Beer and Chocs and Men in Frocks

We woke up this morning around 8.30am and looked out of our window to see what the weather was like.  There was a lot of cloud but at least it wasn’t raining!  The Balmoral was making her way along the scenic Western Scheldt River towards Antwerp, and we were due to arrive around lunchtime.

In the meantime, we spent the morning pottering around the ship, looking to see what bargains they had today in the ship’s boutique, and spending the time reading and relaxing.  After our visit to Anne Frank’s house yesterday I’ve downloaded a copy of her famous diary onto my Kindle and I’ve been reading it in between playing games of the very addictive Plants vs Zombies 2.

At around 11 o’clock we returned to our cabin and got dressed a little more smartly to attend the Oceans Club Cocktail Party at 11.15am.  The Oceans Club is the FOCL loyalty programme; passengers get one point for every night spent on a Fred Olsen ship and are graded Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum or Diamond Elite.  Trevor and I are in the Gold category and after this cruise will have 166 nights.  We need 251 to go up to the next level, so it’ll be quite a few years yet!

Once again we enjoyed some canapés and a couple of glasses of fizz, and watched while the entertainment hosts presented the most-travelled passenger on board with a trophy and a bottle of fizz; this couple had over 500 nights on a Fred ship and were in the Diamond Elite category.

This took us nicely up to lunchtime, and we enjoyed a light meal as we watched the Balmoral slowly making her way into port.  As with Amsterdam, everything was walking distance away from the ship, down a fairly steep skywalk.  It was great because we were going to be in port overnight, so there was no need to hurry, no clock-watching or having to be at a particular place at a particular time.

After our lunch we returned to the cabin for a power-nap after our late night last night.  We then decided we’d go ashore for a good look around.  We’d been advised that Antwerp would be very busy today because it was holding the Gay Pride parade, so some of the main roads were closed and there would be lots of visitors.  We timed our trip ashore to coincide with after the parade, because we didn’t want to be caught up in massive crowds.

Nonetheless, it was very busy when we proceeded ashore, but in a nice way, not in a jostling, over-crowded way.  It was hard not to stare at some of the spectacles we came across (although I think the people concerned wanted to be stared at).  There were lots of gay people who were obviously into the “scene” and were dressed in rubber or black leather, or bondage gear; one guy had on a dog collar and lead.  We also saw many cross-dressers in frocks and high heels, with perfect makeup and hair and nails.  A lot of the tourists were politely asking them if they would pose for photographs and selfies, and they were happy to do so with a winsome smile!  😊

We strolled slowly through the charming cobbled streets of this lovely old medieval city, looking at the quaint little shops and the magnificent square with its amazing architecture.  What do you think of when you hear “Antwerp”?  I immediately think of diamonds, and indeed 84% of the world’s mined diamonds pass through Antwerp’s famous diamond district, which is the largest in the world.

In 1998 Trevor and I went to the Belgian F1 Grand Prix at Spa, and our hotel was situated in the Jewish quarter of Antwerp; I certainly remember one street that seemed to contain nothing but diamond shops.

Of course, Belgium is world-famous for three others things; beer, chocolate and lace.  Every other shop seemed to be selling the famous Belgian chocolates and we decided, later on, we’d take some home as presents for people.

We ambled along, taking in the atmosphere and looking agog at the icons of gay culture in their outrageous outfits.  Part of the square was given over to a large makeshift stage from which colourful flashing lights and disco music blared, and many people were enjoying their beer at standing tables and it was a happy party atmosphere.  😊

We only spent about 45 minutes walking around before making our way back to the ship to get washed and changed in time for dinner.  Tonight was just smart-casual attire, so I wore a striking yellow floral dress with matching Poetic Licence shoes.

After dinner we went along to the Neptune Lounge to bag a seat for tonight’s show, which featured magician Rick Green.  We realised we’d seen him before, in January on the Boudicca; he is very, very good and had appeared on Britain’s Got Talent.  Gill and Carl didn’t want to sit at the front in case the magician picked them out, so they sat a few rows back!

Before the show they had the music for dancing, so Trevor and I got up and did a Square Tango again (badly!).  We then followed it with a decent cha cha cha.  They were the only dances we felt confident enough to get up and attempt, because all the other dancers were so perfect and knew every step to every dance.

Rick Green did the performed the same show that he did in January, but even though we’d seen it before we enjoyed watching it a second time.

As usual, we went up to the Observatory to do the quiz, and we were joined by our usual team-mates John and Linda.  Gill and Carl also put in an appearance.  We put up a valiant effort but didn’t win; the worst thing you can do in a quiz is go against your gut instinct regarding an answer, then change your mind, only to find your original answer was correct.  Either that, or 100% know the answer to a question but allow yourself to be overruled by your team-mates.  😊

After the quiz we adjourned to the Lido Lounge where we sat up drinking, talking and laughing until late.  Gill and Carl disappeared off to the late buffet to get a hot drink before bedtime, or in Carl’s case something to eat – he must have hollow legs!  😊

It was after 1.00am when we finally left the Lido and returned to cabin 6009.  We had to be up at 7.30 in the morning to go on a half-day excursion, and we slept very well.

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