure the people of Cobh were regretting our arrival! As Adrian & I had been to Cork before, we decided to explore Cobh. We climbed up to the church and took in the views. It started to rain ( whats new?), so we sheltered in anArt Gallery, but the prices were beyond our means. I took a few photos and interestingly we saw a photo of the church taken from a Titanic Tender, without the Spire on the church, as this wasn't added until 1916. I must admit that the most impressive part of Cobh was the sail in.
Sea Day 5 After a poor start, the weather brightened up & we had our one & only sun bathing afternoon. Our intention was to read, but sleep soon took over. I now know why I have been so tired on this cruise, as I never totally relaxed. As soon as the sun came out I fell asleep. We had 3 hrs of sun, as we sailed up the coast of Cornwall & Devon. I do wonder where everyone would have sat outside, as in my opinion, there were insufficient sun loungers & certainly those around the Neptune Pool were too low for me.
Southampton Fri 31st July Disembarkation was quick. Our car had been moved by CPS to the car park at the QE2 terminal and we were on the road before 9am. Southampton was full of ships, Ventura was at the Ocean Terminal, Celebrity Equinox at the City? Terminal and Crown Princess at the Mayflower Terminal.
Arcadia Experience We tended to favour the Meridian restaurant for all our meals. We did go to the Belvedere (self service) occasionally, but found that the service was ultra slow—10 minutes queuing for a bowl of porridge is unacceptable. Adrian experienced the same for cooked breakfast. Why the dining room was not opened earlier when at least 12 coaches were departing on trips at 8am is beyond me. We also sometimes went to the Belvedere for a cup of tea late afternoon and found that small spoons could not be found. Arcadia Rhodes My only experience was on the Galley Tour, as we entered through Arcadia Rhodes.
It looked good, & I am told that there were separate kitchens and food stores. But for £15p.p extra cover charge, we declined, as we were happy with the service in the Meridian.
Digital Living I signed up for the Internet, which I found painfully slow, but eventually I was credited with an additional 55 minutes. We spent quite a few hours in various rooms; The Sea Room, The Bay & The Ocean Room, listening to free Technology Seminars & Computer Work Shops., given by Karen Wyness. From 1st August, she will be using the Bay Room as her base, as she suffered so many interruptions in the Sea room, where the Lap Tops for passenger use were also situated. It was a no win situation, passengers who had paid for lectures were being disturbed, and those who had paid for Internet access could not use the Lap Tops if she was lecturing. At one time we were in a seminar in the Ocean Room, when passengers were coming in & helping themselves to chairs for use in the cinema ( which I am told was too small) She stopped that, as she said that passengers should not be moving furniture ( Health & Safety) A little later, a woman passenger came & stood in the room, & when asked what she wanted, she said 'Bridge- are these people paying for this?' Bridge started 15minutes later.
Entertainment This was excellent. The Headliners Theatre Company had been formed and had 6 weeks rehearsal in London, before embarking on the Ship in mid May. We watched them every night and they put on 8 excellent performances, even dancing through a Force 9 Gale. We also had a variety of artists: Week 1
Suzanne Gayle- vocalist- 2 shows Kyle Esplin- billed as piano/ vocalist, but his piano skills were incredible- 2 shows
Allan Stewart, I split my side laughing at his traditional British Humour, but some of the older passengers objected to being ridiculed. Bruce Morrison- Singer They both performed twice in the evenings, but Bruce joined forces with Sally Sagoe for a 'heartwarming sketch about Queen Victoria. He also performed on the last afternoon, but we fell asleep on deck, so missed him. Quest Speakers
Brian Hanrahan - BBC's diplomatic editor Jeanette Kupermanr- ex Fleet Street Jorurnalist & Anthropologist
Sally Sagoe was the Cruise director. My only comment would be that she needs to revise her programme of jokes. She was cruise director when we were on Artemis in Oct 2006, and she is still using the same jokes- which fell flat! However she did an excellent job devising both day & evening entertainment; keeping 2,000+ passengers happy with the weather that we experienced is no mean feat!
Over all the cruise was a good experience, we could have asked for the weather to be kinder, but as my photos show, it improved as we travelled further North. I would certainly sail from Southampton again.