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Archive for January, 2013

Ship Happens

When we woke up at 8.00am this morning and turned on the TV to catch the morning Sky news, we were shocked to learn that, in London’s grey and very foggy skies, a helicopter had crashed into a crane in the centre of the city near Vauxhall Bridge, killing the pilot and at least one other person on the ground and injuring nine others.  This had happened at 8.00am British time (5.00am ship’s time) right at the heart of the morning commute time.  Can you imagine getting up on a Wednesday morning as usual to go to work, just going about your normal daily routine, and a helicopter lands on you and kills you?  Blimey.  It’s a stark reminder of just how you never know what’s round the corner and when your number can be up like that.  That’s one of the reasons why Trevor and I like to go on so many cruises and holidays, because you have to live life to the full while you can.  😦

We went up to the Belvedere buffet for breakfast and ate it outside by the pool.  Even though it was only 8.30 in the morning the sun was already very hot, and appeared even more so by the fact that the Arcadia was only doing about 11 knots so there was much less of a sea breeze than before.

After breakfast we took a gentle stroll around the deck, then Trevor decided to do a mile round the promenade deck while I went along to the library to connect to the Wi-Fi and check my emails – how sad am I?!

The we just sat around by the pool, had a coffee and generally just whiled away the time before lunch.  There were not many people out by the pool for a change, and most of those who were had prudently stayed in the shade.  Not only are we only 10° south of the Equator deep in the tropics, but it is also the height of summer in the southern hemisphere; a complete contrast to the snow and the -8°C temperatures we’d learned that the North-East is currently experiencing back home.

We enjoyed a filled jacket potato each for lunch, accompanied by a Mojito in my case and a “Newky Broon” in Trevor’s.  We then decided we’d seek the welcome shade of our balcony (we don’t get the sun on the starboard side of the ship until later in the afternoon) and have an attempt at making ourselves a caipirinha.  First of all I asked the waiter who’d served me my Mojito if he could possibly bring me a couple of whole fresh limes, which he did.  Then I went in search of a serrated knife and some crushed ice.  I added a couple of straws to my haul then we went back to C149 to make ourselves a proper authentic caipirinha with the remains of the can of Pitú and some sachets of sugar.  🙂

We successfully managed to create the real deal, and we sat out on our balcony to consume them at leisure.  We gave ourselves some time to let our lunch go down, then donned our cossies and went to the Aquarius pool on deck 9 at the stern of the ship for a nice swim.

This time the water was lovely and tepid, and the swim provided a blissful respite from the burning sun.  I put my factor 30 suntan lotion on and sat for a short while in the sun after our swim, before seeking the shade and sitting on the edge of the pool with my feet dangling in the water.

Our visit to the pool was two-fold; firstly obviously for a swim and sunbathe, but also because at 3.30pm they were holding the “Arcadian Regatta”.  This is a fun contest in which passengers, during the previous few days, had to build ships out of discarded items they find, beg or borrow from around the ship, stuff such as cardboard boxes, plastic bottles – anything they think they can use to help them construct a vessel.  The completed ships/boats then have to undergo “sea trials” in the pool to decide the winner.  🙂

At about 3.00pm the contestants started to arrive with the various vessels they had constructed.  The standard was amazingly high and the imagination and ingenuity shown by the contestants was incredible.  There was a paddle steamer, a couple of cruise ships (tellingly sporting the white hull and distinctive yellow funnel of the P & O line), a naval battle ship and even a floating car named “Shippy Shippy Bang Bang”.  Pure genius.

Each contestant had to “launch” their little ship in the pool and it was tested on various things.  First of all, it had to float (obviously!).  Then it was loaded with six full cans of soft drink (330ml cans) to see if it still floated.  Finally, one of the entertainment staff had to “bomb” into the pool and create a “tsunami” to see if it capsized the boat or not.  The ships were given marks out of 10 for each test.

After they’d all taken part, the judges announced the top three winners, but to be honest I would imagine it would have been a difficult decision as it was very hard to choose which was the best, as  they were all excellent.

By the time the contest was over it was after 4.00pm, and time to go back to cabin C149 to get showered, sorted out and dressed, as once again tonight was formal night.  I’d already decided I was going to give dinner a miss again tonight; there’s only so much eating and drinking one can do.  🙂

I wore my classic long black Wallis dress with silver crocheted wrap and the sequinned silver shoes with the 5″ heel.  While Trevor went down to the Meridian restaurant for his dinner, I went along to the Rising Sun with my laptop to check my emails and do some of this blog, while enjoying a couple of glasses of prosecco and chatting to Joseph, the bar waiter.

Later on, Trevor came along to meet up with me and we went to see tonight’s show; once again they were showing the Michael Bublé-type singer, Mark O’Malley.  Then we did the usual – went along to the pub for the quiz.  The theme tonight was “A Night at the Movies” so, predictably, we didn’t do very well as we’re not movie buffs at all.  Frank and Brenda had also joined us once again, but their help wasn’t enough for us to win a prize.

At 1030pm the Rising Sun was holding a horse-racing night, so we decided to stay with Frank and Brenda and participate.  By this time Chris and Sue from our table had also arrived, and they too joined us.

We bought a race card for £20.00 which allowed us to place bets from £2.00 upward on any races we wanted, but we never won a single penny.  Frank and Brenda, however, came away with 30 quid for their 20 quid investment, so they did well.  🙂  We did, however, win a free cocktail of the day (Blue Lagoon) in the “losers’ raffle” but it wasn’t much to show for £20.00.

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Roaming in Recife

We woke up very early this morning; around 5.00am in fact.  We had already noticed that the sun rose much earlier south of the Equator than it does in the North (even in the tropics) at this time of year.  Of course, the reverse would be true if this were July instead of January.

From our vantage point on our balcony we could watch as the Arcadia approached the port of Recife, in the Pernambuco state of Brazil.  I love Brazil, we have had two previous holidays here; in 2001 and in 2011.  It’s such a colourful and interesting country of so many cultures and contrasts; the people are really friendly and the samba beat is so infectious.

Recife (re-see-fay) however was a new port of call for us so we were looking forward to exploring.  We had our breakfast outside on the Aquarius Pool deck while soaking up the atmosphere and getting our first impressions of this north-east coastal town and port area.

One of the first things we noticed was the great numbers of diggers that were lined up, in rows, along the water’s edge.  They were not a brand we recognised so we assumed they were made in Brazil and had been taken to the port ready to be exported.  A group of singers, dancers and musicians had assembled in front of them and were entertaining the disembarking passengers; we could hear the catchy beat of the drums from our position on the pool deck.

Back in our cabin we gathered together the stuff we’d need for our visit ashore; camera, credit cards etc. then we went down the gangplank and set foot on Brazilian soil again.  We were not allowed to walk around the shipping and dockside area (health and safety and all that) but a shuttle bus was waiting nearby to take us into the outskirts of the town.

The brief ride on the bus allowed us to take in our surroundings.  As it was a weekday it was fairly busy, and the streets bustled with busy shoppers and workers.  The shops and streets looked typical of those we’ve seen before in Brazil; once you leave the fashionable (expensive!) touristy areas the streets are slightly dilapidated with lots of peeling paint, tired-looking trees and plants, cafés and bars with rickety looking canopies and potholed roads.

We alighted from the bus outside the library, then decided to cross the sluggish-looking river over a prominent bridge to visit the shops and, so we had heard, the local markets.  At low tide the river was full of all sorts of rubbish and, I’m sorry to say, stunk of raw sewage.  The bridge was called Ponte Maurício de Nassau and was built on the site of the first bridge in Latin America.

Once over the bridge we found ourselves in a maze of busy streets, our ears nearly deafened by the up-tempo Latin music blaring out of ghetto-blasters.  The streets thronged with people and the cries of the vendors competed with the cacophony of music.  Several times cyclists rode by with huge sound systems blasting out recorded advertising messages through megaphones which added to the din.  Despite this, we were amazed to see people (young and old alike) just asleep on the pavement or in shop doorways.  Quiet Recife was not!!  🙂

Our first stop was to the local bank, to use the ATM machine and withdraw some of the local currency, the Brazilian Real (or reaïs in the plural).  We spent some time browsing the shops and stalls.  Every other shop seemed to be selling curtains, sheets and bedding, and there were also a lot of shoe shops.  As a shoe freak I thought I’d find something different, but the shoes and sandals weren’t any different from the ones I could buy back home, so I didn’t bother this time (that’s a first!)  🙂

We went into a little fashion shop (it was like the Brazilian equivalent of Claire’s Accessories back home) and I bought a feathered mask, feathered earring and a colourful sarong; later on in the cruise they are having a Carnival themed deck party, so I wanted to make sure I had my props ready.  🙂

We looked all over for some postcards to send home, but as we weren’t in the tourist part of Recife (you need to go to Boa Viagem for that) there were none to be seen.  So we just browsed the shops and streets a bit more, then decided to go in search of an off-licence to purchase some cachaça.  😉

Eventually we found what looked to be a shop selling booze; apart from a counter at the front the interior was just a type of warehouse, stacked floor to ceiling with bottles and cans selling everything from beer to wine to spirits.  We spotted some bottles of the famous cachaça brand “Pitú” and they also seemed to have it in cans.  Cans?  Surely they would already be mixed as caipirinha, they wouldn’t sell 40% volume spirit in cans, like Coca Cola.  So we bought one to find out, along with a couple of cans of Red Bull and a bottle of mineral water.

Around the corner we decided to open the can of Pitú, which had a resealable plastic lid.  We took a swig and found out the hard way – it was neat cachaça.  🙂  So we opened one of the Red Bulls and tipped some of it in.  It was different I suppose!  Then we decided we’d go back to the booze stall and see what the full litre bottles of Pitú cost.  I’d recently bought a 700ml bottle back home for £24.99 (outrageous!) so it would be interesting to compare the price.  The litre bottle of Pitú was 6 reaïs, or two quid.  So I could have bought a case of 12 bottles for my £24.99 and still had change left over!

After our bargain purchase we decided to take slow stroll back to the ship.  Back over the bridge we were just in time to get the shuttle bus and we arrived back at the Arcadia in time for lunch.  It was nice and quiet up at the pool deck as most people were ashore.  After lunch we sat out on our balcony for a bit then had a post-luncheon nap.

The dress code for tonight was tropical, so I wore a flowery dress and wrap, and Trevor put on his tropical shirt that he’d bought in Aruba in 2007 (incidentally, the last time we were on the Arcadia).  When we went into the dining room you needed your sunglasses, the shirts and dresses and colours were so bright.  We had the usual convivial company and interesting conversation at table #187, but afterwards I was inexplicably tired.  There wasn’t really any show on in the Palladium tonight; they’d just decided to let the classical pianist, Jonathan Powell, do a stint instead.  I decided I’d give it a miss and just go back to our cabin to read my Kindle.  I am re-reading Alex Haley’s Roots, as we are going to the Gambia next year.

Trevor went along to see the pianist but came back not long after; he said the showlounge was only half full and it was difficult to stay awake.  So we waited until 9.30pm when it was time to go along to the Rising Sun for the quiz with host Darren.  Frank and Brenda came along too, and we sat there in a sort of “can’t-really-be-bothered” fashion (once again we didn’t win).

After the quiz we decided we’d go up to the Aquarius Pool and have a nightcap and see what the tropical deck party was like.  It was packed with bodies dancing away to the soca and Latin music.  We only had the one drink then went back to our cabin, where I fell asleep almost immediately, lulled by the gentle motion of the Arcadia who was on her way once again.

 

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A Line to Cross

Once back in our cabin, we went out onto the balcony and Trevor switched on his hand-held GPS so we could check our position.  We could see we were at 00° 00.415′ N so we were literally just about to cross the Equator.  A few minutes later, at 01:20 hours local time, the readout showed 00° 00.000′ briefly and then we were in the southern hemisphere.   🙂

This isn’t the first time we’d ventured into King Neptune’s realm of the ‘Trusty Shellback’ as we’d crossed the Line before (in both directions) in February 2011.

So, after our late night, we got up about 8.30 this morning and went out on deck to eat our breakfasts.  Quite a few people were in the pool already; there seem to be a lot of early risers on these cruises.  Trevor and I tend to get up moderately early but then again we’re more night owls than morning people; even on a work night it’s usually around midnight before we got to bed.

At 10.00am we went along to listen to another fascinating talk by the round-the-world sailor Alex Alley and we ordered a copy of his book Boat to Boardroom, which he said he’d sign and send to us.  Then immediately after Alex’s talk was the final lecture by aviation expert Ricky Bastin; his presentation this time was all about the V-bomber.

We stayed in the shade for most of the day; sunbathing at sea close to the Equator is not a good idea if you want to avoid a nasty sunburn; the sea breeze can lull you into a false sense of security and make you think it’s cooler than it is.

We lunched at the Neptune pool then pottered around a bit until about 2.00pm, then we went and found a good vantage point out on the Aquarius Deck for this afternoon’s Crossing the Line ceremony, which was due to start at 3.00pm.  The reason for our being there so early was because, with 2,000 passengers, the aft decks were going to become pretty crowded and we wanted to be sure of an unimpeded view where the ignorant late-comers couldn’t push in in front of us (it happens!)  🙂

Incidentally, we were pleased to note on this cruise that P & O have started referring to us once again as “passengers” (which indeed is what we are) instead of that awful Americanism “guests”.  (How can we be guests?  We’ve paid to be here!)

Anyway… I enjoyed an ice-cold mojito in the sunshine while Trevor had his usual “Newky Broon” and, as the crowds gathered, it was time for King Neptune and his entourage to put in an appearance, for which a large “throne” had been set out for that purpose.  Then a group of pirates “boarded” the Arcadia as well as a group of the ship’s officers, who would be competing against each other, the losing team meeting with dire consequences.   🙂

The first competition involved each team member dunking their heads in a bowl of custard to obtain ping-pong balls in their mouths, and dropping them into a bucket; whichever team’s bucket contained the most balls won that round (it was the pirates).

Then a whole load of fruits (apples, oranges, pineapples etc.) and vegetables (potatoes, carrots and a swede) were lobbed into the swimming pool and each team was timed in their efforts to retrieve all the fruit/veg and place them in the buckets; the team who managed the most fruit/veg in the shortest time was declared the winner of that round (it was the officers).

The final decider was a massive tug o’ war between the two teams, made more interesting due to the amount of custard and jelly splurged over the decking.  The Arcadia‘s officers won that contest, and therefore the competition, and took great delight in covering the losing pirate team with liberal quantities of jelly, custard and trifle.  The stuff was flying everywhere (passengers were advised to keep well back, ha ha) and the teams finished off by jumping into the pool to try to clean themselves off.  It was all in good spirit and a fun way to spend an hour or so.  🙂

Back in our cabin we enjoyed a cold glass of cava on the balcony before getting washed and changed in time for dinner.  The meal was excellent as ever and we enjoyed table 187’s convivial company and interesting conversation.

We then took our usual seats in the front row in the Palladium theatre for tonight’s show, which was by the Headliners Theatre Company and was called Let’s Face The Music and Dance.  These types of shows are a bit hit and miss; sometimes they are excellent if they contain something a bit different, but this one was just the same old, same old – music and dancing from Singing in the Rain, Top Hat and that type of stuff.  OK in a mildly entertaining way, but nothing original.

Then along we went to the Rising Sun, where Frank and Brenda joined us once again for the Numbers quiz; every answer was a number but it didn’t involve maths or calculations.  We didn’t win, but I enjoyed a few glasses of prosecco and the general ambience of the place, which is just like a real English pub.

It was late when we got to bed, but that didn’t matter as our clocks were due to go back at 2.00am to GMT -3.  Tomorrow we’d be on terra firma once again, this time in Brazil.

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Life on the Ocean Waves

Saturday, 12th January 2013

When we woke up this morning we couldn’t believe the first week had flown by already. Despite the long, leisurely sea days the time passes surprisingly quickly. We just spent today relaxing, going to the talks, sitting in the sunshine on our balcony and generally whiling away the hours.

The dress code for the evening was smart-casual and we just did the usual stuff; went to the show which was featuring the soprano singer Jennifer Fairs again, then along to the Rising Sun at 9.30pm for the quiz, Tonight it was mainly a case of solving anagrams, but can you really be bothered when you’re still digesting a massive dinner and you’ve consumed a few glasses of wine? No, needless to say we didn’t do very well and we didn’t hand our paper over to be marked. 🙂

We finished the evening by going along to the Globe show lounge where they were hosting the well-known TV game show Deal or No Deal. This is a game in which the contestant has to choose a numbered box and try to guess how much money it contains, for £0.01 to £250.00 in this case. At some point the ‘banker’ may offer you an alternative amount of money and it is up to you to decide whether you’d be better off taking it (a “deal”) or refusing it and trying to go for more money (“no deal”). The contestant tonight decided to accept £50.00 as the deal; it was good that she did this as the box she had only contained 1p.

Then it was back along to our cabin around midnight for bed.

Sunday, 13th January 2013

Woke up early this morning as we’d gained another hour due to the clocks going back again to GMT -2. We had our breakfasts then went along to the Palladium theatre to listen to a presentation by Alex Alley, a round the world yachtsman who had won several competitions. He was talking about some of the arduous conditions you have to endure when sailing solo around the world. I love these sort of stories and have read quite a few books on the subject, including A Voyage for Madmen, The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst and Left for Dead. You can understand how insanity often creeps in when these lone sailors have had no contact with any other human being for months at a time, especially in the days before satellite communications, mobile phones etc.

Later on that morning we went to another talk by Ricky Bastin, who was discussing what the future could possibly hold for supersonic travel. It’s amazing to think that it now takes you at least seven hours to fly across the Atlantic but it used to take only 3½ hours – technology has taken a step backwards for the first time in history. But there are several designs currently on the drawing board; one of them is for an aircraft codenamed “Lapcat” that could possibly fly at Mach 5, or from London to Sydney in four hours. But until that happens (if it ever does) nothing can supersede our own beautiful “Speedbird 1”, Concorde. 🙂

Tonight was a formal night again so I wore another of my Gothic dresses, along with fishnet tights, long black evening gloves and a sequinned shawl. It was actually very warm in that outfit so, shortly after the evening’s cabaret, which was the singing MacDonald brothers again, I went back to C149 and ditched the tights and the gloves. Then it was off to the Rising Sun again for the quiz, which was “Name that Tune”. Frank and Brenda from our table in the restaurant joined us for the quiz. We didn’t win, however; some of the teams had six members who obviously take quizzing very seriously and some very high scores were achieved.

After the quiz it was karaoke time once again and I got up to do a few numbers, along with the same singers as the last couple of times. It was all a good laugh and it was nearly 1.00am before we got back to our cabin.

We reckoned we would be very close to the Equator by now, if indeed we hadn’t already crossed it. Last time we’d looked at the GPS it was only about one degree North which meant we were only 60 nautical miles (or about 3 hours at a speed of 20 knots) away from it. We therefore switched on the handheld GPS to see where on the earth we were.  🙂

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Sea ‘n’ Sunshine

Not a lot to write about today really. It was just another of those long, lazy sunny days when time is of no consequence and you can just enjoy yourself and the feeling of being alive. 🙂

While sitting out on the balcony this morning some movement on the surface of the ocean caught my eye; it was a large school of flying fish. Flying fish are a very common sight once you get into the tropical latitudes, and their silvery bodies glint and flash briefly as they glide over the water’s surface and disappear again.

In fact, looking around in every direction all we could see was glittering miles of deep blue ocean as far as the eye could see. It makes you feel so small and insignificant against the vastness of the oceans; three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered with it. It reminds me of a little song we used to sing at school:

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea
To see what he could see, see, see
But all that he could see, see, see
Was miles of deep blue sea, sea, sea.

So we just did the usual stuff, went to the talks, walked about, ate and drank etc. Then we decided we’d have a dip in the pool, as the water should have warmed up by now.

So back in C149 we donned our cossies and grabbed our pool towels and went up to the Neptune pool. There were quite a few people in the water. Dipping my toe in, it felt a little cold but everyone assured me it was fine once you were in, so we took the plunge.

Sure enough, the water was quite exhilarating once we got in and started swimming. I like it when the ship is at sea because the natural motion of the vessel creates waves in the pool as well. So we enjoyed a half-hour splash about before climbing out and allowing the sunshine to dry us off a little.

Then we went back along to our cabin, got a chilled drink each, and sat out on our balcony for a while. It might not sound like much, but it really is so pleasant just to do this; to watch the Arcadia just glide through the water, feel the gentle sea breeze on your face and enjoy the balmy air.

Around tea time we could see “land ahoy”; a couple of islands which looked fairly mountainous. One of the mountains had the distinctive conical shape at the top indicating it had been a volcano. We learned that these remote islands, seemingly in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, were the Cape Verde Islands. We were interested to learn that because we are already booked to visit these islands in January 2014, in a cruise from Tenerife on board Fred Olsen’s Braemar, the same little ship on which we enjoyed our Amazon cruise in February 2011.

The dress code for tonight was informal (jacket required but no tie) but I decided to give dinner a miss as I could feel that the sea air must have shrunk my clothes a little, lol. 🙂

Instead, while Trevor went down to dinner, I went along to the Intermezzo champagne bar with my Kindle and indulged in a couple of glasses of Jacquart rosé champers, which was delicious. Then Trevor came along to meet me afterwards and we headed off to the Palladium theatre, where they were showing André, the comedy magician again. His show was really very good; even outside the corny patter some of the tricks/illusions he does are refreshingly different and quite impressive.

Then it was along to the Rising Sun as usual for the quiz, which was called ‘Back to School’ and featured topics such as history, geography and maths. One of the couples, Frank and Brenda, from our table in the restaurant joined us. We felt we’d done quite well as we answered most of the questions and we swapped our papers with the team at the next table to be marked out of 35. When the paper came back, we were surprised to see that we’d only scored 28 as we thought we’d done better than that, but on checking we discovered that three of the answers we’d given which were correct had been marked as being wrong by the old farts in the other team! So we actually scored 31 out of 35, which wasn’t too bad. We didn’t win, however, as the winners scored 33. I did, however, dispute with the quiz mistress one of the answers; the question was “What unit is a binary digit most commonly known as?” and the answer, of course, is Bit (binary digit. But the quiz mistress said she’d also accept ‘byte’ as an answer. That is, of course, totally wrong as a byte consists of eight bits and is a completely different unit. As someone who works in I.T. I always like the saying that goes:

There are only 10 types of people in the world; those who understand binary and those who don’t.

We sat around for a short while chatting to some of our fellow passengers before heading back to our cabin for a nightcap and a relatively early night before propping open our balcony door as usual to avoid the drying effects of the air conditioning.

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Typically Tropical

We awoke bright and early this morning and went out onto the balcony to a day that already promised to be sunny and bright.

We consumed a leisurely breakfast then had a walk around the deck and a look around the shops, and generally passed the morning in a relaxed and unhurried way, before we went along to the Palladium for another lecture about Concorde by Ricky Bastin; the talk this time focussed on the technical aspects of flying Concorde, from the famous and distinctive ‘droop nose’ to the revolutionary ‘fly by wire’ flying controls that made Concorde decades ahead of her time.

After the talk we went along to the Spinnaker bar where we spent some time talking with Ricky once again about Concorde and some of our past cruises, and we enjoyed a pre-luncheon cocktail.

We then went up to the Belvedere buffet and grabbed some food, which we took out onto the Aquarius Pool deck and enjoyed in the open sea air.

At around 1.00pm we crossed the Tropic of Cancer at latitude 23° 27′ north, so we were now officially in the tropics as the sunshine and cloudless blue sky would testify.

Tonight was formal night again so, after an afternoon nap and generally pottering around the ship, we took our time getting ready, enjoying some of the cava we’d bought in Tenerife which had now nicely chilled in our fridge.

I wore a gorgeous floor-length black velvet off-the-shoulder Gothic dress along with long black velvet evening gloves and a lace choker. I had silver diamante studded platform shoes on with a 5” heel, so I felt very glamorous (even if I didn’t look it, ha ha).

Tonight was the re-scheduled Captain’s cocktail party (postponed from Monday) which was being held at the Neptune Pool at 6.00pm, so we were ready by 5.45pm to join the queue. It’s a bit ridiculous on P & O ships because, unlike Cunard ships, there is no dedicated ballroom so they usually hold the cocktail parties in the space which will hold the most passengers; in this case it was the pool deck, which wasn’t as bad as the Ventura, where they hold the captain’s cocktail bash in the atrium area, on and around the stairs. 🙂

The queue was atrociously long, because there’s no way they’d open the doors until exactly 6.00pm. So throngs of people were gathered outside the pool area on deck 9, while the arriving lifts spewed out their contents and added even more people to the crush. The things the Brits will do just to get a free glass of ‘champers’, lol. 🙂

Eventually the doors opened and everyone poured in. We grabbed a chilled glass of vino from a passing waiter and took one of the available seats around the edge of the pool. The air was balmy and there was a soft sea breeze ruffling our hair as we sat and enjoyed our drinks; something we’d definitely not be able to do back in cold, wet and frosty Blighty.

Captain Trevor Lane came along with his officers and did the usual little speech as we partook of another glass each of the free plonk.

Then, at half-six, it was time to go down to the dining room and enjoy another delicious meal with more wine and some good after-dinner port.

Once dinner was over we went along for our ‘usual’ seats in the front row in the Palladium theatre for tonight’s show, which was “New York City Rhythm” by the Headliners Theatre Company. It was the usual typical singing-and-dancing routine; they all start to look and sound the same after a while, but it passed a pleasant enough 45 minutes before we went along to the Rising Sun pub. Tonight was, once again, karaoke night so I put my name down to do some songs different from the ones I’d sung last time, such as Lynn Anderson’s Rose Garden and Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares to You. The same other singers got up again, and we were referred to by Matt, the host, as the “regulars” ha ha. 🙂

It was all in good fun and once again it was after midnight when we returned to cabin C149. Tonight the clocks were due to go back one hour to GMT -1, so we’d enjoy an extra hour in bed. 🙂

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Terra Firma in Tenerife

When we got up this morning the Arcadia had just about docked and we looked over our balcony at the familiar sight of the port in Santa Cruz. This is the fourth time we’ve arrived in Tenerife by ship; the other times were Queen Mary 2 (2004), Black Prince (2008) and Queen Elizabeth (2010).

No matter what time of year the climate in Tenerife is always idyllic, and even though it wasn’t yet 8.00am the sun was attempting to come out from behind the clouds and there was already a gentle warmth in the air.

We enjoyed some breakfast in the Belvedere buffet then got our cruise cards and disembarked the Arcadia for terra firma and our excursion into La Laguna, the old capital of Tenerife. We boarded bus number nine and met José, who was our guide for today.

As it was a week day the streets were quite busy as the bus wended its way up the hilly terrain for our first stop. We were shown a convent as well as other large buildings that had once been the private homes of rich people; the architecture was typically Spanish. We enjoyed the feeling of the sun on our backs as we walked through the little streets, full of character. One of the buildings we went into had originally been a banker’s dwelling but was now a type of museum and contained a pleasant leafy courtyard with some orange trees, their branches heavy with the luscious fruit.

To the rear of the building were a couple of original (but restored) horse-drawn carriages with steel-rimmed wooden wheels; they would have to have good, well-sprung suspension to avoid the bumpy ride caused by the lack of pneumatic tyres. The carriages were fairly ornate and evoked the era of bygone times.

Once again we exited into the warm sunshine and walked up the street to a hotel, where we enjoyed a cup of coffee and some home-made biscuits. Then it was back onto the bus and on our way again, as we continued to climb up the winding road; we stopped for a short while to allow us to take some photographs of the fantastic views, over cultivated fields and vineyards towards the sparkling sea in the near distance.

Our next stop was to a place called Oratavo, a pretty little town with charming old buildings and more orange trees and small manicured gardens. We went into a shop which had once been a private dwelling but now sold local handicrafts as well as locally-produced wines and liqueurs and hand-made cheeses. We browsed their wares for a while but didn’t purchase anything. There was a bit of consternation in our coach party as one lady claimed that her purse had been stolen. She turned her handbag inside out but there was no sign of the purse and she was unable to say when or where it had gone missing, just that it was gone. A bit of a dampener when something like that happens to you when you’re enjoying yourself on holiday.

We took a different route walking back down the winding street on our way down to meet the bus; once back in our seats the bus took a different way back to the Arcadia. We decided, however, not to go back on board but to take a walk along the shops and bars that boarded the sea front to have a cold beer and look for an off-licence to buy some Cava for consumption on our balcony. 🙂

We found a nice pavement café/bar which had a bonus – a free WiFi connection. Over a couple of ice cold beers I was able to access the Internet, check my emails and do some of this blog. It was so pleasant sitting there in the sunshine and looking across the harbour to where the Arcadia was moored up, her white paintwork and yellow funnel gleaming mellowly in the sunlight.

After our beers were went along the street and found an off-licence, where we purchased a two-litre bottle of diet cola and three bottles of the local Cava; a brut, a demi-sec and a rosé dulce.

Then it was back to the ship; where we dumped our purchases in cabin C149 and had a quick wash and brush up before going up to the Aquarius Pool deck at the stern of the ship for the sailaway party. As we are Portunus club members (P & O’s loyalty programme) we had a voucher which entitled us to a free glass of champagne each. So there we were, sitting on the edge of the pool with the sun in our faces and a glass of cold champagne in our hands. What could be more perfect than that? 🙂

We stayed there for another drink and enjoyed the lively music before going back to the cabin to get ready for dinner. Tonight was smart-casual dress code so it didn’t take too long. Then, after an excellent meal as ever, we took our ‘usual’ seats in the Palladium theatre for tonight’s performance, which was the Macdonald Brothers, two Scottish singers who had come fourth in the X-Factor in 2006. They really were very good and we enjoyed their show a lot.

Then it was along to the Rising Sun for the quiz as usual, before returning to our cabin for the night. Tomorrow would see the first of another five full days at sea.

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