My First Cruise!
Karen Scattergood | November 8, 2018 | P&O Cruises | Arcadia
I have never been on holiday before – even in the UK and I decided that this year I would treat myself and as I have limited mobility that a cruise would probably be the best way for me to proceed.
After visiting Bolsover Cruise Club in May I took the plunge – not literally of course, and booked to cruise the Norwegian Fjords the first week in September. As I planned to go alone I also took advantage of a marvellous entity called the Baggage Handling Company, who for a small fee would take my suitcase there and bring it back and save me from struggling. Brilliant idea and well worth the extra pennies.
My other health problems mean I cannot sleep flat so I had to hire a Casabed from a company called Mobility at Sea. Superb idea, but you have to get in quick as they are only allowed to change two beds per cruise and I luckily managed to grab one.
I travelled to Southampton on the train and used awonderful system called passenger assistance where they met me at Chesterfield railway station, took me to the correct platform, placed portable ramps out to enable me to board easily and ensured that the seat I had reserved was easily reached.
I had to change at Birmingham and the same excellent assistance was given. When I reached Southampton the escort very kindly had a taxi waiting and wished me a wonderful holiday.
On reaching the Ocean Terminal I was a little shell shocked by the volume of passengers, cruise workers plus the size of the building was immense. Bear in mind I have never been anywhere and it was all a little daunting for this newbie traveller.
I don’t know why I was worried. Everyone was so kind and helpful. Within minutes it seemed that I had been processed and was waiting to clear security to board. Of course I made the metal detectors ping as I have two titanium hips but in the grand scheme of things it was to be expected. A quick wave of their wand and I was cleared to board.
Wow! Just wow was all I could think as I made my way to the lifts to reach my cabin which was way up on the sundeck. I was charmed by a young photographer called Ethan who took the first of a series of very rpofessional photographs of me – he even made me look good which is a miracle in itsefl!
I wandered up the corridor and spied my beautiful new suitcase waiting for me and on opening the cabin door could see my Casabed ready made waitng for me with a lovely little teddy watching my every move. I quickly unpacked and checked all teh cupboards and bathroom out – lovely walki in shower but a scary vacuum toilet which took some getting used to.
I made sure I had my cruise card for opening the door and off I went to explore the actual deck before the upcoming lifeboat drill. Oh my, Southampton is absolutely lovely and I made a promise to myself that next time I cruise I will have to come down the day before and explore.
I circumnavigated the ship once and overheard an interesting snippet of information. Three laps of the promenade deck = one mile. Then and there I decided I would try to do it every day, weather permitting.
Hurrying around for my first lap I nodded at total strangers and realised my face hurt as I had a mile wide smile that hadn’t stopped since I stepped on board. Wow!
Back to my cabin for the lifejacket as the most horrendous noise imaginable sounded through the speakers – they really mean to catch everyone’s attention if the ship is ever in difficulties.
Down to deck 3 for the muster station and a chuckle as we all nearly strangled ourselves with the lifejackets and ties. Eventually we were ready and after a short speech from Captain Luka we were allowed to go back to our cabins.
I hurried back on deck as we were then under way and I didn’t want to miss a thing. Most of my photos are blurry as I was shaking with excitement. Wow!
By 6.00pm I had finally showered and changed and was making my way down to the Meridian deck for first sitting dining. There were 8 of us at the table, we were all single and all travelling alone. What a lovely group of people. I tried to move around every day and speak to different people as they were all so very interesting.
We had the same wai staff every night and they were so professional yet charming and I managed to have a laugh and joke with them every day. They were obviously very sheltered as they hadn’t met anyone from deepest, darkest, Derbyshire before and when I greeted them with ‘Hey-up my little ducks,’ they thought I was hysterically funny – or mad, one of the two.
I can honestly say that the food was amazing. I only had one meal that was a little unsatisfactory and that was because there were a few bones still in the fish and it does tend to put me off. Other than that everything else was excellent. I tried new things every night as I didn’t know when I would ever get the opportunity to eat such a fantastic choice of food ever again. Yum.
Most mornings I made it down to the Meridian for breakfast but on a couple of occasions I tried the buffet on deck 9. I always had a young man to carry my tray for me and there was never any problems with finding a seat as everyone was so welcoming and I chatted with people from all over the UK, Cheshire, Shropshire, Kent, Sussex, Yorkshire. All of them had their own stories to tell and it was absolutely fascinating to hear these different tales.
Lunchtimes found me at the Neptune bar where I tried a different ‘Mocktail’ every day and would have a sandwich, side salad and bowl of fresh fruit salad to keep me going.
I had my hair cut and blow dried in the spa by a lovely young woman called Milica from Montenegro who made it gleam and look really healthy. I was very impressed and have to say that the photo’s taken at the Captain’s gala that evening were more than flattering of me.
I visited Kanshim the Japanese acupuncturist who made me really relaxed, easing all my aches and pains as he normalised my chi and did lots of other magic with his tiny needles. I wish I could have seen him every day as I have never been as relaxed in my life before.
There were artiste’s performing every evening in the Palladium theatre. I caught the shows with Lorraine Brown, Roy Walker and a fabulous Qheen tribute band who made all their popular hits come to life again. I was very impressed with the variety of the acts on board.
It rained in Bergen but apparently it always rained there so I was not totally surprised by it. I didn’t get off as I had booked a fitness revue in the gym. Boy I wish I had gotten off as I was really clumsy and managed to fall and bang my knee. Nothing broken but owie, it really hurt and was going to limit my activities while onboard.
Olden was absolutely beautiful. I managed to get off the ship and straight onto one of the delightful troll trams there and was utterly charmed and enchanted by the people and the countryside. I would cheerfully have stayed behind if they would let me!
Flaam was the next port of call and I had a lovely couple of hours wandering around the shops. I couldn’t manage the steps for the funicular but it didn’t matter as the scenery close to the ship was still beautiful.
Stavanger was our final port of call and for me was a little too large and busy. I preferred the smaller places. I did however get off the ship and wander up as far as Old Stavanger with the picturesque houses painted a myriad of colours. The hills were quite steep and I had to be very careful of drains that were cut into the surface – very tricky for people like myself who walk with 2 sticks.
I then navigated down to reception on deck 1 where there was a Norwegian tax lady who was going to reimburse all of us who had paid tax on items we purchased. I’d never heard of the Blue Cruise thing before and was really pleased to get my tax back in pounds and pence and not Norwegian Krona. I put all my loose change into the lifeboat funds as it seemed a fitting good cause.
We had a wonderful ‘Sailaway’ party as we left Stavanger on the Friday. Just one more at sea day and we would be home. It was so funny watching everyone dancing and singing, waving their flags as we left port. However Mark the entertainment manager didn’t fall into the pool is an absolute mystery and miracle to me!
More official phot’s for that and then of course that evening was the monochrome gala evening. I had a lovely black and white dress which was fondly called a ‘Princess Dress’ by my but my 8 year old granddaughter sternly announced it was
‘Definitely NOT a Princess dress Nana as it is boring black and white!’
So that burst my little deluded bubble… I did get an official photograph taken which all my friends say is lovely but all I can hear in my head is a voice denouncing it. Doh…
Back to Southampton and I disembarked by 9 am and was on the train home within the hour, dreaming of the next holiday I would have and yes, it will definitely be another cruise as I loved every minute.
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