Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

An Iberian Odyssey On Oceana.

On the 9th December we found ourselves back in Southampton, but this time at the Mayflower Cruise Terminal where P&O Cruises' Oceana was berthed and awaiting our arrival.

Again we had used the fabulous Intercruises luxury coach service to bring us down, and to negate the need for me to negotiate the dreadful UK traffic these days.

This was to be a 12 night Iberian cruise with one main objective - to bring our P&O Cruises Peninsular Loyalty Club points over 2020 points, gained over 202 nights aboard P&O ships and therefore into their Caribbean tier which brings with it further benefits such as an increased % discount off on board spend, and priority boarding etc. We didn't expect any spectacular weather, but in the end we were rewarded with mainly clear blue skies and sunshine, if a little chilly at times.

Once on board we commenced our usual tour of exploration of another ship we had not yet cruised on. As is usual we found her to be a beautiful ship with a stunning atrium, which as it happened we later spent most of our leisure time before dinner, sipping a large Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic.

Our first port of call was Lisbon, somewhere we had not yet visited. The weather was stunning, and the town, with its trams and narrow streets was equally stunning.

Then it was on to Cadiz. Now Cadiz is a lovely port town, but we had made the decision to visit Seville from there - about an hour and a half drive - as we knew it held much historic interest. As it happened this was our only port day that gave us rain. Had we remained in Cadiz the weather there didn't deteriorate until the afternoon, but hey ho, we had a great day out even in the rain.

The day after Cadiz saw us in Malaga, a city we found to be absolutely beautiful. As most people only pass through its airport en-route to a beach destination, we would recommend a city visit, it is well worth it.

On to Gibraltar, where unusually we had the benefit of a full day visit. This allowed a beneficial visit to the local Morrison's Supermarket where we bought our duty free allowance of alcohol to be used over Christmas. Example prices were 1 X litre of Famous Grouse Scotch at just £6, and 1 X litre of Bombay Sapphire gin at just £9.50, both less than half the price of a UK Morrison's and all down to tax, or the lack of it on Gibraltar.

Our call after Gibraltar was scheduled to be Casablanca, but unfortunately during our early morning attempted entry into the harbour the sea swell was found to be too great to complete the manoeuvre safely, so it was abandoned. A slower, additional day at sea then ensued en-route to our last port - Vigo. Again a most interesting visit, and another destination ticked off our list.

We found some most unusual calm water days at sea in the Atlantic for this time of year.

All too soon we found ourselves back in Southampton boarding our coach home. Everything is so well organised on these cruises leaving the likes of us nothing much to think about. A most relaxing way to see the world, and extreme value for money.

And as an additional benefit I won the 1st raffle prize awarded at the Peninsular Loyalty club cocktail Party - awarded by Captain Willard, Master of Oceana.

However, as I mentioned in my last post about our recent cruise on Azura, I still noticed a significant number of people in the evening who could not be bothered to change out of their jeans, T shirts and trainers. I don't know what their problem is, but surely it can't be that difficult to wear a casual shirt, trousers and shoes so that you don't look completely out of place in the very luxurious surroundings of the ship, usually with live background music too.

It would appear to me the company have given up trying to convince the British public that it is smarter to change even into casual wear for the evening drinks in the lounges.

Such a pity, as the rest of this cruise was exceptional.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A Caribbean Adventure Aboard Azura.

On the 28th October we had booked to be aboard Azura on a P&O Cruises repositioning cruise to the Caribbean for it's Winter season there. We found things extremely well organised, and after having left our car at Manchester Airport Terminal 1 Meet and Greet ready for our flight home, we boarded a complementary luxury coach to Southampton.

Sailing off into the Southampton sunset. 
Once there, we were whisked aboard Azura through the Ocean terminal and were eating lunch aboard by 12.45pm. After unpacking we went on our usual exploration of this very beautiful but very large ship, before setting sail for Ponta Delgada in the Azores later that evening, which was a port of call to break up our long Atlantic crossing.

Azura's fabulous atrium.
Azura's Seascreen - an outdoor screen for watching movies in the warm weather.
Ponta Delgada
We love the opportunity to dress up - some don't. My advice is book a cruise line with a casual dress code then!
Unusually good weather for an Autumn Atlantic crossing.

On arrival in the Caribbean, our first port of call was the beautiful island of St. Maarten. The weather throughout our cruise has been lovely sunshine until lunchtime, and then heavy rain in the afternoon, similar to monsoon. However our Atlantic crossing was unusually calm for this time of year. We also had the experience of our Peninsular Loyalty Club cocktail party during our crossing, as well as our chance to dress up for the 4 black tie evenings.

Meeting the Captain and senior officers at the loyalty club cocktail party.

Leaving St.Maarten we sailed for St. Lucia, another beautiful island, with a call at the port town of Castries although we have been before, so used our time there this time to catch up with lovely narrow boating friends Doug and James of Narrowboat Chance, who by chance had booked the same cruise as us. A truly fabulous catch-up chat fuelled by countless bottles of the local brew followed. I do believe we drank the bar dry of stock and possibly stayed beyond our welcome as the shopping mall it was located in was all closed up when we left and we had to use the back door.

Berthed in St. Lucia.
Together with the lovely Doug and James in St. Lucia.
We sailed from Castries to Dominica, a very small island at which we just had a walk around town.

Our berth in Dominica.
Our next visit was Grenada, and the port town of St. Georges, a lovely little town with much history. From the ship we walked through the Sendall Tunnel, built in 1844 through the headland to the harbour next door where we visited BB's Restaurant which had been recommended for their famous ginger beers. They were truly lovely, and the menu also looked tempting, but unfortunately, being on a cruise we didn't find ourselves hungry enough to sample it. The place is certainly worth a try if you find yourself here. We also shared our port visit in Grenada with P&O Cruises' latest ship Britannia, on which were also friends of ours who we shared drinks with in the afternoon.

Britannia and Azura berthed together in Grenada.

The excellent ginger beers served at BB's in St. Georges, Grenada.
From Grenada it was off to our last port of call - Bridgetown, Barbados, where we were lucky enough to have a full day to look around town, as we were spending the night aboard ship there prior to our flight home the day after.

Azura at her berth in Bridgetown, Barbados.

There is a huge choice of entertainment aboard P&O Cruises, both during the day and evening. From talks and quizzes to murder mystery interactive adventures during the day to show lounge bands and comedians and the theatre where spectacular West End style shows are staged, there is something for everyone. If that doesn't appeal there is a traditional pub where large screen sport is screened, through to sophisticated wine bars - the choice is yours. Huge efforts are also made by the crew to celebrate events such as the Halloween party on the final day of October.

Saturday arrived all too soon, after our 15th night aboard. We had packed our luggage the night before and P&O Cruises had placed our cases into bonded storage prior to loading on to the aircraft on our behalf, saving us the trouble. We were transported to the airport without fuss, where we boarded our Thomas Cook A330 Airbus back to Manchester. Our scheduled seven and a half hour flight landed half an hour early, and we were soon outside with our luggage at the T1 Meet and Greet Reception office. Our car was ready and waiting, and we were at home and in bed by 6.00am on Sunday.

What an extremely enjoyable experience and what great value for money. My only criticism would be that some of P&O's customers - a minority, didn't want to bother to change for the evening, and could be seen in the public areas of the ship in vest and shorts during the evenings. This doesn't even meet with P&O's relaxed evening casual dress code, which is a minimum of casual shirt, slacks or dark denim fashion jeans. Is this too much to ask? I think not.