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About DamianG

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Sport, travel
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    P & O Cruises
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Spain & Norway

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  1. Hull, Liverpool or Tyneside would suit us too but this has left me thinking how would these ports be able to provide the staff required for a typical P&O embarkation process? Southampton has a well established number of experienced check-in and support staff covering the different terminals as and when required, along with the baggage handlers etc. Could the other ports cope with the huge ships that P&O are pushing us all towards these days or would the check-in process be slower at another (non-Southampton) port and leave us all grumbling? Has anyone embarked or disembarked a Fred Olsen ship at Liverpool or Tyneside? I appreciate that their ships are smaller but it would be interesting to hear their experience.
  2. We always used to drive down from Leeds (240 miles) on the day of the cruise until 2015 when we were stuck on the M1 without moving for 1.5 hours due to a car with caravan jack-knife accident. Having set-off at 7:30am we arrived at the terminal around 3:45pm only to then have a 45 minute wait while CPS worked through the car parking. Ever since then we book a hotel for an overnight stop approximately halfway but have a tricky decision to make next year as we sail on the first Saturday of the main school holidays. Set-off even earlier or battle with the rush hour traffic down the M1 on a Friday night after school? Even without accidents our roads just seem busier than ever these days.
  3. Thanks and I completely agree. We offer our son the opportunity to go in the kid's club every year but have never enforced it. If we are still cruising when he turns 13 (and I really hope that we are) I could see him taking the plunge especially with the option to sign himself in and out whenever he wanted. We're the type of people who would even hide out of the way at the back of (say) The Tamarind Club so as not to "embarrass him" in front of his new friends if they were in the same venue!
  4. Thanks once again for all the kind messages. Mother-in-law had booked mobility assistance for disembarkation so as I was her driver we all got to get off early together around 8:30am. Parking4Cruises were ready and waiting and we were packed up and on the road for 8:45am, at least an hour earlier than last year. The roads were pretty kind to us too (bar the torrential rain for the last 10 miles) so we arrived home around 1:35pm which is way better than I hoped for. I have huge respect for all those who travel long distance down to Southampton for their cruises but especially anyone who lives North of us!
  5. Friday 16th August Homeward bound, long drive ahead. On Wednesday my iPhone recorded 13k steps / 8.8km for the day so we allowed our son a lie-in (especially as he is still adjusting to the time zone change). We were woken at 8:15am with an announcement asking for a missing “Miss” to contact reception (can’t remember the name). I couldn’t get back to sleep but our son did and didn’t wake up until 10am! We therefore missed MDR breakfast and didn’t go up to the Waterside restaurant until around 11am for a late breakfast (with it being available until 12pm). It was incredibly busy and the choices were slightly limited with just scrambled eggs being available (no fried) and no mushrooms. I did see one lady with a poached egg which presumably she’d had cooked to order. The in-laws were also there so we pushed 2 tables together and shared breakfast with them. We then headed back to the cabin. On this cruise we seem to have spent more time than ever in the cabin, principally to suit our son. My wife and I are getting a little cabin fever but nothing too dramatic. In our pre-parenting days we used to like being out and about around the ship and in particular liked sitting at the stern, especially on Oriana and Aurora. On this cruise we have used the balcony a little but it has been quite breezy most of the time so neither of us have lasted very long. I was thinking about the fact that my blog hasn’t really described many ship activities and it is simply because we have done very little in the daytime on board. If there have been sunbed wars, misbehaving kids (or adults) or discourteousness between passengers then we’ve simply not seen it (and I’m glad that we haven’t). I had read a few stories of such things particularly being prevalent on Ventura at this time of year so I did have some concerns pre-cruise but I am experienced enough to know that each individual cruise is different depending on the clientele aboard at that time and that it is better to keep an open mind about such matters. As regards the sunbeds, the pool areas always seem busy but to be honest, I wouldn’t want to sit there (squashed in with a load of others) anyway and we only go near them when our son wants to have a swim. I also find those central pool areas really noisy, especially when the roof is closed over the Beachcomber pool. There seems to be plenty of sunbeds available outdoors on the higher decks though not having tried them I don’t know if it gets a bit breezy up there or not. Our cabin is D733 which is a Superior Deluxe Balcony cabin. Our main reason for booking this is that it has a sofa bed for our son and we like being aft. The other benefit of being aft is that the corridor is quieter with no through foot traffic, especially late at night. The extra-large balcony of this particular cabin is a nice bonus but was not really a factor when making our choice. We virtually always choose a port side cabin for no particular reason, but the equivalent cabin had already sold when we made our booking so starboard side it is. I particularly enjoyed the different view sailing down the Solent and the same from leaving A Coruña yesterday. We only have neighbours attached on one side and I think that we have only heard them once on the entire cruise. There are a couple of quirks for this cabin though, with the whole room shuddering when a door slams further down the corridor. We are not sure if this is from (Superior Deluxe Balcony cabin) D735 or (Suite) D737 both of which face aft. Alternatively, it could be some kind of crew door. The door slamming is not a regular occurrence, it is just really noticeable when it happens. The other oddity is that every now and then (possibly every other day) we hear gushing water like a waterfall. It is not another cabin’s bath or shower as it is too strong and the noise comes from the aft balcony side of the room. Presumably there is some kind of downpipe for emptying something higher up the ship. None of these happenings spoil the cabin, they are just things that have become noticeable throughout the cruise. I pre-paid a “Browsing” internet package at a discounted cost of £105 for 12 nights pre-cruise. Although this is £15 cheaper than paying on board I still feel that it is expensive but if we hadn’t taken it I think that I would have been even more stir crazy spending so much time in the cabin. A fellow passenger advised me that I should make our son go to the kid’s club as once he was left there he would make friends and enjoy himself. I am sure that he would make friends and enjoy himself once settled but he has tried it a few times before and never did (settle) so he is adamant he will never, ever use it. Besides we’ve heard of plenty of other people with children who prefer not to use the club either so he is not the only one. He has complained of being “bored” a few times on this cruise and I think that one factor in this is the limited film choice on the in-cabin TV. I say limited, it’s not that bad but our last 4 cruises have been on Azura twice and Britannia twice. Both those ships are younger than Ventura and therefore have more sophisticated TV’s with wider choices. This never occurred to me in the slightest when booking this cruise but all things considered we probably need to avoid anything older than Azura. That’s a shame as Oceana has always been a favourite of ours and we heard that it would be returning to Southampton for 2021. We always preferred smaller ships (Oriana will always be our favourite, followed by Oceana, Aurora and not forgetting Artemis) but it looks like we will have to fall into line with P&O’s / Carnival’s policy of pushing families towards the bigger ships. I shudder at the thought of being on Iona with 5,197 other passengers but we might just have to consider it. In the meantime we have Britannia to look forward to next year, especially as our budget has stretched to a suite (thanks in the main to reduced child fares). It would be ironic if our son wants to be out and about around the ship next year when we have a suite and all its extra space to enjoy! Back to yesterday and we skipped lunch for afternoon tea instead. We went up to deck 15 around 3:10pm and unfortunately it seemed like everyone else had the same idea as we encountered a 20 strong queue on the aft side of the Waterside restaurant. We switched to the forward side queue which seemed to be moving quicker and were soon handed trays and cutlery. Once inside the food station areas it was pretty chaotic, with lines of people north and south. If you stepped out of the line you’d be lucky if anyone would let you back in, and twice I was bumped in the back with trays (both times followed by sincere apologies I might add). It probably doesn’t help that afternoon tea also has leftover lunch hot choices so it wasn’t really designed for someone like me getting chips for his son and some sandwiches for himself. Throw into the mix a lady with a pushchair and someone in a wheelchair and the whole thing became a traffic jam. Not that I’m blaming that lady or the wheelchair user, more the layout which couldn’t cope. Anyway we survived and (you’ve guessed it) headed back to the cabin with the food. When I took the trays back up at 5:30pm it was a whole lot calmer. After I dropped off the trays I went to reception to pay off some of our bill in cash and the queue to get into the Cinammon restaurant stretched all the way into the Atrium past the Tazzine coffee outlet. We went out to dinner as usual and were allocated table 5 again. The restaurant seemed very quiet and I had a bit of a joke with Wasim by ordering a bottle of (77) South African Sauvignon Blanc (white). The wine waiter saw the funny side as well then said “Actually, this is a very good bottle of wine” and he was right. Our son had his usual bowl of pasta and we had a very nice main of beer marinated spatchcock spring chicken. It reminded me of the chicken that we’d seen being barbecued at El Diablo restaurant in Lanzarote. After dinner we said our goodbyes and our son handed the waiters an envelope with a small extra tip. I know that tips are now included in the fare but we felt that they had gone above and beyond regular service, especially with our son. We then went to The Tamarind Club for one last time though our son was reluctant initially. Pulse were playing an 80’s set which was right up my street and even our son found himself singing along. The teenage pack appeared (presumably they’d all met via the 13-17 club) and immediately took to the dance floor. This made for a great atmosphere with a few adults also getting up and the band playing superbly as well. Considering none of them were born until the 2000’s they all seemed to know the words to every song and as before had fun in a very responsible way. It was a lovely way to end our holiday.
  6. What a lovely comment, thank you. It's been my pleasure.
  7. Nice one Andrew, rigged or not your prize was well deserved!
  8. Thursday 15th August Final sea day. Yesterday we had arranged a room service breakfast again and it was delivered at 9:35am. We had requested 4 boxes of cereals and tea for 3 so they sent us an unopened carton of semi-skinned milk which we think is much better than just having an open jug. The in-laws telephoned at 10am asking for our shore plans so we arranged to meet them at Pulpeira María Pita in the Praza de María Pita at approximately 1:30pm. My wife had a difficult time trying to explain to her father how to find the restaurant using the very basic P&O map even though it is very near to the port and we have all been there before. For ourselves I had planned a walking route that took in 3 toy shops for our son (and me I suppose) on the way to the Science Museum in the Parque de Santa Maria. We could have taken a shorter route to the latter but I know from experience that our son would have rushed us around the science museum in order to get to the shops quicker. We got ready, easily disembarked and were at the first toy shop Din y Don on Rúa Real in less than a quarter of an hour. It is a pretty good shop and our son soon found the Pokémon collectables. After we left Din y Don, we bumped into the in-laws who were already heading towards the meeting place. They were about 10 minutes-walk away and it was only 11:30am! We easily found the other 2 toy shops and as we walked the drizzle turned into light rain. It was still warm (22 degrees according to an electronic billboard) and after we passed through Praza de Pontevedra we hit a steep uphill section. My legs began to feel tired and pretty soon our son was grumbling. The hill became even steeper but eventually we arrived at Parque de Santa Margarita where the Casa de las Ciencias is located. The park itself is quite hilly so there was one last climb before we entered. By now our son was complaining bitterly saying that he wished that we hadn’t decided to come here. Admission was just €4.00 each and our son got in for free. Once inside he soon got into the habit of trying out the interactive exhibits on display. I don’t think that it has changed much since my wife and I visited in our pre-parenting days several years ago but we still found it interesting as well. An hour soon passed and we were all satisfied that we had seen enough. We exited and started the walk back through the park where we saw some outdoor exercise equipment. Our son loves trying these but there was a sign stating no under-14’s so we restricted him to a quick go at some parallel bars which he is used to as he takes gymnastics classes back home. All the time an old gentleman was watching us so we didn’t push our luck and try anything else. As we left the park our son said that he liked the science museum and would give it 8 out 10. Believe me, that is like getting a score of 8/10 from Craig Revel Horwood in the opening week of a new series of Strictly Come Dancing so I was delighted to hear him say this voluntarily. The walk back downhill was a lot easier and no complaints from our son as he was motivated by our agreement to call into Din y Don again as it was on our return route to Praza de María Pita. We’ve been to A Coruña several times but it struck me how much of it we hadn’t seen and I took lots of photos. I probably got a few strange looks photographing random things like the inside of Deli’s but I will enjoy looking at those photos and reminiscing back home. In particular, we happened upon one alleyway filled with café bars that seemed popular with the locals so we’d probably look into eating there next time we visit. We called back into Din y Don then I also had a look in the club shop for Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña (to give it the full title) which was nearby. I came away empty handed from both shops but our son got a good haul and was happy. We then bumped into the in-laws on Rua Real again and made our way to Praza de María Pita. Once there we saw that the square was set-up with seating and a stage for the María Pita music festival which is on throughout August. After a quick bit of research, I now know that there are daily performances covering everything from traditional folk music, Flamenco and classical through to rap and rock. I would have loved to attend any concert and wished that we were staying overnight. We’ve been to Pulpeira María Pita before but have always sat outside in the square. On this occasion they didn’t have tables outside (not sure if that was due to the earlier rain or the festival set-up) so we sat inside on benches. Their signature dish octopuses (pulpeiras) could be seen hanging on stands while they marinated in paprika. We ordered a small portion (ración) of pulpeira, mussels, calamari and a pork with potatoes dish. We also got a small beer (caña), coca cola, Fanta orange and “dos copas de vino blanco” which I am sure you can translate. I was delighted to see that the wine was Albariño, locally produced and one of our favourites having had it recommended to us way back in 2007. The pulpeira was quickly delivered and was very meaty. The paprika was very strong and though everyone tasted it I pretty much had it to myself as no-one else wanted any more. Thank goodness we didn’t get a full portion. We did have a fishing boat’s worth of mussels and even my average palate could taste the freshness. When both dishes were finished, they brought out the calamari and pork dish. Our son commandeered the calamari but we did get to share a bit and they were quite salty but tasty. The pork was tender and well-seasoned but the whole plate was swimming in garlic oil with big chunks of garlic clearly visible. The bill came to €65.60 including wine refills and it was worth every cent. After lunch we strolled back to the ship with a few photo stops on the way. Once we were through port security, we called into the duty-free shop which was doing a roaring trade. Our son wanted one last souvenir so seeing that we had to queue up to pay I thought that I might as well buy some Albariño, and I was really pleased to get a nice bottle for €7.50 that I know is at least £10+ back home. All the while I didn’t notice that Stuart Pearce and his partner were in the checkout queue behind me and only found out when my wife told me as we exited. The shop was full of P&O passengers and at the doorway one lady was having a loud mobile phone conversation. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have been the only ones to overhear her saying “Yeah, we’ve just finished in the last port. Where? Oh, I don’t know, La Coq or something….” Back on board we spent the rest of the afternoon in the cabin. Just before departure I went up to deck 15 to cash in our complimentary sailaway champagne drinks. A barman happily took my vouchers then poured half a glass of champagne each. Remembering last year when we only got half a glass each I wasn’t sure if he had finished or not so I waited to see what happened once the bubbles had settled. The barman turned away, topped up a pint for a waiting customer, then returned, smiled at me and filled both glasses right to the top. I’ve still no idea if last year’s short measures were policy or if I had just got lucky this time, but I wasn’t hanging around to find out so I graciously thanked him and made my exit. We also had a half bottle of complimentary champagne in the fridge so we opened that as well and I enjoyed my drinks out on the balcony watching the sailaway in the light drizzle. It had become a little misty and A Coruña was soon out of sight, though we did spot a nice looking beach a few miles outside the city. We went to dinner at the usual time and without asking were allocated table 5. Wasim (chatty waiter, got his name at last) was soon in attendance to take our orders and there was a mix-up over my wine order which was (menu number 96) Wirra Wirra Australian red blend (Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz / Merlot) but was delivered as (77) South African Sauvignon Blanc (white). I definitely asked for “96 Wirra Wirra” and pointed to it on the menu so I’ve no idea how he picked 77 on his tablet and he didn’t know either. Anyway we both laughed it off and the wine bottle was quickly replaced (and sods law I didn’t like it though thankfully my wife did!). Our son skipped a starter so Wasim insisted on bringing him 2 pasta main course dishes instead. My wife and I both had roast beef with Yorkshire pudding which was very good. After dinner Wasim presented us with souvenir menus which you don’t always get on freedom dining so it was much appreciated. After dinner we went up to Metropolis on deck 18. We tried to guess the city on the (daily changing) video wall and think that it was Hong Kong. We did ask a waitress but she didn’t know, though she did return to our table to say that the bar staff thought that it was Hong Kong as well. Pulse were scheduled to play and for the 1st set there was just a female vocalist and piano player. Good as they were they weren’t really holding passengers’ attention but when they were joined by the drummer and guitar players for the 2nd set things livened up and they got much better responses to their numbers. It’s the first time that we’ve seen them and they were very professional, even managing to make one particular song that I dislike sound decent. We stayed until around 11am then returned to the cabin for our usual routine of reading and some TV time.
  9. Britannia B017 18th July 2020 - a mere 338 days away! We can only afford one (school holidays) cruise a year these days.
  10. Complimentary sailaway drinks which we've saved until the last port.
  11. Regards all the sunbed reservation comments believe me I wasn't courting controversy or playing devil's advocate, rather I was just sharing what I had come across by chance. Looking at the photo again today in more detail I spotted the 2 dining table chairs that had been moved and carefully placed near the pool. Much as I would not like to get involved in any sunbed war I now wish that I had spotted this yesterday when I could have brought it to the attention of the deck crew (who could have justifiably moved them back to the table where they belonged and created space for the blue baseball chap):
  12. Yesterday I commented "Presumably she had some problem with sitting...." No offence was intended by my comments yesterday or today but if I have offended anyone then please accept my sincerest apologies.
  13. I can't help you with the retreat but there are plenty of places to sit around the ship, especially if you don't want to be in the central pool area. We prefer the stern which is generally quieter.
  14. Wednesday 14th August Benvido a A Coruña (we love Galicia so I thought we’d use their “Galego” language for a change) Yesterday I managed to sleep in a little later (not much) and I went out on deck around 8:30am. I managed a couple of ¾ laps of the promenade deck but the starboard side smokers were getting the better of me so I bailed out and headed up to deck 15 for a wander around. There was some commotion around the main open-air pool area where it seemed that the deck crew had put out loungers without taking into account the barbecue taking place later. I watched with some sympathy as they had to move a few passengers who were actually on loungers, whereas ironically there were dozens of “towel-reserved” unoccupied loungers that weren’t affected. I felt sorry for one dad in particular who was there with his small daughter and after being moved couldn’t find anywhere else to sit. It’s just ridiculous isn’t it? We went to MDR breakfast as usual and it seemed very quiet. My wife spotted standing lady again but only told me after we had left so I missed out. Vin Diesel and Pink were sharing a table nearby (well, they were the best lookalikes we’re likely to see on this cruise anyway). The only reason that they caught my attention is because Vin requested some vinegar to go with his cooked breakfast. This caused a little commotion amongst the waiters and I’m not sure if they were able to accommodate his request. I’ve been wracking my brains trying to work out what the vinegar was for. Pickled egg or maybe just a dressing for a grilled tomato? Or maybe I’m overthinking things and it is just the latest Hollywood diet trend? Answers on a postcard please (to which younger readers respond “What’s a postcard?”). Entertainments manager Tom made his 10am broadcast detailing all the day’s events for those who cannot be bothered to read the Horizon. It was incredibly loud and just before the end a toddler with his hands over his ears shouted “Shut up!” Well said young man, I totally agree! The rest of the day passed uneventfully and we had arranged to meet the in-laws earlier than usual for dinner at 6pm so that we could attend the Peninsular Club Cocktail Party in Havana at 7:45pm. This coincided with the ship’s clocks moving forward 1 hour at 2pm on to Spanish time so effectively we went to dinner 2 hours earlier than normal. We therefore decided that a very light lunch was in order so I just picked up some sandwiches and snacks from the afternoon tea service and took them back to the cabin. For once the Waterside restaurant was a little quieter than on my previous visits and I didn’t feel hassled whilst choosing our food. On the way to dinner my wife spotted Psycho walking down the corridor of deck 8 as we passed on the staircase. I asked if he was dressed for dinner and she replied “No, he still had his football kit on.” I now have a vision in my head of him wandering around the ship at all hours wearing a full Nottingham Forest red and white kit at all times. (Yes, I know he played for quite a few clubs in his career but that is what comes to mind for me, even above his England appearances). When we arrived at the Cinnamon restaurant we were immediately allocated table 8, again without asking. Our usual chatty waiter (still don’t know his name, shame on me) wasn’t there but the other regular waiter Ishrael was and he took the lead in the service. I was surprised how busy the restaurant was with it being so early in the evening. Our son decided to skip a starter and just chose a pasta main. This was delivered with our starters and he soon devoured it. Our other regular waiter (the more chatty one) arrived mid-service and insisted on bringing our son another portion of pasta with the mains. My wife chose duck for her main which she described as “okay” whilst I had spaghetti bolognaise which was quite sticky and salty due to a hefty amount of parmesan cheese that was already mixed in with the ragu. I wish that I’d chosen rillette of beef instead (“My bad” as my son would say to annoy me). At least I didn’t choose the pork steak which came as a thick, dry, huge slab of meat and easily defeated Grandad. After dinner we headed to Havana for the cocktail party and there was a huge queue to get in. We skipped the line for photos with the Captain and went in the other entrance to be greeted by various officers and crew. I’m glad that we did as we bumped into our Caribbean Tier dinner host Chief Safety Officer Kristijan Novosel and I was proud to introduce him to my son who shook his hand firmly. We easily got seats but initially didn’t get any drinks as we requested sparkling wine and both waiters patrolling our area didn’t have any. Credit to them though as they both returned to our seats with sparkling wine so we went from zero to 4 glasses in no time. When the 2nd glasses arrived, we did politely say that we now had drinks but the generous waiter insisted that we take another glass each anyway. Don’t mind if I do, thanks very much. There was the usual spiel from the loyalty manager then he introduced Captain Derek Gray who put on a 20-minute show just as good as any set you are likely to see on “Live at the Apollo” on TV. He was extremely funny, commanded the floor and held the audience’s attention throughout. It was a million miles away from the dull and dour speech delivered by Captain Evans Hoyt when we were on Azura last year. When it came to the prizes Captain Gray announced that the passenger with most days on board (1200+) hadn’t bothered to attend so instead he gave away that prize as part of the lucky draw. The main prize was a very nice photo album (the perfect gift in the digital age as Captain Gray sarcastically suggested!) and a bottle of champagne. There was another bottle of champagne as a lucky draw prize as usual and when that had been drawn Captain Gray requested another drum roll and surprised us all by drawing another invitation ticket and promising another bottle of champagne. He then repeated this several more times, each time teasing the audience saying “We’re not finished yet, I can’t think of a better way to hand in my resignation.” One of the loyalty managers then dashed on to the floor behind him and ran off with the bucket full of invitation tickets so that he had to stop. No doubt this was a well-practiced routine but all the same it was really funny. The party ended at 8:30pm to coincide with 2nd seating fixed dining and Havana quickly started clearing. We weren’t in any rush but were soon ready to go ourselves and as we tried to get out passengers were jostling to get in ready for the “Adele” and “Ed Sheeran” lookalike performers who were scheduled later. One chap in particular was pushing past people and grabbed one of our seats pretty much as soon as we stepped aside. We decided that a quieter venue would be nice for a change so after the party we went to the Red Bar on deck 7 port side of the Atrium. You can probably guess who was playing in the Atrium on deck 5 (The Waves) but honestly, we hadn’t realised beforehand. Their music easily carried up to deck 7 and this time they played a series of upbeat numbers. They only played one set then made way for the ballroom dancers and their music was considerably gentler and quieter. The loos for the Red Bar are in between that venue and the Tamarind Club so on one visit I spent a few moments in the latter’s entrance watching the Ventura Orchestra who were performing a show called “The Glen Miller Story.” There was a lady narrator telling the story and introducing the tunes which were superbly played. I listened to a fair amount of these growing up so I recognised the 2 songs being played whilst I watched and my dad would have loved it. We stayed a long time in the Red Bar whilst our son happily played on an iPad. We stayed until 11:30pm which felt about right considering the time zone change then retired to our cabin. Our son still insisted on a bit of TV time so lights out was at midnight. Footnote: On the photo (taken at around 8:45am) below the unfortunate chap in the blue baseball cap is just about to be evicted from his lounger along with his young daughter
  15. Tuesday 13th August Another sea day then the Peninsular Club Cocktail Party this evening. I’m very much a creature of habit when it comes to waking times so having been up early on Sunday, I was wide awake at 7:30am yesterday. I laid in bed a while, got up quietly (I’d like to think so anyway) dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and was out of the cabin, washing bag in hand, just after 8am. The launderette had just been opened and I was first in (sad man). I then decided to go out on the promenade deck to do a few laps and you might know it, the only other guy out doing laps was going the opposite way around to me (typical). I was frustrated by the closed outdoor staircases forward (still windy and the ship was moving around a fair bit) which meant that the only way to complete a lap was to cut through indoors across the ship past the Arena theatre. A few smokers were starting to appear on the starboard side as well so I gave up and decided to take the 16 flights of stairs up 8 decks to the gym instead. As I walked into the gym still panting, I immediately spotted Stuart Pearce gliding along on a treadmill making it look easy. No headphones, TV or distractions for Psycho, just 100% focus on the sea view ahead. I didn’t fancy the treadmill myself as I had visions of falling off it with the ship’s movement and in any case, I was still feeling legless after all those stairs. Instead I settled for an exercise bike and completed a solid pre-set “hills” exercise programme. I’ve no idea what I was thinking but I then decided that it would be a good idea to try a rowing machine. I managed just over 1000 metres but perched on a small seat moving backwards and forwards combined with the movement of the ship soon had my stomach churning so I quit the programme. In any case the washing cycle should have finished by then so I had a duty of care to go free up the machine for someone else to use. That is how I justified it (quitting the gym) to myself anyway. We headed down to the MDR breakfast well inside the 10am cut-off and I took my breakfast dining to the next level with a starter of dried fruit with cardboard (I think they call it “Fruit & Fibre”) followed by Eggs Benedict. Horror of horrors 2 out of our 4 eggs were hard boiled! Not to worry, my wife and I both got the hard version out of the way then enjoyed the runny eggs which were cooked to perfection. One extremely strange thing we noticed was a lady (I’d guess in her 60’s) who stood at a table for 2 for the whole service. She had her napkin tucked into the neckline of her blouse and was reaching down to the table for spoonfuls of porridge then lifting the spoon all the way up to her mouth, carefully trying not to spill any. She did all this whilst supporting herself with a crutch in the other hand. Completely odd and we’ll probably never see anyone do that ever again. Presumably she had some problem with sitting and I hope to never be seated behind her in the theatre! After breakfast my son wanted to explore the ship and I was more than happy to show him around. I then stupidly suggested that we had a look at the gym forgetting his preference for stairs so this time I had to traverse 18 flights up 9 decks. I eventually arrived on deck 16 and my legs were by now positively ruined. Psycho had finished his marathon and already left so no cheesy excuse to get chatting by asking for a picture of him with my son. I gently tried my son on a few pulley machines but his favourite was by far the cross trainer which he took 2 turns on. He made it look far easier than I ever did, his long legs contributing to an easy but effective stride. He wanted to keep going but I dragged him off and as soon as we left the gym (and his motivation) he became tired and grumbled about the long walk back to the cabin (typical kid!). He wanted to get the lift down but I refused and though I am probably a bit soft on him most of the time I insisted that we used the staircase. After all, I needed to get those easy, downhill steps recorded on my iPhone. What a selfish dad. We had some cabin time then at 11:30am the in-laws arrived for the 2nd pre-booked child sitting service whilst my wife and I attended the Caribbean Tier luncheon. Much as we love our son this is always a precious treat for us and one of the things that we like most about P&O (it is by far the best reward for our ongoing loyalty). Our son always receives an invite but chooses not to go and given that he does not use the kid’s club onboard it is probably a good thing that he gets a break from us and vice-versa. We were seated on table 97 but the host had not yet arrived. At our table there was another (older) couple and a family where the parents were of similar age to us and with a 12-year old boy. Eventually our host arrived, Chief Safety Officer Kristijan Novosel from Croatia. The waiters started us off with a glass of champagne but missed out Kristijan so we had an amusing few minutes while he tried to catch the attention of every waiter nearby without success. Eventually he got a glass so we raised a toast then the waiters took our order. My wife and I both chose a chicken and mozzarella starter followed by fillet of roast beef. Kristijan asked how many cruises we’d all been on and immediately the chap on my left proudly announced that they’d done 257 nights onboard. I immediately thought “competitive dad alert” but in reality, he was nothing of the sort and I enjoyed speaking at length with him about all sorts of different things. I am certainly glad that I didn’t try one-upmanship with him (we’ve done more than that) and when they asked us how many cruises we’ve taken we answered vaguely “20-something”. I thought I overheard the older couple mention Leeds and so I asked them where they were from and they replied “Roundhay in Leeds” which is very close to where I grew up. Small world! Kristijan joined in the conversations here and there but probably found it a bit tricky chatting about things other than cruise related subjects. The older couple came out with a few cringeworthy comments, such as telling Kristijan that because of his name they didn’t know whether to expect a man or woman at the table. The older gentleman said a few things that seemed provocative but nobody was biting fortunately. His wife proudly said how he had been able to retire aged 57. I responded that this was great (and I really mean that) but that there is a whole generation coming through like me who have been bumped off final salary pension schemes and would need to work a whole lot longer. They were genuinely shocked by this and fortunately the subject quickly changed to questions about a career at sea with Kristijan encouraging the 12-year old to consider it. The 12-year old was impeccably behaved and eventually we managed to get him talking about things he liked such as rugby and football. All the while I had one of those magic self-refilling wine glasses that never needed topping up no matter how much I drank (with full credit to our stealthy, unobtrusive wine waiter). The chatter on our table kept getting interrupted by positively raucous laughter from those on the table behind. One voice in particular kept booming out, a foreign lady who was the life and soul of their particular party and who also kept interacting with another table as well. It seemed that the other guests were just there to enjoy her routine but none of them seemed to mind and the laughing seemed to continue none stop. Midway through lunch Captain Gray came into the restaurant and spoke to guests at each table individually. This is not something we’ve known before and thought it a nice touch. He was humorous and witty as usual. Eventually the restaurant was emptying so Kristijan excused himself and we all said our goodbyes. 2 hours had passed really quickly and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We spent the afternoon in the cabin as usual. Before becoming parents, we would mostly be out and about around the ship but our son likes being in the cabin, watching films, reading and playing with his toys. We don’t use the balcony much but appreciate the natural light so an inside cabin wouldn’t really be for us (though we have had them in the past). We went to dinner at the usual time and without asking the restaurant manager directed us to table 5 in the same corner as our other regular tables and with the same waiters (I really must make a note of their names). Our son gave French fries a miss so they brought him 2 platefuls of pasta but he couldn’t quite manage to clear both. My wife an I both enjoyed a turkey dinner though as usual she was very naughty and didn’t eat a single sprout. Desserts were delayed as usual but after a heavy lunch we weren’t too bothered. We were struggling to remember what was on in each venue but our son was adamant that we weren’t going to The Tamarind Club again. We ended up in Metropolis where The Waves were set-up ready for 2 performances (bad luck son!). They played a series of easy listening melodies and were as tight and professional as ever. It would have been nice if they had played some numbers from the 21st century (or even close to it) but at least there were no Vera Lynn songs! We left around 10:20pm and we read a bit whilst our son watched a film. Next thing I knew he was shouting at me again for snoring and disturbing his viewing! That was the signal to turn off the TV with lights out just after 11pm.
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