Saturday, 18 April 2015

Britannia Cruise ….the Story So Far

Our first land-fall of the cruise was good old Gibraltar …..

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…..and, during our short 5 hour stopover, we were joined by Laurie –friend and one of the ship’s entertainment team, who does his job for us both on and off the ship! 

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The lovely Casemates Square at the bottom of Gibraltar High Street overlooked by the Rock.

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“Britannia”, flying the flag with P&O’s new colours, welcomes us back on board.

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A rather cloudy “Rock” as we leave for our next destination.

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The Entertainment Team work hard during the Gibraltar sail-away party on the Lido deck.

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Alicante came next on our visit list – you need to be fairly sober to walk straight down this promenade!

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Taking the new lift to the Castle above Alicante gave a fantastic view of the city and the harbour. We chose to walk from Britannia into the town (seems that we’re always at the end of the dock!)

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This pic was taken in the pouring rain but it proves that good acting and photography can mask most things! Happily, the rain in Spain stopped fairly quickly afterwards.

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We’ve spend some very happy hours with old cruise friends Bill and Jill (who had no idea that we’d be aboard this cruise) and their family. James, Ben, Jill, Sarah, Doug, Jane, John and Bill enjoying pre dinner drinks in the Crow’s Nest …..

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…… before a fine meal in the Meridian restaurant.

 

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Our Rome visit brought a fantastic surprise for us as we met up with Dawn and Glenn (also on the ship!) from narrow boat “The Grand Affair”. We’d spent some happy times together last year on the Thames tideway outings. St Peter’s Square was even busier than last time.

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…… as you can see!

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We took in a visit to the tremendous Pantheon …….

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…… housing the tombs of Raphael and many of the Italian monarchy.

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The Spanish Steps were as busy as the rest of the city  …….

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….. but a walk along the side of the River Tevere was strangely quiet.  The great mass of the Castle of St. Angelo with the dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the distance.

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Back aboard ship we were treated to a superb evening of entertainment by Zoe Tyler. Her singing was sensational.

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After a delightful, sunny and very tiring day in Rome followed by dinner and Zoe Tyler we had a walk around a very deserted ship …..

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….enjoying the lights and calm after a great day out.

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…. and, finally, another joy – we’ve met up with Delroy, the brother of our friend Dolreich. Meeting the other ‘triplet’ Dixon aboard Queen Mary 2 in January that’s all three of them done and dusted!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Enjoying the “Wow” Factor.

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A pic from Saturday - Doug on the balcony of our cabin enjoying the sunshine in Southampton before our departure at 5 o’ clock.

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We’d kept our embarkation quiet but it wasn’t long (the sail-away party in fact) when we were “discovered” by a member of the entertainment (Laurie) and we were soon beginning a reunion with many of the staff aboard.  Here’s Doug with entertainment team members Laurie and Tom (who ‘seemed’ happy enough to see us!)

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As we left Southampton the sail-away party got under way in the sunshine around the central Lido deck area.

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The view from our balcony at 6 o’ clock on Sunday evening as we head towards a very calm Bay of Biscay.

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On Sunday evening we had a very nice meal with Laurie in The Glass House …..

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…… before moving on to The Live Lounge where the night club atmosphere was buzzing with activity ……

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…… while we waited for the extremely good male duo singers to come on stage.

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Late on Monday evening (11 o’ clock) we were having a snack in the Horizon restaurant when we were approached by Janet (who we’d never met) - a friend of our dear friend Thelma.  It’s such a small world and very observant of Janet to recognise us – thank you Janet and it was lovely to meet you.

A walk around the ship today (Monday) with the camera - here are a few pics. :-

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This is not a trendy store after closing time but the self service Horizon Restaurant. Cleverly laid out it copes very well in rush hours and is a real breath of fresh air when it comes to the “trougheries” (self service) on a lot of cruise ships.

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“Brodies” pub.

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The Headliners Theatre – very much in keeping with the contemporary layout and design of the ship.

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Just a corner of a walkway – very pleasant to just sit and read.

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Large as the ship is the whole layout is centred around the beautiful Atrium with it’s central “Starburst” exhibit suspended from the ceiling. (P&O suggest there’s over a million pounds worth of art on board) The Atrium always seems to be well used but still remains a very relaxed place to spend some time. It covers three decks (there are 19 decks in total!!!) with shops and coffee lounges overlooking it’s central space.

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The very contemporary design of the ship is well complimented by the diverse artwork all around.

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A lot of bar and lounge venues are adjacent to the thoroughfares – normally not a great idea but things have been so well thought out it seems to work a treat.

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We spotted a couple having a sneaky one to one dance lesson in the Crystal Room.

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…… and, finally, we can keep a watchful eye on the Bridge from our balcony high up on deck 15!

We’ve still a lot to discover aboard this very big ship (and hopefully we’ve got all the info right so far!) but first impressions are that this is one hell of a nice vessel. The Bay of Biscay has behaved itself today with calm seas and glorious sunshine and we should be docking in Gibraltar tomorrow morning.

PS. On Sunday James was the very first person on the cruise to win a gold sticker by winning the deck quoits! He had to lie down after to get over the shock!!!!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Ocean Wave Beckons Again!

After a train journey from Chichester to Southampton this morning, we popped in to see the British Titanic Society’s exhibition and sale at the Grand Harbour Hotel.

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The exhibition was very good indeed. The attendance increased dramatically while we were there. So much so that at 12 o’ clock it was time to leave and make room for others.  We met up with friend Jonathan (with Doug on the right) who had an excellent display there himself. We also met up with friends Alastair and his partner Chris – a very nice surprise for us! Leaving the exhibition, a short taxi ride took us to Southampton’s Ocean Terminal where we boarded ………..

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…….P & O’s fabulous new cruise ship “Britannia” for a 14 night trip round the Med. We’ve done a very quick reconnoitre and are truly amazed at the design, decor and finish of the ship. Here’s Doug on the Lido deck.

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We popped in to have a look at The Retreat – a quiet area which can be enjoyed for a small extra ‘charge’ per day.

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Inside, and we haven’t taken nearly enough pics yet, it was fairly empty when we first walked around and an ideal opportunity to enjoy the ship before the 3500’sh passengers came aboard for the voyage.

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The main Atrium is sensational and everything it was promised to be from the recent TV coverage of the ship’s naming ceremony and P&O’s promotional work. The ship’s image has been based more on a hotel than a cruise ship and it works extremely well and, speaking to quite a few of the staff (who are now old friends!) they too think it’s absolutely amazing!  We’re looking forward to our destinations of Gibraltar,Rome, Florence and Pisa, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante (and hopefully a lot of sunshine!).

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Not so Extreme.

 

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At 10 o’ clock sharp on Friday we were “flushed” out of Limehouse basin and onto a very calm River Thames. Our little flotilla of five boats, as always, looked very diminutive as we powered out into the big wide world.

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The Thames never seems to fail which ever bit it is and the bit through London is no different.

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The Tower of London overlooked the very calm waters of the Pool of London – which is traditionally the “scary” bit if there is one.

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The Shard, with it’s head in the clouds, looks down on HMS Belfast.

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Two happy chaps – Manel and Doug with a great view of the calm waters we enjoyed during the trip.

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With Parliament dissolved our seat of government stood empty as we passed by.

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Vauxhall Bridge is one of the lost wonders of the Thames for most London visitors. It’s adorned with the most wonderful bronze statues with differing depictions.

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Battersea Power Station looking rather strange with only three of its four chimneys. Part of the restoration / conversion is the complete restructuring of the stacks (we understand).

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Even calmer waters as we reach the areas of Chelsea and Kew – our little band of boats, all nicely equally spaced, head towards our destination of Brentford.

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As we left the river for Thames Lock at Brentford we bump into friends Nick and Emma on nb “Marpessa2” who were ready to join the river. Nice to see you guys and safe cruising.

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As four of the five leave the second set of double locks ……..

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……. we do a short trip up this 19th Century ‘motorway’ to the The Fox at Hanwell to join in their annual Beer Festival.

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On Saturday morning, after coffee and cake on board “Chance”, a good few members of the group helped us up through the Hanwell flight of locks as we needed to get “Chance” back to Packet Boat marina.

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The one (and only) highlight of the canal section between the Hanwell flight and Bulls Bridge junction is the fascinating “Three Bridges”. Road (above), canal and Railway (below) all intersect at the same point. Bad planning has given rise to the amazing and ingenious construction.

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With “Chance” safely back in the marina we used the car to get us back to the mooring at The Fox, where we joined up with the others again for a BBQ. Enough food for the proverbial 5000 but, as you can see, there weren’t! having said that we had a great time and a fitting end to a wonderful weekend. Andrew, Perry, Beverley, Diane, Doug, Manel and Frances.

No “extreme” cruising this time but terrific nonetheless. Thanks so much to our friends at St Pancras Cruising Club for letting us join in.