I have been to … Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Gibraltar

Sunday 26th April 2015: Southampton
Thanks to the fact that the London Marathon was taking place on Sunday morning, most of the main roads in the area around our house were closed for vehicular use from 7.00am onwards. Ours was not one of the roads that was closed … but it was used as an alternative route for local traffic.

In order to make sure that we avoid any potential delays due to heavy traffic, we set our alarm clock to wake us at 6.15am. After getting dressed, eating breakfast, and loading the luggage into the car, we set off for Southampton at 8.30am. Despite some heavy rain as we drove around the M25, we reached the M25/M3 junction in just over an hour. The 50mph speed restrictions on the M3 that had held us up at Christmas were still in place (the road widening scheme is likely to continue for at least another twelve months!), but it did not delay us unduly, and by just after 10.15am we had arrived at the service area outside Winchester, where we were able drink some coffee and have a snack.

The service area was relatively quiet, and by 10.50am we were back on the M3 and heading towards Southampton again. We turned off onto the M27 … and were then held up by roadworks where the M27/M271 junction is being ‘improved’. (We had had to come into Southampton from the west rather than the north because the centre of the city was shut … so that the Southampton Half-Marathon could take place!)

As soon as we were through this minor delay the roads were a lot less crowded than we had expected, and by 11.25am we had arrived at the Ocean Terminal, unloaded our luggage, handed our car over to the valet parking service, checked in, and passed through the security checks. Once aboard MV Arcadia, we made our way to the Meridian Restaurant where we sat until our cabin was ready for us to occupy.

Just after 1.30pm we were informed that the cabin steward had finished preparing the cabin for our arrival, and we made our way there. From the balcony we could see right across the main part of the harbour, and amongst the ships that were alongside were two of Point-class military transport ships – Hartland Point and Eddystone – and the small cruise ship Saga Pearl.

Over the next couple of hours our luggage arrived – and was unpacked – and at 4.00pm we made our way back to the Meridian Restaurant – which was our emergency muster station – to listen to the passenger safety briefing. Once that was over we went up to the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for afternoon tea before going out on deck to watch Arcadia sail out of Southampton. We stayed there for about thirty minutes, but it was rather too cold to be comfortable and we returned to our cabin to finish the last of our unpacking and get ready for our evening meal.

We went to East Bar on Deck 11 for a pre-dinner drink, and just before 8.30pm we joined the queue of passengers who were waiting outside the lower tier of the Meridian Restaurant. We did not have to wait long to be seated, and by 8.40pm we were sitting down and talking to the six people with whom we would be sharing a dinner table for the duration the cruise.

After dinner we were both feeling very tired, and after a short walk along the Promenade Deck we returned to our cabin to get ready for bed.

Monday 27th April 2015: At sea
By the time we awoke at 8.00am, Arcadia had already left the English Channel and had turned into the Bay of Biscay. The air temperature was 12°C/54°F, the cloud cover was 2/8 and the sea state was moderate … all of which was quite reasonable for the time of year.

By 9.00am we were dressed and on our way to the Meridian Restaurant for breakfast. After breakfast we went up to the open deck area next to the Aquarius Pool, and we stayed there until just before midday, when we went to the Excursions Desk to book a coach trip to Seville for the day when Arcadia is docked in Cadiz.

As neither of us was feeling hungry, we returned to our cabin to read for a while … but both of us were feeling so tired that we ended up dozing until 1.45pm. By then we were feeling in need of something to eat and drink, so we went up to the Neptune Pool on Deck 9 where we hoped to be able to find somewhere to sit, have a drink, and eat a sandwich from the nearby sandwich bar. We were successful, and stayed there for just over half an hour, after which we went out onto the open deck for a breath of fresh air.

After returning to our cabin to read and to watch the end of Les Miserables on the ship’s TV system for an hour, we went back to the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for afternoon tea, followed by another couple of hours sitting in the open air near the Aquarius Pool. Just after 6.00pm we returned to our cabin to do some more reading and to get ready for dinner.

As we had done on the previous evening, we had a pre-dinner drink in East Bar, but before going to dinner in the Meridian Restaurant we made our way down to one of the ship’s select dining venues – the Ocean Grill – to book a table for two nights later in the cruise.

Dinner in the Meridian Restaurant was as good as we have come to expect it to be, and we had a very enjoyable meal eating and talking to our table companions. We finished our evening with a short stroll along the Promenade Deck before returning to our cabin to go to bed.

Tuesday 28th April 2015: At sea
We awoke to find the weather had changed slightly as the ship had sailed further south. By 8.30am Arcadia was about one-third of the way down the coast of Portugal, the sky was overcast (we were experiencing 4/8 cloud cover), and the air temperature was 14°C/58°F. Despite the sea state being described as ‘slight’, the ship’s TV system was warning passengers to take care when moving around the ship as she was experiencing ‘increased vessel movement due to adverse weather conditions.’

We were not to concerned by this warning, and just after 9.00am we were in the Meridian Restaurant eating breakfast. There was little or no evidence of ‘increased vessel movement‘ so we went up to the open area near the Aquarius Pool for a some fresh air. It was not warm, but it was also not as cold as we had expected. As a result we stayed there for just over half and hour.

We then returned to our cabin to pick up one or two things – such as our Kindles – before going to the Crow’s Nest Bar on Deck 10 Forward. Although there were quite a few passengers there, we were able find a table and seats near to the window, and we stayed in the Crow’s Nest Bar – reading, resting, and having the occasional drink – until 1.30pm, at which point we went to lunch.

We had intended to have sandwiches from the sandwich bar near the Neptune Pool, but the poolside area was so crowded that it was impossible to find anywhere to sit and eat. We therefore walked just few yards along the deck to the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant, where we were able to find a couple of seats and a table to eat at.

After we had eaten lunch were made our way back to the area near to the Aquarius Pool and discovered that the air temperature had risen to 16°C/61°F. This made it even more pleasant to sit out in the open air and we stayed there chatting to other passengers until 4.30pm, at which point we went back to our cabin to get ready for the Captain’s Gala Reception.

The Reception started at 8.00pm and was held in the area around the Neptune Pool. The Captain – Captain Trevor Lane – gave his usual ‘welcome aboard’ speech before introducing the ship’s senior management team. Once the Gala Reception was over we went down to the Meridian Restaurant to eat, and after dinner we spent a short time on the open deck next to the Aquarius Pool before going to bed for a much-needed sleep.

Wednesday 29th April 2015: Cadiz, Spain

Because we were going on a coach trip to Seville, we were awake by 7.00am and ready for breakfast in our cabin by 8.30am. By 8.30am Arcadia was alongside the quay in Cadiz and we disembarked just after 9.00am and made our way across the dock to the coach that was to take us to Seville. Everyone was aboard by 9.30am, and the journey to Seville took just over ninety minutes.

The coach dropped us off on La Rábida, not far from the Rio Guadalquivir. From there we walked along Palos de la Frontera and Avenida de Roma until we reached Puerta de Jerez. A short walk along the Avenida de la Constitution

… brought us to Seville’s Cathedral, which is famous for its Giralda Tower.

At that point we decided to have a drink, and after a visit to the local branch of Costa Coffee, we joined the queue to enter the Real Alcazar

… and in due course I shall be writing a detailed blog entry about what we saw there.

After our visit to the Real Alcazar we talk a walk along the Avenida de la Constitution until we found a small bar/restaurant in one of the narrow side streets. This turned out to be an excellent choice, and we both ate a two course meal – with two glasses of wine and a bottle of Coke Zero – and had change from 25€ (which is about £18.25).

Having eaten a very substantial meal, we walked back to the coach pick-up point on La Rábida, and by 3.30pm everyone was back aboard and the coach was on its way back to Cadiz. There was a slight delay on the way back as the coach had to stop for a ‘comfort break’, with the result that we did not get back to Cadiz until 5.15pm. We passed through the security checks and finally began climbing the ship’s gangway at 5.28pm … two minutes before Arcadia was due to sail!

We were not the only trip whose journey back had taken longer than expected, and Arcadia eventually began moving away from the dockside just after 6.00pm. By that time we were having a much-needed drink in the open deck area near the Aquarius Pool, and we stayed there until Arcadia was outside the harbour and heading for the open sea.

We were escorted out by a Pilot Boat, which kept close alongside Arcadia until the pilot disembarked.

Our route out to the sea took the ship past the Spanish Navy base, where it was possible to see a number of naval vessels at anchor.

Amongst these was the Spanish Navy’s flagship, SNS Carlos V (L61), a large amphibious assault ship/aircraft carrier.

We returned to the area near the Aquarius Pool for pre-dinner drink, and when we reached the Meridian Restaurant just after 8.30pm we discovered that one of the couples we shared the table with had moved to sit with some friends they had met aboard. Their absence did not make too much difference to the flow of conversation around the table during the meal, and there was some speculation as to whether or not a new couple would join us in their place.

Once dinner was over Sue and I returned to the Aquarius Bar. By then the air temperature had dropped somewhat, but it was still pleasantly warm enough to sit in the open air at 10.30pm. We were back in our cabin by 11.00pm, and and not long afterwards we were both fast asleep.

Thursday 30th April 2015: At sea
The sun was already shining when we got up and began getting ready for breakfast, and the air temperature had reached 17°C/63°F by 8.00am. We had no particular plans for what we were going to do during the day, and after breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went up to the area near the Aquarius Pool to sit, read, and watch the world go by.

We stayed there until just before 11.00am, at which time we returned to our cabin, picked up our Kindles, and went up to the Crow’s Nest Bar to read. We did this until it was time for lunch, and by 1.30pm we were sitting by the Neptune Pool eating sandwiches from the sandwich bar. We then returned to the area near the Aquarius Pool, where we chatted with other passengers until late afternoon.

At 5.15pm I attended a Masonic get-together in the Viceroy Room on Deck 10 Forward. I was ‘elected’ Director of Ceremonies for a planned – but as yet to be organised – function. Once the meeting was over I went back to our cabin and began to get ready for the second formal dinner of the cruise.

Sue and I had plenty of time to have a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar before going down to the Meridian Restaurant. A new couple did join our table in place of the couple who had moved to sit with some friends. They seemed very pleasant, and we all enjoyed introducing ourselves and exchanging stories about the cruises we had been on. After dinner we went back to the Aquarius Bar for a breath of fresh air before going to our cabin to read and sleep.

Friday 1st May 2015: At sea
The sky was almost clear of clouds when we got up at 7.40am (the cloud cover was 1/8) and the air temperature was already 18°C/64°F.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant and a short spell on deck near the Aquarius Pool, we went down to Reception to check on our on-board spending and so that I could make an appointment to speak with a member of staff about at time, date, and venue for the proposed Masonic social event.

At midday we joined the queue of passengers who were attending the Peninsular Club Lunch. We were on a table for six and it was hosted by the ship’s doctor, Dr Rab Khan. The food and company were excellent, and by the time the meal was over we both felt very full … and a bit tired. We therefore returned to our cabin to read and rest for a while.

Just before 4.00pm we made our way down to reception for a meeting with the Deputy Bar Manager. This had been arranged earlier in the day and it was hoped that we would be able to sort out the details of the proposed Masonic social event. The Deputy Bar Manager had organised these events before, and it only took us fifteen minutes to set a time and date. Only location had to be decided … but that had to wait until the availability of the possible venues – the Viceroy Room or East Bar – was determined.

We then went back to our cabin to read and rest until it was time to get ready for dinner. As has become our custom, we went up the Aquarius Bar for a pre-dinner drink … and returned there after eating dinner in the Meridian Restaurant. Sue and I sat in the open air for about half an hour before returning to our cabin to sleep.

Saturday 2nd May 2015: Messina, Italy
As we were going on a coach trip to Taormina, we were awake just before 6.30am. Arcadia was still moving through the harbour of Messina when we got out of bed, …

… and the large number of Guardia Costiera (Coast Guard), …

Guardia Finanza (Customs), …

… and Italian Navy ships …

… moored in the harbour was noticeable. (The Italian warship was the Patrol Boat Spica (P403).)

We ate breakfast in our cabin, and went ashore just after 8.00am. We boarded our coach by 8.20am, and the last of the passengers travelling with us were seated by 8.30am. As a result we set off to Taormina slightly earlier that expected, and we arrived at the coach drop-off point less than an hour later.

It was interesting to note that the air temperature was already rising, and it was by far the warmest place we had visited so far during the cruise. (The air temperature eventually peaked at 24°C/75°F.)

Our guide took us to the end of the main street of the town – the Corso Umberto – and gave us directions to the main attractions.

Sue and I wanted to visit the Greco-Roman amphitheatre, and as there were a large number of other tour parties in the town we set off along the Corso Umberto

… at as swift a pace as we could manage.

Our route took us through the Cathedral Square, …

… then on …

… to the 9th April Square, …

… and ended in the Victor Emanuel Square.

We then turned down the Via Teatro Greco and walked up the hill to the Greco-Roman amphitheatre.

The amphitheatre was very impressive.

It was originally built during the Greek occupation of Sicily, and then remodelled by the Romans.

It is still in use, and a series of three operas were scheduled to take place over the next few weeks.

After visiting the Greco-Roman amphitheatre we retraced our route back through Taormina. Along the way we stopped for a café latte in a small café …

… and some shopping. We then stopped – again(!) – for a gelato in the open air terrace of a small gelateria

… before returning to the coach pick-up point. Our journey back was reasonably quick, and we were back aboard Arcadia by 1.30pm.

After dropping our cameras and bags off in our cabin, we went up to the open air area near the Aquarius Pool and Bar and had a much-needed cold drink … or two. We then ate a snack lunch in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant before returning to the Aquarius Bar, where we stayed until the ship sailed out of Messina at 5.00pm.

As Arcadia sailed through the entrance of the harbour, she passed the statue of the Virgin Mary – the patron saint of Messina – atop a column.

Arcadia turned to starboard as she left harbour and into the Straits of Messina … which is one of the busiest waterways in the world. By this time we were back in our cabin resting before getting ready for dinner. Our evening followed its by now usual pattern; a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, followed by dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, and ending with a short spell of time on deck – in this case in the open deck area near the Aquarius Bar – before going to bed.

Sunday 3rd May 2015: Corfu, Greece
Arcadia was due to dock in Corfu by 9.00am, but her passage from Messina had been slightly faster than expected and she was actually alongside her allotted mooring by just after 8.00am. The view from our cabin balcony was quite hazy – an indication that the temperature was likely to rise as the day went on – and the air temperature was 17°C/63°F at 8.00am.

As we had no trips booked, we took our time getting ready to go ashore. We even had time to watch the tender crews checking their craft before they need to be used in Split.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we spent some time on deck looking at the view before collecting our cameras and bags from our cabin.

We walked from the ship to the shuttle bus pick-up point – a distance of about 450m – and took the shuttle bus towards the centre of Corfu Town. We decided to visit the New Fortress, which – along with the Old Fortress – dominates the skyline of Corfu Town.

We walked up the steep path …

… and entered via a modern set of iron gates.

We then took the various narrow paths and tunnels to the top of the fortress. (I will write a separate blog entry about the New Fortress at a later date.)

From the top we had a magnificent view across Corfu City …

and of Arcadia.

After our visit to the New Fortress we returned to the seafront of Corfu Town via a number of wide streets.

By the time we reached the seafront, it was time for lunch, and after a short walk we found a small family-run restaurant where we had eaten on a previous visit to Corfu.

The food and drink were excellent … and very reasonably priced. Having eaten, we did some shopping on the way back to the shuttle bus pick-up point. This dropped us off at the entrance to the port’s Duty Free Shop, where we bought a few small items before making our way back aboard Arcadia.

The first thing that we did after taking our bags and cameras back to our cabin was to go up to the Aquarius Bar for a long cold drink. We sat there for about an hour, and then returned to our cabin to read and rest until it was time to get ready for dinner.

We went back to the Aquarius Bar again before eating dinner in the Meridian Restaurant … and returned there yet again for a short time prior to going to bed.

Monday 4th May 2015: Dubrovnik, Croatia
We awoke at 7.00am – a little earlier than planned – only to find that Arcadia was already moored alongside in Dubrovnik.

Sue and I ate breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant and went ashore not long after 9.00am. We took the shuttle bus from the docks to the centre of the Old Town, and disembarked close to the Pile Gate entrance to the city. We crossed the bridge into the city …

… and after descending the stairs from the bridge, we finally passed through the Pile Gate.

The Pile Gate leads straight into the main street of Dubrovnik, the Stradun/Placa, …

… and close by is the Onofrio’s Fountain.

We walked the length of the Stradun/Placa, passed through the city’s main square – the Luza Square – where the Sponza Palace, St Blaise Church (Sveti Vlaho Church), and the Town Hall are situated …

… and turned left up the steep street towards the Ploce Gate.

We stopped for a café latte at the Revelin Café near the Ploce Gate, from where we had a panoramic view of the harbour.

We then retraced our steps from the Ploce Gate …

… past several imposing stone-built fortifications …

… and thence down to the harbour.

Dubrovnik is currently being used as one of the locations for the filming of GAME OF THRONES, and when one looks at the skyline of the city it is not difficult to see why.

We then walked through one for the doorways that pierce the outer wall of the harbour’s defences, and made our way along the narrow pathway that is behind the wall.

We stopped at one of the café/restaurants that line the pathway – the Storia – for a cold drink …

… before continuing our journey back to the Pile Gate via the city’s small market, …

… several of its narrow streets, ….

… and finally the Stradun/Placa.

After a very short wait, the shuttle bus took us back to Arcadia and we were back in our cabin just before 1.00pm. We then went up to the Aquarius Bar for another cold drink and stayed there – apart for a short lunch break in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant – until about 3.30pm, when we returned to our cabin to read and rest.

As usual we went back to the Aquarius Bar before eating dinner in the Meridian Restaurant … and went back there after dinner for a short time prior to going to our cabin to sleep.

Tuesday 5th May 2015: Venice, Italy
In order not to miss the sail-in to Venice we were awake just before 7.00am … just in time to see the the marker at the mouth of the lagoon.

It took Arcadia just over an hour to sail from the entrance to the lagoon, along the Canale de Giudecca to the Stazione Marittima, where she moored.

During our sail-in we passed a wide variety of different sights and vessels, including fishermen (and yes … the first one is standing in the water!), …

… commuters, …

… water taxis, …

… tugs (this one escorted Arcadia through the Canale de Giudecca), …

… ferries, …

… water buses, …

… motor yachts (this particular example was named Marala), …

… police launches (this one belonged to the Carabiniere, …

… rubbish collection barges, …

… and Venice’s equivalent of a delivery truck … a heavy goods vehicle (or vehicles) on a pontoon barge.

We ate breakfast in our cabin during the sail-in, and after allowing time for the organised trips to go ashore, we made our way to the area of the dock where the shuttle boat into the centre of Venice was moored.

We had to queue for about fifteen minutes before a shuttle boat arrived, but this did not delay us unduly, and we arrived at the pier near the Hotel Londres just after 11.00am. We then walked towards St Mark’s Square …

… over the bridges, …

… and past the Bridge of Sighs.

We continued our walk past the two columns at the lagoon end of St Mark’s Square (one column has a statute of St Mark at its top and the other a representation of the symbol of Venice, a Venetian lion), …

… the famous campanile, …

… and into St Mark’s Square itself.

We wandered out of the end of the Square furthest from the Basilica and were soon crossing some of the less well used canals …

… and narrow streets.

Eventually we reached the Grand Canal, and followed the pathway along its edge until we arrived at the Rialto Bridge. This was under restoration, but was still open to the public. We crossed over the bridge and walked along further streets (stopping along the way for a café latte) …

… until we reached a glass shop that sells a particular brand of Murano glass that we collect. We bought some … and then realised that it was coming up to lunchtime.

We made our way back to the bank of the Grand Canal and found a vacant table in the aptly named Canal Grande Restaurant, from where we had an excellent view of the boats that were moored and sailing up and down the canal.

After eating an excellent lunch (Sue ate a Margharita Pizza and I had Spaghetti Carbonara) we walked back across the Rialto Bridge and through different narrow back-streets towards St Mark’s Square.

Along the way we crossed many small, picturesque canals.

St Mark’s Square was less crowded than it had been during the morning, and we had little trouble making our way back to the Monumento Pier, where we were to board the shuttle boat back to Arcadia. We were delayed somewhat by the Hilton Hotel’s courtesy boat, which was also using the same pier to pick up and drop off passengers. Eventually it left and the shuttle boat was able to come alongside. Once its cargo of passngers had disembarked, we climbed aboard and returned to the Stazione Marittima.

By the time we got back, we were both very thirsty, and after taking our stuff back to the cabin we went up to the Aquarius Bar for a cold drink. We stayed there until just before 5.00pm – by which time Arcadia was supposed to have set sail for its next port-of-call – and then returned to our cabin.

Our evening was slightly different from normal as we had booked a table in the Ocean Grill for a change. (The Ocean Grill is one of the ship’s select dining venues.) We made sure that we were ready for dinner in time to go up to East Bar for a pre-dinner drink, and made our way down to the Ocean Grill on Deck 2 Midships just after 8.00pm.

The food was excellent, and when we left at 10.30pm we both felt rather full and in need of some fresh air. We went up to the open deck area by the Aquarius Pool and sat there chatting with other passengers for about thirty minutes, after which we went back to our cabin to get ready for bed.

Wednesday 6th May 2015: Split, Croatia
Arcadia made the short transit to Split overnight, and just before 7.30am she moored just outside the harbour. Because she is a much bigger ship than the port can easily accommodate, everyone going ashore had to do so by ship’s tender. These began to be lowered and prepared for use almost as soon as the Arcadia had anchored, and it was lucky that we were already awake as the noise would have otherwise woken us up!

We had breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant, and afterwards we sat on the open deck area near the Aquarius Pool until just after 10.00am. We then went down to the Intermezzo Bar to collect a tender ticket … and our ticket numbers were almost immediately called! Rather than use the lift, we walked down the stairway to Deck A, where our tender tickets were collected from us before we walked down another flight of steps to the ship’s tender pontoon. An empty tender was alongside, and within less than ten minutes it was fully laden an sailing towards Split harbour.

It took us less than two minutes for us to walk from the tender drop-off point to the main seafront promenade … and it was apparent that preparations were being made for some form of celebration.

The promenade (or Riva) was lined on one side with booths selling everything from local crafts, food, and drink to hats and souvenirs, and on the other by the outdoor sitting areas of numerous cafés.

After a walk along the promenade we decided to stop in one of the cafés – the Cakula Restaurant – for a drink.

Suitably refreshed we walked back along the promenade …

… and then into the market.

It was amazing to see so many different stalls selling items made from wood, ranging from kitchen implements (e.g. sieves, honey spoons, pizza paddles), wooden toys, furniture, and garden tools (e.g. hoes, mattocks, pickaxes).

After buying one or two items, we then turned inland and entered the part of the town that has developed within the walls of Emperor Diocletian’s Palace. The first part of the palace we came to was its ancient underground storage area or basement. Most of this is now used as a shopping/retail area.

Climbing some stairs we came out into a square – the Peristyle – on one side of which is the Cathedral of St Duje.

The Cathedral occupies the site of Diocletian’s Mausoleum, and was remodelled, extended, and rebuilt several times 13th and 15th centuries.

The area around the Peristyle and the Cathedral was extremely crowded …

… and in the end we decided to explore other parts of the site. We walked through a number of narrow streets …

… and eventually arrived at the People’s Square (Narodni Trg).

On one wall of the Square was an interesting carving of a saint.

It was just midday, and as we were both feeling in need of a drink we stopped at a nearby restaurant, the Central Restaurant (Gradska Kavana Central). The menu looked good … and in the end we decided to eat lunch there!

The lunch was excellent … and including drinks it cost us just over 200 Kuna (about £20.00).

We then walked into the modern part of Split …

… and thence into a somewhat older square that had a hotel/restaurant at one end …

… and colonnaded buildings running along two of the other sides.

The open end of this square led us out onto the seafront again near a fountain, behind which was situated a church.

By this time it was nearly 2.00pm, and we decided to walk back along the promenade to the tender pick-up point. We did some more shopping along the way and eventually joined the rather long queue to catch a tender back to Arcadia. Luckily the weather was warm but not oppressive (it was 24°C/75°F) thanks to a gentle sea breeze.

After waiting for about twenty minutes we finally boarded a tender, and not long after 3.15pm were were back aboard Arcadia. Our first stop was our cabin, quickly followed by a visit to the Aquarius Bar for a couple of much-needed long, cold drinks. The revived us, and at 4.30pm were returned to our cabin to rest before getting ready for dinner.

Arcadia was supposed to leave Split at 5.00pm, but for some unexplained reason she did not actually begin to move away from her mooring until nearly 5.40pm. (It later transpired that a problem with the anchor had caused the delay.)

As we had enjoyed our pre-dinner drink in East Bar on the previous evening, we went there before dinner rather than to our usual haunt, the Aquarius Bar. We met a couple that we usually share our dinner table with, and had a chat with them before we went to the Meridian Restaurant to eat.

The conversation over dinner was – as usual – mainly about what each of the couples on the table had done during the day. One topic that was not raised was the forthcoming General Election, which – by general consent – was regarded as something best avoided.

After dinner we went up to the Aquarius Bar, where we stayed in the open air until 11.00pm. We then returned to our cabin to read for a short while before going to sleep.

Thursday 7th May 2015: At sea
When we woke up at 7.00am, Arcadia was just beginning to round the heel of Italy. It was expected that she would reach the toe by late afternoon, and transit the Straits of Messina during the evening.

After a leisurely breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we went up to the open deck area near the Aquarius Pool. We sat there until just after 10.30am, when we returned to our cabin. At 10.45am I went up to East Bar to attend the second informal Masonic meeting. In my role as Director of Ceremonies I gave a quick briefing about the Masonic Coffee Morning I had arranged to be held on 9th May, and then we sorted out the final details.

By the time the meeting ended it was midday, and Sue and I were both feeling rather thirsty. We therefore paid a visit to the Aquarius Bar for a couple of drinks before going into the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for a snack lunch. After lunch we sat and chatted with other passengers near the Aquarius Pool, and towards the end of the afternoon we returned to our cabin to do a bit of sorting out.

I spent some of the time writing down a detailed list of people who were going to attend to Masonic Coffee Morning (i.e. the names of the Masons, their partners, their guests, and the Masonic widows), which I passed on the Deputy Bar Manager. Sue helped me by writing the names of the attendees on the blank invitations that had been printed and given to us.

This took us somewhat longer than expected, and it was not until 6.45pm that we began to get ready for the third formal dinner of the cruise. Although our preparations were slightly more rushed than usual, we still had time for a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar on Deck 9 Aft. As usual we returned there after dinner for a short time, and then went back to our cabin to get ready for bed … and to watch the beginning of the TV coverage of the UK General Election.

Friday 8th May 2015: At sea
Despite having watched TV until after midnight, we both woke up early. Although all the election results were not yet in, it appeared that the national exit polls were likely to be a reasonably accurate prediction of the eventual outcome … another Conservative Party government.

We went down to the Meridian Restaurant just before 9.00am for breakfast, after which we spent some time walking around the ship delivering the invitations to the Masonic Coffee Morning. By the time that was done we were both feeling in need of a drink and some fresh air, and went up to the open deck area near the Aquarius Pool.

During our time on deck the Deputy Bar Manager found me and gave me the final proof copy of the souvenir programme for the Masonic Coffee Morning. Sue and I both checked it for errors, and then returned it to him for printing.

We then returned to our cabin to watch the latest General Election results for an hour or so, and then went to the Aquarius Bar for a midday drink. We stayed there chatting to other passengers until just after 1.30pm, at which time we went into the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for a snack lunch.

Because the weather was so good (it was 24°C/75°F on deck) we went back to the area near the Aquarius Pool and stayed there for another hour, by which time we were both feeling rather hot. As our cabin was not on the side of the ship facing the sun we decided that it would be an ideal place to sit and cool down.

We went back to the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for afternoon tea (actually a cup of tea and a cake each) and then returned to our cabin to read, rest, and get ready for dinner. At just before 6.20pm the Deputy Bar Manager telephoned our cabin to inform us that the souvenir programmes were ready, and he delivered them some ten minutes later … and Sue and I both agreed that this was a very impressive level of service!

The evening followed its usual pattern; a pre-dinner drink in the Aquarius Bar, dinner in the Meridian Restaurant, and a spell on the open deck area near the Aquarius Pool before we went back to our cabin to sleep.

Saturday 9th May 2015: At sea
After a very good night’s sleep, we were awake at 7.30am and were able to take our time getting ready for the day ahead. We were in the Meridian Restaurant eating breakfast by 9.00am, and afterwards we spent a short time on deck before returning to our cabin to get ready for the Masonic Coffee Morning.

Sue and I arrived at East Bar – the location of the Coffee Morning – a little after 10.30am. Preparations we already well under way, and the first guests arrived a few minutes later. Everyone had arrived by the time Captain Lane reached East Bar … and after being introduced to everyone, the President presented him with the money we had collected for the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund.

Captain Lane thanked us for our contribution, and explained that eight members of the Arcadia‘s crew were from Nepal and all of them had family members who had been affected by the disaster. He also informed us that P&O had mounted their own operation in Nepal to ensure that families of Nepalese crew members from all the ships in the fleet were found and given whatever aid they required.

The Coffee Morning ended just before midday, and after dropping off our copies of the souvenir programme in our cabin, Sue and I went to the Aquarius Bar for a much-needed cold drink. By 1.30pm we were feeling hungry, and we decided to go the sandwich bar near the Neptune Pool for a bite to eat. For a change – and mainly due to the cold wind that was blowing across the deck area next to the Pool – we had no trouble find a table to sit and eat at … but by the time we had eaten our sandwiches we were both feeling rather cold. We therefore returned to the deck area near the Aquarius Pool which was sheltered from the wind and therefore much warmer.

One of the couples we shared a dinner table with were taking part in a concert by the ship’s passenger choir at 3.30pm in the Palladium Theatre. We had promised to attend, and made our way there – via our cabin – by 3.20pm. The concert was very good, even though it only lasted thirty minutes.

Once the concert was over, Sue and I had afternoon tea in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant, after which I paid a brief visit to Reception to drop off a ‘thank you’ car for the Deputy Bar Manager whilst Sue paid a visit to the ship’s shops. We then returned to our cabin to read and rest before getting ready for dinner.

Sunday 10th May 2015: Gibraltar
Arcadia docked alongside in Gibraltar at 7.00am.

Because we were going on a coach trip around the Rock, we decided to have breakfast in our cabin so that we would be ready in plenty of time to get ashore by 9.20am.

Not long after Arcadia had moored, another cruise ship – Holland-America Line’s Prinsendam – docked alongside Arcadia on the opposite side of the quay.

I collected some Danish pastries and croissants from the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant just as the sun was coming up behind the Rock.

We went ashore very soon after 9.00am, and after passing through the cruise terminal we had boarded our coach by 9.10am. As soon as it was full, the driver/guide set off to take us around Gibraltar.

We began by driving to the border with Spain … and this entailed driving across the airport runway twice! Luckily we were not held up by any arriving or departing aircraft, and after crossing the runway we turned left and took Devil’s Tower Road towards Catalan Bay.

One were noticeable feature of the houses that overlook the bay is their distinctive pastel colouring.

The coach then drove back to the roundabout near to the entrance of Casemates Square, and took Queensway towards Europa Point. Along the way we passed several of the original bastions that were built to protect Gibraltar from attack.

Queensway ended at Ragged Staff Steps, and our driver/guide then drove the coach along Rosia Road until we reached the Keightley Way Tunnel. We stopped just before the tunnel to look at an artificial waterfall …

… which is actually an outfall for salt water from Gibraltar’s desalination system.

Once through the tunnel we arrived at Europa Point, from where you can see North Africa … on a good day! (It was not a good day when we visited.) Europa Point is the location of Harding’s Battery which was named after Sir George Harding, the Chief Engineer when the battery was completed in 1844. The battery originally housed two 12.5-inch RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) guns, one of which is still there.

Nearby is the Mosque of the Two Holy Guardians, which was built with money donated by the Saudi Royal Family.

The mosque was constructed to meet the spiritual needs of the thousands of Moroccan workers who used to work on Gibraltar during the period when the Spanish closed the border.

Europa Point is also the location of the southernmost lighthouse administered by Trinity House.

The Sikorski Memorial – which was built to commemorate the death of General Sikorski, commander of the Free Polish Forces and Prime Minister of Poland during the first half of the Second World War – is situated between Harding’s Battery and the lighthouse.

After spending twenty minutes at Europa Point, we re-boarded our coach and were driven along Europa Road to The Rock Hotel, where we had afternoon tea … at 10.45am!

The view from the hotel was spectacular …

… and gave a clear view of the upperworks of HMS Dauntless (D33), a Daring-class destroyer.

After our ‘afternoon’ tea our journey took us back towards Arcadia via Line Wall Road, and along the way we passed both the British and American War Memorials, the King’s Bastion, and the Orange Bastion. (The latter was named after the House of Orange in honour of the Dutch troops who helped to capture Gibraltar at the beginning of the eighteenth century.) We then turned into Waterport Road, where we passed a statue of Admiral Rooke – the leader of the force that captured Gibraltar – and the Evacuation Monument. (The non-male population of Gibraltar was evacuated during the Second World War, and the last of the evacuees did not return until 1952.)

We arrived back at the cruise terminal just after 11.15am, and were back aboard Arcadia by just after 11.30am. We went straight up to the Aquarius Bar for a drink… and stayed there until the ship had sailed and was well on her way out to sea. (The view of the harbour from the Aquarius Bar and Pool area was magnificent.)

The reason why we stayed was mainly due to the fact that the entertainments team had organised a Great British Sail-away, which started at midday and lasted until well after 1.30pm.

We had returned to our cabin by 1.45pm, and after freshening ourselves up and resting for a short time, we went up to the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant for a snack. This was followed by a short spell out on deck near the Aquarius Pool, but the wind – which was coming from astern – made is quite cold out there, and by 2.30pm we were back in our cabin trying to get warm! We spent the rest of the afternoon reading and resting, and by 6.00pm we had begun to get ready for dinner … which was in the Ocean Grill, one of Arcadia‘s select dining venues.

Sue and I had originally intended to go to East Bar for a pre-dinner drink, but in the end we decided to go to the Aquarius Bar … and discovered that the wind had changed direction relative to the ship’s course and it was actually very pleasant in the nearby open deck area. Our dinner was superb – as usual – and we both thoroughly enjoyed the fine dining experience. (The cost of the whole meal, including a bottle of Chablis, was just under £61.00 … which is probably a lot less than half of what it would have cost us to eat the same meal in a London restaurant.).

We returned to the Aquarius Bar after dinner just so that we could sit in the open air for a while before going back to our cabin to sleep.

Monday 11th May 2015: At sea
Overnight Arcadia had sailed some way up the coast of Portugal, and when we woke up at 8.00am she was experiencing some movement (a long, slow roll) due to the direction of the prevailing wind and waves. The air temperature was 17°C/63°F and the cloud cover was 6/8.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant Sue and I went up to the open deck area near the Aquarius Pool … and we stayed there enjoying the company and the good weather until well after 1.00pm. By then the wind direction had changed and was coming from astern, and when this was combined with the changing position of the sun in the sky, it made the place where we were sitting colder than was comfortable.

Rather than go straight back to our cabin we went down the Promenade Deck (Deck 3), and spent some time looking in the ship’s shops and visiting the ship’s photograph gallery. We then went to our cabin … and discovered that our disembarkation instructions had been delivered. As the time we had been allocated was considerably later than we had expected (10.30am), I went down to reception to see if it could be changed. Luckily this was possible, and we were allotted a disembarkation time of 9.30am.

By 2.00pm we were feeling hungry, and we therefore made our way up to the Neptune Grill for lunch. We ate lunch, and then spent the next hour chatting with one of the couples with whom we share a table at dinner.

We eventually returned to our cabin by 3.30pm, and spent the next few hours reading and resting. It was then time to get ready for the Peninsular Club Cocktail Party. This was held in the area around the Neptune Pool …

… and preceded the last formal dinner of the cruise. Captain Trevor Lane …

… spoke to the assembled company about a number of matters, including P&O’s planned future developments.

Just after 8.30pm Sue and I went down to the Meridian Restaurant to join our table companions for dinner. As it was the last formal dinner of the cruise, the menu was a special one and after the main course was served the Executive Chef, Ian Summers, …

… led the members of the ship’s galley brigade through the restaurant.

They were greeted by rounds of applause, and even our waiter – Aldrin – joined in. (His brother was one of the chefs!)

Once the meal was over, we went up to the Aquarius Bar to sit and cool down, and in the end we stayed their chatting to other passengers until after midnight.

Tuesday 12th May 2015: At sea
Overnight Arcadia had sailed into the Bay of Biscay, and by 8.00am she was almost halfway across. The weather was very overcast (the cloud coverage was 8/8) and the air temperature was 14°C/57°F, but the sea was almost like a millpond, with hardly any noticeable waves or movement.

After breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant we visited Reception to collect a print-out of our on-board account and a nomination form for an Outstanding Performance Award. (The latter is for the Deputy Bar Manager, who made the Masonic Coffee Morning such a success.) We also visited the Future Cruise Desk to enquire about a cruise that we are considering booking.

We then went up to the area near the Aquarius Bar for a mid-morning drink, and were just in time to see Arcadia sail past the MSC Sinfonia.

After sitting on deck for nearly an hour we returned to our cabin just before the midday announcement from the Bridge, and stayed there until it was time to go for lunch. We ate sandwiches from the sandwich bar near the Neptune Pool, and then chatted with two of our dinner companions until it was time to go back to our cabin … to pack.

The first half of this task took until 4.00pm, at which point we took a break for afternoon tea in the Belvedere Self Service Restaurant. Once that was over we somewhat reluctantly returned to our cabin to finish packing the rest of our luggage. (We kept one bag back so that we could pack things that we needed that evening, and this was put out for collection just before we went to bed.)

At 8.00pm we went up to the Aquarius Bar for our final pre-dinner drink of the cruise, and just after 8.30pm we were sitting in the Meridian Restaurant ordering dinner. Once we had all finished eating, we all made our farewells to each other and to our waiters, Aldrin and Rahul. We then paid a final visit to the Aquarius Bar and said goodbye to the staff who had served us during our cruise, Lara, Narda, and Firvon.

On our return to our cabin we finished packing our last bag, and put it out for collection … and then we went to bed.

Wednesday 13th May 2015: Southampton
Overnight Arcadia made excellent progress up the English Channel and into Solent. By 6.00am – when we woke up – she was already on her final approach to her berth at the Mayflower Cruise Terminal. By 7.15am Arcadia was moored alongside and the gangways were in place, and by the time we went to breakfast in the Meridian Restaurant just before 8.00am, the luggage was being unloaded. After breakfast was over we returned to our cabin to collect our hand luggage and coats before saying a final goodbye to our cabin steward.

By 9.00am we were sitting in The Globe – the Arcadia‘s nightclub – waiting to be told that we could disembark. Our turn came just after 9.35am and once ashore we collected our bags from the luggage hall, passed through the Customs checks, and by 10.00am we had picked up our car from the valet parking service and were driving out of the docks. Our journey home took just under two and a half hours, and by 12.30pm we had parked and were beginning to unloaded our car.

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8 Comments on “I have been to … Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Gibraltar”

  1. Jim Duncan says:

    Thought you had been a bit quiet Bob. I should have known!!

  2. Jim Duncan,

    You know me too well!

    It was great to go away … but great to get back home as well.

    All the best,

    Bob

  3. Lee Hadley says:

    Always enjoy your globe trotting adventures – and the pictures. You certainly have visited a lot of interesting places.

  4. Lee Hadley,

    I am pleased to read that you enjoy my travelogues. We both try to find something interesting to see and do whilst we on a cruise.

    One of the most impressive sights we saw this time was looking out from the Greco-Roman amphitheatre at Taormina towards Mount Etna. The top of the latter was covered in snow even though it remains mildly active.

    The age profile of this particular cruise was relatively old, and at some places quite a few of the passengers did not get off. Some of them had mobility problems … and some were very obese. In the case of the latter – and no doubt due to the availability of food 24 hours per day – it sometimes seemed that travel did not such broaden the mind as expand the waist!

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. alastair says:

    Looks like a great trip! I've never been on a cruise…maybe one day….

  6. Alastair,

    It was very enjoyable … and I am already looking forward to the next one.

    If you have ever considered going on a cruise, be warned … they can become very addictive!

    All the best,

    Bob

  7. Stu Rat says:

    I applaud your Photoshop skills.
    I know you are making this all up; no one in the world is named Captain Trevor Lane. That's a name from a particularly insipid sort of romance novel. Or something by J.K. Rowling. But in the real world? Nah.

  8. Stu Rat,

    You've found me out! It's all a pack of lies and I just sit at home trawling the Internet for suitable photographs to doctor.

    I've cruised aboard ships captained by Captain Trevor Lane three times. He was born just over a mile from where my wife and I live (he was actually born in the same maternity hospital as my wife), and his wife's family live just over half a mile away. Whenever we meet we always have a long chat about how much the area has changed over the years.

    All the best,

    Bob


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