Category Archives: USA

Water, water everywhere (shame it’s not beer)

4th September 2014

Sea Day – again but who’s counting?

Well it’s Thursday, three days at sea behind us and still three more days to run until we reach land. Surprisingly the weather has been holding up well, the sun’s shining, the seas are calm at the moment and I’ve managed to redden my nose in the most dramatic fashion. It must be something to do with this particular ship as the last time we were on here we both managed to underestimate the power of the sun when combined with a very cooling Atlantic breeze.
The captain has entertained us daily with the usual midday report from the bridge on the state of the sea, the state of the sky and the state of the ship. Thankfully ‘all is well’ and he really seems to relish telling us things that ‘we may or may not believe’. But we’re all having a bit of trouble understanding his thick Scandinavian accent and most of his report sounds quite garbled. Let’s hope that when the call to ‘abandon ship’ is made we don’t all think he’s just announced ‘A ban on chips’ and everyone throws themselves over board from the sheer disappointment of such a catastrophe (Ah just realised……..same effect really so jobs a ‘gud un’)
There’s appears to be a new game worth playing at the moment as the vast majority of our fellow travellers are intent on catching a glimpse of whales. So we’re playing the cruising equivalent of standing in a busy street and looking up, with some amazing results. Standing on the decks and pointing out toward the horizon will almost guarantee a crowd of bystanders within minutes, convinced that they too have just seen a pod of dolphins or group of whales passing by. So funny. There are a few very keen individuals who spend most of their time at the front of the ship, dressed for arctic conditions and sporting camera equipment that could photo a fly’s eye at 100 yards. But strangely the majority of ‘proper’ sightings have been brief and purely by chance, so these keen naturalists have been mainly disappointed by the lack of whale activity.
Out in the middle of the ocean for days you start to appreciate the vastness of our planet and our own total insignificance in the grand scheme of things. We strive to fill our lives with all the trappings of modern life and yet the sheer beauty and wonder of nature is right there in front of us, and it’s free (if you don’t count the cost of the cruise that is lol)

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More Sea Day Fun

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
Crackers out-numbered.
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.

J.A.G. 5/9/14
With thanks to Alfred Lord Tennyson for the original poem

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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