I have just returned from a much needed holiday on board the P & O Ship Arcadia to the Black Sea. I thought that it might be of interest, not only for me to look back on, but also for other cruisers, or potential cruisers to keep a day to day diary of each day of the 20 day holiday. Naturally I have kept each day fairly short and have not gone into too much detail, but hope it gives a little insight into what being on board a cruise ship is like.
This is the 7th cruise that Steve and I have been on. Now I love cruising, as I do not like flying but Steve is not that keen for a number of reasons, the main one being that once you have reached a port, you have a very short time to see it and then it is back on board and off again. This actually suits me fine, as long as we have had a little taster of that particular Country, bought the fridge magnet then off to the next.
A cruise is as relaxing as you want to make it, or it could be full to the brim with on on board activities, although many of them are not our cup of tea. There are also guest speakers who come on board, and if it is on a subject that you are interested in, then they are well worth attending.
We went on the Arcadia a mid size ship in the P & O fleet. We have been on her before, but she is not our favourite – Aurora is by far. Anyway, I will give you a little bit of detail about the main parts of the ship, so when I refer to them you will know what I am talking about.
The Meridian Restaurant is the main restaurant being of two tiers, known as the upper and lower deck, and where the main dining experience happens. The evening meal is in two sittings 6.30 or 8.30. You can also have breakfast and lunch and afternoon tea served to you in this restaurant. There is also the Belvedere which is the self service restaurant where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner if you would rather not eat in the formal Meridian. It is actually open 24 hours a day, and you can get afternoon tea, with sandwiches and cakes, and then a buffet during the night, so there is no way you would ever go hungry on a cruise, and believe me many people make full use of the 24 hour food supply. There is also a poolside grill where you can get burgers etc at lunch time. There are also two other restaurants, where you have to book and where there is a cover charge if you wish to use them. One being the Orchid and the other is The Ocean Grill. However, Steve and I never use these, as we feel that you are paying enough for a cruise which includes a perfectly good restaurant, there is no need to pay any more.
Every day, there is the Ships Horizon paper, which is placed either in your cabin or left in the pigeon hole outside every cabin door, which contains all the activities, and entertainment that is scheduled for that day, at what time and in which location. Also if you are in port it gives details of all the meeting points.
After the evening meal the main entertainment happens in the Palladium Theatre which is a two tier theatre and I believe seats up to about 900 people. Each of the P & O ships have their own dance and singing troupe called the Headliners consisting of 13 male and female dancers and singers, and they provide most of the entertainment. When they are not performing, then outside cabaret artists come on board to entertain. If you did not want to go to the Theatre, then there are numerous other places you can go, where quizzes and other on board entertainment takes place, including The Globe where the ballroom dancers gather, the disco (which unfortunately did not see many takers), the casino etc. The ship has its own Entertainments Department and on this ship was headed up by the best Entertainments Director we have come across called Leon de Ste Croix. He was absolutely brilliant and certainly brightened up every day. He was very talented in his own right (which will be mentioned further in my diary), and he was the one who made every sail away party fun and raucous, again more about those in the diary.
30th August Travelled to Southampton and boarded the Arcadia
Left our home in Ivybridge and drove to Southampton where we boarded Arcadia. We found our cabin E189 (deck 4) and were pleasantly surprised. We have never had an aft cabin before, but as we booked early had the choice so decided to take a chance and see what they were like. We did know that the aft cabins did have a slight downside, being above the propellers and engines you we would feel the vibrations and the sound of the engines, and the lower the deck the more noisy it would be. As we were on deck 4 we did feel and hear it, but to be honest we got used to it, but these cabins are larger and have larger balconies, which was a big plus and compensated for the being above the propellers and engine. To be able to look out and see both sides of the ocean was definitely a big plus, and if the sun was out on the balcony there was no need to go out on the crowded decks. However being on the back, the balconies do not get much wind, so they can get very hot.
We waited for our cases to arrive and then the mammoth task unpacking began. It was then down to our allotted muster station complete with life jackets for the obligatory safety drill.
We had opted for 2nd sitting (8.30 p.m.) at dinner, and had requested a table for 2 when I booked (Steve is not very sociable!!) but when you arrive in your cabin there is a little card stating your table number and the size of the table. Unfortunately we had been given a table for 4. There are many requests for tables for 2, and as they are limited and allotted in date order to when you booked the cruise, they are hard to get. So obviously lots of others just want to be by themselves!! There was however an additional letter from the Restaurant Manager saying he noted that we had requested a table for two and we were on the wait list if one came up. We have had letters like this in the past but we must have been way down the wait lists as we have never managed to get one.
It is then down to the restaurant wondering where the table is situated and what the other two that will be joining us will be like. The table we had, was not in a very nice position, right at the side of the upper deck of the Meridian with no view whatsoever and right in front of one of the serving stations. The other couple were very nice however, and we enjoyed our first meal.
It was then to the Palladium where the entertainments team were introduced to us and also the Headliners dance and singing group did a little turn.
It was then off to bed for our first night on board.
31st August at Sea
Weather hot and sunny
Had breakfast our balcony which was very nice. Decided after locking through the ships newspaper the Horizon, Steve decided he would like to learn the rules of shuffleboard which is a deck game. We were very early so as we decided whilst we were waiting to go and get instruction on the game of deck quoits, which is the other deck game that is a must for any cruiser and neither have we ever played. After the short instruction we could then put our names down to play in a competition. Steve decided he would just watch, but I decided I would like to play. Well, I thought the competition was just for the beginners, but no, suddenly loads of others appeared to take part. The ships organiser sorted out the pairs and I was paired with a fellow gentleman passenger called peter who was obviously a pro in quoits playing and was obviously disappointed that he had been paired with me, a complete beginner. Well, we played our first match and couldn’t believe it, but we actually won. We then played another match, and won that, into the semi finals and scraped through so it was then the final. Well myself, Peter, Steve and Peter’s wife couldn’t, believe it, a miracle had happened and somehow we won – definitely a case of beginners luck. It was even more satisfying, to think that me as a complete beginner had beaten many experienced cruise quoits players, and they were not very pleased, as these players do take it extremely seriously and we’re none too pleased on being beaten by a rookie. Unbeknown to me I was given a cruise passport to which a gold star was stuck. Each passenger who enters any competitions, quizzes etc can collect these stars if they win and then exchange the stars for prizes at the end of the cruise. The most you can get on a card is 10, so was quite pleased I had managed to get one on the first day, and the more stars you can collect the better the prize. However by the time we had completed our final match, which was nail bitingly close, we had missed the instruction for the shuffleboard. So will we missed out on the instructions so we will never get to know how to play this popular cruise deck game
I decided just before lunch to go and take part in the battle of the sexes which is a quiz competition that is held at the same time on every sea day between a team of men against a team of women, which is an accumulative competition to sea who comes out on top on the last day of the cruise. This first round the women were the victors.
We decided as the sun was on our balcony at lunch time, we started off being extremely lazy by ordering a baguette each by room service, so it was a nice way to start our holiday and it was very relaxing just soaking up the sun and watching the sea go by – our holiday had started.
After lunch the sun was well and truly out so we decided to go up on deck and grab a sun lounger. To our utter amazement there were plenty free, so we sat and soaked up the sun rays whilst Steve read his kindle and I flipped through the pages of the celebrity magazines that I had bought. Well it got really hot, so we both threw caution to the wind, donned our swimming costumes and went for a swim in the swimming pool on the back of the ship. It was quite an unusual experience as there was a bit of movement from the ship, which caused the pool to have waves and it was actually like swimming in the sea. We dried off in the sun before deciding to celebrate my morning’s quoits win with a piña colada – yummy. To round off the day, we went back to our cabin to find a little card from the restaurant manager to say that a table for 2 had become free, so we were really pleased and were looking forward to seeing where it was, and to be able to have a relaxing meal now that we would just have each other to talk to.
Our new table was in the lower deck of the restaurant, but the situation of our table was superb, at the back of the restaurant, right by the window – definitely a result. Met our waiter Edward and hi assistant Nishi who were both very sweet, and also the absolutely charming wine waitress Ana, who we became very fond of. Had a very enjoyable meal and then went to the Palladium and saw the cabaret singer, who we had never heard of. Have to say that we were not that keen, he thought he was Micheal Buble, but clearly he was not and he was not our cup of tea and didn’t warm to him at all. And so to bed.
1st September At Sea
Weather hot and sunny
Woke up late after having a really good nights sleep. Decided to go up to the Belvedere self service restaurant for breakfast. Declined the smell of a full English breakfast (although it wash hard to resist, and no doubt the lure of the smell of bacon will tempt me eventually, but hopefully a Little further into the cruise when I will have stopped worrying about the weight gain, which will be about 24 hours time). Decided after looking through the Horizon that we would go to the beginners bridge lesson, and subsequent lessons will be held at the same time on all the sea days. We did actually first learn to play bridge on a previous cruise but had never played since. It brought back memories of how difficult this game is but was quite good fun. We had a gentleman called Brian who joined us where it transpired that he lived in Ashburton which s just a 10 minute drive up the A38 from where we live, and another lady (whose name has escaped me). We enjoyed our first lesson and ready to learn a bit more in our next lesson tomorrow.
I must have been feeling quite mad as I decided to go up to the gym and use the treadmill. Now, as you will know from reading my other posts, I do a lot of dog walking at home which I enjoy, so thought an electronic walk would e a good way to keep the exercise up. How wrong could I be and didn’t enjoy it one bit and now know whilst I have never been tempted to go to a gym before. I thought that it might gave help the guilt factor that if i did some exercise I wouldn’t feel so guilty about eating so much. Nothing beats the fresh air and scenery on a proper walk. Steve however used to belong to a gym so he was quite happy and will no doubt use it again.
Went up to lunch in the Belvedere restaurant and just had a small salad at this stage in the cruise, starting off small but now doubt they will get bigger. The best part of lunch was watching people trying to fill their glasses with water from the water machine. I had already managed to get some the day before and today, but I have to admit with some difficulty. However Steve decided he wanted some and as there were no instructions as clearly there should have been, he strolled up to the machine and as he does with everything electronic or technical, worked out the simple technique, and got his water with ease. He came back and gave me instructions. There was a red movement sensor to the back, and all you had to do, was make sure your hand was in front of the movement sensor to activate it, whilst holding the glass under the tap, and hey presto the water starts flowing. Take your hand away and the flow stops, simples! We then sat and watched others trying to work it out, some using brute force, (which I admit I had done) and even saw one lady pushing a button that was nothing to with the water at all. Another started banging the machine, it really was quite funny.
After lunch Steve wanted to see if he could beat me at quoits but it is obviously my game as I was the winner yet again. If only it were an Olympic sport!!
Managed to eventually find two sun loungers up on the lido (deck 9) deck, and as it was very hot day we had to cool down so had a swim, dried off and got hot again, so left Steve reading his kindle whilst I went and sat in the shade. How people can sit for hours and hours in the blazing sun is mind boggling. I must be made from different stuff as 10 minutes is enough for me.
Captains welcoming party tonight so on go the posh frocks. We only go to these events, not to meet the captain but to little nibbly biscuits from a help yourself bottle placed on the tables.
Had a good meal and then watched the The Headliners put on their first show which I have to say was extremely good.
2nd September, First Port of Call, Cadiz (Spain)
Weather hot and sunny 31 degrees to be exact so therefore very hot.
After breakfast walked into the town, and were pleasantly surprised as it was a lovely old City, and very clean. Lots of old Spanish buildings and some beautiful churches. We had a lovely walk which took us into cathedral square and around the promenade to the beach, which we decided to have a paddle in the clean almost luke warm sea. In the afternoon we had an excursion on a coach which took us around the parts we had already seen in the morning But we also saw the new part and where the main huge sandy beach where the white sand stretched for miles, and as it was a Sunday all the locals were making the most of the gorgeous weather. We finished off the tour with a visit ton authentic and traditional flamenco bar where we were served Spanish tapas and treated to some flamenco dancing which was very good. Back to the ship and a cool down in the pool and to catch some more early evening rays and to partake in the sail away sing song as we left the lovely first port of Cadiz. Enjoyed a good meal in the restaurant and then saw a very good pianist who was the main cabaret artist for the evening.
3rd September, At Sea
Weather hot and sunny
Had breakfast on our balcony and watched the sea roll by. Our second bridge lesson beckoned so we arrived at the bridge room. We had a different lady who joined us and Brian this morning called Barbara, as the original lady decided that bridge was not for her.
I then went down to the battle of the sexes quiz to which the ladies were triumphant again. Then up to the middle pool for a swim and I started to read my book, which will be a first, as I am afraid that I am not a reader, much to Steve’s disgust but I purchased a particular book (the most talked about at the present time, not really knowing what it was about, but as everyone was talking about it, and most ladies had read or in the process of reading it, thought I would give it a go, you know the one I mean!!!).
After another lazy afternoon we had to don evening wear again tonight for the meal, which was not so good tonight. I chose lamb but it was very tough and the boulangerie potatoes were very dry. The eagle eyed waiter (Edward) noticed my pile of uneaten lamb on the side of the plate and did ask if I wanted something else. As I was in no need of any extra food I declined. Following dinner went to the Palladium to see the Headliners in the theatre, for their next show, but even they were not so good tonight. There was costume malfunctions, some singing off key and mistakes in the routines so they were a bit of a disappointment.
Off to bed and thought so to sleep, but oh no to cap off the evening the sea decided that it could do better than the dancers and decided it wanted to rock and roll. I think it was about 4.30 am when I was finally able to drop off.
4th September, At Sea
Weather hot and sunny but a little more high cloud
Had a reduced breakfast on our balcony (pounds starting to pile on) so just had Alpen and toast and then down to our bridge class, but our second lady who replaced our first lady seemed to have decided she didn’t like bridge or us, so we had another lady (Florence) who joined us. It will be interesting to see if she turns up tomorrow.
After bridge, Steve decided he would go up to the gym whilst I went and joined in another round of battle of the sexes. Went up on deck in the afternoon for a swim and yet another lazy and relaxing afternoon and continued reading my book – not bored yet!!
Down for dinner and much better tonight. The entertainment for the evening was a comedy magician. Were not really sure if we wanted to see him as magic is not really our cup of tea but he was very good. The theatre has two levels so we made sure we went to the upper level as we knew there would be audience participation!!
As the clocks were going to be put forward we decided to go back to the cabin and as it was such a beautiful calm clear evening and still extremely warm we sat on the balcony and gazed up at the stars, really pretty and they do really twinkle, very romantic. A lovely calm sea all night so a good sleep was enjoyed
5th September, At Sea
Weather hot and sunny
Breakfast on the balcony again and then down to our bridge lesson. Our second lady (Barbara) returned to our table so Florence left us and joined another table. We actually had a good laugh this morning and I think Barbara will be back.
Steve went and got physical again in the gym whilst I joined the ladies in the battle of the sexes quiz and then were going up on deck, but while our balcony was completely in the sun, decided to sit out on it for a while. Got hot after a out 10 minutes and decided to go for a cold shower in the bathroom to cool off which did the trick, and then out to dry off and warm us again. Were really naughty and as it was so nice and relaxing on our balcony ordered room service again for two baguettes, (forgetting about the waistline). When you first joint the ship you are given two complimentary bottles of water (as the cold water is not drinkable straight from the taps in the bathroom), but thereafter you have to order subsequent bottles if you want water in the cabin and needless to say at a charge (of course if it is free in the restaurants). We were in desperate need of some water so asked when I ordered the baguettes if we could have a jug of water, only to be told it was only available in bottled form and there would be a charge. I refuse to pay for water so ordered instead an apple and orange juice thinking they would be the ones we have for breakfast (which are free) but they came in two cans which we had to pay for and were more expensive than the water – failed. However as there is an ice bucket in the fridge, I came up with a brilliant idea. I boiled the kettle and when cooled filled the ice bucket and kept in the fridge, iced water all ready to drink as and when, and ideal to refill water bottles if we went out on an excursion – result, one nil to me. If anyone from P & O reads this, then no doubt the ice buckets will be removed from the cabins. We stayed out on the balcony but as it was now extremely hot, the sun had started to move around, so we fought for the little shady parts to move our chairs. Had a really lazy afternoon and ended up being very anti social but staying on our balcony and kept going in and out of air conditioned cabin to keep cool. Well we wanted warmth and it certainly was that.
Another formal night tonight so posh frocks order of the day, followed by the Headliners in the Palladium for the after dinner evening entertainment.
6th September – Piraeus (Athens)
Weather very hot and sunny
Early breakfast on the balcony as excursion booked for an early start at 8.30 to see the Acropolis. Very hot 31 degrees but air conditioned coach which was a welcome relief. Walked up the 80 steps to the top of the Acropolis, which were mainly of marble and once at the top the surface was very uneven and very slippery in addition to the marble stones which made it very slippery. Our tour guide gave a talk and then we were left to walk around on our own. The ancient Greek ruins were very interesting and as The Parthenon was always somewhere I wanted to visit, I can cross that off my list. Also from up here you had a panoramic view of Athens which was amazing and I believe if I heard right you could see nearly all of Athens. It was an interesting although very hot and busy excursion as there were loads of people also visiting as you can imagine.
As this was just a morning excursion it was then back to the ship and after a light lunch of salad and some much needed water, it was back to swimwear and a dip in the pool. I had purchased some postcards whilst out and about this morning so sat by the pool to write them and then continued reading my book, during which I decided to get our afternoon tea and a couple of little finger sandwiches and cakes to go with it, naughty but nice.
Dinner and then in to the theatre for the entertainment of the evening which was the chap we saw a few nights ago, who thought he was Michael Buble. We disliked him even more tonight and thought he was very weak. However, this is our personal taste, but I expect other passengers thought he was very good.
7th September, Izmir, Turkey
Weather very hot and sunny
Decided to go up to breakfast in the Belvedere self service this morning in readiness for a full days excursion. The ship was a little delayed in docking which meant a slight delay getting on our coaches. Once on board we headed towards Ephesus where on route we visited the House of The Virgin Mary where it is said she had lived for the later years of her life. We then carried on to Ephesus which is one of the most magnificent and best preserved ancient Greek cities in the World. Our guide (who I have to say was brilliant) took us around, and explained the sites which included the the Market Basilica, the Celsus Library and the Odean Amphitheatre which seats 25,000 and where many big names have actually performed included Pavarotti, Maria Calls, Elton John to name a few. It was an extremely hot day (36 degrees) and it was very very busy. The walk down took us just over an hour where the terrain was stony, uneven and interspersed with marble which was very slippery. It was very interesting and a must place to visit.
It was then on to a 5 star hotel at Kusadasi where we were seated under shady umbrellas on the terrace which had a panoramic view of the sea, it was quite spectacular. We were served traditional Turkish food which consisted of a beautifully presented starter of mixed Turkish tapas, which included stuffed grape leaves, tomatoes an peppers in olive oil, another tomato dish, beans in olive oil, placed in half a lemon, a Turkish cheese which wa quite salty but extremely tasty.
It was just the sort of food I like, a few little assorted dishes. The next course was 2 Turkish pastries filled with cheese (which looked a bit like spring rolls) and a tomato relish , and they were very nice. The main course (although I have to say I was feeling full already) was 2 skewered kebabs one of beef, the other chicken, a small very spicy what we would call a small beefburger, but on the menu it was stated as a meatball. There were some very very tasty sliced potato, a green pepper, tomato, carrots and broccoli. It was all delicious. Then there was a caramel creamy pudding followed by a huge plate of fruit to share, consisting of water melon, a green flesh melon and black grapes.
We were then treated to a folkloric show which was very colourful and very good. My only little slight niggle was that we we were a bit rushed as we were now running about 45 minutes behind schedule.
It was then back on the coach to the Museum of Ephesus, which holds a incredible number of Hellenistic and Roman statues, including the statue of Artemis carved reliefs and artefact’s from the ruins and on to a visit to St John’s Basilica which was over the tomb of St John the Apostle and some more ancient ruins. It was still extremely hot (still 36 degrees) so were glad to get back on the air conditioned coach, feeling we had walked enough in the blazing heat. The ship was supposed to leave at 4.30, but it did wait for the us and the other coaches which had been delayed, and we actually left portal about 5.15 pm on route to our next stop Istanbul. It was lovely to sit out on our balcony as we sailed out of Izmir. As we had eaten a large lunch we were really glad that we were on the 2nd sitting for dinner, but even then I did struggle.
After dinner the main evening entertainment was the pianist who again was very good.
8th September, Arrived in Istanbul just after lunch,
Very hot and sunny
Had breakfast in the Belvedere restaurant and then down to our bridge session, as we did not dock until after lunch. Our table now established with Brian and Barbara, who are very sweet, and we had a good game. After a light lunch it was on to a coach for our excursion around Istanbul which takes in the Grand Bazaar. Have to say very disappointed with this excursion. Istanbul is an extremely busy City and we were stuck in heavy traffic the whole way, which included many periods of time in traffic jams. We passed some iconic buildings such as the Blue Mosque but were only able to take photos of it through the coach window (and such a pity that this tour did not include a visit inside, as some of the other tours did). Our tour guide was very poor (unlike the one we had yesterday who was excellent), she did not wait for people to get off the bus before she started talking and then you couldn’t hear what she was saying. We then got of in the Byzantine Hippodrome which was quite pretty but very busy where we were taken to an street cafe where we had a cup of coffee and some Turkish pastries ( which were not that tasty. To stop for a tea break was not necessary and a waste of time. We were then given about 10 minutes to take some photos and then back on the bus to The Grand Bazaar. This is a huge beautiful indoor market where there are 92 avenues and over 4,000 shops, selling jewellery leather goods, carpets, spices and souvenirs. Sounds good, but nearly all the shops sell the same thing, no prices shown and the traders were very persistent and pushy and once they hooked you, it was very hard not to proceed with the purchase. When you ask you are given a price and then bartering comes into effect. I am quite good at bartering and managed to knock down the price of a quirky china cat that I bought for my mum. However, the price I paid was probably 3 times more than it was actually worth, but it felt good to knock him down quite a way. We had quite a bit of time in here but as all the shops sold the same things you really did not have to walk around that much. However, had I been on my own I would most definitely have got lost!
It was then back on the coach, and more traffic jams before we got back to the ship. Most people on this tour felt that it was a rip off, and there was even one place that was advertised in the brochure, that we weren’t even taken to, so we felt this disappointing over priced tour warranted a complaint. Read my diary for next day to see what happened. We got back to the ship just after 7.00 pm and there were no set sittings ths evening you just turned up at the time you wanted. It was the tropical theme this evening so everyone put on their most colourful shirts and dresses, including Steve.
Dinner was followed by a tropical party on the aft deck around the swimming pool, where palm trees sprung up around the deck and lots joined in with the party atmosphere. As we were docked alongside overnight right by a built up area so the locals I am sure would have been kept awake. Being static overnight, there was no rocking to sleep tonight.
9th September, still in Istanbul for the morning
Weather hot and sunny
Had breakfast up in the Belvedere Restaurant, and then got off the ship as independent passengers and took a stroll along the seafront, which again was very busy stopping at the gates of one of the beautiful Palaces, and watching two guards in glass boxes outside, not quite knowing whether they were actually real, but after waiting a little while, they did actually move. During the walk, we walked over a little sandy wooded area and I felt a couple of bites forming as little red spots formed that were extremely itchy. Thought nothing more about them, and it was back on the ship in readiness for the sail away party which w went up on deck for, and where another rendition of Rule Britannia (amongst other party songs) echoed around the port of Istanbul. Have to say that neither of us were very keen on Istanbul and were not really sorry we were leaving. There was then a barbecue laid on around the other pool area, so as we had not eaten for nearly 3 hours we just had to have something!! We cruised along the the very pretty but very narrow Bosphorus (Bosporus) Straits. We passed some lovely scenery as we made our way towards The Back Sea and our next port of call of Yalta in the Ukraine.
Steve decided he would go and watch the film of the day “War Horse”, as he wanted to see it, as he probably would not get the chance to see it at home. I did not want to see it, knowing that I would find it difficult to watch if it involves animals as I would have found it upsetting and know I would have cried all the way through . I however decided to go and enter another deck quoits competition, to see if I could win another gold star. Well I wish I hadn’t,t bothered, as me and my partner were well and truly beaten. I didn’t manage to score any points at all, but did manage quite a good shot in the circle of the lane next to ours, causing havoc with their score as I knocked some of their rings out of position. As you can imagined they were none to pleased, and this particular group of people were taking the game very seriously, after all, there were gold stars up for grabs, and I did hear some tut tuts. I found out that these quoits competitions are attended by the same people, and apart from the first fluke competition, I hadn’t taken part in any more, so I felt like an intruder. Needless to say after my effort today and the sheer disgust I felt when I ruined the game next ours, I wouldn’t be going to enter again. The first time was definitely beginners luck, so I will eave it at that.
We went down to the excursion desk to put in our complaint about yesterday’s tour. The man on the desk got his notepad and jotted down everything we said. He sad he would pass on our complaint to the manager and he would be in contact with us in the next couple of days. Will detail his response when we have heard from him. Just in case anyone reading this is considering this cruise, the tour in question is “Panoramic Tour Of Istanbul”. My advice would be don’t bother with it, it is not worth the money.
Another formal evening tonight and the cabaret is the magician again and I have to say he was very good and very funny.
10th September, Yalta, Ukraine
Weather hot and sunny
Arrived in Yalta, and the Captain made the decision that it was too windy to enter the small harbour and therefore he would have to anchor just outside and the tenders were deployed to ferry the passengers to shore, which are good fun. It was quite rough but not too bad. By having to use the tenders it meant that all the excursions were delayed.
We had an excursion booked so once on shore we met our coach and we made the short distance to the Lavada White Palace and tea ceremony. This Palace was the site of the famous Yalta Conference and where Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met to decide the future of Europe during World War II. We should have had a tour of the Palace first but as we were late we had the Russian tea ceremony first, where we sat in the Italian courtyard and had black tea which was served with honey and lemon. There was also an assortment of Russian and Ukrainian delicacies, followed by some folkloric singing an dancing. At the end of the display, the very pretty Ukrainian dancers picked some passengers to partake in some dancing around the fountain in the middle of the courtyard, and unlucky for Steve he was pulled out of his seat to partake. He hates dancing and also would never volunteer to do anything like this, but he had no choice, and he could not refuse a pretty young face. I took a video of his effort and threatened him with putting it on You Tube!!!
After the singing and dancing we were then escorted through the ground floor rooms of the Palace where our guide explained all about the conference and it was very interesting. Then we went up to the first floor where we were shown the private quarters of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. In the Zsar’s wife bedroom there was a white grand piano and we were treated by a trio of young men who sang three different ranges of a monk’s chant and they were very good.
It was then time to get back on the bus and back to the port. We then had some free time and walked along the promenade which was very pleasant before we caught the tender back to the ship in readiness for the sail away.
We sat on our balcony in the late afternoon sunshine with a glass of wine as we left Yalta behind. Well we were due to leave at 5.30 pm but we appeared to be going nowhere, just controlled drifting as we were being held by the thrusters. At about 7.00 pm the Captain came over the tannoy to say that the anchor had got stuck halfway up due to a technical vault with the winch, so we were staying put for the time being. The people of Yalta must have been wondering what was happening, and as the sun went down and darkness fell there were plenty of flashlights going off around the shoreline. Well if the Captain hadn’t, decided to chicken out of taking her into the harbour, the anchor wouldn’t have needed to be dropped and we wouldn’t be in this predicament. There was however a plus side, we saw Yalta all lit up!!
This delay meant that the Captain would have to put his foot down to get to Odessa on time. We went down to dinner and then to the Palladium in headliners for the show tonight and whilst we were waiting for the show to start at 10.15 p.m. the Captain’s voice came over the tannoy to say that the winch ad been fixed and we were at last on our way. The
11th September, Odessa, Ukraine
Weather a little cooler but still hot and sunny, but warmed up later during the day
Arrived in Odessa about 45 minutes late due to the delay leaving Yalta yesterday, so the Captain managed to make up most of the time and obviously put his foot down. As stated earlier, a few days ago I was bitten on my ankle in a coupe of places by a very brave Istanbul bug, and just put some germolene on them. However last evening they became very sore, red and swollen. I woke up this morning to see that nothing had changed and around the bites were very tight and painful. Decided to make a trip to the medical centre as it looked as if they had got infected. During our walkabout on the ship earlier in the cruise, there is a photo gallery showing a photo and the names of all the senior officers, and I did pass comment to Steve that why was it that all ships doctors are good looking, and this ship’s doctor was no exception, but didn’t think for one minute that I would actually need to see him. However, I was now going to meet him, but unfortunately it was going to cost money, £50 for the consultation plus any medicine. Well he was just as good in the flesh (white South African I think). He had a good look at the bites and prescribed some antibiotics and some steroid cream, total bill (£71.56), all just to get a glimpse of the ship’s doctor!! Antibiotics have to be taken on an empty stomach which I have to say is almost an impossibility on a cruise.
No excursion today but caught the free shuttle bus laid on, which took us up to the square. We had a quick look around Odessa but were not that impressed, nothing much to see as it was just the town centre, just bought a fridge magnet (which I purchase from everywhere we go as a memento). However, other passengers who went on excursions did say that the it was very pretty, so we must have missed those
Caught the shuttle bus back to the ship which did pass the famous Potemkin Stairway where there are 192 steps and were named after a mutiny on the battle ship Potemkin in 1905, and lead from the harbour up to Prymorsky Bulvar.
Once back at the ship went up on deck to read. Sailed away from Odessa at 6.00 pm for 3 days at sea with our last port of call being Palma. Had a phone call whilst getting ready for dinner from the Deputy Manager from the Excursion desk saying that he had passed our complaint to the Manager and said we would not be getting any refund. Steve was not happy with this and said we would go and speak to the Manager in person tomorrow. Had to get ready early tonight as the cabaret artist was on at 7.30 for the second sitting before our dinner, (which is what we are) as normal cabaret is after our dinner at 10.30 for us, and then the first sittings saw her after their meal at 9.00. She was a classical opera singer so perhaps she couldn’t, sing after 10.00 pm! She was however very good but very much an affected little Diva.
12th September, At sea
Weather partly cloudy but there is some sun, but again warmed up during the day
Breakfast on balcony and then down to our bridge lesson and after so many days in port had forgotten what we had previously been taught. We then went down to the excursion desk to hopefully speak to the Manager. She was actually working this morning and when we made ourselves known to her she said that she had just done a letter to us and handed it to Steve which he opened and read. Basically apologising that we were not happy and as a token of apology there would be a complimentary bottle of wine on our dinner table. On reading the letter all the points we had raised were not addressed and Steve pursued the matter further, stating that we would like a full refund . The manager agreed that some of our issues had not been covered and that she would do some further investigating. We left it at that and awaited her further response.
We were now coming out of the Back Sea and were supposed to be entering the Bosphorous Straights again going the other way, which as stated earlier is a very narrow stretch of water 18 miles long which large ships have to book years in advance to book their passage through. The Captain made an announcement during the morning, (as we noticed the ship had slowed right down), to be told that although we had a booked time of 10.30 the authorities in Istanbul had altered our time to 1.30 pm and we would just have to wait. However a little while later we were told that it had been brought forward slightly and we were eventually let through at 12.15 . It is a very pretty stretch of water with little towns either side and then nearing Istanbul beautiful Palaces and hotels. It is extremely busy with loads of little boats and ferries going to and fro. Once out of the Bosphorus it was then out into the Mediterranean.
We went in to have a light lunch and then we had a quick game of quoits where I beat Steve again and back on our balcony for some afternoon reading.
Update on insect bites after starting the antibiotics and steroid cream, they actually look worse than they did yesterday, so a little surprised that the drugs have not done anything yet.
Another letter arrived from the manager of the shore excursion offering 40 percent discount in addition to the bottle of wine which although we would have liked a full refund decided to accept. It was then down to dinner and then off to see a comedian who was the entertainment for the evening. Some of his jokes were quite funny but he also sang as well and he did have a very good voice in the tone of Elvis and think I preferred his singing to his joke telling.
13th September, At sea
Weather hot and sunny
Breakfast in the Belvedere, and then down to our bridge lesson. We are learning new things everyday and it was upped a stage today.
Afterwards Steve decided to go up to the gym and I went of to battle of the sexes. After lunch Steve wanted another attempt to try and beat me at quoits and I am really disappointed to say that finally he was the victor.
As the sun was on our balcony we decided to sit out on that in the peace and quiet to read instead of going up on the busy decks to find an empty sun lounger. Some cruisers are so ignorant, they put their towels on sun loungers even if they are not using them, but because they are in a good position they want to sit there, even though there are always plenty of loungers around, they are worse than the Germans.
Update on bites, the redness did not appear to be getting any better so “doctor Steve” suggested that I leave off the steroid cream, as I could be reacting to it (I do have a tendency to react to most things!). I did not want to check with th ship’s doctor as I would have to pay again, but then again was a second visit worth seeing him again! I decided however once was unfortunately enough.
It was another formal night so posh frocks and Dj’s were order of the day, and then afterwards the Headliners were performing again, and tonight’s show was excellent.
14th September, At sea
Weather partly cloudy but clear skies in the afternoon so back to hot and sunny
Although the sea had decided it had been calm enough, and it was rolling a little in the big waves. Had breakfast up in the Belvedere and then down to our bridge class where we all took part in a little table versus table competition. Needless to say our table didn’t win.
I then went down to the battle of the sexes, where unfortunately the ladies were hammered by the men so the score at the moment is 5-4 It started to get quite rough after lunch and I wasn’t feeling too great, so after a little bit of hot sunshine on the balcony and then updating my iPad diary I went and had a lie down as the ship continued to rock and roll. Time came to get ready for dinner and I was unsure whether I was going to make it or not, but it is not very often when I am too bad not to wan to eat. I managed to ave a shower although a bit difficult having to hold the grab rail with one hand while the boat was swaying, whilst trying to administer shower gel in the other.
Down to dinner, although after the starter and then the soup, I really did not eat a lot of the main meal, and Steve drank most of the wine. It was the turn of the opera singer as the entertainment, but I opted out and just wanted to go to bed. Got back to cabin and found a card to say that the clocks were going back an hour, so that meant an hour longer in the rough weather before we got to Palma – lovely!!
15th September, Palma in Majorca
Weather hot and sunny
It was a rough old night and didn’t sleep that well, but was very glad when we arrived in Palma and the sea state was now calm. Went up to breakfast which
Then it was off on our jeep mountain safari excursion, a little different to the normal coach excursions. We walked up from the port to pick up our land rover jeep and we were off. There were actually only 10 passengers in total who opted for this excursion so only two jeeps were in operation. We were in the second jeep and I was lucky enough to get the front seat. We made our way to the mountain stopping off in a little village along the way where there was a large plaque on a wall which had been painted by the local schoolchildren which chronologically detailed the history and civilisation of the island. It was then on to the mountain and the nature reserve.
We went through some gates and the off road experience started. It was a true 4×4 terrain and it was extremely bumpy. We made a short stop where our driver whose family are bakers had made a delicious pepper and onion pizza washed down with either beer, c0ke or water.
After this short stop it was a steep climb up the mountain along even tougher terrain including a log crossing a river gully, which both drivers negotiated brilliantly. The brochure regarding the shore excursions states “la Reserva, a nature reserve which accommodates, brown bears, donkeys, goats, etc in a landscape of caves and waterfalls”. I was expecting to see these animals roaming wild as this was a “jeep safari” and fences were pointed out along the route to keep the animals from escaping, but I was very disappointed to find a small zoo in the reserve where the species mentioned were found in small enclosures and cages. Had I known this I perhaps might have thought twice about going.
Whilst our driver cooked the barbecue we had a little free time to look around, and again on reading the brochure, it stated “there may be an opportunity to take a dip in a waterfall, so remember to take a swimming costume and a towel” which we did. Well again a little misleading ,as I was expecting a natural waterfall, but this was a man made one with 3 separate little pools (knee deep so it was just a dip to cool off) where the water was pumped up. However as it was very hot it was very refreshing.
We were summoned for our barbecue lunch, together with beer, coke or sangria, but unfortunately we were joined by loads of wasps which was a shame as it rather spoilt it just a bit. After lunch we stopped off to see the bear enclosure which again was very small and housed 3 brown bears. We headed back to the ship on proper roads, but being in a land rover was not the most comfortable of drives, and were taken for a quick photo stop at the lovely cathedral in Palma.
Back on board ship just in time for our last and biggest sail away party, complete with a glass of sangria and with Union Jacks waving and a lot of partisan songs including the loudest rendition of Rule Britannia we sailed out of the port of Palma passing other cruise ships as we headed out. If the passengers on board were having a siesta, it would have come to an abrupt and noisy end.
After dinner we saw The Headliners put on their show for the evening which was a tribute to the group Queen where they danced and sung some of the groups famous songs. Steve was a bit apprehensive but even he agreed they put on a jolly good show, and it was really very good and very entertaining. Pleased to say the sea was now calm and peaceful and we had a lovely motionless night’s sleep.
16th September, At sea
Weather hot and sunny
Sea calm and we went up to breakfast in the Belvedere before attending our bridge class. After bridge Steve went and listened to a talk by a guest speaker, whilst I sat and relaxed our balcony for a while before going to take part in the next round of the battle of the sexes quiz. After trailing, the ladies managed a draw so it currently stands at 5 all.
It was then up for a light lunch and then we went down to the pool area as there was the final of the ship building competition. This was a competition that had been running early on in the cruise for passengers to take part in a competition to build a ship on a ship, where passengers could build a ship using materials found around Arcadia. There were 7 entrants, and all if them were very good. The Captain and Deputy Captain were the judges, and each boat was marked firstly on creativity, then each was put in the swimming pool to see if it actually floated, and then the final marks were awarded to how well they did in rougher water, which involved the cruise director and deputy cruise director jumping in to the pool to make waves to see if the boats would still stay afloat in rough weather. One did sink, one listed slightly, but the others managed to stay afloat. One even managed to jump out the pool on a wave dispatching its passenger that its builder had also made on the side of the pool, so the Captain awarded that an extra point for actually getting its passenger ashore safely.
The eventual winner was quite frankly brilliant, and included coat hangers and linen napkins that had been used as sails. It also had union jack bunting, which bad been cut up from the sail away party flags, empty water bottles as its floats and a couple of plastic cocktail sticks as the rudders. Loads of passengers were gathered around the pool area and it was a lot of fun.
Later on in the afternoon the Cruise Director and the entertainment team put on a variety show, where they showed their individual talents, and they all had brilliant voices”. There were a couple of little sketches and the Cruise Director donned a wig, false boobs and pink stilettos and did the Queen song “I want to break free”which was brilliant, but the highlight was the final performance where they were all on stage together in a rendition of “if I was not at sea what would I be” it was hilarious. Most of the audience gave them a standing ovation and it was oe of the best shows of the whole of the cruise. When P & O’s own staff are so talented, why do they bother with outside entertainers, as they are nowhere near as good or as entertaining. Steve decided not to go and watch, but he missed a treat.
Back then on balcony to update my web diary. Completed our cruise questionnaire that every passenger is asked to do. A £100 pound prize is awarded to a lucky passenger if there questionnaire is picked out. You can guarantee though that this will only go to the passenger who has given top marks to all the questions. We definitely will not be in the running then!!
Update on insect bites, a lot lighter in colour although the centres still a bit raised and red. Must have been some bites as only a day more of anti biotics to go and still not cleared up.
Dinner, and as we didn’t want to see the comedian again, we went and watched the Cruise Director and his deputy head up teams for “Give us a Clue” but it was not that good. Included in the team line up was Bill Tidy who had been a guest speaker. All I can say that it was a good thing the ship is adult only!
17th September, At sea
Weather cloudy although sun manage to get through for short periods, but it was still warm
Sea very calm. After breakfast down to our penultimate bridge class. Steve then went to anther guest speakers lecture, whilst I sat on our balcony before going down to the battle of the sexes, which unfortunately the ladies lost, so the men go into the final round 6-5 up.
After lunch I went down to see the passenger talent show, and there was some really good talent on board. A choir had been formed during the cruise with practices during the sea days. There were 3 pianists including an 85 year old gentleman who was brilliant. There were 2 lady singers (one being an opera singer) a man who was the karaoke king of the cruise, and a young girl who had written a poem about the cruise on Arcadia, which was brilliant.
Later on in the afternoon it clouded over completely and we even had our first little drop of rain, well not long now before we will be home!
It was the last formal night tonight which is the black and white ball, so all the best dresses come out tonight. After dinner it was in to see the penultimate performance of The Headliners. During the night we passed through the Bay of Biscay and it did get a little rocky but no too bad.
18th September, last sea day
Weather partly cloudy and a little bit colder but the skies cleared and it was hot and sunny once more
Sea state however was a bit lumpy. After breakfast down to our last bridge lesson. Said goodbye to our partners, Brian and Barbara and I headed off to a hair and make up demo and Steve went to another guest speakers lecture.
Immediately after that, it was straight down where the tension was mounting where I joined the other ladies for the last round of The Battle of the Sexes, with the men currently leading 6-5, so the pressure was on. Well the ladies won this round so it ended up being 6 all. We all decided that it couldn’t end up being a draw so we had a tie breaker, and I am pleased to say that the ladies won, so were declared the overall victors, much to the disgust and disappointment of the men.
Had lunch and started to pack, after a little while sat on the balcony in the sunshine for the last time, just to delay it a little longer, then came in to update my web diary only to start feeling a bit sick due to the boat rocking, so unfortunately for Steve he had to start the packing – result!! Did start to feel a bit better (after he had done most of it, with some instruction) and I then packed my case.
During the afternoon as it was the last day, today was the day to exchange gold stars for prizes. I am sorry to have to say that I still only had 1 gold star, so expecting to be presented with my key ring set by the Captain, I went down to the room where we had to meet. Well I went around the corner to be met with a large queue to be told that this was indeed the queue for the star exchange, and on speaking to others was told that one person had managed to get 18 stars (as the cards only went up to 10) couldn’t see the point, but perhaps she wanted two different gifts!!!). Got to the front of the queue only to find that the Captain was not present and it was just a case of going up to a desk, where my card was checked and handed out my gift by one of the entertainment staff. Unfortunately by the time it got to me, the key ring sets had all gone (so I obviously wasn’t the only one who only managed 1 star), so I had to have the 1gb memory stick and a really crap (pardon the expression) material (with the P & O crest on it) mobile phone holder, with a pull cord top, which went straight in the bin.
It was then down for our last meal and the obligatory farewells and kisses to fellow passengers and of course our two lovely waiters ( how was I going to manage without them?). It was then into the theatre to see the last performance of the Headliners, and so too bed, in the knowledge that our next stop would be the final one back in Southampton.
19th September arrive early morning in Southampton
Weather dry and sunny but extremely cold – welcome home!!
Early up as we decided to have our one and only cooked breakfast before we disembarked at 8.30 am. Managed to change our disembarkation time from 9.50. The next feat was to find our cases in the massive hall, where they are all laid out in deck order. As you can imagine it is like trying to find needles in a haystack, and being off first makes it even more difficult. Perhaps coming off last isn’t such a bad idea, as yours should be the only cases left.
Found the car, and then the drive back home, just before lunch. Our son, Adrian who had been guarding the house whilst we were away gave us a welcome home present, consisting of 6 lovely and very tasty cup cakes that a work colleague of his had made, which was such a shock as it is most unlike him. Then the unpacking, washing, ironing cleaning, cooking (how am I going to manage that after 3 weeks of someone else doing it!!) and in the morning having to make the bed for the first time in 3 weeks. Holiday, what holiday?
Did I finish reading THAT book, no I only managed to complete about 3/4 on board, however I am continuing at home, so I might actually finish reading my first ever book from cover to cover.
Update on bites, now almost gone, although still some light red colouring around the main puncture wounds.
Did we enjoy the holiday, on the whole yes, we did.
FOOTNOTE REGARDING POSTING POSTCARDS FROM THE SHIP
As on previous cruises if you wanted to purchase stamps for postcards onboard you used to have pay by cash at reception, to which you were handed the stamps to put on your cards, and then there was a postbox to place them in, for them to posted at the next port. However on this cruise that has all changed. Your onboard account is debited with the amount for the stamps, but no stamps are actually seen, you hand over your cards, and told that they will be handed to a Concierge. I did this on the 6th September, but not one postcard arrived at its destination, which raises the question, of were stamps actually purchased and indeed posted? I have complained to P & O who said they would investigate but to date 27th September 2012, I have not yet received a reply. I therefore urge other passengers to make sure that the same thing has not happened to them.
UPDATE ON THE ABOVE. Postcards arrived 3rd October, nearly a month after posting – unbelievable, and I am awaiting P & O’s response.
P & O Cruise To The Black Sea On Arcadia September 2012