Scenic Scottish Cruising

After an excellent night’s sleep, we woke up around 8 o’clock and went out on the balcony to see what the weather was like.  We were met with the sight of grey skies and grey sea and the temperature was certainly a lot cooler than you would expect for the end of July. At least it wasn’t raining.

We decided to go to the Lido buffet for breakfast.  Tonight would be the first formal night and it is a tradition on Fred ships, on formal nights, to put bottles of cava out with the breakfast fruits juices so you can make yourself a Buck’s Fizz.  When we got to the buffet we had to put our hands in the “car wash”, then we were shown to a table for two.  When we went to get our morning orange juice we were most disappointed to see that there was no cava to be seen anywhere, and we hoped it wasn’t the start of the little bits of cutbacks we have noticed that many cruise lines have started to implement.  We did find out later that waiters were going around with cava and Buck’s Fizz in the main restaurant, so it made sense that they wouldn’t have the bottles in the buffet where they would be handled by many passengers. 😊

Once we’d finished breakfast we thought we’d have a wander around on deck.  We could see many small islands with the wonderful rugged landscape that is the trademark of Scotland.  Lots of yachts and small boats were around, and we could hear the cries of the seabirds. We weren’t going very fast, maybe only about seven or eight knots, and today the time would be spent doing Scenic Cruising.   Our “Daily Times” event/activities programme informed us there would be a commentary up on deck when we were passing anything interesting, and soon we spotted Duart Castle, a 13th century relic on the Isle of Mull which falls within the council area of Argyll and Bute.  The castle has featured in several film locations, including the 1971 film When Eight Bells Tolls starring Anthony Hopkins.

The less-than-ideal weather over our view of Duart Castle, on the Isle of Mull

The commentator told us we were in the Sound of Mull, which we also visited on our fabulous Scottish cruise on the Glen Tarsan in May.  We just wished the weather would improve; a bit of sunshine makes such a huge difference.

We walked the full length of the Borealis from stern to bow, and went to the topmost deck to explore. As we were strolling along, the Borealis suddenly gave a loud blast of her foghorn which made me jump.  I must admit though, I love the sound of ships’ horns, it adds a bit of excitement and a sense of occasion to whatever is going on.  😊

At 11 o’clock we went into the Neptune Lounge to listen to a talk entitled “Life in the 1950s”.  I wasn’t around in the 1950s (but Trevor was, as he was born in 1952) but it was still very interesting and, at times, amusing to see old news footage, clips from 1950s TV programmes and 1950s adverts, as well as the music of the times.  A nice little interlude which brought us nicely up to lunchtime.

This time we decided to go and eat up at the Poolside, which offers light bites.  I had a delicious Salade Niçoise with fresh tuna steak, washed down with a pint of cold Heineken and followed by fresh fruit salad and cashew cream.

Afterwards we just pottered around the ship, watched the passing scenery (we were now passing through the Small Isles) and decided to have a look in the shops to see if there were any bargains.  Immediately I spotted some neat little linen jackets embroidered with pink and blue flowers and green leaves. The jackets were just edge-to-edge and simply fastening with one hook and eye at the top.  I tried one on and it was perfect, and only 45 quid, less our 5% Oceans discount, so I was well pleased with my purchase.  The lady at the counter said they had sold a lot of those jackets, so I may experience that slightly cringeworthy moment where I pass someone else dressed exactly the same as I am!  😊

The embroidered linen jacket I bought

Back in our cabin we went out on our balcony with the binoculars that had thoughtfully been placed in our room, and had a good look around.  We could see that the Borealis was not far off the Isle of Staffa and the famous Fingal’s Cave; in fact we could see the entrance to the cave.  It was a pity that they weren’t offering RIB tours into the cave as we would have liked to have seen it.  Maybe they decided it was too difficult to be socially-distanced whilst on a RIB, but once again it was a case of Covid-19 sticking its oar in and reminding us that, whilst we were cruising and having a great time, some things were still not going to be the same for a quite a while yet.

Fingal’s Cave and the isle of Staffa

On this subject, we noticed that there was not going to be the usual Captain’s Cocktail Party before our first-sitting dinner. We usually love these parties; everyone is dressed to impress and we meet the captain and the officers on the way into the Neptune Lounge, where a live band is playing and waiting staff flit about holding their trays of cava, sherry, G&T and red and white wine aloft.

I love the formal evening and dressing up, and I wore a full length black velvet off-the-shoulder evening dress, with sky high heels, while Trevor looked splendid in his dinner suit, crisp white shirt and dark blue bow-tie and cummerbund.  On our way to the dining room my dress received many compliments and, while I have many newer evening dresses, this one is an old favourite which has served me on many a cruise, and I always feel really glamorous when wearing it.  😊

In the Borealis Restaurant we joined Brian and Alison, Dorothy and George for another excellent repast; I enjoyed a scrumptious filet mignon for my main course and tried hard not to eat or drink too much (was it my imagination or were my clothes feeling tighter already, and this is only Day 2, ha ha).  😊

After dinner we hotfooted it along to the Neptune Theatre where Captain Victor Stoica was going to introduce his senior officers to us.  We remembered this captain from the Balmoral in 2019, and there was also another officer we recognised; Chief Officer Stefan Ravneng (or Staff Captain as he is now known) who we knew from the Boudicca and the Braemar.  It’s amazing how often you come across staff (and even passengers) who you’ve met on other FO ships, but I suppose, with only four ships in the fleet, it’s not so uncommon.

While we were sitting there, the waiting staff came around with the freebie drinks, so it was a little bit more like the welcome cocktail parties that we know and love.  😊

It was a fantastic show tonight!  It was called “Hits from the Flix” and featured the Borealis Theatre company singing and dancing to some of the most iconic songs from the movies, including a superb medley from Les Misérables.  The colourful costumes were wonderful and you could tell, from the enthusiastic applause and cheers from the audience at the end, that everyone had thoroughly enjoyed it.

As we were leaving the theatre around 9.30pm, the “bing bong” of the PA system made everyone stop, and the captain’s voice came over the loudspeaker, apologising for making such a late announcement.  He advised us that the Borealis would be making an unscheduled stop in Greenock tomorrow morning to disembark two crew members who had tested positive for Covid-19 during routine testing; all other crew members who’d been in close contact with them would also disembark.  Oh dear!  The captain went on to reassure us that as the crew members in question did not have contact with the passengers, we had nothing to worry about, and no further precautions were deemed necessary at this stage.

After this slightly-worrying news, we proceeded straight to the Morning Light to do the trivia quiz, where we were joined once again by Sid and Carol.  We scored an appalling 9/15 but the winning team only got 10, so we weren’t so bad after all.  😊

After Sid and Carol said their goodnights, we decided to go up to the Crow’s Nest for a nightcap.  The resident band there, Funky Blue, were in full swing, playing and singing some dance-floor filling hits, and several people got up (maskless!) and hit the dance floor, the lady at the next table persuading me to get up as well.  Despite the captain’s earler announcement there was little evidence of any social distancing and I was quite surprised that none of the staff came round and asked us to wear our masks or keep our distance.  In any case, the hygiene on board is exemplary, and we’ve all been double-jabbed; we’re probably safer on board the Borealis than we are in our local Co-op store! We enjoyed ourselves in the Crow’s Nest, enjoying a couple more drinks before making our way back to 6176 to enjoy another good night’s sleep on the briny.  Yes!  It is just so amazing to be back, and tomorrow we had another fantastic sea-day to look forward to.  😊

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