Tuesday, 18 December 2012

I have been to … Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Germany

As some of you have already worked out, my wife and I have been on yet another cruise … this time to visit the Christmas markets in various European cities.

Tuesday 4th December: Southampton
We left home at 8.45am, and had an uneventful drive to Southampton. Even though we stopped on our journey down the M3 at Winchester Services for coffee and a toasted sandwich, we still reached the Mayflower Terminal at 11.45am. After handing our luggage over to a porter and our car to the valet parking service, we passed through the embarkation process and the security checks without any problems.

Normally we would have immediately gone aboard ship, but MV Oriana had suffered an outbreak of Norovirus (Winter Vomiting sickness) on her previous cruise and a thorough cleaning operation was taking place. This delayed our embarkation by nearly an hour, and it was after 1.00pm before we were sitting in the Oriental Restaurant drinking our complimentary champagne and eating our hot buffet lunch.

Our cabin became available just before 2.30pm, and we made our way there as quickly as we could. Most of our luggage had already arrived at the cabin, and our Cabin Steward – Raj – found the rest very quickly and we began unpacking.

During a break from this chore I was able to go out onto our balcony just as a small RO-RO ferry – L’Audace – was sailing past.

At 4.20pm (twenty minutes later than expected) all the passengers were summoned to their respective Muster Stations for the compulsory Maritime Safety drill. After everyone was assembled, the Captain went through the safety rules, regulations, and procedures and we all had the opportunity to put on our lifejackets. Once this was over we hurried back to our cabin to drop off our lifejackets and collect our coats before going on deck for the ‘Sail Away’.

On this occasion we went up to the Terrace Bar on Deck 12 at the stern of the ship. Whilst we drank yet another free glass of champagne I attempted to photograph the docks using the special night-time setting on my digital camera.

I used the same setting when I tried to photograph RMS Queen Mary 2 as we passed her on our way out of harbour … but my attempts were unsuccessful.

Having got more than a little cold we returned to our cabin and began getting ready for dinner. We had a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar and at 8.30pm we arrived at the Peninsular Restaurant, where we were shown to our table. The other four people who will be sharing the table with us during our cruise were already seated, and after brief introductions we ate our meal.

We were both feeling very tired, and after dinner we had a drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar before going back to our cabin, adjusted our clocks and watches to local time in Belgium – our first port-of-call – and then went to sleep.

Wednesday 5th December: Zeebrugge
We slept through the entire docking procedure, and were only awoken by the Captain’s announcement that the ship was secured alongside and passengers were able to proceed ashore.

Zeebrugge is the Belgian Navy’s main base and we have always seen warships during our previous visits to the harbour.

Almost as soon as we had got up and begun getting ready to go to breakfast, two Dutch warships arrived in the military part of the harbour. They were the Holland-class offshore patrol vessels Groningen (P843) and Friesland (P842).

These are fairly new additions to the Dutch Navy and have a number of ‘stealth’ features. Their main armament is a 76mm OTO Melera gun and they also carry a 30mm automatic cannon.

After breakfast in the Peninsular Restaurant we spent some time reading in Tiffany’s Bar before returning to our cabin to prepare to go ashore for our afternoon coach trip around Flanders. The tour took us from Zeebrugge to Male, where we visited the former chateau. This had been extensively damaged during the Second World War, but had been restored and was being used as an Augustine convent. (It was recently sold to a private buyer because the nuns who live there are now too old to run the convent.)

We them drove to the small town of Damma, where we had some free time to look around the town.

The main square is dominated by the Town Hall …

… and the Tourist Information Centre, which is located in the historic De Grote Sterre building.

By this time the cold and damp had got to use, so we went into a local café where we drank some excellent hot chocolate.

The next part of our tour took us to the outskirts of Bruges, where we visited the Roose’s Chocolate Factory and Shop. Needless to say, we tasted – and bought – some of its products, which we took back to the Oriana.

By the time we got back to the ship it was getting dark and we were both somewhat tired. We ate a very later snack lunch/afternoon tea in the Al Fresco snack bar, and then returned to our cabin to prepare for the evening.

After a pre-dinner drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar we went down to the Peninsular Restaurant for dinner, where we found that two of our erstwhile dinner companions were unable to join us. Despite there only being four of us we enjoyed conversing with the remaining couple on our table over dinner.

We finished eating not long after 10.00pm, and we then returned to our cabin to read and then sleep. The Captain had warned us earlier in the day that the ship might experience bad weather overnight … and this turned out to be more than true.

Thursday 6th December: At sea and Amsterdam
During the passage from Zeebrugge to Amsterdam the weather deteriorated to such an extent that the ship was unable to pick up the pilot at the mouth of the North Sea Canal (Noordzee Kanaal). When we awoke at 8.00am Oriana was moored offshore waiting for its turn to sail up to the pilot pick-up point and then up the river. The Captain informed the passengers that this was not likely to happen until later in the morning, and at 10.00am the ship finally got underway and began its slow progress up the North Sea Canal.

Because the North Sea Canal connects the tidal North Sea to the non-tidal Ijsselmeer, the ship had to pass through a lock near Ijmuiden.

It takes fifteen minutes for a ship to progress through the lock, and then it is a further fourteen miles up the Canal before the centre of Amsterdam is reached. The Oriana was inside the lock at 11.30am, exited it at 11.45am, and was moored alongside the Passenger Terminal at 2.30pm … six and a half hours late.

We had already cancelled the canal trip we had booked as its newly projected departure time would have been just as it was getting dark. Instead we intended to make our own way ashore … but before we were able to do so the Captain announced that a large number of passengers had reported that they had the symptoms of Norovirus. As a result – and with immediate effect – all the informal dining venues (including the Conservatory self-service and the Al Fresco restaurants) were shut until further notice. In addition all meals – including breakfast, lunch, and evening meals – had to be taken at your designated table in either the Oriental or Peninsular Restaurant. This was by far and away the most draconian anti-Norovirus measures we had every experienced on board a cruise ship, and were indicative of the seriousness with which P&O were treating the outbreak.

Once we were able to go ashore, we made our way to the Maritime Museum (Scheepsvaartmuseum).

Unfortunately were did not get there until 4.00pm, an hour before it closed. We were very cold, so after a hot drink and a snack, I managed to visit two of the outdoor exhibits, a replica of a Dutch East Indiaman (the aptly named Amsterdam) …

and vintage steam-powered river icebreaker, the Christaan Brunings.

We were back aboard Oriana by just after 5.30pm, and after warming up in our cabin, we began preparing for our evening meal. We had our usual pre-dinner drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar, and then joined our dinner companions in the Peninsular Restaurant. On this occasion the couple who had been previously absent were at the table (they had dined at one of the alternative dining venues on the previous evening) and the couple we had eaten with had booked a table in the Sorrento Restaurant!

After dinner we returned to our cabin, and at 10.30pm – the time at which the Oriana was supposed to set sail for the next port-of-call, the Captain announced that the ship would not be sailing until early next morning. The reason he gave was weather-related. High winds (up to 45 knots) were blowing from the south at the point where the North Sea Canal locks – which run east-west – give access to the North Sea, and he had been advised that it was too dangerous for the ship to proceed through the locks. The weather forecast predicted that the wind would drop by 4.30am, and he hoped to be able to transit the locks at that time.

Friday 7th December: Amsterdam … and at sea
Despite the predicted bad weather, we had an excellent sleep … but when we awoke we discovered that the Oriana had not moved during the night! In fact the weather had not improved at all. Not only were there high winds … it was also snowing!

At 9.15am the Captain announced that the ship would not be moving down the Canal towards the sea until the wind dropped and visibility improved. Once the situation had changed for the better, the Oriana would proceed towards the locks and wait there until it was safe to move through them and out into the North Sea.

We had ordered a room service breakfast, and this was delivered at 9.30am. After eating we then spent some time watching the news on satellite TV and reading. I had begun reading THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL by G K Chesterton on my Kindle just before going to sleep on the previous evening … and I had found it interesting rather than inspiring or humorous. Despite that I persisted … and began to enjoy it much more the more that I read.

At 11.00am I attended a brief meeting of the international fraternal organisation of which I am a member, and at 11.30am Oriana finally set sail from Amsterdam. By then the wind had dropped and it had stopped snowing, and the Captain informed us that he hoped that by the time the ship reached the locks at 1.15pm, it would be safe for the ship to pass through them.

On her progress down the North Sea Canal, Oriana passed several interesting vessels, including a preserved lightship, …

… a sailing ship (the Pollux), …

… a derelict Cold War submarine, …

… a mobile gas platform, …

… and what looked like a former naval auxiliary ship (A905) that was awaiting disposal. (Subsequent research showed that it was a former hydrografic survey ship of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Hr Ms Blommendal, that was taken out of service in 2000.)

In the event, the ship did not begin to transit the locks until nearly 2.00pm, and it was not until 2.45pm that the Oriana reached the open sea. She then turned north and accelerated until she reached her maximum speed of 24 knots. We spent the afternoon reading and relaxing in our cabin, and I managed to ‘translate’ my MEMORY OF BATTLE AT SEA naval wargames rules into a similar format to the one I have used for all the recent versions of the PORTABLE WARGAME. I even renamed the rules, and they are now entitled the PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME. I also continued reading THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL.

Throughout the afternoon the Captain keep us fully informed of our progress, and at 6.00pm he made an announcement to the passengers that he expected the Oriana would moor alongside in Copenhagen by 7.00pm on Saturday, having turned into the Baltic at 10.30am.

As usual we had a pre-dinner in the Crow’s Nest Bar, and then ate dinner with our four table companions in the Peninsular Restaurant. The conversation covered quite a wide range of topics and so far they have proven to be a very enjoyable group of people to spend time with. By the time we went to bed Oriana was already well on her way across the eastern part of the North Sea towards the top of the Jutland Peninsula.

Saturday 8th December: At sea and Copenhagen
The Oriana had passed into the Skagerrak and was off the coast of northern Jutland by the time we woke up at 9.00am. She rounded the tip of Jutland not long after 10.30am and then began making her was southwards through the Kattegat towards Copenhagen.

After breakfast we spent the morning reading in our cabin and the Crow’s Nest Bar. I finished reading THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL – which I ended up thoroughly enjoying – and began reading PICKETT’S CHARGE: THE CIVIL WAR’S MOST FAMOUS ASSAULT. This e-book is one of several free ones published by Charles Rivers Editors that I downloaded to my Kindle just before I left on this cruise.

The ship’s main public areas seemed very empty, and this was probably due to the outbreak of the Norovirus some days previously. Many people who would normally be out and about the ship have remained in their cabins, either because they have the virus or in the hope that they can avoid catching it.

At 1.30pm we went to the Peninsular Restaurant to eat lunch – which was very enjoyable – and then we returned to our cabin. I finished reading PICKETT’S CHARGE: THE CIVIL WAR’S MOST FAMOUS ASSAULT (it was only a relatively short book) and was so inspired by it that I began watching GETTYSBURG – yet again! – on my iPad. I was interrupted at 4.00pm by the Captain’s announcement that we were about to pick up the Copenhagen pilot.

Less than forty five minutes later Oriana passed through the narrowest part of the channel between Denmark and Sweden, and despite the darkness it was just possible to see the castle at Helsingor (HAMLET’s Elsinore) on the starboard side.

By 6.00pm the ship had sailed through the entrance to Copenhagen’s harbour and proceeded up towards her berth at Langelinie. This manoeuvre took some time, and the Oriana was not moored alongside the quay until 7.00pm.

Whilst this was taking place we prepared for dinner. For a change we had booked a table at one of the alternative dining venues aboard Oriana, Marco Pierre White’s Ocean Grill. We had eaten there on a previous cruise, and knew that the food would be excellent and the service exemplary … and it was.

Having eaten so well – and wanting to go ashore as early as practical on the next morning – we went back to our cabin after our meal and prepared for bed. I managed to watch some more of GETTYSBURG before going to sleep.

Sunday 9th December: Copenhagen
The sun had not even begun to rise when we woke up at 7.30am. The outside temperature was below 0° Centigrade and we both dressed in special thermal clothing before going ashore after breakfast. By the time we actually disembarked at 9.30am it had begun snowing … and it snowed – on and off – for the rest of the day.

The shuttle-bus dropped us off in the King’s Square Kongens Nytorv in the centre of Copenhagen. From there we walked through the Christmas Market in Nyhavn … but most of the stalls were closed because it was too early, snowing, and Sunday!

We then walked back to King’s Square and along Strøget, the main pedestrian shopping area of Copenhagen. A small amount of retail therapy took place … and then we walked towards the Christiansborg Palace complex where a number of museums – including the Tøjhusmuseet (the Uniform and Weapon Museum) – are located. We arrived outside the museum at 11.10am, only to discover that it did not open until midday.

Rather than stand in the snow for fifty minutes, we set off in search of a café … and found one within a few hundred yards. After a very welcome glass of hot chocolate in the Café Katz ...

... we made our way back to the museum.

The Tøjhusmuseet was under refurbishment, but the part that was open – the Artillery Hall – was worth the entrance fee … and will be the subject of a separate blog entry in the near future.

By the time we left the Tøjhusmuseet the snow was falling even heavier, and we decided that we were too cold to remain in the centre of Copenhagen and returned to King’s Square to catch the shuttle-bus back to the ship.

During our walk back to the shuttle-bus pick-up point we passed a building that looked as if it had been lifted from Tradgardland as it exhibited the unusual twisted spire design that is found there.

By the time we had returned to Oriana, discarded our very wet clothes, and warmed up, it was too late for our lunch ‘slot’ in the Peninsular Restaurant … so we waited until afternoon tea was served before having anything to eat. A letter about the draconian anti-Norovirus measures that have been taken aboard the ship awaited us on our return, and it appeared that as from the next day they would be relaxed somewhat and the problem of missing your allotted mealtime should no longer arise.

The dinner was a formal one, and the preparations took slightly longer than normal as we both spent some time in the bathroom enjoying a long, hot shower or – in my wife’s case – bath. I managed to watch the next – and my favourite – section of GETTYSBURG. This deals with the defence of Little Round Top by 20th Maine, who were led during the battle by Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I would defy anyone not to be stirred by his cry of ‘Bayonets!’ just before the 20th Maine charged down the hill and dispersed the advancing Confederate infantry.

After our usual pre-dinner drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar we went to the Peninsular Restaurant for dinner. We were joined by two of our four table companions, the other two having decided to eat at one of the alternative dining venues. After dinner we returned to our cabin to relax for a short time before going to bed. Our relaxation was somewhat short-lived as the handle of the balcony door came adrift when my wife opened the door. It took both of us to close the door, but it would not lock in place. We reported the problem to our Cabin Steward, but there was nothing that he could except report it to his superior. As a result we had to spend the night with a small but noisy draft blowing into the cabin from outside.

Monday 10th December: Oslo
Overnight the wind dropped, and our cabin was then not too cold or noisy for us to get a reasonable night’s sleep. Whilst we were sleeping Oriana had reached Norwegian waters and sailed up Oslofjord, and at 8.00am she was approaching her slowly but surely approaching berth.

After breakfast at 9.00am in the Peninsular Restaurant we began preparing to go ashore. As the temperature was -5° Centigrade and not predicted to rise very much during the course of the day, we were clothed in our cold weather gear: thermal underwear with numerous layers on top, thick, lined or fur coats, boots, lined gloves, and fur hats!

We walked into the main shopping area of Oslo, which was adorned with lots of Christmas decorations.

We had not realised when we arrived in Oslo that our visit coincided with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. Needless to say the number of police and security staff on duty was very large indeed, and part of the centre of Oslo was ‘of limits’ to anyone not involved in the ceremony.

We became very aware of this when we reached on end of the main street in Oslo – Karl Johans Gate – which runs from the main church (Oslo Domkirke), past the Parliament Building (the Storting), and on to the Royal Palace (Det Kongelige Slott).

As we walked past the Grand Hotel, a large cortege of vehicles appeared, and it was obvious that someone important was about to leave the hotel for the Nobel Prize presentation ceremony. We waited … and watched …

… and eventually a party of people appeared, got into the cars, and left at high speed … and we still have no idea who they were! (The fact that some of the security personnel were driving cars with German registration numbers would indicate that the ‘important person’ was German, but we could not identify who it was.)

Once the ‘excitement’ was over we walked through the Christmas market that was being held in the park situated halfway along Karl Johans Gate.

From there we walked back towards Oriana, but before we reached the seafront we turned off towards the Akershus Fortress in the hope that we could find the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum that is located nearby. Our route to the museum was blocked by a roadblock that was being staffed by members of both the civilian and Military Police, and they informed us that – due to the high levels of security – it was not possible to visit the museum as it was located within an area that was ‘off limits’ to civilians.

As it was beginning to get dark – and much colder – we made our way back to Oriana. On the way we passed several preserved ships, including the Royal Norwegian Navy Minesweeper Alta (M314).

Once we were back aboard Oriana we went back to our cabin, only to discover that the balcony door handle had still not been replaced and the door would still not close properly, despite the fault being reported that morning. I went to Reception and reported the problem yet again, and less than ten minutes later an officer arrived to assess the problem. He assured us that it would be fixed as soon as possible, but when we returned from Afternoon Tea at 4.20pm it was still awaiting repair.

We were still waiting for the repair to be started when we were ready to go for our pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar, and we returned to Reception to ask when the repair would take place. They reassured us that the repair would be completed before the end of the evening … and when we returned to our cabin after dinner the door handle was attached to the balcony door, which opened and closed without any difficulty. Problem solved!

Before going to sleep I began reading another of the e-books from the series published Charles Rivers Editors, DECISIVE MOMENTS IN HISTORY: THE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOUR. It was a good general history of the events leading up to the attack, including the Japanese misunderstanding of America’s likely response to her southward expansion. It also dealt with the differences between those Japanese naval officers who saw the battleship as the prime offensive weapon system and those who thought that the aircraft carrier should be the navy’s new capital ship.

Tuesday 11th December: At sea
Oriana had left Oslo on time the previous evening, and had progressed down Oslofjord in the dark. The pilot had been dropped off not long before 10.30pm, and then she had picked up speed and made her way southward towards her next destination, Hamburg. Thanks to the repair to our balcony door we had a good night’s sleep, and when we woke up at 8.00am it was already beginning to get light.

As it was a sea-day, we had not made any specific plans as to how we were going to spend the day. After breakfast in the Peninsular Restaurant we went up to the Crow’s Nest Bar … where an informal protest meeting was being held. It appeared that quite a few people were unhappy with the way in which P&O – and the Captain and senior officers of Oriana in particular – had dealt with the current outbreak of Norovirus that was sweeping through the ship. They were demanding that the Captain or the Ship’s Purser should explain their actions and outline what the company was going to do by way of compensating them. Needless to say, no member of the ship’s Senior Management attended the meeting, and the organisers decided to hold another meeting at 3.00pm in the Pacific Lounge to which the Captain and Purser would be invited.

After lunch we spent the afternoon in our cabin reading and relaxing, and I managed to finish watching GETTYSBURG on my iPad and reading DECISIVE MOMENTS IN HISTORY: THE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOUR on my Kindle, and began reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE EXPLOITS OF BRIGADIER GERARD. At 3.30pm the Captain made an announcement to the effect that P&O had offered to pay for all the medical costs incurred by passengers as a result of the Norovirus outbreak, thus meeting the main demands made by the protest group. He also praised the work done by the ship’s crew to contain the spread of the virus and for the extra work they had done in order to ensure that passengers received the best service possible during the crisis.

The rest of the day was uneventful, and followed the usual pattern for a sea-day. We relaxed, read, watched the occasional news broadcast on ship’s TV system, prepared for dinner – which in this case was the last formal dinner of the cruise – had a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar, dinner in the Peninsular Restaurant, and a post-dinner drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar.

Wednesday 12th December: Hamburg
We slept through the ship’s passage across the German Bight and up the River Elbe, and awoke at 8.00am as Oriana came alongside the quay in Altona, Hamburg.

Whilst we were getting ready to go to breakfast, and helicopter landed alongside the ship and two people got out and came aboard.

After some twenty five minutes the helicopter took off, having picked up one of the people who had disembarked.

We had breakfast in the Peninsular Restaurant and then returned to our cabin to put on our cold weather clothing. There was quite a queue for the shuttle-bus and so we waited until 11.00am before we disembarked. Even so we had to wait for over thirty minutes before we were able to board a shuttle-bus, and it was another twenty minutes before we arrived at the drop-off point near the main railway station.

The main reason for visiting Hamburg was to go to the numerous Christmas markets that are held in the centre of the city. We walked down the Spitalerstrasse

… to the area around the St Petri Church, …

… up Bergstrasse towards Jungfernsteig. After stopping for a mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows!) in a local café, we crossed the Alsterfleet

… where we had a magnificent view of the partially frozen Binnealster.

Whilst walking through the market in Jungfernsteig we seemed to be followed everywhere we went by two singers, one of whom played a piano accordion. They sang their own rather irritating version of ‘Jingle Bells’ to all and sundry, seemingly in the hope that people would pay them to get lost … which a lot of people did!

From Jungfernsteig we made our way to the square next to the Hamburg Town Hall (the Rathaus) where the largest of the Christmas markets was being held.

By the time we had finished our visit to that market, it was beginning to get dark. We retraced our steps to the main railway station where we were able to board a shuttle-bus almost at once, and within thirty minutes we were back at the Altona Cruise Terminal waiting to go back aboard Oriana. After dumping all our stuff – hats, coats, gloves, and numerous purchases – in our cabin we went for afternoon tea in the Peninsular Restaurant. Once that was over we returned to our cabin to rest and relax before preparing to go for dinner in the Ocean Grill.

After we had eaten our dinner – which was excellent – we returned to our cabin in time to watch the ship depart from Hamburg at 10.55pm.

The outbreak of Norovirus on Oriana continued to affect life aboard. We were told that when we arrived in Southampton breakfast would be served earlier than usual and that disembarkation would begin at 7.45am. We also became aware that the outbreak had now become newsworthy enough to be mentioned in THE SUN and DAILY ECHO newspapers. We managed to read the former online, and were surprised to see that we were in ‘the grip of fear’ on a ‘vomit hell ship’ and that passengers had refused to disembark when the ship returned to Southampton ‘until their demands were answered’.

It is amazing to see how disingenuous both the newspapers and the ‘revolting’ passengers have been … and also how ill-informed. It appears that nearly thirty passengers claim to have come down with the virus within twelve hours of joining the ship. (I counted the number of hands that were held up at the meeting on 11th December.) As far as I understand the incubation period between you ‘catching’ the virus and it beginning to affect you is 24 to 48 hours, so they must have brought the virus aboard with them and not caught it once they were aboard, which is what they are claiming happened. P&O have agreed to pay all medical bills that are a result of passengers catching the virus and to carry out a deep clean of the ship before she embarks on her next cruise. We don’t know what else the company could have done to rectify the situation … but I doubt if all the ‘revolting’ passengers will be happy with the solution.

I finished reading THE EXPLOITS OF BRIGADIER GERARD before going to sleep. I read the book many years ago, but I had forgotten how good the stories were and I am pleased that I chose to re-read them during this cruise.

Thursday 13th December: At sea
Once Oriana reached the mouth of the River Elbe during the early hours of the morning and sailed out into the German Bight, the weather deteriorated somewhat. The wind speed increased and the sea developed a distinct swell. By the time we awoke at 8.00am Oriana was off the Frisian coast, and making good speed back towards the UK.

After breakfast in the Peninsular Restaurant we spent a short time in the ship’s shops before returning to our cabin, where we watched the news on the ship’s TV system and read. I began reading THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE by Stephen Crane on my Kindle as well as adding to the draft of this blog entry. We then went to the Crow’s Nest Bar for a drink, and I finished reading Stephen Crane’s excellent book.

After lunch we packed our luggage so that it could be collected by the ship’s staff prior to Oriana arriving in Southampton. This took less time than expected, and meant that we could spend some more time relaxing before we had to get ready for our final dinner of the cruise. After we had eaten and bid our farewells to both our dinner companions and the waiting staff we had a final drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar before going to bed.

Friday 14th December: Southampton
Oriana was moored alongside her berth early in the morning and the process of disembarking everyone’s luggage and replenishing the ship began almost immediately. We awoke early – 6.00am – and after breakfast in the Peninsular Restaurant we collected our hand luggage from our cabin and went ashore to collect our luggage and car. By 9.00am we were driving out of the docks and making our way home.

The weather was very wet and windy, and this delayed us somewhat. Nevertheless we were home before midday, and after unpacking our luggage we had a quick snack lunch before setting out for the West Country … but that is another story!


  1. Hi Bob,

    It seemed like an eventful trip and I note that plenty of hot chocolate was consumed! The snow looked very seasonal and I am pleased that you survived the threat of the 'screaming awfuls'.

    The artillery museum looked good and I shall loo forward to reading the blog entry devoted to it.

    All the best,


  2. David Crook,

    It was very eventful and enjoyable. Unlike the snow we seem to get in the UK - which always seems very wet - the snow we encountered on the European mainland seemed to be drier and easier to deal with.

    I hope to finish the blog entry about the artillery exhibits I saw in Copenhagen tomorrow or on Thursday.

    All the best,


  3. Hi Bob,
    Good to see you home and well. It's nice to see snow pictures with my corner of the world experiencing warm, wet weather. I too look forward to the "expanded" version of the artillery museum visit.
    "PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME"...that might be of some interest to me:-)

  4. Steven Page,

    It is great to cruise ... but also good to get home again.

    I hope to have the blog entry about the museum ready to upload later today or tomorrow morning.

    The PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME is my original MOBAS (MEMOIR OF BATTLE AT SEA) rules laid out in a similar style to my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I hope to make then available in the very near future. I just need to proof-read them first.

    All the best,


  5. Was that a Gruson fahrbare Panzerlafette lurking at the back in the artillery museum?

  6. Nigel Drury,

    If you mean the thing that looks like a steam-punk Dalek ... then the answer is yes!

    All the best,


  7. Sounds like another good cruise despite the outbreak of plague. At least you didn't have to fly the Yellow Jack and be turned away from your port of call!

    Some very lovely photos in there. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Ross Mac,

    We had a great time I spite of the virus, and I am glad that you enjoyed reading my blog entry about our cruise.

    Interestingly I did try to point out to one of 'protesters' who had contacted the press that net result might be that the ship would be refused entry to one or more of the ports ... but he did not believe that it might possibly happen. I know that it has happened once or twice before ... but we were lucky this time.

    All the best,


  9. So Bob, care to elucidate on which "international fraternal organisation" you are amember of ?

  10. Wg Cdr Luddite,

    As it says in my blog profile, I am a Freemason ... and have been for nearly fifteen years.

    All the best,



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