14 May 2019

My Trip To Norway 2019

Trip To Norway 2019

Some of you will remember that I have wanted to go on a cruise in Norway for some years, travelling along the coast on a ship, admiring the beautiful scenery, even more so since visiting , Mykle and Jean some years ago, so this year I decided was the time.
Life has been busy and complicated for some time, so I felt it would be a great way to get away and relax. So first I asked my friend Brian, but he had lots on. In passing I mentioned it to my half-sister Pat, she felt it was a great idea and something she had previously tried but there had been issues with the ship, so she had never made the trip. She was also waiting for a knee replacement operation, but interested. We discussed going to see the Northern Lights, Brian said at that time of the year, it was very dark and cold , so end of April or early May seemed a good alternative, . My friend Geoff also said he was interested, but that he gets seasick, so it was agreed he needed to make a sea trip to see how he managed.

Well eventually Pat had her operation and the all clear from the consultant, Geoff still had not had his sea trip but wanted to go, unfortunately he then was diagnosed with a problem with his eye, it seemed to be that he may not be able to go, but eventually was told was okay to do the trip, they both sorted out their insurance, so I started to look at the Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten, this was because they visited the smaller ports and it was felt we would see more of the coast than we would on the larger cruise ships. Around the end of April and the start of May seemed to be a good time to make the most of the trip. I offered to find out about accommodation routes and costing. I mentioned to both to sort out passports and travel insurance, because we would be around the time of Brexit which could affect the trip.

It seemed there were about 12 ships in the Hurtigreten fleet all doing the same route, after discussion it seemed our preference was a 12 day round trip starting at Bergen travelling to the top of the country, then back to Bergen. Pat said she was happy to share a cabin with me as it would reduce the cost for each of us, but Geoff preferred to be on his own. I checked the company's brochure for types of cabins, service and costs. Then looked at options to fly there and we decided on the 30 April 2019 on the MS Trollfjord, in outside cabins, possibly with overnight accommodation, both on the way out and return. I also contacted Sue at Ace travel, to see if she could arrange a package, plus my friend Mykle in Norway for advice on options.

Eventually I spoke first via e email then phone to a man at the cruise company and agreed a package, but we would sort out flights, and Sue sorted us a package out. The payments were sorted and all was going well, it was agreed Pat would come over the night before and stay at Geoffs as it would be an early start, we had decided to fly out and join the ship rather than have an overnight stay in Bergen

The a couple of days before we were due to fly, I discovered that our airline SAS, had a pilots strike, Sue tried all sorts to re book, in the end she sorted alternative flights to travel a day later to Trondheim stay a night there then to pick up our ship the following day, the only problem was the delay and huge cost of the changed flights and cost of hotel at Trondheim on the way out. Hopefully we will get a refund from the airline and something from travel insurance on our return.

Day One

All went well with trip to airport and flight to Oslo, then managed to lose Pat and Geoff whilst transferring through the airport, eventually found them at the boarding gate, just in time to board, so luckily all went well in the end, flight okay, taxi soon had us at hotel, there was a problem as first room was a double rather than a twin, quickly resolved, we had a nice room and free coffee and waffles on arrival, made a pleasant start at long last we were in Norway We went for a walk round the city, was not to cold and pleasant after the long trip, plus a chance to stretch our legs

Day Two

Next morning after breakfast, Pat had decided she wanted to stay at hotel and relax I went with Geoff for walk round the cathedral. Inside, stained glass windows very good apart from fact were not allowed to take photos and they still charged a compulsory £10. Afterwards had a pleasant walk through the streets, which were very quiet, then back to hotel to check out, then off in taxi to ship.
On arrival at ship, HS Trollfjord the only problem was our cabin was not ready for an hour, so had a chat and coffee. Cabin compact but enough, storage space and bed comfortable, bathroom tiny. So unpacked had a shower and settled in First meal was lunch, self-service buffet, good range of food.
We then explored the ship, there are nine decks we were on the lowest passenger deck 3 and Geoff level four, oddly his cabin was larger than ours, dining was level five, there was a more expensive restaurant also on this floor as are the shop, one of the cafes and the lecture theatre, levels 6 and seven were mainly cabins, deck 8 had a large observation area at the front where people could sit under cover watching the changing scenery, Also on deck eight is the explorer section for information and to book trips as well as a library and quiet lounge. On deck 9 there was another panoramic seating area a café, fitness gym, sauna all under cover, area for events, outside seating area, two outdoor spas and an area to watch the coast as we cruised along with plenty of seating.

For breakfast and lunch it was a buffet meal with a good range of food, it was a free for all, as with most places with serve service buffet type meals, not quite sure why as there was enough seating and food for everyone. For the evening we were allocated a time and table with waiter service. This meal was enjoyable but small portions,(which was just as well given all the other food I ate at breakfast and lunch). each day was a range of local produce some quite unusual for us

Day Three Artic Circle

Very cold today, ship at times swaying as it made progress, Geoff ill so he took strong seasick medicine and stayed in cabin.
Snowed on and off all day, mountains looked beautiful from the warmth of the ship.
Breakfast was usual sort of buffet style food, unusual to see salmon as a normal portion of food, lunch reasonable range food and dinner enjoyable to have waitress service.
Went on deck number of times to take photos, most people stayed inside, brave couple used the spa.
In the morning there was a ceremony to celebrate us crossing the Arctic Circle, those brave enough had ice cubes put down their backs, I preferred to video and take photos, later we each received a certificate to prove we had crossed the Circle.
We have 2 portholes in the cabin to see out, only problem is at night due to position in world does not go dark until very late, at this time of year, so lots of light coming in, so started to close the large heavy covers each night on at least one, more of a problem the following day to raise them again as they were very heavy, my bed very comfortable to lie on, found got tired easily so fair bit of day rested, but then it got to warm at times and needed to go for walk on deck and have fresh air.

I kept promising to go and listen to the lectures, provided by the Explorer team each day in the afternoon, but again today fell asleep and only woke later
We seemed to have a mixture of weather, at times it was very cold and snowed, then the sun would come out.

Day Four Tromso

More snow today and ship making progress, but lots of swaying up and down and side to side, Geoff seemed okay with this, no problem for Pat or I, In the afternoon we arrived at Tromso, Geoff and I got off the ship to stretch our legs and look round. Went up on cable car to top of mountain, then visit to the Artic Cathedral and Polaris museum to show development of this part of the world over the centuries
There was snow on the ground so I did not make much progress when walking, although we had fresh air and had wrapped up well to protect from the cold, this was fortunate because suddenly the snow started quite heavily, was good to get back to the ship and the warmth.
Seem to remember spent time resting in cabin whilst Geoff and Pat chatted on deck.

Day Five

Not quite sure what we did this day other than sample the apple pie on deck quite cold but days longer and brighter, think it was today Pat went to see the husky dogs, shame that none of us could go for a ride with the husky’s or on the snowmobiles.

Day Six Ice Hotel
This morning Geoff and I wanted to see the Ice Hotel and Pat had booked to go to the Russian Border, we got off the ship at Honningsvag, after a short walk we came across a taxi company, that took us to the Ice Hotel, Geoff was interested by the snow mobiles that were parked up, sadly seems not enough snow for them to be safe to use.
In hotel had to wear special boots, we wandered from room to room, it did not seem to cold, the young lady said that if people stayed they were provided with very thick waterproof sleeping bags.
In each room the bed ends had been sculpted out of ice and the decoration on the walls were a range of fairy story and other ice sculptures, we did notice a particular room had a do not disturb sign for Santa, (so that's where he gets to) At the end of the passageway was reception again, carved out of ice
After changing boots we went into the shop to be given a warming drink and frankfurter roll, it was a shame we had run out of time and the taxi arrived to take us back to the ship, a very pleasurable experience.
Pat had a trip to the Russian Border which she had also enjoyed.
We had asked about seeing Aurora Bolaris but it seems it is now to light, maybe a good idea for another trip.

Day Seven
By now we were travelling back down the coast but unfortunately, many of the stops in port were brief or early morning, so just relaxed and took photos
This evening we had one of the spectacular sunsets, such a shame so few people were on the deck about nine in the evening for about three quarters of an hour

Day Eight

We seemed to be a long time at sea today, there were lots of excursions but none apart of us apart from Geoff, had gone off with others for a walk that included a bus and boat ride. he seemed to enjoy this trip. By now I was worrying that with all the food I would need to do a lot of dieting when got home, but sadly this did not stop me. Got up early today, weather seemed much warmer on deck but most still wrapped up in their winter clothes. Was a quiet day, got off ship at Stokmarknes had a look round and a walk nothing really to see, but at least a chance to stretch legs. Later caught up with Geoff seems he had enjoyed walk in deep snow. Evening meal chaotic, no waiter service and because serving had started earlier so we were late, only limited range of food which was not that hot, such a shame after previous days.

Day Nine

Cannot remember what we did today apart from further rest and reading in the afternoon, After meal went on deck took photos and enjoyed the scenery, interesting how late it has been light. Spent time catching up with blog on tablet.

Day Ten

This morning sun shining, yet again we crossed the Arctic Circle but this time travelling South, was more laid back ceremony than previous, many people on deck not sure if was the free drink or special moment in life for many. The sun reflecting from the snow on the mountains is something special.
Spent time on top deck enjoying the view, later went to listen to talk about whales, seemed quite interesting, only problem was young woman spoke very fast, so hard to follow, think I nodded off briefly.
Had lunch with Geoff and Pat, then up on deck again, on this trip South, seems to be mainly small stops, saw Seven sister mountain range, just past Sandnessjoen, then noticed had lost neck loop for microphone, think unlikely will be noticed or handed in, came down to cabin for a read, sleep and catch up with blog.
Tonight we have our farewell dinner, it's later, not sure what to expect after last night's poor meal.
Next stop Bronnoysund, then shortly after Fjellet Torghatten and the hole in the middle of the mountain, I spotted this quite quickly, not sure some the other passengers did, as they congregated, the captain kindly turned the ship so people could get a better view. From previous experience, I knew that standing in the spa area which was raised helped. I was to busy watching for a second view as well as others who followed me so had not noticed, was that a youngish couple had chosen this time to have a relaxing spa, but now were surrounded by overdressed people pointing cameras all over the place. It will be interesting to see how well the photos come out. I had tried to show Geoff where to look for the hole, finally he saw when could clearly see daylight through the mountain.

Day Eleven

Last day today farewell meal in the evening, was special, nice touches, by staff singing and different service, earlier had been to talk about the sights we had seen on the cruise
Day Twelve Trip to Bergen

Up early case packed and weighed, went for breakfast, took cases to be transferred, sat on deck nine in the sun as usual, most people wrapped up in winter wear although quite warm. Landscape now changing to green and more houses.
Next meal was lunch, usual mixture of food, took our time, relaxed in lounge until we arrived at Bergen. Ship was early docking but we had to wait the longest as on bottom deck. Fortunately luggage was quickly retrieved and outside we went to get taxi, everyone else’s transport seemed to turn up but then realized ours was not due for another 15 minutes.

Soon at hotel, much as I remember from my last trip to Bergen, only problem again mix up with our room, was not twin, soon sorted and so nice to have lots of space and a large bathroom, plus nice towels. Went down for chat and coffee, suggested walk round town and up the funicular to see the beautiful views round the town.
Pat decided to stay and rest, so off we set, when reached the top views were as good as I remembered and we could see our ship still in dock. Went for a walk, so pleasant and quiet, then back down walk to marina and the small lake was nice to see daffodils in bloom.

Off for something to eat, walked across to station to cafe, but Geoff decided he preferred a McDonald's, so we did that, then back to hotel for a coffee and an early night. Pat had packed her case so did mine, had early night after a long day.

Day Thirteen Return Home

Up early had shower, finished packing then down for breakfast, dining room elegant and quiet with nice range of food. Took our time, then took Pat for a walk into town. On return checked out, taxi already waiting so off to airport. No problems there apart from Geoff having left his toiletries in hand luggage, so these were all confiscated, no wonder his large case weighed lighter.

Now sat waiting to board plane to Oslo, will take about an hour, then a couple of hours delay, before final flight to Manchester and to get to own home.
At Oslo all went well, got drink and baguette, then I managed to spill coffee down my trousers, only time have not had spare pair in hand luggage, just had text to say plane delayed by 45 minutes, hope no more issues apart from fact that I smelt of coffee.

Finally back at Manchester, with help, cases, quickly retrieved, went to toilet, then could not find the other two, searched all over the place, sent text to Geoffs daughter in the end, got phone call from his son in law, seems they were worried about taking my cases through duty free option, Pat not happy, took lift to car, loaded and of home.

Have now downloaded photos to computer and named and dated them, will arrange for showing of them with Geoff and Pat, hope you enjoy those I have attached

Having now had time to think about holiday, thought it may help others if planning a similar trip if I mention points here

Firstly I think if well planned the 7 day trip could fit most things in and one or two of the smaller cruise companies go closer into the fjords, but its down to how much time and money you have. Also investigate if staying at certain ports rather than doing the whole trip will enable you to do those special excursions, By using a taxi we were able to do the Ice Hotel for a fraction of the cost, but also remember if you miss the ship its your problem to catch up on a cruise.

If you are prone to seasickness, there are times that the ship is moving at speed in the open sea with a lot of rocking despite stabilisers, so make sure you have the right medication in advance.

Choose the time of year you want to go carefully, we were to late for the Aurora Bolaris and there had been insufficient snow to go on a snowmobile or husky trip, as we travelled further north, the days got longer and longer, but generally it was not to cold, as I understand it is when its winter, when its very cold and there is lots of snow, but then you may find it to dark or dangerous to do certain trips.

I use hearing aids and found that there is no provision for this on the cruise or trips, so at times missed things in particular the frequent passenger announcements about things that were happening, or in the talks and communicating with staff, whilst on board the ship, whereas for those with mobility issues the ship was good.

The ship we were on was looking like it needed a refit as some of the chairs in lounges and carpets were well worn, not what I would of expected for a holiday at this price

If you can try to give yourself an extra night in Bergen, to see this beautiful place, allow for the fact most of your first day is going to involve, flying from your home, then going through the process of embarking and settling on board the ship, so effectively you have lost a day.

On the way back remember you have to vacate your cabins early in Bergen although the ship does not dock until the afternoon.
These ships are quite different to the large cruise ships, that provide all day entertainment, these are working vessels and often only call in ports for half to a couple of hours at the most, so unless you have excursions booked that will catch up with the ship further down the cost, you could be left stranded. If you enjoy watching beautiful scenery and peace and quiet then these are more likely to appeal, but generally apart from a couple of laid back events there is no special entertainment particularly if you have young children, maybe on some ships or in the summer things are different, its worthwhile checking out

I would totally recommend a trip to Norway on a cruise to explore the coast, there are some really magnificent views as the ship travels up and down the coast

Hope you have enjoyed the Blog and photos.

29 Dec 2018

My Thoughts At The End Of 2018

Thoughts at the end of 2018
Hello all, thought I would write a blog about the ups and downs of my life this year, problem is where to begin, should I start with the happy or sad.

Well I suppose holidays are a good start, I had a few of them this year, the first in York when I was ill and I am still suffering the effects of this every time I laugh or cough, I had trips to Canary Isles, Caribbean, which I have very mixed thoughts about especially after the event, not sure if trip to Plymouth should be classed as a holiday as it was so short lived and the outcome was not happy, so memorable for all the wrong reasons. I nearly went to London for xmas, but that did not work out. But the highlight was my two weeks in Almeria with Bridget and Karen, who took me to lots of places I had never been to before, that were not full of drunken Brits. But beautiful scenery and lots of café con leche and UNO, They were great company and just what I needed at that time, to remind me there are some good people out there who are genuine

My caravan went early this year, I shall miss it for the peace quiet and beautiful scenery, at times this year it would of helped to of had as a retreat from the ups and downs of life during this time. The problem was the site fees and not having sufficient income to pay these it was eating into my savings, my then partner had no interest in sharing the costs and it was as always after the event that a friend said he would have been willing to share the costs if he could of shared the use, what a shame he did not come forward earlier. The best I can say was that I had wanted to own one for many years, so this had been achieved, now all I need is to start doing and winning the Lotto and all would be solved
Sadly its been a year for deaths of friends, some I knew longer than others, one of my oldest Kath, was the greatest loss and the fact that she had finally things to look forward she had wanted to achieve for some time, but then died in her sleep. I am still trying to decide if it was a good way to go or not.

The fact I have become closer to my half sister is a lovely thing and even better because now we are planning a holiday together in the new year, the fact it’s a cruise to Norway, which has been on my wish list for many years makes it so much better, it has helped that my friend Mykle has been advising me on how to achieve it and enjoy the process as well as the holiday. I originally was going to go in the winter to see the Northern Lights, but when it was explained that there was very little daylight at that time of the year and it was very cold, decided instead to wait a while longer for better weather. Hopefully early 2019 everything will be sorted out.
Another friend of mine wishes to go but has fears of seasickness, I am hoping that he can overcome this and enjoy the adventures I am sure we will all have. For all sorts of reasons I personally decided some years ago that I wanted to do things on my wish list whilst I am able, because there is nothing worse than regret about what I might of done in life when no longer able to.

My hearing as many know has got worse I feel over the last twelve months, it prevents me from listening to my favourite music, but also to easily restricts me from, joining in conversation and chat to others in the way I have in life. Recently I decided the group I had met with for many years was no longer viable because of the struggle trying to hear others, so have decided that its better now to meet in smaller groups in a quieter environment, the big issue there is, where do such places exist and the background noise is not to intrusive

I am doing lip reading and have met some nice people through this group, but must admit I feel my skills are still rubbish. I volunteered to do something to give back to the deaf organization but so far, I do not seem to of made any real contribution, maybe I don’t fit their profile. On the other hand a tiny charity seems to appreciate my knowledge and skills and the first client, I am hoping will benefit from our work on his behalf. Working with him and the two advocates has opened my eyes to the difficulties faced in day to day living of those profoundly deaf, when coping with NHS health and social services. Also how many of us are becoming hard of hearing but with very poor support generally whether its hospitals shops my GP surgery or any other resource that I use.

This is crazy because often for some quite small investment by organizations it would be so much easier for people such as myself to be better able to communicate in society. A simple portable loop would make communicating so much easier at all sorts of places for many of us, instead of the time wasted constantly asking staff to repeat themselves and save the person with the hearing impairment further stress. For some reason hearing issues are not a high priority in most peoples thoughts, so I am now considering finding some way to improve the services to people who have hearing issues, even if in a small way.
In terms of health this year has not been to bad, by the hard work done by physio and osteopath, plus the pain relief consultant, there have been no extreme episodes this year enabling me to have a little better health. The one thing I have not truly addressed is that of losing at least a stone in weight and to exercise more. A friend has tried to interest me in joining in organised walks he is involved in, but I have explained that due to hearing issues walking in what seems to be isolation with a group of people is not an attractive offer and I might as well use a treadmill in the warmth of a gym.
It was very sad my relationship broke down in the way it did this year, but I now know it was for the best. The problem with something like that is that it affects other things in life and I personally will be much more wary of other people who may come into my life in the future, which is a shame really

I have a new neighbour, sadly Joyce who lived there has had to go into care and these days she does not know who I am, but the new person so far seems pleasant, when chatting to my osteopath he explained that I need a walk in shower or wet room what a shame he did not tell me that before the renovations two years ago, not sure I want to go through all the upset again.
This year I have celebrated the first birthday of my second great grandchild and only this month the third birthday of the first born from the other grand daughter, doesent time fly, speaking of flying this year I have not been over as often, partly due to problems with finding good accommodation, but also my poor hearing and mobility are not as good as they were, plus the family are so busy these days, maybe some time in the new year I will get to see them all again.

We hear on the TV about social isolation of elderly people, I make an effort to get out and do things but these days find it takes a greater toll of me, even mixing with others, but fortunately I have a circle of friends who I can visit or chat to on the phone. More recently I have been visiting another neighbour who has health issues and we share a love of reading and good company, his computer skills are not that good, so I have been assisting him with those and other technology in the home. What a shame our families do not have the patience to help us to understand how new equipment works, so we miss out often

A friend of mine who has Parkinsons disease, has been an inspiration to me, in that he has done so much despite all his health issues, including this year to publish a book about his life with the condition, if you want a good read its called “ My Life With Parkinson’s” the author Ray Wegrzyn, I am actually mentioned in the book, fame at last.
The lady who I am assisting with advocacy, is another person who has her own complex health issues but despite these, finds the time to help so many others who have an hearing impairment, she takes no money for this work, I just wish I could find a way to help her raise much needed funds to employ more people to work with her, as her present colleague, is talking about giving up the role and there is at present nobody else to replace her.

Well I am not sure at present there is much more to say, at least the new year is starting with a positive, in that I will be spending time with my sister and going away, I am planning more trips, not sure where yet and hopefully I will find somewhere that I can mix more often in the community

7 Nov 2018

Trip To Almeria

Some of you will know that since late in August I have had a series of things to deal with, hopefully all now sorted and I can get on with my life. I posted something on Facebook, really about the different types of relationships on there and how people can friend or unfriend you just like that. But also that people often would say something then behave in a very different way, must be something to do with interpretations of what friends are really about.
Well now to what matters for this Blog. Amongst the people who contacted me with support was a friend called Bunty, we had known each other for a number of years through Sagazone and Facebook, but had only met up for a weekend with friends in Birmingham some years ago.
She kindly offered me the use of her villa in Spain if it would help me manage through this difficult time, depending on my dates she may or not of been there, if not about I would have to pay the agent otherwise to be her guest. Well oddly enough I needed to think about this as for the last few years finding people who wanted to do something to help me without a cost or agenda was very rare. So sorry Bridget so seldom to find someone as kind and genuine as you
I decided to take her up on the offer and arranged a couple of weeks in October, then needed some idea of where I was going, which turned out to be a lovely little place away from the tourist areas with a beach nearby, what more could I want. Well to be honest to arrange the flights and how to get to the villa was a start I suppose.
Thanks to the internet I was able to find dates but it needed two different airlines, next how to get to the villa out of season. Again back to the computer where I found from the airport I could get a bus into Almeria then another to the village, problem was the early bus to resort an hour before my plane was due to land, the next was at 15 30, so a fair wait in Almeria, so I looked for shuttles and found a shuttle company that would take me from the airport most of the way, then I could get a taxi. Bridget offered to pick me up from drop off point, but also mentioned that she was coming over with her friend from UK, so I would be in the under build instead of spare room in villa. Said not a problem for me, so went away and sorted out tickets etc

Just before setting off further message to say may be a problem as she had got dates wrong but could still pick me up from meeting point.

Started out at 3am in taxi to airport, used assistance at airport to get to plane, all went well, and arrived safely in Almeria, shuttle was waiting and within an hour was meeting the two ladies, the other being Karen. We hit it off straight away and had a Chinese meal before setting off for villa. We travelled in Bridgets car, which is a Skoda Yeti, very comfortable I found it and soon we arrived at villa
I moved my luggage down to the studio and Karen and I then cleaned the place up as was a little dusty, unpacked then we all relaxed. That evening I think they introduced me to the card game named UNO, I found I could play quite well very quickly, it was a pleasant relaxing evening in good company. Later off to bed which I found very comfortable, quiet and had one of the best nights sleep I had had in a long while
From this point I am not going to list everything in normal order and will possibly mix up places and dates, as I realize all sorts of things now blend in and I am unsure quite when we did some things, the main purpose is to explain what an enjoyable time I had
I think we started with a coffee then off to supermarket for some food, there was such a different range of food there, to what I am used to and as my Spanish is so poor often had to guess what some of the food was. Later we went for a meal together, the day was warm and sunny and I enjoyed the good company and conversation.
I needed the toilet just after we had paid the bill, the ladies were insistent that we each shared our own costs fairly, which I found a refreshing change. So off to seek the toilet, I asked the barman who totally misunderstood and thought I was questioning the bill, eventually with the help of another I discovered the word I needed was Servicos such a difference to most of the Costas where most of the staff speak better English than I do. It was interesting to find most places had free Wi Fi which helped with being in touch with friends and family through the internet during the trip, although I had paid for an extra package on my mobile to assist me, so I was less dependant on these free services
Bridget had mentioned that she had brought a couple of bedside cabinets over that needed to be assembled so I offered to do this for her, to help repay her kindness, the only problem was she had no tools so she needed to go to another resident to borrow some from them for me

That evening we had pleasant conversation, I tried to get the TV to work, first problem it was set up in Spanish, so as there was no manual I needed to get it to translate to English first, unfortunately despite this could not get any reception on it so back to chat and UNO which I was becoming quite proficient at.
I think it was today we had problems with the toilet flushing in the underbuild, it had a macerator as it had to pump the water etc upstairs, plumber came and said was Kaput, but would contact another plumber to advise
After breakfast we went to a Carre Four supermarket which was much bigger and sold a whole range of goods, Bridget was able to pick up some items for the flat and decided to purchase a cd player, I suggested maybe a DVD would be more versatile, but we ended up with the one she wanted which also had a radio, I said I would like to pay for this as she was not charging me for my accommodation. I seem to think today we went down to the beach for a paddle in the sea, it was warm enough for shorts and a t shirt, the only issue I discovered later was that the local insects decided I was new blood and they all wanted a taste, so I soon had a number of bites showing on my arms and legs. I felt I needed a rest later so the two ladies went off to the castle up on the hill for a look.

I seem to think again we went out for our usual café con leche in the morning but then another meal later in the day, such a shame I did not keep a record of what we did, I think it would of helped make this more interesting reading. That evening I started to assemble the first cabinet, which was a slow process, I think it was this evening that the neighbour Francis came over and joined us for the card games.
The next morning after breakfast we went to the local Terreros market I was sent for some tomatoes and naranja by Bridget, because I could pick my own I did not need to use my very poor version of the words and just paid. We then went for churros as many of the locals did, they were pleasant to eat but also, it was interesting to observe how the man made them. Later we went out for a trip in the car to Cuevas Del Almanzora. I seem to think we stopped there for our by now usual café con leche and met Bridgets friend Anita. After that we returned back to the villa. I am unsure what we did the rest of the day, but want to think it was today I went up to find out what the problem was with the aerial, in fact someone had stolen the huge dish that was on the roof, that’s why there was no reception on the TV. Think it was this night we had the beautiful sunset, then I finished the first cabinet and we played UNO again.
Not sure if it was when second plumber called, seemed to think he could solve the problem
Today we went to Villaricos Garucha and Majacar Playa and Pueblo, I think it was here we saw the strange shapes that that had been made in the rock, then we looked at the stunning views across the valley, followed by a pleasant meal, later back to putting the second cabinet together and relaxing in the evening yet again
Bridget again took us out for a drive it was overcast today in her car first to Bol Nuevo then Puerto De Mazrarran, as we approached all of a sudden the heavens opened and the rain came down in buckets, the streets were like rivers. We parked up and I had to negotiate the areas that the water was less deep, whilst the ladies were okay in their sandals. We went into a restaurant for a drink and a chat, I could not believe when we came out the difference the sky was blue and the water had disappeared. We then drove further along the coast and Bridget showed us some rather strange rocks that had been turned into odd shapes by the weather over time. In the afternoon on the way back we went on the old road rather than the motorway and found a lovely little café, with Spanish men playing dominos, it was just as it must have been in the past. We had a drink and watched an old man with his stick stop for a rest, was one of those moments when it all looked so peaceful and a reminder of how Spain used to be. Just for a change we had a relaxing evening that night
One of the things that we struggled with, well particularly Karen and I was the insect bites, we did not notice at the time we were bitten, but they were both painful and irritating for days later, despite spraying rooms and putting on medication, in fact I still have some of the scars from them
For some reason I cannot see anything to tell me what we did this day, but I presume yet again it was to unspoilt places in good company. Could have been day that third plumber came from agency, said toilet needed replacing.
I think today was the day Karen left us, which was sad, we set off for Murcia airport using Bridgets sat nav to help us find our way, I had also programed the place into my phone, it was a pleasant drive, but I had not been aware that there are two airports in Murcia, one of which has not opened yet. Therefore when Bridget said we were going the wrong way, I thought it odd because usually sat navs tend to be out of date so I was sure we were going to the old one. We were close to the airport and Bridget who had picked Karen up said we were at the wrong airport, shortly after we were guided by the sat nav up a small road that was a dead end. Luckily a motorcyclist came along and was kind enough to guide us back on the right route. Sadly soon we had to say goodbye to Karen and return back to the villa. I moved my stuff up to the other bedroom, but unfortunately when I went to bed I struggled as the mattress was so firm.
The next morning I explained to Bridget about the mattress and that I was moving back down to the underbuild, which I found so much more comfortable. So again everything was packed and moved. I think today we had a trip down to the town centre and a paddle in the sea, then a meal at one of the cafes. It was much quieter and I feel we both missed Karens presence, just for a change we played UNO again. I had tried to sort out getting back to Almeria either by bus or shuttle but nobody seemed to be responding to my e mails.
Today after breakfast. Plumber appeared and took unit in toilet to be repaired, I seem to think we went to Mojacar and Bridget showed me an area where the water from the mountain came that was good quality so we filled our bottles but in the old days, was where the locals used to do their washing. Then off to Turres in the mountains, again the rain came down in buckets, but I still felt safe with Bridget driving us. There were plenty of hairpin bends as we drove up but luckily nobody coming the other way. We eventually stopped and parked, the building were all more traditional I felt than in the towns and villages and generally much larger, Bridget had hoped to take us to a restaurant high up, unfortunately it was closed but we were still able to appreciate the stunning views, before our trip back down again
This morning we got up and the sky looked clear so I put on shorts and a T shirt before we went to the market in town. Quickly the temperature dropped and I felt the cold, but also rather foolish as everyone else was dressed more sensibly. My task as usual was to go to the vegetable stall for tomatoes naranja and this time limons, I liked the look of the apples so got a couple of those also. We then had our choros with chocolate, which I enjoyed despite the cold, then a pleasant walk back to the villa. I think it was today I finally saw a bus and realized where the bus stop was and it had the times, so considered that as the easiest way back to Almeria. I seem to think we had our evening meal late today in the village.
One of the things I was surprised about was how many Chinese shops there were selling tools and household goods, the range they had was enormous and the prices quite cheap, I presume they did so well because there was nowhere else that sold similar small items for those owning or renting accommodation in the area
Waited in for plumber who did not appear, we had a game of Petanque (boules) on the carpark area, was a change and Bridget much better at it than I was, then into village for something to eat, as usual, it was well presented good food. Tried again to sort out transport finally arranged shuttle for tomorrow to pick me up where dropped off, Bridget would drive me there.
Well up early and packed, bedding in the washer, felt sad that would be leaving, have really enjoyed time with Bridget and Karen, so refreshing after the last couple of months. My phone rang was an unknown English number so ignored. A little later was checking e mail and discovered that they had changed time of shuttle to 8 30 today. With help from Bridget, rang them and managed to sort out to pick up at 2 30pm, so time to get sorting out. Had last game of Petanque, think I need to practice a little more. Then off to pick up for shuttle. We arrived early and went for a coffee then a walk round the area, then for a last Chinese meal before we said goodbye. Shuttle was early so off we set, felt sad at going, the shuttle picked up a family, none spoke to me or themselves seemed odd but there we go. Got to airport, looked for bus but could not find, so got in taxi, it had a low roof so cracked head on roof, not a good start, quickly was at hotel, then shock of find for 4 miles was 20 euros, paid and went into hotel.
Quickly signed in and went to room, it was huge, each bed was the size of a double, a huge balcony and view of the beach. I unpacked, decided to have a bath, I used their shower gel, well it’s a long time since I have seen so many bubbles. The bath was quite low, but got in okay, enjoyed the time to just relax, but when tried to get out there was nothing to hang onto, so was quite embarrassing, eventually succeeded, when dried off switched TV on, 50 channels of Spanish TV and one English news channel and a couple of US ones, so back to kindle for a read.

Later went downstairs for a look round, sadly was raining when went outside, there were no shops or restaurants close to, did find bus stop and that it fitted in with time I wanted to leave the next morning. Went back in asked about where to obtain meal, returned to room, took off coat to hang in bathroom, noticed tiles in bottom of the bath, all very odd, saw cleaner brought her in she rang through to get someone to sort out. Nobody arrived so downstairs to reception, lady there said someone would come quickly and any problems they would move me to another room. Man came cleared up confirmed other tiles secure, decided would have shower next morning just to make sure, so decided to stay in this room.
Went down for meal, was buffet meal in restaurant, had a reasonable range of food, so enjoyed this before returning to room. Had booked breakfast for 6 30am. Did not sleep well and was up at 5am, had shower packed then down for breakfast, They had plated a meal for me, which was more than enough. After back to room, then downstairs to book out, this was done quickly, then asked about bus service and taxi as an alternative, seems 20 euros is the standard charge so decided would try bus instead. This quickly came, cost 1 05 euros and there was signage to show where stops were. The bus filled but we got no nearer to airport, it seemed to wander round all the local streets. Eventually finally got there, airport is small and was deserted so quickly sorted out check in. Explained wanted assistance with boarding plane so man came was quickly taken through security etc, could relax and have coffee before boarded plane.
It was Thomas Cook plane and distance between seats was little and child in front was one of those that seemed to have a need to keep bouncing on it. Finally landed Manchester, waited for everyone to disembark, then for wheelchair to arrive, seemed they had only sent 2 staff for eight people, so volunteered to walk rather than wait. Finally got to baggage reclaim , for some reason there were two conveyor belts. Case turned up and left, then realized was at terminal one not two, so then had a long walk to rail station, luckily train was in , at Manchester short wait for tram, then bus to home at last. I had been travelling for over 6 hours.
First task to put washer full of clothes on, read post and even more important to warm flat up as temperature was around 5 degrees as opposed to 15 back in Spain.

Well that’s the end folks I hope you enjoyed the blog and photos, just to say yet again so many thanks to Bridget and Karen for such a great time

6 Jul 2018

Our Trip To The Caribbean 2018

Trip to Caribbean June 2018

Well folks its been a long time since I lasted posted, my apologies for this, so trying to get this done whilst still a recent memory. I must apologize if it seems a little dry, but its already taken ages to write,I should of asked Jane to check it before posting but felt it would be okay. Instead I am adding a little more detail to help it as a read, plus very important is that Janes company made so much of it as fun and her enthusiasm and personality left me with some lovely memories but I felt some were personal and others sadly given I am more of a Mr Grump these days make it hard to express myself sometimes lol, so lets help after this its a more fun read

After disposing of my caravan I decided would have a good holiday this year and found a cruise in The Caribbean, the price seemed reasonable and included 3 nights in Barbados so I could get away from cold damp UK and spend birthday in a beautiful setting, my friend Jane was eager to go with me as she had never been on a cruise or travelled to the Caribbean before.
Usually I do lots of research on this sort of holiday but as I had been on a cruise before to the same places saw no issues, until I spoke to friends who are frequent cruisers.

The first question was why was I flying from Gatwick when there were flights locally, uuum first mistake and as the tale unfolds how I have regretted not investigated this option. Then they informed me that in actual fact there is little of interest in Barbados rather is just a popular port for cruises, I did inform them that we were staying in a hotel just across from a beach so they said that sounded ok. They had said to beware of cruises from American ports full of US citizens as they are quite different to the English ones, so I said, it did not seem an issue (funny how our words come back to us at time)

Well we had our dollars, all the paperwork, cases packed, car checked over, hotel with car parking in Gatwick sorted out, had checked no US visa required, had checked in for flight and cruise in advance and taxis arranged in Barbados what could go wrong, also took my new microphone and receiver to assist with my hearing, plus had asked for assistance at airports due to poor mobility.
Trip to Gatwick went well, nice hotel and room, had very pleasant meal to celebrate good sleep, shuttle to airport on time so off we set. At this point maybe I should mention how excited Jane was that at long last she going to go to the Caribbean, No problems at airport or boarding plane, seats were a little close together so we were due to arrive at 5pm their time. Initially all was well, but we all know that situation where child is sat behind us and for reasons I still do not understand decides to push feet into seat in front and parents seem oblivious to this, well that’s what happened to me, I did consider asking parents if they would like to swap seats with me, but resisted the temptation. Eventually they seemed to settle so watched a couple of films and had a doze.

On arrival at Barbados, was quickly sorted out through immigration, off to taxi and hotel, weather much as home but more humid, hotel seemed pleasant staff friendly, room ok, only issue was their restaurant was closed, we had been looking forward to not have to go out rather to just sunbath and read with the odd walk. So it was a shame to have to go to supermarket first to obtain some food and fruit and drinks. But the area was sunny, the people in cars stopped so we could cross the road, the beach was lovely and white, with beautiful views. I found despite my hearing issues in the evening it seemed noisy even with hearing aids out, it took a couple of days to realize we were near to a busy main road and bus stop, but decided to ignore it and just relax, We went to the beach a few times in a little bay which was pleasant, but the slope was quite steep so we did not venture in other than Jane to have a paddle. The hotel provided a breakfast that was ok in the open by the swimming pool, the staff were very welcoming and friendly, we had some time sunbathing there.
The following day, it was very windy and poured down all day, so apart from a brief walk we stayed in, the third day was my birthday and we had brought cards and presents with us, we decided to go to local nice restaurant to celebrate that evening, but as a contrast went to other beach area to sample local food, the beach was a beautiful white one spoilt only by rather odd looking seaweed that affected the view. That night we dressed up and the meal was very good in a beautiful setting with the moon shining down as we were sat outside, only problem was the flying insects attracted by the light for a while. we both really enjoyed this first extra special time, one of the best birthdays I have had. We had an early night in anticipation of the start of our holiday the next day on the ship.
Woke up, had breakfast, finished packing, then relaxed by the pool until taxi arrived,what a much better start to a holiday than from our local airport, it was short drive to port and the ship, which was huge must have been something like a quarter of a mile long, with about 15 decks. We quickly boarded, had our photos taken for ID cards that we were to use to purchase anything on board the ship. Then went to immigration, to have bad news, seemed despite my checking that we needed an American Visa otherwise could not stay on the ship, obviously the ship was used to this, so they assisted us to apply for this on their computers, luckily all went well and we went off to our cabin.
The cabin was an inside one, but with enough space and a bathroom, there were two bottles of water, which we thought was a nice touch apart from the fact they were over 3 dollars each and the tap water was not drinkable, but it was still great to be unpacking on board ship with a cruise in front of us, we went to the self service dining room for something to eat, there was a range of choices of food but it was aimed at an American appetite, luckily I can cope with this, the range of free soft drinks were very limited and rather odd tasting, there was little selection of salads or good eating, but looking at the size of some of the other people and how much they put on their plates, I did worry about the effects on their health.

In the evening there was an option to eat in the dining room more formally, with waiter service, the choice and quality of food was good as was the service plus at certain times in the night, the waiters stopped serving and treated us to a dance, it made the time better, it was lovely that Jane and I could be dressed up and enjoy delicious food well cooked and presented. We decided to see the show. I am not sure quite what I expected but definitely not what we got. The room was huge, but had lots of pillar so hard to get a good view of the stage in many places, the entertainment manager came on, I struggled to hear him both due to his accent but because of how fast he spoke. Then the music started it was deafening and nothing like the sort of entertainment I would of hoped for. but the audience did. At the end I went to guest services and explained that I had hearing loss so they were very good and loaned me for the duration equipment to assist. Over the period on the ship we did find small areas that were quiet such as the library and piano bar, plus the bedrooms, but for the rest there seemed to be most of the time pounding music throughout the ship.I think its fair to say if I did not have my problems it would of sounded much better Jane seemed happy with the sound.

On return to the room it was a pleasant surprise to have a welcome card from our steward, plus a visitor namely an animal made out of towels sat on the bed, it made a good impression and was a lovely end to our first day. We had decided not to have Wi Fi and instead spent our time in the room and at times on deck reading the magazines and the novel I completed whilst away, there was also no service on our mobile phones, not sure if that was good or bad thing. But just to be able to relax was such a change from normal life

The next day we went down to self service restaurant for breakfast, the place was packed and the queues were long, think people were making sure they got their moneys worth, the only drink I found I could cope with was green tea which was very refreshing, but again think it was me and a health issue I have at present, Jane was happy with the range of food and drinks. I did feel sorry for the staff who had to keep clearing up the mess left and the food left on the plates by other people, but the staff were always very pleasant and helpful.

Today we were in St Lucia, the previous night we had looked at the tours run by the ship, due to my health issues some I would of liked to try were not available and the others seemed to be full, so we disembarked the ship eventually as I think many of the other 1000 or so others also decided to do. It was more than a little chaotic, with tour company and taxi drivers trying to get us to join them, instead we noticed there was a ferry to the town so had a relaxing trip there, we walked along the beach and had a paddle and a walk round the town, Jane said how nice relaxing and beautiful it was and it would be lovely to of had more time there, in the end we went back to the ship, more food, then a rest for me on the sun loungers and a swim for Jane, only issue was the pounding music, then back to the cabin for peace and quiet, that evening was a formal night for dressing up, so down we went in our finery, were quite surprised how many others had not made the effort, again food and service were excellent. After we tried the show, it was a mystery murder event, but all really odd, then good old BINGO, so we left and wandered round the ship hand in hand, both indoors and on the decks, it was a pleasant evening on deck, then back to the cabin and yet another different towel animal to greet us. I forgot to say each evening they also left a leaflet with what was happening the following day, so an interesting read but sadly most things did not appeal to us.
Today was the 21st and we had booked a tour round St Kitts, so we decided to try the waiter service in the dining room first, they had a huge menu with lots and lots of choices, but in what to us was an odd order, we eventually worked out what we wanted and to be served in peace and quiet was a pleasant change. We both really enjoyed the meal which was a good start to the day.
We had to meet in the theatre for our trip which was a road and rail exploration, then off we went to disembark and onto our coach, the information was interesting and we saw the beautiful countryside that was still recovering from the hurricanes last year, all the people seemed so positive and enthusiastic about life, then onto the train, it was a narrow gauge train, we were served a range of cold drinks as the guide explained about the island but also the effects of the hurricanes last year, it was a gentle trip through the countryside with beautiful views, then after another trip on the bus back to the ship for our dinner, what a shame the dining room was not open as today it seemed particularly busy and noisy with long waits for food and problems finding somewhere to sit,in the self service restaurant, then off for a lie on the sun loungers and later a swim for Jane, before retiring to the cabin for a cooling down and rest before our evening meal.
We had found out that at the evening meal we could order “Sides” which was nice to know as the food was good but not a lot of, so this time we tried and it seemed a normal thing for lots of the guests, I think it was the night we shared a table as the queue to get in was quite long, it seemed quite noisy for me, so I explained to the people at the table my poor hearing and Jane and they talked to each other. it Then off for a wander round the ship and to explore a little more before retiring to the cabin for a read and sleep ( I must say the bed was amongst the best I had ever slept on ) and yet another towel animal to greet us back.

I must say at this point all the staff were pleasant and helpful all over the ship despite some of the behaviour of a small number of passengers throughout the cruise

We were up early for breakfast before our trip round St Maarten, which is a mixture of French and Dutch, on the trip there were lots of photo opportunities and interesting information from our driver with stunning views of the island from lots of points of interest, a good day out again. On return we had another relaxing afternoon and a rest on the sunbeds, before going back to our room and later getting dressed up for the evening meal. At the lifts we got chatting to a family and in the queue whist waiting for a table they asked if we would like to join them, they were pleasant and it made the evening meal different for all of us I feel mixing with others enjoying good food and company.I think it was this evening we found the piano bar where we could listen to some of the standard= tunes in a pleasant atmosphere, it felt quite romantic, then the anticipation of what animal would be greeting us this evening

Well now the problems began, today we visited San Juan which is an American colony, so the day before we had paperwork from the ship, to explain that everybody had to go through immigration and passport control then leave the ship and that we were not let back on for a further 2 hours. We thought not a problem we will go on a trip, sadly as this port was the official one for the start of the cruise there were only a couple of short ones available.
So we decided to have a look round the port, when we had been processed and left the ship we went for a walk through the port then the promenade, another problem was that it was overcast and there were high winds, we walked for a while found the local tourist office, they provided us with a map and the advice was to get a taxi to the beach and back. We decided to wander back along the beach for a while and in the end got fed up had a drink then back to the ship, it was only later that on the ship we could see if directed well we could of walked through the town to the beach, not sure given the weather if we would benefited from it, so joined others in the buffet restaurant yet again, then a sunbath as sun had now come out, still very loud music but as ship fairly empty found place a little quieter. For the evening there were many more people going down to dinner, but service still quite good, we shared the table with a family problem was due to my poor hearing I struggled to join in.

Next day was St Thomas again up for breakfast, not really sure at present about what we did here other than a trip on the ferry to the beach, which was very pleasant followed by a walk and back on the ferry, note to self must ask Jane for more information, then again day followed the same sort of path as others

Last port of call before final destination was Antigua, we had booked a trip with a bus then beach for 3 hours, all went well with this and finally I ventured into the crystal clear water for a swim then a sunbath on a beautiful white beach, Jane spent a lot of the time enjoying swimming luckily we had an umbrella as it was very hot. there beaches in this area were all beautiful, it would be nice to come back for a holiday here I felt. Afterwards yet again a trip back to the ship, lots more food, rest and sunbathing. This evening was a formal night so we both dressed up and had a very pleasant meal, we went down to the theatre to see the show which was okay but deafening, I thought it would be nice to go up on deck and take some photos, problem was the ship was sailing at 15 knots and we found out later there was a 25 MPH wind, so no relaxing photos to see, but still was fun, so back to the cabin, our last animal visitor, I finished my novel off then went to bed so would be fit for trip home the following day, Oh forgot to say had to have cases packed ready to be collected early the following morning.
Today we were up early, decided to go down to dining room for breakfast, only problem the dining room was not open so back to buffet, when finished we went to immigration and passport control, give card with number on and told to come back later, did this quickly sorted, then had to return to cabin to collect our cabin luggage etc as had to be out for 9.30 so went and found somewhere quiet to sit for a while, last snacks, then left the ship. Collected luggage and went by taxi to airport at 12pm. We travelled through centre and realised there was little different than back home just warmer and sunnier.

At airport went to Virgin desk, all was going well until I asked about an upgrade as it was a night flight and more legroom would make it better, man said yes and there was a row of four seats available so we could have two seats together the price he quoted was okay, he then asked for my passport again, unfortunately he had not returned it, but everyone decided I had put it away somewhere, after some delay they found he had dropped it on the floor. No mention of upgrade and we were given boarding cards and set off with me in wheelchair. When we got to the boarding gate I realized he had not changed the seats, so Jane mentioned to member of staff he came over and explained there had been a mistake and it was not possible to sort out at the check in desk, they would now have to wait until final boarding to see what could be done, well the good news was it was sorted and because they had caused issues it was at no cost
The flight was okay, the extra room made a difference and this time no children behind, I watched a couple of films had short bursts of sleep, interspaced with staff providing drinks and food. We arrived on time, were provided with transport by the airport to get us through immigration etc, then collected luggage and headed for the exit and to ring our shuttle service.
Sadly there was some sort of issue so got a taxi instead back to hotel and to collect my car. Jane was not well so I ended up driving back home. We had got to the hotel at 8 30 and the driver said to wait until after 9am when the M25 traffic would of abated. By the time I had refuelled the car it was time to set off, luckily I had downloaded a Tomtom app to my phone, which therefore warned me there was an hours delay on the M25 and redirected us down back roads for some miles. We stopped at the first service area and had a McDonalds breakfast before setting off again. There were further delays so in the end it took six hours to get home
I dropped Jane off home, she was now feeling a little better and came home, first task was to empty the case and start on washing, I was tired out but could not sleep, it has taken a few days to get back to some sort of normality, a mixed blessing is that the temperature here is very high in the 20s, so typically British now complaining is to hot and we could do with some rain to cool everything down.
Now I have had time to think about the holiday, there is some advice to help others considering this sort of trip. To start off with
Do lots of research on which cruise line suits your needs, I presumed they were all pretty much the same but found that the Celebrity cruises and I presume others are geared to the American market, so for me they were to loud, the food for most of the day was not to my taste, the activities also were not to my taste, nothing wrong with the cruise but was me and my needs. Maybe a smaller ship that caters for the British is better for me.
Make sure how you want to get to the cruise, I chose the wrong airport so it meant lots more travelling before I started. Think about what grade of seat, as these are long flights.
Check if dealing with the cruise line is better than a broker to make easier to create the links and value for money, also compare different packages and dates.
Make sure about the time of the year you are going, we went when it was windy and raining at times, also avoid the hurricane season
Do you want to sail to your destination and fly home or the reverse, or fly both ways
Research where the ship starts its cruise, we chose the wrong port so therefore had to go through immigration twice and wasted at least one day
Look at the various ports, are they places you want to go to, would having some rest on the ship be helpful certain days
Do you want a smaller ship or boat, what sort of price do you want to pay
Well I have not been put off the concept of going on another cruise but think the next will be a totally different one to the Norwegian Fjords maybe next year
Thanks for taking the time to read this and that you have enjoyed it