22nd-23rd September 2014
New York – New York
During yesterday’s sea day nothing of any significance happened so that is why you got my take on ‘What makes us human’ I hope you enjoyed reading it………..did anyone actually get past the first paragraph before hitting the like button and going elsewhere? Thank you if you did…….
Having said nothing really happened yesterday there was one incident worth a mention when a lady was overheard chatting to one of the ships photogs. He was telling her this was his third year working on the ships, to which she replied,
“So you haven’t had much chance to travel then?”
“Oh yes madam, I’ve been round the world twice and seen nearly all the major cities on every continent.”
“How lovely,” she replies, “And to have such a great employer……giving you all that time off.”
To be fair, I think the lack of shuttle buses in Boston has taken its toll on many of our fellow cruisers. There is a certain amount of angry frustration circulating especially as a fair number of the older and less able folk didn’t even bother to get off. I do have some sympathy with their plight, but at the same time I find the banter entertaining and it gives me something to report.
Anyway…..back to the Big Apple.
For me New York is an enigma as originally I thought I’d hate the place. I’d imagined masses of bodies charging along the sidewalks and claustrophobic dark streets deprived of sunlight by walls of glass and concrete. But the first time we came here in 2012 it didn’t feel like that at all. It felt fresh, clean and vibrant, there was a positive atmosphere and we loved it.
But this time it didn’t feel the same. It wasn’t completely the opposite but something didn’t feel right. Maybe it was just we did different things this time or even that we had different expectations, and we still enjoyed ourselves but….something was different, maybe it was us…..oh well, on with the story.
There’s a certain world leader coming here tomorrow and we’ve been warned that there will be delays ‘downtown’ because of this. Still that doesn’t really worry us because we’re heading for Central Park and the Natural History Museum (Cheryl’s just not content to live with a fossil, she wants to go and visit a few as well) So after collecting our New York Passes from the sales office we headed north…….oops sorry I mean ‘uptown’.
The walk is good and easy, but it’s noticeable that there’s a lot of new construction going on all around us (like everywhere else we’ve been so far) and this part of the city (8th Ave above 50th St) is very quiet, almost deserted in fact…………Then we get to the gates of the park, well we try but our way appears to be blocked by people, hundreds of them, and every single one of them is determined to rent us a bike or sell us a horse and cart ride.
“I’ve got two good legs thanks, I’m going to walk.”
“But it’s eight and half miles round and dangerous.”
“You mean I might get run over by all the bike riders or a bloody runaway horse and cart. I’ll take the chance……thanks…”
“Wouldn’t you like to treat your lady sir.”
“Give me a break, she’s already in a bad mood with me.”
“But you can enjoy the park in comfort.”
“WHAT? I really enjoy clutching my nose to block out the awful smell whilst waving my hands furiously to keep the flys off………it’s still a no……but thanks.”
“My horse isn’t that smelly.”
Please feel free to add the obvious line at this point………….But I’ll give the guy his due because he’s not finished yet. He’s hot on our heels and if nothing else his presence is detracting the others from bothering us…..maybe there’s a clue there……but I’m a professional when it comes to ‘No means No’.
“You’ll miss all the good stuff if you go it alone,” he insists. Suddenly we see our chance and quickly side step a crush of people heading our way, he’s not so nimble on his feet and we make good our escape.
“Take my offer before it’s too late,” I hear him call after us, “You won’t regret it.”
“Oh yes I would,” I happily mutter to myself, I really am not a horsey type of person and I don’t like to consider myself in need of a lift……just yet, but I do accept they’re only trying to make a living. However I do feel some tourists would feel intimidated into doing something they may not really want to……oh well.
Once inside the gates it is quite obvious that this is a massive place, and the road is crammed with horses and bikes, with joggers and skaters filling in the gaps. Worryingly we hear that one pedestrian had recently been killed by someone riding a bike in a ‘No Riding’ designated area, so there are marshals everywhere telling all those folk who have just hired the bikes to,
“Get off that bike and walk it on the paths.”
So having spent good money to ride around the park they are not only having to walk but have a heavy bike to push as well. And once they reach the end of the path they discover that everyone is only allowed to ride in ‘one direction’ (good name for a boy band) and that’s not the direction they want to go…………now who has regrets?
Anyway, enough of horses and bikes. We spend a good hour wandering up the west side of the park and it’s a nice park with lots of interesting paths where horses can’t take you (sorry I just can’t let it go, can I?) It’s certainly a well used space and young and old alike are enjoying a nice pleasant day doing their ‘own thing’, brilliant. In general it’s clean and well maintained, much better than some of our own recreational spaces back home.
We reach the Natural History Museum and spent a couple of hours looking around the maze of halls full of ‘stuff’. And the verdict? Great, really fascinating.
From here we walked to St John the Divine Cathedral (supposedly the biggest in the world) and enjoy the visit. Not much to say really, it’s a church, just a very big one……..followed by lunch in the Morning Heights district (where’s China town when you need it?)
So now we have a seventy (ish) blocks to walk back to the ship and we decide to take the route through Riverside Park. This, if anything, is better than Central Park because there appear to be more trees and flowers, with less grass. It’s a really nice walk, and once again it’s nice to see so many people using the facilities.
The evenings theatre trip to see Mamma Mia was very good, and of course very busy. I can’t really add a lot here because everyone gets different things from a show and what I considered was good to watch (the technical stuff) most folk would find boring. Simple set, great lighting (of course I could have done it better ;)) The only downside for me was the sound guy (Mike……get it??) had a tendency to be a bit slider happy at certain times and the volume went off the wall and ran off down 42nd street on a few occasions……..way too hot on the gain Mike and louder is good but not always better..
Me? Strange? No way..
Halifax – Nova Scotia…..I love this place
Day 1….The city of Halifax, in my humble opinion, is one of the best visits for those cruising the east coast of Canada and the USA . There is a fantastic boardwalk with great views across the harbour towards Dartmouth and the island of St George looking toward the mouth of the estuary. Unlike most places the cruise terminal (?) doesn’t share space with the container port, so everything appears bright and clean and exceptionally well looked after.
There are plenty of interesting sculptures along this easy route which takes you past some of the most desirable places to eat, without the need for walking up into the city, where of course there are also numerous places serving excellent local food (and drink)
The town itself a very interesting mix of old and new, the highlight of course being the citadel at the top of the hill. But don’t ignore the mass of wonderful parks which are crammed with beautiful flower displays and no vagrants can be sleeping rough on the benches (none that we noticed anyway) to spoil the atmosphere (literally)
We walk up the steep hill to the entrance of the fort and arrive just minutes before midday and the firing of the signal gun. Because we’re right under the wall from where the cannon is fired, we’re asked to step to one side (for health and safety reasons of course) and given a countdown with clear instructions to cover our ears. As usual there are a group of belligerents, either claiming they were in the military for years so are used to such loud reports or those just refusing to take advice. Many are clutching their tablets with both hands, arms fully extended and ready to capture the moment as a few million pixels, never again to be viewed!!
Now I like my hearing, I find it’s quite important for the continued enjoyment of my life, so I take the proffered advice. But I’m not watching the firing of the gun, that’s going to just be a big puff of smoke, preferring instead to watch the individuals who don’t realise exactly what is about to happen.
Ten seconds, nine, eight, seven….the gathered are smiling and happy…..four, three……they tense with fingers poised to take this most memorable of photos……….one………BANG!!!!
One of the ex-navy guys swears so loudly I can hear him even though my ears are still covered and he’s twenty yards away. Most of the people in my field of vision act on their natural instinct and duck, hands instantly flying to cover their assaulted ears but it’s far too late. Tablets and photographs are momentarily forgotten and in some cases they’re almost thrown to the ground in violent retribution as if they had somehow committed the user to the task and were now solely responsible for the outcome.
I didn’t actually see anyone collapse with blood oozing from their ears but some of the once belligerent bystanders were definitely having second thoughts about their own stubbornness. One lady announced (well rather shouted as she couldn’t actually hear anything) “I hope that was worth it.” She busily slapped herself on the side of the head……………as if that was going to help or make the slightest difference.
Anyway…….we moved on, not into the citadel this time, but around the outside and down the hill toward the far side of the city. We had it in mind to head for the Titanic cemetery, but having stopped and quizzed a local we realised it was a bit too far to walk (something else to organise for next time)
We spent the rest of the morning wandering around a couple of interesting (not Titanic) graveyards and several parks, then finally the time arrived to head back to the port area for lunch. I’ll say no more than it was very nice (I think) and very boozy (I think) and we ate and drank far too much (that I know for definite)
More wandering around in the afternoon (more like staggering to be honest) and despite being completely stuffed to bursting I just had to have an ice-cream from the infamous ‘Cows Dairy’ very yummy.
As we have an overnight stop here we had our evening meal sat out on the boardwalk at one of the many restaurants, The Bicycle Thief, which was very busy but the food was really good (if a little on the expensive side)
(to be continued)
8th September 2014
Sea Day – Ice bucket challenge
I suppose after yesterday’s hectic day in St John’s it’s nice to have a sea day to recover, you could say that after the transatlantic crossing they’re gradually introducing us back to ‘terra firma’ very gently.
I still find the sensation of the land moving under your feet after several days at sea very unnerving. I don’t mind the ship rolling with the sea but somehow the feeling that the land is swaying is somewhat worrying. Anyway it’s been a nice warm day at sea travelling into the St Lawrence Seaway with the sight of land on both sides of the ship. It’s even prettier in the evening with all the lights shining from the shore, all different colours and patterns to keep the simplest of minds amused for hours (yes I am talking about myself)
I have been quite surprised to have avoided being nominated for the ice bucket challenge so far, and since we’ve been on the ship I was staring to assume it was beginning to fizzle out somewhat, after all I think most of the population of the world have taken part. To my amazement I’ve been nominated by my brother in law Nigel in the last couple of days, so I suppose I need to get something organised. Talking to some of the staff in the restaurant I’m surprised at just how far round the world this idea has travelled. Thailand, the Philippines and many of the pacific islands have taken part and for me that is a true testament of the generosity and good will of (the majority of) mankind.
Unfortunately most of the folk I know have already taken part, so my own nominations can only stretch to those of you who read this who have not yet been involved in this crazy but highly successful phenomenon. Please if you’ve not already done so donate a dollar, a pound or a euro to help find some sort of help for those affected by ALS, or Motor Neurone as we know it in the UK. But having said that my good friend Peter is just about to receive a text to tell him the good news, and he’s my main choice.
I’m not able to upload a video as it would take too long using the satellite internet on the ship, so you’ll just have to settle for a photo of the event instead.
It was the only way I could get any ice or a bucket………..honestly.
Tomorrow we’ll be visiting Gaspe for the first time (that’s us not the ship) and the weather promises to be good once again so we’re really looking forward to another pleasant day ashore.
5th September 2014
Sea Day – how much longer the cry goes out
The weather has cut up a bit rough today and many have taken to their cabins to lie down for the duration of the less than perfect weather. Now I just love this because I actually want to feel the ship move (but not too much hopefully) I find that the movement of the ship as it follows swell of the ocean reminds me how powerful the sea is and how completely awesome and dangerous nature can be.
I also love it because the ship is lovely and quiet without everyone milling around moaning about this and complaining about the other. I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or whether it’s just the type of folk who cruise, but boy oh boy do some of these geriatrics know how to whinge?
It’s too hot or too cold in the cabin and despite the fact they have a thermostat they can control the temperature with they can’t be bothered. The foods too this or the entertainment is too that, the swimming pools not open (and even when it is no one goes in it) Nothing escapes their attention and no one is immune from scrutiny. Now here’s the interesting bit. In my experience those who complain the most are the biggest pains in the universe. They cough and sneeze without putting up a hand to capture their escaping germs, they refuse to queue, they talk with mouths full of food, they witter on incessantly about themselves and always load their plates with the last of the bananas, yes even if there are twenty left they take all twenty…….
So there you have it, the downside of cruising, but hey it’s not that bad really because it gives me loads of inspiration……….just like this –
All my life I’ve been perfect
And have always been one
To look up to and get good advice
I’m humble and caring, with generous streak
And I’m honest and truthful and nice
I’m always on time
And I’ve never been known
To be grumpy nor glare with distain
Unbelievably happy whatever life throws
And I’ve never been heard to complain
I never jump queues
And I keep my mouth shut
Whether chewing my lunch or some gum
Never leave the seat up
Never lewd or unkind
With my comments
And always such fun.
And I’m always polite
Unlike some I could name
Highly polished and cultured, so sweet
I am never too loud
And prefer just to sit
Never argue or boast to compete
So as you can see
Good as gold I have been
The ultimate husband and son
A model employee
An incredible friend
Unbelievably loyal, loved a ton
So when I go cruising
I feel duty bound
Not to act as my usual self
It’s a must that I let down what’s left of my hair
Leaving manners back home on the shelf
I must whinge, I must moan
And quite often I do
After all I’m just here on a break
From my usual life, it’s not easy you know
Cause it’s so very hard being this fake
So I’ll grunt a ‘Good Morning’
Cough and sneeze on your food
Fuss and moan like I don’t give a rat
You just have to accept that I’m playing a game
This is not really me
It’s an act.
Because unlike the rest
I’ve been perfect for years
This my chance to have oodles of glee
But then I’m assuming you’re doing the same
And being a pratt, just like me?
WELL THAT’S WHAT I THINK ANYWAY (AHEM)
3rd September 2014
Sea Day – A bright and sunny day
More importantly it’s our 35th wedding anniversary and I can’t believe where the time has gone. But I am grateful to the lovely lady who’s put up with me for all those years. Happy Anniversary Cheryl xx
There used to be a very popular TV show that claimed ‘Animals do the funniest things’ the grammar implying nothing else could be funnier. But I have to totally disagree with that statement because I’ve yet to see an animal acting as daft as some of our fellow cruisers do.
It’s an undeniable fact that there is enough food on the average cruise ship to……well to ‘sink a ship’ (if you’ll excuse the pun) But there always seems to be a number of individuals on board who feel the cruise company is laying down some sort of a challenge and are determined to do their very best to try eating their way through several tons of delicious fare. But in order to attempt this seemingly impossible feat they are forced to spend all morning charging round the decks at a million miles an hour in the hope that they’ll burn off most of the calories they consumed at breakfast in order to prevent themselves from actually exploding during lunch. This activity is then repeated in the afternoon for the same reasons, but only if they manage to prize themselves off the toilet first, which out of necessity is where they tend to spend most of the day.
Now please don’t get me wrong because I certainly enjoy a stroll around the promenade to treat my lungs to the clean ozone rich air all around us and to feel the fresh sea breeze and salty spray on my face (please leave the room if you had a little giggle to yourself over that last comment, shame on you.) But just lately this healthy ritual has almost become a near death experience for those of us who merely amble around at a leisurely pace as the self proclaimed ‘professional foodies’ have no choice if they don’t want to become comatose from hyperglycaemic shook and have only one goal in mind, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.
So we’ve discovered it’s far more entertaining (and safer) to sit around the back of the ship watching the mass of wobbly bodies panting at break neck pace around the promenade deck in hunting packs. The weak are trampled, the slow are tutted and moaned at until they concede room for the bullies to pass. They have to willingly punish themselves in order to abuse their poor overly distended stomachs further with indescribable amounts of grub at every possible opportunity, and trust me there are many, many opportunities.
And I’m reminded of a very famous poem. Here is my version……………
The Charge of the Cruise Brigade
(Influenced by ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson)
Twenty laps, twenty laps, twenty laps onward,
All around Balmoral’s decks
Strode the six hundred.
Forward the Cruise Brigade
Charged you the food displayed
Now on the decks parade
Strode the six hundred.
Take heart the Cruise Brigade
First sitting almost laid.
Crew still in shock, amazed
How lunch was plundered.
Theirs not to give reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs just to make more pie
For the six hundred.
Burgers to the right of them,
Teacakes to the left of them,
Spare ribs to the front of them,
Tempted by custard.
Bombarded with bacon roll,
Boldly they scoffed then stole
Down to Palm Café with bowl
Starving six hundred.
Flashed knives and forks they bare,
Flashed as they feasted there.
Stunned all the waiters stare
Greedy six hundred
Straight through the buffet broke
Spurred on by rum and coke,
Sous Chef and Commis choke
Their tears greatly numbered.
Then as a savoury treat
Cheese trampled under feet
Cheddar and stilton eat
Down to the final plate
Chef is in such a state
Supper club would now be late
Damn you six hundred.
Burgers to the right of them,
Teacakes to the left of them,
Spare ribs behind them,
Where were those hiding?
With so much food in store
Rest there could be no more,
Pride has to win, for sure
Turn back six hundred.
Sound aloud that tea-time bell.
Bravely face this living hell
Till none are left to tell
Of the six hundred.
With thanks to Alfred Lord Tennyson for the original poem
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…….there’s nothing left in my pockets.”
“No loose change?”
“No…….there’s nothing left in my pockets.”
“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?”
“How about the other one?”
“Have you remembered to empty your back pockets…..wallet? comb?”
“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)
If something’s worth doing……..Someone is bound to form a committee.