Introduction

IMG_8906This blog is intended primarily as my personal journal of our travel and I’m sure a lot of it is factual and pretty mundane. You are welcome to read it at your own risk…

BTW: For anyone unfamiliar with blogging formats, the newest post is at the top and older ones further below.

Homeward Bound – Monday, September 23, 2019

We woke early and went to the Veranda for our last breakfast and sat outside at the rear. We needed to be out of our cabin by 8:00 and just made it. Getting down proved to be a challenge with the elevators occupied. Then there were lines for security and getting through the terminal.

Outside we met Alison’s parents and waited with them for about an hour before our transportation arrived. We had a private hire car that took us back to Ashtead. Then after a shortstop, we continued to Heathrow. There was the usual check-in line, followed by a security line. Alison and I were both pulled out for additional screening.

We had quite a few hours to wait for our flight and I did some work while Alison explored the shops. At the gate, we put Paul on the special assistance seating then noticed several people being brought forward but we were ignored. As a result, I pointed out that we had been overlooked and we were allowed to move forward.

Unfortunately, the flight was late and we were delayed an hour before boarding. When finally on the taxiway we were told there was a problem with one of the doors and we would be returning to the gate to have it checked. Several hours later, we were finally on our way. I really do find the tight seats uncomfortable to get in and out during the flight.

Arriving at Vancouver, we had a long wait for our bags and then we needed to go into secondary to get a goods-to-follow form completed. This was an exciting experience for Paul who likes to watch Border Security. Outside it was raining and our neighbour, Rod, kindly met us and transported us home close to midnight following a full 24 hours of travelling.

Portland, UK – Sunday, September 22, 2019

Our final stop of the cruise was the Island of Portland on the south coast of England. This was a very quiet area and we are not sure why this was chosen as a stop. After lunch, we began our tour going up to a viewpoint on the peak of the island. Our guide was a frail old lady and we had a rather odd lady driver which was unusual.

After a 45 minute drive, we arrived at a garden where we walked around in the rain. The most exciting part was a steel rope suspension bridge which bounced around and Paul lost his shoe. Paul and I walked ahead of the others then sat at the visitor centre and waited for everyone to join us. By this time it had stopped raining although still wet.

Following a short drive, we arrived at the swannery where we were just in time to see the hundreds of birds being fed. We were invited to join in the food distribution and several of our party did so.  Then it was back to the ship and boarding for the final time.

Dinner dress code was casual since most people had packed ready to leave in the morning. As we left the dining room, the entertainment department started a Beatles party which we stayed for and danced the night away. Finally, we returned to our cabins to complete packing and get ready for bed.

Going nowhere – Saturday, September 21, 2019

We were still docked in Dublin and extra shuttle buses had been provided but we decided we would rest on board the ship as we had such a busy time over the last few days. I went to another lecture on the European Community which I found very boring and was great at putting me to sleep for the remainder of the morning.

We had light lunch at the pool grill then went up to deck 12 for a boules tournament as we sailed away. It was rather cold and the wind starting to pick up so I dressed up and put on my patch to avoid seasickness. As the afternoon wore on the ship began to rock. The others went up to the pool deck to sit in the hot tub, while I stayed below.

There was the Crew Capers show before dinner in which the crew perform on stage. We always enjoy watching these amateur productions which are not polished but are ordinary people trying their hardest. We met in Alison parent’s room to gather before going to dinner in the French specialty restaurant. Service was outstanding and we were here to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. The restaurant staff brought out a cake and sang. Unfortunately, Louise had left feeling ill form the ship motion and Paul had gone to the theatre.

After dinner, we went up to the parents’ room to see how it had been decorated with two swans and roses on the bed. Later, Alison went up to hang out with Sammy and Rose in the Observation lounge while I went to bed.

Dublin, Ireland – Friday, September 20, 2019

Alison went out in the morning on a tour visiting Trinity College and to view the Book of Kells. She was very lucky to get in early to see the book without any queues. When returning a little later the crowd was 3 layers deep. Meanwhile, I stayed on board and caught up with work.

After lunch, we both went on another tour of Dublin highlights driving around the city. Our tour guide, Alan, was a great Irish storyteller. There was a large environmental protest which caused traffic congestion so progress was slow. We learnt about the various rebellions for independence. There were few stops on the tour and we saw a lot of Georgian terraces which are unique with the original railings in place. One-stop was at a walled garden. Soon after, we stopped in town for an Irish coffee in a decommissioned church which had been converted into a pub, then returned to the ship.

We did not leave on time and eventually, the captain made an announcement that we would skip our visit to Waterford tomorrow and remain docked in Dublin overnight due to bad weather. This was a little surprising since it was one of the best days we had experienced, but we were told there were 4m waves and we would not be able to tender ashore.

We had dinner in Compass Rose as usual then went to the last of the production shows. This was a very modern dance and I found the whole experience rather strange.

Holyhead, Wales – Thursday, September 19, 2019

Alison left early on a tour to Carnarvon Castle, while I stayed behind and blogged in the library. When Alison returned, I joined her for lunch out on the back of the Varanda restaurant. It was an amazing warm sunny day for September in North Wales. After checking in for the afternoon tour in the theatre, we went straight out to find our coach which had not arrived yet. There was an unpleasant security lady who engaged Alison in a heated discussion over where we would sit on the coach. In contrast, there was a very pleasant welsh lady organizing guests who we talked to while we waited.

Eventually, the bus from Conwy returned carrying the Boruck’s and this turned around and changed to our coach. There was no time for Sarah, the guide, nor Armed, the driver, to rest before we were preparing to go out again. Armed was quite a character who graduated from Bangor in Computer Science and was born while we were attending University there. We got along famously.

We drove along a winding route to get out of the dock then a 45-minute drive along the highway and a narrow winding road to Beaumaris. It was great to recognize the places that were so familiar from our time in Bangor. At Beaumaris, we parked on the large grassed car park by the seafront then walked to the castle.

Sarah took us into the castle and escorted us around the inner wall then into the centre of the castle. We explored the narrow and dark passageways within the walls and saw a chapel. On leaving the castle, we walked along the road to a hotel for afternoon tea. After this, we decided to split from the group and walk along the seafront and pier then reminisce on our time in Bangor.

We all arrived back at the coach and left 20 minutes ahead of schedule, which allowed time to stop at Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and a viewpoint to phot the Menai Bridge on the way back. We arrived back at the ship on time and were surprised to see that we were sailing 20 minutes later and 40 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure.

We had dinner in the Compass Rose as usual followed by a show with a classical singer in the theatre.

 

Liverpool, England – Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Another early start and breakfast in our room. For the first time, the order is correct. Everyone in our party went on the Liverpool city sightseeing tour. I collected Paul to take him to the rendezvous in the theatre, only to find he had forgotten his ticket. By the time we got back, everyone had left. Outside we found a double-decker coach and I had been allocated a front seat downstairs while everyone else went upstairs. There were spare seats next to me and I was later joined by a very large man who took over the entire row, leaving me about half of my seat. He also had BO and I felt very uncomfortable.

The tour was led by our lady guide, Charlie, with Paul, our driver. She was very enthusiastic about Liverpool and the architecture of the old buildings. We passed by the ferry terminal to the song of “Ferry, across the Mersey”. Nearby there were statues of the Beatles. The guide pointed out the Liverbird building, Cunard building and White Star building where the announcement of Titanic sinking was made. We toured the streets passing the Cavern club, Anfield stadium, home of Liverpool football club and the Everton football ground just across the park from Anfield. We finally stopped for photos in Penny Lane then continued on to see the bus shelter, bank and barber described in the song. Continuing along, we passed the Catholic church known as Paddy’s wigwam and stopped at the Anglican cathedral. After exploring the inside for a while, Paul and I stopped for coffee in the cafe which was a reward for him coming with us. It was only a short ride back to the ship for lunch.

We had only 15 minutes for lunch in The Cafe before going back to the theatre for our second tour of the day, in the steps of the Beatles. Meanwhile, Alison went on another tour to Port Sunlight which is a village created for the Sunlight factory workers. On the Beatles tour, our guide was Peter with Lawrence as our driver. The first stop was Mathew Street where we walked along to see the entrance to the reconstructed Cavern. Further along, we saw a statue of Elinor Rigby. Then we returned to the ferry terminal and got out for photos with the statues of the Beatles. Continuing along we stopped at the Beatles museum where we spent an hour with audio guides following the history of the Beatles and saw a reproduction of the Cavern. There was not enough time to see everything and listen to the guide so we cut the museum short so that Paul could buy a Beatles T-shirt. As a result, we were the last back to the bus.

After a long drive into the suburbs, we stopped again for photos at Penny Lane and drove by the roundabout without stopping. Then went out to Strawberry Field and stopped again for photos. Nearby we drove past John Lennon’s childhood home and stopped by Paul McCartney’s childhood home. Both of these are now owned by the National Trust and have been restored to their 1950’s condition although we were not able to go inside. This was our last stop before returning to the ship where we went straight to the theatre for a Beatles tribute band. The group played songs from the early years of the Beatles and were not the best tribute band I have seen. In the end, Paul was invited backstage for a photo with the group.

We ended the long day with our usual dinner in the Compass Rose restaurant before retiring for an early night.

Douglas, Isle of Man – Tuesday, September 17, 2019

With no morning tour, we were able to have a relaxed breakfast in the Veranda restaurant. We were anchored offshore so had another tender ride into town. Once on land, Alison went shopping with Louise while Paul and I went to the local library in the hope of getting high-speed Internet. Instead, we found the data rate was very slow and probably slower than the ship’s service. Consequently, we walked back and found a Starbucks with much faster data rates. Eventually, we were joined by the girls and all headed back to the dock to join our tour.

By the time we arrived, the bus was filling up and I was not able to get my preferred spot near the front which was disappointing. However, the first leg was just a 5-minute ride to the railway station. Our train was an old steam engine complete with the smells of coal smoke. We sat in a rather small carriage but had the whole place to ourselves so there was plenty of room to spread out. It took about an hour for the journey from Douglas to the end of the line at Port Erin and stopping at every station along the way. Here we transferred back to the coach for a 45-minute ride to Peel where we had time to explore the area. We joined the tour guide for a walk around the castle and then waited until it was time to join the bus for the last leg back to Douglas.

Back onboard the ship, we had another Italian dinner in the Veranda restaurant, this time without Sam and Rose who had been invited out with one of the cast members. We finished the evening with a performance of the assistant cruise director singing songs of Frankie Valli. He was a good entertainer but the music was not to my taste.