Sunday, 25 March 2012

Day 10

Sunday 19th February: We had to vacate our cabin by 9:00am. We put last minute toiletries etc into our travel bags as the cases had gone. As we didn't disembark until 12:00 we had a leisurely breakfast at the Villa Verde and made sure we had plenty to eat as we didn't know what time we'd get a proper meal again! We took Charlie to the kid's club so he wouldn't be bored and had a look around the ship's shops with Courtney. We'd looked in a couple whilst on board but not really bothered much about them. We found the 'logo' shop and treated Charlie and Courtney. We had to go to reception to sign for our on board purchases and then collected Charlie. Our meeting point for disembarking was the 'La Piazzetta' lounge on deck 6. We like this lounge and had a last minute treat in there before we left! A lady came along with a card marked 'red,' our did disembarkation colour and we followed her to the exit. They scanned our cards one last time and we left the ship.
We thought it would be a bit chaotic at the port side as it was in Genoa but it was fine. We collected our luggage from the conveyor belt and made our way outside the terminal. There was only a short queue for a taxi, the police were there directing people to taxis and we had one within a couple of minutes! It took us to the Estacio del Nord bus station. We had a 45 minute wait for the 2:00pm bus to take us to Girona airport. There was no hurry though as we didn't fly until 7:30. It was about an hours bus ride and surprisingly had free wi-fi on board!
Although you can't normally check your luggage in until 2 hours before the flight they did let us check them in. That made life a lot easier! We went through security and had a look around the duty free shops. There wasn't much choice of eating places at the airport, just 2, so we ended up at McDonalds. After a little wait we were ready to board our plane, as it turned out today wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be but I knew it was going too well! We boarded the plane and sat waiting just like we had in Manchester, not a good sign! It finally came over the tannoy that a bird had been sucked into the engine whilst landing and they had to wait for an engineer to come and inspect the plane before we were able to take off! Deja vu! Unbelievable! Every so often a tannoy announcement would be made that the engineer was on his way! We finally set off an hour and 10 minutes late!

Day 9

Saturday 18th February: After the nice relaxing pace of the last 2 mornings this morning was quite different! We docked at 8:00am in Genoa. We got up earlier and went to the Bora Bora for breakfast. The nice thing this morning too was that we could see right into the centre, the nearest port to town we'd been to. After a short walk we saw a lady selling bus tours of the city and we decided to take one, it was quite interesting and the commentary seemed to mention Piazzas a lot! Genoa has many squares of dedications, lol! There was also some interesting historical facts and nice buildings.

Through researching we knew there was an aquarium in Genoa too and after not being able to go to the one in Valencia we thought we'd look into this one. The tour dropped us off just outside it, thankfully this one was more reasonably priced and was really good! We saw many species of fish, lots of different creatures and penguins!

We still had some time before we had to be back on board so had a look around the town and had a treat from the Gelateria (ice cream shop.) We caught the shuttle tour bus back to the ship and Charlie went along to the kid's club, Courtney had a snooze and we started packing. We seemed to have worn most clothes on this holiday so we didn't fold them carefully, they'll all need washing anyway!
On the ship newspaper last night it said today there would be an emergency procedure practice. Genoa is a main changeover port so we just presumed it was for the new guests as we'd done the briefing when we boarded but the tannoy announcement just before was also heard inside the cabins (the first one we'd heard in the cabin) and in the message it said all guests were required to go! Good timing the day before we actually disembark the ship! Mark quickly went to collect Charlie whilst I got Courtney's shoes on and grabbed the life jackets! All 4 of us bundled down to our muster station (The Aft Lounge on deck 7) of course as this was a practice we were not allowed to use the lifts so had to walk the 12 flights of stairs! (2 flights per deck.) On arrival at the muster station we each had to put on our life jackets, something which both Charlie and Courtney were not impressed with and we had to stay there for what seemed like ages. Mark and I actually had a bit of a giggle to ourselves, if that was a real emergency there would never have been as much calm and frivolity! On returning to our cabin we had about an hour of spare time before dinner so we just relaxed. We joined our American 'table buddies' for our last dinner together in the Villa Verde, they have been very good company during our dinners. The show sounded quite good this evening and as it's our last night on board we decided to go. It was an interesting show, a mixture of dancing, a juggler and hand shadow artist. Courtney was pretending to juggle and then started making movements with her hands for the shadow artist!

We made our way back to our cabin and got Charlie and Courtney ready for bed. We put all the last to be packed items in the cases, labelled them up and put them in the corridor ready to be collected. Our disembarkation newspaper was delivered and although it does all sound very organised for tomorrow we still think it's going to be a long day!

Day 8

Friday 17th February: Marseilles. Today we didn't dock until 1:00pm so had breakfast at Villa Verde (waiter service) and after letting breakfast settle we went for a swim. The pool was sooooooo cold! We found a little splash area for Charlie and Courtney to play in which was fun for them.

I braved the pool for a quick couple of lengths! Charlie and Courtney joined me momentarily but both of them weren't keen on the temperature, lol!

There are 3 whirlpools around the main pool so we went to sit in one of those for a little while.

We went back to the cabin to have a shower and after nipping up to the Bora Bora for a quick lunch we got ready to leave the ship for Marseilles. When we got disembarked we saw a huge queue for the ship's (expensive) shuttle bus and a huge queue for the taxis. We saw a sign that directed us to a public bus into town that was a 1.8km walk. It was an easy walk as the ground was a good surface and there was a green painted line to walk along, a much more impressive port to the others we have visited! As we got towards the entrance we could see a bus was at the stop but we knew we had no chance of catching that one, plus it looked pretty full! The good thing was though that we were then near to the front for the next bus which wasn't too long behind. It only cost 3 euros for us all to get into town, it was further than we thought it would be so good value really. When the bus terminated and everyone was getting off we wondered where on earth we'd been dropped off! We had a map that we'd been given as we left the ship and found a friendly policeman who directed us to the tourist information office. It was a little walk to get there but once we arrived we could tell we were in the centre of Marseilles. The hustle and bustle of the town centre surrounding the peaceful boats docked in the port made an interesting contrast. I can only compare the roads around the port as being like at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris! Cars everywhere!!! Thank goodness for the green man on pedestrian crossings, we made good use of him today! In the tourist information office the lady told us about a 'noddy' train that went up to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde, the main attraction of Marseilles. It was high up on a hill, we could see it from the port. There was a couple of other options we could have taken but the 'noddy' train was the most fun! She directed us to the stop and we bought our tickets and waited for the next train.

The views from the top were stunning! We could see our ship in the distance. We didn't stay too long at the cathedral, there were a lot of steps to the top so only Charlie and I went up and had a look inside, Mark stayed with Courtney as we had the pushchair with us.

The train ride down was a lot quicker! Back down at the centre. (it was getting quite a bit cooler by then!)

We were ready for a little break by that time so popped into a McDonalds for an ice cream! It was starting to go dark and we were all tired so decided to get a taxi back to our ship. We were dropped off right next to the ship! We'd missed our sitting for the Villa Verde so went to the Bora Bora for dinner. You can tell our cruise is almost over, when we returned to our cabin we had been left comment cards on our bed and some luggage labels! We're not going to fill them in until tomorrow night though. We're just relaxing tonight, both children are asleep and as I type it's almost 9:00pm, I'm going to go onto our balcony to watch us leave Marseilles. Mark is playing cricket on his Xoom and when I come back in I'm going to cross stitch.
I have come back to add that was quite something to watch. Everyday the ship has docked on the other side so it's been more interesting on our side today! We all watched us coming in on the balcony earlier today and I've watched us leave! This ship is huge, it's amazing how much balance weights there must be at the bottom, when we move there is no swaying at all. To leave the port edge just now there were jets propelling us away from the edge and we just gently floated away from the port until we were clear then I could hear the engines kick in.

Day 7

Thursday 16th February: We had a nice relaxing start this morning. We don't dock at today's port of call, Valencia, until midday so went to have breakfast at our restaurant, Villa Verde. Breakfast with waiter service was a nice treat! There were a few different options to the Bora Bora, oatmeal porridge being one of them, it was divine! Once we'd finished breakfast we still had over 2 hours until we docked so asked Charlie if he'd like to go to the kid's club, he jumped at the chance! We looked at this morning's activities, he did Arts and Crafts and a Musical game! Mark went to collect him at 11:30 and we got ourselves ready to go into Valencia. After docking we could see Valencia centre was quite a distance from the port, even the terminal building was a good distance from the ship! Thankfully they put on a complimentary bus to the terminal and from there we bought tickets for the city bus. There were 3 stops en route into the city, we decided to get off at the first one which was for the aquarium. Valencia is very much an extreme between old and new! Around the aquarium there are a few very modern (and interesting) looking buildings, one in particular I thought looked like a motor bicycle helmet!

We priced up the aquarium, let's just say it was way over budget!!! Even once you'd paid to get in you then had to pay extras, like for example, 3 euros each to see the penguins! As much as I would have liked to visit there I'm afraid they made the decision for us! So we went to the stop and waited for the next city bus. The second stop was only a little further up the road so we continued into the centre. This was where all the old buildings are, we saw the Correger clock tower and a church (I don't know it's name.) In the same square we found a very nice cafe, I chose a banoffi pie, oh my goodness, I was in banoffi pie heaven, lol!!! Unfortunately we didn't have time to venture anymore in Valencia, this was one of our shortest stops of the cruise but we feel we saw enough to get a flavour of the place.

It's a good job we came back when we did, by the time we got back to the ship there was a long queue to get back on board but it did provide a very good opportunity to photograph the whole ship. (everywhere we've docked so far it hasn't been possible to fit it all in)

It was only about 45 minutes until dinner once we got back to our cabin so Courtney had a quick snooze, Charlie played a game on Mark's Xoom (like an iPad) and Mark and I soaked up the sun sitting on the balcony. Just before Courtney's sleep we all got a surprise! We were on the balcony and a para glider whizzed past us! I quickly grabbed the camera in case he came past again and sure enough he did!

Dinner was, as always, lovely. We decided to watch the show tonight in the Strand theatre as it was a ventriloquist and we thought Charlie and Courtney would enjoy it. He was very entertaining and very funny, both children laughed away at his puppets......good job they only thought of it as a puppet show, the chaps mouth moved the whole time!! Still it was a good show! Look at the size of the theatre!

Day 6

Wednesday 15th February: Port of call today was Gibraltar, a colony of the U.K. and the place I was most looking forward to visiting of the cruise. You can tell it's a U.K. Colony because of the weather, lol!! It was very misty and overcast when we docked and there was rain in the air, typical British weather! We got off the ship and decided to take a shuttle bus into town. The driver kindly told us they'd had a constant 2 weeks of sunshine before today, I kind of thought, thanks, we didn't need to hear that, lol! We were dropped off right in the centre, it was quite a funny feeling walking along the shops and seeing a BHS, Next and La Senza to name but a few, they even have a Morrisons supermarket! We continued along the main street towards the cable car when an almighty downpour of rain started! We found a shop that sold ponchos so could then keep a little drier (we did bring Charlie and Courtney rain coats but seem to have lost them somewhere, we think it was when we had to change planes.) We found the cable cars and paid to ride, we joined the queue and only had a shortish wait, the next cable car arrived and we were just short of getting on it so were first in the queue for the next one. But after that one left that was it! It had got too windy to run it safely and they closed it down!!! The silly thing was as we were first in the queue we ended up being last in the refund queue! Time was getting on by the time we got out from the cable cars, we had to be back on the ship by 1:30 and it was then 11:30. Thankfully there was a group of taxi drivers taking advantage of the fact the cable car had closed and they offered us a good deal to take their tour, we would see more than what the cable cars could take us and then would return us to the ship in time! For what we'd paid to get into town on the shuttle and the refunded cost of the cable car, it only worked out a few £'s more so did in fact turn out to be a very good deal. We were taken to the Pillars of Hercules first where we saw our first beautiful panoramic view. We could see the coastline of Spain and Africa in the distance. The rain had stopped by this point and it was clearing nicely.

Our next stop was the cave of St. Michaels. It was very interesting in there, I don't think I've ever seen so many stalagtites!

Outside the cave was our first glimpse of the apes who live on the mountain, they live in separate colonies at several spots on the mountain and a little further along we stopped where there were quite a few! One took a liking to Courtney's cardigan and it tugged at her sleeve, she giggled at that! Both Charlie and Courtney enjoyed watching them!

Our guide, Stuart, then encouraged one to sit on my shoulder, too cute!

We drove a little further and went past the summit of the cable car, it still wasn't running and the people at the top had been waiting over an hour for a bus to collect them to get back down. I really do think things happen for a reason and we were very lucky we didn't actually get the cable car after all! Our last stop was to the Great Siege Tunnels, a string of tunnels (which were steep in places) telling the story of war. There were models and a commentary.

We were then returned to the ship in perfect time!
Once back on board we went up to the Bora Bora restaurant for a light lunch but it seemed everyone also had the same idea and we couldn't find a table, instead we headed up to the 16th deck and waved bye to Gibraltar.

Look at that cloud!

We got to see the lighthouse right at the tip of Gibraltar so that was a nice thing to see! By the time we went back to the restaurant it had quietened down. Mid afternoon we made our way to the the Club 33 disco bar to watch a demonstration on carving fruit and vegetables. We didn't have a fantastic view but did enjoy what we could see. At the end of each demonstration the entertainment team held up the creations. At the very end we got to go up to the table to take photos. They were amazing, very cleverly done!

We decided to have afternoon tea and then watch a Mexican cookery demonstration at 5:00pm but after returning to our cabin briefly we decided to actually stay there and relax a little before dinner. Tonight is another Gala dinner and we decided as the last one was only a couple of nights ago to skip this one and go to the less formal buffet dinner in the Bora Bora. Before we ate we went to the photo area to look at the Captain's photo and Valentine's one and ended up having them both! (We bought the Captain's photo but as the heart shaped balloons were clipped off they gave us this picture which was very kind of them. I personally don't mind too much, you get the general idea of the balloons and it's a nice photo of us)

This evening's show didn't appeal to us so we returned to our cabin after eating.