Start the Ship – we’re on our way

2nd September 2014

Embarkation day (yesterday) was mainly good fun and trouble free. We’ve used ACP this time for parking and it was easy to find and only a short minibus ride from the terminal (there’s definitely something quite worrying about setting off from a location called terminal!)
When we arrived at the City Terminal our minibus stopped briefly at the side of the building where a group of jolly stevedores took our cases and carried them carefully to the loading area whilst whistling a happy tune, after all luggage football is never played in full sight of the customer. But in some ways I wish it was because when I’m finally reunited with my cases I really would like to be able to put a face to the bastard who managed to tenderise a brand new Samsonite into something resembling minced liver.
Security involved the usual hectic process of suspicious scrutiny by a group well trained in the art of intimidation. The lady in charge of loading up the scanner belt scowled and sniffed in utter disdain as we approached. We duly deposited all our worldly goods and dignity into her grey plastic tray and she watched me intently for any obvious tell tale signs of deceit as I removed my belt and shoes.
“Have you anything else in your pockets?”
“No,” I reply.
“Are you sure?”
I pat my pockets with gusto, “No, nothing there,” I announce with a smile.
“No keys?”
“No…….there’s nothing left in my pockets.”
“No loose change?”
“No…….there’s nothing left in my pockets.”
“Phone?”
“No…….as I said there’s nothing left in my pockets.” I think at this point my smile was beginning to fade.
“You still have a hand in your pocket so I thought you were checking for something. Are you wearing a belt?” she asks even though she’d watched me remove it not ten seconds ago. Maybe next time I should do it to music……….
“No I’m not. That’s why I still have my hand in my pocket, it stops my jeans falling around my ankles.”
“So there’s nothing in that pocket?”
“No.”
“How about the other one?”
“There’s nothing.”
“Have you remembered to empty your back pockets…..wallet? comb?”
“No.”
“Is that no you hadn’t remembered or….?”
“There’s nothing in my pockets.”
“Then please proceed through the scanner sir,” she said with a sarcastic grin, I started to walk away but I’m sure she was still unconvinced about the emptiness of my pockets.
“Just have one final check before you go through please sir,” she called after me, “Otherwise you might be delayed getting onto the ship.”
I’m suddenly aware that one poor guy was being led away to a private room by two burly bruisers intent on discovering the reason he’d somehow managed to make their mystical arch machiney thingy beep. He too must have been convinced his pockets were empty I thought, so like an idiot I stopped and obediently went through my pockets again…..just to be sure.
I’m convinced it won’t be long before they have us all stripped down to our underwear to ensure we’re not trying to sneak (love that word) anything remotely illicit aboard. But I have to ask how much contraband could you hide in the framework of a wheel chair or the battery compartment of a motability scooter? They meticulously inspect and x-ray the heels of our shoes and yet poor old Ethel, who is unfortunately confined to a wheelchair, is automatically waved through as if it would be deemed highly unprofessional to even consider a lady in her position could be a potential smuggler or worse.
Anyway, it’s done and we finally make it onto Balmoral and head straight for our accommodation. 9093 is a large inside cabin and although it shows a fair bit of wear and tear it’s clean and smells pleasant. Later on we’ll discover it’s also in a very quiet area of the ship. The bed is comfy, the bathroom huge, so what more can we want? Oh yes, we want biscuits of course……..but where are they?
CUTBACKS – they seem to affect everything. We last cruised with Freddie in 2011 (in fact that was our only previous cruise with FOCL) On that occasion there was a small organza bag with toiletries, but not this time. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any more ‘savings’ being made here like the ones we’ve noticed recently on P&O. Yes it’s only little things but then don’t they say it’s the little things that make it special? I’ll keep you informed.

So we’re off, with a wish for nothing more than a trouble free time over the next five weeks and a slight hope that we find at least one couple we can get along with (oh and good weather, nice food, black squirrels, nice food, beer and maybe some NICE FOOD)
And so to our table……..

With each and every sailing fresh faces would appear,
Would they all be happy? Would they all drink beer?
Would they be a nice crowd up to have some fun?
Or would they all be nutters into fighting – throwing buns?
With first night nerves all tingling, wondering who they soon would meet,
Jim and Cheryl hand in hand set off to find their seat.
(excerpt from the Ballad of Table 37, J.A.G. Nov 12)

This time we’re on a table for 8 and its number 106. Our fellow travellers appear to be a friendly bunch and quite good fun. Two couples know each other from previous Cruise Encounters (of the third kind) They are all ‘Gold Members’ and well seasoned FOCL travellers….and are definitely going to be the life and soul of the party 
The food was just as we remember it, not overly generous in quantity but nicely prepared and tasty (especially the soup) Our table waiters are exceptionally attentive, probably because they appear to know the previously mentioned table companions fairly well.
So all bodes well and finally to bed, perchance to dream of……..……let’s say whales, and lobster lunches and endless walks in the cool fresh air of a glorious Canadian autumn.
Yes that’ll do nicely (donkey) 

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