A Travellerspoint blog

First Sea Day - North Atlantic

Saturday, 20 September 2014

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Overnight the ship has provided a small hint to prove that she is indeed a ship and not a perfectly stable hotel. Speeding along at over 20 knots she is rolling just a tiny bit and pitching about 3°. Rolling is side to side motion almost totally managed by the stabilisers, pitching is end to end movement which can't be controlled. This would be a perfect ship for anyone nervous about motion sickness. There is hardly any motion at all.

Got up for my usual walk around Deck 18 and had breakfast with Jenny in the Horizon Court. With nothing planned for the morning we found some comfortable seats in 'Club 6' and kicked back to read our Kindles. Jenny claims I nodded off, must have been the ship's motion on the ocean.
Attended the port lecture for St John's Newfoundland, our next port of call. There are a good number of sea miles to cover before we get there.

Went up to Deck 16 and had a hamburger and fries from the Trident Grill and returned to the cabin and watch a movie on the TV. We've both heard of Groundhog Day but had never seen it. Strange plot but pleasant enough.

It was 'Formal Night' so quite a bit of preparation to make me look presentable, Jenny turned out pretty well as always. Lobster tails on the menu tonight and at least three out of four in our vicinity ordered it- me included.

After a leisurely dinner we made it to the early (19:00) show in the Theatre featuring the brilliant voice of Jennifer Fair. She presented both classical and popular numbers in a voice that reached notes I've never heard in a live show before. Amazing!!

Our ship continues to sail along at an amazing 22 knots and is barely ruffled by the wind and seas.

Another 25 hour day with the clock being put back another hour overnight.

There's an collage from the The Horizon Court/Bistro at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-20 Where lunch time on a sea-day with all passengers aboard makes for a busy time on Deck 16. This buffet area is a very popular dinning option. Open throughout the day there is self-service food available here from 05:00 to 23:00. In addition there is 24 hour Room Service and the International Café on Deck 5 for snacks 24/7.

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

Posted by greynomadm 13:30 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

Cobh, County Cork, Republic of Ireland

Friday, 19 September 2014

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Our ship sailed at the amazing speed of 23 knots from Belfast to arrive at Cobh at 08:30 under a dreary sky. The locals claim to have had two weeks of sunshine and the clouds arrived with the ship. I suspect the Irish are sometimes known to stretch the truth.

We set off for our two hour coach trip to Waterford through the amazing Irish countryside. In Waterford we visited the crystal factory where we were conducted through the various stages of the production. No surprise that we finished the tour in the show room. There were many exquisite treasures on sale and even a free shipping offer for purchases over EU 200.00.

We had about two hours to wander through the town and explore the many crooked, narrow cobbled streets. How the coach driver managed to get us in and out of these places still amazes me. Following a slightly different route we stopped at the town of Lismore where we were again free to wander the streets. I was particularly impressed by the quaint cottages that lined the narrow sidewalks.

Throughout the day we managed to dodge the rain which fell from time to time while we were on the coach but thankfully held off when we were walking the streets. The weather was mild throughout but the overcast combined with a mist or fog to prevent any clear photos. Lots of magnificent landscapes but devoid of perceivable detail.

We arrived at the ship's side just after 17:30 after a very long day ashore. Without bothering to change we decided to have dinner in the Horizon Court rather than the dinning room. Back in the cabin and lots of images to review. Most are 'interesting' but of questionable quality and I had some difficulty finding one to upload.

The ship is again speeding along at near maximum speed as the captain attempts to avoid some unpleasant weather on our way to St John, Newfoundland. We have three sea days as we follow the route taken by the ill fated Titanic.

Change of time zone gives us another 25 hour day just to confuse us again.

There's an image from Lismore at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-19
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 13:34 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Another of those grey misty days we come to expect. Thankfully there was no rain and we had a booked Shore Excursion anyway. We assembled for our 08:30 tour and departed pretty much on schedule. Our guide Mary and driver Dave made a pretty good team. The tour consisted primarily of a 'drive' abound various neighbourhoods of the city. We drove past and occasionally stopped at a number of significant landmarks.

I was rather surprised to see the many murals still protesting the 'troubles' and while it looked quite peaceful now there were areas where feelings still run high demonstrated by lots of provocative murals. Quite a number dealing with conflicts far from Northern Ireland.

The city's connection to the ill fated RMS Titanic is commemorated in many ways and with impressive monuments and museums. As Mary explained there was justified pride in the creation of the ship, it was in perfect working order when she sailed out. Many words have been written about all the factors which contributed to the demise of that ship and the many people who went down with her.

We drove around the impressive city hall and the magnificent buildings that are the remnants of a time when Ireland and Belfast in particular dominated the world's linen trade. There was a visit to the impressive Queen's University of Belfast, home to an estimated student body of 25,000. A short stop also at Stormont, the home of Northern Ireland's Legislative Assembly. An impressive structure set on a hill with panoramic vistas over the city.

Our final stop was the beautiful Belfast Castle. This beautiful castle and the surrounding grounds were gifted to the 'People of Belfast' by the Earl of Shaftesbury in 1934. The 'castle' is now run as a conference centre or wedding reception venue. There is also limited accommodation qualifying it as a hotel. The immaculately maintained gardens were still colourful despite the flowers being well past their prime.

With some deft manoeuvring and skillful selection of traffic lanes Dave delivered us back to the ship without incident and within 5 minutes of our 12:30 scheduled time. I'm not sure that this tour is well designed, it attempts to cover many sites but due to the nature of the traffic and limited parking options many 'attractions' didn't receive their deserved attention. In future I'm inclined to look for tours with a more focused itinerary.

Dinner tonight was over within record time and we were on the open deck to see the ship leave the port. There's an amazing range of infrastructure from cranes and dry-docks to container cranes and ferry loading piers. Sadly much of it appears to have been idle for some time.
Back in the cabin we decided to watch a movie. After a few false starts we settled on "Chef", not a bad way to spend about two hours.

Cobh the Port for Cork, Ireland tomorrow with Waterford Crystal in Jenny's sights.

There's an image of The Belfast Castle at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-18
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 13:24 Archived in Northern Ireland Comments (2)

Greenock, Scotland

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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An overcast sky greeted the ship as we sailed up the Firth of Clyde to our berth in Greenock the port for Glasgow Scotland. A very busy morning in the Horizon Court and with breakfast behind us we prepared for our Shore Excursion. About half the ship had booked one of the eleven available tours. Ours was scheduled for eight hours and we set off right on time at 09:15. Our guide was a lovely lady who provided lots of appropriate information but didn't prattle on with irrelevant filler. We were driven through the Midlands to the historic city of Stirling where we were left to wander the cobbled streets of the old town as we had decided, based on the queue for tickets, that the tour of the Castle was likely to be very crowded. There are quaint cottages and massive mansions set along crooked streets as well as some grand buildings re-birthed as classy hotels.
At almost every turn there were bronze sculptures and plaques commemorating historic events and famous people. Total overload of history and we only covered a part of it.

The city had a festive air with lots of flags and bunting. There were Union Jacks and St Andrew's Cross in about equal number. They represented either side of a referendum to be held tomorrow, 18 September, to decide on whether Scotland remains in the United Kingdom or becomes an independent country. The polls indicate a close result and voter turn-out is predicted to be up to 80%, well up from a 'normal' 30%.

Shortly after 13:00 we were on the coach and on our way to the Falkirk Wheel. This is the only rotating boat-lift in the world. It lifts or lowers boats between two canals at different levels. The boat in the lower gondola is lifted 35 meters (about 100 feet) as the wheel rotates either clockwise or anticlockwise through 180°. This structure requires very little power to operate as both gondolas weigh the same whether they have a boat or not. The half rotation takes four minutes.

We were all provided with tickets for a boat-ride on the 90 person boat which had been booked for us. The boat sailed into the lower gondola and when secured the two lock-gates were closed and the wheel started to rotate gently lifting us to the upper level. There are gears to ensure the gondolas remain horizontal as the arms of the machine rotate. When we reached the upper level we sailed on the aqueduct which connects the wheel to the canal. The canal runs through a 180 metre tunnel to the upper level basin and further conventional locks. Our boat turned around in the basin and we sailed through the tunnel into the waiting gondola. The wheel turned and we were back where we'd started. The whole process lasting about 30 minutes and definitely the highlight of the excursion for me.

Back on the coach and back to the ship. Given the heavy peak-hour commuter traffic through the outskirts of Glasgow we were back on board by just before the 'All Aboard' time of 17:30. We dumped our gear and headed for the dining room, had a lovely meal again and returned to the cabin. Neither of us having the energy or interest to attend the entertainment in the Theatre.

Belfast, Northern Ireland tomorrow with a much shorter Excursion.

There's an image of The Falkirk Wheel at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-17
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 13:21 Archived in Scotland Comments (2)

Sea Day Two - Scotland Bound

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Due to an error in the daily newsletter, the Princess Patter, I arrived on Deck 18 intending to capture the 05:24 sunrise. Not sure who made the calculations but they were off by at least an hour. Even allowing an extra hour, there was no visible sunrise as there was solid overcast from horizon to horizon.

By 07:00 I joined Jenny for breakfast in an almost deserted Horizon Court, it was as if the bulk of the passengers were still working to yesterday's time-zone. Back to the cabin and we collected our Kindles and made our way to the broom cupboard that is designated the "Library". We were looking for an atlas so that we could could confirm the relative location for the next three ports.

Read for a while and then moved into the Theatre for Loie Lennon's lecture on our visit to Cobh in the Republic of Ireland. It will be the third in a sequence of daily ports and it looks like we'll be kept quite busy.

There was absolutely no need to attend Angela's Future Cruises Presentation but I love the energy that lady generates and we have previously picked up some great tips and deals from her.

A late lunch and then I took the camera for a walk to try and capture a view of an item or a space. The sea was flat and grey as was the sky. The pool area was largely deserted so I prowled the lower decks. I snapped a general view of the central atrium referred to as the Piazza which reaches up from Deck 5 to the ceiling of Deck 7. It is used for many informal group activities throughout the day. Today there are 13 activities scheduled for this space. Additionally there are speciality cafés and bars that surround the space on Decks 5, 6 and 7.

Enjoyed our dinner again tonight and the show was quite entertaining featuring the ventriloquist Kieran Powell who cleverly joked and sang his way through 45 minutes.

Given the very early start this morning I'm feeling quite weary and I'm quite ready to hit the cot.

Glasgow, Scotland tomorrow with a booked Excursion from 09:00 to 17:30.

There's an image of the atrium taken from Deck 7 at http://365project.org/tonydebont/365/2014-09-16
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 12:15 Archived in Scotland Comments (1)

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