My Last Posting of the Cruise

Posted: December 6, 2013 in Cruising, P&O, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My last posting of the cruise 😦 – albeit a bit late: the trouble with trying to write the final update is that I’m generally back at work and with a combined 5 hour commute on top of the working day isn’t really conducive to such activities as remembering what happened when in the last two weeks: compounded by the fact that having called at Lisbon on the way home, the last stop, I was to turn around and go back to Lisbon just 5-days later, when the weather was to fantastic; so much so that I was able to eat my lunch on the terrace in a short sleeve shirt. A_n_y_way….

I guess I should start with a warning and an explanation of why I looked a bit different on my return (fatter). I’ll then look back on the cruise overall. Any photos will be added to the gallery in the Places I’ve visited section.

As I write this though I should say that I’m feeling very grumpy because my cruise is over and I’m now pining for the Adonia, Arcadia, Aurora, Oceana or the Oriana. But fear not, in less than 80 days, the Arcadia shall be my new home for a new adventure. Ooohh, I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, back to my new shape: what has happened to me? And why? ….

Well, I do have a theory: and that that is that one of the peculiarities of cruising, especially sea cruising is that the salt-water air has a tendency to reduce the elasticity of one’s clothing thus making them appear and feel so much tighter. I can think of no other explanation, save that of course of over eating, which I find hard to believe.

I do admit, my eating habits have changed, slightly. I still have breakfast, but then I always have done. I still have lunch, but then I always have done. I still have dinner, but then I always have done. I have no other meals, and that’s the truth. But it would be so easy to do otherwise; just take a look at a sample of meal / dining options on board the Oceana:

06:30 - 07:00 - Continental Breakfast;
07:00 - 10:30 – Breakfast;
10:30 - 11:45 – Brunch;
11:00 - 18:00 - Grill food to order;
12:00 - 15:00 – Lunch;
15:00 - 17:00 - Afternoon Snacks;
17:15 - 17:45 - Children's Tea;
18:00 - 21:30 - Buffet Dinner;
18:30 - 22:30 - Restaurant Dinner;
22:30 - 03:30 - Late Snacks;
03:30 – 06:30 – Looks like you fend for yourselves.

There are other options in and amongst these but I suspect that this is enough to give a taster (no pun intended) of the temptations I faced each day and yet I stuck to my three meals a day. So what’s changed, why have I grown so much? Well, the devil is in the detail so lets start with breakfast: normally, it’s toast & marmite; I still have this but now I’m additionally tempted with freely available fried breakfast ingredients such as eggs (fried and/or scrambled), fried bread, mushrooms, beans, liver, black pudding, White Pudding (whatever that is), sausages, bacon, kippers, Corned Beef Hash, Kedgeree, Porridge, Waffles; I think there might also have been fruit and yoghurt! I just can’t help myself and so I find myself doing just that – helping myself to all of it; though I did cut out the liver and black (and white) pudding :-). For lunch, our intention was to always skip lunch but that never happened. For the first few days I would limit myself to just curry, chips and rice, but strictly no dessert. On a couple of occasions, having arrived back from being ashore, it was necessary to use the all afternoon grill and make do with fish & chips (always available and cooked to order), but still no dessert. The last few days however we limited lunch to just a couple of small rolls and just the tiniest smallest cake we could find. For dinner however well, I had no chance. There was a selection of starters; then soups; then the main course; then dessert, which I nearly always skipped; then cheese and biscuits; then petit fours (sweets), all washed down with a nice bottle of wine, followed by a liquor and coffee. Other than this, I think I did rather well, and yet, as with many other passengers, I seem to have put on weight, I know not how much but it feels like a lot: even my next size up (contingency) trousers [with active waistband] feel a little snug.

And to think, I wanted to make the name ‘Podge’ ironic. 🙂

So, what did we / I do to combat this unprovoked attack of apparent gluttony? Well, true to our plans, we did do our 3.2 laps of the Oceana every day we were at sea (except the last day when we did just 2 laps cos I was cold & grumpy). When in a port, we figured that the walking ashore would compensate for the loss of laps on those days. Then of course there was the Gym. I seem to remember buying a shirt from the on-board shop especially to go to the gym and burn off some of the [excess] fat. Well I went down and did 15 minutes on the exercise bike and never went back. I just never seemed to find the time, what with meals, laps, after lap drinks, after lunch drinks, fiveseys, etc. Then of course there’s the shows to see, the quizzes to take part in, the talks on gem stones [for Mrs Me] with free champagne, shopping in the on board shops, meeting with our fellow passengers to exchange stories of the times we had since we last exchanged stories, seeking out ships photographers to get those special photo’s and, listening to the Captains twice daily updates (a particular favourite of Mrs Me). Of course, writing takes up some of my time! Days on a cruise ship are just too damned short.

So, the big questions is; did I enjoy my Birthday Cruise? Of course I did. Possibly, I enjoyed this cruise a little too much and will have to pay a penance [of diet and exercise] when I get home.

The Arrival
The cruise started almost as soon as you arrive at the terminal. As you drive up towards the entrance, people just turn up and take your luggage off of you, somebody takes your car and all you have to do is walk to the check in, make your way through security and onto the ship and cabin, safe in the knowledge that your luggage will arrive as if by magic. So much more civilised than flying.

I have to say, being upgraded to a mini-suite was a great start to the cruise. Not being told until you arrive at the check in was even better. It really was a wonderful surprise, trouble is, both Mrs Me and I want a mini-suite every time now: they just have to be worth the extra money. Then of course there was the welcome bottle of champagne and box of chocolates. Fab. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention, with a mini suite comes five o’clock canapés such as strawberries dipped in chocolate, deep fried prawns or even smoked salmon with caviar. Obviously not altogether: just a different culinary experience each day.

When we booked the cruise, we deliberately selected one with a large number of sea days. This was to ensure that Mrs Me got lots of rest. The plan worked, Mrs Me rested, a lot. Better still, the layout of the cabin was such that she didn’t need to get out of bed to see out of the floor to ceiling window as she was virtually next to it so, while His Podgeness made and delivered the morning tea to Mrs Me she would be able to, and did, just lay there and view whatever island we had arrived at, or simply see the sea. Even on my birthday I made and delivered her tea. But, she’s worth it. And anyway, it allowed me to sit out on ‘my’ balcony and drink my coffee in peace :-).

Places We Visited:
• Madeira;
• La Palma;
• Gran Canaria;
• Lanzarote;
• Lisbon.

Madeira
This is a place we have visited before and having previously taken an excursion to see the island, the lace factories, the churches (the boys loved that bit – not) and of course the Madeira Wine manufacturing and drinking process we elected to do our own thing. Doing our own thing meant walking into the town of Funchal and simply exploring the town, the shops (obviously) and gardens: in particular, the botanical garden which were located at the top of a great big hill: a huge big hill: nay, a mountain. The only way up was by mountain goat, bus, helicopter, donkey, piggy back from Mrs Me or Cable Car. We chose the latter. Well done Mrs Me: I know how you hate heights and I love you even more for doing it. Only trouble is, you spoiled it by making me walk the Botanical Gardens from top to bottom, then she made me walk all the way back up again. Now, if you imagine the Streets of San Francisco all jungleised, narrowed, cobbled and wibbly wobbly, well that was what it was like. Yet I made it and, for somebody with COPD (Codgers Old Puffing Disease) I reckon I did quite well, and what did I get as a reward? One teeny weeny beer. I didn’t make a fuss though, much….. Then, it was the ride back down, you know, down the hill I’d just walked down then back up, by cable car. We might as well have stayed at the bottom of the gardens. But then, we wouldn’t have been able to look down into the houses and windows of everybody as we glided down on the car: I can’t believe how many people leave making their beds so late; tsk, tsk.

La Palma
La Palma, La Palma. Oh La Palma, I [we] just loved La Palma. Having not booked an excursion, we were free to do as we wish, or more accurately as I was told I wished by Mrs Me. So, after a particularly late & lazy, but comprehensive, breakfast we decided to wonder into town, look at the shops: what is it about shops that attracts Mrs Me? I can understand wanting to look at local crafts and the like but she gets really animated if she finds a Zara. Anyway, the first thing we did look for was a fridge magnet: we always try to get one from each port / location we visit (abroad or the UK). It didn’t take long to find a nice little shop full of proper local products including fridge magnets made to reflect the local geography. The shop itself was run by the most wonderful little lady who couldn’t speak a word of English, while we couldn’t speak a word of Spanish and yet she told, and we listened intently, the story of the Island, the story behind the marking on the magnet and so many other things besides. We know this because she kept drawing things on a piece of wrapping paper and taking us through an archeological book about La Palma. We wished we spoke Spanish, we wish she spoke English. We both wished, almost at the same time, we could adopt this woman and take her own. She was so lovely and obviously proud of her shop and products within. And all we bought was the solitary magnet. If you go to La Palms, find the shop.

Moving on we found a bar, what a surprise, and with it being so hot we elected to sit and watch the world go by while imbibing the local beer: Nice. As we looked left and right at all the neighboring bars we noted that every one of them was full of people doing exactly the same as us; and virtually every one of them was from the Oceana.
Thirst quenched, we continued along the front before turning inland to find, wait for it, lots of shops, all in the quaintest of streets where no traffic shall run with many bars set out in the middle of this quaint street and shops that even I approved of, though this have been because of the senoritas running such shops: they were lovely. Ouch, why does my ear hurt again? We continued, with throbbing eat, to browse and even buy things, mainly for Mrs Me, until the shops started to close for the siesta: 13:30 to 17:00 is a pretty good siesta! So, we found another bar whereby we succumbed and took time out for another beer then guess what, the blooming bar shut for its own siesta! Still, at least we got our beers in first. Then, it was back to the ship for a late lunch (fish & chips), a nice Merlot and a bit of a sleep before our traditional five o’clock cocktail (fiveseys).

Gran Canaria
We arrived at Gran Caria, dead on time as usual, but to what was a relatively overcast day with drizzle, sometime mizzle, drifting across the harbour. Interspersed with the sun peaking out from behind the occasional cloud, the rainbow effects, often-double rainbows, were stunning. Looking out from the balcony, they seemed to drop down into the sea directly opposite me: It felt as though I could reach out and touch them.
Gran Canaria was to see our first excursion and one where I thought I had been stitched up. I thought it was a 4-hour shopping trip whereby we are driven to the town and dropped off and left to fend for ourselves until we were picked up again. Oh how wrong I was. Mrs Me had played another blinder and picked out probably the best excursion on offer.

Given the weather conditions, we played safe and took with us coats and brollies, found our coach and of we went for a 50 minute ride across the island to the other side where there was no rain, no clouds, no rainbows, just wall to wall sunshine: I was so glad I wore long trousers, shirt and coat. Within half an hour of arriving at what turned out to be the Little Venice of Gran Canaria we found the most stunning of beaches inhabited by some pretty stunning ladies and some ladies who far less dressed than me. They weren’t even wearing a vest; unfortunately, most of these ones were of the less stunning variety ☹ Ouch, leave my ear alone. I must have looked like Roy Cropper compared to some of these sun-tanned beauties, but did it bother me? Of course not (it did really). Mind you, I did cheer up a bit when we espied a shop offering Fish Pedicures. Have you ever seen a Fish Pedicure? Well, when Mrs Me has one, you don’t see it, you hear it. I’ve never heard I scream like that before (much to my shame ☹, ouch, leave my ear alone). Anyway, to see the look of joy and pleasure on her face (no, I’m not going to say anything), was ab absolute delight.

As we explored the town / marina I quickly realized that this was not a shopping trip, but a visit to one of what must have been one of the most delightful locations on the island. As we wondered round, looking at the boats of all shapes and sizes in the harbour; the yellow submarine [sic] up on the jetty, looking for a suitable bar, we (I) espied a podium dancer. Yep, that’s right a podium dancer, dancing in the open-air in the middle of the afternoon. I simply had to avert my gaze. I really did. Why? Well the podium dancer was dancing along to songs sung by a geriatric Engelbert Humperdinck wannabee (actually, he was quite good); while the podium dance was (I’m guessing) was his geriatric partner dancing ballroom type dances in the bandstand which was in effect a podium. I definitely needed a drink after that. And then , it was time for the coach back to the ship; fish & chips; merlot; snooze then fiveseys.

Lanzarote
Today was the big day, the day that His Podgeness hit 60, years that is. Yay, I proved them all wrong. They all said I wouldn’t make old bones. The vets (sorry, I meant doctors) said I wouldn’t see 50 let alone 60; well here I am, alive and well. So there!

Anyway, as it was my birthday we decided not to commit ourselves to any excursions and deliberately have a quiet morning with a long lazy breakfast before receiving my birthday gifts, and obviously as it was a 60th birthday, such gifts were expected to be special, no cop out presents this time. But I needn’t have worried; Mrs. Me did me proud. I got a lovely shiny mini iMac in the guise of Mac Book Air: it’s lovely and it’s on my Mini iMac that I’m writing this update. I got other things as well but nothing for disclosure here ☺.

After the lazy breakfast and gifting, we went ashore for a walk into town to view the shops and bars. After a 20 minute walk I came to the conclusion that the town of Arrecife was a more than a little bit grotty (I’m sorry Arrecife, but much work is needed). Having said that, it does look as though a great deal of work is being done to the Marina and cruise terminal so the future looks good. Seems like a pretty good excuse to come back, methinks ☺.

Anyway, apart from the suggestion that we went to see the fort on the sea front, because apparently we might be able to see the sea (Wow, how cool would that have been, seeing the sea. Lets face it, we’d seen so little of sea of late!), the trip into town was pretty uneventful. So having avoided the need to see the sea, we made our way back to the ship, stopping at a bar on the way for a couple beers, of course. Having made it to back to the ship, we barely had time to collect our thoughts when it was time for the sail-away and an obligatory glass of champagne ☺. All too soon however, it was time for fiveseys. And so we had to move from the Sun Deck to our Bar aka: The Yacht & Compass. Here we were met by me new girlfriends (ouch, me ear hurts again) who gave me a great big kiss and told the band that it was my birthday and I had sit there while they played Happy Birthday. Time once more for fizzy pop before retiring, though by now, it was no longer my birthday – Boo.

Lisbon
After a whole day at sea, we finally made land again and after heading up the River Tagus we finally berthed at where the new cruise terminals are being established. By all accounts, the intention is that the terminal(s) will be able to accept 12 cruise ships at any one time; that would be some sight though how the infrastructure will cope with coach excursions from 12 ships at a time (I saw the impact on Southampton last year with the 175th Grand Event when all off the P&O fleet was in port – I was lucky enough to have a cabin the Oceana for that as well). Still, another reason to come back.

I’ve been to Lisbon before but this was the first time that I had visited when it was cold, very cold, and even with a hint of rain [unlike my return visit 5-days later through work commitments, when it was blue sky with not a cloud in sight].
This time, we decided to visit a little town called Obidos, a small medieval town, on a hill of course, with tine, tiny cobbled streets that seemed to do nothing but go up or down, and of course I had to do both, if only to keep Mrs Me happy (phew, she didn’t hear that one). Ouch; looks she did after all.

I have to say, that Obidos is well worth a visit: to drink Port out of chocolate cups is an experience to die for. Their cups of hot chocolate are to die for, and if I climb up any more cobbled streets I probably will do.

After that, it was time to head back to the ship, whereupon we left Lisbon with a great big typical British send off from the sun deck with loads of Union Jacks and good old traditional British sing song songs. Then, it was sulky time, for we knew that the next port of call would be Southampton and thus the end of the cruise, Boo. I shouldn’t moan really, we had a great time, even though I now have a cauliflower ear, though I know not why.

As and when I get the chance, I’ll add pictures to the travel section. Then, the countdown starts to the next ‘special’ cruise from New Zealand to Singapore. Yay.

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