Archive for the ‘Another Cruise’ Category

#38 Part 1

Picture this if you will. Having arisen early (06:30), His Podgeness and The Duchess check in at the airport by 08:30, for our 10:55 flight, and were in the airport lounge enjoying breakfast relaxed in the knowledge that we easily had 2 hours to relax. His Podgeness, out of idle curiosity checked the boarding cards, at 09:05 to see if there was any gate details. It was then that he noticed that the gates open at 09:10 and close at 09:35 before takeoff at 09:55, NOT 10:55. 🥴

So, so glad I checked the card otherwise we’d have still been in the lounge as our plane was taking off (thus missing a trip 18 months in the planning) and His Podgeness would have got a good kicking from The Duchess. 🥵

And here starts yet another adventure of Podge (His Podgeness) & Tubbs (The Duchess).

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Having left Florence (from Livorno), Podge and Tubbs were now looking forward to another much anticipated stop – Naples. Not so much because they wanted to visit Naples (they really didn’t)  but more because the Duchess wanted, so much, to take a drive along the Amalfi Coast.

His Podgeness loved The Duchess so much that he explored all possibilities.

  • Option 1) – He could for instance hire a little 2-seater sports car (Maserati GranTurismo sprang to mind) and they could drive the coast by themselves with the warm Italian air rushing by, scarves blowing in the wind and some appropriate music playing in the background. But let’s be honest, the chance of either Podge or Tubbs finding their way along the coast and back in time for the ship to leave was too great to consider. Anyway, the GranTurismo had a roof: That just wouldn’t do. And it was expensive😦
  • Option 2) – He could perhaps arrange for a driver to take them along the coast in a nice drop top again with wind and scarves blowing and music playing. But when he explored deeper, he found the cost was rather more than his teeny weeny wallet could cover and so that idea was dropped
  • Option 3) – Hire a helicopter and fly along the coast! That’s just silly and Podge did of course realise that straight away and discounted it immediately. But the idea has been retained for future visits.
  • Option 4) – Hire two Vespa Scooters and simply ride along the coast at leisure cutting through any traffic that may get in the way, stop to admire views, stop to buy an Italian Gelato, yada yada. The idea sounded good but The Duchess couldn’t ride a scooter to save her life and, she wouldn’t allow Podge to ride one, given his track record on bikes and, they’d probably get lost anyway.
  • Option 5) – Book a P&O excursion in a coach and let them worry about it all: A much safer option… So, that’s what they did.

Option 5 proved to be the best option by far.

This options allowed Podge & Tubbs to enjoy a leisurely drive along the Amalfi Coast, the most famous drive in all of Italy. This gave the added benefit of allowing Podge to relax and continue to get his breathing under control: It was getting better but still wasn’t right but, it was not going to stop Podge enjoy the day.

The trip took them high into the mountains overlooking the Amalfi Coast stopping on the way in Sorrento.  After a quick visit to see some marquetry furniture being made, which, they declared,  was truly something to behold, they we’re set free to wonder at will through the lovely, almost romantic streets and of course the rather imposing Duomo.  Both Podge & Tubbs felt that this town was an absolute delight to discover.

As lunch time drew closer, Podge & Tubbs made their way back to the place from where they had been released after which the whole group was taken to a lovely little restaurant for an Italian style lunch accompanied by wine. The lunch was spinach and ricotta cannelloni with Mixed Salad and yes, believe it or not, Podge ate the lot. Naturally Podge also made rather an impression on the wine stock but fortunately the table next to them noticed their (Podge’s) love for the wine and being teetotal, gave him theirs.

Soon enough and, and not soon enough for Tubbs who was by now worrying about the bladder capacity of Podge, it was time to leave for the coach and the amazing Amalfi drive to guess where? That’s right, Amalfi. Naturally Podge had to make two slight detours on the way to the coach but once aboard, he was nice and comfortable, and very mellow.

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The drive to Amalfi was underway and all too soon, Podge realised that for them, the Coach really was the only option: There really was no way Podge and Tubbs could have done this alone. The roads were narrow, especially for a coach and there were lots of coaches, and local buses doing the same trip in either direction. But the views were something else. NOTE: some of the pics below were taken from inside the coach so may be a little fuzzy.

It should be said that there was in fact an organised guided walk to learn of the history and architecture of this quaint town and to get an understanding of the history of the Cathedral of St Andrea and a chance to admire the Moorish and Gothic architecture. Podge however took one look at all the steps and ruled the tour out altogether. so, once in town, Podge & Tubbs were once more free to explore, so what did they do? They found a a little shop that sold Limoncellohaving tasted of course some before hand and found that it was good and so bought some. Next stop was the inevitable fridge magnet and tourist book before finding a little bar to rest and await the return drive back to the ship which again was along the mountain road before taking the motorway back to Naples and the ship.

Back on board, it was time for His Podgeness and The Duchess to head for their fivesies which inevitable because sixies before getting ready for the evening meal and finally returning to their cabin for a relaxing drink or three before giving into the need for sleep. Tomorrow was to be relaxing day as it was a sea day so all they had to do was relax for the whole day and for Podge to gather his strength.

The highlight of the day was to be passing through the Straight of Messina, trouble is, it was at 06:00 but this did’t bother Podge: He liked getting up early and moving to the balcony for his early morning coffee and fresh sea air. Trouble is, the weather wasn’t that good so the pictures were less than inspiring, a bit like the Straight thinks Podge.

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The rest of the day was just one long lovely day of relaxation as they sailed towards Dubrovnik, a great favourite of Podge & Tubbs. And so Podge just relaxed and concentrated on his breathing.

Poor Podge.

A quick weekend trip to Bruges and Saint Peter Port on the Aurora.

Podge and Tubbs had been to both Bruges, where it always seemed to rain on them, and Saint Peter Port but this cruise was a cruise with a different purpose.This cruise would elevate them to the top tier of P&Os loyalty scheme which would bring them extra perks. Such perks now included bigger discounts and, more importantly to The Duchess and His Podgeness, priority embarkation. And it started with this cruise. Oh how The Duchess enjoyed the privilege of being directed straight past all the waiting passengers and direct through to the ship for champagne and lunch.  Podge and Tubbs were well happy.

The Aurora

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It had been over 10 years since Podge and Tubbs had been on the Aurora and were looking forward to seeing her again, especially as they had been upgraded to a Mini-Suite. They weren’t sure however how she would be given her age: She had been in the service of P&O since 2000, so she was clearly built in the last Millennium.

Having boarded the ship, ahead of everybody else, eaten lunch and drunk copious amounts of champagne, The Duchess, closely followed (three paces behind) by His Podgeness made her way to their cabin, sorry, mini-suite, checking the emptiness of her ship on the way (this wouldn’t last). Oh how overjoyed was The Duchess as she surveyed her new empire. And what an empire it was with bedroom and separate sitting area, a lovely double sized balcony and a proper bathroom with his and her sinks. Better still, there was a bottle of champagne on ice waiting for them along with a nice box of chocolates. Pre-empting her command, Podge moved the chocolates into the fridge and opened the champagne and dutifully poured her a glass and of course a (slightly larger) glass for himself.

Irrespective of how many cruises one may have done, there is still the obligatory life boat drill that has to be conducted before every cruise, which must be attended by all passengers: This included His Podgeness and The Duchess. Neither of them enjoy the drill but they do at least recognise the importance and so with life vests in hand, they dutifully make their way to their allotted muster station and promptly fell asleep. Naughty Podge & Tubbs.Waking just in time to prove they knew how to don their life vests, Podge was informed that their next course of action was to return the vests to the cabin and explore the boat.

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Podge & Tubbs explored The Aurora, found the Crows Nest, a good place for G&T declared Tubbs, then moved on the The Anderson Bar, an excellent place for pre-dinner champagne declared Podge. The next find was the Gym – “This is not a good place” remarked Podge, “It looks painful, we should give this facility a miss” said Podge & Tubbs in unison. Although they are not pool people they still needed to know and appreciate the pool facilities: they were mightily impressed with the pools on The Aurora. Especially the one with the sliding roof (Crystal Pool) which guaranteed the right climate wherever in the world one might be. This was further enhanced by the provision of a fast food bar with all the sort of food that Podge loved and adored but which Tubbs forbids. Poor Podge.

Lastly, they found the Pennant Bar: This was the bar for the obligatory fivesies (Wine at 5, or 4, or 6, whatever time suited:-) ). They tried it out, the wine was good, the bar and surrounds were good. The temperature was cold. They ordered more wine and returned to their cabin where they relaxed and watched the world go by as they sailed out of Southampton, passing Calshot, Cowes & Ryde on the Starboard side with Lee-on-the-Solent, Gosport and Portsmouth on the Port Side. Podge always liked this bit. Podge was happy and if Podge was happy, then Tubbs was also happy: Podge & Tubbs were a happy and content couple.

Next Stop, Zeebrugge then Knokke.

Bruges was the official port of call, even though it isn’t actually a Port! Podge & Tubbs however have been to Bruges so many times now that they decided to give it a miss this time. One alternate option was a trip to Ghent but this had already been done as well. Very, very briefly, they considered the old folks option of a coach trip just to view the surrounding countryside and sample chocolate and beer. Much as the chocolate and beer had their attractions, the thought of being part of the Old Folk Brigade caused them to regain sense. Then they saw a trip to Knokke calling at Damme (formerly the port for Bruges in the 13th century) on the way. Damme was in fact quite a picturesque little port with coffee shops, museums and a fab church.

The visit coincided with an arts festival with numerous statues placed in and around the church grounds and two itself. After gazing a little too long at the statues of naked women Tubbs decided that it was time to take Podge to a little cafe for a coffee and biscuit, lest he got too excited. Begrudgingly, Podge followed on dragging his heels and sulking: he wanted to stay with the statues. Podge is a sad man.

Eventually, having sated their thirst, they slowly made their way back to the coach for the second half of their excursion to Knokke, billed as the playground for those with an above average standard of living.

The journey wasn’t too long and in no time at all they were making their way through the outskirts of town and ultimately onto the main drag close to the beach: Today however was not beach weather so shops & shopping was to be order of the day. The main objective was to get a birthday present for young Matthew. He wanted a watch, they knew that, but what watch. They needed inspiration so what better place to get inspiration for buying a watch than to visit shoe shop after shoe shop until eventually they found a shoe shop that had some shoes that met with the approval of The Duchess and matched the contents of the wallet of His Podgeness. Shoes purchased, inspiration must surely follow.

It was Podge who was most inspired and not just by the rather fetching young lady behind the counter of a watch shop (always a good place to look for watches) but by the fact that they sold Festina watches: Festina used to be the official timekeeper for the Tour de France so would, Podge assured Tubbs, be perfect for Matt ‘The Cyclist’. It also meant that Podge got to spend a little more ‘quality time’ with the young lady behind the counter (Podge is so naughty).

So, watch purchased, shoes purchased, fridge magnet purchased (of course), Podge and Tubbs returned to the Pink Fountain where they had been instructed to wait for the bus that was to take them back The Aurora.

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Pink Water Fountain – Just For The Duchess

Bet you can’t guess what Podge and Tubbs did when they got back to The Aurora. Yep, that’s right, they went for fivesies (fivesies are early evening drinks, normally but not always, wine that is often had at 5 pm, or 4 pm, or 6 pm – fivesies are flexible) and something to eat. And, despite the weather, Tubbs insisted they she wanted to eat, and drink of course, ‘Al Fresco’.

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I’m on a Cruise Ship, I will eat Al Fresco

This didn’t last long, Tubbs eventually admitted she was cold and they went back to their Cabin, sorry Suite,  to prepare for the evening festivities as The Aurora sailed to Saint Peter Port, a place Podge & Tubbs had no intention of visiting. Why? Because reaching Saint Peter Port would mean tendering and Podge hates tendering (see https://podgethepuffer.com/2014/04/06/bali-the-land-of-mystery/ for why).

The morning brought apparently calm seas and Podge & Tubbs were almost tempted to ‘give it a go’ and take the the tender to shore but the prospect of a late leisurely breakfast and the use of the ship almost exclusively while everybody was ashore was too great a draw to sway them. They were staying put. And, as it turned out, the decision was a good one. As His Podgeness sat upon the balcony watching the Tender boats (Survival Craft!) to’ing and fro’ing he noted that one of them had returned, engine faltering, to the mother ship Aurora. ‘That’s not good’ thought Podge. They were now one craft down so transfers would take longer. It also transpired later in the day that due to harbour traffic, there were further delays which meant that it was well past lunch before everybody had managed to get ashore. Podge & Tubbs would not have been happy. Podge and Tubbs were happy. They had elected to stay on board. How smug were Podge and Tubbs!

The remainder of the day went pretty much as planned, with Podge & Tubbs enjoying the relatively spacious and empty bars, etc. They even managed to enjoy three’sies, four’sies, five’sies and six’sies before finally packing (there wasn’t actually a lot to pack. Even by The Duchess’s standards, three cases for a three night weekend break was travelling light. Then, it was time for dinner and post dinner drinks before retiring back to their cabin, sorry, suite, knowing that they had an early start, to be sure that they were to disembark in good time so as to be sure they were back home before lunch. Podge however wiled away just one more hour on the balcony as the Aurora sailed for Southampton. He sat there listening to the sounds of the sea as the ship cut through the waves on her way home. He sat, sipping his secretly secured rather large Laphroaig and mused to himself with self contentment. They had done it. They had made Top Tier with P&O. Podge was a happy man and he knew Tubbs was also happy which meant that all was well in their world.  ‘Where next?’ he thought to himself. He knew the answer, it was to The Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights, with luck. But that was many months away, surely there was time to fit in another adventure. Podge hoped so, else Tubbs wouldn’t stay too happy for long. Podge’s next challenge was set.

Poor Podge.

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Having conquered Pisa, using Livorno as base camp, the next target was Genoa. Genoa was to be the end of the current cruise and over 1000 fellow passengers would be disembarking for their flight home.Podge & Tubbs however was having none of it: They were staying on.

Having spoken with Tubbs’s youngest boy (Master Nicholas) who had been a ships photographer for a year including four months doing the Mediterranean cruises, Podge & Tubbs decided that as Genoa itself probably wasn’t going to be to their taste they decided to opt for an excursion called Castles & Wine (it was the wine that drew their attention).

Podge & Tubbs had no friends

Unfortunately, the day before their arrival they received a cancellation letter to the effect that the tour had been cancelled as they (Podge & Tubbs) were the only ones looking to go. It seemed that nobody wanted to play with them. They had no friends.

Poor Podge & Tubbs.

Being as they were, without friends, Podge & Tubbs decided that they would stay on board all day. This gave Podge the rest he so badly needed, particularly as the next day was to be an epic 8-hour excursion to Florence. This also gave them the chance to smugly watch all those passengers leaving the ship and enjoy the peace and tranquility before the new batch embarked.

Podge, got up early enough to watch the boat glide into port and park. He sat on the balcony for a couple hours watching dawn break and the town of Genoa slowly waking up. Before too long, the seemingly quiet roads became jam-packed with commuters making their way to work. Podge felt smug. All to soon however it was time to awaken The Duchess with her morning cup of Earl Grey. Podge was by now proficient at waking her slowly and gently so that she started the day in a good mood. This always meant that the day would be a good day.

Very soon after, Tubbs joined Podge on the balcony and they sat there drinking their brew’s while watching Genoa going about its daily business content in the knowledge that although this was the end of this cruise, it was also the start of their next cruise: They were doing two cruises, back to back.

Lucky Podge & Tubbs.

The time was by now, 10:30 and they both agreed that it was time to go for a quiet breakfast, especially quiet as most of the passengers would by now have disembarked.

Oh how wrong they were.

The system was different to all previous systems they had encountered. This time, the passengers disembarked over a period up to 16:30 and even worse, the new passengers were already embarking. There were glum looking passengers with their hand luggage, huddled around in groups in the restaurant, waiting to disembark: There were confused pale faced passengers with their hand luggage waiting for their cabins to be available, huddled in groups in the restaurant wondering what was where and where was what.

It was just too much to bear.

Podge and Tubbs turned into His Podgeness and The Duchess, found a free table, just, sat down and had brunch, and left as quickly as possible. They wanted peace and quiet not to sit around with glum faced, pale faced passengers (in need of some sunshine) scattered all over the place. Quickly they made their way to the nearest bar and sourced a handful of Bud’s, tonic for the Gin, wine (just in case they ran out of gin) and some elderflower drinks (whatever they are) and retired to their cabin and there they sat, like two sad recluses, on their balcony drinking G&T and soaking up the sun, until the sun moved away then, they went inside and watched Spectre. The timing was perfect. Come the end of the film, it was time for fivesies so off they went to the Champagne Bar for some light refreshment before their evening meal after which they returned to the Champagne Bar for a last couple of drinks before retiring to bed.

In a way, it all worked out rather well, as Podge got the rest he needed (he did have a bit of a headache as well) and shall be good for the next days epic adventure to Florence. We shall see how Podge is when they get to Florence.

Poor Podge.

 

 

The day after Cannes, the land of the luvvies, Podge & Tubbs sailed into a quaint little town called Livorno the Cruisers gateway to both Florence and Pisa.

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At last, after 9-years it looked as though they might finally get to see the elusive town of Pisa: Tubbs was mighty pleased: Podge was also pleased.

The body is weak, the spirit is strong

Sailing into Livorno found Podge still struggling with his breathing (ManFlu can be far worse than people realise) and knew that the original plan of visiting both Florence & Pisa today was never going to work so he was glad they’d changed their plans to just ‘do Pisa’ today. Now, he was however concerned that even just doing Pisa was going to be a struggle but, at least he had time before breakfast to sit and watch the boat park, the strings get tied and the gang plank being deployed. Podge was not going to let Tubbs down: Even though the last time they missed Pisa was because Tubbs had been ill (a mix of lager, ice cream and heat was the cause that time), Podge was determined to make the visit. It did help however that he had an absolutely splendid fisheye lens to try out. And so, Podge readied his camera bag before, carefully, waking The Duchess with her morning Earl Grey.

Podge craves a selfie stick

Earlier in the cruise, Podge and Tubbs joined the new latest craze and took their first selfie and they looked upon the results and thought ‘not bad but could be better’. “What we need” said Podge, “is a selfie stick”. Tubbs just looked at Podge with that sort of ‘buy one if you really wish, and [dare] to’. type look. Podge parked the idea but vowed to return to it later when her guard was dropped.

As luck would have it, when they reached Pisa and were about to get off the bus Podge espied a number of eager traders rushing to the bus to offer all the opportunity to purchase some local souvenirs, these being Ray-Ban sunglasses, Prada handbags, Rolex watches and yes, even selfie sticks. ‘Perfect’ thought Podge, ‘I can get one now while The Duchess is happy and content’, he mused. At this very moment, the tour guide on the bus advised that these sellers were illegal sellers and surprise, surprise, their wares were counterfeit. She also iterated that if the authorities catch anybody buying anything from them, the buyer could, although unlikely, be fined up to €1000. Podge, being averse to risk decided he didn’t want a selfie stick after all.

Pisa at last

After leaving the bus and avoiding the sellers with a polite but firm ‘No, Grazie’ or possibly ‘go away’ or words to that effect, Podge and Tubbs made their way through the street markets, Tubbs did well to avoid all, after which they finally made it to ‘The Square of Miracles, and of course The Duomo (Cathedral), The Baptistery (also leaning but not much), and the Bell Tower (The Leaning Tower of Pisa). Podge and Tubbs were so pleased with themselves. Podge was pleased for Tubbs and Tubbs was pleased that Podge made it :-).

With only one hour, which was more than enough for Podge who’s breathing was once more a struggle they, as quickly as they could, made their way around the building taking photos as all tourists do, badly. Podge tried to make up for his artistic inadequacies by using his special fisheye lens but all equipment has its limitations. 😦

They considered the opportunity to climb the Bell Tower for a view from the top but the sign at the door advised against it for anyone with respiratory or cardio problems; so that ruled Podge out and Tubs didn’t want to leave Podge on his own so they gave that a miss. They did however opt to climb the steps inside the Baptistery  to get a view from the top of there. This was both a good idea, at least they were able to see inside from on high but also a bad idea as Podge needed to stop three times and then sit down for 10 minutes waiting for his breath to re-find itself – Poor Podge. Eventually it did, Podge took his photos and then together they went down the [Exit]. Now, the stairs up and down are similar to those in a lighthouse, following the wall of the structure made of stone but, with no handrails but wall either side. So, the climb up and down was interesting. Imagine then what it was like when part way down the [Exit] route a party of French (who else) school children decided it would be fun to come up that way instead. Podge wasn’t happy: Podge inflated himself to make himself bigger to make it difficult for them to get by but had to concede and simply stand to one side (slightly) and let the little perishers by, all 40+ of them. Podge was grumpy.

Eventually, and not before time, they all had to depart The Square of Miracles and set course back to the Oceana where both Podge and Tubbs would deposit everything they could in their cabin and make their way to the poolside bar for a well earned glass (or two) of Pinot.

Both were very happy. They had conquered Pisa. They had done well.

After drinks, came dinner, after dinner came drinks, after drinks came an early night, i.e, they went to bed the same day they got up. Podge was done in. The day had taken its toll. The next day was to be a day of doing nothing except watch passengers disembark at the end of their cruise. This was good because Podge needed a rest.

Poor Podge.

PS: – His Podgeness has since purchased a selfie stick from Amazon – Tubbs has yet to find out