West Coast of Europe & to Casablanca Cruise - November 18th to 29th 2010

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A Tapas & Tagines Cruise by Fred Olsen

Avis being in an un-cheerful mood after the death of her brother, Ken booked us on this cruise at the last minute, getting a cancellation. Going on a Fred Olsen ship also had the advantage that Ken could ask what the lecturing system was, as he would be doing just that the next year. (I did do one lecture trip to St Petersburg in 2011 & was booked for St. Pete's again in 2012).

The ship was the MV Balmoral, shown here in a photo ripped off from Fred's web site

We were to pick it up at Southampton at 1730. There are frequent trains from Waterloo to Southampton Central & the U1 bus to Dock Gate 4 but we found a large number of people waiting for Fred's courtesy bus which I did not know existed. It came at 1630 but the driver thought he was not on duty until 1645. We all disabused him & loaded it up. He played up amusingly about being mugged by a load of crumblies & took us earlyish to the Ocean Terminal, where we checked in. We chatted on the journey.However, the Balmoral was nowhere to be seen & we had a stream of announcements that it had been delayed on its transfer from Dover. We eventually found out it had missed the tide at Dover by three hours, presumably but no one was prepared to say so, by rough weather in the Bay of Biscay, which is fair enough. We found our cabin, a bit bigger than the Marco Polo one & with a double bed but small table, which has to accommodate this computer & the plus point of tea-making equipment. It was not far to the Palms Café, the very nice self-service restaurant. We shared a table with an arthritic lady.

The trip took us from Southampton to
Leixoes (Oporto)
La Coruña
& back to Southampton

Avis had the lamb & a fruit salad. I had the fish & profiteroles. Very good food & very polite & friendly staff. We walked up to the bow & back. It is about 150' longer than the Marco Polo but appears to be less beamy. This is an illusion: it is wider. Good library & the Neptune Lounge at the bow looked a very good venue: no intrusive pillars. All the hanging about was rather tiring, so we turned in at about 2245 after some desultory unpacking. The next two days would be at sea.

The boat was tossed about a bit during the night, which is more or less what one would expect in the Bay of Biscay. There was a good breakfast to be had, where I wisely had a big plate of prunes then bacon & scrambled egg with an old boy, Roy. We pottered in various ways all day. First was lifeboat drill, then we had a look round. We went out onto the deck but it was very windy & we were not allowed at the bows of the ship. We went to the gym for champagne (Bucks Fizz) & an introduction, as Avis was not yet confident of the geography of the ship. Because I will be speaking on our next cruise (Fred's M1111 to the Baltic, see their web site), I collared the technical manager, who said my Mac would be ok, as they have all the connectors on the stage. We had lunch of salad only, so as not to put too much weight on & many chats. We did have 'tea' but with only one cake each. Tonight, it was a formal dinner. We were photographed before the Captain's Reception, which was very fast! Then he presented the senior officers, quite wittily, describing all their countries of origin as part of Norway, e.g. Germany was South Norway. We skipped out of the show for dinner & found ourselves on the top table of the Spey Restaurant with the Hotel Manager presiding, presumably a perk of being a 'prof'. An interesting bunch round the table.

Our cabin looking out

Bathroom - two basins!

Do I look good in this?

Life Boat Deck

Over night & the next day, the Bay of Biscay made an effort to discompose us. Being of Euskera descent (Biscay = Basque), I could hardly complain! But the third night was better.

Sea with attitude

Neptune hates us but we don't care

A calmer Sunset

Port 1 - Leixoes (Oporto)

Port 2 - Casablanca

Port 3 - Gibraltar

Port 4 - Cadiz

Port 5 - La Coruña

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Contact: Ken Baldry at 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 or e-mail him
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