Boudicca in Belfast

We woke up feeling quite sad this morning, as tonight would be our last night on the Boudicca on what had been an absolutely awesome cruise.  😦

Looking out of our portholes we could see land ahoy, and knew that we were just off the coast of Ireland.  We were due to dock at the Stormont Wharf, Belfast around 1.00pm this afternoon.

After our breakfast we returned to 4125 where I got showered, blow-dried my hair and got dressed, before we reluctantly started our packing.  We threw anything into the case that we knew we wouldn’t need until we got home, then spent some time pottering around up on deck before going to the lounge outside the Heligan Restaurant to trade in the 31 prize tokens we had won for goodies.  In total, we got a USB powerpack (a portable phone or Kindle charger), a mirrored handbag compact, a coaster and a keyring.

We passed the time pleasantly until it was 11.00am, when we went along to the Neptune Lounge to listen to a presentation called “The Road to Westminster” which was being given by Michael Brotherton, one of our quiz team members.  Michael used to be an MP so he gave a fascinating and amusing talk about some of the interesting people he had met in his illustrious career.  The dates he gave meant that his age must have been 85, and he certainly didn’t look it at all.

After the talk, which took us nicely to lunchtime, we saw that the Boudicca was going sedately up the Belfast Lough, and indeed in the distance we could see the iconic yellow shipbuilding gantry cranes, ‘Samson’ and ‘Goliath’, famous relics of the Belfast shipbuilders Harland & Wolff.  As we collected our lunches from the self-service buffet in the crowded Heligan Restaurant, I sent a text message to my cousin Alan to tell him we should be docked by about one o’clock, and he replied to say they were on their way.  Yay!  I was really looking forward to it as we hadn’t seen them for a couple of years, and always have a great time in their company.  🙂

After lunch we returned to our cabin and got sorted out as we wanted to be one of the first people off the ship, the instant the gang-plank was installed.  We then went up on Deck 7 to watch the Boudicca glide into port.  As we did so, I received another text from Alan to say that they were dockside, waiting for us.  He said he could see the ship coming, and when I said we were just underneath Lifeboat #3, he said he could see us!  Just then Trevor shouted “There they are!”, and pointed to Alan and his brother-in-law Adam (husband of my other cousin Brenda)  Everyone was waving madly as we took photos, and we were excited to be back in Belfast.  My mother was from Belfast and her sister Irene (my aunt) was the mother of Alan and Brenda.

Once the Boudicca slid into her berth we shot away down to Deck 4 to where the gangway would be, and were one of the first ones there.  It seemed to take ages, while the queue slowly grew longer, and Alan kept texting me to tell me what was going on dockside, such as they’re placing the gang-plank, installing the hand-rail etc.

Finally, nearer to 1.30pm, the doors opened and we could disembark.  We met up with Alan and Adam and they took us around the corner to Alan’s Jeep, where his wife Margaret was also waiting.  Unfortunately Brenda had had to go into work today so would not be able to come; that was a shame.  Nevertheless here we all were, and we didn’t have to be back on board the Boudicca until 6.30pm.

We set off out of the docks and along the streets, where our first stop would be for a brief look around Belfast Castle and its manicured gardens.  Belfast Castle is set on the slopes of Cavehill Country Park in a prominent position 400 feet (120 m) above sea level. Its location provides unobstructed views of the city of Belfast and Belfast Lough.  We could see the Boudicca moored up in the distance.

The castle was really elegant and is often used to host weddings and corporate events.  In the gardens are hidden nine cats for children to find; some of them are stone statues, some portrayed in mosaic and some in topiary.

After our visit to the castle we decided to do what we always do when we come to Belfast, go and have a few pints in a pub along the Shankill Road.  For this purpose we chose the Mountainview Tavern, where we’ve been several times before; a lively establishment which shows live football.

We went in and ordered five pints of beer and sat and talked and laughed and enjoyed ourselves.  I was tickled pink by the fact that this is our 40th cruise; we have travelled all over the world, 80 countries over all seven continents, and on this cruise we had been to the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland, seen glaciers, icebergs, whales and the Aurora Borealis, but somehow here we were drinking pints in a pub on the Shankill Road, Belfast. 😀

We exchanged stories and anecdotes and had a great time, as only true family and friends can, and the hours winged by.  All too soon the time inched closer to 5.30pm, when Alan said we’d have to leave to make sure we got back through the Bank Holiday traffic in good time.

We arrived back at the Boudicca just after 6.00pm, and said our thanks and goodbyes, kisses and hugs, then made our way up the gangplank, waving enthusiastically until Alan and Adam were out of sight.  What a great day it had been, and we still had the evening to enjoy.  🙂

We got changed in record time to make it to the Tintagel Restaurant for first sitting at 6.15pm.  Willie and Lynn were there, but not Doug and Sue.  We enjoyed the ‘last supper’ washed down with wine (on top of the three pints of beer and two glasses of wine I’d had in the Mountainview!).  At around seven o’clock the Boudicca slipped her moorings and was on her way again, next stop Liverpool.  After dinner we went back to our cabin to do some more packing, as I didn’t want to leave too much until the last minute.

We then went to the Neptune Lounge to procure our seat for the final evening’s performance by the Boudicca Show Company, called “Musical Jukebox” which was as good and original as ever.  Then we got our quiz paper and waited for the rest of our team to arrive.

Presently we were joined by Steve, Julia and David and Lorna.  We called our team “Cruise-day, Booze-day & Back to Work on Tuesday”.  We didn’t win; in fact we didn’t even make it to the tie-breaker, but we still enjoyed a bottle of cava because David and Lorna had won one previously that they hadn’t drank, so they kindly shared it with us.  Shortly afterward Marilyn arrived and enjoyed a glass too, and we all toasted the success of our quiz teams during the cruise (and during a slow start).  I was trying to push away the depressing thought from my head that tomorrow we would be homeward bound.  😦

As we were so busy drinking and enjoying the banter, we hardly noticed when the show company’s second performance started, but we stayed in our seats and sat through the show a second time.  Then we finished the evening off, and had a final (free!) drink up in the Lido Lounge before the inevitable moment when we would have to return to cabin 4125 for the night, finish our packing and put the suitcases out for collection, effectively signalling the end of our cruise.  😦

That was it, then.  We got into bed, set our alarm for 7.30am, and slept soundly.  When we woke up the next morning we were already in Liverpool, right back where we started from.

Another fantastic and very different cruise had come to an end.  Can’t wait until the next one!

 

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