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”.
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'”.
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”.
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
Visit museums and galleries
Lunch with any cruisers we might bump into
Afternoon cocktails shore side
Diamond lounge to schmooze again
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.
Dave and William