Train to Travel Inn to Thomas Cook

When we woke up this morning we found we were not in our own bed.  The reason?  We’d travelled down last night on the train from Durham to Manchester Airport, where we’d spent the night in a very comfortable room at the Premier Travel Inn in order to be at the airport for our morning flight to Bridgetown, Barbados, where we were going to join the Braemar for a Caribbean cruise and transatlantic voyage.   🙂

Our pre-booked taxi arrived on the dot of 06:50 hours and it was only a 10 minute ride to Terminal 1 of the airport.  Inside, we joined the queue for the charter Thomas Cook flight courtesy of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. The queue moved fairly quickly and we were able to get rid of our suitcases before passing the time until our flight was called.  The next time we’d see our bags would be in our cabin on board the Braemar.  🙂

We decided to go, as we always do, to the Executive Lounge to pass an hour or so before we had to make our way to Gate 32.  The airport was very busy with excited holiday-makers and business people despite the early hour and, when we got to the Aspire lounge, we discovered a long queue (what?!) and found they were full up and turning people away.  The same thing happened at the Escape Lounge.  We’ve never experienced this at Manchester before; being Priority Pass card holders we’ve always just walked straight in.

Feeling a bit deflated, we went along to find a bar/eaterie that didn’t have a long queue.  (!)  We eventually settled on a small Mexican-style bar and I had a Sol beer and a plate of nachos for breakfast.  By the time we’d finished it was time to start making our way to Gate 32 and our charter plane.

We didn’t have long to wait before boarding the Airbus A330 aircraft.  We were given an aisle seat and it was a fairly modern aircraft with ample leg room.  We had a flight of eight hours 20 minutes to get through, but the beauty of this cruise is that we would only need to fly one way!  Yes!  We get the long, boring flight over with at the start of our holidays and sail home in comfort on the Braemar.  We have done several west-bound transatlantic crossings before, but this would be the first east-bound one.

The time passed in its usual slow, inexorable way, and eventually it was time for us to fasten our seat belts for the final approach into Sir Grantley Adams International Airport, Bridgetown, Barbados.  I was just SO excited as I love the Caribbean and it was great to be away from cold, rainy, dull Britain.  🙂

As the aircraft touched down, we could see the familiar blue skies and azure seas of Barbados.  We love it here; in fact this is our eighth visit.  Who could ever tire of Barbados?  🙂

The plane ground to a halt and, in our excited and anticipatory state, it seemed an age before the doors were open and the passengers began to disembark.  We walked down the steps into the usual blast of tropical heat, softened only slightly by a gorgeous sea breeze.  We made our way across the tarmac to the waiting buses; one great thing about the charter flights is that you totally bypass immigration and security; these buses would take us straight to the ship.  🙂

The bus set off through the familiar little villages and clusters of houses, with here and there a tantalising glimpse of the sparkling Caribbean sea, edged with white sand and fringed with coconut palms and other exotic trees and plants.  Despite our tiredness and the slight jet-lag which follows a long-haul flight, we felt quite euphoric and looked forward so much to our impending cruise.  We love the Braemar; we have cruised on her twice before – to the Amazon in 2011 and the Cape Verde islands and western Africa in 2014.  We were so excited to be back!  🙂

After 45 minutes or so, we arrived at the Port of Bridgetown at about 3.30pm and the bus took us straight to the embarkation building.  As Braemar is only a small ship with around 900 passengers, we didn’t have to queue for too long, and soon we had our cruise cards and happily made our way up the gang-plank and back on board.

We have been allocated cabin # 3074, a twin-bedded outside cabin on Deck 3.  We usually have a balcony when we’re on the Braemar, but with a transatlantic voyage we know from experience that the weather can be quite unpredictable (and colder the closer we get to Blighty), so this time we just settled for the outside stateroom.

Cabin # 3074 looked very comfortable; there were two portholes with a bed under each one, an armchair, dressing table and stool, TV, hairdryer and bathroom with a shower stall.  It was made all the more inviting because, as Gold Oceans Club members, we received a welcome gift consisting of a jute goody bag containing tempting eatables such as gourmet crisps, a savoury nut selection, chocolate, salted caramel and other delights.

As our suitcases had not yet arrived, we dumped our bags and hot-footed it up to the pool deck for a couple of freezing cold beers in the sunshine.  They really went down a treat and we had time for one more each before we had to make our way to the Morning Light pub for lifeboat drill.

The mandatory formalities over, our time was now our own and we could begin our holiday in earnest.  🙂

Tonight there was no dress code and no set dining times/tables as people would not necessarily have received their luggage.  So we just wandered along to the Thistle Restaurant for about 7.00pm, where we shared our table with a very pleasant lady called Pam and her daughter Kathryn.

The meal was excellent, as we have come to expect on Fred Olsen cruises.  I enjoyed marinated herrings to start with, followed by a deliciously-tender calf’s liver and onions, and finally a crème caramel, all washed down with a nice rosé wine and finished with a glass of amaretto.  Yum yum!

After dinner we went back to our cabin and discovered that our cases had arrived, so we spent some time hanging everything up neatly and folding clothing into drawers and shelves ready for the coming lazy, gorgeous days.  🙂

There was no entertainment in the main Neptune Lounge show lounge tonight, because the Braemar was remaining in port overnight, and a lot of people would be ashore.  So we just pottered around the ship and finished up in the Coral Club so we could take part in the quiz at 9.45pm.  There were only two of us in the team, and we scored 12/15, not enough to win (the winners got 13).

By this time we were starting to flag a bit, as 10.00pm is 2.00am back home, so we made our way back to cabin # 3074 and settled down for a good night’s sleep.  So ended our first night back on the fabulous Braemar.   🙂

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