Sunday, 27 February 2011

24th February 2011

And it must be Sardinia. Cagliari greeted us with sunshine as we crossed, very carefully across the dual carriageway of the main road. Quite an adventure I  can tell you. We had intended to explore the apparently beautiful beaches to the east of the town but again the north east wind was biting so we settled for a stroll and a wine in a pavement cafe facing the sun.

We have been there before so we didn’t sty too long but returned to the ship for some sun bathing and a dip in the pool.

The after dinner show was a Circus theme – umm, pretty dire although there were some who liked it. There were several acrobats who were quite good and the scenery was clever but it left us with the impression that it was rather unrehearsed. Still, it was free as is all the entertainment so no problem.

25th February 2011

we are coming home. A day at sea today as we leave the Med and sail into the Atlantic and head for Gibraltar. Another day of R & R  - quite exhausting. We sat in on a quiz, which was quite difficult and the woman won that one although the guys in that lead overall. Very enjoyable for a while.

Lunch in the dining room was delicious as always followed at 5 p.m. by another ice show.

It was terrific, we sat right beside the rink and felt part of the show. Pretty, sparkling costumes, clever routines performed by very talented skaters. To think they perform on a moving ship is all the more astounding.

Everyone turned up on our table for dinner tonight, two couples often prefer to eat in the Windjammer where you can choose anything or everything. Some people are so greedy it is unbelievable  They pile their plates as high as possible even though they can go back for more if they want. You also see them leaving with plates of more food under a serviette to eat in their cabins.

The Show tonight was a female comedienne – two guesses as if we went or not???

26th February 2011

Gibraltar, the Rock shines in the morning sun as we dock. We have decided to go up the cable car rather than see the baboons ( the hairy one’s that is not some of the other cruisers).

We walk the long walk into town ignoring the shuttle bus and the umpteen taxi's offering a ride up to the top. We arrived at the Moreno Glass shop and were again torn as to what we should buy. Fabulous wine glasses in every colour and design, large vases in bright colours of orange or blue or green ,some as much as £600 and then there is the jewellery. I drooled over some and just could not decide which I preferred. Lets leave it until later I said to Mike we can come back. We never did of course.

We asked directions to the cable car – a number 3 bus would take us there but it was fully booked for the day so no go.

It was a Saturday and the streets were crowded with tourists and locals and there was a better atmosphere than when we were last there. I bought some Ange au Demon perfume which I though was an absolute bargain until I got it back on the ship only to realise it was half the size I expected. Caught at last.

On the way back to the ship we stopped for a drink in a wine bar in Ocean Village, a pleasant complex on the water front of fairly new restaurants and pubs and shops. Then the long walk back to the ship and it was very hot.

We were too late for lunch so we ordered a snack from  Room service – waited 20 minutes and it appeared at the door. “ That can’t all be for us ” I said. “ Yes, Maam, just what you ordered. Enjoy “ he said and was gone.

The steak sandwich consisted of a perfectly cooked steak weighing around 6/7 ounces on a slice od sour dough bread covered in cheese and fresh tomato. Two onion rings and a side of chips( french fries) completed the dish.

The other sandwich was turkey and salad on chiabaccia (sp)  which was just huge.

Dessert. a raspberry cheesecake or chocolate pear tart. A pot of decent coffee and two packets of crisps. All free and delivered with a smile.Needless to say we did not go to dinner that night.

Elton john was on stage that evening and he was very good. The only impersonator endorsed by Elton himself. Very accomplished pianist although his costumes made him look like a clown.

Tomorrow off to Cadiz, our last port of call.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

22 February 2011 – Roma

Today we decided to stay on board as we were tired from yesterday and the trip to Rome as a very long one. Takes 11/2 hours on a coach to get there. I am writing this two days alter and haven't a clue what we did during the day.

We did go to the dhow in the evening which was Zoe Tyler from Loose Women – what a fabulous singer and she performed well too. We bought her CD, wouldn’t have done if we had known it was 20 euros but they would not take it back.!

23 February 2011 – Napoli

Sound so romantic doesn’t it but apparently it very dangerous where the Mafia rule and you need eyes in the back of your head.

However, we had joined up with two other couples. One from Tasmania  and one from San Diego

( they are Chinese and on their honeymoon) ! We shared a 7 seater Mercedes van and our driver Marcello headed straight out of town. The outskirts were shabby and poor and such a contrast to Spain. Even the motorway, only one for the whole area was in disrepair and very congested.

Marcello was a mine of information and very proud of his area, he lives in Sorrento. He asked us what we wanted to do & we left it up to him so he avoided the tourist traps and drove us around the Amalfi Coast and stopped several times for photos. We drove through Sorrento , Amalfi and many other small towns until lunch time when he took us up into the Mountains for lunch. a typical Italian lunch he told us except it was only 2 courses instead of 5 and we were limited for time but a real Italian lunch takes hours.

He led us into what appeared to be someone’s home, a 13th century building and the dining room at the back had a fabulous view down to the sea. The “chef” showed us hoe prepared and cooked pizza in the open oven and whilst we waited for it we had wine and water.

The pizzas were huge and delicious and we managed to eat most of them washed down with quite rough red wine but I liked it.

Then Senora brought us limoncello and deserts – apple pie and limoncello cream pie – Mike loved them.

We were charged 10 euros each – very good value for money and then continued the tour whilst Marcello kept us all awake with his non stop commentary. Come the end we were fighting over the back seats as whoever sat next to him got earache after a while.

About 3.30 he dropped us off at Pompeii and introduced us to our guide who was muffled up with hat scarf gloves and a duvet type coat. He feels the cold we thought. Little did we know!!! There was a north east wing blowing and it was absolutely freezing. Mike only had his cardigan and me my new jacket. The others were mores sensibly dressed.

Pompeii IS AMAZING and we were all blown away by what we saw and it was so hard to believe it was 2000 years old. Far more intact than I expected and having a guide brought it to life. He showed us various building and explained what they were & who would have lived there. We saw “mummified” bodies and even a mummified dog.

The scale of the buildings, especially some of the villas, and the Forum surprised us all. It was very quiet so there were no queues so that made up for the bitter cold wind.

At 5.15 the guide handed us back to Marcello who, still talking, took us back to the boat.

An amazing day which cost 450 euros for the car between six, 100 euros for the guide between six and we got into Pompeii for free as we are pensioners.

Too cold and tried to get ready for dinner in the dining room we ate in the Windjammer and headed for bed.

The ship set sail for Sardinia at 6.30 and I have to say I was woken up by the motion and the shuddering at 3.05 and was awake all night planning what to wear to keep me warm  if the alarm went etc. Not a good night.

21 February 2011

Arrived In Livorno Italy this morning to blue skies and sunshine. Went into town on the boat’s shuttle bus and then got on a bus to the railway station. The bus was packed and it was impossible to get to the driver so we never bought a ticket. Neither did the couple we were with.

At the Station the train to Pisa was due to leave and we were told we could get a ticket on the train. Platform 5 it said on the board but when we got there someone told us platform 3. We crossed over, there were 12 of us tourists by then and got on the train. We were not sure where we were going but after 15 minutes we arrived in Pisa. Off the train  we got and headed for the exit expecting at any minute to be asked for our tickets – but we walked out of the station again having not paid. Terrible eh?

We asked directions to the tower and walked and walked through narrow street after narrow street beginning to think we had been deliberately sent the wrong way but no, we turned a comer and there it was. glistening in the sunlight and leaning over at a terrific angle. Much more than we expected. We walked around the square looking at the church and the cathedral and had a large beer in a pavement cafe. I had a small pasta – tagliatelli  and bolognaise sauce which was good. No one else was hungry.

Then back on the bus 2.5 euros each to the station. This time we bought tickets and got on the Rome train getting off in Livorno. A bus back from the station to the square where the shuttle bus was waiting. An enjoyable day. I have just been in the hot tub , come back to the cabin to type up this blog and Mike is snoring on his bed. Bless.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Barcelona 18 February 2011

Awoke early to be able to watch, from our beds, the boat docking in Barcelona. Blue skies and sun shining it looked perfect.

After breakfast we mad our way to the terminus which was exactly like an airport. Carousels and everything.

found the local bus to take us to town for 3 euros each and then gently strolled up los rambles

and were immediately aware of the cosmopolitan feel of the place. Everyone but us cruisers had hats. scarfs and gloves on but we were fine with just a cardi. Well, we were until the sun disappeared.

We went in the market – what a fabulous place; full of colour AND BUSTLING WITH EXCITEMENT IT WAS A  sight to behold. The different fruits, vegetables, sweets etc. were fantastic and the meat counter quite off putting with little dead piggies all in a row.

The temperature dropped like a stone from 22c to about 10c ( that’s what it felt like so we headed for a coffee at the top od the street. There are many open top tourist buses everywhere so we decided to board one which cost 23euros each. Crowded upstairs ( and freezing no doubt) we went inside and after plugging in our earphones we toured part of the city for nearly two hours.

Saw many Gaudi buildings, stunning stuff and beautiful wrought iron balconies along side ultra modern all glass structures. A massive city with over 3 million inhabitants we were told.

We were on the wrong route for the famous Church but we did see it in1965 whilst on honeymoon.

We hopped off the bus near one of the many beaches and found countless restaurants serving anything and everything. We just has a pizza and a jug of very strong Sangria followed by coffee. Tried to over charge us but even after so much Sangria I spotted it. No tip was left. On the each there were several volley ball courts setup with muscly young men hurling themselves on the sand. Mike dragged me away after 10 minutes!

Back on the bus for a bit to the nearest stop to the  Columbus statue and then a “little” walk to get the bus back to the boat.

We were not hungry so gave dinner a miss but had a snack later in the Windjammer before heading for the theatre to find a seat. No idea who or what was on but the shows are mostly very good. It turned out to be an American Soul / Motown singer. OKish  but not really our taste although most seemed to like it.

Then to bed to watch a movie and have a nice cup of tea.

Sunday 19 February 2011

A sea day today as we travel east towards Italy. Mike brought me my usual breakfast and then we went for a walk around the ship and along the Royal Parade checking out the shops. Bought some vodka and some sticking books for Phoebe. There is loads to do on here from games to dancing to art – various exercise programmes such as Pilates and yoga – what did we do ? Watched a movie in our room and then had lunch in the dining room. Superb salad with chicken or salmon or anything else you fancy followed by very tempting sweets. I loved the almond tart so much that I took a bit for later.

I know it’s only yesterday but I cannot remember what we did in the afternoon.

Dinner was formal – I wore my black skirt. cream blouse and purple silk jacket.

Food was brilliant and I used my 2 for 1 voucher fro my wine.

The show was a comedian so we went up to our favourite lounge, had a vodka and tonic, Mike had a Boddies and we chatted for a while with a very boring couple. Then to bed to read. Another exhausting day.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Ultimate Cruise! Second attempt!!!!!

After spending 25 minutes at 65cents per minute trying to upload this I gave up. I’m guessing it’s because of all the huge photos I inserted so. I will try deleting them and just upload the text. Will add photos when I get home.

Right. let’s see if this works any quicker. 5…4…3…2…1….

Sunday 13th February.

Packing all done yesterday just a few bits and pieces to add. Having put all my shoes in the cases in their tidy boxes I decided to decant them as they were taking up too much room. Needless to say they were in the bottom of the case which meant ??? Yes, you guessed it – everything had to come out!

Repacked, zipped up both cases and Mike put them in the car. After the usual checks around the house, all plugs removed from sockets, blinds drawn and radio switched on to foil the burglars along with the light ready to come on with a timer.

As we left it was raining heavily so we were pleased to be getting away.

Uneventful journey stopping at Winterbourne Abbas for coffee and mindful that was where Mike got a speeding ticket last time. Arriving in Southampton we followed the signs to the docks and the traffic became very heavy due to an accident at a set of lights. Slowed us up a bit but we soon saw the sign saying Independence of the Seas next right and off we turned. Only to be turned back at the port gate and redirected, back in to the traffic .Look for Dock Gate 8 we were told. Every other gate number seemed to appear but that one.

Of course we eventually saw it, followed the directions to the baggage drop and left our cases with the porters. We then parked the car, not far from the terminal but by then there was a howling gale and horizontal rain which rendered the umbrella useless.

There was the usual snake line in the terminal which moved very quickly and before we knew it we were through security, been given our Sea Pass and were in our Stateroom  by 1.20 having left home at 9 15. Impressive eh?

Right – off to the Cafeteria  for lunch. We had forgotten just how much food and the variety which was on offer. We had salad!

Before we set sail there was a the compulsory emergency muster and our station was comfortingly right beside several large lifeboats but, it was out on deck in the wind and rain. Last time we mustered in a lounge  but that was some way from the all important lifeboat I told myself.

We set sail at 5.30, half a hour late as they waited for an old couple who had been delayed at Glasgow airport. They were on our table for dinner and very pleased to have arrived. He was 97 and looked about 77 – amazing.

We were warned the weather would be bad in the Bay of Biscay but it was pretty choppy when we were still the channel and it got steadily worse as we approached the Atlantic.

We were sat on a table of 10 for dinner and some friendly people all retired apart from two. He sat down next to Mike and asked if there was only 1 started!!! that really endeared him to Mike and we couldn’t believe our eyes when they chomped there way through onion tart AND soup.With the main course he ordered a separate salad and left most of it. This was totally unnecessary, the portions are ample, in fact we could certainly eat less ( but we manage somehow!).

Did you have your red wine Jean? I hear you ask. Umm, it IS expensive but, as members of the Crown and Anchor Society I got a coupon (Very American ) 2 : 1 so it only cost $4 and  saved the other until the following night. Mike has a coupon too so that’s 4 nights taken care of.

After dinner we went to the Theatre to the welcome show, it was absolutely packed even though it holds 1400 and was more of an introduction to various members of the crew than a show. The theatre hold 1400 and is packed every night.

To be on the safe side we both took a seasick pill when we went to bed.

The O so comfortable bed was just as we remembered it but it had not been split into two as I requested which meant there was a bit  if a squeeze around the dressing table on one side.

PS – sick bags appeared on the stairs – ominous.

Monday 14th February – Valentine’s Day

No problem, next day we came back to our room after breakfast and the beds had been separated.

Going to have to stop now as getting a bit dizzy!

Wow, what a crossing! Thank God Jan and Paul did not come with us. With 5 to 10 meter waves even this ship bounced. Everyone was walking around as if they were stoned;those that were not seasick that is. We were fine and it did not stop us enjoying breakfast – fresh fruit followed by scrambled eggs and bacon with whatever accompaniment you fancied.

We braved the upper deck and there was a howling gale, strong enough to blow you backwards. We chickened out and decided that fresh air was not all it’s meant to be!

We familiarised ourselves with all our favourite  places and, on a ship of this size it took us until lunch.

Even less people in the buffet as the seas were getting bigger and the rocking was a real challenge, especially with a plate of food in your hand. We stock to salad Mike had cheese with his and I had ham. Desserts??? they looked very tempting but thank goodness I don’t like sweet stuff so I refrained. Mike had a couple of TINY cakes which were sugar free – allegedly.

Back to our stateroom – me for a rest and Mike to track the ship’s course. With every few miles the seas grew bigger so we went and found a seat to watch the power of the ocean and wonder, if all the creaking was normal.We also watched Elizabeth 1 movie – very good with Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh. We  both enjoyed it.

We went to our favourite bar and I had the cocktail of the day, champagne, Cointreau and cranberry juice, and Mike had a Boddies and then we went, swaying from side to side , to the dining room.Dinner, as it was Valentines day, was formal dress and Mike looked great in his dress suit. I wore my orange patterned long dress with my brown silk jacket over the top. No, no photos!

Every evening there is a low calorie menu called “Vitality” The choices are very good and, as the cruise progresses I think I will be choosing it most nights.

The theatre show was very good, a tribute band to Frankie Valle and the four seasons. Four guys with wonderful voices and the ships orchestra are amazing considering their size.

the rocking and rolling of the ship seemed to get worse during the night and with each roll there was a juddering and creaking which I found quite alarming. I told myself that it had to flex otherwise it would break but I was really convinced.

Tuesday 15th February Day 3

When we got out of bed it was even more difficult to stand up and we checked to see where were were – still in the Bay of Biscay heading for our first port of call – Lisbon.

Then came the announcement from the Captain, As the storm was getting worse with waves of 10 to 15 meters expected he had decide to abandon calling in at Lisbon but would head straight for the Med to seek calm waters. He also said that the forecast for Lisbon was going to be heavy rain and gales so a shore trip would  not be very pleasant.

After breakfast we did manage a walk around the deck as it was not raining and there were a few hardened people playing crazy golf, and table tennis.

At 10.15 we had a Meet & Mingle meeting which I had signed up for on Cruise We met up with Karen and Clive and the other couple who are sharing our car trip down the Amalfi coast when we get to Naples. Both couples very nice. The Australian couple had had a marathon journey from Tasmania, via Melbourne, Singapore ( with an 8 hour stop over, then on to Heathrow. From London down to Southampton via Stonehenge. Yes they looked very tired.

The other couple are on their honeymoon from San Diego. They look Japanese or Chinese but speak perfect American.

We clicked with a couple a bit younger than us, both American but living in Amsterdam. Needless to say there was one person who had been there, done it, got the tea shirt and knew it all – you know the type. We ignored her. Mike won the first raffle prize, a magnetic photo frame – so exciting.

We went to the dining room for lunch – a  much nicer experience than the windjammer. Tables laid with cloths and nice cutlery and an extensive  buffet. The salad bar is great – you choose what you want, the server places it a large bowl, ask what dressing you like, adds that and tosses it for you. Why? no idea but it makes you feel wanted.


Then there is a huge choice of cold meats fish, shell fish – you name it was there. If that was  not enough there are hot dishes such as roast chicken, hot pot , pasta – all sorts.

The waiter keeps filling you water glass, clears the table very quickly and brings you tea or coffee. That will  be our lunch time venue from now on.

After lunch Mike went to the Viking lounge to read and I read in bed – much more comfortable.

Dinner informal so we did not change. The piggy couple did not show so there were only 8 of us. Italian themed menu  but we went for soup and lamb shanks. Very nice!

The Show tonight was a pianist – not my cup of tea as the grand piano was concert tuned and he played ragtime, show tunes and some oldies which did not sound good. After we went to the pyramid lounge and watched the four piece band called Rock & roll. They were good musicians and we decided to stop and had a drink. yes, one lasted all evening but the spirit measures are doubles so not too bad.

Then the compere announced rokyoki – people singing with the live band. One woman and one guy had good voices but the others were good for a laugh. We stayed up past midnight – a first for me in many years. All in all a very enjoyable day.

Wednesday 15th February 2011

Wednesday and it must be Lisbon. But it wasn’t. The weather was so bad that the captain said that he wanted to head straight for the Mediterranean and calm water. It was blowing a gale and pouring with rain so a trip ashore would not have been much fun.

I woke very late – 9.30 and Mike had showered, dressed and been for breakfast. Boat still rolling and creaking but this should be the last day.

We again went to the dining room for lunch and eat with two couples who were related. One woman looked as if she had stepped out of a Dickens novel. Hair swept up and back together with a corkscrew curl in front of both ears. I will try and get a photo if I can.

During the afternoon we sat on nice comfy chairs outside the Vintage bar, I had a glass of Pinot and Mike a Boddingtons. I intend going back as they give you a selection of wines to try ( No, not free) but I might be able to find a white I really like.

There was a band playing on the bridge over the promenade and a couple were jiving. Well I think that was what they were doing. Fred and his Thai bride – lovely.

We then went walk about and the captain announced he was pulling into Gibraltar to unload a medical emergency.

It looked as though the guy had a  broken leg and his family

followed the ambulance in a private car. What a way to end your holiday!

During dinner we noticed that the sea was much calmer and it was easier to walk around without looking drunk.

We went to the theatre to watch a song and dance show which we saw last time- it was OK. Then back to bed and to get used to NOT being rocked to sleep. The clocks went forward 1 hour tonight.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

We Are Sailing, We are Sailing



Ports of Call:

Southampton, England; Lisbon, Portugal; Palma De Mallorca, Spain; Barcelona, Spain; Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Naples, Capri, Italy; Cagliari (Sardinia), Italy; Gibraltar; Cádiz, Spain; Southampton, England

Always practical, as we are going for 18 days and there is not a launderette on the  boat I have bought a travel washing line for the vast sum of £3.99 from Amazon ( including postage great price!).  I expect i shall have to get Mike’s shirts ironed but I will be hanging our smalls in the cabin – sorry, stateroom.

I did wonder if I could hang them in the main dining room under the huge chandeliers – do you think they would mind?


I hope to keep you all informed from the boat from time to time although the WIFI connection isn't cheap. Nothing on board is cheap, the wine is £30 a bottle, but the trip itself was a very good deal so I shall have to coax Mike into spending just a little more.

I have hooked up with some others on a cruise forum so we should have more of a social life than normal. We are joining 2 other couples for a private tour of the Amalfi drive coastline via Sorrento, Pompeii, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. - fingers crossed we will all get on. Two are flying in from Australia on the Saturday – don’t envy them the jet lag. We have just a 3 hour drive – so much easier than flying – we love it.

Here is a photo of the boat – it’s massive

See the size of the boat in front! Last time there was very little movement not even in the Bay of Biscay but it might be a little rougher at this time of year. Mike’s got some seas sick pills – just in case. This time we are on deck 7 instead of 9 but still at the rear of the ship which I think is probably better for stability. There are 3 formal night in the dining room when Mike will don his dinner suit and I will have to find an alternative to jeans & a t shirt. I actually enjoyed dressing up but the high heels pose a painful problem. Still, don’t have to walk far in them, can take them off in the gangways.

We have booked an inside stateroom again as, at this time of year, a balcony would probably not get used much. Having said that, a passenger on-board at present is reporting blue skies and sunshine in Italy. lets hope it continues. If we went to the Caribbean then a balcony would be a must. Wishful thinking? They are very spacious -

Beds can be made up together to create a 6’x6’ as we have at home.

I don’t think we will get bored -

“When it comes to onboard activities, Independence of the Seas offers an embarrassment of riches. For those who love to go wild on vacation, you can hang-10 on the popular FlowRider®, bob and weave in the full-size boxing ring, putter around on the nine-hole miniature golf course, cool off at the ice-skating rink, and more. For travelers who want to just sail away from it all, the ship offers plenty of soothing distractions such as cantilevered whirlpools, , a day spa, a solarium with an indoor/outdoor pool, and a library. Plus, your little ones will love the fun designed just for them with the H20 Zone(SM) interactive water park and the Adventure Ocean® Youth Program.

With so much to do onboard, you'll work up quite an appetite. The three-deck-high main dining room serves your favorite dishes from around the world. Cruisers can also enjoy casual eateries like the buffet at Windjammer Café, Johnny Rockets® 50s-style diner, Ben and Jerry's®, and Sorrento's pizza parlor. Looking for something out of the ordinary? Independence of the Seas has two specialty restaurants: Portofino Italian Restaurant and Chops Grille. After dinner, you can burn off those calories with scores of entertainment options. Let it ride on your lucky number in Casino Royale, belt out a karaoke classic at the On Air Club, or cut a rug in the castle-themed nightclub, The Crypt. Want fun for the whole family? Shoot for the high score in the arcade, watch a movie together in the theater, or take the whole bunch to see a show at the five-story, Broadway-style venue Arcadia Theatre.”

The theatre is BIGGER than the Princess Theatre in Torquay – and it is just a small part of the ship. Truly amazing!

We will probably spend a lot of time relaxing and reading in one of the many bars or on deck if the weather is kind. There are several areas where you can get away from the crowds and with a cocktail of the day by your side, what more could you want?

I intend to give the gym a try if only I go on a treadmill there must be a dozen or more. The gym is massive and has every bit of equipment you can think of. Plus a sauna and steam room.

More to come later ………………….