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Archive for August, 2017

We awoke this morning to a flat-calm North Sea with the sun tentatively peeping out from fluffy white cumulus clouds.  We were up at 8.00am, and off we went to the Ballindalloch restaurant for our breakfast.  As tonight is a formal evening, we found the usual bottles of cava next to the fruit juices, so we could start our day with a breakfast Buck’s Fizz (or several!).

I enjoyed a platter of fresh fruits with smoked salmon, washed down with a couple of glasses of the chilled fizz.  Then we went outside to have a walk around the decks and take in some fresh sea air.  The weather was pleasantly mild as the Balmoral glided smoothly through the calm waters.  It is rare that I have seen the North Sea as flat as this; there wasn’t a single crest breaking.  The North Sea is fairly shallow, so its state is apt to change very quickly, and indeed we have even experienced a crossing in a Force 12 gale; certainly something we won’t forget in a hurry!  😊

We spent the morning just relaxing and wandering around the ship, passing pleasantries with our fellow passengers on the way, and sitting out on the upper decks on a sunlounger just watching the world go by.  Several times we saw oil rigs, their distinctive iron bulks rising up seemingly out of nowhere.

At lunchtime a burger and hotdog stand was set up on the aft decks, so we enjoyed a bite to eat washed down with another chilled glass of cava.  Then we returned to cabin 4137 for an afternoon power nap, to try to catch up with the hour we lost last night.

At 3.00pm I went along to the salon to have my hair shampooed and blow dried ready for the Captain’s Cocktail Party at 5.45pm.  The lady did a good job of my hair, making it look as if it had loads of volume.

Then it was time to start getting glammed up.  Formal evenings are among my favourite things about cruising; the chance to wear a gorgeous evening dress and fabulous shoes and accessories, something that we don’t get the chance to do very often at home.  A lot of cruise lines have now done away with any dress code, and to my mind that is a real shame, as the formal evenings are such a traditional part of cruising.

Tonight I dressed in a stunning purple and black Gothic dress with a voluminous net underskirt which made it look almost like a crinoline.  The bodice has a sweetheart neckline and laces up the front, and the long purple velvet sleeves have another layer of heavy black lace over them.  I completed my outfit with a black lace choker and a pair of black studded shoes with sky-high heels.  Thus attired, off we went to the Neptune Lounge to meet Captain Victor Stoica and his officers, and we enjoyed some more (free!) cava along with a couple of tasty canapés.  Predictably, my gorgeous dress attracted a lot of compliments and comments, and we stopped off on the way to the restaurant to have our formal photographs taken.

Once again we partook of a superb dinner in excellent company with Alex and Marian, Roy and Joanie.  We had to wait after dinner before going to the Neptune Lounge because the second-sitting people were still having their cocktail party, so we went out on deck and watched a glorious sunset.  As there had been a brief shower of rain there was also a lovely rainbow over the Balmoral’s bows.  What a beautiful evening!

We were eventually allowed into the Neptune Lounge, and all six of us from table #76 sat together for the evening’s entertainment, which came in the shape of brilliant comedy magician Mark Shortland.  We have seen Mark twice before; on the Boudicca in 2008 as well as previously on the Balmoral in 2012.  His show is very entertaining, and the others enjoyed his performance too.

At around 9.00pm the Balmoral slowed down considerably as we entered the Kiel Canal, the stretch of water that joins the North Sea to the Baltic.  We have transited the Kiel Canal once before, on the Caronia in 2002, but then we did it in the day time.  Tonight, however, we’d miss most of it and wake up tomorrow in Kiel.

The Kiel Canal was constructed between 1887 and 1895 and was then subsequently enlarged.  The canal is 98 kilometres long, 103 metres wide and 11 metres deep.  The canal shortened the distance between the North and Baltic seas by about 322 kilometres and eliminated the difficult passage around the top of Denmark.  An average of 80 ships (excluding small craft and sporting boats) used the Kiel Canal last year.

At 10 o’clock the six of us adjourned to the Observatory for tonight’s quiz, which we didn’t win once again.  After Alex and Marian left we stayed in the Observatory talking and drinking with Roy and Joanie.  The time flew by until it was after midnight, and we then realised we were the only ones left in the lounge, so we said our goodnights and made our way back to cabin 4137 for a good night’s sleep.

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Tynetastic Cruising!

Take time to see the wonders of the world, to see the things you’ve only ever heard of.

So sang the Human League, in their 1981 hit The Things That Dreams Are Made Of.  But indeed we are hopefully going to see some more wonders in our latest cruise, to the German Waterways, departing from the Port of Tyne on M/S Balmoral, a fantastic little ship on which we’ve cruised twice before, in 2012 and in 2016.

Yes! It seems ages since we were away in March, so it was with excitement that we woke up this morning ready to embark on our latest nautical adventure.  Trevor put in half a day at work and was home by lunchtime, so after a light bite to eat we set off for the half-hour drive to Newcastle.

Check-in was very quick and efficient; in fact from closing our front door to going up the gang-plank of the Balmoral it took little over an hour.  After happily making our way to cabin 4137, we dumped our bags and set off to the bar at the aft decks, to enjoy a pint of beer each in the (rare!) Newcastle sunshine.  😊

We are travelling all-inclusive which only costs a supplement of £10.00 per person per day, so after a couple of rounds of drinks the rest is, effectively, free!

At 4.30pm the bars closed temporarily for lifeboat drill, which seemed pretty perfunctory compared to most drills we’ve attended.  I think it was because most of the passengers are seasoned cruisers and know the procedure off by heart (seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle followed by one long blast etc.).  We were, however, surprised to see quite a lot of children on board; in general Fred Olsen cruises tend to attract the 60+ crowd, but I suppose it is the middle of the school summer holidays, after all.

At 5.30pm the increased vibrations coming up through the decks announced the departure of the Balmoral, as she slowly moved away from the dockside and started to make her way down the Tyne towards the North Sea.  We returned to cabin 4137 where I had time to get changed and a wash and brush up before going along to the beauty salon at six o’clock for a pedicure.  In the salon they were also giving away free prosecco, so I enjoyed a couple of glasses of fizz while having my feet pampered.  It was lovely and relaxing, lying in my reclining chair, watching the banks of the Tyne gliding past as we started our cruise.  Just then, the Balmoral gave three blasts of her foghorn, which to me is the symbolic start of any voyage.  😊

Trevor, meanwhile, had gone along to the restaurant and ordered my meal for me, as I knew I would be slightly late.  Turning up at the Ballindalloch restaurant, I made my way to table #76 and met our table-mates who would be our dining companions for the nine-night cruise.  They are Alex and Marian from Norfolk and Roy and Joanie from Middlesbrough.  They all seemed very pleasant, and we enjoyed a tasty meal in excellent company.

Afterwards we were joined by Joanie in the Neptune Lounge, where the cruise director Jennifer Daulby introduced us to the entertainments team.  We recognised one of the mail dancers, Julian, from our cruise on the Boudicca last year; he is an excellent dancer and we would look forward to seeing more of him later on in the cruise.

We finished the evening off by going up to the Observatory lounge for the quiz, where we were joined by Alex and Marian from our table.  We scored 12/15, not enough to win.

We didn’t stay too long afterwards, as we had to put our clocks forward an hour to German time, so we would lose an hour in bed.  We therefore returned to cabin 4137 and settled down, where we slept soundly.

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