Archive for June, 2011

Day 3 (27/06) – The Baltic Sea

Posted: June 28, 2011 in Travel

Wow, what a glorious sunny and calm day today was. There genuinely wasn’t a cloud to be seen. And, even though we had put the clock’s forward by another blooming hour, the day was making it’s presence known around 04:30 though I did quickly go back to sleep. I awoke at around 08:00 to a nice hot cup of coffee, which makes a change as it’s normally that’s up and making the drinks. Maybe my cankles made me sleepier than normal. One thing’s for sure, I was in right grump for breakfast, made even worse by the fact that my full English Breakfast came with scrambled rather fried eggs, and no black pudding to be seen. I wasn’t happy.

Anyway, hunger sated, we all went for a walk around the deck for another four laps (1-mile) before settling down for a well earned latte coffee and yet another session of dolphin racing and lo and behold, Master Nicholas another £6 to go with his £66 win from bingo yesterday.

As today was a sea day and as the weather was as I said before, glorious, we had pretty much a lazy day sitting and reading interrupted by the need to for lunch and afternoon tea and then early evening drinks before dinner, when everybody was invited to dress like a cowboy / cowgirl: Lucky I had a chequered shirt then.

Early evening brought with it an announcement from the Captain that we would be making a quick route change and head towards Stockholm in Sweden from where a helicopter was being urgently despatched to collect a passenger who had been taken too ill to continue and needed urgent medical care. Not sure what the problem was nor should it. I only wish all the very best to him or her and hope for a speedy recovery.

Naturally, the detour would put us back a little and so our arrival at the next port would be later than planned.

In the restaurant we sat and waited for our other table companions before ordering. We waited, and we waited and we waited and I started to wonder who was in that helicopter, and then just as I was becoming concerned they arrived:Phew. And with that we all tucked into Southern Fried Chicken, T-Bone Steak, Chilli Beans and of course Chips. Yum Yum.

After dinner we ‘retired’, again, to the Observatory Lounge for a couple of rather large brandy’s. And then it was off to bed. After all, tomorrow brings with it Helsinki though maybe a little later than originally planned.

Maybe, I’ll lose some weight tomorrow.

Day 2 (26/06) – Kiel Canal

Posted: June 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

First of all, having already put the clocks forward 1-hour thus losing an hours sleep, we have to put them forward again so we lose sleep one more time. Lack of sleep always seems to be make me tired so this morning, I had to have a full English Breakfast again with the promise that I would have no lunch.

Anyway, today was a big day for everybody as we were to enjoy a day-time transit of the Kiel Canal which slices right through Germany taking us from the North Sea into the Baltic Sea so saving ships having to go round the top and cutting off 250 miles.

The Canal, which actually runs from Brunsbottel to Keil through the land of Schleswih-Holsteing which is the part of Germany adjoining Denmark. It’s hard to say when the Kiel Canal actually came into being as it originally started as the Eider Can in the late 1700’s but was deemed too small as ships grew in size and so after a great deal of work spanning 12 years, the canal was widened and became the Kaiser Wilhelm I Canal in 1895. Again it ‘became’ too small and had to widened again until it reached it’s current size in the 1960’s. Today the canal is more commonly known as the Kiel Canal (with locks at either end), which is now 97 Kilometres in length, 12 metres deep and 164 meters wide.

Obviously, there’s more to be said about the canal but there are far better sources than anything I could hope to write, and anyway, I’m on HOLIDAY – WooHoo.

So, we reached the first lock at around 06:30 (ish) and made our way through and into the Canal and we proceeded to sail through Germany. The whole transit took about 9-hours to complete and on the way were priviliged to witness the most beautiful backdrops and even had the chance to have a nose into people back gardens as went by 🙂

It was weird as we sailed by looking at and waving at all the people on the banks and in their gardens and even on the bridges. Being a Sunday, all the locals made of most of the, by now, glorious weather, and came down to watch the cruise ship sailing through the fields and past the gardens, and they waved at us. The experience was surreal with everybody waving at us and us waving at everybody.

Anyway, while all this was happening, Debbie, Nick and Peggy took themselves off to play Dolphin racing (!) and Bingo. They drew even on the Dolphins but at the Bingo, and much to the annoyance of all the wrinklies, Nick managed to win the full house game and won £66, which was paid out in £1 coins. All the more galling, he borrowed the entry fee from his Mum. The money very quickly found its way into his safe.

As intimated earlier, the weather improved and turned into a glorious day made all the better by the fact that our balcony was on the sunny side of the ship so we just sat out there enjoying a drink or tow, as you do, and watched Germany and its people drift by. I have to say however that as we were sailing along we kept getting these aromas of BBQ’s which did make us a little hungry and wishing we out having our own BBQ.

After a while however , I worked out that the BBQ aroma was with us, All_The_Time which go me thinking that maybe we should check out the sun deck at the top of the ship. So we did, and lo and behold there they were having a BBQ. So, we tucked into Spare Ribs, Chips, Cakes and Beer before finally returning to wallow on our balcony once more and again watch the world drift by.

All to quickly, we through the canal and out into the Baltic Sea where we caught up with an MSC Cruise Ship and followed her for a couple of hours by which time we needed to get ready for Dinner: we were after all starting to get hungry again as it had by now been a couple of hours since afternoon tea where croissants with ham and cheese followed by sticky buns was the order of the day.

Before got ready however, Debbie and I decided we would walk four laps of the ship, which is 1-mile, after which we rewarded ourselves with a nice glass of wine for Debby and Brandy for yours truly. It was at this point I looked down at my ankles and noticed that they were more than a little swollen. I pointed this out to Debbie who gleefully advised me that I had Canckles: confirmation that I am rapidly becoming one of the wrinklies 😦

I so needed to eat to cheer myself up, so off to Dinner we went, just the four courses today. After this we went to a show where we saw the most brilliant all round variety entertainer, Brett Kite. Singing, comedy and illusions, he we was excellent: I would pay money to see him. After that, it was off to the Observatory Lounge for a couple of rather large brandy’s as night rolled in.

And so, off to bed. Tomorrow brings with it a full day at sea in what promises to be a gloriously sunny and calm day (see pickie below). Better still, we have wine tasting in the afternoon (normally at these events, Debbie finds a wine she likes then spends the rest of the session tasting it).

Nice Sunny Evening

The days get longer

Maybe, I’ll try to lose the weight tomorrow.

Having weighed myself in the Gym and aghast to see that my weight was now just under 16 stone, I vowed that I would try to lose weight, and lose weight soon. 🙂

So, after a good nights sleep, we made for a leisurely breakfast (09:30) in the Spey Restaurant – Full English for me of course after which we all went for a stroll round the on board shops. Now tell me, who on earth is going to go on a 2-week cruise to the Baltic’s and then spend £27,000 on a Faberge Egg. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that it isn’t going to be me.

Weather wise, the sky was grey, grey and grey with a bit of rain and a force 6 wind. The direction of the ship in relation to the wind / waves however meant that it was actually difficult to accept that yes, we were actually at sea: It was SO still. As the day went on though, although the sky remained grey, the rain stopped and it did ‘seem’ a bit brighter and even a bit warmer.

Debbie introduced Nick & her Mum (Peggy) to ‘Dolphin’ racing, bet £4, won £4, bet £4, won £0. Still, it was surprisingly good fun. In the afternoon, Nick introduced Peggy to Bingo and won nothing. In between Debbie and Peggy had their nails done and I sat on the balcony and read my book: We do have a full and active time on these boats you know.

Oh, did I mention afternoon Tea – dainty sandwiches and scrummy cakes. This is timed just right – being half way between lunch and dinner. 🙂

So far, there has been little opportunity for photographs which is just as well as I haven’t yet worked out how to transfer them onto my laptop (forgot my card reader / cable) but I will overcome this and photos will follow.

Evening bring the infamous Captains Cocktail Party where everybody gets to dress up in their best suits and frocks a has the chance to meet Captain Olav Sovdsnes and partake in some champagne – Nice. Then it’s off to Dinner – Yum Yum. Tonight however is bonus night as we are graced with the presence of Food & Beverages Manager (Michael Emmenegger) for dinner, which means that the wine and after dinner aperitif is courtesy of Fred Olsen – Result. The initial reaction of course when an Officer of the ship sits down with you for dinner is that you have behave and listen to small talk. But no, the conversation was varied and interesting: as a result we were one of the last tables to leave the restaurant, oops.

After dinner we ‘retired’ to the Observatory Lounge for a couple of rather large brandy’s which were accompanied by a variety of cakes and  chocolates. Yummy….

And so, off to bed. Tomorrow brings with it the Kiel Canal.

Maybe, I’ll try to lose the weight tomorrow.

The Departure

Posted: June 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

So, we arrived at the Cruise Terminal (predictably Early), and within 40 minutes of checking in, we on on board and in our cabins, which were all extremely well appointed and liked by all. Phew, that’s the first hurdle over and without a hitch. Debbie’s Mum seems to be adjusting quite well (this is her first time on a cruise) though she was a little daunted at the size of the ship to begin with.  She also thought the safe in her cabin was a microwave!

Anyway, having checked out the facilities, we checked out the paperwork only to find that there had been a change to the planned itinerary, though as it works out, the change isn’t too bad. Instead of going to Saaremaa, we would now be going to Kristiansand in Norway. The reason for the change was that those pesky Russkies wanted to being in one of their naval vessels into our scheduled berth in St Petersburg. Rather than cutting short our stay there, they had decided to move date around a bit which did mean sacrificing one port and finding a new one. Obviously, Fred Olsen have excellent Continuity Strategies :-).

Sailing out of the Port of Southampton, we cam away from the dockside then had to sit there and wait for the QM2 to come out of her berth before heading off to New York, leading the way round the Isle of Wight before she [QM2] turned right (starboard) for the Atlantic and we turned left (port) for the North Sea.

The excellent evening dinner was had in the Spey Restaurant where we met a waiter who remembered us from a previous Cruise of a couple of years ago. Dinner was followed by a show, which wasn’t really our cup of tea (The Can Can is a bit too raunchy for a man of my advancing years) so, as well felt tired anyway, we all gladly went off to bed for an ‘early’ night.

The next day was a Sea Day as we headed toward Germany and into the Kiel Canal.

More Soon.

Cruise Podge, Cruise.

 

The Magnificat

Posted: June 12, 2011 in Cycling

Today, Debbie and I are off to meet Nick when he completes his first Magnificat. For me the day has mixed emotions. I was also supposed to be doing this ride. It’s a ride I’ve done before and really enjoyed it: The organisation and general atmosphere makes it, and the riders, feel that little bit more special. Unfortunately, my heath stopped me.

When I awoke this morning however at 8 O’Clock to the sound of rain on the window I kind of gave thanks for not being able to take part, but then the feeling of envy came when I saw that Nick had already left for the start. I knew that no matter what the weather, Nick and the other participants were going to have a great time and I knew that I would have as well. Still spilt milk and all that: I just need to up my game a bit.

I’ll set myself some goals (realistic ones) and get myself back out on those roads and ‘do’ another sportive and aim for next years Magnificat when maybe Nick, Matt and I can all do it.

Go Podge.