Wow, that was expensive

The World Cruise preparations are just about complete. This week the Indian Visas were issued and attached to our passports. They were returned to us in less than a week so very impressed with the service…. but not the price.

The Indian authorities charged us £111 each for the visa including VAT and the cost of an SMS Text that we did not receive. On top of that, the handling company charged us another £104 each plus postage.

So for two days in India we have paid a total of £443.10.

Sadly those people flying into India would have been able to use a simple and cheaper eVisa. For some strange reason cruise passengers are treated rather badly, and have to get the more complicated full blown multiple entry visa.

OK, so we could have got it cheaper by travelling to an Indian Authority building and took the chance that the forms were completed correctly. We could also have used a cheaper Visa handling company and reduced that part of the  cost by 50%. But we decided to use CIBT who were recommended by P&O.

So for those of you aiming for India on a cruise in the as part of a world cruise, I suggest you shop around.

The forms are quite time consuming, but instructions are available and if you take care, there shouldn’t be a problem.

The photographs are not the same size as UK passport ones so that might be a little annoying to sort out, but not that difficult in this digital age.

There are several offices around the country where you can book an appointment to apply for the visa and once accepted they return the passports within a few days.

I will eventually make a total of all the expenditure for this cruise and let you know. This will show almost the worst case scenario, except for when a trip to China is also involved. Apparently their Visas are even more complicated than for India.

Speak again soon.

Tregenna Castle Hotel St Ives

On Monday afternoon we arrived for our third visit to this hotel in the beautiful Cornish fishing port of St Ives.

This three day break was to give us a chance of being pampered after an Autumn of decorating and replacing things around the house. It was also an opportunity to catch up with my two brothers who live nearby.

The Tregenna Castle Hotel stands on a hilltop, and we spent a little more than usual to get a room with a view down over the town with its beach and vast expanse of golden sand. The huge granite-built hotel has a range of rooms of differing standards and different views of either the sea, the wooded grounds of the hotel, and in some cases not so beautiful brick walls.

The room we chose (Number 126) was extremely large and we had the beds as twin although they could have been combined to form a really big double. There was plenty of space to walk around without banging into the furniture. There was more than enough wardrobe and drawer space, and a huge walled-mounted television could be viewed in comfort from a settee or a pair of easy chairs. The bathroom was enormous with a wide and deep bath plus the other usual bits.

OK, the hotel is old and the sash windows may not open and close as they used to but the Tregenna Castle is all about character and comfort rather than being shiny and modern. Most of the rooms come with floor boards that creak and wardrobe doors that sometimes stick, or open by themselves. The ceilings are high, and the decoration shows many layers of paint have been used to hide the age of the woodwork below.

There is a spa and a swimming pool and Deb quickly went off to have a few minutes of aquatic exercise while I soaked away the arthritic pains after the drive.

There wasn’t long to explore the hotel on that first evening as we were soon on the road again to have dinner with my brothers. The gathering of the brothers and their wives was at the Trevaskis Farm Shop and Restaurant.

We have been there before with mixed results, but I had no worries as the primary reason for the meal was to meet up and chat. We don’t see each other often.

The meal was actually very nice and at a very good price. The only issue was that the six of us were squeezed around two small tables that made conversation difficult. Service was almost good except for small things like a sauce for one person taking three requests before it arrived, and there were no serving spoons for the vegetable dishes. For anyone thinking of going to this restaurant, try not to miss out on the wonderful puddings that are displayed in a cooler that is 3-4m wide. Don’t worry if your appetite has been satisfied by the main course, these puddings can be eaten straight away, or put into boxes as a takeaway.

With goodbyes over we returned to the hotel for a late-night glass of wine while used the free wifi available in the long lobby area….and to let the food to digest a little before going to bed.

On Tuesday we drove to Falmouth to look around the Maritime Museum that has become a regular part of our recent Cornish trips. There is always something new to look at and this time it was about the Vikings and their boats.

While in Falmouth we had a stroll up the road to look in the Cornish Shop, and the renowned Trago Mills where you can buy so many things that you never knew you wanted. Oh, and there was time to pop into ‘Rowes the Bakery’ to have a (small) Cornish Pasty for lunch. There are lots of bakeries to choose from, but Rowes is special as I am related to the family through my paternal grandmother.

In the afternoon we had a cup of coffee with my brother Ronald where I showed him how far I have got with our family tree. For my mother’s side of the family the records go back to the mid-1500s, but on my father’s side there has been little success beyond my grandparents.

That evening we had a meal in the hotel and we were quite surprised at the good selection available at less than expected prices. We had the house red wine that wasn’t spectacular, and the meal came to less than £50.

After our meal we drank the rest of the wine sitting in the lobby again before my exhaustion and aching legs meant it was bedtime.

The breakfasts are buffet style and the choice is as good as most hotels offer. The only weakness here is the horrible self-service toast machines that someone invented as a way of annoying hotel guests. As usual it was still white on the first pass and then smoke on the second.

Wednesday morning was another of our usual ritual of the Cornish visits. Deb and I drove into Helston (12 miles away) and bought some flowers for my parents grave. They are together in the small graveyard in Cury along with many others of my Courtis ancestors.

We also visited the graveyard in Mawgan hoping to find the resting place of either Williams, or Rowes, but we had no joy. I know there are some graves in there, but ‘needle in a haystack’ springs to mind.

In the afternoon we walked down from the hotel to St Ives, and wandered through its narrow streets looking for somewhere for an evening meal. It is well out of season and many likely restaurants were closed for the winter and nothing really inspired us. We did buy a couple of huge saffron buns to nibble on to take the edge of our hunger….well mine actually.

As I said earlier, the hotel is on the top of a hill, and although walking down to the town was OK, the climb back up was exhausting. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful, and the woodland walk is delightful, but my ageing legs are not as keen anymore.

Any remaining thoughts of going back down to the town for an evening meal were abandoned.

The hotel was hosting quite a large wedding and the lobby area was packed with guests dressed in their finest while they waited for the reception meal. While Deb went for a swim, I tried to sit in the comfortable lobby chairs and listen to my music while reading, but the chatter of hungry people and the constant running up and down of children was just too much.

When Deb returned we both went back to our room and I had a soothing bath…and fell asleep.

We ate in the hotel dining room again and rounded off the evening watching our giant television. The first of the cases was packed with dirty clothes to save time in the morning.

Thursday morning was wet and windy. After breakfast we finished packing and loaded the car. It had been a lovely break, but now it was time to face the almost five hour drive back home again.

Unlike the journey down to Cornwall that had been quiet and in the dry, our return was busy and the weather was horrible. There were times when I could hardly see through the road-spray, even with the windscreen wipers in overtime mode.

By mid-afternoon we were home. The heating was turned up, the suitcases unpacked, and the washing machine busy with its first load. The drive was long but seeing my brothers and having a bit of relaxation in Cornwall was worth it.

Apart from a short visit to see our daughter, our next trip away will be after Christmas. That will be a drive to Southampton before setting off on a cruise around the world.

Oh sorry, I think I may have mentioned that to you already…a few times.

 

Not Pleased!!

Deb and I have just spent a few days in Cornwall.

My arthritic knees suffer on a long car journey, so to break the drive, we had an overnight stay at a Premier Inn in Honiton near Exeter.

We have been staying in Premier Inns for many years and know they offer a comfy bed at reasonable prices. Generally we are perfectly satisfied with these hotels, but I was not best pleased with some aspects of this particular overnight stay.

Now perhaps the wrong postcode was put into our SatNav, but we ended up in an industrial site rather than anything that looked like a hotel. Fortunately when Deb punched  ‘Premier Inn’ into the nearby search, the directions took us straight to the hotel entrance.

The bright and cheery hotel is very new and as we approached the reception I spotted a young lady heading to the door to welcome us. It all seemed good as she said hello and took us to a computer screen in the corner. She touched a ‘Start’ button and asked our name. Rather than do anything with this information she gesticulated to the screen. It seems that the visitor must personally sign themselves in, as a form of contract.

Or did she not know how to spell Williams?

As I plodded my way through the ‘straight forward check in process’ she asked if we had travelled far and if it had been a good journey. Concentrating on finding the next required touch screen location on the ‘straight forward check in process’ I responded that all was fine except for the incorrect postcode.

At this point I think she decided I was too old for her ‘straight forward check in process’ touch screen and began to point to the next position to press, while suggesting our SatNav must be an old one to get the address wrong.

I quickly got the impression that perhaps she had decided we were a little old to be in her rather new bright and shiny Premier Inn.

The grief of the touch screen was eventually over and we went to our room. I was just a little annoyed with the experience so far.

I am quite confident that we have stayed in more Premier Inns than this young lady, and probably driven many hundreds of miles more with SatNavs than her as well.

On a more positive note the hotel room was comfortable and had effective, if rather noisy, air conditioning. There was a restaurant actually in the hotel (unlike many Premier Inns) and the food was not expensive. The waiter was also far more friendly then the young lady who was hovering around the hotel lobby to ensure old people didn’t spoil her nice new bright and  cheerful hotel, and more especially slow down the ‘straight forward check in process’.

We then returned to our room and watched the television before having a peaceful night’s sleep.

So to summarise our stay at Honiton Premier Inn: it is rather good. But check you have the correct postcode for any potentially ageing SatNavs, and beware of young receptionists who might be judgemental if you look more than a decade older than herself.

Deb and I left Honiton and continued into Cornwall for our three night stay at the much older Tregenna Castle Hotel in St Ives.

Another week closer

Yes, another week closer to world cruise date. Of course that has meant another expensive week of preparation.

The visa applications for India were completed and sent off. Unfortunately we changed our bank cards this week and only realised the one we used for the visa is now no longer valid. I will have to phone the company this week to plead insanity due to old age, and hope they accept the new card details over the phone.

Also organised some more foreign currency. We now have a decent amount of the major currencies we will need. Not sure what to do about the smaller countries yet, but discovered that you cannot get Indian money until you arrive in the country.

One rather special moment was the sound of a heavy thump on the doormat as the cruise information booklet arrived. It doesn’t have much in it that is new, but it does have the luggage labels. This caused a bit of a Facebook discussion as they have only supplied four labels. This is a world cruise, and passengers on the full trip have been known to take double figure numbers of cases. We won’t be beaten and Deb will print a few extra. I think we will be getting near to ten items of one size or another.

Of course the arrival of luggage labels has often been quickly followed by an upgrade.

…YES PLEASE!!

Don’t get me wrong, the cabin we have booked is perfectly adequate, but a treat from the upgrade fairy is always appreciated.

Changing subject slightly….what a week in politics.

I think Mr Trump is going to have a hard time initially. He has no previous experience in government and will have to go through a steep learning curve. In business you can do things quickly and ruthlessly, but when the target audience is the largest country in the world, a little tact and a little more time will be needed.

…and yes I am confused as to how he was successful, but I believe that the people all over the world are beginning to rebel against politicians who have a blinkered approach to governing. This almighty kicks up the backside with Brexit and the USA’s presidential election have totally confused ‘job for life’ politicians and pundits. Maybe the outcome could be painful for a while, but at least it has opened peoples’ eyes a little. They have finally discovered that democracy can be uncomfortable if you don’t listen to the people who you want to vote for you.

Well, after a manic few weeks of decoration, new windows, new carpet, and spending a fortune for January….we are going away to Cornwall for a few days.

It is time to see my brothers and look at some of the places around the county that have such wonderful memories in my heart.

Keep warm everyone!

Do we really have democracy?

This week the esteemed judges of the British High Court upheld an appeal by a handful of anti-Brexit protesters.

Before our government can invoke ‘Article 50’ to trigger Brexit and leave the European Union, the parliament must vote and give their approval. The victory of millions of people wanting to leave the European Union now seems less probable.

To many, this is going against the principle of democracy.

The Conservative government, under the leadership of David Cameron, called a general election with a manifesto promising a simple ‘In or Out’ referendum about continued membership of the European Union. The country democratically decided to vote for the Conservatives to stay in power, knowing that this meant the referendum would happen.

David Cameron spent many months attempting to get a good deal with his European partners about changes to Britain’s membership, and true to his promise, the referendum was called for June 2016.

We had months of newspaper and TV debate about the pros and cons of remaining in Europe. There were claims and counterclaims of doom and gloom that would result if we decided to leave. To be honest, much of the discussions involved statements that were close to being dishonest. The British public were bombarded with advice as to which was the best way to vote.

By the time of the vote I believe the country was ready to make its decision.

The referendum produced the biggest turn out ever of British voters. The result  was a clear majority to leave. This was a truly democratic statement b the people of Britain that we wanted to leave the European Union.

Unfortunately rather than immediately invoking Article 50, David Cameron decided to resign and created a delay of several months while a new Prime Minister was chosen. Theresa May obviously needed time to get herself ready for a momentous moment. She decided that the referendum meant the government had the mandate to invoke Article 50 without debate in Parliament…when the government was ready to proceed.

Unfortunately the anti-Brexit protesters now had time to build a case, and challenged the government’s right to proceed without a parliament’s agreement. That challenge was agreed by the High Court this week, who decided that Parliament did need to discuss and vote on the way forward.

I might be able to understand some of the rationale behind the decision, but it does seem to be kick in the teeth for democracy.

This vote to leave the European Union was one of the clearest ever democratic decisions by the British public. Unfortunately it was not the decision that most members of Parliament, and most of British businesses wanted. Now they have the chance to debate the decision in parliament, and the chances are that the outcome will be at best delayed, and quite possibly, the result of the referendum vote will be overturned.

OK, so legally this is seen as the correct way to proceed, but is it legally correct that the democratic decision of the British people could be overturned by parliament?

If so, then the people of Scotland should be very careful about having another referendum to leave the British Union. Even if you eventually have a clear majority saying YES to leaving, I am quite sure the legal responsible members of the British Parliament will say NO!

World Cruise – Less than 10 weeks to go

Like many of the passengers who will be on a world cruise in 2017, we are visiting India. They are one of the small number of countries that require us to apply for true visas. They even require a face to face meeting to obtain the visas along with a bundle of documents.

We have already organised our entry permits for Australia and USA, and the requirements of several other countries will be obtained while we float our way across the three major oceans of the world.

So the Indian arrangements are the final hurdle in terms of visas. They are rather expensive, and because of the need to visit an official Indian building, we decided to pay even more to have the recommended visa agency to do the leg work for us.

Hence all I had to do was to fill in a two page form for each of us. Well, I am getting used to filling in forms, but these were annoyingly complicated, and things were made worse by the need to get everything correct to avoid delays.

Even more annoying was that when the form is completed, the final act is to print it out as a protected PDF file. Now as most of you know, it is not possible to alter a protected PDF file.  After about an hour of filling in passport details, names of parents, plus details of our trip to India in 2012, I hit the print button.

As I read through the completed PDF document, I noticed a mistake. I had to start all over again.

Let’s just say that I eventually  filled the forms in three times, and had to ring the agency (CIBT) twice to ask questions.

Anyway, they are now ready…..I hope!

These visas are going to cost us well in excess of £400 for a day’s visit to Mumbai and Cochin.

Another success this week was booking the long stay car park in Southampton for the trip. We are using a company called ‘Parking 4 Cruises’. It is certainly cheaper than hiring a car, or using a private hire company. This company has come highly recommended and even offers a valet service which will be necessary after standing around for over three months.

OK, so what’s left on the ‘to do’ list?

We will need some more currency for the major places like Australia, New Zealand, and probably a bit more for the USA and countries that like the US Dollar. We will obtain local currency as required for the smaller islands and countries while we’re away. In 2012 we simply changed unused currency from the countries we had visited into the currency for the next stop. It cost a little more for all the conversions,  but avoided having to get unnecessary money converted before we left the UK.

Each week as we go shopping we buy various toiletries to take away. Our stocks of shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash, and hairspray are mounting up. We ran out last time and struggled to find our favoured ones. We also keep eyes open for clothes shops with sales, for extra bits and pieces.

I have to get my formal suits dry-cleaned, and the car needs servicing  plus a new MOT. But we are actually getting to a point where most things on the lists have been ticked off.

….except for the things we have forgotten so far, that will be added to a new list.