Monday, 2 January 2023

I have been to … Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, and Belgium

We had originally booked to go on this cruise some months ago, but when it looked as if my cancer treatment might start in December, we cancelled it. Then, when it became clear that the earliest date for the start of my radiotherapy was January or February, we decided to see if we could rebook it … and ended up getting a better-quality suite for less that we had originally paid!

Monday 19th December: Southampton

We set the alarm for 6.00am, and by 8.20am we were on our way to Southampton. It rained very heavily for most of the journey, but as there was a lot less traffic than we had expected, we made good time, and by 10.25am we had driven around the M25 and along the M3 as far as Winchester Services. We stopped there for a comfort break and a snack breakfast and reached Dock Gate 10 of Southampton Docks by a little before 11.10am. There was no queue for the valet parking service, and we had unloaded our luggage and take it to the Deck 7 baggage collection point by 11.20am.

Because we were occupying a suite, Sue and I had priority boarding, and by 11.40am we had visited the registration desk for our passports to be checked, our photographs taken, and our boarding cards stamped ‘Priority’ and ‘Safe to Board’.

The wait to pass through the security checks was short, and by just after midday we were aboard Arcadia, had registered with the member of crew at our muster station – the Ocean Grill (Deck 2 Midships) – and were on our way to the Lower Meridian Restaurant (Deck 2 Aft) for lunch.

Lunch was a superb meal that was served to us by some very attentive and helpful waiters. The menu included the following dishes:


Smoked Chicken Breast, with Pickled Carrots, Coriander, and Sour Cherries (Both of us)

Main Courses

Pan-roasted Barramundi Fillet with Tarragon Crushed New Potatoes, Broccoli, and a Sauce Vierge (Sue)

Carved Sirloin of Beef, with Tomatoes and Bacon Jam, Sweet Potato Fondant, Tobacco Onions, and a Béarnaise Sauce (Me)


Selection of British and International Cheeses, with Banana Bread, Black Grapes, Mulled Apple Jelly, and Fine Cheese Biscuits (Sue)

Sticky Muscovado Sponge Pudding, with Candied Orange and Rose Petal & Mascarpone Cheese (Me)

This meal was an excellent start to our cruise, and after we had finished, we made our way up to our suite (The Shanghai Suit, Deck 7 Midships).

Not long after we arrived at our suite, our butler – Sharma – arrived at the door of our suite and introduced himself. Not long afterwards, our cabin steward – who is somewhat confusingly named Susan! – also called on us and introduced herself, and some ten minutes later she returned with our luggage.

We had finished unpacking by a little after 3.00 pm, and as we were by now both feeling rather thirsty, we went up to the undercover seating area near the Aquarius Pool and Bar (Deck 9 Aft). It was rather cold and wet up there, but the fresh air was refreshing after the dry airconditioned atmosphere of our suite and the other internal areas of the ship. We stayed there until about 3.45pm, at which point we returned to our suite to rest until it was time for dinner.

The ship was supposed to be setting sail at 5.00pm, but just before her planned departure the captain – Captain Martyn Sharples – announced that due to a misunderstanding the ship’s supply of beer had been delivered to the other P&O ship that was in Southampton – MV Arvia – in error and was in the process of being moved over to the Arcadia. As a result, the ship’s departure was delayed by over three hours, and she did not begin to move away from the dockside until after 8.00pm.

(Arvia is a very new addition to P&O’s fleet and was due to set sail on her maiden voyage to the Caribbean before Christmas Day. She will then be officially ‘named’ in a ceremony when she arrives in Barbados.)

We had booked a table in the Ocean Grill for 8.30pm and had a pre-dinner drink in the Spinnaker Bar (Deck 2 Aft) at 7.45pm.

We finished our meal at just before 10.00pm, and we then went up to the seating area near the Aquarius Pool and Bar for a breath of fresh air before returning to our suite to get ready for bed. Before we went to sleep, we adjusted our clocks and watches to GMT +1 as our first port-of-call – Copenhagen – is in an different, earlier time zone from the UK.

Tuesday 20th December: At sea

We woke up at 7.30am, by which time Arcadia was already through the Dover Straits and off the coast of the Netherlands.

After eating breakfast in the East Restaurant (Deck 11 Midships), Sue and I went to the Palladium Theatre (Decks 2, 3, and 4 Forward) to listen to a talk about the Tower of London. It was delivered by a former Yeoman Warder of the Tower, Keith Hanson, and he told the story of the development of the Tower of London from Norman times until the modern day.

He finished his talk at 10.45am, and after a quick visit to the Aquarius Pool and Bar, Sue and I returned to our suite to get ready for the Peninsular Club lunch in the Lower Meridian Restaurant.

We went down to the lunch at 11.45am, and were greeted at the door by the captain, the ship’s Loyalty and Future Cruise manager, and the Restaurant and Dining Manager … who turned out to be a very old friend of ours named Judith.

(We have known Judith for well over ten years and can remember when she worked as a bar steward. Over the years we have seen her many times and followed her promotion through the ranks with great interest. The last time we had seen her, she had recently been promoted to be a Head Waiter, and now she is charge of all six dining venues and bars aboard the ship.)

The menu was the same as the one we had at the last Peninsular Club lunch that we had attended, and included the following dishes:


Loch Fyne Smoked Salmon, with Deep Fried Nori, Crispy Capers, Citrus and Red Onion Salad. (Both of us)


Champagne Sorbet (Both of us)

Main Courses

Pine Nut-Crusted Fillet of Sea Bass, with Crushed New Potatoes, Toasted Parsnip Purée, and Samphire Shoots (Sue)

Porcini-Crusted Tournedos of Beef, with Pommes Anna, Creamed Celeriac, Courgette Ribbons, and Grain Mustard Jus (Me)


Cheeseboard, with a selection of Regional, British, and Continental Cheese with Biscuits (Sue)

Dark Chocolate Mousse, with Amarula Cherry Compote and Caramelised White Chocolate (Me)

Petit Four

Vanilla Bean Fudge

Sue and I had finished eating by 1.30pm, and after a walk along the Promenade Deck (Deck 3), we retired to our suite to read and to rest.

Our butler paid us an all too brief visit just before 5.00pm, after which Sue and I began the leisurely process of getting ready for the first formal dinner of the cruise.

(It is unusual to have a formal dinner so early in a cruise, but as they usually take place on sea days – of which there are very few on this cruise – it had to take place on our first full day aboard Arcadia.)

Sue and I paid a pre-dinner visit to the seating area by the Aquarius Pool and Bar, followed by a quick drink in the Spinnaker Bar. We were seated in the Upper Meridian Restaurant (Deck 3) by 8.35pm and had completed our meal by 10.00pm. We returned to the Aquarius Pool and Bar to sit for a short while in the fresh air before returning to our suite for the night.

Wednesday 21st December: Copenhagen, Denmark

At about 3.00am, we were awoken by a public announcement for the ship’s medical team to go to a cabin on Deck 10 to deal with an emergency. This was a bit of a surprise as these sorts of announcements are rarely made to all areas of the ship, but on this occasion it was. It might well have been that the officer-of-the-watch pressed the wrong button on the intercom system and made the announcement to the whole ship rather than to just the crew area, but at the time we could see no reason why everyone aboard Arcadia had to be told about the emergency.

Despite our disrupted sleep, Sue and I woke up at 7.30am feeling refreshed and ready for the new day. Overnight the Arcadia had sailed around the top of the Jutland peninsular and was sailing down the Swedish side of the Kattegat towards Copenhagen, where she was due to dock at 3.00pm.

After eating breakfast in the East Restaurant, we had a stroll around ship before making our way to the Palladium Theatre to listen to Ken Hanson’s second talk of the cruise. Its topic was ‘The Crown Jewels’ and told their story from the post-Norman era until the present day. His talk was very informative, and I must admit that I learned quite a lot more than I expected.

After we left the theatre, we went out on deck for a very short time, but it was too cold and too foggy for us to stay there very long. Sue and I therefore returned to our suite to read and rest.

The fog did not slow Arcadia’s approach to Copenhagen, and by 2.00pm she was alongside the new cruise terminal. This is situated much further away from the centre of the city than the previous location at Langelinie, and it is no longer possible to stroll into the city centre. Passengers have to rely on the shuttlebuses to take them into central Copenhagen, and we decided that as it was cold, foggy, and was going to get dark not long after 3.00pm, that we would remain aboard Arcadia and leave going into Copenhagen until the next day.

We went up to the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant (Deck 9 Aft) for a light lunch, after which we ventured out onto the open deck area near the Aquarius Pool and Bar. It was very cold and bleak, and although the fog had lifted slightly, we could see very little and by 3.30pm we were back in our suite, trying to get warm again!

Sue and I spent most of the rest of the afternoon in our suite, with the occasional foray outside for some fresh air. At 7.45pm we went down to the deserted Promenade Deck for a quick stroll …

…before having a pre-dinner drink in the Piano Bar (Deck 3 Midships). After dinner in the Upper Meridian Restaurant, Sue and I ventured up to the covered area near the Aquarius Pool and Bar, but it was too cold to stay there very long, and we soon returned to our suite to get ready for bed.

Thursday 22nd December: Copenhagen, Denmark

There is something a bit disconcerting about sleeping overnight on a cruise ship that isn’t actually sailing anywhere, but this cruise was projected to have overnight stays in Copenhagen, Oslo, and Amsterdam … so we were going to have to get used to it!

Our alarm clock awoke us at 7.30am, and by a little after 9.00am we were on our way to the East Restaurant for breakfast. Sue and I parted company for a short while, and whilst I paid a visit to the Reception Desk (Deck 1 Midships) I was able to photograph the gingerbread village that had been created by the chef and his galley brigade.

I re-joined Sue in our suite, and by 10.00am we were fully clothed for the expected outside temperature of 3°C and on our way to the disembarkation gangway on Deck A Midships.

The shuttlebus took us into the centre of Copenhagen and dropped us of in Sankt Peders Strade near to the Cathedral and main University building.

From there we walked through the pedestrianised shopping area …

… to King’s Square (Kongens Nytory) and then Nyhavn.

In the past, this area has been full of small stalls selling all sorts of things, but almost all of the stalls were just selling mulled wine, chocolate, or souvenirs.

Somewhat disappointed, Sue and I decided to see if the Danish War Museum (Krigsmuseet) was open. It was …

… and we spent ninety minutes there. I took lots of photographs and hope to share them on my blog in due course.

It was only a short walk back to Sankt Peders Strade and by 2.30pm Sue and I were back in our suite, discarding the heavy clothing we had been wearing. (The predicted air temperature turned out to be wrong, and we were rather overdressed for the 10°C it actually was!)

After a short break to have a hot drink and to restore our personal comforts, we set off in search of some lunch. The Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant was very busy, but the Neptune Grill (Deck 9 Midships) was empty, so we both had a cheeseburger and chips as well as a drink.

We were back in our suite by 4.00pm, and at 4.15pm we had a visit from a butler … but not our butler. It appeared that Shama had injured his knee and for the time being his duties were being covered by the other butlers. In this case it was Vino who came to see us and to check if there was anything that we needed.

At 4.50pm the captain made his pre-departure announcement. He explained that the ship would be sailing to Oslo overnight, and after transiting Oslofjord, Arcadia would be mooring alongside at 9.30am. He also told us that it was expected to get much colder, with the air temperature -4°C, and dropping to -14°C by the end of our two-day stay!

Sue and I had a short stroll along the Promenade Deck before going for a pre-dinner drink in the Spinnaker Bar. We ate dinner in the Upper Meridian Restaurant, followed by another, shorter spell on the Promenade Deck (it was very wet and windy as well as being rather cold!) before returning to our suite to prepare for our visit to Oslo.

Friday 23rd December: Oslo, Norway

When Sue and I woke up at 7.30am, Arcadia was still sailing up Oslofjord towards the city. As the sun came up, we could see several snow-covered islands.

By the time we went to breakfast at 9.00am, the ship was coming alongside the cruise terminal in Oslo …

… which is next to the Akershus Fortress.

Although the outside ait temperature was even lower than expected (-10°C), Sue and I decided to go ashore for a walk around the centre of Oslo. After breakfast we put on our cold weather clothing (thermal socks and underwear, multiple layers of clothing, fur hats, gloves etc.) and went ashore.

We had hardly gone 100 yards when a woman who was just ahead of us collapsed onto the icy pavement. Her husband was with her, but was having problems getting her upright. Sue and I offered to help, and it turned out that they had been about to board a tour when she began to feel sick. She had then collapsed, and as I helped to get her up, she bent over and vomited.

Sue went to get help from the ship’s excursion staff who were standing nearby (there were, in fact, totally useless and didn’t even try to contact the ship using the radios they had) just as a three-man patrol of the King’s Guard came past in a 4 x 4. They asked if we needed any help, but once they were assured that we had matters in hand, they drove off. By this time one of the shoreside security team had arrived, and they assisted the woman – who said that she was already feeling a bit better – to get back aboard Arcadia. (We subsequently met her in Amsterdam, and it turned out that she had had Norovirus that affected her for two days.)

Having done our good deed for the day, Sue and I very slowly walked inland from the dock area. Once we had reached the streets leading to the centre of Oslo, our progress speeded up as the pavements had been cleared of ice and snow.

The main street (Karl Johans Gate) between the Royal Palace …

… and the main shopping area …

… and parliament building (Stortinget)

… was almost clear of ice and snow, as was the winter market …

in the park that runs alongside the main street. At one end of the market we found a man making a snow and ice sculpture …

… which we admired so much that we contributed 20 kroner to his collecting bowl.

By this time we were both feeling rather cold and began to make our way back to the ship. As we did so, we passed the City Hall (Radhuset) building, which always strikes me as an example of rather brutalist architecture.

Moored just ahead of Arcadia was the preserved minesweeper Alta (M314), which I was able to photograph.

As we came back aboard, Sue and I were greeted with a cup of mulled apple juice, which really helped us feel warm again very quickly. We were back in our cabin by 1.00pm, and after having taken off our cold weather clothing and changing into light clothes, we went for lunch in the Lower Meridian Restaurant.

We followed lunch with a very quick stroll along the Promenade Deck, which gave us the opportunity to see part of the Oslo waterfront that we had not been able to visit whilst we were ashore.

On our return to our suite we both dozed off and did not wake up until our stand-in butler arrive at 4.00pm with a Christmas cake for us!

At 6.00pm the captain made a major announcement. Apparently, cases of gastroenteritis (possibly Norovirus) had been reported onboard the ship, and as a result, preventative measures were being put in place to contain the outbreak.

Sue and I remained in our suite until it was time go for a pre-dinner drink in the Piano Bar. Before doing to the bar, we did venture out on deck to see how cold it was, but decided that without coats, hats, and gloves, we would be too cold to stay out there, even for a couple of minutes.

As usual, we ate dinner in the Upper Meridian Restaurant, after which we went back to our suite to read until it was time to go to bed.

Saturday 24th December (Christmas Eve): Oslo, Norway

Overnight both Sue and I began to develop colds. This was probably not helped by the fact that the ship’s air-conditioning system seemed to be operating at less than peak efficiency, as a result of which, our suite was quite a bit colder than we had expected it to be.

We were awake by 7.30am, and after getting dressed, Sue and I west to the East Restaurant for breakfast. We then went to the Reception Desk and then the Library (Deck 3 Forward) to see if we could find copies of the daily crossword puzzle that is printed and distributed by the Entertainment Department, but our search was in vain.

We were back in our suite by a little after 10.00am and stayed there reading and watching TV until it was time for a mid-morning drink in the Spinnaker Bar. Sue and I stayed there until midday, when we returned to our suite.

At 1.15pm we went down to the Lower Meridian Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was very crowded, and we had to share a table with a couple from Sheffield, with whom we had a great chat whilst eating. Because there were so many passengers in the restaurant, the meal took nearly ninety minutes to eat, but the time seemed to fly by.

Whilst we were eating, the ship set sail from Oslo … although the departure was slightly delayed by the arrival of Father Christmas. (It is traditional for a member of the Engineering Department to dress up as Father Christmas and to climb down the ship’s funnel, where a member of the Entertainment Department takes over the role. If we had not been eating – and it had been a bit warmer [it was -13°C on the open deck] – we might have gone to watch.)

It took the best part of four hours for Arcadia to sail down Oslofjord to the open sea. We spent the afternoon keeping warm in our suite and entertaining ourselves by reading and watching TV.

At 7.45pm, Sue and I went down to the Piano Bar for a pre-dinner drink, and whilst we were sitting there I saw someone I knew walking towards us … Peter Grizzell!

Peter is a fellow wargamer and long-term member of Wargame Developments who I have known for at least thirty years. Neither of us had no idea that the other was onboard the Arcadia, and we had a short chat about where we had been during our trips ashore. He and his wife are on the same sitting as Sue and I in the Upper Meridian Restaurant, and it is amazing that we had not seen each other earlier during the cruise.

After Peter left us to re-join his wife, Sue and I went down to the Ocean Grill Restaurant for a pre-Christmas Day dinner. The food and service were excellent – as usual – and when we left the restaurant at 9.50pm we were both feeling rather full. We did attempt to go out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air, but it was still very cold and we only managed a couple of minutes out there before we came back inside.

Sue and I were not quite ready to go back to our suite to get ready for bed, so we went for a stroll around the ship’s shops. They were very empty, and for once we actually had time to take a long look at what was on sale … and ended up buying a bracelet from the Pandora jewellery desk. We then went back to our suite and read for a while before going to bed.

Sunday 25th December (Christmas Day): At sea

Whilst we had been sleeping, Arcadia had continued to sail south-south-east from Oslo, and when we awoke, she was off the western coast of Denmark, roughly in the area where the Battle of Jutland was fought in 1916.

Sue and I ate breakfast in the East Restaurant, and then – after a quick stroll along the Promenade Deck – we went to the Palladium Theatre to take part in the service of Seven Lessons and Carols. This was presided over by Captain Sharples, and the readings were done by seven members of the crew. This ended at 10.45am, and Sue and I had just enough time to returned to our suite to restore our personal comforts before returning to the theatre to listen to Ken Hanson’s third talk of the cruise. This was entitled ‘Queen Elizabeth II: A Jubilee Queen’.

The talk lasted until midday and told the story of the late Queen’s life from the point of view who had served her as both a Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London and a Yeoman of the Guard.

By this time Sue and I were both feeling rather thirsty and went to the Piano Bar for a drink. We stayed there for nearly an hour and then we went down to the Lower Meridian Restaurant for lunch. Interestingly, the Upper Meridian Restaurant was open for the crew lunch, and their enthusiastic enjoyment was infectious.

Lunch took just over an hour, and after a very short break on the Promenade Deck, Sue and I returned to our suite to rest. At 3.00pm GMT/4.00pm ship time we watched the King make his first Christmas Speech. He didn’t say anything unexpected, but it was a historic event and Sue and I were glad that we were able to watch it.

Not long after the King’s speech, we had a visit from our replacement butler, Vino. As it was a formal night, he had brought us some canapés, to eat before we had to get ready, which we did from 5.30pm onwards. At 7.30pm, Sue and I went down to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air, but although the outside air temperature was supposed to be 9°C, the windchill effect made it feel much colder and we only stayed out the for about five minutes.

We then made our way round the ship looking for somewhere to have a pre-dinner drink. Almost everywhere was full, but we finally managed to find somewhere in the Intermezzo Bar (Deck 2 Midships). Whilst we were there we saw the queue of diners for the 8.15pm sitting in the Lower Meridian Restaurant get longer and longer until it stretched well into the ship’s shopping area.

When Sue and I went up to the Upper Meridian Restaurant for Christmas Dinner at 8.20pm, we also had to join a queue for dinner, but by a little after 8.30pm we were sitting at our table in the dining room. Our usual waiter – Froilan – was unwell, but his assistant – Nikko – proved to be an excellent stand-in. The Christmas Dinner was very good, and Sue and I ate the following:


Tiger Prawn Cocktail, with Tomato Dressing, Mango and Spring Onion Salsa, and Butter Seeded Rye Bread. (Sue)

Chicken, Smoked Ham Hock, and Apricot Terrine, with Soused Vegetables, Mustard Purée, and Ciabatta Crouton. (Me)


Gin and Tonic Sorbet (Both of us)

Main Courses

Pan-Fried Halibut with King Prawns, with Herb Crusted New Potatoes, Buttered Leeks and Chives, Morels, Roasted Shallots and Dry Vermouth Cream Sauce (Sue)

Marco Pierre White’s Free-Range Roast Norfolk Turkey Breast with Turkey, Sage, and Onion Presse, with Duck Fat Roast Potatoes, Pigs in Blankets, Brussel Sprouts, Carrots, Graham’s Port and Cranberry Sauce, and a Turkey Jus (Me)


Festive Trifle, with Brandied Cherries with Cream, Toasted Almonds, and All Butter Shortbread (Sue)

Mrs Beeton’s Plum and Clementine Pudding, with Brandy Sauce (Me)

To Finish

Christmas Cake (Sue) and Mice Pies (Me)

Sue and I finished eating by 10.30pm when we ventured out onto the Promenade Deck for a second time that evening, but it was still rather cold, and we were back inside and on our way to our suite within a matter of minutes. We then sat reading until we went to sleep at around midnight.

Monday 26th December: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Arcadia’s arrival in Amsterdam at about 4.30am woke me up, but I soon managed to get back to sleep.

Sue and I properly woke up just before 7.30am, and whilst we were getting ready for going ashore, there was an announcement by the officer-of-the-watch about our stay in Amsterdam. He told us that due to an adverse weather forecast, our stay would be curtailed, and that Arcadia would be sailing for Zeebrugge at 4.00am on the following morning. If she had not left by then, it was likely that she would have to remain in Amsterdam until 30th December!

This rather scuppered our plans to visit the Dutch National Maritime Museum as it was closed on Mondays and would not be open until 27th December. Sue and I discussed what we would do, and despite the very overcast weather …

… we decided to go for a walk into the city centre after breakfast.

Sue and I had finished breakfast by 9.45am, and by 10.30am we had changed into our warm clothing and gone ashore. The air temperature was supposed to be 9°C, but the wind and light rain made it feel much colder.

We walked from the cruise terminal …

… along the riverside towards the main railway station.

By the time we got there, we were both feeling cold, and set off in search of somewhere to get a cup of coffee. Everywhere we tried in the station complex was very crowded and, in the end, we decided try further towards the centre of the city. This proved to be a rather fruitless search, and in the end, we decided to cut our losses and return to the ship.

We were able to buy a few small gifts in the cruise terminal and by just after midday we were back aboard the ship. We went straight back to our suite, took off our cold weather clothing, and then went for a café latte in the Spinnaker Bar. As we were close to the Lower Meridian Restaurant, Sue and I decided to have lunch in there. We went in at just before 1.00pm and stayed there chatting to the people we shared a table with until 2.15pm.

We followed lunch with a quick breath of fresh air on the Promenade Deck before returning to our suite, where we found a letter from the captain confirming that Arcadia would be leaving Amsterdam early on the following morning and sailing very slowly towards Zeebrugge.

Sue and I remained in our suite until it was time to go for our usual re-dinner drink, which we had in the Piano Bar. We saw Peter Grizzell again as he passed through and had a quick chat with him about what we had done in Amsterdam that day.

After dinner in the Upper Meridian Restaurant, Sue and I had a short stroll along the Promenade Deck. Although it was raining, it did not feel quite as cold as it had earlier. Even so, we only stayed outside for about five minutes before we returned to our suite, where we remained for the rest of the night.

Tuesday 27th December: Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Cancelled)/At sea

Sue and I were woken up at approximately 4.00am as the Arcadia began to set sail from the cruise terminal in Amsterdam, but we both went back to sleep very soon afterwards. When we woke up again at 7.30am, the ship had passed through the locks at the mouth of the river and was making her way out into the North Sea.

It was light by the time Sue and I had reached the East Restaurant for breakfast at 9.00am, but other than a windfarm and a few oil/gas platforms, there was very little to see.

After breakfast, Sue and I went for a walk around the ship’s shops and bought a few things. We then returned to our suite and stayed there until 11.00am when we went down to the Palladium Theatre to listen to Keith Hanson’s fourth talk of the cruise. This was entitled ‘Ghostly goings on at the Tower of London’ and was quite an amusing way to spend the time up to the midday announcement from the bridge.

We then went to the Spinnaker Bar for a café latte before going into the Lower Meridian Restaurant for lunch. We shared a table with four other people, and the conversation topics included some of the hilarious complaints we had heard being made by other passengers, the books we were reading, films we had recently watched, and places that we had visited.

Lunch ended just after 2.15pm, at Sue and I went out on to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air. Although it was only about 9°C, we were quite sheltered from the wind and spent nearly thirty minutes out there. We then returned to our suite where a quick look at the Navigation Channel on our TV showed that Arcadia was still sailing northward along the coast of the Netherlands.

At approximately 4.00pm, Arcadia reversed her course and began sailing southwards along the coast of the Netherlands towards her next port-of-call, Zeebrugge.

Because the weather had taken a turn for the worse (the Navigation Channel was reporting that the ship was sailing through a south-south-westerly force 8 gale), the Promenade Deck was shut when we wanted to have some fresh air before dinner. As a result, Sue and I went up to the undercover area near the Aquarius Pool and Bar. We would have had our pre-dinner drink there, but due to the bad weather, the bar was closed, so we had to go down to the Piano Bar instead.

We stayed there until it was time to go to dinner in the Upper Meridian Restaurant. When we reached the balcony area where our table was located, we discovered that the area was taped off for deep cleaning. Luckily, we were redirected to another nearby table and were served by our usual waiters, Froilan and Nikko.

By the time that dinner was over, the Promenade Deck had been reopened, and we ventured out there for a short time before returning to our suite to get ready to our visit to Zeebrugge before going to bed.

Wednesday 28th December: Zeebrugge Belgium (Cancelled)/At sea

Overnight the weather did not improve, and when we awoke at 7.30am, the Arcadia seemed to have approached the entrance to Zeebrugge … and then turned away.

At 8.00am the captain announced that – after consulting the local pilot and the Zeebrugge harbour authorities – Arcadia would not be docking in Zeebrugge, and her visit had been cancelled. This was due to the high winds, which would have required the ship to use her thrusters and the assistance of at lest one tug just to remain alongside during our stay in the port. The ship would, therefore, make her way slowly down the English Channel towards Southampton.

Whilst this was no great surprise to Sue and I, many other passengers were less sanguine about missing a visit to Zeebrugge and the surrounding area, especially as the time the ship was in Amsterdam was curtailed … but at this time of year, such disruptions to cruises are to be expected.

After breakfast in the East Restaurant, Sue and I went for a walk around the ship’s shops and bought a number of small items. We then returned to our suite to do a bit of pre-packing preparation before going to the Palladium Theatre to listen to another of Ken Hanson’s talks about the Tower of London. This one was entitled ‘Prisoners of the Tower’ and lasted until 11.45am.

We were back in our suite by midday, by which point Arcadia was off Dover.

Sue and I then packed a couple of our suitcases before going to lunch in the Belvedere Self-Service Restaurant. We followed this with a very quick visit to the undercover area by the Aquarius Pool and Bar before we returned to our suite to finish packing our last suitcase and two of our holdalls.

We finished this by 3.00pm, at which point the ship was off the south coast near Eastbourne.

At 3.20pm the captain announced that due to the prevailing weather conditions (Arcadia was sailing into Force 11 winds) and because there was a casualty in the sickbay who would benefit from urgent medical treatment ashore, the ship was going to embark her pilot from the Nabb Tower at just after 8.00pm and dock in Southampton by 11.00pm. As picking up the pilot required the ship to undertake some tricky and potentially violent manoeuvres, all passengers were warned to take special care when this happened. He told us that the bridge would issue a warning so that passengers could find somewhere safe to sit or lie down.

The captain also informed us that although we would be alongside by 11.00pm, no one would be allowed to disembark ahead of schedule (i.e., before 7.00am on the following morning). This restriction was in place in order to comply with instructions he had received from the Southampton port authority and Border Force.

By 7.30pm, Arcadia was approaching the eastern end of the Isle of Wight and looked on course to reach the Nabb Tower at about 8.00pm.

Although the winds had started to drop and the seas were no near as rough as they had been, Sue and I chose to get a seat in the Piano Bar well before the predicted nautical gyrations were to take place. 8.00pm came … and went … and by 8.30pm – when we went into the Upper Meridian Restaurant for our last dinner of the cruise – it was obvious that the ship had picked up the pilot without needing to undertake special manoeuvres.

Dinner was excellent, and after thanking our two waiters – Froilan and Nikko for everything that they had done for use – Sue and I went out onto the Promenade Deck. It was cold and wet … but it was very obvious that the ship would be docking by the Mayflower Terminal at approximately 11.00pm.

Sue and I were back in our suite by 10.15pm, and after packing our last holdall and putting out for collection, we had a short rest before going to bed.

Thursday 29th December: Southampton

After an very good night’s sleep, Sue and I were woken up when our alarm clock went off at 6.15am. By just after 7.30am, we were eating our last breakfast of the cruise in the East Restaurant. We got back to our suite by 8.00am and once we had collected our coats and hand luggage, we went straight to the disembarkation gangway on Deck 1.

By 8.45am Sue and I had found all of our luggage in the baggage collection hall, passed through the Customs checkpoint, and had collected our car from the valet parking service. We were soon on our way home and other than a short stop at Winchester Services for a coffee, a comfort break, and to buy enough food to last us until we could go shopping next day, our journey home was pretty uneventful, and we were home just before 11.30am.

Our Christmas cruise was over … and our next cruise is less than six months away!


  1. Bob -
    Oh, those bills of fare! My, my, my.

    1. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

      You might be interested to know that people have been complaining online that the food they ate was boring and repetitive! This is on a ship with two main restaurants serving plated food, two speciality restaurants (one Asian fusion and the other a grill), a self-service buffet, a burger/fish grill, and a cafe … plus room service!

      Sue and I heard all sorts of complaints whilst sitting in various bars throughout the ship, some of which were hilarious! For example, ‘Why don’t they take us places where the locals speak English?’

      Have a great New Year!


  2. Hi BOB,
    Merry Christmas and a Happy NEW YEAR to you both. My-my yet another Cruise- marvelous - to great places and countries...the on board food sounds very magnificent- a little bit different from fish and chips from the local corner shop that is for sure. It has been in the 30's C here....35deg C here today though a cool breeze here tonight- very comfortable. Best Wishes. KEV. (Sydney-Australia).

    1. Kev Robertson (Kev),

      I hope that you both had a wonderful Christmas and have a great NewYear.

      Going on the cruise was a bit of a risk at the present moment. The UK has a rising level of COVID, the beginnings of a flu epidemic, and an upsurge of Norovirus. Being on a cruise ship with lots of people who might be infected was something that we thought seriously about, but as we were in a suite and could - if we chose to - isolate ourselves and live on free room service meant that we could minimise the risk … so we went … and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

      The food we ate was excellent, but I have read complaints on some of the forums that describe it as awful … but there are some people who will moan about anything that doesn’t match their extremely high expectations. We certainly came across a number of prima donnas for whom nothing was good enough.

      The coldest day was in Oslo, where it reached -15C at one point! Mind you, I suspect that Sue and I would have found 35C a bit too much to cope with.

      Keep safe and keep well,


  3. Another great wife's cousin and husband were on this very same cruise, they too had a good time despite all the problems. Bad weather in the Baltic at this time of year can hardly be a surprise and norovirus is also just another part of the cruising experience. Glad the "whingers" did not spoil it for you either....Regards.

    1. Tony Adams,

      I’m glad to read that we weren’t the only people to enjoy this cruise. A few things went wrong, but life at home is never without problems arising so I don’t understand why people think that a cruise is going to be any different.

      The bad weather - and previous experience of cruises to this area at this time of year - prepared us for the eventuality of problems getting into or out of Amsterdam and/or Zeebrugge.

      During his announcement that the ship would be missing Zeebrugge and going straight to Southampton, the Captain mentioned that someone who was in the ship’s medical centre would benefit from getting treatment ashore ASAP. I then heard someone say ‘Couldn’t they send a helicopter so that we can go into Zeebrugge?’ … and when I pointed out that the ship was experiencing a Force 11 Severe Storm which would make that near impossible, they asked why not.

      All the best,


  4. There are many worse ways to spend Christmas. As an aside, this is one of the few of your trip journals showing (or at least mentioning) cities I have actually visited! (Copenhagen and Amsterdam in '74)

    I hope this trip heralds a good 2023 for the two of you.

    1. Ross Mac,

      It was far easier to go on a cruise, where somebody else did the preparation, the cooking and the washing up, than to stay at home … and a short cruise was much cheaper than an equivalent stay in a hotel.

      I assume that you visited them whilst you were in the RCN. Sue and I love visiting Copenhagen, and would have liked to have spent more time in Amsterdam. Perhaps next time we will.

      All the best,


    2. It was too early in my career for that. In 1974 we had 2 months leave in-between military college classes and our first summer training at sea. With a copy of "Europe on $5 a day" in my pack, a friend and I spend the better part of 2 months travelling by rail and thumb through 6 counties, staying mostly in youth hostels or under the skies. The latter including an unauthorised night on the Lion Mount at Waterloo. It is a pity I lost both camera and diary in Paris.
      Ahhh, the joys and foolishness of youth!

    3. Ross Mac,

      Ah! The joys of youthful enthusiasm and the quest to visit foreign places! My equivalent journeys took me to Austria, SW France, and NE Spain, staying in small hotels or camping.

      I never managed anything as exotic as sleeping under the stars on a Napoleonic battlefield, although I was taught to ski by a member of the Austrian Mountain Jägers.

      All the best,



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