Normal service is resumed…

…whatever ‘normal’ means!  In this case I think it means sitting down on a Saturday morning, on my own while A is at work, having time to think about what I want to write and actually making the effort to write it.  You wouldn’t believe how many posts I’ve written in my head but not got round to typing/publishing, usually thought up on occasions such as on the train, in the car, or in bed whilst trying to get to sleep. 

Anyway, here’s one that made it! 

I’ve got lots of stories to tell about my wonderful cruise, which I’ve kind of grouped into 5 very loose categories.  I’ll attempt to write up one group per week, alongside all the other news, but don’t consider that a promise. 

Firstly, this week has been fairly routine.  I missed a couple of days at work due to IBS problems, but still managed 2 days at home and 1 in Bristol.  Health-wise I’m struggling a bit, trying to get back into routine, trying to settle the IBS back down after all the food excess on the boat.  The 2nd dose of hormone treatment started to wear off, which didn’t help, but I’ve just had the 3rd dose so that should improve.  In about 10 days I’ll go to see the consultant again, to find out what happens next. 

This coming week will be a bit disrupted, as I have to go to Bristol on Monday (when I would usually work at home) for a briefing.  Then on Tuesday (usually a Bristol day) I have booked a day’s leave to take my Mum to the hospital.  She has an urgent appointment at the breast cancer clinic and is really worried about it so I promised to take her. 

So, back to the boat!  This first category should be about the boat itself, I think, and a few of its occupants. 

The boat is enormous.  I cannot stress that enough!  As we arrived at Southampton docks by taxi, the car turned a corner and we found ourselves looking at what appeared to be a big, shiny office building.  It seemed like an odd place for an office block.  Then we caught on – it wasn’t a building, it was our boat!  It’s very difficult to get a photo of the boat, showing its scale, because it is so big, but this one of A holding our new nephew Gethin (Yay!  New nephew!  More later) gives some idea:

Here’s another, taken from the coastal cliff path on Guernsey:

That’s a castle in the foreground! 

Anyway, aside from the size of it, the boat was lovely and luxurious.  It was very easy to get lost though.  There were 3 main restaurants, as well as the 24 hour buffet and countless smaller food areas.  There was a large theatre, a conference centre and many, many bars, most of which included various kinds of entertainment at different times of day/night. 

There was a cinema, on the open deck by one of the many pools.  The ‘Movies Under the Stars’ screen showed a variety of films through the day and evening, as well as the World Cup football matches.  We went to see films the first 3 nights running, as they were all films we had wanted to see for a while but never got around to.  It got a bit cold outside at night, so heated blankets were provided, and free popcorn. 

One of our favourite entertainments was watching the boat leave port, especially seeing the people who remove the ropes from the dockside and throw them into the water for the boat to suck back in.  We called them the boat rope dudes, and always waved to them as the boat departed.  They were infinitely interesting and varied – in several ports the boat was longer than the dock, so ropes were tied up on platforms.  The boat rope dudes piled into a small boat, which took them, all kitted out in safety helmets and orange overalls, to the platforms.  The dudes ran up ladders to the tops of the platforms, waited for the ropes to slacken, unhooked them, then moved back over the edge of the platform while the ropes were pulled in by the boat.  Eventually, when all the ropes had been done, the small boat would pick the dudes back up again and they’d return to the dock.  It was (bizarrely) so entertaining to watch.  Even the dudes who just had to walk along the docks to their ropes were cool. 

Our cabin was lovely – we had been upgraded by several floors, to almost the highest cabin deck, and the room was much bigger than we expected.  We didn’t have a window, but apart from first thing in the morning, when deciding what to wear, we didn’t miss it.  We weren’t so happy, however, to discover that our immediate neighbours appeared to be 2 or 3 ‘children’.  We didn’t quite establish how many of them were staying next door, or quite how old they were.  At first we thought they were early teens, because of their behaviour, but later we saw the girl playing in the casino, for which she should have been at least 18.  She was the worst of them – she’d run up the corridor (like an elephant), burst through their door squealing, then there’d start an awful row of banging, crashing, shouting, screaming, high-pitched giggling.  A while later, she’d burst back out of the door and stomp off up the corridor again. 

This went on day and night, at all hours.  One night, after 1am, A lost patience and went out into the corridor to ask them to be quiet.  As he fumbled to unlock our door, they heard him coming and all ran away, hiding just round the corner and laughing at him.  The next afternoon, when we heard them in the corridor, A went out again, quietly this time, and gave them a proper ‘Dad’ lecture 🙂  It was comical, but I doubt if they’d ever been spoken to like that in their lives before.  All they said was ‘Ummm, okay’, and went back in their room.  After that they were much less disruptive, although still painful. 

The majority of the passengers on the boat were American, and we used our usual anti-social approach of not talking to anyone, so I can’t really comment on them.  We did overhear a few comical speeches…one was from our neighbours, when the girl did her usual trick of thumping up the corridor and bursting into the room, followed by an explosion of ‘Bitch!  She hit me!  She laid her hands on me!’.  Imagine it said in an American drawl…we couldn’t stop laughing – what an expression!  From then on we constantly pushed each other just so we could say ‘You laid your hand on me’!  Another favourite was the man at dinner patiently explaining to his table companions that the ‘Liver’ (mis-pronounced Livver) birds on the Royal Liver (correctly pronounced Ly-ver) are nothing special, why they’re only a few inches tall!  The damn things are something like 18 feet high!  They do look small, but for goodness sake, they’re on the top of a very tall building! 

The formal nights were mildly disappointing.  When we went on Sea Princess, two years ago, the formal were really formal – ballgowns and all.  This time, not so many people made that much effort.  One guy turned up to the dining room in a cream linen suit – hardly a tux!  A lot of the women wore black trousers with shiny/sequin blouses/jackets.  We opted for the most formal approach though:

My dress was lovely, and apart from the shiny white cleavage I was happy with it.  I tried to avoid a partial suntan, but just spend too much time outdoors! 

A looked pretty, and loved making the effort. 

It was pretty strange going back to Liverpool, after an absence of at least 9 years.  The dockside has been totally re-developed, and looked really good.  We didn’t stray any further than that, opting for a peaceful afternoon on the boat instead.  A cursed his luck though – he persuaded me to get in a swimming pool, for the first time in 20 years.  Just as we went to get in the pool, me with Tshirt and shorts over costume, about to strip off and hurry in, a photographer appeared!  What are the chances?!  He was taking pictures for the next Princess brochures in the UK and wanted the Liverpool skyline, with the 3 Graces on the waterfront, with the back of the boat showing in front of them.  He really wanted some life in the pictures, but the boat was deserted – would we mind getting in the pool and being in the photos? 

The answer, simply put was ‘Yes, I mind’!  In the end we compromised, I sat on the pools edge with my Tshirt still on (no bikini shots, thanks), while A splashed around in the pool.  So we’ll be looking out for any future brochures, just to see if we turn up in them. 

But seriously, I’m so self-conscious I haven’t been in a pool for 20 years, and the day I do a photographer turns up?  I could get paranoid! 

Anyway, this is now a monster of a post, so I’ll finish off here for now.  There’s a lot more to say, but it’ll keep.  The more I write, the more I think of to write! 

One last story – my baby brother’s baby arrived while we were away.  We are now proud Uncles to Gethin Adam, whose first ever outing was to fetch us home from Southampton.  He was all of 4 days old, but my bro just couldn’t wait to show him off:

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