WG’s 21st Cruise, Part Five

Wednesday 21st June – At Sea

I woke shortly after five, took one look at the clock and went back to sleep, that is far too early to wake up on a sea day! My next look at the clock was in broad daylight and it showed 07:10. That’s more like it! I washed and dressed and decided I had time to write up a bit of yesterday’s cruise diary before breakfast. So, I got on with it only to find when I next looked at my travel clock it read 07:58 so off for breakfast I went. Going down in the lift I glanced at my watch, and it showed ten past six! Now I wondered which was right. As I walked through the ship’s atrium there is a clockface projected on the floor and it showed 08:01 so something was wrong with my watch.

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Sunrise at sea.
© WorthingGooner 2023, Going Postal

Once I joined a sharing table for eight, I surreptitiously glanced at the lady sitting next to me’s watch, which said 08:05 so I quickly adjusted mine. I had eaten with three on the table before and one of them was the woman who never stops talking! However, I was sat between a very pleasant lady from Northern Ireland and a black American man who I quickly learned had only joined the ship in Barcelona yesterday and was leaving in Vigo tomorrow after giving a lecture on Motown and reggae today. Neither are my favourite musical genre so I don’t think I will bother attending.

Today I had my usual Rice Krispies but I just fancied fried eggs and bacon, so I requested that with some fried bread. The fried eggs that turned up had runny whites and were on toast, so they went back without being touched. Runny egg white is disgusting, I would rather have a hard yolk. The replacements were good, and the little toast girl brought me my square toast and the Irish lady was impressed that it arrived without being asked for. After breakfast I walked back past the projected clock and my watch seem to be keeping the right time, I hope it was only a glitch.

A nice easy day at sea today, nothing to do but sit in the sun, read a book, sleep and eat, a perfect day. As lunchtime approached, I pondered where to go and what to have. I am still not hugely hungry after last night’s big meal, so I settled on a hotdog. The chef was busy churning out burgers, both beef and chicken varieties and there were no hotdogs ready, so I asked for one and it arrived seconds later with a pile of fried onions and french fries fresh from the fryer. I added a generous serving of blood sauce, and I had a perfect snack lunch.

Back to the cabin for the afternoon as the sun was on the balcony and a bit more sitting in the sun reading, occasionally retreating to the shade and the occasional viewing of the back of my eyelids. The afternoon shot by, and it was soon time to get ready for my evening meal. A shave and a shower woke me up nicely.

Unusually, I was on a table for six this evening right by the double-height windows at the rear of the ship, that gave a magnificent view over the ship’s wake. Tonight, I started with French onion soup which the menu said came with cheesy croutons. Well, I was in for a surprise as in the bowl of soup was a floating disc of what I can only describe as cheese on toast. Combined with the soup it was delicious but not at all what I was expecting! Next I chose roast leg of lamb – North African style. That meant it came with an apricot and was a little spicy, but very, very, tasty. After two surprises I had plain old vanilla ice cream for my dessert, before heading off to the Crows Nest.

Thursday 22nd June – Cadiz

The vibrations from the ship’s side thrusters woke me at about six-fifteen this morning as the ship did a 180° turn in Cadiz harbour so that it was pointing out to sea. I lay in bed and watched the sun come up to reveal a beautiful morning with not a cloud to be seen. I read for a short while, I now reading a Nick Stone thriller by Andy McNab. At seven thirty the announcement was made that we were now secure and free to go ashore. Not for me before I have my breakfast. The TV in the cabin says it is already 25°C and it’s not even eight o’clock.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
© WorthingGooner 2023, Going Postal

I headed to breakfast and was placed on a table for eight, three who I had breakfasted with before, three I hadn’t and an empty place. I had my standard bowl of Rice Krispies and a mushroom omelette and a couple of slices of bacon. My little toast girl seems to have been promoted to a commie waiter today, but she waved to me across the room and had a word with one of the people doing the toast round this morning and my ‘square toast’ arrived without me saying a word. Two of the people who I hadn’t eaten with before were most impressed. It turned out they were first-time cruisers and were loving the experience. So, I explained that there were things you could ask for that were not on the menu, like ‘square toast’, ‘thick toast’, non-dairy butter (margarine), omelettes, boiled eggs, even honey and marmite.

The girl asked if she could have honey on her porridge and a separate bowl duly arrived, much to her delight, while her husband asked for two soft-boiled eggs and slices of bread so he could make soldiers. As I left the table after breakfast they thanked me saying that no one had told them any of the ‘extras’ available and they would be making the most of them on their last few cruising days.

I went back to the cabin for my cap as the forecast is for continuous sun today and I wandered ashore for a mosey around. We are on a peninsula and where we are docked you only must walk a short distance across the tarmac and out through the dock gates and you are in the town. At this point it is only perhaps seven or eight streets wide until you get to the other side of the peninsula. Across the road and you come to a roundabout and another twenty yards and you are in a beautiful park. As most of the shops and bars are down the peninsula past the park and don’t open until after ten, I found a shady park bench and enjoyed a period of people-watching.

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The peninsula from Deck 18.
© WorthingGooner 2023, Going Postal

About 10:30 I wandered on to the shops and indulged in a bit of window shopping. I then found a bar and had a cold beer under an awning and did a bit more people-watching. Another beer later I thought I better move as the tables were starting to be laid for lunch. I strolled back to the ship where I realised I hadn’t taken a single photo while on my perambulations. So, I head up to Deck 16 for a burger by an almost deserted pool before heading up to Deck 18 to take a couple of panoramic photos to show you lot what a nice city Cadiz is.

I think it’s an afternoon on the balcony, where there is now some shade as well as sun. I must get on with my book. I awoke with a start, I was now in the sun and a little warm, so I swapped to the other chair, that was now in full shade. It was all aboard at 16:30 and we sailed for Southampton at 17:00. Another casual dress evening tonight so I shave, shower and change into one of my more flamboyant shirts. I was on a table for eight this evening with people I had not dined with before. I decided on a combination of some of my favourite selections from the ‘always on’ section of the menu, so it was tomato soup; a medium rare sirloin steak and chips; and ice cream for dessert, which I enjoyed immensely. For some unknown reason the Crows Nest was very quiet this evening which suited me down to the ground!

Friday 23rd June – At Sea

When I woke it was just getting light and I was conscious that the ship was moving a tiny bit, just enough for the additional wire coat hangers in the second, unused, wardrobe to be rattling a bit. As the eastern horizon turned orange with the sun coming up, I decided it was time to get up and dressed. Breakfast was on a sharing table for eight with three people I have breakfasted with on several occasions. One being the woman who just never stops talking.

I had my usual bowl of Rice Krispies, but today I followed it with two poached eggs on toast and of course my buttered square toast and several cups of coffee. I even remembered to take my pills down to breakfast with me, but I forgot to take them! So, it’s back to the cabin to take them with some tinned water.

Despite it being forecast as a pleasantly warm and sunny day it has suddenly become a little cloudy. I hope this is just a cloudy patch we are passing through as I want to sit out and read or possibly write a bit of Jinnie’s Story. As I lay in bed last night, I was planning the next chapter, but I fell asleep before I had completed it! Still, I have the general outline of where the tale is going, it’s just working out the details of how it gets there!

The wind whistled loudly as I slid the balcony door open, not encouraging! Still, I managed to sit in the corner out of the wind, which is apparently the natural breeze and the extra generated by our doing 20 knots straight into it! Tucked in the corner out of it was pleasant enough, but as we ran out of the cloudy patch and back into the sun it became quickly warm. I finished my book and navigated my way through the Kindle Library for another of the books I had downloaded to it before leaving home. Found the next in the Nick Stone series and made a start on that before lunch.

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We went past this Container Ship like it was standing still.
© WorthingGooner 2023, Going Postal

It’s the second and final Formal Night this evening so I decided to take it a bit easier on the number of french fries with my burger at lunch. The guy behind the counter tends to give you a mountain and today he seemed personally offended when I asked for a half portion of fries. The little boy behind me was having a big slice of pizza and he got the remainder of my chips. His dad looked on in amazement as the pizza was buried under the chips, but the little boy’s eyes lit up!

Back to my cosy corner for the afternoon, but first I find a note in the cubbyhole outside my door. It is a voucher for a free drink with dinner tonight from the P&O Peninsula Club. I have the choice of what is described as “a glass of fizz” (probably prosecco or cava), elderflower presse (no thanks), a glass of red or white house wine, a soft drink or a fruit Juice. I somehow think it will be the house white. I will report on its quaff-ability later. While at lunch a few white horses have appeared in the sea but have not implicated the ship’s stability one iota. I think I will have a bash at writing a bit more Jinnie, she has been neglected while I have been at sea.

I have managed a full chapter of Jinnie’s story and it is a long one, over 4,000 words and it’s now shave and shower time before getting into my posh gear for tonight’s ‘Black Tie’ dinner. I am placed on a table for eight with seven people who I have never met on the cruise. As it’s a formal night it is an enhanced menu so I have taken a photo so you can all tell me I made a poor choice of grub. I started with the amuse-bouche, which was peppered mango juice. Then for my starter I had the buttered asparagus and soft-boiled hen’s egg. I really don’t know where they find such small eggs! Then it was cream of cauliflower soup which was made extra special with the black truffle. I decided on the duo of beef and lamb fillets, and they were exceptional. Everyone else on the table went for baked banana dessert but I hate bananas, so it was the coffee and vanilla ice cream for me. Over coffee the conversation turned to one of the favourite cruise topics of conversation and an old Scotsman with a broad accent said he lived in the Midlands but had originally come from Renfrew. Having worked for Babcock, who had a massive factory in Renfrew, it was a place I had often visited, and we chatted about that for a while.

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The black-tie menu.
© WorthingGooner 2023, Going Postal
WorthingGooner, Going Postal
The black-tie menu.
© WorthingGooner 2023, Going Postal

Suddenly the man sitting next to me said that he had worked for Redpath Dorman Long, who made and constructed structural steel, and they had subcontracted to Babcock on numerous projects. He asked me if I knew anyone from the Babcock Structures Group and it turned out that we had many colleagues in common. All I can say is that it is a small world.

Saturday 24th June – At Sea

The last full day of the cruise has dawned with calm sea and a clear blue sky, which is just what you want in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. Today is packing day and I collect the duty-free rum I have already paid for. But those are jobs for after breakfast.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Another lovely sunrise.
© WorthingGooner 2023, Going Postal

I am led to a table for eight right at the back of the ship by the windows overlooking the ship’s wake. Of course, I have only been there moments when ‘Mrs Mouthy’ is shown to the table, I tried to hide my disappointment and fortunately she chooses a seat on the opposite side of the table and a man I have breakfasted with before, a retired RAF officer, slides in beside me and while Mouthy is getting her coffee whispers, “Are we both avoiding her?” It’s Rice Krispies again followed by two poached eggs on toast. Mr RAF has a huge bowl of porridge which he pours loads of honey on. He says it’s his version of a healthy breakfast!

Now it’s time to start packing, going home is so much easier, everything will be going in the washing machine, so it doesn’t need folding, only throwing in the case. I am partway through packing and fancy a break, so I decided to go and pick up the expensive bottle of rum I paid for earlier. This is a treat to myself; I am not usually a rum drinker, but this is distilled on board and is damn good. On the way to the shops, I pop into the ship’s sweet shop and get an overpriced giant Toblerone to go with the LGND’s cuddly penguin, she is a chocoholic and together with her mum, they will consume it in no time at all.

To get to the booze pick-up point, I must walk through the perfume and aftershave outlets. I wonder if there is anything I can treat myself to? I have only been browsing for seconds when I am pounced on by an assistant asking, “Are you looking for something in particular, Sir?” I answered “No” and he asks, “What do you like?” I reply, “Eau Savage and Givenchy Gentlemen”. He grabs a tester and sprays on my right forearm saying, “This is very like Givenchy and is a bargain at £102 a bottle!” I turn my nose up more at the price than the smell, but he moves on, “Perhaps Sir would prefer this?” He sprays it on my left forearm says, “This is only £185 a bottle but you get 20% off a second purchase.”

Well, I hated it and wouldn’t have given you £1.85 for it, so I made my excuses and scarpered smelling strongly of two different aftershaves. Anyway, I picked up the rum and made for the cabin to try to wash the pong away. I have had little success and despite the application of copious amounts of soap and water I can still smell the aftershaves. Dare I venture out for a hotdog? Perhaps a liberal application of fried onions to my arms will disguise the smells!

For my last evening meal, I was on a table with seven people I had neither eaten breakfast or dinner with but in general a decent group and we chatted and laughed a lot. I started with good old tomato soup, an excellent standby when I don’t really fancy any of the other starters. Beef consommé was also on the menu, and it was a toss-up which I picked. One man on the table chose it and when it arrived said to his wife, “This beef soup is a bit thin and watery.” If I’d chosen it and it had not been almost clear, I would have complained!

For my main I had tiger prawns which were served with a type of pasta I had never had before, tiny beads of pasta in a tomato sauce. It also came with garlic toast and a small braised onion and was one of the best dishes of the cruise. For dessert I had chocolate and hazelnut cake which came with soft meringue. But of course, I had to order vanilla ice cream with it. The man sitting next to me said to the waiter, “I’ll have the same,” and then said to me, “This is the last day of my third cruise, and I didn’t know you could do that.” Of course, I had to finish my last evening meal with a coffee before heading to the Crows Nest.

I settled in one of their nice comfy chairs, ordered a Vodka and lemonade and prepared to watch the sun go down when the Mouthy Woman from breakfast sat in one of the spare chairs at my table. That was too much for me, I quickly finished my drink and made the excuse I still had packing to do! My case was in fact packed, and only needed to be put outside the cabin door before 2 am but I retired to my cabin and read my Kindle. The clocks go back to U.K. time at 2 am so it’s an extra hour’s sleep.

Sunday 25th June – Southampton.

I woke up at 05:30 with the ship plodding up the Solent. I watched the sun coming up and realised my body clock was still on European time and thought it was 06:30. So I had a little read of my Kindle. There was no point in getting up yet, the restaurant doesn’t open for breakfast until 07:30 and my disembarkation time is not until 09:55. Got up just after 07:00 and checked my case had been picked up, it had. The final onboard account was in the cubbyhole by my door. I owe P&O £39 over my cabin credit. I am happy with that, and they will take it directly using my debit card.

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Sunrise over the Solent.
© WorthingGooner 2023, Going Postal

I had my final breakfast of Rice Krispies and two poached eggs on toast before returning to my cabin to empty my safe and pick up my hand baggage. At just before 08:00 I found a seat in ship’s atrium on Deck 7 and settled down with my Kindle to read until my disembarkation time when I was supposed to meet in the Headliners Theatre. I was happily engrossed in my book when a female officer approached me and said, “If you would like to disembark early sir, the queues are very short and you can go now.” I glanced at my watch 09:25 so I grabbed my hand luggage and made for the exit.

It was true, the queue to leave the ship and reach the luggage reclaim hall, where they lay out the suitcases by deck was tiny. However, the queues to go through customs stretched almost the full length of the hall. As you entered the hall the first lot of luggage was Deck 16, I needed Deck 9 way down the hall, so I made my way there. I quickly found my suitcase and joined the top end of the queue. Then it was straight through a customs hall, without a single Border Farce man in sight. I guess they were all in Dover helping bring over boat people.

Out and across the road to the hut to collect my car keys, ‘It’s parked in lane L1 sir,’ right at the far end of the car park. A long walk, but at least it’s near the exit. I find the car and load the bags, in the front there is half a bottle of Tango orange, definitely not mine, so it goes out of the car door. Then I put the radio on and it’s tuned to Radio 4! That gets changed quickly. The man who parked the car had odd tastes!

It’s just 10 am as I leave the car park and it’s a good run home and 11:07 when I park on my drive. That’s the earliest I have got home from a cruise docking at Southampton. Anyway, I start unpacking and find the LGNDs cuddly penguin and Toblerone, so I take it round. She is delighted, and it’s decided it’s a girl penguin and will be called Lila. While I have been away, she has been on a school trip to the Wetlands Trust at Arundel and says it was fun, but she has a 10-part activity sheet to fill in. Activity 5 is feed the birds. So I told her that the birds have emptied my bird feeder while I was away and she can help me fill it. She and mummy are going to come and help fill the feeders tomorrow after school. But that’s another story!

© WorthingGooner 2023