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twotravellersLondon

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About Me

  • Location
    Surrey
  • Interests
    Natural History, History of Polar Exploration, Travel Writing, good Food & Tasty Wine
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    SAGA, P&O, Cunard, Oceanwide Expeditions, Poseidon Expeditions, Hurtigruten
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Svalbard

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  1. It's a nice day today although only about 10˚C at the moment and so we're off for the day... Some people search for an eclipse... a moments darkened and then a brilliant Sun. We'll settle for a few warm rays and a bit of blue sky today. Best Wishes to all
  2. Today the weather is fine... 12˚C and overcast... we have a Heron sky... a grey sky... not just any grey.... but a true grey-grey... the purest, unblemished, undifferentiated grey. (idea pinched from Black Adder) Keenly awaiting to find out tonight which of the Apprentice potential titans of industry and commerce with their global ambitions just about to be realised with an influx of capital... Can; 1) do sums, 2) understand accounts and 3) tell the difference between fact and fiction. (The "prize" is almost enough to put a deposit on a bed-sit in some parts of London... or alternatively buy a few dilapidated lock-up garages in the outer suburbs.) Perhaps the winner's plan is compete with the five star "Milliways Restaurant" better known as the Restaurant at the End of the Universe... Bet that some of the "business plans" are less realistic! Hope all are well
  3. It's changing now. For 2024 cruises it's a private car up to 75 miles of the port each way or a shared chauffeur service up to 300 miles. For 2025 cruises it's up to 75 miles of the port each way or a shared chauffeur service nationwide. But we don't think that they do all of the islands.
  4. Woke this morning to the rising sun streaming through the edges of the black-out thermal curtains, opened them to be bathed in the most wonderfully warm embrace from the dear old Sun set in a Caribbean-Blue-sky. Looking at the weather forecast on phone... 11˚C... and set to rise.... Then looked at one of the on-line Dailys... "Britain to be blitzed by 12 hours of heavy snow!" Shock! Horror! Consternation! Was London and the South East to be submerged under drifts? Should we find a shovel and leave it inside the front door so that we could tunnel out... did we have enough emergency supplies in-doors to see us through a Polar Vortex/Snow Bomb/Ice Storm situation? But then went to the Met-Office site... Happy sledging to all in the lovely village of Ballachulish on the fabled and fantastic "Road to the Isles" and we hope that the kids enjoy the snowman making competition (Folks are made of strong stuff there... a wee bit of snow is something to take in the stride!") Hope all are well... even those digging out the sledges and looking for that perfect carrot.
  5. And replace them with new ships which can successfully operate at much more attractive priced.
  6. That sounds a marked improvement on what was being offered a couple of years ago and we found so off-putting. Really encouraging. Will look forward to more views after you are back home.
  7. Best wishes today... We looked out before breakfast this morning and it was cold, damp windy and very grey. So instead... We had a look at the free internet Dailys... Erhm! (The ones reminding us of Private Frazer from Dads' Army... "We're a dooomed!") Very quickly looked out of the window again... it seemed to be such a better day... pleasantly cool so no fear of being frazzled by global warming, a little light rain to delight the garden and replenish our underground aquifers and reservoirs so no need to fear a hosepipe ban, a gentle breeze creating a symphony of sound in the trees and blowing away any nasty air-pollution and a sky of unbelievably delightful mottled greys... such a fashionable relaxing and therapeutic colour. Later... Writing "best wishes this morning" took the mind off the monthly visit from our home nurse... s/he administers some rare, wonderful and truly ballistic meds that saves regular visits to the hossie...and keeps one of us totally okey dokey, tip top and just jim-dandy... (neither one of us is actually called "Jim Doky" although we both read the "Dandy" when the earth was young.) So it's with a bit of empathy that we send our very best and most sincere wishes to everyone undergoing tests and procedures... or who are waiting for results. Nobody ever promised that growing older and wiser was going to be easy... it's certainly not for softies... thank goodness for the gift of strength, resilience and patience. During a visit to hospital yesterday... when things went a bit awry... and the one of us, who was the patient, was able to remain; cool, calm, collected and tried to be supportive, the stressed clinician in charge commented that it was good to see a patient with "chakra"... and then, realising that the word in Sanskrit hadn't been understood, explained it as "the third eye." We have (what we hope is) a very respectful interest in the culture, religion and beliefs of others but always as folks who feel a bit humbled to be offered an insight. It was very touching that a hard-working and stressed NHS clinician's first thoughts were that... as folks grew older they also grew in knowledge, wisdom, perception and enlightenment. Far more profound than our own personal idea (based on having seen Danusia Iwaszko's play "The Wisdom Club" in the magnificent Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds in 2019) that as folks aged they grow in wisdom and so became members of... the Wisdom Club." We really do "Live and Learn!" Hope for us yet!
  8. There are some excellent suggestions in this thread as a whole... you won't go wrong if you follow the Juggler's advice, and the additional details suggested by Fionboard, yorkshirephil, Dermotsgirl and Josy1953. We’ve Fjällräven jackets, parkas, coats, fleece and trousers that we've used on expedition ships and on those occasions that we've done whale watching in the middle of Arctic winter... on the half-dozen or so times that we've slept out in tepees at Arctic wilderness camps or indulged in the luxury of ice-hotels in Norway, Sweden or Alaska... these have kept us as snug as bugs in a rug on the decks on FOCL ships while watching the Northern Lights or looking out for whales and dolphins... but Josie's suggestion of a Berghaus jacket with warm thermal under-layers and preferably windproof trousers is far more affordable, far more practical and a much better choice for the summer months to and from Svalbard... it's also very wearable in less-extreme conditions nearer home. You have a goodish chance of seeing ice on the water... "Fred" was prevented from reaching Longyearbyen not too long ago because of pack-ice but unless it moves dramatically this season seems to be safe. We circumnavigated Svalbard successfully one year on an expedition ship but were blocked by ice at the same time the following year. We were some of the very lucky people who travelled on the Braemar in 2014 to 80˚N within sight of the Arctic Ice pack... we were the furthest North than any cruise ship on earth... possible further North than any cruise ship without an ice-certification had ever travelled and ,as far as we know, FOCL still holds that record. So these following pics are all from the Braemar 10 years ago... The ship... The clothing... Some of the wildlife... The landscape... The ice... And last but not least... the Arctic Ice Cap... from the decks of "Fred's" Braemar... the Midnight Sun directly ahead at due North but hidden by low cloud... sensational! Never miss an opportunity to se the "Midnight Sun" at 12.00 midnight, 0r at any time during the night... we've been on trips where there was only one fleeting glimpse and other that we basked in sunshine for days!
  9. Good morning? Well we got up this morning and looked out of the lounge windows to the tiny garden pond... just to check that neither the pesky foxes nor the psychopathic kitties had tried to rearrange the heron net protecting our fish... (they hadn't)... We couldn't help wondering just what was hanging from the squirrel-proof bird-feeder by the pond.... it was long, straight, a dark yellow brown and one end was distinctly blunt and rounded... and it was about 6" long. (15.2 cm for the young-uns) Clearly investigation required... but then, before our very eyes, it moved... this enigma was a living thing! And then it dropped, went through the heron net... and vanished into the wilderness vegetation (that's the tough perineal weeds that we can't get rid of!) by the edge of the pond... was it a worm, was it a grass-snake... an especially thick and unpalatable noodle from a discarded Chinese take-away dropped by a disappointed carron crow this morning? No! One thing and one thing only... (if we ruled out mirages, hallucination or too much red wine last night)... we had a mature slow-worm that had followed the mouse trail though the vegetation and the dense ivy inside our double-sided fence to then slither along the bracket and down to the bird nuts! Clearly the little "ungrat" wasn't content with the rewilding of that corner of the garden including the pebble-bed designed especially for little froggies and occasional baby toadies to hid from the marauding, monster mousers, the fern-bed that is a little larder for the same said froggies and the moist shade that we created by the odd bespoke fencing thingy. So from "Gob-smacked-Couple-Surrey" this morning... 11˚C, cloudy and grey with a threat of just a little rain. Hope all are well and also find something to surprise and excite today.
  10. How are things where we are? It's been a busy day but... the grass is cut, the heron net over the pond is taut, the old garden lights... chewed to death by our two (almost) resident foxes has been removed, the Robins have done a quick courtship dance and are re-feathering their nest, our first lunch of the year was been served on the patio,🥶 🥶 remains of the turkey leg from last night's dinner is stripped and put aside for a curry next week, menu for St George's day sorted (Ye roaste beef of ye old England... complete for what passes as Yorkshire puds here), steak and kidney made for reheating and making into a pie when we get home on Monday... a couple of rants on CC and something to share... According to the online grocery delivery company we use... we are the number 1 buyer in the whole of London this month (that's including our bit of Surrey)... to repeat... we are the number 1 buyer of... Sharwood's Butter Chicken Sauce in the entire teeming metropolis of almost 10,000,000 people! 🏆 🏆 There are four spare jars in the shed... but! Don't know whether or not to print and frame the email of just make that turkey curry! Hope everyone has had a lovely day... Oh! and a bit ½ price lamb roasting in the oven... but not in butter chicken sauce! 😂 🥵
  11. To be exact... the comments are about two particular places on the itinerary. There are a few large ships, including the MSC Preziosa (about 4,000 pax), and the slightly smaller Norwegian Star due to visit Longyearbyen this coming season... as well as the Balmoral. The best comparison would be between FOCL's Balmoral and other similarish UK based cruise ships making the trip to Svalbard from the UK this season but P&O and SAGA and the like don't seem to be making the trip this year. So if someone wants to cruise from the UK to Longyearbyen this coming season there's not a lot to compare the Balmoral cruise with. Be interesting to see a comparison if anyone wanted to do one.
  12. This is one case where comparisons are pointless. We've visited Svalbard with Fred Olsen in the 1990s and so were captivated with it that we've been there lots of times since... often on a Fred cruise, a couple of times with expedition boats and we've flown in and out... staying at the Radisson. It captivated us and it still captivates us... one of us checks the weather forecast every single day... and we watch the webcams... if you've not tried it, have a look at https://portlongyear.kystnor.no ... still lots of snow and ice on the harbour... it's been a cold winter. We completed a polar circumnavigation of the archipelago one year, been blocked from doing the same on another year because of the ice. We're both certified marine mammal surveyors and one of the most wonderful experiences that we've had was cruising through a group of Belugas only minutes after leaving Longyearbyen on the Boudicca. Mind... we had to dress very warm to stay out on the decks. And we've seen a polar bear in the distance from the Balmoral not far from Longyearbyen but they're not common in summer... just as well as they're quite partial to unsuspecting tourists! (We've had a couple of close encounters on expedition boats much further North as well as some superb sightings.) On a perfect day you can see the sun for 24 hours... it makes a complete circuit of the sky and at about midnight it shines from due North... quite sensational if you can catch it. Been to Hammerfest about four times... but always in the midst of winter... very, very cold but as a result we're both members of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society... you can join at the museum on the quay! Hope that you have a really great time. It is something well-worth looking forward to.
  13. Delighted that these casually scribbled notes on the back of an envelope have prompted discussion about just how expensive that FOCL is compared to many other cruise-lines and resulted in so many comments with relevant insights. You're right about the FOCL price... these all came from a comparison site (that we can't mention) a few days ago... they'd been jotted down for our own consideration and were simply provided as a possible comparison following a request by another member... they weren't the result of forensic research and as you quite correctly discovered in your detailed delvings... the FOCL figure is for 2025. Now that we've quickly looked at the FOCL site (It is "we"... and both of us, husband and wife for decades, share access to this site and agree posts before they're submitted.) after having seen your post... the lowest-cost FOCL cabin with a balcony would cost us about £359.94 pppn... and to that we would need to add about another £40 pppn to cover the basic drinks package, gratuities, WIFI and something towards about three evenings in one of FOCL's speciality restaurant. So that puts what we both personally consider as our "basic" price for this particular FOCL cruise as significantly more expensive than SAGA and about the same price pppn as Regent Seven Seas. The big difference that we'd also take into account is that Regent Seven Seas offers return flights, unlimited shore excursions, unlimited beverages, included gratuities, speciality dining, unlimited high-speed Wi-Fi and even 2-3 day pre or post cruise land programmes (many at no additional cost). (As you rightly say "Fred also offers... Gratuities... at £5 a day which... must be one of the lowest amounts of the cruise lines that charge." But the fact is that Regent Seven Seas doesn’t charge gratuities, SAGA doesn’t charge gratuities and P&O doesn’t charge gratuities.) That puts the FOCL's prices in a competitive context... (which was the point of this thread and the point of the question that we responded to in the odd moment or two)... that's not having a "down on Fred"... that's comparing the market and looking at the best value for money deal that would suit the two of us. Many of "Fred's Top Fans" as they're described on the FOCL social media site probably won't like our personal view... because they frequently describe FOCL as "Excellent," "Exceptional," "Fantastic," "The Best" and "First Class." But that's their view of the company and they're obviously entitled to it. We spent decades using "Fred" as our cruise-line of choice... latterly three of four times a year. We'd planned to carry on doing so but we both became increasingly disappointed by the poor-value for money... more especially so for people like ourselves who took higher deck balcony cabins and suites. We do a far more detailed comparative costing than the scratching on the back on an envelope that we used to make a casual comment earlier in this thread before we book a cruise. We're still looking at FOCL but again and again and again FOCL strikes us as poor value for money against other offers when we look at balcony cabins. It doesn’t look like we're alone in our canny approach to getting value for money... just look out the FOCL results for the last quarter of 2023 and compare them with the previous quarter... the occupancy rate has fallen from 76% to 71% i... Operating revenues have fallen from about NOK 921 million to NOK 856 million... Net ticket income per passenger has fallen from about £189 to £161... and as P&O and SAGA's ships fill up, FOCL seems to be carrying less passengers who are less willing to spend. Just had a glance at the FOCL Culture & Cuisines cruise to the Western Med. for 14 nights this October... on the Borealis... £1,746 pppn for sharing an inside... £3,782 pppn sharing a balcony junior suite (terrace cabins don't have balconies). P&O are doing a similar cruise that same month...on the Iona... £899 pppn for sharing an inside... £1,244 pppn sharing a balcony... On these figures "Fred Olsen" is two to three times more expensive than P&O and the markup between the grades is much higher on "Fred" than it is on P&O. But people may willing pay more for what they would prefer and views may well differ depending on the cabin grade/price.
  14. We think that it's due to come in next year.
  15. Did this a few days ago so prices and offers may have changed a bit. We were looking for the least expensive grade of cabin or suite with a private balcony. The prices are for each person when two were sharing. Looking at a Iceland & Greenland trips this summer from the UK.... Princess... £98 pppn £1,564 16 nights add drinks, gratuities etc SAGA........ £280 pppn £5,049 18 nights "all inclusive" Regent...... £400 pppn £,8,019 20 nights "all inclusive" FOCL ........ £587 pppn £8,799 15 nights add drinks, gratuities, etc If we add the extra cost on "Fred" of insurance, travel to the port, parking, gratuities. WiFi, excursions and drinks... the cost... we recon would be well over £700 pppn.
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