Farewell to Oriana 12

Wednesday Afternoon

As the day progressed, the weather turned cloudier and the sea became lumpy. The wind strength was increasing, and concerns that we would not be getting ashore on Guernsey tomorrow were raising. The weather forecast was not promising.

After the Battle of the Sexes, that the ladies lost by just one question, Deb and searched for somewhere to have lunch. We ended up having a sandwich in the buffet. The lack of bright and warm weather means everyone is trying to find somewhere inside, and because we have a busy period between 12:00 and 1:00, we struggled.

On the way back from lunch I considered going to watch Bohemian Rhapsody in the cinema, but is was standing room only. Never mind, I have seen it before, and more opportunities to watch it again will come up.

We spent the afternoon relaxing, having tea and cake, and generally enjoying our last few hours on Oriana. Once the afternoon quiz was over, we put on our formal gear for the final time (this cruise) and had a glass of fizz in the Crow’s Nest.

Dinner was the Marco White gala menu and I had Beef Wellington because there was nothing else appealing. I am sure that Beef Wellington with a crisp(ish) coating is very nice, but the version on board is not. I peeled away the soggy pastry, and ate the meat.

It was a quiet evening because timings were all wrong to see the lady magician again. Deb and I did begin a quiz on television shows, but gave up after realising it concentrated on American shows. There were just two British created programmes, and after moaning about the content, we gave up. The quiz host made a note that this particular quiz is really not targeted at a British audience.

The remainder of the evening was all about reading in Anderson’s.

By the time we went to bed at 10:30, Oriana was bumping about more than at any other time on the cruise. Around 1:00 in the morning I woke and the noise of the wind and miscellaneous banging was horrendous.

Sleep was not easy to come by.

Thursday 27th June – Guernsey???

The noise and movement did eventually subside, and I got some meaningful sleep. I woke at 7:00 wondering what the chances were of getting onto Guernsey. The navigation channel showed we were sailing along the south coast of the island but the sea conditions didn’t look good. Just as we were setting off for breakfast at 7:45, the captain made the predicted announcement and confirmed the plans for Guernsey were off.

It was a little quiet around the ship as people came to terms with the news. Many passengers had tours booked, but they at least get their money back. The adventures and possible memories were not going to happen.

It is 10:00 in the morning now, and I am in Anderson’s catching up on my dairy. Deb is back in the cabin attacking the bulk of the packing. I keep out of this when the sea is anything other than flat calm. I struggle to pack in these conditions without feeling ill. Fortunately, Deb is rarely affected by the motion.

The entertainment team have organised and published a plan for the day to cover the unexpected sea-day, but around me in this lounge, most people are quietly reading and perhaps wondering what could have been.

Tonight, the Headliners are performing ‘We’ll Meet Again’ in the theatre, and a jazz trio are performing in the Pacific Lounge. We won’t be getting involved in either of these offerings. The Headliner’s show is a flag waving and audience singing show, and we avoid such things. I understand the passion for reminiscing and pretence of national pride, but I feel it is becoming out of date. Soon no-one will be left who remembers Vera Lynn singing the iconic song for the first time, and we need to find a new way of celebrating being British.

Final Update

It is 3:00 in the afternoon now, and the rough sea has continued. Activities are most definitely in door only.

The captain came back with an announcement a little while ago with an update. We had already noticed that Oriana appeared to be on course for Southampton, and that she was going quite fast. The captain informed us that there was a medical issue with another passenger, and it was decided the best option was to get back to Southampton as quickly as possible.

We are now due to be home by around 10:00 tonight. This will be for the casualty transfer only, and we will not be able to disembark until the morning.

This will be my last post now until we get home. I can summarise the 12 nights then without waiting for the internet to do its stuff.

Bi for now from Oriana

Farewell to Oriana 11

Tuesday Evening

Deb and I went to the main dining room as planned, and we were the only ones at our table. We knew that one couple had abandoned the dining room in favour of the buffet, and it seems so have the others. The problem is that our little protest will have no affect on P&O who will continue with the almost identical menu that they have been serving up for three years.

I am quite sure that new, or occasional cruisers, with P&O will find the menu absolutely amazing, but this cruise has many passengers, like ourselves, who have been on numerous cruises and can almost recite the menu without looking at it. Deb and I usually go straight to the ‘specials’ in hopes of finding a surprise.

Anyway, we had already looked at the menu before committing to going to the dining room and we both had meals that were enjoyed. Our waiter spent the hour grovelling up to us, but he needn’t have worried, as we will be returning to the dining room again on Wednesday as it is formal night.

However, the last night on board, we will be in the Beach House.

After dinner we walked towards the theatre, but as we passed Lord’s we heard the last call for a quiz. So, we sat in there and put up a good fight with the other early evening quizzers. We were soundly beaten.

On to the theatre then. It was the Headliners with their show called, ‘Night of a thousand stars’ that looks back on the stars who have sang at the Palladium theatre over the decades.

It was OK, but not one that thrills us.

For the rest of the evening we sat in Anderson’s, reading our books as we sipped a glass of wine.

When we went to bed, Oriana was once again gently sailing along. She was now heading south towards Guernsey at a very slow rate of knots. Before we get there, we have a day at sea to unwind from the busy schedule of ports over the last few days.

Wednesday 26th June – Sea Day

It is a grey morning outside, and although warmer than it has been, it is not very inviting to wander around outside. The early mist thickened and soon Oriana’s fog horn was warning other boats in the area.

After breakfast it was time to update the diaries before Deb goes off to her final Fit Step session on the cruise. At midday it will also be the completion of the Battle of the Sexes where the scores are very close.

I will not be going for a walk this morning. The last few days of walking have been too much for my knee, and I want to rest it today. The morning quiz is about stars and personalities, that will be a disaster for me with my inability to remember names.

So, perhaps it is time for a few thoughts about Oriana. This will be the last time we sail on her, and like hundreds of other loyal P&O passengers, there is some disappointment that she is leaving the fleet. There is no hope of a replacement to fill the gap in the fleet, and those who enjoy this lady of the seas will have to move to Aurora, Arcadia, or Oceana. They are acceptable but Oriana has a special place in many passengers’ hearts.

Oriana is looking as good as I can remember her. Outside, the hull is virtually rust free, and only when you look out of the windows and see the corrosion around them, do you realise that she has been battered by the salt for nearly 25 years.

Inside it is similarly in good condition but maybe the carpets look a little worn, and some of the furniture a little saggy. The passenger facing crew are superb and do not seem to be concerned by the recent decision by P&O to remove tips.

The entertainment on this cruise has been average. Vocalists are again the majority, but the comedian and magicians have given us a bit of variety. The Headliners continue with shows that regular cruisers are far too familiar with, but we continue to watch to see any minor changes. This is not the fault of Oriana, or any other entertainment teams, it is a problem that exists across the fleet, and other cruise lines. Creating and producing a new show costs a lot of money and time, so new shows are a rarity. This also applies to the vocalists, comedians, and magicians who perform on cruise ships. The acts are rarely altered, and we have seen many acts that are virtually identical to perhaps three or four years ago.

So, that just leaves the food. You have already seen my thoughts about the main dining room menu, and hence no further comment needed. Elsewhere on this ship, the buffet has been a disappointment as well. The choice appears to be less, and perhaps not so well presented. Having said that, the Conservatory Buffet is busy from breakfast to dinnertime and certainly shows how so many passengers prefer it to the formal dining experience. Deb and I have however gone the other way. Because of the difficulty of finding a table in the buffet, we have opted to use the dining room for breakfast, and even considered it for lunch.

Sindhu is considered as being very popular across the fleet, but this does not necessarily apply to the older generation of cruisers (e.g. Oriana passengers). The restaurant on Oriana is large and has not been busy throughout the cruise, even after the cover charge had been dropped. The Beach House is also quieter than I expected, but still popular with more than Sindhu. The other dining option is ‘Alfresco’s’ for snacks through the day. We have ignored it after less than good experiences in the past, but it has been very busy.

The cruise itself has been really enjoyable, with some interesting ports. So few British spend enough time to explore their own country, and I am one such person, so this has been good.

I will be sad to get of Oriana on Friday morning, but know that the cruise industry will always move on to where it can make the most profit. Loyalty means little when new people continue to book a cruise holiday. P&O under the Carnival organisation has decided that P&O will go down the option of using big ships with a ‘Stack them high and sell them low’ business model. This works well until the cruise bubble bursts, and P&O will be left with a fleet of large ships with empty cabins. Then they might want the loyal customers back.

In the meantime, many of us are looking elsewhere. Other cruise lines are available, and some have some rather good business models of small ships and higher levels of service. Of course that costs more, but the time comes when people who have sampled the luxury of P&O in the past are prepared to spend a little more to find that luxury elsewhere.

OK, Deb has just gone to her Fit Steps, and I think I will go and have a walk as the fog has lifted.

Farewell to Oriana 10

Tuesday 25th June – Cobh

We have really been so lucky with the state of the sea on this cruise. It was a little bumpy over the first couple of days, but since then it has often looked like a mirror. Last night was no different as we rounded the southern coast of Ireland towards the port of Cobh (once called Queenstown).

It was a bit murky outside when I poked my nose out through the curtains at 7:00, but I could see the sunshine on the cliffs in the distance. The TV Navigation channel was already showing 14°C so the day could be a good one.

After breakfast we spent a few minutes on our diaries, and then got things together to go for a walk through this beautiful town. When we came here in 2012 it rained, and although we explored a little, most of the day was a washout.

This morning we walked up to the cathedral that looks down over the town. It is a huge building and built mainly of a sort of grey stone. I will admit that the walk up the steep roads and steps to the cathedral almost wrecked my knee in the first 15 minutes of being off the ship.

After the bit of cultural architecture viewing, we descended into the town again and looked in the shop windows and simply enjoyed the laid back lifestyle of this place. There were a lot of tourists wandering the streets like us, and accents were varied, although a lot of them were from the USA. There was also a lot of school children, and it looked like a general ‘out of school day’ for several schools. They appeared to be looking at all the sites that the cruise passengers were also interested in, so a little bit of congestion was on the cards.

Deb and I sat with an ice-cream looking out across the harbour, while my knee recovered. Then we moved to the ‘Titanic Experience’ to relight the memories of our visit 7 years ago.

It was full of children.

We changed our minds and went back towards the ship to the ‘Heritage Centre’ that is virtually joined on to the docks where Oriana sat. We went in, and found more children, but they were still lining up to get their tickets, so we dashed through the entrance turn-style and began the tour. This is a wonderful exhibition that charts the history of sea travel from this port. Many of the passengers were convicts initially, but when that part of history came to an end, it became emigrants to the new worlds. Apparently some 3 million Irish people left this port towards America, Canada, and Australia.

The museum exhibition also looks at the Titanic of course, as this was the last placed it stopped for passengers on its ill-fated cruise in 1912. Another sea-faring disaster is also covered, and that was the sinking of the Lusitania on its way to Britain from America in 1915.

It had been a  lovely way to spend an hour, assuming of course that you enjoy history.

We didn’t bother with coffee and cake this time, and just returned to Oriana to get a spot of lunch.

By 1:00 we were back at the Titanic Experience, and bought tickets for the 1:30 tour. While waiting we went out into the warmth and sat by the harbour again.

Our tour of the Titanic story exhibition was wonderful, even if it was the second time we have seen it. The experience is enhanced by realising we had entered the old white Star building up the same steps as the passengers in 1912, and looked out at the remains of the wooden pier where they boarded the tender boats taking them out to Titanic.

That was enough for the day. It had been so good to come back to Cobh and wander around a little, instead of getting wet.

We are going to eat in the main dining room this evening. The menu is not exciting, but we have spotted an option we can enjoy. After that, the entertainment is the Headliners in the theatre with ‘Night of a thousand Stars’, while the Pacific Lounge has a show from someone called Phinesta Taylor who describes herself as the ‘Queen of Soul’. Deb likes this type of music, but I am not sure yet if she can handle 45 minutes of it.

Well, the afternoon is rushing towards shower and shave time, so I will get this posted.

Tomorrow we have the final sea-day, as Oriana sails towards the Channel Islands. On Thursday we will be anchored off the island of Guernsey, and assuming the weather continues to be friendly, we will be tendering ashore to the town of St Peter Port.

Farewell to Oriana 9

Sunday Evening

Our afternoon tea in the Peninsular restaurant was something quite special. It was for the Ligurian Loyalty tier passengers, and there were 40 of us. We were welcomed with a glass of Prosecco and then came a series of different nibbles of crumpets, teacakes, scones, sandwiches, and samosas alongside the plate of cakes on the tables. There were 9 of us on the table and we chatted for 45 minutes about cruises and no-one felt any embarrassment talking about cruises, different ships, different captains and our amazing sea-going experiences all over the world.

Tea and coffee were constantly appearing, as well as extra plates of food and even a couple of refills of Prosecco.

The captain made an appearance, along with several other senior officers and the loyalty team.

We left there and went to the Lord’s Tavern for a quiz. Two people had the same score of 19/20 and they even got the same answer for the tie breaker. After a little vocal encouragement, the quiz master gave them both a sticker. We were not winners, but at least I marked a winning paper.

There were a few minutes left before dinner, and tonight it was in the Beach House.

It goes without saying that we had a wonderful meal.

After eating, we sat in Tiffany’s with a small glass of something alcoholic and then had a (very) early night.

Monday 24th June – Dublin

After a good night’s sleep, I was up at 7:00 to make the tea. Oriana was just approaching her docking point for the day on a cloudy morning in the capital of the Republic of Ireland.

We have been here three times before, and planned to take the shuttle into the city and do our own thing.

With breakfast over there were a few minutes to get ready, and then we were away to the quayside and the double decker shuttle bus.

Goodness the traffic is bad in this city. We took far longer then we anticipated to get to the backstreet where we all got off. From there it was another 15-minute walk to O’Connell Street. Here we queued up to go around the GPO Exhibition about the 1916 uprising. This was something Deb wanted to do in 2016 when we were last here, but the exhibition had only just opened, and the queues to get in were horrendous.

This time we had a leisurely stroll around this quite amazing exhibition charting the reasons for the uprising, as well as the actual moments of the event, and the aftermath and changes in the country since.

To finish our visit to the GPO building, we had a delicious cup of coffee, and delicious muffins.

My knee was complaining bitterly by now, so we began the walk back to the shuttle stop, while looking around the shops on the way. Dublin is a busy city with hundreds, if not thousands of tourists each day making the streets packed with pedestrians, as well as constantly busy traffic.

By 1:00 we were back home on Oriana for a cup of tea, and then a chance to relax. Sadly, I had to log on to the new house conveyancing site to read the latest batch of documents that arrived this morning. There was nothing of any serious interest, and included at least five sets of documents with the identical electrical certification.

We are just about to go for a mid-afternoon cuppa now before getting ready rather early for a special sail-away cocktail party in the Captain’s reception room. This is a party we have paid for and something different for us.

Before the party we went to the theatre to watch a show from a local music and dance group galled ‘Gaels Afloat’. The theatre was packed. It was full 15 minutes before the show began, and there were people standing down the sides, and all across the back. We had seen these people before, and they were fantastic. The music was superb, and the dancing was mesmerising.

As the show ended, we galloped to reception to join a small group of people waiting for the sail-away cocktail party. It was for about 40 paying passengers, and we were led from the reception area, to a room at the front of B deck, which is the captain’s personal reception area. It is quite a large room and we were greeted by officers and waiters with prosecco and canapes. There was also a way out onto an observation deck to allow us to watch our sail-away from Dublin.

Slightly quiet to begin with, soon the room was a buzz of alcohol fuelled chatter. Most of us moved on from prosecco to cocktails that kept appearing.

Strangely, few people saw much of the sail-away, but we did concentrate hard on the canapes, chatter, and cocktails. This was a very different, and rather enjoyable experience.

Deb and I were some of the final people to leave, and we were in no state to eat, so we returned to the cabin to decide what to do next. The entertainment we chose was a lady magician in the theatre. She was called Mandy Muden, and perhaps not the most accomplished magician, she kept the audience thrilled with her comedy as well as the tricks.

Out of the theatre, we went to the Lord’s Tavern for a quiz about the Caribbean. We were still rather hazy from the earlier alcohol, and struggled with many of the question, but somehow, we managed to win. Obviously, our trip around the Caribbean in the Spring did leave us with some knowledge.

As we carried off our heavy gold victory stickers, we snuggled into a sofa in Anderson’s for a late-night tipple to settle our empty tummies…

… it’s a good enough excuse, isn’t it?

Oriana was quietly sailing southwards on a calm sea. Tomorrow we would be in the port of Cobh on the southern Irish coast. This is the cruise port for the city of Cork, but we will be remaining in the beautiful little town of Cobh.

Farewell to Oriana 8

We are well over half way through our cruise on this beautiful little lady of a ship.

Update of Saturday in Kirkwall

Our afternoon trip to savour the tastes of the Orkneys was a bit of a surprise. We had skipped lunch, and even booked the Beach House for the evening, thinking we would be nibbling snacks on our trip.

A coach drove us to a restaurant in the town (called The Shore I believe) and we were greeted by the owner and his staff. Quickly seated inside, there was a keyboard player and a violinist to settle us down with some local music.

The 40 or so of us were seated along either sides of two tables, and before us was a small glass of local whisky, plus a plate and various bits of cutlery, and some cheeses on little bread slices. The owner welcomed us and we all toasted our health with the small, but perfectly formed, nip of the whisky. It was from a distillery called ‘Scapa’ and I really liked it.

I have to tell you that I do not like whisky.

After a few words of introduction about himself, the island, and the cheeses in front of us, we tucked into two local cheeses. They were sitting on two different types of local bread, and one was a ‘Bere’ bread that dates back centuries.

Cheese and bread were delicious.

There were more descriptions of the island, the bread we had been eating, and the fishing industry. And that was a welcome to another plate arriving at the table slivers of triple cured herring, along with locally prepared oat biscuits. Now, I don’t enjoy fish either, but these little slices of herring were sweet and tasty. To wash this course down, we also had a small glass of local beer.

More talk.

Thinking we were almost through the tasting, there was a shock with a full-size plate of beef stew, new potatoes and cabbage. Deb and I turned to each other, and decided to cancel lour meal in the Beach house when we get back on the ship. There were another couple of glasses of different beers to taste as well.

Finally came the pudding course with local fudge cheese cake, local ice-cream, and a rhubarb sauce. This was accompanied by a glass of local fruit wine.

After two hours of a very enjoyable meal of Orkney food, we boarded our coach back to Oriana. What a wonderful experience.

Late in the afternoon by now, there was just an hour or so left before our ship said goodbye to the Orkneys for the final time. Initially just a lone piper played on the quayside but that soon became 16 men and women with pipes and drums to bid farewell to Oriana.

We had dinner in the buffet, and that was just a bowl of soup, followed by a pudding for me, and cheese and biscuits for Deb. That was plenty for us.

Our evening entertainment began with comedian, William Caulfield in the Pacific Lounge. Yes we had heard his act before, but we still enjoyed his ‘gift of the gab’. After that we trotted along the deck to the Lord’s Tavern for a quiz that was all based on cryptic clues. This was good fun, and we did very well, getting 19 out of 20. Two teams got them all correct but it was still an amusing 45 minutes.

From there we ended our evening with a glass of wine in Anderson’s while we discussed the cruise, and also our impending house move. Things are nearing completion now, and we have a lot of things to organise when we get home.

Sunday 23rd June – Sea Day

When I looked out of the window this morning, the coastline of western Scotland is visible as we make our way to the Port of Dublin tomorrow morning.

The sky is much brighter than on some of the mornings of this cruise, but the TV navigation pages are showing a temperature of 10°C.

It was later than usual as we made our way down to breakfast in the Peninsular restaurant. There were no tables for two left so we sat with a couple of ladies. One of them was reading the details of the Caribbean lunch they had been invited to this lunchtime. They were not sure what they were expecting, so we did our best to explain the lunchtime treats.

After breakfast, Deb updated her diary, and I went for a stroll around the Promenade Deck. My stroll became reasonably energetic and I managed four laps, so more than a mile. By the time I got back to the cabin, Deb had gone to Fit Steps, and it was my turn to tap on the keyboard.

When she returned, I took a break from my diary and went to the buffet with Deb for a drink.

It is getting near to midday now, and Deb will be joining the ladies for the Battle of the Sexes at noon. I will probably go along and watch from the back. I don’t enjoy this quiz very much, but don’t mind watching.

After that we will be finding something to eat for lunch, but it won’t be very much as we have another treat this afternoon. We have been invited with the other Ligurian loyalty level passengers for afternoon tea. This appears to be quite exclusive with so few of us.

At least there won’t be too much food involved to spoil our dinner in the Beach House.

This evening the entertainment is a lady singer with an Aretha Franklin tribute in the theatre, and Headliners with ‘Top of the Billboards’ in the Pacific Lounge. I doubt we will be rushing our dinner to get to either of these.

Farewell to Oriana 7

Friday evening

After the individual quiz, we dressed casually for our dinner in the buffet. The theme tonight was ‘Best of Britain’ and there was plenty of choice for us. We both had fish and chips which was rather nice. We noticed one of the couples from the dining room table there as well. Obviously we are not the only ones finding the main dining room menu less than exciting.

Deb and I were out of the buffet very early, and soon sat comfortably in the Pacific Lounge for Mark Williams to entertain us with his magic again. Sadly, the room was almost empty for his performance, and nobody sat in the front row of chairs.

We enjoyed it. With so few people watching, and most of whom were unwilling to take part, it ended up with several of us from the first show who were used again. The act is extremely good, but someone we knew made a point that he needs to improve his ‘patter’. Maybe that put people off in his first show.

After the magic, we dashed along the main corridor to the theatre for the Headliners in ‘Reel to Reel’ It is a very familiar show but still a good way of spending 45 minutes with these hard working young people.

The evening was far from over, and we went to Lord’s for the late-night challenge. Tonight it was a not a quiz, but teams had to choose the most appropriate answer to a series of questions. Those who chose the most popular answer for each question won a point. Deb and I were most definitely thinking in a different way to the majority.

It was bedtime. Oriana was sailing south and east toward the Orkney Island group for our next port tomorrow morning.

Saturday 22nd June – Kirkwall

Deb and I actually had a reasonable night’s sleep. I felt much more refreshed when getting the morning cuppa. Today we have a tour that leaves the ship after lunch. It is all about tasting and sampling local food and drink. With nothing to do in the morning, we decided to catch the shuttle bus into the small town and stretch our legs.

The shuttle bus was a double carriage bendy bus and quite comfortable for the ride that took little more than five minutes.

The little town is small with a main street and a few shops in the lanes to the side. We spent around 30 minutes looking around, and spent less than £5. When we got back on the shuttle bus, the driver seemed quite shocked that we were ready to go back so soon.

Back on Oriana, we decided to have a cup of coffee and a muffin even though it was only mid-morning. As we are going out before 1:00, and food will be involved, this snack would keep us going until then.

As we sat down in the Crow’s Nest to catch up on our diaries, we checked out the menu for this evening. There is little to tempt us into the main dining room again, so we may well be booking the Beach House for this evening.

The entertainment tonight is William Caulfield in the Pacific Lounge to amuse us, and a couple of female singles in the theatre. We are not sure if we ever saw Williams Caulfield’s second act before, so may well try him out again.

Farewell to Oriana- 6

Thursday evening

Our cocktail party was quite enjoyable. We talked to another couple as we handed generous amounts of alcohol, and canapes. The captain made a short and sweet speech to say thanks for being loyal. She also talked about the number of nights that passengers on-board had achieved. The figures were quite amazing. Anyway, we discovered we were two of just 35 Ligurian members on the ship.

Sadly, the chances are we will drop down to Baltic level very soon. At least we made it to the dizzy heights.

Dinner was disappointing with little to make us lick our lips in anticipation. We both went for the every day steaks. Even they were a let down with my medium cooked steak being ‘ bloodier’ than Deb’s medium rare. The veg was also cold.

The waiter asked if the meal had been OK, and we let him have both barrels of moan. I know it is not the waiting staff’s fault but unfortunately they are the public face of the chefs. The head of the restaurant got involved as well and was similarly moaned at for a boring menu, too much fish, the steaks not being to our request, and cold vegetables.

This is happening too often.

Slightly annoyed at our dining experience, we moved on to the theatre to watch William Caulfield, the comedian’. Yes we had seen him before, and yes, the act was all most word perfect the same. He is one of some very good comedians on the cruise circuit, but these entertainers have to realise that a lot of passengers go on multiple cruises.

After the show we went to Lord’s for a 60s/70s themed quiz. We lost by a single point… to that same woman again.

We were already tired, but decided to have a final glass of wine before going to bed. The subjects of food and entertainers were discussed as well as some plans for future holidays, and our impending house move.

It was time for bed and a read.

Oriana was well into the trip south to tomorrow’s port in the Shetlands.

Friday 21st June – Lerwick in the Shetland Isles

Today Oriana was at anchor in the bay close to Lerwick. We were joined in the port by the Holland America’s ‘Zuiderdam’ plus a couple of smaller cruise ships. This little town is going to have a busy day.

We queued up for a tender to shore just after 9:00, and the wait wasn’t too long. The tender ride to shore was about 15 minutes long but quite comfortable.

Once ashore we spent a few minutes finding out what was where, and then headed to a small café for a drink. Deb and I joined a couple of like minded cruise lovers from the Zuiderdam. We chatted about our experienced for almost 30 minutes before saying cheerio.

One of the places we had planned to visit in Lerwick was the Museum of the Shetlands, and that was where we spent the remainder of the morning. It was interesting with a winding route through the building that took us on a historical journey through the centuries. At the end we tried to get a midday snack, but the café was full up of cruise ship passengers. We bought a fridge magnet and set off back to the town centre in search of food. Everywhere was packed and we eventually bought a tray of chips each and ate them outside on a temporary table.

As we finished we joined the queue for the next tender back to the ship. It was a long wait, and it looked as if it was about to rain.  Fortunately we got onto the tender before the squall arrived, but the rain caught us as we were getting off the ship.

Time for a cup of tea.

We then checked out the menu in the dining room for tonight, and once again there is nothing to inspire us. I think we will be eating in the buffet again, where we can at least look at what we are going to eat and choose accordingly.

The magician Mark Williams is in the Pacific Lounge this evening, while the Headliners are in the theatre with ‘Reel to Reel’. The magician is the probably choice as long as we can get into the lounge early enough for a decent seat.

Farewell to Oriana 5

Thursday 20th June and Oriana made an earlier than expected arrival into Torshavn. We should have arrived around 8:00, but it was many hours earlier when our ship quietly arrived into this Faroe Island harbour.

Yesterday evening, just as we sat down at our dinner table, the captain bing, bonged, with an announcement. Someone on board was in medical trouble, and required a hospital as soon as possible. Oriana had already turned around, and was heading back towards Scotland, but a further announcement 15 minutes later said we were back on course for the Faroes, but at much higher speed than normal. Hence our early arrival.

This had little or no affect on us, and the evening progressed as normal, except for concerned chatter about whoever was ill.

Deb and I didn’t eat much, after the lunchtime meal, and we left the table early. Back in the cabin, we changed out of the formal kit and put on something tidy, but less likely to get crumpled. We were off to the cinema to watch ‘The Greatest Showman’.

We missed this while away in the Spring, but tonight, with nothing else to interest us, we settled down in the quite comfortable seats for an hour and a half.

I had no real idea of what to expect, and with the loud musical beginning I had a few reservations, but I soon relaxed and enjoyed the story line, plus the music and dance. By the end, I was glad I decided to accompany Deb. It is a really enjoyable film.

It was 9:30 by the time we left the cinema, and it was a major surprise to see that the sun was still up quite high in the sky. Our northern position was just about giving us 24 hour daylight.

We were tired, but stopped in Tiffany’s for a cup of hot chocolate to finish the evening.

When I finished reading it was almost 11:00 but it was still real daylight outside. In fact, as I had a very restless night, it never became dark.

So, let’s turn to this morning. I was quite happy to get up and make a cup of tea at 7:00 rather than laying awake in my bed. We had a tour leaving at 9:30 to look around this island.

It was breakfast in the dining room again, and then a look around outside with lots of time left before we had to get ready. It was a cool morning, cloudy, with a lot of mist, but that would not upset our tour.

Deb and I were on the coach, and we left the harbour on time. The guide talked almost non stop for the drive part of the tour, and this was more than three hours. He talked about the island, the people and their language, religion, and lifestyle. He described virtually anything we passed on the trip, and answered several questions. He was a really good guide.

I found the island to be beautiful. It is green everywhere, it is mountainous, and it also has huge fjords. Sheep run freely everywhere, and they come in various shades of black to white, as well as some that are brown. They then have fleeces that are half one colour and half another. Many of us were quite keen to photograph them as well as the sensational views.

We drove along winding roads that climbed up the hills and then plunged down to sea-level where little villages of small houses delighted our visual senses. Many of these houses had grass covered roofs as well to enhance their charm.

We had several stops to take photos, but there was also one long stop to look at a superb wooden church, and some tiny houses dating back to the early part of the last century. They have been turned into social history museums of the local people.

It was 2:30 when we finally returned to the ship, and I think most of us, had a wonderful morning looking around this quite tiny island.

There had been no refreshment breaks, so it was now quite urgent to get something to eat.

That left a couple of hours to relax before beginning to prepare for this evening. It begins with a cocktail party for the Peninsular Club that should make dinnertime quite talkative.

Entertainment includes an Irish Comedian that we have seen before. We might go and see him, but we are not sure yet. It is also the 60’s and 70s themed evening including a themed quiz.

While this is all going on, Oriana will be setting off again, and overnight will be sailing to Lerwick. We have been there before, and although we haven’t got a tour booked, I am sure we will grab a tender ride to shore for a walk.

Farewell To Oriana 4

Wednesday morning and Oriana is slowly making her way up the west coast of northern Scotland. There is some blue sky visible, but the temperature is still struggling to get into double figures. There is a wind from the south that is helping our progress, and although the ship is wobbling a little, my stomach appears to have accepted the unpredictable sea.

Right, back to yesterday evening.

At the individual quiz, Deb managed to come equal first, meaning a tie break question was necessary to decide a winner. The question was to give the year that the Troggs released ‘Wild Thing’. Deb and one other put 1967, but the winner had it correct with 1966.

Yes, it was that same woman.

For dinner, we went to the buffet for the Indian themed evening. It was OK. I am not a fan of this style of food, but Deb is, and I can always find something to keep my tummy happy. From the buffet we went to the Crow’s Nest for a drink while our cabin was being serviced. A trio were playing jazz as we watched our progress down the estuary of the Clyde towards the North Sea. What a very green area this is.

The evening theatre entertainment came from Mark Williams, who specialises in mind magic. We don’t remember seeing him before, and the act was certainly different.

I was picked on to help him, along with four other volunteers. Mark Williams is someone who does not make you look stupid, and his act is without insults. I won’t give away what he did, but it was based on him guessing our choice from several objects.

He was good at his patter, and good with his skills.

I ended up as the final part of the act, where he filled a cup with water and put it upright on my head. I had to trust him to turn the cup upside down with a promise I wouldn’t get wet.

Slightly concerned, I tipped it over my head, and sure enough, I remained dry.

A very nice 45 minutes.

After leaving the theatre, we had another drink, in Anderson’s this time, before another early night.

So, what about this morning?

We had breakfast in the dining room and sat with a couple because there were no tables for two. They shared our preference for a secluded breakfast, but we did chat a little bit. The lady recognised me from the show last night, so I have had my 15 minutes of fame for this cruise.

At midday Deb and I are going to the Oriental Restaurant for the Loyalty lunch. There are so many top tier loyalty passengers on this cruise, that they have run out of officers to host everyone at a single sitting. And, as there are only four sea days, there is no way of having a second lunch. I wonder if our Ligurian Tier status means we will have a host?

In the meantime Deb will soon be off to Fit Steps, and I intend having a brisk stroll around the windy Promenade Deck.

My walk was a bit awkward because the forward area of the deck had been roped off. Hence I had to go around the deck as far as I could, then walk through the inside of the ship and start again. Anyway I think I managed a mile. After that I went to the morning quiz, and was extremely pleased to see that someone beat the woman to the golden sticker.

I, on the other hand, was a complete failure.

I met up with Deb as she completed the Fit Step session, and we went for a cup of tea in the buffet. By now the morning was quickly heading towards lunchtime, and time to dress tidily for the Peninsular Lunch.

There were two other couples on our table plus an officer from reception as our host. We chatted a lot, ate a very nice meal, chatted some more, and drank quite a bit. It was quite late when we left the Oriental restaurant, leaving perhaps four other tables still enjoying the event.

It was time to have a doze.

It is a formal evening. Deb and I have eaten too much already, and we hope the menu will have something simple to top ourselves up with.

Our plans for after dinner, are to go to the cinema and watch ‘The Greatest Showman’, and hopefully I can stay awake. Elsewhere on the ship, the Headliners are performing the Queen tribute show. This is always good, but we really have seen it so very often.

It is just before 4:00 now, and the weather has brightened up. The sun is shining, but it is still cool at about 15°C. Oriana has now gone beyond the northern tip of mainland Britain on her way to the Faroes for our arrival at Torshavn tomorrow morning.

Farewell to Oriana 3

Tuesday 18th June, and we are in the port of Greenock, that serves as the port for Glasgow.

Before I describe today’s adventures, I will go back to yesterday and bring the story up to date.

Firstly, apologies to any Irish readers about the name of the coach driver. Deb assures me it was ‘Padraig’ rather than Porridge. In my defence, I am sure the driver said something similar to ‘Porrig’ to confuse the innocent visitor.

Anyway, the evening meal in the Beach House was delightful. Both of us came away happy, but very overfull. After the meal we rolled our way to the theatre for the Headliner’s show ‘Stop in the Name of Love’. It was a full house with people standing to the sides. I enjoyed it, but I was a little disappointed when the singers were often missing the attack on the first notes of their songs, or, the microphones were slow coming on.

It was however still a very good show.

From the theatre we rolled on again to Lord’s for a quiz about food. This was rather difficult with several questions that stumped the majority. The quiz master was very good and kept us amused throughout. No we didn’t win, but whoever the victors were, the all-conquering woman from yesterday was not with them.

Although only just after 10:00, Deb and I had had enough for the day. We returned to the cabin to our books, and an indigestion pill for me. I struggle with very spicy, or very rich food, and the meal gave my stomach a real test. I expect we will still go back there at some time during the cruise because the food is delicious, and the dining experience is superb.

Back to Tuesday morning. Below us on the dockside there are musicians in kilts, so we are expecting a welcoming tune when we go down to the dockside to catch our coach.

The tour today is rather unusual, as we are going to a farm to see a Highland Cow.

Yes I did say we were going to see a cow.

It was raining as we left the ship, passing by the lone piper, and another person in an eight foot tall Scottish costume dancing to the tune. Very few people stopped in the rain to appreciate the sound.

We were soon on our coach, and the tour started with a drive to a little farm and garden centre which was about 40 miles away. The guide educated us with Scotland, and the area around Greenock, as well as giving us some basic history of the area, and her thoughts about politics and economics.

At the farm we were split into two groups. Our group boarded a little trailer being towed by a tractor that took us around the farm site. We saw how planned extensions would increase what can be offered to visitors, and then we passed by some sheep. After driving down through a field of grass that will become winter food for the animals, we came to a field with some cows. There were the hairy Highland cattle plus another rare breed that they have. There was even a calf that was just a handful of weeks old that had come along as a bit of a surprise the family owning and running the site. It seems the bull was allowed in with the cattle but there was no evidence that he had been busy until the calf appeared in the field one morning.

Anyway the hairy, long horned adult cows were great to see close up, and the little calf was a real “aahhh” provoking moment.

The tractor then towed us back to where we had begun and it was time for our group to have coffee and scones while the others took to the trailer.

The scones were great, the coffee good, and the girls serving the treats very friendly.

There was just time to look around the shop, but buying bags of compost or fruit trees, was not on our list of things to do.

Back on the coach, and as we made our way home, we passed the rather secure looking site of the ‘Faslane’ submarine base. Next we climbed into the hills to look at a different style of landscape. As we came back down we had our first glimpse of Loch Lomond. There was a short break to take a few photos of this largest body of water in Britain, plus a chance to purchase a souvenir fridge magnet.

That ended our views of the area, and the coach returned to Greenock. The guide gave us some more facts, and thoughts about Mary Queen of Scots, Kings of Scotland, Rob Roy, and a certain battle when the Scots defeated the English.

It had been a different sort of tour, and certainly good fun, as well as a short look at this beautiful area of Scotland.

Back on Oriana we finally managed to get some food in the buffet, and find a table to eat it. There were several tours still looking around the area, including the city of Glasgow, so the ship was quiet.

Weather wise, we avoided the rain as we stopped on our tour, and it stayed relatively dry in the afternoon. It is not warm, so the open decks are once again rather quiet.

This evening we have a magician in the theatre, and that will be our planned entertainment for the evening. We might venture to the Syndicate Quiz again tonight, as we haven’t got to get up early tomorrow with a sea day to relax once more.

Oriana will be sailed north tonight towards the Faroe Islands.

Last night it never got fully dark, and the long hours of daylight will be even more apparent tomorrow. fffffffffff