Newcastle to Norway

Today we were setting off on another cruise, but there was no getting up at the crack of dawn because we were sailing out of Newcastle, and the Port of Tyne is only about half an hour’s drive from us.  So we were able to spend the morning at our leisure, not having to leave the house until lunchtime.

We parked the car at Howden Sewage Treatment Works (!!) and ordered a Blue Line taxi to take us to the port.  Although a sewage works may seem a strange place to leave the car it made more sense than paying the £10.00 or more per day that the Port of Tyne charges for parking.  As Trevor works for Northumbrian Water, he was able to leave the car in the staff car park, and it was only five minutes in the taxi to the port.

On arrival, our cases were whisked away from us to be taken to the ship, and we joined the queue to check in.

We are spending a week cruising the Norwegian fjords on the M/S Balmoral.  We have been on this ship before, in 2012, so we were looking forward to returning.  We have also been to Norway lots of times before, in summer and in winter, but who could ever tire of Norway?  The fjords are so calm and picturesque, displaying Mother Nature in all her magnificent finery.  We couldn’t wait.

We were called to board around 2.30pm, and we happily made our way up the gangplank to Deck 4 and cabin number 4125, where we found our suitcases already waiting for us.  The cabin is fairly spacious and has a nice big window; the beds are in an L-shape configuration and I chose the bed under the window.  There is also a large dressing table, chest of drawers, loads of wardrobe space and an adequate bathroom with a shower stall.  We have everything we need to enjoy a comfortable voyage.  🙂

After unpacking our cases and putting our clothes away neatly, we decided to go along to the Marquee Bar to enjoy a drink or two.  We are travelling all-inclusive which only costs an extra tenner a day, so after a couple of rounds of drinks the rest is, effectively, free!  We had hoped to be able to sit out on the deck enjoying an ice cold beer before setting sail, but the grey and drizzly Newcastle weather put paid to that.  The weather at home recently has been less than clement, more like March than June.  I have, however, been keeping an eye on the weather in Norway for the last couple of weeks, and it has been five or six degrees warmer in Bergen than it is in Durham, so we hoped it would continue.

At 3.45pm it was time to go to lifeboat drill.  This was different from any other lifeboat drill we’ve ever done (and this is our 39th cruise!) in that we didn’t have to go to our cabin and collect our lifejackets before proceeding to muster station.  All we had to do was go along to our allocated assembly point, listen out for the signal (seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle, followed by one long blast) then watch a demonstration of how to put on the lifejacket.  Quite a lukewarm drill really, but at least it meant it was over quickly and so our time was our own.

At five o’clock I went along to the Spa on Deck 10 for a neck, back and shoulder massage as I had quite a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders.  As I was lying on the table the increased vibrations told me that the ship was getting ready to leave, and indeed the Balmoral gave a blast of her forghorn as we slowly moved away from the dockside and along the River Tyne.  Our cruise had begun.  🙂

The masseuse had fingers of steel and while she did manage to relax my shoulders and get rid of my tension, my back felt like tenderised steak afterwards.

We have been allocated table # 60 in the Ballindalloch restaurant and, at 6.15pm, we made our way there for dinner.  We always ask for a table for six as we enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow passengers, and we arrived to find one other couple already seated there.  They are Colin and Sue who live near Troutbeck in the Lake District, and this is their first cruise.  The other couple didn’t put in an appearance.

We enjoyed their company over an excellent dinner, washed down with a couple of glasses of rosé wine.  We then wandered around the ship for a while before going into the Neptune Lounge to see if there was a show on tonight, but there was only dancing.  One of the dance hosts got me up and tried to teach me a quickstep, but soon discovered I was a lost cause.  We really should learn ballroom dancing, as it seems to be very popular and we would then be able to join in.

Our friend Kath Berry, who we’ve known for over 20 years through our local rambling club is also on this trip.  When she found out we were doing this cruise, she booked to come too.  She has brought a friend with her, Louise, who we hadn’t met before.

On Fred Olsen cruises there is usually an additional cabaret on after the main show, and we therefore went up to the Lido Lounge to watch the Balmoral Show Company’s production of Jukebox, which was a high energy singing and dancing tribute to 60s music.  We also enjoyed a few more glasses of (free!) wine and it was after midnight before we went to bed.

Tomorrow we would spend a day at sea, so we hoped the weather and the North Sea would be kind to us.

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