A Travellerspoint blog

Sea Day - Bound For Scotland

Monday, 15 September 2014


View 2015-02 South America on greynomadm's travel map.

The ship demonstrated that she does get effected by the weather although the effect was minimal it made for a lovely rocking motion during the night. I had to cut short my outdoor morning walk as I was twice almost blown off my feet in a single circuit of Deck 18. As an alternative I walked the length of the corridors on other decks. The longest in the diagrams is Deck 8, I counted over 330 paces one way.

Met Jenny in the Horizon Court for breakfast and watched the ship's wake stir up the waves. Went back to the cabin and collected our passports for a 'face to face' Inspection by UK Immigration Inspectors. We expected a daunting queue but with about 10 officers we were through in no time at all. The whole process was scheduled to take all day but was completed by lunch time - 3500 people processed in just over four hours.

Spent most of the morning reading our Kindles and wandering through the bargains in the shops. I found a heavy duty jacket at a marked down price and was compelled to buy it. With the additional 10% discount for Elite members it came to less than $50. Yes, I needed that jacket - NOT !! It may well be handy on our Alaska Cruise in 2015 :-)

Attended the Destination Lecture for the port of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Looks like there's plenty of interesting places. As the day progressed the seas became calmer and the ship returned to an almost stable state. The stability in the strong winds is most impressive. After lunch we went to the Theatre and realised we'd already seen the movie on the flight from Sydney to Copenhagen.

Jenny returned to the cabin and I took the camera for a walk to the Allegro Dining Room and captured some images. Located on Deck 6 Aft the Allegro Dining room provides traditional fixed seating dining at 18:00 (early seating) and 20:30 (late seating). Traditional dining is very popular with the more mature passengers and is regularly fully booked months in advance of the sailing date.

Great choices for dinner again, each and every dish sounds worth trying. It is very difficult to decide when faced with six or seven equally attractive alternatives. Finally I go with what sounds the most exotic. Tonight it was a seafood hotpot topped with puff pastry, hot, hearty and delicious. Off to the Theatre to listen to Nik Page a well regarded vocalist from London's West End. Some gave him a standing ovation, others didn't bother to applaud. I was caught somewhere in the middle.

The laundry service has been a bit overwhelmed and I'm out of clean underwear. Our ever obliging cabin steward has made a special trip to find one batch of the four in progress. Will have to pack some extra undies on the next trip or go back to washing our own. Choices, choices, choices ?!?!

Tomorrow we continue with another sea day heading for Scotland. A 23 hour day today as the clocks go forward an hour tonight.

There's a collage of some of the decorations in the Allegro Dinning Room at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-15
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 13:52 Archived in Iceland Comments (2)

Reykjavik, Iceland

Sunday, 14 September 2014


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This morning we experience the strongest winds so far on this cruise. So strong in fact that it forced the ship to list slightly to Port. The deckhands were not swabbing the deck today, the wind was strong enough to blow the water along the exposed deck. Solid overcast and occasional rain squalls made for an uninviting welcome to Reykjavik.

Breakfast was bedlam with almost all the passengers having a 07:00 start. This press of humanity was even worse down on Deck 7 when we lined up to check in for our tour. The queue stretched halfway to the Midship area and beyond. When we finally arrived at the head of the queue they had filled the Theatre with earlier tours and we were redirected to Deck 6 with a promise that we'd be checked in there. Some considerable time later an anxious and apologetic staff member came in and asked us to line up on Deck 7 - we suspect they'd forgotten us.

Eventually we were escorted to the coach and we commenced our tour of the city. The wind blew, the rain pelted down and the tour guide failed to communicate, all we heard was a vague mumble. After a drive through some ultra-modern suburbs we headed out into lava country with the coach being continuously buffeted by the strong wind.

One of the comprehensible utterances from the guide was "If you think this weather is bad, you haven't seen anything yet!!". He followed this with an expression along the lines of "If the weather is not to your liking, wait an hour, it will change". That it did !! We arrived at the "Blue Lagoon" and visibility was reduced to just a few feet. Some 30 minutes later it had improved significantly and I managed to snap a few shots, briefly taking the camera out of the protective plastic shopping bag.

It was an amazing scene with the visibility changing all the while. The massive mounds of lava, the steam and the pale blue water creating an "other-world" atmosphere.

Back on the coach and heading in to Reykjavik for a visit to the "Perlan", an outstanding piece of architecture featuring a 360° panoramic observation deck, three gift shops and a massive glass-domed revolving restaurant. The blustery wind and occasional rain squall somewhat negated the panoramic views but I could certainly see the potential. Toured through the city centre and past the "Old Harbour" and the historic house where Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev held their Summit in 1986.

Then back to the ship to join another long queue of returning passengers. With only one gangway in use for both arrivals and departures there was bound to be delays. Add two or three wheelchairs and electric scooters to the mix and you have some frayed tempers. The tour was great as far as the itinerary was concerned, and the weather can't be controlled but the organisation was somewhat lacking both on the way out and back in. The tour guide was the least effective of any we've experienced.

Lunch and then back to the cabin for the essential clerical recording tasks. It all takes time and it is now less than two hours to dinner.
An enjoyable dinner tonight, there's a Canadian couple that are regularly occupying the table next to ours and we've started swapping family details. They are only a few years younger than we are.

Tonight's show was a tribute by Tracey Shields to Celine Dion. She looked the part and had a fabulous voice. She was certainly well received. We're finding that the 19:00 show is less crowded and it is easier to find our preferred seats.

The captain has warned us of increased movement to be expected over the next two days. The big girl is rocking just a little already and the bridge cam is showing both rain drops on the lens and white-capped waves on the sea ahead..

Tomorrow we're at sea heading for Scotland.
There's an image of the Blue lagoon at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-14
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 13:19 Archived in Iceland Comments (1)

Sea Day 2 - Iceland Ahead

Saturday, 13 September 2014


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The calm seas continue and last night's fog has dissipated. We've sailed across the North of Scotland and the temperature is quite cool and there's a solid overcast. Sunrise was due at 06:57 but there was no sign of it. There were a few other hardy souls pounding the walking track but we were outnumbered by the deckhands swabbing the decks. Every morning they mop and wipe every external horizontal surface. At about the same time the dozens of 'pool attendants' set out the hundreds of sun lounges. Each precisely positioned and meticulously lined up, then at about midnight they are all stacked up and lashed down. Overnight the decks are washed down and before daybreak the whole process starts again. They do this every day for nine months without a break. So much for the 'romance' of working on a cruise ship.

We sat for a while in Crooners on Deck 7 reading and watching the small waves developing out to sea. The overcast had reduced to scattered clouds which is a positive indication that tomorrow could be a great day. At 10:30 I went back to the Princess Live! TV Studio to watch the recording of the Wake Show again. It is interesting to see the workings of a TV Studio even though it is only a miniature version. Went on to the Theatre to attend the Port Lecture for the visit to Greenock, the port for Glasgow.

Lunch today featured seafood and sushi, two of my favourite food types. It took a lot of restraint to limit my portions. Green-lipped New Zealand mussels, peeled prawns and smoked salmon in abundance. Delicious !! Great excitement in the Horizon Court with the sighting of some whale spouts to starboard. Someone even claimed to have have seen tail flukes.

After that excellent lunch I attended a lecture by Alan Schreiber again, today's topic was the Sub-Prime Debacle. He provided an understandable insight to what cause the meltdown and the ramifications. He made mention of the fact that the banks in Australia were far better regulated and didn't delve into these Sub-Prime mortgages.

Back to the cabin and watched a movie on the TV. The ship has developed some motion at last, we were beginning to wonder if she ever rocked at all. She's a very big ship and appears to handle the sea conditions very well. I'm told the crossing from Ireland to Canada will be the true test though.

There was an interesting item on the dinner menu, 'Frogs Legs', yes I HAD to try them. It certainly wasn't a big meal and there were these tiny bones and not a lot of meat.

Attended the final Al Katz show tonight, for the first time he didn't mention Mississippi but he did tell a story about a masked young man in South Carolina who held up the local liquor store. On his way out he demanded a bottle of bourbon. The storekeeper said he couldn't serve him without proof of age. So our 'hero' pulled out his driver's license !!!

Clocks go back another hour tonight giving us another 25 hour day, my body-clock it becoming confused. Tomorrow we're in Reykjavik, Iceland.

There's an image of Princess Live! Studio, Deck 7, Midship at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-13

Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 13:33 Archived in Iceland Comments (1)

Sea Day 1 - Destination Iceland

Friday, 12 September 2014


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A bit of a miserable morning with a moist mist shrouding the horizon. About 45 minutes before sunrise we passed within sight of some of the North Atlantic oil platforms. They look quite spectacular all lit up.

Met up with Jenny for breakfast and afterwards planned our day. Decided on a lecture by Susan Dolan on the topic of "The Internet, Google & How It All Began". It soon became obvious that she was more a 'spin doctor' rather than an IT Professional. I stuck it out for about 20 minutes and decide to find something else to do.

Found Jenny in the Princess Live Studio and stayed there for the recording of tomorrow's Wake Show. The Wake Show is a daily program that runs for about 30 minutes and provides some pointers to the events of the day. The presenters are the Cruise Director and her Deputy. On these 'Sea Days' they invite a live audience to add some life to what can at other times be a bit of a boring dialogue.

Headed off to the Princess Theatre to attend the Port Lecture for Reykjavik. If nothing else Loie Lennon has some interesting images of the destination.

Up to Deck 16 for lunch and I returned to the Theatre to check out Alan Schreider who will be presenting a series of lectures on investing, the bond market and wealth creation. From what I heard it is all based on the US Market and way too late for me to get involved.

Took some photos of Deck 7 and the Atrium which was being used to teach some form of ballroom dancing. The various lounges that ring the three levels of the Atrium were well patronised by people relaxing and indulging in private entertainment. It is difficult to tell what the many tablets and like devices are being used for. Reading books, playing games, crossword puzzles and browsing the Internet to name a few. I'm convinced some of them were nodding off.

Filled in the afternoon reading and then prepared for the formal night. All the fiddly buttons, hooks and other bits that make up the complete outfit takes almost an hour to get right. I think we both looked pretty good for a couple of oldies.

Enjoyed a lovely dinner again and afterwards walked down the corridor on Deck 11. Each corridor has a set of mounted photographs of places and people from around the world. We only saw the Port side between the Aft and Forward stair-wells. We're going to try visiting the other decks and do both sides. The photos are inspirational.

The ship has sailed into a thick fog as I write this and the ship's main horn has sounded a number of times. With the wide-screen Samsung TV tuned to the Bridge Web Cam we experience a virtual window to the outside.

Tomorrow is the second of two sea days on our way to Reykjavik, Iceland.

There's an image of Crooners, Deck 7, Port Side, Midship at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-12
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 12:51 Archived in Iceland Comments (1)

Kristiansand, Norway

Thursday, 11 September 2014


View 2015-02 South America & 2014-09 Royal Princess on greynomadm's travel map.

A brisk breeze and some damp fog greeted our arrival in this beautiful Norwegian port. With breakfast out of the way we made our way to the Princess Theatre for our 08:45 rendezvous with our group for the half-day tour.

The coach took us through many of the picturesque and historic sections of Kristiansand. None of the structures are particularly old as the city was burnt down on two or three occasions as it was historically built entirely of wood. When the insurance for the last big fire was paid out it came with a caveat that in future buildings must be built from bricks, masonry or concrete.

Our first stop was the 'Outdoor' Vest-Agder Museum where a collection of historic buildings has been relocated from the Setesdal Valley. All part of an effort to preserve the physical reminder of the days when this part of Norway was the poorest part of the then poorest country in Europe.

The slab timber buildings were representative of a farm of the 15th century comprising of a dwelling structure, a barn and various types of storage houses. All featured sod or turf roofs and the dwelling house being the only one with a fire-place which was vented through a hole in the roof.
The 'Outdoor' Museum also has a collection of more modern buildings relocated from Kristiansand. When a city street was being widened the existing structures were transport to the museum. It was an informative and eye-opening visit.

After a short country drive we arrived at the fishing village of Høllen on the Sogne area to the West of Kristiansand. The village is a striking collection of immaculately maintained houses and gardens. It is also a popular summer holiday destination for Norwegians. After wandering around for a while we were taken back to the city centre along a beautiful coastal route.

We left the bus at the City Square to make our way back to the ship on foot. The layout of the city lends itself to the construct of a City Square, lined on one side by parks and the cathedral and across the square by the City Hall. The centre of the city is laid out in a grid pattern with each street being one kilometre long, seven street in one direction and twelve at right angles.

During our drive in the surrounding country our guide explained that the construction of highways is extremely expensive as they have to be cut through granite rock. There were also a number of tunnels where it was considered more cost effective to drill through the hills than creating a cutting. To pay for this road building there is a toll collected on each major road. All tolls are electronically recorded and billed monthly.

Throughout the day we enjoyed bright sunshine and just enough of a breeze to prevent us overheating as we walked about. The locals can't believe the fabulous weather, for the past two weeks they've had winds and rain !!

Back to the ship for the obligatory lunch and then back to the cabin to download images and write this blurb. As today is the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on New York City, the ship respectfully observed a minute silence at 15:45 local time.

All Aboard today is 16:30 which is only minutes from when I'm writing this. We should be heading out of the harbour about 17:00.

Dinner was great as always with our waiter Nanad taking charge of the menu, not that I followed his recommendations but it is great to hear him exalt the virtues of the various dishes. After dinner we took our Kindles to the Theatre and we were part of what became a sell-out crowd for the performance by Chris Watkins. His show was largely the same as the one we watched a few days ago but no less exciting and enthralling as he created the most amazing music from his violin.

Clocks go back another hour tonight as we gradually adjust to the Icelandic time zone. Tomorrow is the first of two sea days on our way to Reykjavik, Iceland.

There's an image of one of the 15th century storage houses at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-11

Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 13:02 Archived in Norway Comments (1)

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