|-||On board by 1:45|
& Forth Bridges
|Scone Palace||Lovely mornings's
|John O'Groats &
|-||Home by 9:50|
I got up at 6:50, but didn't leave the house until 10:45 by Steamline taxi. I then caught the 11:05 stopping train to SoToN. At the QEII terminal, I met up with my new colleague Keith, with Wilmar and with dancing Helen and her non-dancing sister Irene. Then Damian recognised me from both Saga and FOCL, but I didn't recognise him with his new beard! He introduced us to his new colleague Robbie.
Boarding started at 1:30 and we were on by 1:45. Surprisingly my suitcase had beaten me to my cabin! I then met up with the lovely Maureen and Jeff, who were sunbathing on the top deck, having done a back-to-back cruise. After unpacking, I slept from 2:30 for an hour, until the safety drill began. After this, we had the entertainers' cocktail party with lots of familiar faces including Eliott, Conie, Sean and Ronnie. This ran at the same time as a surprise sailaway party was taking place on the top deck. When our party had finished, I met up with the lovely Sandra Harvey at the tours desk. I then went swimming for twenty minutes in the warm, salt water swimming pool under the hot sunshine.
After dressing for dinner at 6 o'clock, I had my first lime soda in the Observatory sat with Rosemary & Rupert, the Bridge couple. Unfortunately they had no twiglets or peanuts. At 6:30 I dined on the cottage pie in the Palms Café with the lovely Maureen, Jeff, Keith, Sean and Christopher. The latter entertained us with his comedy impressions from Dad's Army and other classic sitcoms! At 7:30 we had the first dance set with the orchestra and Fely. Surprisingly there were several keen dancing ladies present. At 8:15 Eliott led us on to the floor, where we introduced ourselves. I then adjourned to the cabin to start this blog and watch the Let's Swing first sitting production show. We danced before, but not after, the second show which we watched from the far side. I gave the midnight buffet a miss and the Coral Club was empty on the first night, so I was in bed by 11:45.
Keith got up at 7:20 and made me a decaff coffee. I then had a sh*t, shower and shave, but the loo wasn't flushing! At 8 o'clock I ordered a cheese omelette, but the chef must have been new, as he had the wrong saucepans for the induction hob! He eventually finished my order, but the queue was now several people deep! I ate it accompanied by crispy bacon, a sausage and a tomato with a couple from SoToN. He was a keen motorcyclist with several bikes to his name.
At 9:50 I listened to Jackie from Ringwood's 50 minute talk on Leith & Edinburgh. She used the old FOCL colour scheme of light blue in her slides, not the new one of dark battleship grey! At 10:45 I had a morning coffee with Sean and Keith in the Palm's café, before attending the Singles Mingle hosted by the irrepressible Wilmar! I then read the papers in the library, before lunching at 12:30 with the team on ham with pan haggoty cheesy potatoes. At 2 o'clock the lovely Maureen taught the Social Foxtrot to a floor she had to split into two groups, so Keith and I were alternating between two ladies each. At 2:45 I slept for an hour and a half, before getting into my kilt, ready for the first formal evening.
At 5:30 and 7:45 we had the two Captain's welcome cocktail parties, interspersed with dinner of beef with the team. At the first cocktail party I danced with three ladies, but none during the second. However, one lady from Ensbury Park did recognise me from Karl's line dance socials and another lady remembered that I had given her a pen on the Flam railway in Norway! Sandra said that next year FOCL would be using pre-recorded port talks produced by the HQ in Ipswich! I watched Jamie's excellent first sitting show, before dancing between the shows. At 10:30 I adjourned to the Coral Club for the excellent Abba Mania production show. Just after 11, I had two sandwiches in the buffet, before returning to the Coral Club, but there was no dancing there, nor in the Neptune Lounge.
We awoke at 7:15, and I had a cheese omelette with crispy bacon. Luckily the second chef beat the first chef to the induction hob, and he knew what he was doing! I was able to upload a picture of me in my kilt to FaceBook. I then watched the sail-in to Leith harbour from the Observatory Lounge, past the Norwegian Jade which had to tender in to Newhaven. After updating this blog, I went back up to watch the passage through the Leith dock. At 9:45 I went to Jackie's 40 minute talk on Invergordon & Scrabster. I got off the ship at 10:45 and spent an hour going around the Ocean Terminal shopping centre.
Back at the ship for noon, I dined on chicken and a knickernocker glory with a couple from SoToN in the Thistle restaurant. At 1 o'clock I escorted my first choice City & Three Bridges tour. We toured the city sights with photo stops overlooking Duddingston village and the old town from the Salisbury Crags. We then headed out to South Queensbury, where we had one hour of free time. I photographed all the major sights, except the public library, and went in the little museum.
Back at the ship again, I had a quick dip and then 15 minutes in one of the jacuzzi, both of which were now open. I then had a lime soda in the Observatory, but still no twiglets as we were still under the code yellow precautions. At 6:30 I had chicken and chips with Sean, Jamie and the team. At 7:30 we had half an hour with Fely & the band and then 30 minutes with the lovely Maureen as DJ. During the first sitting show time, I updated this blog and back-upped my day's photos. We danced between, but not after, the two shows. I treated myself to a luxury hot chocolate with all the trimmings. Not having had a siesta that afternoon, I had a relatively early night.
I slept for just over eight hours, before Keith made me my morning mug of redbush tea. Unfortunately the first chef was dithering over the induction hob again and he said I would have to wait. I therefore had the full English instead, sat with Kate. With no tour duty, I was off the ship by 8:30 and walked along the Water of Leith walkway to the Royal Botanic gardens, which I got to at 9:45, so I had to wait 15 minutes for them to open. I spent £1 on the map and 75 minutes doing the complete circuit. Towards the end, the sun came out and I got some good photographs.
I then continued along the walkway into the city centre. I walked the length of the pedestrianised Rose Street to get to the KFC restaurant for "Free Fries Friday". I then headed back via half a dozen charity shops on Leith Walk. I tried on both a £15 and £30 formal Scottish jacket, but both were too small. I did splash out £1 on a nice pair of M&S trousers though!
Back at the ship at 1:30, I lunched on the fish soup, some shell-on prawns and two desserts, with Jamie, Christopher and a couple from Thornbury near Bristol. They recognised me from Saga and will be on a couple of my future cruises. After they left, we were joined by the lovely Maureen & Jeff. At 2 o'clock I went for my siesta. At 3:20 I was awoken by the laundry man, so I had a decaff coffee in the cabin, before heading out again. I walked, via the free wi-fi in the Asda store, to the little harbour of Newhaven, where the Norwegian Jade had been tendering into the day before.
Back at the ship again, I wallowed in both the jacuzzis for half an hour in the bright sunshine, as both pools were empty. After changing, I went up to the Observatory. I dined with the team on cod fish again. We only danced for half an hour, as a game show took place before Christopher's first show time. We danced between, but not after, the two shows, of which I watched the latter. I particularly enjoyed his Benny Hill impersonation, but all his impressions were convincing. The Captain escorted a lady into the lounge, so when I danced with her, I asked her if she was travelling with a friend or family, to which she replied that she was the Captain's mother from Bergen in Norway!
Keith got up as usual at 7:20 and my alarm went off at 7:30, just before Eliott came on the Tannoy. I breakfasted on the cheese omelette which yet again the first chef took an age to prepare. I sat with Helen the dancer and her sister Irene who doesn't dance. At 8:45 I was off the ship ready to escort my second choice tour to Scone Palace. We went out along the dual carriageway to Perth, but came back the inland way. I had to help a wheelchair passenger across the gravel courtyard, then in via the gift shop. We had a short, two room introduction, before being let loose. I whizzed through the rest of the stately home in order to explore the lovely gardens and grounds in the sunshine. I had my picture taken sitting on the famous Destiny Stone of Scone, but it was only a replica, as the 'original' is now in Edinburgh Castle. The palace had free wi-fi, so I was able to pick up my birthday greetings, including a link to the Beatles "When I'm 64" video on YouTube sent by Mike from SoToN!
Back at the ship, I lunched on the sliced gammon, before sleeping for an hour and a quarter. At 3:30 I walked the one mile into Dundee. I headed for the Tourist Information Office to check on the whereabouts of the city's charity shops, which I proceeded to visit, but without any luck. I also photographed all the main sights ready for a future port talk. I then headed back to the ship again for six o'clock, which was too late for a swim, despite the glorious sunshine.
I got ready and then rushed up to the Palms Café to display my 64th birthday cards and order a bottle of Prosecco. I was joined by Sean, Christopher and the team, but the lovely Maureen didn't partake. I had lovely roast beef for dinner. We danced the first set to Fely, who ended with Barry Manilow's beautiful waltz "A Weekend in New England". It sent shivers down my back, having only heard it once before on the QM2. We then danced the second set to the lovely Maureen's tracks. I adjourned to the cabin to backup my 123 photos of the day and to update this blog. We danced between the shows, before moving to the Coral Club for Steve's excellent cabaret, where Jeff bought me a drink. Wilmar gave me a birthday hug and, at the end, played "Happy Birthday" for me! I then indulged in a chicken and mushroom pie with Steve up in the Palms Café!
We got up at 7:30 and at last the first chef had got the hang of cooking omelettes! I then did a couple of batches of washing in the hand basin and then took them to the tumble driers. At 9:45 I listened to the first 20 minutes of Jackie's talk on Oban, but slipped out when she moved on to cover Belfast. At 11:15 I wore my kilt for a second time at the Oceans cocktail party. At noon I lunched on the roast lamb followed by the ice cream sundae in the Thistle restaurant, before sleeping for an hour and a half. I then walked into town. I photographed the famous murals at the railway station, before using the free wi-fi in the Seafarers' centre in the main church. I also popped into the museum, before returning to the ship.
I stayed up in the Observtory whilst Keith was having his siesta, before changing for dinner. At 5:30 I went to the Scottish folklore show, which consisted of one piano-accordion player, one bagpiper, one singer and four young dancers. At 6:30 I dined on chicken with the team, later joined by Sean and Christopher. At 7:30 we danced to Fely and I had my first dance with the lovely Maureen at the quiet start of the session. At 8 o'clock we learnt the Slosh, Cowboy Charleston & Red Hot Salsa from Georgina. I then adjourned to the cabin to update this blog. We danced between, but not after, the two shows. I then watched the "Oh What a Night" production show in the Coral Club, rather than comedian Micky in the Neptune Lounge.
The bow thrusters awoke us just after seven o'clock, as the Captain fought to get us into Scrabster. I breakfasted on the usual cheese omelette and crispy bacon. Back in the cabin, we had to clear the floor of our stuff, so that new light blue carpet could replace the still elegant dark blue. I then escorted my third choice tour to John O'Groats & Duncansby Head. We had 45 minutes at the former and 10 minutes at the latter, where it was wet and windy. On the way back to the ship, we had a short presentation in the Queen Mother's lovely little church at Canisbay.
For lunch I had prawns to start, followed by the lovely roast beef. The carpet having been laid, I slept for an hour and a half. I then did some photography in Scrabster, but not Thurso, as the sun came out. At 4 o'clock we had the tea dance, where I wore my kilt again, and managed to dance with a different lady for every dance. When they called a Twist, I rushed out to grab a chocolate muffin. It was then followed at five o'clock by the ex-servicemen's meeting in the Morning Light Pub, but no-one turned up.
After changing into my red, white & blue outfit, I took a selection of the day's photographs to Sandra, who had requested them. I then adjourned to the Observatory for a cider with Keith. As there was an Indian buffet going on in the Palms Café, I went down to the Thistle Restaurant instead. I was sat with a former Naval technician and his wife from Eastbourne. I had the Bergen fish soup followed by the sirloin steak, which we never get upstairs. However, I didn't have time for the dessert, before the 7:30 dance set intervened.
At 8 o'clock, the British singalong began, so I went to the Palms Café for my just desserts. I had the mango smoothie, rum & raisin ice cream and then emmenthal cheese with poppadoms! Back in the cabin I updated this blog. We danced between, but not after, the two shows. I indulged in another luxury hot chocolate, before going to bed!
We awoke at 7:30 and I breakfasted on a cheese omelette with crispy bacon as usual, as we transited the Sound of Mull. I went up to the Observatory to watch the passing of Duart Castle on Mull. We then anchored off of Oban. I managed to get on the second tender, but it took an age to load with people dithering on the threshold. We eventully got ashore at 11:40, where I explored Oban for the first time. I went in Tesco's for the loos and free wi-fi, before touring the charity shops, but without success. I did both cathedrals, the museum and the ascent up to McCaig's Tower, which is a circular folly on the hill. I was enjoying a raspberry milkshake in a back street café, when Kate arrived, so I bought her a pot of decaff tea.
I caught the 3 o'clock tender back to the ship but, sat by the opening, I got so soaked that I had to put my clothes in the tumbe dryer! I then slept for an hour and a half, before taking a short dip in the warm pool and jacuzzi in the bright sunshine. I had a lime soda and two jars of twiglets in the Observatory, whilst admiring the scenery around the Sound of Mull, which was busy with CalMac ferry traffic. I dined on gammon and cottage pie with the lovely Maureen, Jeff and Sean, sat in my favourite window seat.
At 7:15 Keith finally got back to the cabin. He had been on a two hour coach ride to Glenfinnan and then spent another two hours coming back. He managed to video the famous Hogwarts Express steam train crossing the iconic viaduct, but missed the Bonnie Prince Charlie memorial tower. They had then sat on the tender in the harbour for one hour awaiting a missing couple. After a Tannoy message on the ship, it transpired they were all aboard already! Keith hadn't eaten since breakfast, so he missed the first two dance sets, whilst he changed and ate.
During the variety show, I backupped my day's 103 photos and updated this blog. We danced between, but not after, the two shows. I went down to the Coral Club with the lovely Maureen and Jeff to listen to Dong the singing barman, rather than the variety show of Jamie, Chris and Micky. Jeff again kindly bought me a lime soda. After a slice of pizza in the Palms Café, and a check on the nearly empty Coral Club, we went to bed.
Keith awoke at 7 o'clock and made me a decaff coffee as usual. I breakfasted on a cheese omelette and crispy bacon with Micky and his wife. At 8:40 I escorted my second choice Scenic Coastal Drive tour. We first stopped at the pretty, little fishing village of Carnlough, before heading up the largest of the Antrim Glens. We took tea or coffee together with a large scone with cream, jam AND butter at the Glenariff Forest Visitor Centre. I walked to both the high level viewpoint and the low level Rainbow bridge, but didn't have time to get to the two big waterfalls. We drove back via Ballymena and the M2 motorway.
Back at the ship, I lunched on the shepherd's pie with the team, before catching the 2:40 shuttle bus into Belfast. After going in the Tourist Information Office, I walked to the Post Office to mail my postcards home. I then walked out to the Botanic Avenue near Queen's University for a string of charity shops. Back in the city centre, I did a couple more charity shops on Castle Street, before catching the 4 o'clock bus back to the ship. All I bought was two guide books!
Back at the ship again, I slept for nearly an hour, before the Captain came on the Tannoy. I changed into my formal outfit, this time minus the kilt, ready to go up to the Observatory to watch the sailaway. At 6:30 I dined on a pork chop with the team plus Sean. Jeff bought us a bottle of Prosecco, so I was able to have a couple of glasses. At 7:30 we danced to Fely and the orchestra for half an hour, followed by nearly 45 minutes more of dancing to the lovely Maureen's tracks. During the first sitting Crew Show, I adjourned to the cabin to update this blog and backup my day's photos. We danced between, but not after, the two shows, when Sandra kindly took our group photographs. Keith and I attended the Gala Buffet in the atrium, where I indulged in the smoked salmon, cold beef and hot ham. With head banging music in the Coral Club, we finally got to bed at 12:30.
I awoke at both 6 and 7 o'clock, before getting up at 7:30 ready for my cheese omelette and crispy bacon. I did my second load of washing in the hand basin, before heading to the tumble driers. I then worked on this blog. At 9:45 I went to Mike's interesting lecture on Scottish Kilts & Capers. At 11 o'clock I enjoyed Christopher's amusing talk on Morecambe & Wise.
I lunched at 12:30 on the hot ham with the team plus Christopher. At 2 o'clock the lovely Maureen taught the Cha Cha to a full dance floor. I then slept for over an hour, before packing my small suitcase for a quick visit home tomorrow. At 5:45 we had the first of the Captain's farewell cocktail parties, where I danced with several ladies. At 6:30 I dined on the turkey steaks with the team plus Sean. At 8 o'clock we had the second party, but with no dancing.
I awoke at 6 o'clock and got up at 6:30. After breakfasting, I was off the ship at 7:30. I then walked the two miles to the National Express coach station. I caught the 8:35 bus to Westbourne and then walked home via the Upper Gardens, getting there at 9:50.
The lovely Maureen later wrote: "Thanks again for your good company Martin & thanks for the photograph. Sorry you are not going to host on Fred Olsen any more, hope we meet you when you are lecturing onboard in the not too distant future."
5 Cocktail parties attended 4 Shore excursions escorted 3 New ports visited (Dundee, Scrabster & Oban) 2 Dance classes attended 1 New town visited (South Queensferry)
Free Wi-Fi: Asda, Leith. Scone Palace. Invergordon Seafarers' Centre. Tesco, Oban.