Monday, January 25, 2016

Before the Storm

Click on photo to see them properly

Diverted to Antwerp.

A lesson to be learned by British towns

Rubens in the cathedral and gigantic pillars
A strange figure - part of a temporary exhibition and - we think a much venerated local composer, not Hendrix as we first guessed.

The collection of the Cathedral of Our Lady includes four masterpieces by Rubens. 
this is the Descent from the Cross.
after nearly170 years of construction the outline of the spire of the cathedral finally dominated the skyline around 1520

Back to the ship after coffee and divine chocolates.
  1. More dull weather in Gibraltar...
but a friendly pub with a full English brekker to die for after our recent hardships.  No pun intended.
My cabin - I always forget to tidy it before photo.

More than adequate but in the storms every panel rapped and creaked and rattled and banged all night long.  Lying under the window in the dark was scary at times.

At last - the sunnier climes we had booked for.
We drove up through the Esperanza Forest.  Above is the Dragon Tree.
The landscape turns to lava as we near Mount Teide 12,000'
Spot the birdie at our pit stop.
We see black lava, red magma and green rocks through which the road was cut.
Here we coud wander around alone .  Mesmerising.
Just to the right you see the top of Mount Teide.  I longed to go to the top but there was no time

Note the dramatic change in the landscape.  Back to Santa Cruz
Another day another port - Las Palmas and more sunshine.

My cabin is on the other side - the port side
Very pleasant to just amble round in the sunshine - a week late!
Strange as it may seem we have had occasions when we lost sight of the ship and panicked when we couldn't make anyone understand.  Shame on us!
View from a bridge.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Few Photies.

 Madeira - sun at last

 Later the same day - coming back down the mountain with an ace driver.
 Our lovely waiter James from Bombay.
 Two chums.
And another - lots of fun.

 Bay of Biscay through my cabin window
 I was on the sixth deck

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Cruise from Hell.

I knew this cruise would be different.  It wasn’t my favoured shipping line which meant we were sailing from Tilbury – twice my normal mileage to Southampton and because of its proximity to the Blue Water Shopping Centre – just before Christmas - a night at a Premier Inn was required to ensure I didn’t ‘miss the boat.’

The Premier Inn was excellent value and the staff most helpful when problems arose the next day.  Other cruisers were staying there and through them we heard that the ship was going to be five hours late.  The helpful staff allowed us to stay in our rooms – and when the time came booked reliable taxis for us to share.  The previous day - Dylan told me - he twice waited for over an hour for taxis which didn’t appear.

At last we were on board, my cabin appeared satisfactory but no facility for making tea and coffee which I have grown used to.  On this ship you had to reach Deck 10 for hot drinks – two of the lifts were out of order and had been for some time we were told.  There were many wheel chair bound passengers so at meal times and show times there were queues everywhere.

The first disappointment was when we learned that – due to the weather - we would be diverted to Antwerp – so much for Christmas in the sunny Canaries.  Also that our trip to Lanzarote was cancelled again due to weather conditions we were told.

With the British spirit we weren’t down hearted.  It was the first night of our cruise and we had a delicious meal to look forward to.

Our spirits plummeted when we realised that the food was abysmal.  Nothing was ever on time and with the endless queuing and paltry diet it felt like war-time.  On the first formal night when we are invited to have drinks with the captain and had been queuing for 20 minutes with no apparent movement a few of us sneaked round the back way and eschewed the opportunity to have a photograph with the captain.

On Christmas Day we experienced the full horror of the cuisine.  The beef choice wasn’t too bad apparently.  I chose traditional turkey which was an unrecognisable knuckle shaped piece of ? meat, three bullet hard sprouts, a pink smear (cranberry?), and some white stuff which could have been bread sauce.  I asked for some potato and was given cubes of hard potato.  I was lucky with dessert and had a passible crème brulee albeit floppy.  For days afterwards people were talking about the Christmas pudding resembling a stale brownie and so called mince pies with jam inside.

When we reached Antwerp we were told two chefs had been flown in and the food improved somewhat.  We were also told that some passengers had jumped ship and flown home.  The cathedral in Antwerp was outstanding with some wonderful Rubens.  We had delicious coffee in a café – with chocolates thrown in –which stemmed our hunger pangs.

In Gibraltar we found a pub and had a full English breakfast.  As I had been surviving on porridge and honey I thought I had died and gone to Heaven.  More people jumped ship and flew home we were told.

As our trip to Lanzarote was cancelled I missed the excursion I had planned.  We visited Las Palmas and Santa Cruz and at last saw the sun.  I had booked an excursion to Mount Teide up through the Esperanza Forest to 12,000feet.  We were warned to wrap up well but the weather was lovely and warm even on high.  I enjoyed the dramatic volcanic rocks which were surprisingly colourful.  I had been there before many years ago with MTL so I enjoyed having a quiet wander.

My last excursion was at Funchal in Madeira.  As usual the different groups were told to muster in the theatre and when at long last our group was called to disembark we were very late and clearly not going to be back for lunch.  I spotted the cruise director near the gang way and mentioned how delayed we were and that I hoped lunch would be waiting for us on our return.

‘Oh I think you’ll find it will be’, he said with a cheery grin.

‘I’m afraid it won’t be.  Would you please ensure that it is,’ I said putting on a face that was less cheerful.

  It worked – we got a message on the coach that lunch would be waiting on our return and sure enough – around 4pm lunch was available in the Bistro.

All the workers – waiters, cabin staff, dancers, and beauty staff were charming and hard working but many were new on the ship and were finding their way around.  The administration was – to say the least – lacking.

Another worthwhile excursion was Scenic Madeira with steep climbs, stunning views and – a treat for we deprived ship mates - two types of Madeira cake and two types of Madeira wine.  One of our drives involved descending a mountain road through thick fog.  Happily the drivers were excellent.

In Lisbon both Dylan and I were familiar with it and got on a Hop on Hop off bus.  We hopped on and – so strange and vast did it seem we didn’t hop off until the bitter end when we were actually glad to see the ship again.

From now on we were at sea and the weather worsened – very rough seas, waves 9 metres high and lots of sea sick victims.  Dylan was ex navy and I sailed many years ago so we were lucky but people were queuing for sea sick tablets (which they had to pay for.)  Each forecast was worse and we had to take great care moving around the ship.  The lifts weren’t working but often the crew were there to help one up and down stairs.

Finally it got so bad we were confined to our cabins and went from bedtime to lunch time with no hot drink.  How I wished I had accepted Dylan’s kind offer to buy me chocolates in Antwerp.  We had a plate of stale rolls delivered to our cabins.

The last night we were allowed in the restaurant and we were all quite gay and light hearted at the thought of being back home soon – once through the Bay of Biscay.  But then the heavy chairs started to fall backwards – sometimes with people in them.

There were crashes as all the plates and glasses smashed to the floor and from the far end of the restaurant people were hastily leaving the mayhem.

One woman complained she had paid extra to have a large window and it had been boarded up fro the last few days.

   The last night we had a helicopter hovering over the ship as a passenger was air lifted to the shore.

Eventually we breathed a sigh of relief as we reached the Thames – not all that late.  We said a fond farewell to the hard working waiters and cabin staff and waited for our call to the gangway.  We managed to meet up with our favourite dining companions – two doughty ladies from Brighton and the time passed until our call about 3pm.

As we left the ship for the very last time (and I mean that most sincerely although Dylan had already booked the very same cruise to do in March) walking in front of us down the ever changing gangway I noticed a man I used to see often in the restaurant – always smartly dressed in a suit and helping his frail, delicate looking wife to her seat.  He was pushing her down the bumpy gangway in a wheelchair and suddenly the chair overturned and deposited his wife on the ground.  He completely lost it and shook his fist.

“I hate this bloody ship’ he cried! 
As we tried to help to put his wife back in the chair and some crew appeared I think a few of us had a quiet sob in sympathy.

Tilbury was chaos with cars and taxis trying to leave and enter the dock.  It was grid lock for some time.  We were both waiting for taxis so wanted to be visible and the rain came and we were surrounded by smokers.  I reached home about 8pm and Dylan apparently 10 pm.

As I constantly told first time cruisers on the ship:

‘Please don’t let this put you off cruising.’