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First Cruise 2007

This is the post excerpt.

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You will see that my first blogs are a running commentary on our cruise experience. As we get more accustomed to cruising my observations much more broadly based.

Cruise Diary July 2007 Celebrity Constellation
Saturday 30-06-07
Set sail from Dover, white cliffs shrouded in mist so nothing to see.
3 p.m. car bomb at Glasgow airport. Email contact “shipgirl” was worried about us, nice to find a friendly face.
Dinner, waiters Francisco and Kaspianto – his first cruise.
Whiskies in Micheals listening to Perry Grant, ultra camp pianist.
Lovely staff, Jelko Divinivitz and Sirwan, very friendly and attentive.
Day 2 at sea.
Lecture on what to expect in Oslo. Correction. Shopping Channel lecture and what to buy.
Formal dinner at night; good to dress and William drew lots of attention in his Prince Charlie. Met two fab guests – just two little girls from Little Rock, they were jet lagged and had slept through merging at dinner thinking it was breakfast.
Great Broadway show at night. Met a friendly guy from Boston. Ended the evening at Michaels.
Day 3 Oslo.
Started off at the castle just beside the boat in bright sunshine. Did the open top tour bus but raining by the time we got to the Vigeland Park with its 500 statues. Took public ferry back to the ship from the Museum Island.
Francisco replaced by Farrah from South Africa. Michael’s at night, seven FODS, very twinkly excited guy with girlfriend who, looked like she was just discovering “all the answers”.
Day 4 at sea.
Lovely sunny day, walked a mile round deck 11. Went to future cruise lecture.
Informal evening, William wore kilt and ghillie, me jacket and McQuarrie tie. Early night to be fit for sharp start for Poland. Wrongly put clock forward and got up an hour too early.
Sick passenger, who had been walking round dragging an oxygen cylinder was put ashore by tender into a German port. Later found out he had suffered a collapsed lung.
Day 5 Gdansk and Stutthoff camp.
Excellent trip with very knowledgeable local guide whose father had been in Auschwitz. Met two girls Lorrie and Alyssa from Washington.
4th July parade and celebration on board.
Went to FODS but us only two there.
Michael’s at night for gin and Dubonnet. Talked to Sabine and Francis from Prestwich at Michael’s, they are Perry’s number one Hags!
William won $35 on slots.
Day 6 at sea.
Breakfast in room to recover from busy day yesterday. Went to the ‘meet the crew event then the Russian Bazaar. Russian lecture at 2, based on history not shopping. William won another $35. Took photo’s and video around ship.
Rio show in theatre at night then fabulous dinner in the formal restaurant “Ocean Liners”. Met Jeff from Atherton, who knew Ashton Brothers well with his companions Elaine and Chris from Liverpool. They invited us to share their table on Friday.
Day 7 St Petersburg.
Hermitage and Gold Room very rushed. 4.1/2 hour tour due in Hermitage for 9.25 arrived 9.15 queued to 10.05, 10.15 before started tour so only 10 mins to see Hermitage collection before due at Gold Room. Guide, Dasha (aptly named!) tried her best to let us see as much of museum as possible but after Gold Room only had 20 mins left.
Met Jeff, Chris and Elaine and shared a meal with them. Two other companions – Nina, a blow hard and Swiss lady, Elvira, whom I named Mrs Poo after the Mother in To The Manor Born.
Day 8, Saturday 7/7
Fabulous day at Pushkin Palace, summer residence of Catherine The Great, City and Kazan Cathedral.
Highlights – Amber room; choir in music hall by the lake; worshippers in Kazan. A couple from Bavaria told us tha Germany paid for the restoration of The Amber Room as the original, looted during WW2 has never been found. Kazan Cathedral was so busy with people worshipping in their own way at various points. Truly a working cathedral. Guide told us stories about her granny. She pointed to the benefits of newly found capitalism, dogs with Schwarovski collars and leads but her granny who lived through the Siege of Leningrad gets no income from the state and no health care. Left us with something to think about with her remark “under communism everyone had a job and free health care”. We saw lots of old people begging. Told us about how Grandmothers kept Christianity alive when it was banned under Communism by telling stories of “the old days”. She pointed to the government building “the Big House”that was formerly the headquarters of the KGB but is now the centre for the FSB, Federal Security Bureau, adding a great aside “it contains the same people. Good meal in “Last Palace”.
Spent most of the evening on deck, an amazing sky and sunset.
Sick passenger back on board and fit to continue cruise.
Day 9 Helsinki.
Took hop on bus, visited Sibelius monument (organ pipes), went up Olympic tower at 1952 stadium, flea market and wander around town.
Formal night with Jeff, Elaine, Chris; Elvira and Nina. Chocolate buffet at night, raided by desperate Yanks afraid of going hungry. Taking piled high plates back to their cabins despite 24/7 free room service! “If ever they raise the Titanic the Americans will be fighting at the dockside to see if there is anything left on the buffet”
Day 10 Stockholm
Magical sail through the North Stockholm Archipelago, view limited by heavy mist.
First hour in city fine then rain until 2. Hop on bus crashed at Skansen, after long fruitless wait for a replacement hopped a tram back to town. Took ferry back to ship, very picturesque. Saw empty warehouse that is being converted to Abba Museum for 2009.
Day 11 Tallinn
Spent the day in the Old Town after doing the hop on tour. Such a beautiful old town, lovely lady in post office gave us special picture stamps as we were Scottish (other tourists got wee scubby ones). Over-changed William and bowled over by his honesty in telling her.
Funeral at the Nevsky Church so we did not linger. Saw Jelko and his boyfriend in town.
Dinner again in Ocean Liners – Excellent!
William left casino $50 up.
Day 12 – Visby
Another little gem. Took train ride round city walls then meandered though the Botanic Gardens, Lutheran Church, Old Town and modern shopping centre.
Rested in afternoon, read Mary Queen of Scots book and enjoyed room service on the balcony.
Formal night with the parade of the chefs carrying baked Alaska.
Great Round The World cabaret then grand buffet. They seemed to have learned the lesson and let us in 15 mins before for photos.
Day 13 Rostock and Warnemunde
Took train to Rostock, had a wander round then back to ship for lunch. Afternoon walk around Warnemunde, very picturesque. Fresh food market all along the river estuary. Took very shuggly train tour around town.
Dined with Elvira, Jeff, Elaine and Chris then off to bed very tired William went to casino till 1.
Day 14 Copenhagen.
Docked at 12 so spent morning packing. Took Celebrity shuttle into town ($12) then walked the main shopping street as far as the Tivoli gardens. Bought books in a church book fair. Took tour bus around the city then back to ship.
Day 15 to airport – bad experience has had to wait in mile long queue for 2 hours just to get to check-in.

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Canaries with leaks.

October 2018, Royal Caribbean Navigator Of The Seas to Canaries

October cruise

The blog started early as I initially registered on the Facebook group for this cruise. The idea is people connect, share wisdom and possibly arrange to meet up once aboard. However the questions that were meant to evoke the wisdom became indicative of some of the cruisers we might want to avoid.

“Will people be dressing up for Halloween?”

“Are children allowed to trick or treat around the cabins?”

“Can we take inflatables into the pool.”

“Are jeans and a jacket ok for formal night?”

“I don’t like the idea of the kids being alone in the kids club. Can I stay with them?”

“How do I withhold tips? I can save £120 if I take them off.”

This then led to a bit of a discourse about how staff pay and tips worked but the person who started the thread said “I will not be shamed into tipping. I reserve the right not to tip.”

So at that I left the thread.

Thursday 18th October

We started off at Premier Inn, Pinchington Lane. Newbury South. We have stayed there before bit is relatively new with access designed in. One slight hiccup once William had got all the luggage in the room we discovered the bathroom door wouldn’t shut so had to be decanted to another room. (Not they are still rooms, cabins or “staterooms” on board ship. Stateroom always conjures up an image of a glorious dead politician lying in a coffin). William was really puggled with all the effort. He has a theory that he is in a secret camera show and people are voting for him to do Herculean tasks.

Friday 19th October

We were less than an hour to Southampton and were pleased to meet Cathy and Mick from Gosport. We enjoyed a coffee and a good catch up. It was a shame to spend just an hour with them as they are a lovely young couple. (I have to say that as they will be receiving this blog).

We have a sea view accessible cabin on deck two. It is the same cabin that was less than clean two years ago. Some of you will remember the saga of ‘the toe nails’. We have a lovely filipino steward, Ronell, the “state room” is spotless.

Some of you will remember David. He who brings his own coffee, biscuits, nuts, crisps, milk and if we call in to Gibraltar heads for Morrison’s to stock up on steak pies and pork pies. I have discovered he also brings flavoured bottled water, crackers and his favourite matured cheddar. Reminds me of he people I met on holiday in Morocco many years ago who toured the local shops lamenting they could not buy bacon or baked beans. We knew David was coming on the second part of this cruise as we have booked to go to Reid’s Madeira for afternoon tea on the terrace. Well he turned up on this cruise too “to surprise us”. He is a kind soul but he has the skill of sucking any meeting of all joy as he regales us with his tales of gloom and doom. It is only the first full day of the cruise and he has had a leaky ice bucket, a welcome gift of things he does not eat, he objects to waiting at the salad bar while a salad is prepared for him, the waitress could not understand what he meant by “the nobly bits at the end of the joint of meat” and he did not like eating alone at breakfast. Well he chose to eat alone. Bless! He is a good stand in for Eyore.

We have the lovely Ken from Mauritius as our concierge. He is a friendly guy who likes to gravitate towards us. The one thing I dislike about him is he is “like a yard of pump water”, “as far through as a kipper”, whichever way he is a natural mannequin for clothes and always looks as though has just stepped off the ironing board.

Saturday at sea

This afternoon there was a long queue on the promenade lining up for a special promotion of new high end jewellery from New York, trade name Klaaty. My Scots fans will enjoy the joke.

William got talking to a solo traveller, a retired woman, Jenny. She is from Broughty Ferry, just outside Dundee. I went across to talk to her about my time there. We had so many connections we could have blethered all day. She went to Morgan Academy, knew my former landlady who worked for the missionary Gladys Aylward (inspiration for Inn of the Sixth Happiness). Was taught by said land lady’s husband and had a parallel career to me in Mental Health in Dundee so we enjoyed reminiscing about various practitioners. All psychiatrists, all decidedly odd!

Apart from me walking into a door and getting a cut to my cheek it was a quiet and uneventful day.

Sunday 21st Bilbao

We started the day with breakfast with David. god bless him he is value for money. He produced a cool bag with Benecol to spread on his toast, Bovril to spread on top of that. A Benecol yogurt drink and sugar free sprinkles to put on his bran flakes.

After breakfast we went to the Diamond Lounge for coffee and out came chocolate powder to sprinkle on his cappuccino and pouring honey for his pancake. I kid you not. I shall not report any more of his foibles or you might think I was making it up.

We got a disabled access shuttle into Bilbao and headed for he Guggenheim Museum. When the shuttle dropped us off the people in wheelchairs were gracefully lowered to the pavement. When it came to my turn the lift stuck half way and I had to hang there,like a smell on the landing while wm looked on. I tell you it is that Reality Show!

The Guggenheim was The one thing we wanted to see. The structure is inspiring. We viewed it from every angle but there was a huge queue to get inside. We just had four hours in the city so we couldn’t have done it justice. It will be a must for a future visit. There are water features and sculptures all round the building so there was lots of stimulation. An amazing sculpture of a scotty dog, 30 feet eye and made up of thousands of bedding plants

There was a slow walk of many thousands of people making their way up the hill. We found no one who spoke English but by interrogating the occasional small child we pieced together that it was a sponsored charity event to walk to the top of the mountain. It was more of a steep hill but well done to all who attempted it. Particular mention must go to the young lad of about 14 pushing his ample Gran in her wheelchair.

Now that we enjoy a higher tier of loyalty, Diamond Plus, we get access to a better class of Lounge and more people to gush over us. We get a free bag of laundry. I wish I had known I would have brought some with us. One decidedly odd thing about the snacks in the lounges. They all come served in individual glass “tea light holders”. One holder is just big enough fit a single strawberry. I thought it must be another money saving move as previously they would put out a plate of strawberries now they put them out three at a time with candleholders clumped in threes, each set with a different ‘nibble’. That was until 9.30p.m. When they clear away uneaten food and out of the larder came a full tray of strawberries only to go straight to the bin! Suggestions on a post card please.

So the day ends here. Off to bed to prepare for La Corunna.

I am having such a cracking time. I cracked my cheek on the bathroom door, my head on a rogue nail sticking out of the toilet door in the Guggenheim and my knee on a concealed pillar in a plant holder. They are all competing against each other in The Throb Factor.

Monday 22nd, La Corruna and the weather is glorious again. For those of you still maintaining an air of innocence to impress your priest, skip this paragraph or read it with a fan, a lace hanky and some sal volatile to hand. Doing the tourist trail up and down a wee shopping street we noticed different young men standing in doorways. All shapes, all sizes, all staring at mobile phones.  21st century ” el gigolo” plying their wares with a ship in port on an app that tells them how far away the next “trick” is located. One industry not closed for siestas now that it has been computerised.

We did our usual route. A supermarket for exotic cans of juice. We got a mix of Coke with coffee. And coffee pods half the price of back in Scotland. There is no duty free on this ship as we are in EU waters so we got a litre of Captain Morgan Rum for €8.

Tuesday 23rd at sea.

One of the perks of being D+ is we get conducted tours of parts of the ship. This morning it was the bridge. Fascinating. William got his picture taken with the captain. His grandparents were from Alta the northern most point in Norway where we went this year for the Northern Lights and dog sledging.

We have had two bottles of champagne as D+ guests, a plate of cookies we can pick up at any refreshment stop and a plate of fruit with a ripe stinky Camembert. Again available at the buffet. I am beginning to sound like David.

Saturday, day 9, at sea.

We were told that 110 passengers left the ship at Tenerife, choosing to fly home. They will need to fund that themselves but a few I spoke to said they felt it was a waste of three days.

Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. We did not experience “terrified passengers, baling out with buckets.” The whole incident was fuelled by Chinese Whispers because the Captain did not know how to do good crisis and reputation management. The Cruise Director and his staff have been left trying to maintain good customer relations without the authority to say anything more than the party line of “minor technical issue”. A pity I am retired or I could have used this as a case study on how NOT to manage a crisis. It was his absence and hiding away that let it become a drama.

Anyone who had booked the trans Atlantic, including some on this extended cruise, have been told they can cancel with a full refund. The itinerary for the transatlantic has been changed and the ship is doing Bruges, overnight in Le Havre, Lisbon before a five day crossing to Miami. Our friend David reckons the altered route is to allow a good inspection of the repair and possible work on the stabiliser. There are four fitted and just 3 working. They must be operated in pairs so we will be crossing Biscay with just the two. Le Havre is the centre of Major ship building and repair. David put the cruise into perspective. “$3000 for a day-trip to Gran Canaria.”

We heard from other passengers that a few small shops in Tenerife opened at 12 for those facing shopping withdrawal. We were happy to enjoy the diamond balcony, the sun, the sights and the snacks.

Roy Walker was in the theatre last night, you will remember him from the TV quiz show ‘Catch Phrase’. He was very dated, a lot of his act was reminiscing on The Comedians TV showcase of the 70’s and repeating what he rated the best jokes of each performer. It was of course, racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic. He had a good go at Nicola Sturgeon, vegetarians, stammerers, ad nauseam. The good thing was great comic timing and delivery.

There was a man in front of me who was quite deaf, two hearing aids, so why he chose to sit at the furthest row from the stage, in the gods, is a mystery. His ever loving wife was helping him by repeating every joke. Flat, and without the comic timing of the professional killed it. I can’t see how he got anything from the performance. Well those seated around him didn’t.

It reminded me of a training weekend I went on which was held at Dunblane Cathedral, home of Episcopal Nuns. We had a theatre company coming to perform a play that would help us develop our awareness. The Superior asked if one of the elderly nuns could sit in as in her youth she was in the theatre and would love to see a performance again. I suppose it was what today we would call ‘an item in her bucket list’, perhaps as a nun it would be a ‘censer list’. This nun was deaf too, so brought a friend to help out. Her friend repeated all the lines very loudly, much to our amusement. The play was a dialogue between a teenager and his mum, who had raised him alone since his dad skipped off just after he had been born. The kid loves the theatre and gets his mum to tell him about all the acts she saw in Glasgow and all the old films with the big stars. When he gets all starry eyed about Judy Garland coming to Glasgow the penny drops for the mum that her son is gay. When he asks her “so what was my da like?” She answers “he’s no y’er da. He’s yer f###ing whelp of a fayther”. The whole room holds it’s breath, even the cast. When Sister repeated it in loud crystal tones everyone corpsed. The cast took quite a while to recover from that one. Glasgow expletives lose something when repeated in ‘Received Pronunciation’.

STOP PRESS. We just won $820 and last night William won $170. David received a free-play certificate for $5. He asked us to accompany him in playing it as he didn’t know how to play the fruit machines. He squeezed maximum misery out of “oh I won’t win anything, the machine will just gobble up my credit – oh woe is me.” First pull of 40 cents and he wins $20. I bet he won’t tell that to the folks back home. He added another peccadillo, the orange juice he brought with him has started to ferment. I could make this into a version of “The Generation Game”. How many things can you name that David brought on his cruise. Perhaps we could make them into a song “Uncle Tom Cobbley and all.

We still have sunshine and it is warm enough to sit outside. Lots of people around the pool wearing “Crisp and Dry” trying to get the final tan.

I have lost my title of ‘Silliest Old Git on a Scooter’. A woman came charging into the lift with her wick up full, hitting the window at the back of the lift. No one hurt but good job there was only one person in the lift. A woman who is now very nimble on her feet.

We received a lovely gift from Ken our concierge (like a black Cliff Richard), a crystal block engraved with an image of the ship and a Royal Caribbean blanket.

Talking of gifts. The first prize in the “what is a Tan Sad?” Competition goes to Angela Smart, second prize to Ewan Mc, there was nothing for the smart ass who came up with “someone on an RCL cruise”.

Sunday, day 10

All packed and ready for off. I spent my last day taking up my own challenge of trying to do something creative with David’s stores and stocks.

Our dear friend David Fionda

Ne’er does he like to wander

Without familiar provisions

Oils, unctions and potions

And bottles of fruit flavoured water

The stock check starts in his cabin

And the cupboard he keeps all his stores in

Single dose milk pots

Wee tiny jam pots

And a cruet should he need to season

At breakfast he comes with a bag

Of it’s contents he delights to brag

Like a conjurors hat

He takes out this and that

Some Stevia sweetener and Hag (decaf coffee but that doesn’t scan)

Next the cholesterol’s shot dead

With Benecol yogurt and spread

His own Special K

Juice to start off the day

And marmite on toast which to spread

At 6, two bowls out he puts

To hold crackers, crisp and his nuts

As he drinks Cabernet

At the end of the day

To go with his cheese and cold cuts.

I’m struggling to fit in the rest

His Bovril and medicine chest

His vacuum packed Cheddar

So if can you do better

To fit in his chocolate sprinkles for cappuccinos pouring honey for pancakes

And the pies that he buys in Gibraltar.

He also has digestive biscuits but my brain hurts now.

Monday 17:30 and we are home. Good weather, no delays.

Much love

Dave and William

Xx

Three Queens at sea.

Cunard Queen Victoria December 2018 to Canaries

First impressions are good. Well appointed state room with generous circulation space. Friends are in a Q4 suite and although it is divided into three living areas it is very tight to move around. Liz was complaining that the suite did not have hanging space for all her dresses. A woman I met in the theatre who is also in a suite made the same complaint. We have more than adequate hanging and drawer space although nowhere purpose made for my collection of feather boas. Neither the suite nor our stateroom has any shelving or cupboards in the bathroom so you can only put your jar of crows feet cream on the floor.

The cabin is clean and the floors hoovered, unlike or cabins on Aurora and Navigator where the dander from previous occupants stuck to the soles of my Pretty Polly Support Hose (pregnancy strength) leaving me looking like the Yeti. No jokes about Bigfoot please.

The cups etc in the stateroom are Wedgewood china.

William went down to check our table for dinner which was right at the back of the restaurant above the propeller. No way could I access it with the scooter. A word with the M’aitre D’ and he has moved us to a table for two, starboard just ten yards in.

We went to The Lido buffet for lunch. It all looked fresh and tasty. I can’t pass a good soup so had two bowls of their broccoli soup. The bowls are dispensed from a heated rack. That gets full marks from me.

A pre dinner wander. My, what a library, 7340 books! It is on two floors and is a grand deco structure with mahogany shelves and fittings.Fortunately the ship is not too hot to wear a jacket and as jackets are compulsory after 6p.m. I am grateful for that. There are some strange “jackets”, we spotted one looking like the top half of an overall, a couple of fleeces, a bomber jacket and what would pass as a pyjama jacket. We will keep you informed. It is easy for women. It seems to be “anything goes”. Today’s look is far too short a skirt dangling well above clumpy shoes with ridiculously high heels that make the wearer walk as though she had been taken short. They have evidently caught the fashion from reading “Just 18” not Menopause Monthly. As my friend’s mother would say “you are so passremarkable”.

It was recommended we head for the Commodore club that has windows covering 270 degrees and looking out to the fore of the ship. I had a small glass of Cabernet and William had a G&T. £22, we shan’t be getting drunk there. However the cost is set off by excellent nibbles.

Before going down to dinner we went to look at the evening buffet. A great salad and cold cuts bar and lots of meat and fish options but I could only spot one vegetarian main.

Later in the Britannia dining room we had excellent vegetarian options and left replete. The dining room is very spacious with lots of room between tables. Cunard crested flatware and good quality napery added to the experience. So far every experience we have had has been top notch.

The big treat was going to bed. Such a comfy bed with huge soft pillows and a thick but light duvet. We have the aircon set at 19 so the air is fresh and you appreciate being well couried in. Rocked by the ship traversing the Bay of Biscay. As soft and comforting as a grandmother’s bosom. We slept like bairns.

We took lunch in the Lido Buffet. I think these blogs might well turn into food reviews. We each had a cheese and onion pie baked in the shape of a deep pork pie. The shortcrust was crisp and the filling piping hot. All hot dishes live up to the name. The potato wedges, shredded buttered cabbage and broccoli mornay were dished up piping hot and on hot plates. I think the secret is there is never much sitting out and it is replenished regularly.

Day two the dreadful cruise ship boredom set in. Regular readers will know what that means. We went and booked another cruise. Back on this ship 8 December next year for 12 nights to the Canaries. J McLaren take not and get booking. You will love it

I am now in the Queens Room which is the ballroom and where, in the afternoon, the ritual of afternoon tea is played out. There is a queue and I think we are waiting for people to finish and move out. We will be lucky, it is only on from 3:30 to 4:30 and it is now 4:00. It is a theatrical performance. The waiters are wearing white jackets and white gloves. The best Cunard liveried Wedgewood adorns the tables, including China teapots. The waiters are performing silver service and they started with ballet service where once the first sitting was in place they emerged from the four corners of the ballroom, trays held aloft accompanied by music from a harpist.

Mr Cunard (yes there really was one) declared that his liners should encompass comfort, safety, beauty and reliability. That would come to epitomise the ambience of a liner. I think he would still approve.

That ambience is certainly reflected in afternoon tea in the Queen’s Ballroom. I am seated beneath two huge chandeliers on a sumptuously patterned carpet that surrounds the richly inlaid wooden ballroom floor. High up beneath the ceiling there at deco inspired stained glass windows. Sticking out at 90 degrees from the wall, heraldic banners hang with various Cunard symbols embroidered thereon.

4.08 I was eventually seated and I could not be so rude as to turn away the charming waiter proffering me tasty finger sandwiches and tempting sweet treats. What I don’t understand is this is one of our cheaper cruises working out at £95 per night. So how come others do so badly when they are all under the same parent company from this ship through to the infamous Costa Concordia.

The captain was asked in an interview if any lessons had been learned from the Costa Sinking. He said it could never happen on Cunard as they operate to BRM, Bridge Resource Management whereby the most junior member on the bridge can tell the captain of potential hazards and that will be acted on by the captain with no reprisals should the report be erroneous. The chief engineer said a similar system operated in the RAF, sounds like it would be good for the NHS.

On this cruise William is looking forward to going down to dinner each night as the vegetarian options are so good.

We have enjoyed a wide range of good entertainment from watching Ballroom dancing, line dancing and dancing classes in the first class Ballroom where various classical concerts have been performed. Talking of which I have just left a classical guitar performance because a woman took a call on her mobile phone and conducted the conversation in a ‘mobile phone voice’ to the detriment of the concert and the annoyance of the audience. She was hiding behind a pillar Ostrich Style. If I can’t see them they can’t hear me. Like good Brits we stared and tutted but no one said a thing.

I spent these three days composing a detailed, fascinating, informative, rib tickling, and spell binding blog only to lose it all at the press of a button. Composing this on my phone means I don’t have the undo function as on the iPad pad.

I am now in the cinema waiting to see the Kenneth Branagh remake of Murder on the Orient Express. There are private boxes and the one for wheelchair users is always free so I have made it my own. No one can see in so I can have forty winks if need be. We have had some good current films and top notch entertainment.

Sunday and we have finally left the rough seas that necessitated people adopting the sailors gate, legs akimbo, arms out at 45 degrees and one crab step, two forward lunges, one backward stagger. “The sun is out, the sky is blue, there’s not a cloud to spoil the view ……”. Name that song. It has been good to sit out in the sun that at times felt too hot.

Tonight is the second formal night and is a masked ball. I will send this in Lanzarote tomorrow.

Love

Dave (and William)

Xx

PS I left the guitar concert as the woman on the phone persisted. Twenty minutes into the film the projection failed and I was losing the plot. Third time lucky, afternoon tea. Fingers crossed. We are accompanied by harp music.

I have been seated in the lonely and sad table for one section and I am behind a screen. It is ideal for a failed dieter as we know ‘if no one sees you eat it it doesn’t count’. I am just in fear of the screen being pushed aside as I am trying to wipe jam and cream from my beard. (Sorry Michael to refer to “Jamgate” again, even if obliquely.)

Now here is a conundrum for you. The waiter brought sandwiches, once they were consumed he brought cakes but I am now waiting, cakes uneaten, for scones as I believe the great order of things should be tea, sandwiches, more tea, scones then cakes. And while we are at it, scones, jam first or cream first? Am I a Philistine for preferring butter to cream? (or seeing as I am still behind the screen both)

Wednesday 19th Dec

There hasn’t been a lot to say because all that was said the first three days about the ship has remained consistent. We are still enjoying the food at every meal.

Today we are in Funchal Madeira. The town is beautiful, everywhere decked out for Christmas. All the narrow streets are hung with huge light features, like those one would see at Blackpool illuminations but classier. Stars, santas, angels, 🌲 trees, poinsettias. Talking of poinsettias there are thousands in the streets, parks, planters and baskets. Due to the temperate climate they thrive and bloom looking much more striking than the spindly specimens we have in the uk. The parks are verdant with all shades of lush green with red flowers, bracks and berries. Everywhere there are large scale Nativity Tableaux.

We have stopped for a coffee in one of the narrow lanes and are enjoying Nata, the baked custard tart special to Portugal.

The ethnic village is in place on one of the town squares with elderly ladies baking bread on wood fired griddles. There is a stage showcasing local music. At the moment there are young people playing guitars, an ensemble set up to pass on and preserve local folk guitar performance.

Along the Main Street there is a Christmas market but at sensible prizes not the rip off that is the Edinburgh Christmas market. We have just had a local cherry liqueur served in a cup made of chocolate, €1. Each stall is selling different liqueurs. So far we have tried cherry, coffee, orange, and Christmas blend. Thank goodness for the scooter.

Lunch time we met up with two friends we have made on the ship, Sean and Roger from Sutton Coalfield.

The afternoon has turned sunny and it is very pleasant. We are at the Ritz enjoying coffee and Nata.

We have been to the park, all set out at Santa’s village with trains, reindeer, grottoes (should that not be groteaux?). Fed the ducks on the pond and bought more alcohol.

We walked back to the ship via the Ronaldo museum. The clouds are black, sitting atop the mountain. I will let you know if we get back dry.

The daily ship newspaper forecasted high of 13* with passing showers. Everyone from the ship came out muffled up but at 20* with sun we are back to t shirts.

The last three days have been hot and sunny. Sunday at sea, Monday we were in Lanzarote. There is not a lot to say about Lanzarote, just that wandering in the sunshine was glorious. Tuesday was one of our favourite ports, Las PalWednesday 19th Dec

There hasn’t been a lot to say because all that was said the first three days about the ship has remained consistent. We are still enjoying the food at every meal.

Today we are in Funchal Madeira. The town is beautiful, everywhere decked out for Christmas. All the narrow streets are hung with huge light features, like those one would see at Blackpool illuminations but classier. Stars, santas, angels, 🌲 trees, poinsettias. Talking of poinsettias there are thousands in the streets, parks, planters and baskets. Due to the temperate climate they thrive and bloom looking much more striking than the spindly specimens we have in the uk. The parks are verdant with all shades of lush green with red flowers, bracks and berries. Everywhere there are large scale Nativity Tableaux.

We have stopped for a coffee in one of the narrow lanes and are enjoying Nata, the baked custard tart special to Portugal.

The ethnic village is in place on one of the town squares with elderly ladies baking bread on wood fired griddles. There is a stage showcasing local music. At the moment there are young people playing guitars, an ensemble set up to pass on and preserve local folk guitar performance.

Along the Main Street there is a Christmas market but at sensible prizes not the rip off that is the Edinburgh Christmas market. We have just had a local cherry liqueur served in a cup made of chocolate, €1. Each stall is selling different liqueurs. So far we have tried cherry, coffee, orange, and Christmas blend. Thank goodness for the scooter.

Lunch time we met up with Sean and Roger from Sutton Coalfield.

The afternoon has turned sunny and it is very pleasant. We are at the Ritz enjoying coffee and Nata.

We have been to the park, all set out at Santa’s village with trains, reindeer, grottoes (should that not be groteaux?). Fed the ducks on the pond and bought more alcohol.

We walked back to the ship via the Ronaldo museum. The clouds are black, sitting atop the mountain. I will let you know if we get back dry.

The daily ship newspaper forecasted high of 13* with passing showers. Everyone from the ship came out muffled up but at 20* with sun we are back to t shirts.

The last three days have been hot and sunny. Sunday at sea, Monday we were in Lanzarote. There is not a lot to say about Lanzarote, just that wandering in the sunshine was glorious. Tuesday was one of our favourite ports, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. That is the port with the long promenade, Playa de Las Canteras, where there is the very disabled friendly beach bathing and changing with nurse in attendance. As usual we started at the Jewellery and Fancy goods shop where we buy Swarovski ornaments for Lily. We took the proprietor a selection of Scottish confectionery. After a long wander by the beach we were at a favourite Italian Restaurant for lunch. It is good to have places where you are known and considered regular even if just an occasional visitor. Alongside Funchal, Las Palmas is one of the places we would like to rent a flat for a good bit of the winter.

We have stopped and chatted to a couple, Roger and his vivacious partner, Kim. Roger has been badly burned losing most of his facial features, including an eye, a hand and goodness knows what one can’t see. I guess much of his body that wasn’t burned has been sacrificed to skin grafts. It makes me feel bad about feeling sorry for myself. One of those situations one can’t imagine wanting to survive from but “God doesn’t give dying grace for living moments”.

We have met a lovely couple. Peter is very frail, terminal and on oxygen. His wife, Anne, is a robust woman, a whisky drinker, with a face lined with a million experiences and no doubt myriad worries. She says she needs to keep positive for him. What first caused me to speak to him was the teddy bear, sitting comfortably atop his scooter basket and wearing a Cunard crew badge with his name “Teddy”. I said “it is lovely to meet people who have a playful spirit”. He replied “I have never grown up” and when you looked into his eyes you could see the boy of 70+ years ago.

Teddy has a new outfit each day and Peter’s scooter is adorned with tinsel and Christmas lights.

Anne does all this to keep him upbeat.

I stop by to talk to them at least once a day on the Lido Buffet. Tuesday Anne was eating a bowl of Japanese food with chopsticks. I asked had they visited. A fascinating story emerged of them having lived in Japan and her at one time being the top ranked female judo practitioner in the UK. she then remarked on something that happened when they were “showing at Chelsea” her Bondsai in the flower show. I was telling them about the book I am writing about The Lang Spoon, a fictional coffee shop in “Langtoon” and the snatches of conversation one overheard in busy places that I have incorporated into the story. Such as overheard from a woman sitting behind us in a carvery in Robroyston. “At least ma weans aw ken wha th’r faithers are”.

Anne recalled at Chelsea hearing two elegant ladies, complete with parasols say “….. so that was how the elephant ended up in the ha ha”.

I said I would get back to you on what passes for a jacket. Monday night a guy wended his way into the dining room, he was a lairy drunk, loud, inappropriate and no boundaries. He staggered from table to table, stopping for far too long and regaling the diners as they tried to ignore him and feign eating. He was wearing an embroidered top that he could well have have purloined from a Shanghai bordello. He eventually tired and slumped at a table across from an elegant lady. Leaning against a pillar, he dozed, rallying from time to time to take some food and more drink. My hope was that the lady was either his long-suffering wife notanother recipient of his drink tinted life. Either way we have seen neither of them since.

Thursday at sea

We were entertained by a Christmas market of stuff that had been wheeled out of the shops. They had lots of Christmas snacks on offer and the best mince pies and Christmas cake I

have enjoyed at sea.

Dining Blog

Starting in the cabin. There is a very practical tea and coffee tray that holds everything in one place. One is provided with sachets of Douwe Egbert caf and decaf, Twinnings Tea bags and sachets of “fresh” milk, blue and green. Light crisp caramel biscuits, not half-baked American cookies.

Breakfast in the dining room was limited for us, fried eggs and toast. The coffee is made from ‘brown’ and is completely tasteless but there is always a jar of Nescafé and fresh cream. The breakfast buffet in the Lido is amazing. Everything one can imagine. For me the highlights are, the best omelette at sea and make-your-own toast that is crisp on the outside and soft on the middle. William had pancakes and was delighted to find it was real maple syrup. Most places have “maple flavoured syrup.”

We ate lunch in the Lido too. Great soup again, cauliflower with a hint of five spice, now that really worked. Beer battered cod. Crisp battery, fresh moist fish. Delicious.

Dinner at night was chosen from a special vegetarian menu and the dinner and lunch menus for the following day. I won’t bore you with all our choices but you will understand the quality when I tell you William gave enthusiastic approval of every dish and said “what a different it makes enjoying the food and looking forward to coming to dinner, something I have not done for many cruises”.

We have had door problems. The self closer on the bathroom door was being replaced as we came on the ship. There on in it closed but with a sound resembling a donkey in labour. We found that strangely soothing. The balcony door has been stiff but Day 6 jammed open. The donkey gave birth and its offspring fell to the floor. So two doors, one joiner while we were in Madeira. The upshot was the balcony door has to be removed for at least four hours while the engineer makes a part for it. Once he shut it that would be us locked out of The balcony until day 8. We have missed so many opportunities for sun and fresh air. Had I been in charge of Gusset Relations I would have despatched a bottle of wine but nothing so far 🙁

While we are on food. Cheese Gromit! If you order cheese at the end of dinner you are presented with a ready assembled plate of cheeses, pecans, Branston and dried apricots. None of which I would serve together. Sunday I asked if I cold just have some blue Stilton. There was always one in the Lido, the centre scooped so that you could help yourself. I am sure you will appear on a hidden camera show as I tried to make my request. I mimed a whole Stilton, scooping out the cheese. It was interpreted as ‘ice cream’, ‘mashed potato’, anything but blue stilton. Eventually the M’aitre D was called and after a few more charades he finally got it. Surprisingly there was none in the dining room kitchen so he hurried up 6 decks and came back panting like a marathon runner with a dinner plate piled with blue Stilton. The sight of it was over facing. He then proudly told me he had put in a standing order for it to be made available every night. I could not face it again.

Thursday at sea.

Another formal night, excellent food and great company. Tomorrow is Vigo, our last port before heading home.

Saturday 22nd December at sea and heading home.

Yesterday was Vigo, our last port of this cruise. Everything there is uphill but we have found a way via the lift in the shopping centre, adjacent to the ship’s berth, that gets us over half way on the ascent to the shops. We were accompanied by Roger and Sean who, despite many stops at this port, had not found our leg-saving and rewarding way in via so many titilating shops containing every inessential fol-de-rol one could ever covet and those of you familiar with our meanderings are already drooling with anticipation as you know the Emerald City is C&A!

It was a damp but temperate day, in fact Roger braved it out in just a polo shirt (you should have seen him trying to justify that to Port Security) [of course he had trousers on, this is creative writing!]. As always I was wrapped up like a charity shop dummy and only just staving off hypothermia.

William and co. bought lots of bargains in C&A, must-have t shirts in an ‘Artisan T Shirt Emporium (don’t ask me! William and Roger are avid collectors) and fossils from the “Fossil Museum and Shopping Experience”, We managed to squeeze in two stops for coffee and cake and came across a collector’s market for those who collect Spanish tat. No purchases for the undeserving but I was conned out of €5 for a bottle of a home-made liquor, popular at New Year and here being sold in aid of orphans. It looks like it will restore French Polish and make you blind but the last thing you experience before slipping into oblivion will be 30 seconds of New Year ecstasy.

When we got back our balcony door had been fixed as promised and glided along it’s tracks to the lightest of touches. After getting a hernia for the first 7 days of the cruise, lucky B’s who get this cabin next. Our cloud’s silver lining was a wee letter giving us £200 off the cruise we have booked for December ’19.

We ended the night with Roger and Sean back to our room for G&Ts with nibbles. Roger and I are of a similar age so we set up a rapport that covered Ovaltine, Ovaltine mixer jars, Roy Rogers, huge boxes on the side of the TV to switch from 2 hours per day BBC to 2 hours ITV, mastoiditis, The Ovalteeny’s song (pause for two unintelligible choruses), Alma Cogan, …….. Sean and William looked on mystified until we got to Abba when they were able to hum along to “the tracks of our years”.

So Saturday, last sea day and it was still mild enough to sit out with a few hours sun on our Starboard balcony.

We have shopped to spend our last on-board-credit, quaffed G&T in Liz and Robin’s suite, eaten, slept and packed. I will be in bed right after dinner, usually about 10p.m.

This cruise has scored 10/10 in all aspects. Lots of little touches that make one feel well treated. Top quality food of which we have enjoyed every mouthful. Lovely people to chat to, great people who have become ‘cruise friends’. It has been the best cruise since our first on Celebrity Constellation in 2007.

Jean and Wendy always said they did not fancy the two-tier system on Cunard whereby the suites have separate facilities but one is not aware of it. The bulk of the ship functions in the one place and just the forward lifts go as far as the Princess and Queens grill. Liz says it is a long walk from the basic suites.

Not many mad people to talk about. I have only had words with two people over their behaviour. Before my knee replacements my feet were set at ‘quarter to three’, my skilled surgeon in replacing the knees reset them to two o’clock. The one pointing at 2 was sticking out from the table and a woman, in pushing past, tripped. I caught her, saving her from falling, apologised and explained my malady. Last night as she passed she said, in a stage voice “at least his foot isn’t sticking out tonight.” My witty riposte for her was “bitch!”

Lunch time an old man was trotting far to fast through the buffet, wearing flip flops and carrying two bowls of soup. He swerved to miss me (moving at my slowest speed) staggered and swore at me. He was on the receiving end of a withering “really?!”

We have been on the slot machines most nights, enjoyed hours of play and are ending the cruise with the same amount we came with.

The cases are out and we are off to our final dinner. If you get this Sunday you will know we have docked and won’t need to watch the news to see us floating in the channel on a lilo.

> Dave and William

> Xx

October 2018 RCL Navigator of the Seas

October cruise

The blog started early as I initially registered on the Facebook group for this cruise. The idea is people connect, share wisdom and possibly arrange to meet up once aboard. However the questions that were meant to evoke the wisdom became indicative of some of the cruisers we might want to avoid.

“Will people be dressing up for Halloween?”

“Are children allowed to trick or treat around the cabins?”

“Can we take inflatables into the pool.”

“Are jeans and a jacket ok for formal night?”

“I don’t like the idea of the kids being alone in the kids club. Can I stay with them?”

“How do I withhold tips? I can save £120 if I take them off.”

This then led to a bit of a discourse about how staff pay and tips worked but the person who started the thread said “I will not be shamed into tipping. I reserve the right not to tip.”

So at that I left the thread.

Thursday 18th October

We started off at Premier Inn, Pinchington Lane. Newbury South. We have stayed there before, it is relatively new with access designed in. One slight hiccup once William had got all the luggage in the room we discovered the bathroom door wouldn’t shut so had to be decanted to another room. (Note they are still rooms, cabins or “staterooms” on board ship. Stateroom always conjures up an image of a glorious dead politician lying in a coffin). William was really puggled with all the effort. He has a theory that he is in a secret camera show and people are voting for him to do Herculean tasks. M

Friday 19th October

We were less than an hour to Southampton and were pleased to meet Cathy and Mick from Gosport. Friends we made on the June cruise. We enjoyed a coffee and a good catch up. It was a shame to spend just an hour with them as they are a lovely young couple. (Both 80+ but I have to say that as they will be receiving this blog).

We have a sea view accessible cabin on deck two. It is the same cabin that was less than clean two years ago. Some of you will remember the saga of ‘the toe nails’. We have a lovely filipino steward, Ronell, the “state room” is spotless.

Some of you will remember David. He who brings his own coffee, biscuits, nuts, crisps, milk and if we call in to Gibraltar heads for Morrison’s to stock up on steak pies and pork pies. I have discovered he also brings flavoured bottled water, crackers and his favourite matured cheddar. Reminds me of the people I met on holiday in Morocco many years ago who toured the local shops lamenting they could not buy bacon or baked beans. We knew David was coming on the second part of this cruise as we have booked to go to Reid’s Madeira for afternoon tea on the terrace. Well he turned up on this cruise too “to surprise us”. He is a kind soul but he has the skill of sucking any meeting of all joy as he regales us with his tales of gloom and doom. It is only the first full day of the cruise and he has had a leaky ice bucket, a welcome gift of things he does not eat, he objects to waiting at the salad bar while a salad is prepared for him, the waitress could not understand what he meant by “the nobly bits at the end of the joint of meat” and he did not like eating alone at breakfast. Well he chose to eat alone. Bless! He is a good stand in for Eyore.

We have the lovely Ken from Mauritius as our concierge. He is a friendly guy who likes to gravitate towards us. The one thing I dislike about him is he is “like a yard of pump water”, “as far through as a kipper”, whichever way he is a natural mannequin for clothes and always looks as though has just stepped off the ironing board.

Saturday at sea

This afternoon there was a long queue on the promenade lining up for a special promotion of new high end jewellery from New York, trade name Klaaty. My Scots fans will enjoy the joke.

William got talking to a solo traveller, a retired woman, Jenny. She is from Broughty Ferry, just outside Dundee. I went across to talk to her about my time there. We had so many connections we could have blethered all day. She went to Morgan Academy, knew my former landlady who worked for the missionary Gladys Aylward (inspiration for Inn of the Sixth Happiness). Was taught by said land lady’s husband and had a parallel career to me in Mental Health in Dundee so we enjoyed reminiscing about various practitioners. All psychiatrists, all decidedly odd!

Apart from me walking into a door and getting a cut to my cheek it was a quiet and uneventful day.

Sunday 21st Bilbao

We started the day with breakfast with David. god bless him he is value for money. He produced a cool bag with Benecol to spread on his toast, Bovril to spread on top of that. A Benecol yogurt drink and sugar free sprinkles to put on his bran flakes.

After breakfast we went to the Diamond Lounge for coffee and out came chocolate powder to sprinkle on his cappuccino and pouring honey for his pancake. I kid you not. I shall not report any more of his foibles or you might think I was making it up.

We got a disabled access shuttle into Bilbao and headed for he Guggenheim Museum. When the shuttle dropped us off the people in wheelchairs were gracefully lowered to the pavement. When it came to my turn the lift stuck half way and I had to hang there,like a smell on the landing while William looked on. I tell you it is that Reality Show!

The Guggenheim was The one thing we wanted to see. The structure is inspiring. We viewed it from every angle but there was a huge queue to get inside. We just had four hours in the city so we couldn’t have done it justice. It will be a must for a future visit. There are water features and sculptures all round the building so there was lots of stimulation. An amazing sculpture of a scotty dog, 30 feet high and made up of thousands of bedding plants

There was a slow walk of many thousands of people making their way up the hill. We found no one who spoke English but by interrogating the occasional small child we pieced together that it was a sponsored charity event to walk to the top of the mountain. It was more of a steep hill but well done to all who attempted it. Particular mention must go to the young lad of about 14 pushing his ample Gran in her wheelchair.

Now that we enjoy a higher tier of loyalty, Diamond Plus, we get access to a better class of Lounge and more people to gush over us. We get a free bag of laundry. I wish I had known I would have brought some with us. One decidedly odd thing about the snacks in the lounges. They all come served in individual glass “tea light holders”. One holder is just big enough fit a single strawberry. I thought it must be another money saving move as previously they would put out a plate of strawberries now they put them out three at a time with candleholders clumped in threes, each set with a different ‘nibble’. That was until 9.30p.m. When they clear away uneaten food and out of the larder came a full tray of strawberries only to go straight to the bin! Suggestions on a post card please.

So the day ends here. Off to bed to prepare for La Corunna.

During the night there was one hell of a bang then the emergency code Bravo Bravo Bravo, this was 02:00 hours. Staff running in all directions in life jackets, quite the drama. All we learned from the Captain was that we had experienced a minor technical issue but we were heading to the nearest port, Vigo.

I am having such a cracking time. I cracked my cheek on the bathroom door, my head on a rogue nail sticking out of the toilet door in the Guggenheim and my knee on a concealed pillar in a plant holder. They are all competing against each other in The Throb Factor.

Monday 22nd, La Corruna and the weather is glorious again. For those of you still maintaining an air of innocence to impress your priest, skip this paragraph or read it with a fan, a lace hanky and some sal volatile to hand. Doing the tourist trail up and down a wee shopping street we noticed different young men standing in doorways. All shapes, all sizes, all staring at mobile phones.  21st century “el gigolo” plying their wares with a ship in port on an app that tells them how far away the next “trick” is located. One industry not closed for siestas now that it has been computerised.

We did our usual route. A supermarket for exotic cans of juice. We got a mix of Coke with coffee. And coffee pods half the price of back in Scotland. There is no duty free on this ship as we are in EU waters so we got a litre of Captain Morgan Rum for €8.

Tuesday 23rd at sea.

One of the perks of being D+ is we get conducted tours of parts of the ship. This morning it was the bridge. Fascinating. William got his picture taken with the captain. His grandparents were from Alta the northern most point in Norway where we went this year for the Northern Lights and dog sledging.

We have had two bottles of champagne as D+ guests, a plate of cookies we can pick up at any refreshment stop and a plate of fruit with a ripe stinky Camembert. Again available at the buffet. I am beginning to sound like David.

Wednesday 24th Cherbourg.

Cherbourg was one of the departure ports for The Titanic. It still boasts a magnificent transit hall built in the late 19th century. At the time it must have reeked of the brave new age of transatlantic travel. I think the style would be described as “Brutalist”. The overall construction material for the building being concrete with staircases and statuary in an Imperialist form. There is still remaining what at that time would have been the equivalent of the baggage carousel, a 200 yard oblong oak counter set with ebony rails for minimum friction against the hundreds of bags that would have been deposited thereon. (David informs me it could be described as a “stadium” that is a standard measure of 600 feet. ) The counter is about 4 feet wide. In between the sides of the oblong a 6 foot space sufficient for a small army of porters who would have received baggage from carts and carriages as they passed through the 20 foot gap between the two legs of the oblong on their way from the arrival side to the departure side. The trunks and bags being slid along the ebony rails to where ship side porters would remove them to be transferred into the hold. Above the doorway that led to the ship was a departure board about 20 feet by 10, declaring the name of the ship and her destination. In the present time there are squares framed by concrete at ceiling height and rectangles at window height, now filled with brick. I imagined at one time they would have been glass, possibly coloured along the style of Tiffany. You could imagine how this building was constructed to impress and build a sense of awe as a precursor to the majesty of the great ocean going liners.

This hall now houses a sea museum. It does have a ‘Titanic Hall’ but only as part of a €18, 4 hour, immersive experience. So we just did the gift shop.

We did a bit of the town but William had a REALLY sore wrist and ankle. We got to Carrefour supermarket, that was about half a mile away. We had it earmarked to stock up in mustard mayo. We managed a wee bit of the town a couple of hundred yards further on. There were picturesque bits and streets that looked like a First World War film set but nothing to blow apart the sense so we slowly wandered back to the ship. The pain was quite intense so at 4 William went to see the doctor who diagnosed gout. By night time he was genuinely hollering in pain. He was given a wrist splint and a compression sleeve for his heel and foot and told to take cocodamol. I doled out the morphine and it slowly worked. I was hoping he would get a good night’s sleep and for the pain to have settled by morning. We were just 90 miles from Le Havre so the ship was almost drifting between ports.

William was too sore to move far so we stayed on the ship. We were in Le Havre in the summer when we shared a taxi with a couple of American guys for the trip to Honfleur. That was the stage at which Peter and Claire fell out with us for not inviting them. Not much is working for William’s pain.

Friday 26th and back in Southampton. We were up early. Off the ship at 7 and at the hospital minor injuries unit for it opening.

The paramedic, Mark Friend, was very good at his job. His partner is from Kirkcaldy but they both now live in Bournemouth. William was confirmed as having gout and given Naproxen and Colchicine. Mark said he had never heard of supports being prescribed for gout. I guess they need to make profit somehow. As a side effect of the morphine he has had hiccups for three days.

On the way back from the chemist we met Cuddy, the Cruise Director. He was born in Leeds but lives in Leven. His wife is 100% Fifer. He has had recurring gout so was full of sympathy.

A couple we were speaking to in the bar Thursday night were also “friends of gout” and swore by “cider vinegar with the mother”. The mother is the original yeast that is left in the product so we stormed Holland and Barrett for the cure. Cuddy confirmed it’s efficacy. Everyone we speak to has a cure for gout along with a cure for hiccups but where we will find leeches and toad spawn at sea is anyone’s guess. I am thinking of listing a special interest group in the Cruise Compass newspaper. Along the lines of “Friends of Bill W”. I would call it “Friends of the Port Bottle”.

The muster drill was held at 4 and they allowed the frail and ‘wheel enabled’ to sit it out in the bar. They had not checked the suitability as the announcements were inaudible. We did not know what was happening until a crew member strapped on a life vest.

There is a very different clientele this time. Last week was 200+ children and “lively”, this cruise we have 2000+ over 70 and  the atmosphere is curmudgeonly. Apologies to all the geriatric swingers I know. We must be the exception.

At muster we discovered friends Corrina and Paul from Devizes are on this cruise. David has received two more free bottles of wine, one of them white, so he is really miserable.

Robin and Liz from Lochgelly came on today and we met them in their suite. OMG, how the other 8% live yet still their welcome aboard gift was only a plate of those ubiquitous cookies.on this cruise there are 270 Diamond guests, 170 Diamond Plus and 11 Pinnacle.

Saturday 27th at sea.

I am no longer recounting David’s little curiosities against him. I hope you may interpret them as packing recommendations, he has just told me that in future he intends to bring WD40. I told him to bring Duct Tape so perhaps his blog will have me down as an oddball.

It was quite rough at sea last night, out of the Chanel and into The Bay of Biscay. I met a woman in the lift with a newly plastered arm and her husband bandaged like Rab C Nesbit.

Today has been a gentle, quiet day with a bit of reading, a bit of writing and lots of eating and drinking.

Tonight is very rough so the ‘Pick n’ Mix’ bags are out. There was an almighty crash from Sindu the Indian named, Spanish Tapas bar. Guess that will be a waiter sacked.

We ended the night in the theatre for the Take That Experience. You will remember I had Jason Orange in my cabin TWICE last cruise. One did have to use quite a large pinch of imagination to have the ‘experience’. Gary was trying a bit too hard with the nasal northern lad. Howard tried hard by wearing trousers that had the crotch at his knees. My hero Jason still looked and sounded like his ego Daniel. Mark had just enough Salford Scally in his voice but found it hard to be diminutive Mark, 5’6″ being 6’2″. Robbie had the swagger but not the voice. Howard? Well who remembers him in the original line up so who knows? He may have been quite convincing.

We came straight back to the cabin after the show and as ship’s clocks went back we enjoyed ten hours of beauty sleep.

Apart from, that is, a rammie at the lifts at 02:00 hours. William phoned reception to be told “there is an emergency situation” so he asked “an emergency situation?” To be told ” no sir there is no emergency”.

Sunday 28th at sea

We have purchased a one-day internet access so I will get this away to you.

How quickly things change. I wrote that last sentence from the cabin, in the dark. When we got to breakfast we looked out on Vigo. Not on our itinerary. We are told we were taking on water. More later.

Dave and William

Now we have concluded all our interviews and finished our investigation we are able to piece together the full story.

We got to the bottom of the drama by talking to one of the staff on the lowest rung. There is always someone ultra cheery at the entrance to the buffet. They are there to greet people and make sure they use the alcohol cleanser. William got chatting to one of them who had been directly affected.

She was woken after midnight with a huge bang and all her possessions falling from their shelves. Coming out into the corridor she was greeted by a wet floor and the green emergency lights on the floor illuminated. The Bravo Bravo Bravo came over the tannoy and staff rushed out of the staff bar in life jackets and in full emergency mode. There was a hole in the hull, water gushing in that caused an electrical fire and triggered the fire doors. The crew managed the bring the fire under control and by 3a.m. The crew were stood down. The ship headed for the nearest port on reduced power and tugs brought her into port.

The problem started when a stabiliser sheared in the rough seas and penetrated the hull starting the chain reaction.

When staff were briefed afterwards they were told that had the crisis occurred on the Atlantic crossing it would have resulted in a full evacuation. I would imagine of a few bowels in addition to the ship.

So far the news is that we will depart Vigo at 2 on Monday. We will miss out on Madeira and Lanzarote but will be given a 25% refund with a further 25% of a future cruise.

We have just had an announcement from the captain “minor technical issue” otherwise known as being holed below the water line can’t be fixed today so we will be here until at least tomorrow afternoon. Not sure how we will fare trying to get to Canaries. At least we will get to C&A 🤗

Monday 29th, still in Vigo

After breakfast 15 of us “Diamonds” were treated to a galley tour and lecture on how to keep 3000 people fed and kept healthy. The most interesting aspect for me was the staff notice board displaying a letter thanking them for their involvement in the “Bravo Bravo Bravo”, the Emergency call, but reminding them they are forbidden from sharing photographs or stories on social media. That will keep being holed and taking on water as a “minor technical issue”.

At the start of the tour there were two chefs keeping us amused by making up individual bowls of prawn salad. They wore gloves for hygiene purposes. The phone rang and the most junior chef took a paper towel with which to lift up the phone. Top marks on hygiene. She called across to a chef the other side of the galley and put the handset on the “sterile” counter. The chef came to answer it with bare hands. All hygiene points lost.

Once the tour was over we ventured into Vigo.

At least the shops in Vigo were open today and the weather was dry but at 10* I needed coat and cardy. There was the usual pilgrimage to C&A, crowds of middle aged women trying to reclaim the past and stock up on big pants, (C&A are very good for big sizes), clusters of gay men attracted by the prices and pretending to be too young to remember C&A UK as the place to buy big pants.  William and I bought matching Christmas shirts, red with wee motifs of Christmas trees and wee Rudolphs.

The ship was meant to sail at 2pm. We were just waiting for the Pilot. 2pm came and went, “sailing in half an hour”, now 2:40pm and captain says he will address the nation at 3pm.

There were long queues at reception as the 25% refund is subject to a strange calculation. Let’s say a family paid £4000, they expect £1000 refund but RCL has refunded in dollars, $1000 then converted to pounds and the final figure comes to about £750. The exchange rate they are using is $1.17 to £1 whereas the rate is currently $1 .28. Not happy.

There are the chancers who think they should get 25% of their drinks package refunded too!

We finally set sail at 4p.m. and something we have not seen before was the pilot boat outside our window. We are deck 2 midships.

Throughout the year we save spare coins in a money box and cash them up to take as our “gambling money”, based on the advice “only gamble what you can afford to loose”. We have been to the casino on most nights during both cruises and enjoyed a lot of play on the “puggies” as Fifers call them, slot machines to the civilised. So ten days on the $150 we brought with us is now $260. Happy days!

Tuesday 30th October

William is walking much better as the gout in his ankle has settled down but his wrist is still very sore, that came on three days behind the ankle flaring up so hopefully it will start to settle soon.

We are at sea today and it is quite wild. The captain announced that he would have to maintain a speed of 20 knots to get us to Gran Canaria by 1pm Wednesday. He is managing 21.6 so with a 4 to 5 metre swell and a force 8 from the north west, hitting us square on the starboard side. He is doing well although the pitch and toss is quite pronounced and once more we are being lulled by the crash of breaking china.

No doubt the stabilisers are working as they would be needed now. To make it clear the stabilisers are fins, similar to airplane wings, that come out from the hull, below the waterline, to broaden the beam. A bit like cellulite does after 40. I did not want to leave you with a mental picture of the training wheels attached to the side of a child’s bike.

Everyone is walking like a drunken sailor but for once I am blessing being on four wheels. I have had the usual two comments ad nauseam “have you got a licence for that?” and “have you been drinking?” At least people have now moved on to “you are lucky to be on four wheels”.

There are far fewer children on this cruise, mostly pre-school. The ‘two’s’ are living up to the adjective “terrible” where as the adjective for threes must be “enthralled”.  Largely they wander around wide eyed, hypnotised by their surroundings and as they have learned to communicate we exchange such great comments. They are totally taken with the mechanics of the scooter and with me being on their level, physically, the barriers are down. I remember dad, who was an amputee, telling about a wee boy asking him what happened to his leg,

“I lost it” he said

“I’ll help you look for it” the wee mite said with all the enthusiasm that precedes a treasure hunt.

Talking enthusiasm, two older preschoolers, walking through the buffet singing “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.”

As for Corrina, William and me, we are not happy, happy, clappy handies. We arranged a “slot meet”, $20 each into a kitty and play it on one machine. Somehow a decision was reached to play $3 a throw on a slot machine. $60 gave us three minutes of fun. I would have been better off in lift with a hula hoop.

Regular readers of this august periodical will recall my dis-ease last year at RCL allowing smoking in the casino. I complained to everyone on board who would listen to me and once we were home I fired off an email to the MD in Miami. I had a long and tortured debate with his PA, over the phone and the main thrust of my argument was that in allowing their employees to inhale second hand smoke they were breaching their duty of care for their health and safety. As such, should an employee contract a smoking related disease they would be advised to sue RCL. Employers don’t like the whiff of a law suit.

Now, I am not claiming the success but I was delighted to see smoking is forbidden throughout the ship, especially in the casino where there are now 54” screens dotted around displaying a no smoking message.

Wednesday 31st October

We are sailing into Gran Canaria, we have come all this way to

1. Have a haircut

2. Buy shower gel

3. Buy Ex Lax

This is what happens when you get to our age (yes OUR, he is 46). It reminds me of the guy on the comedy Phoenix Nights who was telling of the big roll of bin bags he bought for €2.

Tonight is Halloween so every department is preparing. The buffet has a pile of carved pumpkins at the door and Ken our concierge was blowing up scary balloons. One burst caused three people in the lounge to suffer flashbacks to “the minor technical issue”. Ken declared “there was no bang, no hole in the balloon and nothing to be repaired”, 30% believed him.

We are told there will be trick or treating. That is what the Ex Lax is for. The weans won’t be able to tell it from American chocolate. Until tomorrow, that is.

Sorry if I am repeating old news. Consider this the BBC where you are fed repeats and fake news. There is a guy on the ship with a big powered wheelchair with all the fixings and he pushes before him a long white cane with a ball on the end that helps him sweep it in a wide arc to detect obstacles. The cane has red stripes that signals hearing impairment on top of visual impairment. Quite impressive.

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

One of our favourite ports. We had two things planned, 1.  A good haircut from a barber we have been to before and 2. Pino Sylvestri pine shower gel. The supermarket has stopped selling the gel and don’t get me started about the barber! There was a guy in the chair and one waiting so we took our seats. Sat 40 minutes, William’s turn and a guy who had just walked in off the street plonked himself in the chair for a haircut. We both remonstrated with him but to no avail and the barber just stood shtum. It appeared to be “locals before yokels” so we upped and left. We got over it with a good hard shop in the local Hyper Dino supermarket.

On the way back to the ship with our messages we spotted a van and equipment working alongside. “Trident Worldwide Maritime Underwater Solutions” diving gear at the ready. Evidently the “minor technical issue” is still under attention. I popped onto Facebook to see what passengers were saying but soon logged out again after reading two posts. “I felt sick sailing through the Bay Of Biscay, is it possible for the ship to take another way back?”

Bad news for some with the revised schedule. Infants under one year old are not allowed to do more than two consecutive sea days so as we are three see days back to Southampton after Tenerife they will have to fly back. Can you imagine? A bairn, pram, luggage for a family, and once in Gatwick they will need to fly to Southampton then taxi to port to collect the car. Perish the thought. Me being an Enneagram 9 I can’t help but be in their shoes. A family who have flown before with diddies told us that while you can push your pram to the plane you get it back from the baggage carousel (often in bits) so have to carry the sprogs plus hand luggage.

A really lovely experience tonight. As we were in Port overnight we went a wander I into the town. A local family with three young children and three staffy pups, pups about 12 weeks old. Kids in the pups face growling and laughing when pups tried to bite them. You can see the future  as clear as I can. Well one of the pups ran up to me and settled on the foot board of the scooter. I must have been displaying my ‘safe aura’. I will not forget him.

Overheard in the Diamond Lounge from people whom William pulled up for referring to Scots as “sweaty socks”, “do you think Halloween is the same day here as in England?”

We went back into Playa De Las Canteras, the beach front, to visit our favourite jeweller Manoij, who has Swarovski crystal at great prices plus an extra 20% as regular customers. We got a wee lamb for William’s mum. David was with us as we planned to have a meal overlooking the sea. The guy in the jewellers recommended La Macaroni, just five minutes along the prom. The food was excellent, really memorable event and even David said he enjoyed it.

So off to Tenerife once we have had breakfast. The three days sailing home so last blog will come from Kelty Beach.

Thank you for being such loyal followers, this of you that bothered with even the shortest of replies. For the rest of you, thank you unconditionally.

Saturday, day 9, at sea.

We were told that 110 passengers left the ship at Tenerife, choosing to fly home. They will need to fund that themselves but a few I spoke to said they felt it was a waste of three days.

Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. We did not experience “terrified passengers, baling out with buckets.” The whole incident was fuelled by Chinese Whispers because the Captain did not know how to do good crisis and reputation management. The Cruise Director and his staff have been left trying to maintain good customer relations without the authority to say anything more than the party line of “minor technical issue”. A pity I am retired or I could have used this as a case study on how NOT to manage a crisis. It was his absence and hiding away that let it become a drama.

Anyone who had booked the trans Atlantic, including some on this extended cruise, have been told they can cancel with a full refund. The itinerary for the transatlantic has been changed and the ship is doing Bruges, overnight in Le Havre, Lisbon before a five day crossing to Miami. Our friend David reckons the altered route is to allow a good inspection of the repair and possible work on the stabiliser. There are four fitted and just 3 working. They must be operated in pairs so we will be crossing Biscay with just the two. Le Havre is the centre of Major ship building and repair. David put the cruise into perspective. “$3000 for a day-trip to Gran Canaria.”

We heard from other passengers that a few small shops in Tenerife opened at 12 for those facing shopping withdrawal. We were happy to enjoy the diamond balcony, the sun, the sights and the snacks.

Roy Walker was in the theatre last night, you will remember him from the TV quiz show ‘Catch Phrase’. He was very dated, a lot of his act was reminiscing on The Comedians TV showcase of the 70’s and repeating what he rated the best jokes of each performer. It was of course, racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic. He had a good go at Nicola Sturgeon, vegetarians, stammerers, ad nauseam. The good thing was great comic timing and delivery.

There was a man in front of me who was quite deaf, two hearing aids, so why he chose to sit at the furthest row from the stage, in the gods, is a mystery. His ever loving wife was helping him by repeating every joke. Flat, and without the comic timing of the professional killed it. I can’t see how he got anything from the performance. Well those seated around him didn’t.

It reminded me of a training weekend I went on which was held at Dunblane Cathedral, home of Episcopal Nuns. We had a theatre company coming to perform a play that would help us develop our awareness. The Superior asked if one of the elderly nuns could sit in as in her youth she was in the theatre and would love to see a performance again. I suppose it was what today we would call ‘an item in her bucket list’, perhaps as a nun it would be a ‘censer list’. This nun was deaf too, so brought a friend to help out. Her friend repeated all the lines very loudly, much to our amusement. The play was a dialogue between a teenager and his mum, who had raised him alone since his dad skipped off just after he had been born. The kid loves the theatre and gets his mum to tell him about all the acts she saw in Glasgow and all the old films with the big stars. When he gets all starry eyed about Judy Garland coming to Glasgow the penny drops for the mum that her son is gay. When he asks her “so what was my da like?” She answers “he’s no y’er da. He’s yer f###ing whelp of a fayther”. The whole room holds it’s breath, even the cast. When Sister repeated it in loud crystal tones everyone corpsed. The cast took quite a while to recover from that one. Glasgow expletives lose something when repeated in ‘Received Pronunciation’.

STOP PRESS. We just won $820 and last night William won $170. David received a free-play certificate for $5. He asked us to accompany him in playing it as he didn’t know how to play the fruit machines. He squeezed maximum misery out of “oh I won’t win anything, the machine will just gobble up my credit – oh woe is me.” First pull of 40 cents and he wins $20. I bet he won’t tell that to the folks back home. He added another peccadillo, the orange juice he brought with him has started to ferment. I could make this into a version of “The Generation Game”. How many things can you name that David brought on his cruise. Perhaps we could make them into a song “Uncle Tom Cobbley and all.

We still have sunshine and it is warm enough to sit outside. Lots of people around the pool wearing “Crisp and Dry” trying to get the final tan.

I have lost my title of ‘Silliest Old Git on a Scooter’. A woman came charging into the lift with her wick up full, hitting the window at the back of the lift. No one hurt but good job there was only one person in the lift. A woman who is now very nimble on her feet.

We received a lovely gift from Ken our concierge (like a black Cliff Richard), a crystal block engraved with an image of the ship and a Royal Caribbean blanket.

Talking of gifts. The first prize in the “what is a Tan Sad?” Competition goes to Angela Smart, second prize to Ewan Mc, there was nothing for the smart ass who came up with “someone on an RCL cruise”.

Semi Final blog.

I said next blog would be from Southampton. We tried to go ashore in Tenerife but as we waited for accessible shuttle we met crowds of people coming back saying as it was All Saints even the bars were shut. So we turned tail and came back on the ship to comfort eat. More and more people heading for the airport as the day wears on. What a shame, an expensive once in a life time holiday for many that has gone down the toilet. It has put some off cruising so many people on line saying compensation by means off money off a future cruise is not acceptable. I see an internet search throws up stories from many news papers about our plight. Some of them extremely over-egged.

Halloween.

Going back to yesterday and Gran Canaria seems to make a huge thing of Halloween. Adults and children alike out in costume. The shopping centre near the port had the whole of the food court floor caught up in Halloween mania. McDonald’s and Burger King doing brisk business. As some hoped for, the ship had a Halloween parade along the promenade with competitions for outfits. Some were very elaborate and looked expensive once they had all the gear. I guess it has become another excuse to spend and get into debt. When we were kids we had “penny for the gay” and I was told my brothers put me in an old coat and hat and pushed me round in the Tan Sad. (Replies please as to what a “Tan Sad” was).

So as we head for three days at sea and back to Southampton we only enjoyed one sunny port where we could absorb the local culture. Glad it was our favourite port of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

William is still dragging his left arm around. One woman commented she thought it was a very good prosthetic. Yes, “every hair transplanted from nuns.”  He says he is grateful the ankle was fairly quick to heal as at least he has been able to walk.

I have had a couple of attacks of the “mustovs”. Nephew Andrew is a geriatrician, soon to be Professor Davies 🤗. He describes elderly patients coming in after a bad fall and saying “I must have tripped  over the cat”. “I must have caught the edge of the rug.” Etc. Well I just discovered recent falls were due to the hem of my trousers catching off the lifting bar of the scooter.  Not evident at the time.

4 o’clock and I came up to the running deck for a bit of sun and to watch the sail away. It started to rain.

This cruise has tested my philosophy of “if I am on a cruise I am happy. The ports are a bonus”. I have really enjoyed the time away, including the dramas. Three days to go yet. You will not miss a thing.

Sunday, day 10

All packed and ready for off. I spent my last day taking up my own challenge of trying to do something creative with David’s stores and stocks.

Our dear friend David Fionda

Ne’er does he like to wander

Without familiar provisions

Oils, unctions and potions

And bottles of fruit flavoured water

The stock check starts in his cabin

And the cupboard he keeps all his stores in

Single dose milk pots

Wee tiny jam pots

And a cruet should he need to season

At breakfast he comes with a bag

Of it’s contents he delights to brag

Like a conjurors hat

He takes out this and that

Some Stevia sweetener and Hag (decaf coffee but that doesn’t scan)

Next the cholesterol’s shot dead

With Benecol yogurt and spread

His own Special K

Juice to start off the day

And marmite on toast which to spread

At 6, two bowls out he puts

To hold crackers, crisp and his nuts

As he drinks Cabernet

At the end of the day

To go with his cheese and cold cuts.

I’m struggling to fit in the rest

His Bovril and medicine chest

His vacuum packed Cheddar

So if can you do better

To fit in his chocolate sprinkles for cappuccinos pouring honey for pancakes

And the pies that he buys in Gibraltar. Dave

He also has digestive biscuits but my brain hurts now.

Monday 17:30 and we are home. Good weather, no delays.

Much love

Dave and William

Xx

RCL Navigator of the Seas Baltic 3rd June 2018

Monday 3, Tuesday 5th June. Oslo

We were promised 17* and cloudy but we have had glorious sun and 24*. We spent the day in the company of Brian and Veronica and made our way to Vigeland Park. Famous for its bronze and stone statues by Gustav Vigeland with his famous crying baby. You have all known one.

William navigated our way out to the city centre to the park via the Metro. Veronica and I went free and the guys were =£7 each. People were very helpful helping us across the gap, into and out of

the train.

Robin you will be proud to see the pictures of William avidly fondling Norwegian wool. Veronica wanted some as a present for her daughter and fortunately there was a big yarn shop as we got off the Metro. It was good to just wander the streets in the sunshine. The only shops we went into I were the two Salvation Army charity shops. William bought more pristine 80’s vinyl and 30’s magazines. They had some beautiful Norwegian glass but it would have been to heavy to carry.

Needing the toilet on the way back William led us into the (in)Continental hotel declaring “hotels are required to let you use the facilities.” Well it was 5*, both the hotel and the pee. That will be on my list of destinations for future cruises.

An access innovation here is that where a temporary ramp protrudes into the street they have them covered with a vivid red commercial doormat so even from a distance you can spot a ramp. I would imagine it would be distinct for people with low vision and a cane would pick up the variation. They tried to train the Guide dogs to avoid red flooring but that essentially barred blind people from Burger King.

When he was in Oslo last week William found out that the k100 and k200 notes were going out of circulation the next day and we would need to change them at a bank. By the time we found one they were closed. Banks here still close at 3. We have k10000 to change so hope P.O. at home will oblige.

So back on the ship, snacks in the promenade cafe and I gate crashed the recording of the daily TV show. They love old fools on Mobilty scooters, it helps with their diversity targets. I get 7 stars, gay, male, disabled, over 65, English, married, religious.

If the ‘powers that be’ are looking for a health and safety warning for a major hazard they should get a symbol depicting a person in a wheelchair brandishing a soup ladle. Whenever I get near the soup people nearby get extremely jumpy evidently anticipating getting badly scalded with flying hot soup. They start off offering help then get to the stage where they have me in a straight jacket being wheeled out of harms ways.

Back to entertainment in the theatre. There was one “sweet old lady” determined to get into the ‘gold card’ seats. The theatre manager said “sorry you do not have the right sea pass, but you can sit here in the ‘disabled’ seats”. She tried one like the three bears. “Hopeless she declared, I can’t see a thing”.

“Alright madam, on this occasion.”

She picked her seat and courried down into the comfort of the plush. “Yes, that is much better”. It was only one row forward and we were in the gods. Oh the sight rejuvenating properties of uncut maquette.

We noticed tonight that the ship is flying the pride flag. The concierge tells us that the group ships fly it across the fleet for the whole of the month of June as it is Pride month all over the developed world. We can expect to be greeted with an Exocet missile in Russia.

I fell off the wagon tonight. The buffet was serving steak pie with a short crust pastry, mmmmmm. Anyway the god of vegetables approved, as after 30 minutes play we left the casino $50 up. I was quickly cast into guest services purgatory as the daily paper said clocks go forward one hour but the pictograph showed the clock going BACK. Guest relations could not understand my point and they must now have it on the Christmas show reel, “stupid guest on 7th floor.”

What a lovely sail out of the fjord and into the Baltic, calm sea, the setting sun making golden ripples on the waves. I am meant to be going in for a shower but the experience on the balcony is worth staying unwashed for. Bring on the Shake ‘n Vac.

The peace was shattered by a large speed boat seemingly heading straight for the ship starboard. It must have been well judged to just pass to our aft without any change of course. A tense moment watching it, no doubt what it was planned to create. It struck me it would be a possible way for a suicide bomber to make a world-wide impact. Or for Vlad the Putin to retaliate for the flag. Saints preserve us.

Wednesday 6th June Copenhagen

A wonderful day all round. We took the service bus into town, fully accessible apart from the Phalun Gong who pushed their way onto the bus ahead of us. I did shout “THERE IS A QUEUE” but no effect. I shall have to get it translated into Cantonese, Mandarin and Hakka for future cruises The bus was just k40 =£5 each, return. Every 15 minutes and every bus has wheelchair access. The ship shuttle was £20 and there was one bus in at 11.30 and one back at 3.30

On the way back we met people who had paid £22 each for the Hop on and they saw nothing. There was a dispute with the driver, as the bus filled up from the ship but when it got to the centre of town the driver wanted them all to get off and join the back of a long queue. I will get more info tonight.

We walked to The Tivoli Gardens, about 3/4 mile from where we got off the bus. Most of the walk was through a beautiful park with statuary, ponds, ducks, swans, flower beds. It was all there to enjoy. Being such a warm sunny day the locals were enjoying the park reading, playing games and sunbathing. The ducks sunbathing beside them.

The Tivoli Gardens were very interesting. It is made up of fun fair rides and stalls where you can shoot tin ducks, race tin horses. All the pleasure gardens stuff of last century with a few modern thrill rides built in. Very accessible, an antiquated but adequate accessible toilet with a bed for adult changing. If you were in a chair you could just pay access to the gardens and fairground and the stalls at k20 = £1.60 per go. Ambulant people can pay a fixed fee to enjoy the rides all day. We did not bother with the shopping area but spent a long time in an excellent coffee shop “Esspresso House”. They have them in Norway and Denmark. . The cafes are very spacious inside and have first class disabled loos.

How we found Esspresso House yesterday was after the train ride and the excitement of the wool shop we were, most of us, needing the loo. We plumped on McDonalds having an accessible loo which it did but with three steep steps to get to it and no lift. Next we tried Burger King. Steps at each entrance and so we could not even see the loo. That was when we spotted Nespresso with the bright red door mat over the ramp. Great store. Lovely servers.

A couple of things in general about Norway and Denmark. The children are very polite and friendly. So many looked me in the eye, smiled and greeted me. Adults are very helpful. Any time we were looking lost or confused someone would approach us and offer to help. All have excellent, fluent English, without an accent.

A quiet night. We had dinner with David and Martin a couple from Bournemouth then I turned in early. I am still trying to get more on the Ho Ho Bus.

At sea today and using our free internet, hence this early blog. Still hot and sunny on our sheltered balcony watching the world go by.

Monday 11th June Helsinki

Again we have such lovely weather, sunny and 20’s. The captain is still relying on “The Idiot’s Guide to Tarot” as he told us it was 12 when we arrived, possibly rising later in the day. So we ventured into town, got lost for a couple of hours, had a veggie burger in Burger King then the shuttle back. About 25 degrees.

I don’t know why Harry Potter went through so many quests to get his “Cloak of Invisibility”, he should have just invested in a second hand wheelchair or scooter. Waiting in the queue for the shuttle, as soon as a bus arrived they all pushed past me. They must have thought I was sitting waiting for a drooling contest to start. My favoured race, as predicted, were the worst.

Back on the ship, I am looking for a place to sit. I have been all around two open decks and all there are to sit on are those ravenous sun loungers. There are a few chairs, one lot on the starboard side where the docks are being expanded to a jackhammer symphony. On the port side the chairs are between the smokers, the painters and the window washers. So I am stuck on the Scooter.

I think the reason there are so few mad and befuddled people is that is the market for P&O. RCL have Americans and Chinese who are a different story altogether but a story difficult to tell without being racist. There have been a couple of curiosities. A woman who sees angels. “What do they look like?” My honest question “like little bursts of light flashing around people.” A friend with retinitis describes seeing similar phenomena. As long as she is happy.

A really nice young guy, Daniel, with his partner Ryan. Daniel is 29 but looks 19. He is vegan and manages a farm. And not a mushroom farm.

A woman from West Wemyss!!

Tuesday 12th

It is a sea day today. Too windy to sit outside so people are either eating or shopping. There are stalls out on the promenade selling grossly overpriced Russian souvenirs. Chocolate bars =50P in St Petersburg are on sale for $5.

We were told that in the bad old days of communism, if you saw a queue at a shop you automatically joined it. You had no idea what might be on sale and by the time you had got to the front of the queue to check what it was, another hundred people would have joined the queue, so you just tagged on the end. I think that spirit was brought aboard the ship. There were stalls on the prom giving wee samples. Some of cheese, some of cold cuts and a table of sweet treats that trembled with the rhythm of the damaged propeller, they had so much gelatine to make what little goodness there was, stand to attention and long queues of starving travellers.

We were suddenly overcome with boredom so went to Future Cruise Sales to book another cruise for June 2019.

The evening was delightful as yet another bunch of hobos from the lower classes sneaked their way into the Diamond Lounge. Piled themselves up with drinks and snacks and took up a group of the most comfortable seats. Ken, the young concierge bided his time until their cheek pouches were full of free tapas then he swooped on the “do you mind if I see your sea passes? I am so sorry but here is the door.”

Wednesday 13th, Skagen, Denmark

Our last port and another day of sunshine and clear skies. Skagen is a very small town on a narrow peninsula of Denmark. The cruise ship trade must have done wonders for the shops. Just a couple of streets of shops, single storey buildings, good quality produce and products on offer. The Silversea, Silver Spirit, was in beside use. They are high end cruises at an all-in price.

I am sure the sunshine added the sparkle to the experience but Skagen was a wee jewel of a town. Due to its setting on the Baltic, the light quality is special so it became a home to Scandinavian artists and there is a museum to celebrate their legacy. There are beautiful, golden sandy beaches and migrating sand dunes. The 14th century Sct Laurenti is completely buried with only the bell tower still accessible. Skagen started life as a seat of royalty but without much in terms of buildings. Its wealth was as a port and what came in via the sea. It is very flat so you can hire a bike to see the province. $10 for the day. Perhaps that is how the Royals got here. Well it is good enough for Queen Trixie of The Netherlands.

The thing that fixed us was trying to get a coffee. The first shop had no electric. The second had electric but their frothy whipper had bit the dust. We then found Mama Mia’s Italian Restaurant. The nation that invented the cappuccino. It was possibly the worst coffee in Europe, more like weak chicory. So we overdosed once we god back to the ship.

It was fun on board too. This being a slightly older cruise population they have done away with International (mixed sex) Belly Flop in favour of the the Great Colouring-in Extravaganza. That truly is an adult event. Does Your Hairstyle Suit You? William an I got evicted from that.

We are settled into The Star Lounge for the big nightly quiz. I was really worried about the host last night, she just wasn’t with it an was really struggling to focus. It made me wonder if she was diabetic and going hypo. She could not find her final question so she plumped for “how old am I?”

William met a family from Ireland when he was dabbing acrylic on his matryoshka. The boy, aged about 9, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of super-heroes, so he has devised tomorrow’s quiz. I imagine it may be like Mastermind.

Thursday 14th June

Last night at sea, heading for Southampton, 3405 nautical Miles covered. The super hero quiz was excellent but we were not in the final three. So today said All our goodbyes and packed to go ashore.

Until next time.

Dave

Xx

RCL Navigator of the Seas 27th May 2018

Travel blog May – June 2018

Saturday 26th May

A great run down to Southampton. Clear roads travelling south but so many long tailbacks heading north. Looked like the south of England was being evacuated to the Lake District. Strangely the overhead travel notices predicted delays of up to 45 mins as we traveled through the midlands but non occurred. The weather was glorious but very hot. The air coming in the windows was as hot as sitting before a fan heater.

A dramatic thunder storm through the night has lightened the atmosphere and damped down the dust. So far the hotel has been better but staff still need quite a lot of training. One would have thought that for a job on reception, good communication skills and charm would be an essential prerequisite but on both stays they have demonstrated neither so it would appear to be a leadership issue. They could also do with adding to the cleaner’s routine “clean the poo off the pull cord for the light” as both stays and two different rooms look like they bought a job lot of cord from the Maze Prison. (Who of you on my readership list is old enough to remember the “dirty protests” at the Maze during “the troubles”?)

Sunday 27th

We have been really clear at reception the type of vehicle we need to take the Scooter and the luggage but the response from reception means we are now sitting waiting for the Fiat 500 taxi to arrive.

While waiting, “au secours!”, the Scooter conked out and refused to move. Fifty shades of panic and removing and replacing the battery a few times and it was miraculously revived. Perhaps a dirty connection (back to ‘50 Shades’ again). Those connections will be cleaned on the ship.

Later conked out and could not be revived. We had to abandon it at the hotel in Southampton. I will phone a scooter repair company on Tuesday from Hamburg and hope it can be sorted for our back-to-back next Sunday. It looks like a burnt connection between the rear wheels/motor and the battery. Snow got into the mechanism back in January and we thought it would be ok when it dried out. It was. But the short must have happened then.

Everyone shore side was very helpful and a chair was found with a wee man to push it. Poor wee man, it would have been fairer if they could have found a big man to push me but he performed manfully to get me on the ship. Nothing was too much trouble for him. It was hot and sticky and not sure I would have pushed such a big lump but he did. William gave him a fiver before we got to the ramp so having accepted the bribe he could hardly gip at the task before him. He told us that the wheelchairs belonged to the ship and after 3.30 they would be returned and we could request to use one. William went to guest relations and guess what. One now has to hire the wheelchair, $95 for the week. However, we could hire a Scooter for $195 for the week so voila! A scooter appeared so I am scooting again.

It is so good to be back on Navigator of the Seas. This is the ship on which we spent a month last year. It has become a favourite on so many levels and has great vegetarian food.

There are a lot of children on this cruise and many more Americans than we have experienced in the past. Now I know this is cruel but I am going to say it anyway. So many OVERBITES. They look like people who failed their audition for The Simpsons. There is another story to be written here.

Being Americans, with their devotion to dentistry, those who got to the head of the queue got the Osmond’s teeth.

Usually by the second week the kids have turned feral and run all over the ship with no parental control. Well these kids boarded feral! They think nothing of pushing in in the corridors, at the buffet, in the lifts. I just wish I had brought my electrified cattle prod.

We have just bumped into Alexandrou, one of the bar staff from the last cruise. Those of you who read my last book, ‘The Lang Spoon’, will remember “Alexandrou Dragan from Costanza on the shores of the Black Sea”. He was immortalised in prose. This is his last tour, he is going home to spend time with the family

I wish I had a batman, not a caped crusader but someone to unpack and put everything away. The fact that we will need to pack Sunday 3rd of June, move everything to our new cabin, unpack and distribute all my belongings around another cabin just gets me down. What a problem to have. “Poor me, having to cope with the stress of two cruises.” I hope tears are flowing as

you read this.

William successfully completed his “60 units challenge” and came to bed cheerful at 2 a.m. while his liver remained grumpy and only made it as far as the lifts.

Monday 28th

First sea day and while I remember, happy birthday Nick Coveney. 🎈🤡🤪

I am laying claim to a major victory. When we were on this ship in October there had been a change to procedures that now banned smoking inside the ship apart from The Connoisseurs Club (the cigar bar) and the casino! I railed at anyone who would listen and a few who wouldn’t. The opinion appeared to be that is was based on revenue, the casino made more money when punters could smoke.

When we got back to the UK I blasted off emails to the Chief Exec and the Safety Officer in Miami. I then had a protracted conversation with the Customer Relations Executive. I made it clear that the objection I was voicing was not that of a fussy non smoker but on health grounds and they were neglecting their ‘duty of care’ to their employees. There was a very silly line taken by RCI, that “no one was forced to work in the casino, it was their choice”. I put up a socio-economic argument of that being fine for middle class officers at HQ but for their employees lower down the scale it was ‘Hobson’s choice’ if they were to put bread on the table.

Sensing I was going round in circles I conceded the argument by saying I would post my concerns and their reply on social media so their would be a permanent record if they were to be sued by an employee for illness caused by passive smoking. The Americans hate being on the receiving end of a lawsuit, if just for the bad publicity and reputational damage. Remember McDonald’s and the customer who was horrified to be scalded with a cup of coffee when the cup collapsed as she tried to hold it between her knees?Obvious! right? But she continued to pursue her claim and finally got $240k to settle out of court. You now know who to blame when your tea is made with tepid water.

Tuesday 29

Happy Birthday William O’Rourke 🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈

I’m not allowed to tell you his age.

We have docked for Hamburg.

Tuesday 29th Hamburg

Having p’d off Angular Markle with Brexit we were required to show our passports at German immigration. Fortunately we were off sharp and the quizzical look at us, then our passport photo, then us again, passed off quickly. Anyone looking vaguely like there passport photo was no doubt detained on suspicion of being “an illegal”.

What a palaver shoreside. The Disabled access bus came but the driver could not get the lift to work. It took 1 hour 20 minutes to get 4 chairs on board. We were told that Hamburg has 4 disabled access buses but RCL only booked one of them. This happens wherever we go. Disabled access is just lip service. People who arrived to get the bus after we left were waiting nearly two hours in blazing sun without a breeze.

As soon as we were winched down from the bus and our wheels on terra cotta I phoned the disability shop in Shirley Southampton. The young woman who answered was quite curt,

“We only repair scooters we have sold”

“Can you give me any local numbers to try?”

“No, I am based in Stoke.”

“But I am in Hamburg and don’t have access to local numbers. Can I talk to someone in the Southampton shop with local knowledge?”

“No, all numbers come to this centre, you would have to Google it”

So now I bring out the trump card.

“I can’t, I am elderly and disabled and can’t use the internet”

“You will need to get someone to Google it for you sir.”

Damn. She played her ace with the use of the insincere “sir.”

So I did use Google and found a very helpful and reassuring man at Care and Mobility. He took all the details, said “leave it with me sir, I will pick it up, check it out and contact you.” Phew, hopefully one stressor out of the way and this time me the “sir” was sincere.

It was 32 degrees and not a breath of wind in Hamburg so quite exhausting. William wanted to do the Reeperbahn. He assured me it was not for the many sex clubs but because the Beatles played there in the 60’s. It was quite an eye opener. Lots of homeless people sleeping and begging in the streets and the “working ladies” sleeping on the pavement in their basques and fish net tights.

He got us there using the U Bahn and it was very accessible for such an old railway line. Glass lifts “bolted on” to old railway stations and simple adjustments such as raised areas on the platform that made access possible.

I know you rely on getting your education from these epistles so not to disappoint here is a brief lesson in social history. Reeperbahn means “rope walk” in ‘low German’ and it is the main thoroughfare in the St Pauli district. The St Pauli arms is the skull and cross bones, an early Christian symbol but also used to symbolise death. Displaying the symbol was meant to warn good Hamburgers not to go there. Work that wasn’t allowed to be performed in the city, either because of smell or danger was banished to this district that was outside the city walls. Once people were allowed to set up dwellings there it was the only district with enough space for rope making. Ropes attracted sailors buying necessary equipment and places of drink and bawdy living followed in their wake and thus the establishment of the red light district. Sounds very much like Kirkcaldy.

Hamburg is highly industrialised with miles of docks and moorings along the river Elbe, the main waterway into the city. As you leave the city the contrast is amazing. Areas of lush greenery with huge houses and mansions fronting onto a beach. However it is said of the Elbe, like the Forth, one used to be able to swim in it, now one just goes through the motions! And to think they have paid Bobby Davro to come on and do the jokes. Last night it was Mick Miller, remember him from the days of The Comedians. He was hard going then and 40 years have not improved his act.

This cruise has far more families than we are used to but their behaviour has been ok. We can’t complain. We got the 7 nights for £500 each with our tips already paid out of that and tips work out at £15 per guest per day. So about £55 per night with free drinks from 5pm to 9pm. I can’t drink alcohol just now so I am floating with diet soda. A bit like the kids in Willy Wonka.

I normally have the delight of conveying descriptions of oddly behaved characters to you but so far they must have stayed in their cabins. Quite the reverse, some delightful people. There is a tall, athletic, smart young man with Mormon teeth, looks like a College Jock. Every time he sees me he asks how I am and if I need any assistance. He has great charm. On the “special bus” we met a young man Lee, flame red hair, quite striking. He was with his girlfriend who has restricted growth. He was fast and skilled in securing the wheelchairs and scooters to the rails in the floor of the bus. It turns out he was a driver of a mini bus that transported disabled people. As he said, “the difference is I have been properly trained.”

Wednesday 30th at sea.

I think I would have made a good career as a hermit. I quite like being alone with my thoughts. I now understand why people who can settle into the dull routine of the care home can spend their days sitting in a communal lounge nodding in a sturdy chair with wipe-clean upholstery.

The highlight of today so far was lunch. Some of you will know I have joined William as a vegetarian, he for 32 years me just 9 months. William joined due to his love of animals, me as I lost the taste for flesh. Lunch today was what meat eaters believe vegetarians eat and why they view them as strange creatures. Starter was bean soup. There are a few jokes around ‘been’ soup and this was ready to be the butt of one of those jokes. It had the colour and consistency of black mud, only the seasoning differentiated it. The main was sweet corn patties. Blackened cakes of sweet corn stuck together with something so gluey I don’t want to think about it. It was topped off with guacamole and putrified artichoke, the consistency of that thing that is causing the smell in the fridge as it rots away at the bottom of the salad “crisper”. I should have taken heed of the two small sprigs of asparagus and the blob of sour cream set out in the form of a skull and cross bones. More third world woes.

Now for those of you of a delicate disposition skip this net paragraph because we are going to consider how sweetcorn survives its journey through the alimentary canal (no, not a man made channel as in Suez and Panama). Despite having been beaten to a pulp in making the patties and masticated manfully I know that it will have been reconstituted and be floating in the pan tomorrow morning.

Now this reminds me of the harrowing but true tale concerning a good friend. The said friend was a vicar, Gay, with a friend who was from Haiti, female, vegetarian and convinced she was the woman to turn him around and become Mrs Vicar. Well, vicar got a boyfriend and shortly after the hot water in the house developed a foul smell. Out came the plumber who drained and flushed the system and emerging from the attic said “that is the oddest thing, there was sweetcorn floating in the tank!” It is apparently a traditional Haitian curse to pollute an enemies water supply, it is all part os the Voodoo. Miracle was she was only four foot six and the tank was five feet deep! And no, it was not fresh sweetcorn.

I now need to take a break as this being a luxury Royal Caribbean cruise the International Belly Flop competition is about to start in the family pool. I am not stopping as I am taking part because there being so many Americans here I would be disqualified for being too thin. These being days of equality and emancipation it is mixed sex. Perish the thought.

We were treated to an exclusive champagne reception and ice dancing show seeing as we are top tier members. After dinner at night rounded the day off with a Spectacular Tribute to Hollywood classics. The singers and dancers were very good. Lots of sequins, feathers and auto tune his their blemishes. They have a couple of more mature performers with huge size 14 figures. Picture Jane McDonald. Remember when 14 was slim?

An hour in the casino saw us leave breaking even so that is a good night. I sat out on the Diamond Lounge Veranda until 23:30. It was such a warm night but with a welcome breeze.

Today Thursday 31st we are in Oslo. William has gone ashore but I have stayed on the Diamond veranda. You will remember that in October last year I had a melt down re the Scooter. Fed up of apologising for my presence and constantly suffering jibes about my perceived ability to be let loose on it. Well it has happened again. This time no strop but have retired to man man cave to lick the scars. Not those on the Scooter, those on my psyche.

If I don’t go ashore there will not be much to put in a blog. Please send me some odd peopleto write about on the next leg of the cruise.

RCI Navigator Med September 17

 

Friday 15th September 2017. Navigator of the Seas Southampton to Livorno.

On the ship at last and can breathe. No, not “breathe easy” actually breathe! When you check in there is a “freedom from infection” form to fill in. It asks about anything you might have expelled from any orifice during the past five days. Well I have had THE cold. (I like the way the Scots use the definite article to afford it more gravitas). I have coughed so long and so hard it it tested every sphincter beyond endurance. I have been very entertaining to be around. So I was under strict instruction “don’t cough and don’t look guilty”. Impossible to do while breathing, so, like Shelley Winters in The Poseidon Adventure, I had to take one deep breath and hope to reach the other side. I ticked ‘no’ to every question as I knew I was looking at the plague ‘in the rear view mirror ‘.

We are now on deck 11, The Windjammer Buffet, and I am reminded why I love cruising. As one who was defrocked and drummed out of SlimmingWorld, I feel great next to some of these seasoned cruisers who look to be hiding a large cabin trunk under their floral mumu.

You will remember me oozing about Independence, the one with the high street running up the middle of the promenade deck. Well Navigator is a slightly smaller sister ship, so it has the high street but just a couple of shops shorter. One one side on Indy was the swimming costume and shopping bag emporium, “The Capacious Gusset”. Opposite, “The All American Store” but I think that has gone as we do not eschew 2nd Amendment rights in Europe.

BC, Banal Comments, have started already and we have not yet had muster drill. BC1 ” you just made an illegal turn on that”!

Half heard conversations for which one is tempted to add punch lines. Couple coming into Buffet for first time. Her, “I am only going to eat as I do at home”. (8 meals a day by the end of the week.)
Couple arriving puffed out on the 13th floor. “If we keep this up until the end of the cruise…….”. (I bet they will be in the lift by supper time.)

We have been fed in the buffet. And William has downed all his free drinks for tonight. It is just 8:30, we have been at sea 4 hours and the air ambulance is lifting someone from the helicopter pad. Pour soul.

This cruise has started well for William as there is a whole section of hot and cold vege dishes in addition to macaroni, vege burgers, Bombay alloo and Dahl. If this keeps up he will be a happy (chubby) bunny.

First complaint of the cruise. Indy is non smoking throughout the ship, except promenade deck, outside and on pool deck on port side. For some crazy reason Navigator allows smoking throughout the casino. I asked and was told it is non smoking in USA but smoking in Europe. Really!? I suffered the casino just long enough to play my free complimentary chips and won a good quality, red RCI polo shirt.

BC2 (Banal Comment-keep up). When William is in his kilt he so often gets trapped in a lift with some wag singing “Donald where’s your trousers”. He got his first one at 20.30 and he was wearing jeans and a polo shirt.

Saturday 16th at sea.
We have a busy morning in the diary already. 10:30 Future Cruise Bookings, 11:30 Cruise Critic Members Meet and Mingle 12:00 Friends of Dorothy, gay meet and mingle, 12:30 lunch. It is hectic.
Breakfast over and we are up in the Diamond Members Lounge for coffee. On Indy there is a Diamond Lounge each side of the funnel, connected by The Crows Nest bar. On Navigator one side has been given over to a Japanese restaurant meaning The Club is tiny, about 30 seats. Hopefully another section will be identified for more Lounge space.

It is now 14:00 hours. We booked another cruise at our 10:30 meeting. “Northern Delights” on this ship again. 3rd June 18, 12 nights, ports- Oslo, Copenhagen, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Skagen.

At 11 we fitted in a visit to the Loyalty Manager to claim our crystal model of this ship for reaching 140 nights. 11:30, Meet and Mingle, William won the top prize in the raffle, an RCL back pack. Friends Janet and Archie told us they won one previously and suggested we hold on to the cellophane bag it came in as that will be more durable.

12:00 at the Gay Mixer we met two nice guys from South London, first time cruisers and grateful for travel tips. They are in good hands. William, my cruise director, will meet them tomorrow with maps and felt pens to make sure they are properly regimented.

Chatted to a lovely lady using two sticks, tall and one time statuesque I would imagine. Were were sharing a lament about being “aff the legs”. She said “I used to have such lovely long legs. Right up to my waist. Now they barely make it to my knees”. What a line.

An early fight over territory in the diamond lounge. Two couples occupying a seating arrangement for four people. The wives go to the toilet. A grumpy old curmudgeon and his long suffering hang-dog of a wife come looking for a seat. “These seats free?” Grizzles curmudgeon “No, they are taken” says one of the husbands. “You’re not supposed to reserve seats” Moses declares to the assembled throng. Some people!

BC3 “I hope you’re not going to run over my toes with that”.

Sunday 16th
The ship is much quieter this morning. Last night was formal night and the bars were crowded so I guess it will be the result of hangovers, Sunday lie in and the clocks going forward one hour.

We are enjoying breakfast in the Diamond Lounge. The Lounge has a galley servery with fresh ground coffee all day from one of those swish WMF machines that grinds and froths as it goes. At breakfast the galley is laid out with cheeses, salmon and continental meats. There are a range of cereals, fruits and compotes. You can burn your own toast from a wide range of breads and bagels. Finish yourself off with a variety of pastries.
There are 36 easy chairs in the lounge area, clustered in fours around occasional table. Through the French doors and you are out on the private balcony. This overlooks the multi use sports courts, miniature golf and climbing wall. The balcony is laid out with ten rattan dining tables, four comfortable and well cushioned rattan chairs per table. Half the balcony has a steel awning made to represent a sail providing shelter from whatever might pour from the sky and in any hemisphere of the globe.

We made another cruise-friendship. A very glamorous Jamaican woman in a wheelchair and her white husband Brian. They have also booked on the June 18 cruise. Not having done Baltic before she was a bit anxious about getting around in the chair so we will meet them and give them our wheelchair guide to Northern Europe.

The sun is almost over the yard arm. We are cruising parallel to the Portuguese coast and the sun is out. Just the job.

Afternoon entertainment, Ice Dancing. A complicated and well executed show based on dance through the ages and from around the world. It basically boiled down to macho men throughout time and strumpets through the ages. Tonight is the world class Queen tribute band, The Bohemians. Let’s see how many old fogies walk out because it is “too loud”. One 70+ guy commented to William in the lift. “I used to think they were great until I found out Freddy Mercury was ‘one of them'”.
Saturday evening
We hit the first of the sun this afternoon and it was hot for the rest of the day. The balcony to the Diamond Club was the place to be. A cooling breeze, seats in sun and shade and good company. Diamond is great for us as a couple because the seats being grouped in fours means you always get chatting to someone new. Some you are pleased to meet again and these “fortnight friendships” are forged. Others you are pleased to see the back of.
One guy in his 70’s we see regularly is always dressed like Uncle Sam on holiday. Shirt, shorts and hat in variations of the Stars and Stripes. One could picture him rocking on the porch, with a shotgun across his lap, taking skeeter shots at anything that moves.
A retired P.E teacher couple, she looks like Helen Mirren, is great fun and good craik, he has two decades of teaching anecdotes which are ok for the first two days.

Tonight, in the Theatre it was the Queen tribute band, The Bohemians. They have a great reputation as performers and bring out the eighties in the audience. Women in size 26 dresses finding the 26 year old Queen fan inside and going non stop for the whole hour. Helen Mirren, “eh, did you see Miss giving it laldy at “We are the Champions?””
We met a lovely couple in our “special needs” seats. I told her to watch for the old fogies reacting to the noise and finally getting up and leaving. She was tickled when it happened as forecast.
So the end of the night, we are in the Diamond and it is deserted. I have brought a sausage roll (would stand up well in Greggs) and a blueberry and raisin scone with jam and cream that could grace the best afternoon tea. RCI are knocking P&O into a cocked hat re food.

I will get this away tomorrow when we are in Gibraltar. So it is now off to bed and speak to you from Cartagena.

We have started the sail in to Gibraltar. We are just approaching The Straits of Gibraltar, the narrow channel between Spain and Africa. We are out on the helipad looking for wolphins and dhales.
While we wait I will introduce you to one of the eateries, The Promenade Cafe. It is made up of what would be three venues on Indy so gets packed at peak pre-meal munchy times. There as an S shaped counter that starts with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, shakes and premium coffees, all these are paid for items. Then the freebies, starting with pies, pasties, sausage rolls, into sandwiches, wraps and pizza then the sweet treats. Various cakes, pie, scones, trifle and mousse. This is open 24 hours. There is free tea, coffee, diluted juice and iced water.

Pause for our first siting. A school of about 30 pilot whales. Hope they are not heading for the Faroes where they will be gratuitously killed. (Their meat is not needed these days.) They are now coming thick and fast interspersed with pods of dolphins. Much more athletic. The showmen of the sea. There are so many excited watchers at the rails I can have a lazy time sitting back and writing my epistle. Then the cry goes up and all eyes and fingers point in roughly similar directions whereupon I can spring into action.

17::00 hours, back in the ship and drinking the Diamond Lounge dry.
Gibraltar is 30* so good to find occasional shade. We did our usual wander in along the busy high street. Trade must be picking up as there are more uk shops opening up.
There has been M&S for as long as we have been coming but now they are joined by Next, Debenhams Clothing, and Tesco Clothing.
Day 6 20 September waiting for the tender into Villefrenche. Wm was fifth in the queue for tender tickets at 7:40, they were to be issued at 8.30. Once the ticket table was erected the crowds that had gathered by then rushed forward. So much for “women and children first to the lifeboats”. Bless ma wee William, he marched up pushed into fifth place. A few grumbles but nobody messes with a riled Weegie.
First drama of the cruise.
A guy has been wandering round who looks totally out of place on a cruise. He would blend in at Woodstock. He was wearing a matching suit and hat of roughly woven, brightly coloured material. I think that it might be known as Bateek. (Apologies to any weavers in my readership). He always carried an orange Sainsbury’s carrier bag. I exchanged a few words with him and he was very “mellow”.

This morning he was seen, surrounded by security, being escorted along The Promenade. One of the officers was holding his bag that had a box shaped item inside. Later same security marched him along to buy two bottles of water and from there he was escorted off the ship with his luggage. Short cruise. William spoke to one of the franchise staff and was told his misdemeanours were sticky fingers and whacky baccy.

17::00 hours, back in the ship and drinking the Diamond Lounge dry.
Gibraltar is 30* so good to find occasional shade. We did our usual wander in along the busy high street. Trade must be picking up as there are more UK shops opening up. There has been M&S for as long as we have been coming but now they are joined by Next, Hotel Chocolat, Debenhams Clothing, and Tesco Clothing. The port is developing too. A massive extension to the marina with high-rise, sea adjacent apartments, 25 storeys high.

Gib is the heart of the call centre industry, especially those dealing with online betting. So I guess they will need more and more accommodation. However at £2.5m each I doubt a moderator with Paddy Power will be able to afford an apartment I wonder how Gib’s history will be forged as they voted 92% to stay within the UK but 95% to stay in the EU.

Day four and I have abandoned the BC count. My brain has just gone into meltdown. I passed an old git with an apoplectic complexion. He launched into a string of “how many people have you run over today?” “I hope you are well insured”. “Can you do wheelies on that?” Each rib tickling comment accompanied by his wheezy chuckle at the originality of his jokes and his face slowly changing its boozer’s hue from Crimson to purple. I scooted off to the sound track of his wheeze.
I made a bolt for the lift and the doors opened to reveal my prize. The same man holding a large glass of wine the colour of his eyeballs. How the H did he get there before me? The lift doors opened to “here comes trouble!” And he dug deep into his fund of “Special Needs Smalltalk”.
“You need a bell on that”
Me reversing. “Oh there he goes beep, beep, beep!
Roll on the 30th when my sidekick Claire will be with me and we can gang up on them.

After dinner we joined Cruise Critic friends Penny and Louise in the Diamond Lounge. They are mother and daughter. Penny has had a stroke. She is a glamorous and entertaining woman. I would have guessed 50, so young for a stroke but she was born the same year as me. It must definitely be in their genes as I would have guessed Louise to be late twenties but she is more than a decade older than that. Penny worked on Cunard for many years and claims to have below stairs tales to curl your hair – then straighten it again. ,

Due to her stroke Penny has balance problems so uses a wheeled walker. Her experience of insensitive, or downright insulting comment was “you look to young to be using that. Are you just after the sympathy vote?”

Whatever meds Penny is on they must be more efficacious the more alcohol one drinks as she can certainly put it away. She had a good sparring partner in William. I reckoned he had 40 measures of spirit in 5 hours. He was still standing. His personality meter slowly moved from ‘curmudgeonly’ to ‘chirpy’. By the end of the night it was stuck on ‘I am a delight’ whereas I read his meter as “pain in the astrakhan coat”.

At the end of the night there was a man sitting alone in the lounge. He had a scooter beside him. I opened up a conversation with him and after comparing notes about how we get around in the world he told me he had a full heart and lung transplant in 1995. Still enjoying cruising, a Jack Daniels and coke. That is a testament to pioneering surgery.

Tuesday 19th and our second sea day.
I am enjoying a day on the Diamond Lounge balcony, reading and writing to you. We met Veronica and Brian to discuss accessible places to visit in cruise ports and the best tours in Russia. We should make a living from this. It turns out we have a friend in common. A DJ on Radio BBC Northampton. Small world.

While I enjoy the shade of the Diamond balcony William is off to join a slots tournament in the casino. News is spreading of a $33,000 dollar win on the slots last night. That will keep the gamblers fired up. It is a lovely day on the balcony, hot sunshine and a stiff breeze. All open decks are alive with golfers, baseball players, swimmers, surfers, rock climbers and sun worshippers. It is a deceptive wind. There will be some sore bodies tonight.Aren’t men such poor dumb creatures.

I am watching a young couple on the basketball court. He has the tan, the t shirt and the latest trainers. She is an ordinary pretty girl in a sun dress and she has evidently agreed to throw a few balls with him. He thinks he is impressing her by running rings around her with his fancy ball antics. While he thinks he is Magic Johnson you can see her getting more and more irritated. After the latest aggressive tackle she has gone back to her sun lounger. I can imagine him gloating at beating her. If it is to turn into a long lasting relationship he will need to learn the tactic of “letting her win”. Otherwise their will be many a long chilly night on the settee with a thin blanket.

Sitting alongside the rock climbing wall you see other examples of men testing their prowess by shows of endurance. Building up their supplies of testosterone and adrenaline. I never understood the fascination. I get my kicks from prednisone and amitryptilline. There is an archery contest on the deck below but as that is a test of skill and not machismo the women are doing quite well………….

I fell asleep just then. William came up and shook me to tell me I was snoring. I have spent 66 years on this earth waiting for the time I could fall asleep in a chair and snore. Leave me be!

Tonight was formal night so we ate in the restaurant, sharing a table with Penny and Louise. Conversation overheard from next table.
“I’m all burnt ‘down there’ ”
“How did you manage that?”
“I fell asleep on a sun lounger with my feet up on the ship’s rail”.

Day 6 continued.
15:00 hours and we are back on the tender. Villefranche is built on a steep hillside. The town centre and shops can only be accessed by steps. There was a “tourist tat ” market just across from the mooring so we started off there. We then bumped into Veronica and Brian so we stuck together to investigate the marina and beach, the only flattish part of Villefranche.

Looking at the map, Veronica had set her sites in the Citadel Gardens but the tourist map was not in relief and the gardens were the highest part of Villefranche. However we found a very smart beachside cafe with a wheelchair lift down to sea level then duckboards to let us access all areas. We sat in the sun by the side of the sea with coffees and cold drinks. The bar also lets out sun beds, towels, pillows, all one might need for a comfortable day at the beach. We spent an hour there then wandered along to the end of the promontory.

BnV are from Northampton which is the county where Althrop is situated, the seat of the Spencers and where Diana, our immortal Queen of Hearts is buried. William is a huge admirer so he walked along with Brian pumping him for information while Veronica and I scooted along and just blethered.

Brian met Diana and enjoyed talking to her for over 20 mins. He often saw Barbara Cartland, another of William’s idols, (I am just saying that to annoy him) sitting on a raised seat in a glass domed limousine looking like a baby pink owl. William is green with envy.

We wandered back towards the mooring. The wall to one side, about 30 feet high, was festooned with bougainvillea, what a sight, curtains of purple flowers right down to the ground. We found another cafe and enjoyed the atmosphere for another hour just soaking up the sun and quaffing cold drinks. Back to the market. Bought a postcard to display in the stair and that was our day out. 5 hours of doing nothing. Bliss!

There was an altercation at the lift coming down to the tender. There are two sisters, both in scooters, no helpers. When their ticket number was called for the tender they waited for ages for a lift that was not full of fit people. They were getting agitated as they did not know their numbered tender ticket was good for any tender with a higher number. So 2 could go on tender 5 but not vice versa.
When they got off the lift, at the deck they had been sent to, they were then told they had to get the lift down another floor. So sister number one saw red thinking they would have to fight again for a lift. A woman in front, whose husband was pushing her, turned round and said “oh stop your moaning”. Well this is France, the land of the duel, so it was “biddies at dawn”.

On the Diamond balcony at night. The captain sounded the horn as we left port and we all got covered in soot. It is thick, black, heavy fuel oil soot. So clothes off to laundry but it will be hard to get out. At least we got a free service and if it does not come out they will have a hefty bill. William’s Ralph Lauren Polo shirt is £110 full price. Sue’s white sheath dress is Aquascutum. I guess you don’t get those in Primark. To add insult to injury on the free laundry slip the Concierge referred to William’s garment as a T Shirt. Now those you can even get in Poundland.

Playing the slot machines in the casino last night I put my Costa Coffee insulated, sealable cup down besidethe puggy in the space meant for drinks. I forgot to pick it up, when I rolled back to the bandit. Gone. Checked with waiters, bar staff and lost property but it is gone forever. Someone must have fancied it. The B’s! The happy ending. Michael the barman presented me with a very snazzy, ocean themed coke cup 😃 Karmic ending someone should now have contracted norovirus or at least be choking from using my cup. (Not that I am bitter).
Civittavechia tomorrow so early night.

Day 7 21/09
Sun and 26* in Civittavechia. We have wandered the local produce market and I fell off the scooter when the wheel struck a pothole. I am still in one piece but both shaken AND stirred so now at my Shirley Valentine spot by the Mediterranean Sea enjoying a soothing cappuccino.
We have motored on to our favourite pizza cafe and enjoyed 1/4 of a table sized mageurita and a large bottle of cold Moretti beer. The challenge now will be to stay awake on my scooter.
William is in his element chatting to people and finding out all about them. I bet when he is older he will be taking coach trips to grill all the old ladies about their ancestry. Meanwhile, like a faithful dog, I wait wondering which lamppost to pee against.

A wee smile on the way in via “The Special Needs Bus”. The bus is not very sophisticated. Some seats have been prised out to make space for 3.9 wheelchairs. The driver jumps out, opens the side doors and sets up this rudimentary ramp made up of two sheets of aluminium. No special fixings, just the two floating sheets. We wheelies have to wait patiently in a coracle until ready for transit. So while the driver is bending over shuffling these two sheets of high grade tin foil, the gazelles have jumped on through the front doors to grab all the seats and stand in the space for the 3.9 wheelchairs. Once driver looks up he is startled by the presence of the gazelles and tries to chase sufficient off the bus to make room for the wheelies. Why did he not keep the front door closed?

Now comes the fun part. How to get 4 wheelies into 3.9 spaces AND close the doors. This Krypton Factor challenge brings out other drivers who think they know the secret. So after a bit of heaving. Taking granny’s foot rest off and trapping someone’s bag in the door they set off.
Now an unenlightened bystander may see this as chaos but once we get to the other end we realise this is a carefully choreographed charade aimed at frustrating those anxious gazelles. The driver DOES know to keep the front doors closed. Now we are back at the ship! So while he does a reverse Krypton factor, this time without the help of hapless bus drivers or the luxury of phoning a friend, the gazelles bleat and sweat and curse inside the bus. We are in no hurry. You soon learn that in a wheelchair. Once the final tenth of a wheelie is released the gazelles stagger out, totally broken like a once wild creature, spirit crushed for the zoo..

Back on the ship. I have grazes on my knees and bruised ribs from the fall. Absolutely fine but I am staying in the cabin tonight to lick my wounds. Thank goodness I didn’t land on my bum. It hurts when I cough and I cough when I have to talk over the top of high spirited cruisers.
I am making the best of it. Propped up in bed like Barbara Cartland, surfing the room service menu. The food is free but you are charged a one-off fee of $7.95. So you are best to go for it. I have ordered two tomato soups, grilled salmon and New York cheesecake. I think that on the last night I should order in the equivalent of my weekly messages.

Another story of the battling biddies. We learned they are Betty, the big sister with the big scooter and Mo, the wee sister with the wee scooter. Mo is very sweet and reasonable while Betty is at odds with the world. She even has the face of a battler. As the Scots say “she looks like the snaw’s aye blowing in her face”. Betty has to be first so she goes into the lift and Mo follows. When the lift gets to their floor Betty wants to be first out but in her haste gets jammed between the doors by Mo’s scooter. Instead of going into the lift and letting Mo get out first Betty puts her scooter into drive and burns rubber. They were eventually pried apart by a fearless young man. I think I would have resorted to a bucket of cold water like you do with a dog and a bitch. (Nothing personal girls)

RCI TV is very limited. I have a choice between CNN, BBC or Big Bang Theory with polish dubbing. Sorry, I know “dubbing” is the polish one uses on football boots so to avoid confusion Big Bang Characters are voiced by Poles. It is still funny. And CNN is updated far more often than it used to be. I have been following diplomatic negotiations by two world super powers. One just threatened to totally wipe out the other and the other just said his opponent was like a barking dog. Battling Biddies all round.

So off to sleep, we dock in Livorno at 7.
Friday 22nd September Livorno

The Special Needs Express is turning out to be the most entertaining part of the cruise. This morning they corralled us all away from the normal people so as not to spook them. We were hog tied and branded, ready to board the bus as 10:15. The first bus came and the driver said she could just take 3. All fine and dandy. She came back empty but said she could now only take two. By her third visit the corale was full and the steers were restless. Up marches a young woman and takes over. She reminded me so much of my niece, Joy, for those of you who know her. With military precision she weighed up size, weight and portability of the assembled throng an managed to fit EIGHT of us into the bus. We gave her a round of applause as she left the bus. We arrived in Livorno, four miles away just before 12.
Coming back this evening was much quieter and we were self organising. We met the people coming back from Florence, helluva miles away and they complained about being in a bus for 90 mins. Lucky them. Feedback from Florence is that the beggars, ‘mime’ artists and itinerant sellers have been moved off the street and it is back to being the attraction it was two years ago. Theresa May was in town with all her Brexit ministers so perhaps the city fathers felt there were already enough shysters, con merchants and pick-pockets in town for one day.

A constant source of amusement on The Disability Special is the aggressive old ladies with hospital issue aluminium sticks, holding them aloft trying to get ahead of the wheelchairs, declaring in a loud voice ” I’m disabled too!”

Livorno is interesting, well what we saw of it. It looks like it was either heavily bombed in WW2 or it had a Labour Council during the 1960’s. Just a few older buildings surrounded by brick and concrete of the 60’s. We wandered around. Found a great Italian Supermarket, that always makes us happy, and saw well designed piazzas and majestic statuary. When we come again I think we might do a private taxi tour as the Hop On Hop Off bus is very small. There is also a boat tour of the canals but the only accessible one was at 3:15 and the boat did not look like it would take many wheelies. The only concession for wheelies appeared to be a plank rather than a step into the boat.

We stopped at a quite swish looking restaurant SV?? for pizza and lasagne. William’s pizza was ok but my lasagne was very strange. They must have been embracing the notion of peasant food. The pasta looked as though it had been pre cooked then reheated. Layers and layers of lasagne pasta with just a brushing of something gooey to keep it together. It had a thin layer of recently applied ( I was about to call it fresh!) bolognese but not a trace of bechamel. I felt outraged and cheated so when the waitress came to check if everything was ok I thanked her warmly and we left a tip.

Back on the ship and there is the whiff of mutiny over the shuttle busses. There are six huge cruise ships in today and evidently there is not the infrastructure to handle that number of passengers. It just goes to show that us wheelies are used to delays and busses sailing past us so we took it in our stride. (Seeing as we can’t walk what would the equivalent expression be? “Took it in the revolution of a wheel” is the best I can come up with). So when The “Walkies” had to wait an hour there was all hell to pay. Reception have been fielding complaints and giving refunds. In the melee we missed paying so have nothing to gain from complaining.

I notice one of the offerings tomorrow morning is “colouring-in to destress”. I think they may regret that. With the current stress levels I can see Cruise commandos abseiling to spray graffiti on the side of the ship. For my stress release I am watching “The Kim and Don Show” on CNN. Tonight diplomacy class is repeating the mantra “I’m not mad you’re mad” “No I’m not mad it’s you that’s mad”.

Saturday 23rd and a peaceful sea day. It started with the Morning Show on TV featuring William’s joke. “Disaster in the Windjammer when a passenger drowned, he was eating muesli and was dragged under by a strong currant”. I did not say it was good, just that it was read out.

We have whiled away the morning chatting with friends. No lunch as we are dining in Sabor the speciality Indian venue. I had to take a wee bit of something to mop up my tablets. The soups of the day were Corn Chowder and Oriental Fish………. I read no further as the first two words were enough so I settled for a bowl of Dal then the penny dropped we were paying to eat the same stuff tonight. Well if you enjoy it.

Beside the Diamond balcony stands the climbing wall. We have sat and watched so many athletic guys pump and preen themselves and stretch every sinew to make progress up the wall. This afternoon as they puffed and grunted their way up the wall, a wee lassie, no older than nine years old, took stock and shot up it like a kitten up a curtain. She earned a huge round of applause from us meagre spectators.

I bumped into Martin in the Windjammer. The old gay guy with the huge nose ring who lives is life in a Carry On movie script. All oooh errr and oh matron! But ruder. He managed to make something outrageous out of me saying I was having rice so I exited, stage rice.

There is always a feeling of self righteousness at hearing of people being sent off the ship but the last family for an early bath was due to one of them self-harming. That is the sign of a tortured soul, bless them.

Tonight was the Indian meal in Sabor and it was amazing. We had simple staple vegetarian dishes, dal makhani, saag aloo and tarka dal. Their were so many flavours you could detect, not simply heat. Even the popadoms and the naan were memorable. We will be back.

The diplomacy lesson tonight is “you are mentally ill and a megalomaniac ” “well you are a mad dog and murderer of your people”.
Sleep well.

Sunday 24th 22.30 sailing to Malaga

The most immediate thing is a gripe. The ship’s staff appear to prefer a cleaning product with fumes like nail polish cleaner. There was a noxious cloud of it outside the theatre last night and the most worrying thing was it being on the ‘smoking allowed’ side of the ship. It is going for my chest and I am wheezing like an old cart horse. I have phoned reception who are sending someone up but apart from moving me to The Royal Suite I don’t know what they will be able to do on a ship full to capacity. I would suggest a lie down in the mortuary but that will no no doubt be reeking of formaldehyde.

Anyway, apart from that we have had a great day. The big fancy WMF coffee machine in the Diamond Lounge has gone on the blink, more like fallen off its perch. So it has been spirited away by the engineers and for the duration we are told we can get premium drinks for free from the specialist coffee shop on the promenade. We were walking along a deserted promenade this morning and a woman was coming towards us wearing a washed out white coat. She looked like a teenage boy’s fantasy chemistry teacher. She greeted us mechanically like a Stepford Wife and carried on by. She must have suddenly registered “nock kneed knackered old nose bag” so she turned on her heels and came to accost me. There is money in the old and worn out. She presented me with her card and reeled off her credentials. Five years at the Lisbon school of acupuncture and plook popping. I told her my condition was a physical damage to the spine and beyond redemption. I had tried most alternative therapies and all the therapists had given up on me and gone back to the more rewarding work of working on cadavers. She was most insistent. Her techniques WOULD make a difference. They would balance my chi, my chai and my ISA. I will pass at $150 per session plus 18% and friends have found they write on the bill FOR YOU. Additional gratuity $20.00

Back to the formaldehyde. The head of housekeeping has just paid me a visit and tells me she can smell nothing. Even donkey is sitting with her petty pants over her nose. Mind you from the look of the housekeeper’s wrinkles she must be on fifty Capstan full strength a day.

William won a prize this morning for the best joke of the cruise. It was read out on the daily TV programme. I am surprised they were not taken off air. Now as I am a great believer in the adage “to the pure all things are pure” so I know I can tell it you unedited.
? What is better than having daffodils on your piano? !Having tulips on your organ! See, I told you, that is one for Gardener’s Question Time.
They will deliver the prize to the cabin. I will report asap.

Right, ashore in Cartagena. We have been here a few times and I have described it as “a wee jewel”. Well preserved Roman features, an amphitheatre, a bath house, a forum, an ordinary Roman dwelling and now a coliseum have been unearthed, archaeologically restored and opened to the public. We met Brian and Veronica at 10:30 port side and set off on our trek. First to the amphitheater BnV were blown away buy it. Thence on to the Panoramic Lift that takes you up to the Castle Hill and breathtaking views over the city. Wandering back I got us lost as I guided us down a strand of Pot Noodle stuck to the map. I thought the Information Centre woman had a whiff of monosodium glutamate about her.

Back on track we found a great wee cafe, Cafe Latte where we enjoyed superbly cooked patatas bravas and coffee served in bright and cheerful modern crockery (I am easy pleased). On the way back we bumped into another wheelchair user and his entourage and conversation led from hearing the familiar accent, asking where do you come from, “near Glasgow”, was the answer, administering a slap, asking again and getting the accurate answer Port Glasgow. It transpires the man in the chair is Jim McLeod, SNP Councillor on Inverclyde Council and noted Disability champion. We both knew each other by reputation (excellent of course) and spent a good half hour catching up on the news of all the “Wheels on Fire” (disability activists) alive and dead.

Further down the street william bumped into the most beautiful, four months old macaw with his charming owner and was chuffed to get a photo with it.

By this time the three wheelies, Jim, Dave and Veronica with their five-strong posse descended on a bar for an hour in the sun and a good craic.

We were back in time for a quick change and up to the Diamond Lounge for the “Happy 3.1/2 hours”. I bailed out after an hour to go to “The Top Tier Event”. The captain’s event for people in the Loyalty Programme. There were free drinks (yes again!) and presentation to top flight members. Some close to 1900 nights cruising with RCI. We were treated to an exclusive Ice Show “Icons” where the skaters danced to the big names. Freddie, Prince, Sinatra, Whitney, The Beatles. It was a great spectacular. William stayed upstairs doing “The Jacknife Challenge”. How many tumbler-sized Jack Daniels and Baileys can I down before either A, 8:30 or B, my liver gives out.

So as you see, cruising is not the easy life. Up at 6:30, William goes up to Diamond for his first breakfast. By 9 I am up and ready and we go for breakfast again, my first. It is handy the coffee machine being broken because whilst it is in dry dock we can get premium coffees from any bar and their is a bar in the buffet. For those who view vodka as a breakfast beverage. It is then
Ashore
Shop
Visit museums and galleries
Lunch with any cruisers we might bump into
Afternoon cocktails shore side
Board
Diamond lounge to schmooze again
Dinner
Show
More schmoozing
Bed
And I bet you think we are having an easy life.

 

Monday 25th September Malaga.
We love coming back to Malaga. It is a bright and lively city with lots of green space. Historical areas, new wide shopping avenues, narrow winding alleys and good tapas.
The walk into town is so enjoyable. Along the smooth, wide pathways of the marina, alongside the colourful glass sculpture of the Pompidou centre and along avenues lined with hundreds of species of trees, shrubs and plants, a sort of sea side botanic gardens, that take you to the centre of town.

We started out at The Picasso Museum. Picasso was born in Malaga. All the works on display were new to us. They are housed in a former palace so the building itself is stimulating. Ever room has a different ornamental ceiling in wood, tile or plaster so one needs to remember to look up in every room. It was a very well curated exhibition ranging from small preliminary sketches, through a window shade he painted to a beautiful study of The Three Graces.

Every time I visit a Picasso museum I learn more about his craft and each time I feel frustration with my art teachers who dismissed it as “cubism” and “women with triangular breasts”. (He was not part of the cubist movement). My first immersion in Picasso was in the Barcelona museum where I marvelled at his technique of “deconstruction” where he took a photo-like painting and took it right back to its basic lines and shapes.

Today’s art lesson was on how he picked out the important features of a person or object and focused on those features. He spoke about how two eyes were never the same and artists were failing themselves if they painted them as such. That is why he would paint two eyes in great detail and link them to other prominent parts of the body. Sometimes the painting was just of linked body parts and people dismissed it as unrealistic. I began to see people wandering round the museum in a different light.

There was an exceedingly handsome young Spanish man who could well have been an artists muse and what drew me were two unruly black curls on his forehead resting against olive skin. Then his feet. He had long slender perfectly shaped toes and I could see Picasso capturing him on canvas by those those two features at polar opposites.

A young woman in black pedal pushers and a matelot top whose strong fine aquiline nose was what represented, to me, her imagined character.
I made a quick exit via the gift shop before I came over all “luvvy”

The disabled access took us through a side door via a maze of alleyways and remnants of buildings from the sixth century BC, a Phoenician town. These were discovered when the palace was converted to the museum. The ultra-modern disabled access loos were also housed here. Two toilets, very modern and with all swish fittings. One toilet is left transfer and the other right transfer. Very innovative. They had excellent contrast for people with vision impairment. Again Spain leads the way.

My brother Ian flys out today for a long anticipated holiday in Barcelona. He has just emailed me:- Heard last night that riots are planned for Friday – Sunday. Govt has declared a referendum on independence, meant for this Friday, illegal & there are two troopships anchored offshore to enforce it. So the separatists are coming from all over Catalonia to resist them. The unions have declared a strike for Monday in solidarity. So who knows what will happen. It is what we refer to as Davies’s luck.
Enough people have already died connected with that holiday. It is funded from “Ash Cash”. His ministers fee for conducting funerals.

It is strange to be in late September in 30* sun and see people in their winter garb. The winter look in Spain for 2017 is camo. The window displays are reminiscent of Wolfy Smith in the 70’s. When the cool kids were dressing from the Army Surplus stores.

Walking down one of the fashionable boulevards, a woman with a clipboard stopped us and rattled something off in Spanish. William responded with “sorry, I don’t speak Spanish”. In perfect English she said “what’s your excuse now then?” It so tickled William he kept laughing for a good few minutes after.

I may have mentioned that I bought a new, light weight, collapsible scooter. Mainly for our cruise to the Arctic Circle as the batteries on my current scooter are susceptible to freezing and that would cause permanent damage. The new Luggie scooter is claimed to give up to 10.5 miles on a single charge. I felt mine was achieving nowhere near that so while we have been on holiday it has been an ideal time to test it. After a week under test I am getting a maximum of 4.5 miles and that under ideal conditions of level terrain and 30*. I shall have to chase them up. (As long as I don’t have to chase them more than 4.5 miles.

In the Diamond this evening I got chatting to a young woman I have spoken to a couple of times. She is always reading one of those weepy “real life tragedies ” about a child who is left on a doorstep, adopted by an unbelievably cruel couple and lives his life in a midden being fed greasy chips. He escapes only to be killed while crossing the road, hit by a runaway industrial tribunal. And she has to recount the whole book to you. Strange we were told tonight she is 48, a grandma but did not get custody of her own children. They went to her husband. Now thereby hangs a tale.

Tonight we dined in Johnny Rockets American diner and we were served by Magdalena from the Czech Republic. She was very efficient and extremely hard working with a no-nonsense approach to waitressing. I suspect she may have been utterly frustrated at the fall of communism as she had her eyes on a role in the Czech army. She barked out her orders “you only have the choice between two sweets. Hot apple pie or strawberry sundae!” You have to read that sentence in the voice of a prison guard limiting ones last meal with the sub context of “AND YOU WILL CHOOSE ONE! We loved her and gave her a huge tip for being such good fun.

I observed that on the menu there are sweets with whipped cream and others with chocolate sauce but behind the counter they had two aerosols. One of “unspecific white topping” (don’t get any on the carpet without testing a patch first) and “unspecific brown topping”, (tested on animals).

I don’t understand people who feel the need to tell you all that they have achieved over their lives, what high achievers their children are and how many accolades and laurel crowns have been heaped on them and their families. I feel it should be up to others to blow that trumpet. There are quite a few on the ship.

Gossip from the brig is that a fight broke out among passengers in The a Two Poets pub on the promenade. I wonder if they were put off?

I went to Gusset Relations tonight to check up on last night’s gas poisoning incident. Now I appreciate a second language can be difficult to master but why put staff on guest relations to brush up on their rudimentary English. I struggled to the point of exhaustion to find out if in fact maintenance had been sent up to investigate the problem. She read painfully through the online report and confirmed “yes, maintenance went up and sprayed with air freshener. Now there’s a solution. You have a guest rolling round on his back, gasping for air like a blitzed bluebottle so you blitz him some more!

I had another frustrating conversation and asked her to relate to house keeping that late LAST night when we went to use the bathroom it was the bath towels that were reeking of solvent. Tippy, tappy, tippy, issue recorded. I arrived back into the room to a call from housekeeping asking if we were in so someone could bring us new towels.
(Tuesday morning update. The woman from reception asked if I had received my towels!)

William has had his minute of fame. He was walking along the promenade while they were filming The Breakfast Show for RCL TV. He was wearing an Hawaiian style shirt with American Diner themed prints on it. The presenter spotted the shirt and called William over to show it on camera. He then realised that William was the guy with the daffodils joke and they shared a thirty-second exchange. William will be in the theatre at 6.00 to sign autographs.

Tuesday in Lisbon
There is a saying “don’t help me I’m in a hurry.” Our cabin is on deck 2 where we disembark. This morning the concierge told us to meet him on deck 5, half an hour before the set time to go ashore. He would get us ashore as priority. The upshot was he got delayed and we were in a crush of people right up the stairs from 5 to 2 and at every lift. We decided to go back to our cabins until the crush subsided. After an hour, for people who stayed in the crush, the captain opened the forward gangway. Now it must have been in place all the time as the concierge whisked William off that way as William had a private tour booked. There were stairs involved so he could not get us wheelies off.

William phoned me from Lisbon to say that the pavement from the port to the town has been dug up for improvement to the marina and would not be safe for a scooter so I have stayed onboard.

The crew were getting it in the neck from everyone. Maybe not their fault but it would have helped had they all been giving the same information not making it up on the hoof. I was incensed to hear the excuse “it is because we are getting the wheelchairs and scooters off” while we were still stuck in the crush. To relieve the pressure on the gangway a huge group of people we corralled into the conference room, then forgot about.

The Captain came up to the Diamond Lounge at 6 to say hello to the Crown and Anchor members and he was cornered and ear bashed. As we sailed he came on the tannoy to apologise and gave a whole new set of excuses. The natives are restless tonight.

The Concierge told us he had been taken away to “escort someone ashore via immigration “. Sounds like a naughty crew member.

We are sailing back to the uk and onboard it has been very relaxed, no sun, we have spent the day in fog. We have made so many good cruise pals this time and have spent the day meeting up, sitting chatting, getting photographed and joining in various events around the ship. The Diamond Lounge was packed tonight with people we haven’t seen all cruise. I put it down to the fog as previously they would have been out on deck.

We had a 65th birthday in the group so Patrick, the portly, ex army birthday boy decided to celebrate by climbing the wall. He made it to the first bell so good on him.

We have taken our one day of free high speed wifi. We get one each. Have sent our small to the laundry, $10 off a $30 bag. Had our two free studio portraits taken. Gave one to Veronica and Brian. Saturday we get our free premium lunch in Chops Grille. It is a carnivore venue. William went to ask what they could do for him. Promised contact with the chef still not happened. Future Cruise sales promised to get back to us re disabled access tours for our Glorious North cruise but again no contact.

At night met with the couple from Queen concert, Craig and Julie from Burnley we enjoyed a great blather. Pity this is the end of the cruise.

We get off tomorrow to take our dirty laundry, contraband and honest purchases to the car. Peter and Claire from Swansea will join us in the afternoon and my next missive will be Sunday from Vigo. Doubt there will be anything to do in Vigo on Sunday.

I have found great inspiration for my novel set in a kirkcaldy coffee shop as there are so many kenspeckle figures on here. So take care of yourselves and your loved ones.
Xx
Dave and William

RCI Navigator October 17 Canaries

Cruise out of Southampton 29th September to Canaries.

Sunday, Vigo

We were not looking forward to Vigo as we knew most places would be shut. The ship docked at 8 and it was cool and overcast. We enjoyed a relaxed breakfast with Peter and Claire. Claire is very POSH and says hell will freeze over before she eats from a plastic plate. She therefore refuses to eat in the Windjammer where they have institutional, no self harm, plastic crockery. As we have been cruising a long time I am possessed of not inconsiderable influence with the staff. The Windjammer manager, George, arranged a selection of China and porcelain bowls for her inspection. She was therefore tempted up to the buffet for breakfast. We are glad to see that they did not meet with her disapproval ( not I did not say “met with her approval”, that would be quite a different reaction). So she was tempted to try half a dozen rashers of bacon and 20 Tater Tots.

We all left the ship at 11, wandered along the marina, then into one of the town parks for coffee. Wandering back towards the ship Claire and I had another coffee while Peter and William did a 15 minute Segway. Note for future. If one goes to Burger King on level two of the port shopping mall there is a door out to a gentle ramp that goes up to the cathedral and old town.

We found a fascinating shop right across from the ship run by a lady who sells sea shells from the sea shore. She also sells fossils and at the back of the shop has set up an enthralling fossil museum.

It has been sunny and 22*. We have had a very gentle and enjoyable day in each other’s company. We enjoyed 5.1/2 hours ashore. After the rain of Southampton and the choppy seas on BOB it is so good to be back on the Diamond Lounge balcony soaking up the sun and the heavy fuel oil soot from the funnel. It fairly darkens the tan.

Signs of the times re the recession in Spain, in Burger King the toilet roll is secured by a padlock. They do not appear to have cottoned on that it can be unraveled Andrex Puppy style. I still cannot get my head round recession-cruise ship-close for siesta at 2.

We have found a ferry that goes across the Rua Da Vigo water to Punta Balea in the Cangas region, we have it on our list for next time. Across the water from the port looks like the south of France.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the Diamond balcony but the lum was on the reek again. I tried to warn a couple from Calgary but it was too late. They had been sooted . It least I was able to alert them to the free cleaning they had earned.

Their was another Top Tier Welcome Back Ice Show. It was brilliant last time so i managed to tempt William along. (Penny and Louise. Dominic was on the door and he asked us to pass his love).

The clocks went back tonight and would you believe we were in bed by 8.

The Nail family must have been very busy while we were ashore. They have evidently been around the room to collect the crumbs from the complementary cookies. These have been used as ballast at the foot of the barricade.

To prevent them from going stir crazy Tony has been putting on drag shows. He puts on a bit of gaudy nail varnish and performs as Miss Tinea Pedes. (If you don’t get his joke then google it).

He performs old standards, “Toot toot Tootsie goodbye”. “Twenty tiny fingers, twenty tiny toes”, and his twist on a Nancy Sinatra hit “These feet were made for walking”.

They have created a flag for their independent state. It is hammer toe and sickle on a revolutionary red background. (That is the colour of Tony’s nail varnish).

Believe me, some nights I am scared to put the light out for fear of what I might find in the morning. With that, lights out!

……….and we slept sound for 11 hours cruising is hard work. We are on the go from alarm call at 7 until lights out between 11 and 12. And you believe you 9 until 5 workers have it hard.

At breakfast this morning, two teenage brothers sitting opposite having breakfast on their own. A plate each with three waffles topped with whipped cream then caramel syrup then chocolate topping then white chocolate buttons. They tucked in with zeal, a teenager’s dream breakfast.

As we missed Peter and Claire at the Ice Show last night we met them for breakfast. Claire was on the receiving end of another one of those sensitive empathic comments
Man to Claire, “what’s yourproblem then?”
Claire, “I don’t have a problem!”
Man, “yes you do, why are you in that chair”
I was mercilessly trolled when I put a video on YouTube entitled “Ten things not to say to a disabled person”.

Today is Lisbon and as all the pavements are dug up on one side of the road in and on the opposite side there are no dropped pavements we are taking the train in. There is a station opposite the ship and that line takes us right up to The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation museum and park so that will be our destination. P&C will be with us. Peter was on a promise of a Segway tour in Lisbon but he got that out of his system in Vigo. Actually I think he was turned on to the Segway. He came back like a boy after riding his new bike.

For the sake of my own cruise diary I just want to record the dreadful events in history that unfolded over the weekend.
The Spanish government, in an attempt to stop Catalunya from holding a referendum on independence, rolled out the heavy mob in the form of their special security services, their SAS. No one was immune from their brutality. The local police and the fire service were attacked alongside ordinary citizens trying to exercise their democratic right to vote. Over 500 people were injured as their SSS used truncheons and rubber bullets to attack the crowd one woman of 80+was on camera showing her injuries. They used axes and sledge hammers to smash into buildings. Not just polling stations but places where people had taken refuge. Chilling. Come back Franko, all is forgiven.

Then there was the Vegas massacre. A lone 64yr old American with a cash of high powered, rapid action weapons and from Floor 62 of the Mandalay Bay hotel shot into a crowd attending an open air concert killing 56 immediately and wounding 560, many of whom will no doubt die from their injuries. The biggest mass shooting in American history yet still they will scream for their Second Amendment Rights.

We had a real adventure in Lisbon but learned lots to put on the disabled access guide euansguide.com (check out the site). We crossed the road for the train and after standing in a long line at the ticket office a local man told us he had overheard our conversation and we needed the Metro. So down in the lift and someone helped us with the ticket machine. It was about a four inch step into the carriage with quite a gap to cross so not good for wheelies on their own. Our native guides, Peter and William got us on safely.

At the station where we got off a young woman gave us directions but being a walkie she did not think how rough the footpath was with a lack of dropped kerbs. We shuggled a long way down to the main crossing, at a very busy roundabout and more undropped kerbs, finally getting to the museum.

For me it was well worth the effort, the displays were many, varied and of great quality. Gulbenkian was a discerning collector. We spent just over an hour going round the collection but it needed a full day so it is next on our Lisbon itinerary.

There was one room full of finely woven 17th century carpets. They were on platforms about one foot off the ground. One old git stepped up and walked on one of the carpets. Please don’t press me to tell you his nationality or you might accuse me of being prejudiced against Americans. Another room of fine French furniture clocks and ornaments. Another old git’s phone goes off so he answers it, in the customary shouty voice. The custodian told him not to use the phone. He walked away and carried on shouting. The custodian told him again. He carried on shouting. Please, please don’t ask me his nationality or you would really think I was anti American.

Close by was El Corte Ingles, our favourite supermarket. We enjoyed the supermarket section then went to the cafe. I was bitterly disappointed when I asked the manager if I could plug my scooter in while we had a meal. I got a flat NO. There will be a letter!

Back to the ship via the Metro again and we are having something to eat while the scooter charges.

Fed, watered and battery charged we went into Lisbon. We are seasoned users of the Metro now and found our way easily into town via the various lifts and “Canals Especiales”, the special needs gates.

The town was so different at night. Statues, arches and fountains lit up. The marble setts that make the pedestrianised walkways glisten in the evening light as though they have been polished then varnished. The street cafes are busy and well lit. Most of the big stores on the Rue Avienda are open and look so inviting in the dark.

We are now back on the ship. We sail at 10:00 local time 11:00 BST. We are heading for deck twelve for the sail out of Lisbon in the dark. Sea day tomorrow, I will tell you all about it next missive.

The continuing saga of The Nails
The Nails have had a huge falling out. Pinky accused Niall from Ballybunion of being callus for criticising Tony’s drag act. She said he should have known his cross-dressing fetish was his Achilles heal and said nothing. Niall was punch drunk on the fumes from Tony’s nail varnish remover and stormed off, Pinky has sat Tony down to watch his favourite film, “Happy Feet”. That usually calms him down. If it does not work she keeps surgical spirit for ‘hissy fits’.

Niall from Ballybunion has now joined the far right Planar Fasciitis Party. They are a remnant of Mussolini’s Fascistii. They went underground and hid in a jackboot until the war was over. Years later that jackboot found its way to a cruise ship wardrobe where is has remained safe for the past five years due to lackadaisical stewards.
Tune in to our next exciting episode of The Nails.
The last blog started off “we were not looking forward to Vigo”. Apologies if you received it more than once. The ships internet and my provider were not on speaking terms so would not cooperate with each other. If you did not get it at all and your life is so sad and empty because you missed it then please let me know. I finally seemed to get it away by forwarding a copy I sent to my friend Robin.

Day 5 at sea.
It has been a hot and sunny day ploughing through sapphire Seas whose waves are topped with white spume. So picturesque and almost hypnotic. We have had a very quiet day. William exploring the ship and socialising and me reading, writing and napping.

We met another couple of great guys from Gainesville, Florida. One is very like you Robin, I could see it in his face on day 1 but we have all made sure he knows he can engage at whatever level. Tonight he went to his cabin at 7:30 and no one tried to pressure him.
William introduced them both to his favourite tipple, a Jackknife. It is equal parts Jack Daniels to Baileys but in the Diamond Lounge they have got into the habit of serving them to William in half-pint tumblers. So 125ml of JD to 125ml of Baileys. I hope Kevin does not slip into a coma in his room 😉

10:30 and I am beside the pool watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” on the drive-in sized screen. I just nipped into the room on the way here to find a letter on the bed telling us there are no facilities, shuttles or a infrastructure for disabled people in Agadir tomorrow so we limpies and wheelies will have to stay on the ship. I am sure they could have told us that as many of us have made plans. I guess they thought by 10:00 we would all be in the land of Horlicks.

I made it until until 11:00 at the theatre then just as Jack Sparrow’s ship was emerging from the fog the fog rolled over the ship. It came down into the pool area as though it was being poured from a cauldron. It brought with it a chill wind. Very Stephen King so I gave up to go back to the cabin with a hot drink.

So we are in Agadir except I am not. William has gone ashore and into town to buy his fossils. The Americans are having trouble with the Glasgow accent. One woman asked me “why does he go to Morocco to collect FAUCETS?” So I remain onboard dedicated to you my loyal fans and committed to bringing a little culture into your hum drum lives.

What I can see from the ship is a Trump style wall all along the hillside that sweeps down to the port. There is a watchtower to spy on anything that moves. Last time we were here William said there were armed police all along the beach. We fancied it was to protect tourists but now I see them in a different light. I am puzzled as to the purpose of the wall. Who is it keeping out, or in?<<<<<<
e search tells me Agadir port is the centre of the pilchard trade. There must be some determined Sardines.

It is now 13:00 hours. William is still ashore either collecting faucets or selling his stock of Nivea in the harem. The promised 37* has not materialised and we have been in the same fog that rolled in from Pirates of the Caribbean for the past 14hours. I am thankful but the sun worshippers are turning uglier by the minute.

I keep bumping into a lovely little lady from Denver, born and brought up in Manchester but 40+ years in Colorado have not changed her accent. Every time I meet her she is searching for her husband. She is a gentle wee soul and converses so well always a two-way conversation. She worked for Pan-Am so I guess good communication is in her bones. I have heard it said if you have Pan-Am on your CV you can get a job anywhere.

At the moment I have a few theories about her.<<<<<<
sband is up to no good with a floozie from Florida.<<<<<<
sband is trying to avoid her as she says he tells her to meet him at a certain time and place but never turns up<<<<<<
s dementia and just believes she has a husband<<<<<<
a ghost. She talks about walking round deck 3. Traditionally deck 3 is the promenade deck. On Navigator it is deck 4. On 3 she would have to walk on water. Well it has been known.

Your theories will be welcome.

I now have inspiration for an alternative blog. A man stopped to talk to me. He took early retirement from DEFRA where he was in charge of EU subsidies for pigs, eggs and poultry. He let me into a trade secret it is known in inner circles as PEP. Now you are interested eh? He took me into the inner workings and scams of the PEP trade such as sending putrid chicken parts from Menstrie (Clackmannan) to Russia. Farmer claims all the perks of export but all the Russians want is the refrigerated container which DEFRA does not track. Bet you can't wait for more.

I am sure this will sound posie but three weeks into the cruise and all the food around the buffet is such a turn off. I just enjoyed a bowl of mushroom soup and six inches off a French stick. ("Six inches is perfectly adequate, more is vulgar". Who said that?)

William is back with a bag of fossils. He took Kevin and Doug in with him and between them they bought out the man's stock from his folding table. He was delighted with the huge purchase and honoured them with a wee China cup of herbal tea. I expect William will be chasing purple dragons around the cabin.

Queuing at the barrier to the Ice Rink my arch nemesis "Hello Clo" breezes past and asks me "are you going to limbo under that?" Now am I wrong for thinking that was crass and insensitive? Any of you could joke with me in that way as you have earned the right do do so through friendship. But a cruise director who does not know me from Edam??

LATER<<<<<<
e treated to top class entertainment in the theatre tonight. Philippa Healey. She is a West End Show star, opera singer and pianist with a great talent and stage presence. She sang standard show tunes from My Fair Lady, film numbers from The Way We Were and Sound of Music. Opera, Oh My Beloved Father, in the Italian. Played classical piano melded with popular songs and heartbreakers from Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera. Having acted in those shows she put all the movements and emotions in the songs that added to one's interpretation. One of the best stage performance I have seen in a long time. So "ya boo sucks" to you Simon Cowell for using "cruise ship performer" in a derogatory manner.

Day 7 on this cruise (day 21 for us😁) and we are sailing for Lanzarote, still under sea fog. We dock at noon. My regular readers will know I can no longer refer to it as Lanza Grotty as billions have been spent on constructing a cruise terminal and Marina within walking distance of the town and a beach of golden sand just beyond the town So I will get this away today. See you soon.ve and William.

NOT FOR PEOPLE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION OR FOR NIGHT TIME READING

The Nails. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. The barricade has been crushed and the Nail family and their refugees left strewn like road kill on a highway.William was standing at the mirror, sprucing up his jacket with the adhesive lint roller, when it slipped from his hand and crashed to the floor. Flattening the little community and collecting the majority of them on the roller. William of course was full of contrition and tried to rescue and revive them and return them to their hole and corner home.

Stephen came in later that night, having completed his one day course in operating a vacuum cleaner, and sucked them into oblivion.P

Day 7 Arrecife Lanzarote.

Those of you who are regular subscribers will remember my blog from last year when I told you how much development has gone on here. New cruise port, Marina with fashion shops, souvenir shops, bars and restaurants and the other side of town a beach that cost €150,000,000. The town has really benefited from it. There are new shops and bars up the high street and various previously abandoned buildings are being brought back to life.

We observed Health and Safety Lanzarote style. A portable crane on the back of a lorry lifting a palette of bricks high above the street while people walked below. One woman in a wheelchair sat below the palette watching the bricks swing high above her head.

As you exit the port and marina, just past where the shuttle bus stops, you run the gauntlet of rows of market stalls selling every type of fake you can imagine. I have never seen so many handbags, belts and sunglasses. There are three ships in today and if every passenger were to buy one of each there would still be plenty to spare. William bought a Folex watch many years ago. I think it just about lasted until we got home.

We stumbled across an amazing shop that looked as though it had been there forever. "Tabaqueria La Vegueta – Tabacos y Articulos Del Fumador". I am sure you can work that out. I have never smoked but have always been fascinated by all the trappings and paraphernalia of pipe and cigar smoking. I did get a lovely bottle of rum and honey liqueur for a dipsomaniacal friend of mine who says she keeps it for medicinal purposes.

It was a hot, sunny, relaxed day as we wandered into town and back. After a few drinks on the Diamond balcony we headed back into the marina to enjoy a pint of Estella with Doug and Kevin from Florida. It was good to have deeper conversation that helped us get to know each other rather than the small talk and shallow banter of the bar. We sat and watched the sun go down to the west and a glorious pink moon appear in the east. The stuff memories are made of.

We sailed out at 9 p.m. and I enjoyed a long slow shower without having to focus all my energies on staying upright.

Friday 6thtober Las Palmas

Las Palmas is like an old friend, we naturally slip into a familiar pattern. My long term fans will remember that this is the one with the fantasmagorical disabled access beach. They have now added an adult bathing buggy. Like a baby buggy but adult size with huge, wide wheels so that one can be pushed across the sand, right into the sea. Amazing!!!

The young man at the jewellery and fancy goods store came out to meet us. He recognised us and remembers that last time I fell off his pavement. He has some lovely goods at keen prices and we always get a discount. William reckons we pay half the price of the Schwarovski shop (or Swastika shop as his ma miscalled it) so we bought a goose and a swan for her.

So a lovely day wandering the promenade. We bought rolls and cheese for lunch and had a couple of coffee stops. Sorry there was no drama and no batty people to write about. William got a very smart haircut.

We went back in at night and like Lisbon it was a completely different city at night. We sat by the sea eating filled rolls while the sun went down. Based on my observations can I give you a tip. NEVER get changed under a towel, It looks far worse than full exposure when you can tell by people's contortions and facial expressions just where the sand is lodged. Certainly not good when you are devouring your way through a couple of baps.

Day 9 and we are in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

We have done Tenerife many times so aside from a trip out to a wee souvenir shop just at the ship's side we stayed onboard.

I met my wee ghost lady again. She just appeared behind me. She had a very interesting tale to tell. Her biological mother was a professional dancer in Manchester clubs. Sue describes her as a "rabbit". She had at least five children, all put up for adoption. Including Sue. When Sue told me it was a Medium who put her in touch with her sister it added to my theory.

She says she has a picture of her mother in a fur stole getting into a fancy car. I suggested she might be "a dancer with benefits”. Her story involved a genealogist, research in Register House and phone calls across the globe. Mother's final husband saying he did not want their children they had together having contact with the bastard brood but finally they are all connected. Her husband, Boo, then appeared. He is as white as her despite the sunshine. (I know Boo would be a great name for a ghost but I promise you I am not making it up.)

Diamond at night another couple of FODs appeared. Chris and St John from Cornwall. Very interesting, very musical, both good looking, what is there not to like.

We learned that a couple were put off in Las Palmas for shoplifting. We do not have more details as yet but once we sail William will go and grill his new found friend, Nick, from Washington Tyne and Wear. Nick works in "watches, souvenirs and personal hygiene."

So that will keep you in suspense as shops don't open until we sail.

Retraction. I find myself having to apologise. It was never my intention to mislead my readers but I have discovered Stephen did NOT Hoover the carpets. Now try NOT to picture this, but to tame the varicose veins in my legs I wear prescription strength surgical stockings. I am told to keep them on in bed so that they can help drain the swamp that is my ankles by 10 at night. Well they are knitted nylon, pregnancy strength, and the soles act like Velcro. I never had cause to inspect my soles but yesterday took the socks out of the wash bag to swill them in the sink and there on the soles was all the detritus from the cabin. The auburn hair, the Nail family, the cookie crumbs. Like the feet of the yeti.

Day 9 evening at sea heading to Funchal Madeira

There will be reports of a demented pensioner going round in circles on a mobility scooter. I mentioned to you that I had concerns about the performance of the battery on the scooter. I used a tracker on my iPhone to measure how far I had travelled and reckoned it was never more than 4 miles, whereas the scooter spec predicted 10 . There is a running track on deck 12 that is measured at 1/8 of a mile. I managed 28 laps on a level track at 25-30 degrees, so what you might term ideal conditions. 3.1/2 miles then the warning lights came on and a beeping sound warned me to get home asap, so I did. There will definitely be a letter of complaint.

We have not yet found out who the thieves were who were put off the ship at Lanzarote. We do know it was not fridge magnets and souvenir t shirts they were stealing. William has got friendly with the sales guy in there, Nick from Tyneside. We do know they could have been put off at Agadir but captain had some compassion. Pity, they would have been at home.

However! Nefarious felony in the Health Spa. Doug, from Gainesville Florida likes to use the gym at some part of the day. He then showers and goes to the sauna to relax his muscles. Last night he emerged from the fog to find his underpants had been stolen. He is a big guy, not quite as big as me, but ample. He is mystified as he has not seen any 2xl spa users.

Doug and Kevin are Pinnacle class, over 700 nights, they get showered with perks. They are also in a suite so that means extra grovelling. Last night they were invited to the Captain's table. Ten people, so circulating small talk. At the end of dinner captain goes round to ask each couple how they have found their cruise. When he asks Doug, he blurts out in his Bible Belt accent "somebody stole my drawers!" I bet that was a first for the Captain's table.

My late Aunty Maureen would have approved. A seasoned cruiser we once asked "have you eaten with the Captain?" In her best refined tones she replied "Oh no, I don't eat with the crew!"

Tonight we dined in the Sabor Indian Restaurant with Peter and Claire. Once again it was superb. So "foo as a puggy", I am off to sleep.

Day 10 Funchal, Madeira. Another glorious day yet we could see rain at the top of the hill where the cable car terminates. Sunday so lots of people moaning that shops were closed yet all looked open to me. I think they want department stores.

We were dropped off at the La Vie, shopping Centre. Shortly after we emerged from the food market the police appeared and started ushering people towards the main entrance but not outside as you might expect for a security incident. We found out later someone had jumped to their death.

We had lunch at The Ritz, one of our favourite stops. Not cheap but excellent quality. The promenade was busy as there was a roller-blade competition on. Roller blades seem to be very popular here.

On the way back we came via Christiano Renaldo's private marina with his hotel complex, museum, restaurant and merchandise shop. I was just needing the necessarium. Talk about vanity. The door handles to the toilet are replicas of his hands in handshake pose and there is a huge mural on the wall of his bare torso, showing off the tattoos across his shoulders. Very well equipped it was too. (The loo)

Entertainment tonight was violinist Gary Lovini. He told us he won "New Faces" in 1986. That must have been a busy year as we have heard that from other entertainers. Got chatting to a family I have seen a lot around the ship. I broke the ice by telling them why this demented pensioner had passed them 28 times on the running track. They have a son who is in a very complicated chair with lots of engineering adaptations. He is James, a Leeds Fan, writer of accessible football ground blogs and holder of a degree in media studies. He has muscular dystrophy and lost a brother to MD, just a couple of years ago. Thomas was 16 when he died.

We shared lots of travel tips and frustrations and I recruited James for doing access reviews for Euan's Guide. dad is an engineer he designs access facilities for public buses then trains staff on how to operate them. He explained why Veronica and I have waited so long for details of accessible tours in St Petersburg. There are none!

They were angry about the letter left on the bed the night before Agadir. They chose this cruise for Morocco and there was no mention of access problems when they booked their disabled access cabin. I guess RCI would not want people to cancel. No doubt why they are never getting back to us re Russia.

Claire reported that Crass Cruise Coordinator Clo, the one who asked if I could limbo, tapped Claire (sitting in her wheelchair) on the shoulder and asked "are you coming to walk a mile with me?" Then with a look at Claire's legs quipped "probably not".

Day 11 at sea. I just have to get it off my chest. For the past 25 days and every morning there is a young Jamaican greeter at the entrance to the Windjammer. The greeters job is to welcome you and focus your attention on the hand sanitisers. The greeter is a young Jamaican guy who is going through a repertoire of every racial stereotype of the Black man from slavery to Michael Jackson. For Michael he does "white face". I just hope I am not on for his Jolson numbers.

After breakfast we went to the Diamond for a coffee. We were joined by Bob, an ex Glasgow police officer. Does he have some stories? He could could fill a venue at The Fringe. Like the young bobby attending a suicide, a guy had jumped from a high rise flat. The bobby asks the boy's mother "has he done anything like this before?" Being a pre equality policeman he told one about a burglar who was "as black as 2 in the morning".

We have really fallen into the rhythm of cruising and we were saying, half jokingly, wouldn't it be nice to stay on and wondering if there might be any low cost cabins going. We have just heard there are going to be over 1000 children on the next cruise as it is school half term. Perhaps not.

I am going to get this away while we have internet access. Formal night tonight so off to get scrubbed up.

Monday evening, Day 11, still at sea.

Scooting through the promenade I caught a snippet of a conversation outside The Two Poets pub. "No, we are from Scotland". "Ohh, do you live near Susan Boyle then?"

I am fuming. Well not fuming, others are doing the fuming and we are on the receiving end. On Indy the whole inside of the ship, except the Connoisseurs Club, is no smoking. On Navigator smoking is allowed in the casino when the ship is in Europe but not in US waters. We get the concession that formal nights are no smoking in the casino. Tonight is formal, we walked in to a guy lighting a coffin nail. I went to one of the casino staff who told me smoking has been allowed tonight because "they requested it". Like a dog with a rabbi I went for "who are they?" " why do they have preference over 'us'?"

We were then told the furthest end of the casino was non smoking. We made do with that. Then two guys came and sat down beside us and lit up. The smoke was hitting us and coming out of my ears. I went to find the casino floor walker and asked him to intervene. Well he fluffed and he faffed and he dithered about but would not take the matter onboard. So I asked the two guys myself if they would stop smoking. They argued the rule and I asked the casino guy to back me up but he fluffed around like a big Mary with her knickers down. Grrrr!! When I get home I will go through H&S at Miami.

Tuesday in La Coruna we got into port over an hour early. Captain said it was in connection with a medical emergency. He also apologised for the disturbance during the night. It was a helicopter trying to land re the same medical emergency. Guess it was too rough. Lots of rumours running round that the patient died but Diamond Concierge confirmed it was a stroke and yes it was too rough for the chopper.

La Corruna was 70 and sunny and we enjoyed investigating parts of the town we had not seen before. As we wandered through the main square we came to endless flights of stairs leading up to the highest part of the town to where looked old and interesting. We then found a panoramic lift. An engineer was tinkering with it but promised we could test it if we waited five minutes. He announced it fixed and ready for a test flight. Being a gentleman I sent Claire to test it then followed her up. It was a fascinating part of town with a synagogue, cathedral, abbey housing the Sisters of Barbra, college and a shambles of houses of great variety of styles.

Wandering through the town we bumped into a couple of guys from the entertainment team. The conversation turned to Self-promo Clo, the new cruise director. we told our tales of woe concerning Clo, their eyebrows did a little Mambo that told us all we needed to know. the lovely Dominic (the Welsh Wonder to P&L) apologised profusely. By the way P&L, did you know Dominic spent eight years in Papua New Guinea. Cannibals and all, maybe you don't want to be in love-bite pose with him after all L😳. The gravy would be good P.

Chris bought me a bar of sugar free nougat, what a sweetie. I will save it for the journey home, it might be as effective as morphine and no sugar rush.

Packing tonight as one more sea day then Le Havre and home Friday.

We have a mesmerising and mysterious barman from Romania in the Diamond. If you ask about him he says in an ice-melting voice "I am Alexandrou Dragan from Constanza, Romania on the shore of the Black Sea". I just had to write him into my latest novel. He has great dramatic potential.

There was a rammy in the Diamond Lounge tonight. A woman was screaming at her husband, talk about washing your dirty linen in public? She was pounding hers with a rock! Other guests were commenting that they should have been barred. They were at an age when they should have known best. I would guess 50's though she was plucked, tucked, died and fried to a deep brown. The Spanx were also doing sterling service.

Wednesday<br<br
vel that there are so many people on board who can afford a cruise but can't stretch to a bar of soap. The longer the cruise, the worse it gets. Perhaps it is an innovative way of helping the vision impaired judge what sea day it is. "Boakin”, must be day 12.

The two women who led us astray into a debauched life at sea, told me after their half-world cruise that eventually they got sick of seeing the huge array of food but all in the same place. I though "aye right". But I am now with them. There is just too much and so much gets wasted. I have enjoyed my cooked breakfast but two nights running I have just had soup for dinner. I know, poor me, beset by first world problems.

You, our A list friends, will appreciate another dilemma. We are so popular we have collected "invitations to stay" from Florida, Swansea, St Austell, and Lochgelly. It is possible we will add a couple to our list of friends but they will be B list. As will any of you who failed to acknowledge the blogs. Anything will do from "genius, the next Oscar Wilde" to "please unsubscribe me from this self seeking drivel". Xx

We had a wee drama on the Diamond balcony last night. A senior lady tripped and broke or badly sprained her wrist. She fell on a cache of broken glass and was very lucky not to be cut as she was sitting on it. God bless Spirella. I am just waiting for the incident to come back on the gossip vine by which time she will have bled to death.<br<br
n the Concierge about her tonight. He said she had a dislocated bone in her wrist but otherwise was ok. They asked for dinner in Chops as compensation. Outrageous she fell over her own feet! And how cheap!

I went to an enrichment lecture this morning on The Psychology of Memory. Thought I had walked into the wrong room as there was a video showing entitled "The Feral Child". No doubt preparing the staff for next week.

Once the lecture got going we were drowned out by the noises coming from "The Friends of Bill W." who were partying next door. No doubt a day off.

At lunch we saw the HR Director. I nailed him re duty of care to their employees who are forced into passive smoking in the casino. He says it has been debated at every level and is about to revert to make every casino on every ship a smoking venue on the grounds of lost revenue on non smoking nights. And I thought the Americans were paranoid about smoking and health. Seems the mighty buck wins again.

The screaming woman was in the dining room with her husband. They were making their way through tables to the salad buffet. He was in front, she screamed. "Get behind Geoff" and he did! Wonder if someone will be going overboard in the channel.

In the Cruise Compass tonight, for the first time, there is a message stating that certain areas of the casino are non smoking. 🎼 If I can help somebody 🎶 as I go along, 🎵my living will not be in vain 🎼

We docked in Le Havre at 7 and left the ship at 10. We took a private taxi tour to Honfleur with James. He was very personable, good English, very comfy taxi. He took us high above the town for an old church and panoramic views.

Then into Honfleur, it is very picturesque. Buildings that look Mediaeval and Tudor, beautiful Norman churches. Artisan shops from foodstuffs to ceramics. Calvados is the big drink here. We had a lovely lunch at a reasonable price. The cobblestones were murder on my BTM. Huge setts with no pointing. Any pavements were choc-a-bloc with tables and adverts. Great place to walk but not good for wheelies. James charged just €150 for a five hour tour.

We toured with Doug and Kevin from Florida. It was strange when we stopped outside a gun shop they had a very detailed discussion in "gun talk" that was alien to us.

Also the last security screening. You can feel very safe with heightened security checks. They checked every inch of my scooter but never found the bag under my seat.

Well that's it over unto March 2018. We have been away for 29 days. It has been just right for getting the best out of the holiday between the settling in and packing phases. We have been to fascinating places, finding new things in places we have been before. Found great pleasure in showing the hidden treasures to the newbies. Especially places that are wheelchair friendly. Made lots of new cruise friends who have been great to spend time with. Lots of promises made but we don't expect them to be kept. Holiday friendships are so fickle.

So here's to a safe journey home and my own toilet 😁