I left home at 10:15 by Streamline taxi to catch the 10:47 Cross Country train to SoToN. I got to a packed departure lounge at 11:45, which all cleared through security in under ten minutes, so I was on board by noon. Having found my outside double stateroom in the crew area on deck 4, I explored the ship. I touched base with the shore excursions desk and signed up for a tour in Zeebrugge. I had an early lunch of scampi with carrots and mashed potatoes, before sleeping for three quarters of an hour.
An announcement from the bridge said that the cruise terminal had been closed because of a fire alarm, so I was glad I was already on board. I then started work on this blog. Another announcement put back the safety briefing, as some pax hadn't arrived on time, with five cruise ships in port and the M27 motorway closed for bridge reconstruction.
After the safety drill, I swam six lengths of the large indoor pool and spent 15 minutes in the jacuzzi as an RCI ship went past. Braemar left next, followed by us, with P&O's Britannia and another ship behind us. Later we overtook Braemar as we sped along to make up time.
At six o'clock I dined in the Vivaldi restaurant on the prime rib, sat with a couple from Bristol and a couple from Bedford who had previously lived and worked at Cranfield! At eight o'clock I went to Amethyst's magic and illusion show, which was the same as last time. At 9:15 I picked up my tour details for Zeebrugge, which required a 7:20 start, but we were also losing an hour, so I had an early night.
I awoke just before my alarms at 5 o'clock, but it was now 6 o'clock on continental time. I had the full English breakfast followed by a chocolate banana smoothie watching the sun rise over Zeebrugge harbour. At 7:20 I was on duty ready to escort my first choice tour to Ypres (Wipers) and Bruges ($120). I had 40 pax to look after, together with guide Maurice and driver Philip. We had a one hour run down to Ypres where we began at the infamous Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves. This is the largest British cemetery from the First World War with around 10,000 gravestones, a very disturbing sight.
We next stopped at the magnificent Menin Gate on the edge of Ypres, before visiting the impressive "In Flanders Fields" museum in the huge rebuilt medieval Cloth Hall. During our free time, I went in the rebuilt cathedral and had a small packed lunch. In the afternoon, we had a walking tour of Bruges - I had forgotten how beautiful it is! Unfortunately a lady in a wheelchair and her son were late back to the coach, so we didn't get back to the ship until after five o'clock, meaning I didn't get my swim in.
At six o'clock I dined on the Italian chicken in the Savoy restaurant with a couple from Cheshire and a couple from the Isle of White. The latter were sequence dancers and knew cruise ship lecturer Keith Pritchard. As it was Italian night, they were offering small glasses of lemoncello to keep as a souvenir for just $3, so I had one as my aperitif.
At 8 o'clock I went to the full house production show "Let me entertain you". This consisted of loud music and vigorous dancing to mostly classic pop songs, but I nearly fell asleep towards the end. Back in my stateroom, I completed my tour report form and dropped it off outside the crew office with my wish lists for the next three ports of call. Just after 9:30, I had a very early night after a long hot day!
I awoke at 6 o'clock having slept for eight and a half hours. I had the full English breakfast followed by a watermelon (not so) smoothie. I then updated this blog and checked over my afternoon's lecture. At 9:15 I watched Rachel's 45 minute Zumba class to high energy music. She had a packed floor in the Club Fusion lounge. I then did three circuits (one mile) of the continuous promenade deck in twenty minutes.
Back in my stateroom I updated my next two lectures. At 11:30 I went to the line dancing where Sarah taught the Wobble, the Hustle (which we would call Saturday Night Fever) and another unnamed dance to a packed floor. We were dancing in the Piazza at the bottom of the atrium and the people sitting around the edge were reluctant to move to make more space for us. I then went to the theatre to try out my laptop and copy my files on to theirs as well.
At 12:20 I lunched al fresco on the roast beef, before sleeping for over an hour. I then did six lengths of the outside pool, as all the inside loungers had been taken. I spent fifteen minutes in the jacuzzi chatting to a gent who works on the new F35 STOL jet fighters for the two new aircraft carriers. Unfortunately it clouded over, but that may make my later lecture more attractive!
Back in the stateroom, I changed into my informal outfit and updated this blog. At 3:30 I went to an Audience with actress Samantha Bond, who played Miss Moneypenny opposite Pierce Brosnan's James Bond. She has had a distinguished career culminating in Downton Abbey. She told some amusing anecdotes, but the session overran by 10 minutes, giving me only 5 minutes in which to set up.
I then gave my 40 minute talk on "Hamlet: Prince of Denmark" to a diminished audience who were rushing to get changed for the first formal night. I put on my dinner suit and proceeded to the Vivaldi restaurant. I had the roast lamb sat with David & Chris from Portsmouth and Joyce, a Canadian who has lived in Edinburgh for many years, together with her true Canadian friend Audrey. I slipped out to catch the Captain's welcome at 7:30 in the atrium with complimentary bubbly.
At 8 o'clock I went to Paul Baker's excellent musical theatre show. Between the shows I went up on to the top deck to connect with the Danish mobile phone network. I couldn't resist a bag of popcorn, but the outdoor film was First Man (on the Moon) which I have already seen. At 10:15 I went to Lee Carroll's amusing comedy routine in a packed Explorer's lounge. He was a little bit naughty and the Yanks didn't get many of his British jokes. I didn't get to bed until 11:15.
I awoke at 6 o'clock and watched my Hamlet talk on the television. I had one cold egg Benedict for breakfast with two glasses of orange juice followed by a lovely chocolate banana smoothie. I then updated this blog, before doing some ironing.
At 9:35 I was on dispatch duty in the Explorers Lounge, but the wind had got up and one tug couldn't hold us against the quay. We pulled away again and turned around to try again with the other side of the ship, but the wind was still blowing a broadside, so a second tug had to be called up. Eventually after waiting two and a half hours, I led my party off the ship. I was escorting my first choice tour to Hamlet's castle ($200).
We had to curtail the planned visit to Frederiksborg castle down to a five minute photo-stop, but I had already been there. We had to cut out the planned photo-stop at the Queen's summer residence all together, but again I had already done that. We had a marvellous Danish lunch at 1:45, with me sat with our driver Jern, our guide Paul from Perth, Australia and a Danish lady guide. We began with the famous marinated herrings on rye bread and fried fish with tartare sauce, before continuing with a lovely pork chop with crackling, meatballs, bacon, mushrooms and red cabbage, all eaten al fresco. I had a glass of lager with the meal and two cups of strong coffee to finish.
Our next stop was Hamlet's castle at Helsingor (Elsinore), where we were guided by Frederick dressed as, and playing the part of, Horatio. I hadn't been inside the magnificent Kronborg castle before, so it was great to see the famous tapestries and the grand ballroom 62 metres long. On the way back to the ship, we had a photostop at the little mermaid as usual.
Back at the ship, I had a phone message from Ents Director Matt recorded this morning asking me to be on standby to give another lecture that afternoon should we fail to berth in Copenhagen! I then updated this blog, before going to the Danish folklore show in the theatre at 7 o'clock. This consisted of one singer who played the guitar, one double bassist and one chap with an accordion. Unfortunately all their songs were in Danish! When they finished at 7:45 I went to dinner in the Pacific Moon restaurant. I was sat with couples from Wrexham, Chester and New York City, the latter being an Italian American husband and an oriental wife. I had the chilled apple soup to start, followed by the chicken and chips (the first of the cruise)!
I had to slip out at 9:15 before the sweet course to submit my tour report form and collect my assignment for the next day. At 9:30 I went up to the top deck for the Yeah Beatles tribute group. I had my first soft ice cream cone of the cruise in lieu of my dessert. After a delayed start, they were excellent, but everyone was huddled under blankets as it got dark and cold. When they finished at 10:45, I retired to update this blog and upload my day's photographs.
I awoke at 6:45 to bright sunshine ready for my full English breakfast with watermelon (not so) smoothie. Back in my stateroom, I updated this blog and sorted out my paperwork from yesterday. I then watched my Hamlet lecture for a second time on the television. Just before going on duty for my first choice World War Two tour ($170), the Captain announced that we couldn't berth because of the wind. We had needed two tugs in Copenhagen, but none were available in the little fishing port of Skagen (pronounced Skayn). Instead we would press on to Oslo for an early arrival and an overnight stay.
As the Captain was talking, Matt the Ents Director phoned me to ask if I could do a lecture. He suggested 11 o'clock and I suggested the "Story of the Vikings". I gave my 45 minute talk to a good sized audience in the main theatre. I then had an early lunch of stir fried beef and chicken tikka masala, before sleeping for an hour and three quarters. The inside pool was too cool, so I just spent fifteen minutes in the jacuzzi. I had a slice of pepperoni pizza and a chocolate soft ice cream cone as a late teatime / early supper.
I was off the ship at 6:35 p.m. and got to the tourist information office in the railway station just before it closed at 7 o'clock. I was able to stock up on maps and leaflets, including Fredrikstad, which I will be visiting for the first time in August. I walked all the way around the locked cathedral and discovered the cloisters behind it. I went past the famous city hall to get to the wharf. I walked along to the cruise terminal, but we were not berthed here, but around the corner opposite the new opera house on the Revierkai. I climbed up into the medieval fortress and enjoyed the views from the ramparts.
I got back to the ship at 8:20 ready for dinner in the Savoy restaurant. I had the southern fried chicken and chips sat with a couple from Oakdale in Poole, a couple from Utah and a single gent from Yorkshire who had run wine bars in the City of London and New Zealand. At 10:15 I went to the song and dance production show, but I nearly fell asleep as I was tired, so I was in bed by 11:15.
I awoke at 5:40 before my alarm at six o'clock, ready for the full English followed by a watermelon (not so) smoothie. I updated this blog, before escorting my first choice Best of Oslo full day tour ($250). We drove through the city centre to the famous Vigeland park, where I was impressed with both the bronze and granite sculptures.
Next we went to the Viking ship museum, where we saw the Oseberg, the Gokstad and the Tunes boats. The first two have been heavily restored, but the latter is as excavated. After watching an interesting film shown on the end wall and the ceiling, we moved on to the Fram museum. We got to traverse the inside of Nansen's famous exploration ship, which our guide said may well be curtailed in the future for fear of damaging the internal cabins. The Gjoa ship in the adjacent hall was more photogenic, as the main hall was kept so dark.
We drove up into the hills around Oslo for a stupendous smorgasbord buffet lunch. Sat with our guide Alexa from Greece, I began with the air dried ham and cheese as a starter. I sampled three or four of the hot dishes, before finding the shrimp cocktails. I didn't have room for the lovely smoked salmon. I then had small amounts of several of the delicious desserts, including half an avocado pear. I had a sugar-free coke to begin the meal and a hot chocolate to end it.
Next up, we visited the famous Holmenkollen steel ski jump, which was bigger than I had imagined. Back on Bygdoy (the former) island, we walked through the open air folk museum. We began at the stave church, had a singing demonstration in a merchant's house, before ending in the village of carved wooden houses.
Our last stop was at the cruise terminal where P&O's Aurora was berthed, but we weren't. Most of the pax went in the tax-free shop, but Alexa led a few of us across the road to the Jewish memorial of empty seats. This commemorated the Norwegian Jews who were sent to Auschwitz, unlike the Danish Jews who were shipped across to neutral Sweden.
Back at the ship at 3:30, I slept for two hours. At six o'clock in my formal outfit for a second time, I dined on the real beef Wellington in the Vivaldi restaurant, sat with a couple from Auckland, New Zealand and a couple from Market Rasen in Lincolnshire. I slipped out at 7:30 to use the Norwegian mobile phone signal for one last time as we left Oslo fjord.
At 8 o'clock I went to Gareth Oliver's very funny ventriloquist act, which I had also seen last time. I then updated this blog again. At 9:45 I sat on the steps at the top of the atrium to hear the soprano Shelley Rivers sing. She had a mixture of opera, musicals and movie tunes in her repertoire. When she finished, I went up to the top deck to watch the film "Bohemian Rhapsody" again under the stars. However, after half an hour, despite wrapping a bathing towel around my dinner suit, it was getting too cold, so I went to bed at 11:30.
I awoke at 7:10, but it was now only 6:10 on BST. I had my usual full English breakfast with lovely chocolate banana smoothie to follow. As well as orange juice, I tried the real lemonade for the first time this cruise. Back in my stateroom, I updated this blog and worked on my PowerPoint presentations.
At 9:15 I went to watch Rachel's Zumba class with very loud and high energy music. At 11:15 I gave my 40 minute talk on the "Story of the North Sea". I then went to Rachel's line dance class where she taught Elvira, Honky Tonk Stomp (which she called Boot Scootin' Boogie) and another dance to a crowded Club Fusion.
For lunch I had the prosciutto ham and prawn salad with real lemonade to drink, before sleeping for nearly two hours. I then did six lengths of the outside pool in the bright sunshine, before spending fifteen minutes in one of the outside jacuzzis chatting to Kieran from Waterford in Ireland.
Back in my stateroom it didn't take long for me to pack. At six o'clock I dined on the New York strip steak in the Pacific Moon restaurant sat with a couple from Cheshire and a couple from Canford Heath in Poole! I ordered the ice cream bombe for dessert and baked Alaska arrived! At eight o'clock I went to the excellent Bravo 'popera' production show. At nine o'clock the Last Night of the Proms took place in a crowded Piazza with a large balloon drop at 9:30. At 10:15 I went back to the Princess Theatre to see the 'popera' show for a second time. As we sailed past DoVeR, I eventually managed to get a stable mobile phone signal to update FaceBook, but the faffing about meant I didn't get to sleep until after midnight.
I awoke at 6:50 just before my alarm at 7 o'clock. After my full English breakfast with watermelon (not so) smoothie, I finished packing and got off the ship at 8 o'clock. I just managed to catch the 8:17 train and so was home at 9:25.
It had been another lovely cruise, but I was disappointed not to have got into Skagen (Skayne) to do a reconnaisance, before going back there in August on the brand new Saga Spirit of Discovery.
One gent wrote about my talk on the Vikings: "Thoroughly enjoyed your lecture today!"
5 Swimming pools. 3 First choice tours escorted. 3 Dinners in the Vivaldi restaurant. 3 Anytime restaurants: (Vivaldi, Savoy & Pacific Moon) 3 Enrichment lectures: (Hamlet, Vikings & North Sea) 3 New Oslo museums: (Viking Ships, Fram & Outdoor) 2 New Oslo sights: (Vigeland Park & Ski Jump) 2 New berths: (Revierkai in Oslo & Ocean Quay in Copenhagen) 2 Dinners in the Pacific Moon restaurant 2 Dinners in the Savoy restaurant 2 Panoramic elevators. 1 Triple height atrium. 1 Bird's beak bow walkway. 1 All round promenade deck. 0 New lectures written.