Where to go for our last breakfast? We went back to The Quays and had a fried breakfast and then we went back up to the top deck, but this time we went to the adult pool at the front of the ship.
We sat in one of the wooden pods and played cards, but this time I was well and truly beaten, so hubby was the champion this holiday! We had a cup of the weakest Costa I have ever had and then decided it was time to go and buy some presents for the family.
We had a mooch around the shops and bought some perfume, gin and cuddly toys plus the Iona Toblerone. A stop off for fish and chips at The Quays, I wasn’t too keen on the mushy peas, but the curry sauce and the fish was wonderful.
We had promised ourselves that we would try the Ice Cream Tea at Ripples, this had a surcharge of £11, but you only need to purchase one, it’s more than enough for two people. Hubby loves ice cream, but he had to admit defeat and leave some.
We had managed to book The Limelight Club for Sonia tonight, so we joined the queue and took our seats.
I was looking forward to this evening, but it also meant the end of the cruise, so it was mixed feelings. We were served up a three course meal while the Limelight Band, which was an all-female band, together with Laura, the singer, sang a few songs to us. She was very good, very relaxed on stage.
Sonia was very good, she sang some of her hits plus a couple of covers, together with a funny story about when she was in the Eurovision Song Contest made for an entertaining evening and we even got to meet her after the show!
A final Baileys and Jamesons at the Cocktail Bar in the Atrium and it was time to go to bed and set the alarm for an early start in the morning to get home.
Of all the views we took photographs of during our cruise, this is probably the one that we always remember!
We decided to spend today on the sun deck as we hadn’t been up there very much. So after a late breakfast, we ventured up on the top decks to find a couple of sunbeds. We found some on the shady side, which half an hour later turned into the sunny side!
We both finished our books, drank some mojitos, cider and strawberry daiquiri. Hubby went swimming in the infinity pool, we saw dolphins and a whale and generally had a relaxing morning.
We played cards in the Sky Dome, which again, I won. We had a salad from the Horizon buffet because we were going to the Epicurean Restaurant in the evening and didn’t want to fill up with food.
This meal was booked via the *UCP and it was absolutely divine. The food was amazing, as you can tell from the pictures.
Phil had the Alaskan Snow Crab, Langoustine and Salmon Caviar Cocktail – Pea and Chervil Custard, Parchment Bread and a Cucumber Mojito and I had the Chicken and Morel Mushroom Mousseline with Pistachio Crumble – Duck Liver Parfait, Sweet and Sour Pickled Vegetables and Spinach Anglais.
Our main courses were: hubby had Black Cod and Canadian Cold-water Lobster Tail with Avruga Caviar Gratin – Bouillabaisse Fondue and Bee Pollen Dressed House Salad and I had Maple-glazed Saddleback Pork T-Bone – Air Crackling and Scrumpy Jus – which I have to say that there was a LOT of pork, but it was sublime.
Dessert was Lemon Meringue Tart for me and hubby had the Belgian Chocolate Jaffa Cake.
We chatted to an older couple sat on the table next to us and we found out that they are going on the same cruise as us in March next year, on the Britannia, cruising around the Caribbean and then sailing back to Southampton!
We finished off the night at the 710 Club, where the band was as good as ever, but there was some trouble with people trying to get it, thinking that we had been sat in there all night. The waiting staff were very patient telling them that this was not the case, but all the time they queued up for the next show, we could hear them talking loudly outside. When we came outside after our performance, the queue started cheering.
After a quick cocktail at the Cow and Keel, the Honeyed IPA we then retired to our cabin.
We decided to skip breakfast today as we were eating at the Olive Grove at lunchtime today, so after our morning trek around Deck 8, we went to the shops. We ended up in a shop which sold watches, (hubby LOVES watches) where he bought an electronic Tag Heuer for him and then a jewellery shop where we purchased a white gold band with diamonds for me.
We then spent the rest of the morning in the Sky Dome, reading, swimming and having a few drinks, much need rest and relaxation.
We booked lunch via the My Holiday app, at the Olive Grove, we couldn’t get in for an evening meal. This was a lovely restaurant. Hubby decided to have a Chocolate Oreo Cookie milkshake and I had a Cool Sunset cocktail, which was wine, cranberry juice and lemonade, which was very nice. Hubby’s cocktail froze and he had trouble drinking it after that!
We shared a mezze starter (pictured) which was roasted vegetables, humous and tazeki with beetroot dressing and olives. I had carbonara for main course and hubby beef bucco. The carbonara was delicious, even better than Bella Italia’s version!
Hubby enjoyed his main dish and the waiter recommended Aspall Cider to go with it.
Pudding was a lemon creme brulee for me and had baklava. Both were delicious and we polished them off quite easily.
In the afternoon we searched out the infinity jacuzzies, we fond an empty one easily. They were lovely to just sit in and gaze out to sea, plus they were only for one to three people in the same bubble, so it was nice and personal.
Dinner was in the Aqua restaurant, it was smaller than the Coral Restaurant and the service was very slow in here, it took ages to get our main course. It seemed like the waiters didn’t know whose dinner was whose, plus the coffee was stone cold! I had a Malbec and hubby had a Pinot Grigio.
We went to Brodies and sat in on the 8 o’clock quiz, which we thought was quite hard and from there we went to the Headliners Theatre to watch the production, Centre Stage. This was better than Festival and some of the lighting effects were incredible.
After that we decided to call it a night, I think all the late nights were starting to catch up with us.
Today is our wedding anniversary: 36 years! Included in the Ultimate Celebration Package is breakfast in bed, which included a half bottle of champagne.
As you can see, it also included Danish pastries, fruit, pain au chocolat, yoghurt, orange juice and continental meats. We mixed the champagne and orange juice and had a Bucks Fizz.
Next it was time for our couple’s massage, another part to our UCP*, we had chosen to have a hot stone massage which was an extra £10 each but it was definitely worth it. It was really relaxing, and no, I didn’t fall asleep! One funny thing was that when we were in the treatment room and the two masseurs were explaining what was going to happen, hubby started stripping! I shouted to him to stop and wait until the ladies had left the room, they laughed and said, “He’s keen!”
We had booked into the thermal suite for £25 each for two hours. This was sooo relaxing, it had a salt steam room, a steam room, sauna and an amazing shower, which lit up like a disco and you never knew where the water was gonna spray from or what temperature it would be! The thermal beds were heaven, that’s somewhere I could go to sleep.
After lunch at the Cow and Keel, joined the virtual queue and got straight in, we had a rum cocktail each and hubby had a Black Sheep ale, which was recommended by the waiter, Mary. We ordered the sharing dessert, not so much “sharing” as hubby always has more than half!
We then went to an area of the ship that we said we wouldn’t go to – the Art Gallery! We saw a picture (left) which caught our eye by Rebecca Lardner, of course and there is somewhere in our front room where it is meant for, so we bought it. The man who worked in the art gallery was called Alex and he was very knowledgeable, we had a lovely chat to him about all the artists we have bought art from. When he found out it was our anniversary he insisted that we came back in the evening to collect the paperwork and he would treat us to a cocktail!
It was celebration night tonight, so I wore my old faithful black and white dress (about eight years old now) and hubby wore his tuxedo. We had booked dinner at the Coral Restaurant at 6:00 PM.
As we walked into the restaurant it was lovely to see the ladies in their dresses and the men in their formal wear. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man look bad in a tuxedo.
The menu was devised by Marco Pierre White, which consisted mainly of fish, so hubby was very happy. I had the chicken and we had a glass of Prosecco each and a glass of Malbec with our main course.
We made our way to the art gallery and met up with Alex, who true to his word, ordered us a cocktail. We spent the next half an hour chatting about art and drinking our cocktails.
Then it was time for the Headliner Theatre to watch Manuel Martinez, magician and comedian, he was funny in places, but his accent seemed to drop a few times. Overall though, we enjoyed it.
We had seen that the band, Pulse, were performing a set of guilty pleasures in The Club House, so we went down there and actually found a seat! We ordered a Pina Colada for me and a Jamesons for hubby.
The atmosphere in The Club House was really fun, everyone was singing and waving their hands in the air, no dancing though. and the evening ended on a real high!
Gone midnight and we get back to the cabin, it was a wonderful anniversary!
As the weather was overcast this morning we went back to the Sky Dome. I decided to buy a notebook so I could write down my diary entries, I didn’t take much notice of the price, which was a mistake as when I was in the lift I realised it cost £16.00! I got hubby a Costa to soften the blow about the price, but when I told him he nearly choked on his coffee!
As we enjoyed our breakfast at The Quays we had lunch there as well. I had fried chicken and chips from the American Grill, which as I’m a KFC fan, I was looking forward to and hubby had a Katsu curry from the Asian Kitchen. I’m pleased to say that the fried chicken exceeded my expectations. We washed it down with a bottle of Corona each.
As the weather still wasn’t wonderful we thought that a trip to the cinema was in order, the films being shown were A Quiet Place 2 and Blithe Spirit, and as we have seen Blithe Spirit, A Quiet Place 2 it was.
We had about an hour before it was time for the cinema, so we found a quiet place in the Atrium and started our card tournament. This is something we do on every cruise, we play Rummy and the points are carried forward throughout the holiday with the winner proclaimed at the end of the cruise! Not being one to brag, but I won by two points, first round to me!
The cinema wasn’t very large, it probably seated about 40 people, less due to the social distancing measures taken but strangely you could take off your masks here, but not in the theatre?
There was the obligatory person who thought the whole cinema should hear what he was saying which was quite annoying until their conversation went:
“Did you see the dolphins today?” “No I didn’t, but what I really wanna see is an orchid.” “Don’t you mean orca?” his friend questioned and I have to say a few people had a little titter to themselves.
The film was good, we enjoyed it and I have to say that Cillian Murphy played a great role!
We were eating at Sindhu in the evening, as we had ordered the Ultimate Celebration Package we chose the day and time for our meal. Whenever we cruise with P&O we always eat here and it never fails to disappoint.
I had the Parsee Lamb Cutlets for my starter followed by the Duck Tikka Malabari and hubby had the Kerala Nyannd Masala Tian with the Signature Thali Plate for his main course. We had a glass of Prosecco each with our starter and a glass of Beefsteak Malbec with our main courses.
Whilst we were waiting for our order a lady with two friends came in, I didn’t really pay much attention as she went into another part of the restaurant, but hubby said to me that he was sure it was Miriam Margolyes. I’m a huge fan of hers, I love it when she’s on a TV chat show, she’s so forthright and down to earth.
I was kicking myself for not paying attention to this lady and we spent a large part of the dinner discussing how we were going to check out if it was her or not.
Back to the meal, it tasted very good, but they seem to have diverted from the traditional Indian meal, to more of an Indian meat with vegetables. Over coffee we decided to go out onto Deck 8 and walk past the window to see if it was her for sure.
So plan in operation, we walked along the corridor to find the door which led to Deck 8, “Here it is, I think,” announced hubby and pushed open a big grey door. But to our horror, it didn’t lead to the outside deck, but straight back into Sindhu restaurant!! Hubby did a hasty retreat and we hurried down the corridor to find the correct door and were soon outside on Deck 8 laughing at our mistake, remembering the look of shock on the diner’s faces. “But was it her?” I asked him, “I don’t know, I was too busy backtracking out of the door,” he replied. We walked along Deck 8 and took a quick peek into the window and saw this person, hubby was still adamant it was her, but I still wasn’t sure.
It was time to go to the Headliner Theatre to watch Festival. The Headliner’s cast sang festival songs, it wasn’t great to be honest, the dancing seemed very rushed and so some were out of time. The songs were sung fast and loud!
We rushed to the 710 Club hoping to see the 9:30 PM showing and we arrived there at about 9:20 PM and was delighted to see there was no queue. We stood at the entrance of the club and soon there were people behind us forming a queue, somebody asked us, “Is this the queue for the 10:45 performance?”“No,” we replied, “The 9.30 show.” “Are you sure?” they asked, “People went in about 15 minutes earlier.”
9:30 PM came and the doors showed no sign of opening, the queue had grown to around 50 people, “I think we’ve got this wrong,” I whispered to hubby, “I think they’re about to start.” “I do too,” he replied, “Let’s leave quietly,” and so we quietly slipped out of the queue we had created. As we headed towards the stairs, I heard one lady say, “I just joined this queue, I’m not even sure what it’s for.”
After a walk around the ship, we decided to wait in the Atrium for the 10:45 PM session in the 710 club and we ordered a mojito each while we waited. It was entertaining watching everyone psyche each other out, waiting for the first couple to start the queue (which we’re good at apparently), and as soon as someone did, the rest quickly followed suite.
Inside the venue, I ordered a Raspberry Brulee cocktail and hubby had a pint of Fosters. The band was just as good as before and the guitarist, Alistair, sang some Beatles songs beautifully.
We went to the Club House afterwards, again it was full, but we stood at the back and listened to the adult version of his show, it was funny, but I preferred his family show.
By the time this had ended, it was 12:15 AM, “Happy Anniversary,” hubby whispered before we went to sleep.
A good day on board and the weather didn’t dampen our enthusiasm!
The morning of the cruise passed quicker than I thought it would – after packing and grabbing a quick lunch in the Royal Victoria Country Park, where we could see Iona docked, it was time to book our Uber.
The Uber arrived promptly at 3.12 PM and as the Southampton Boat Show was happening, plus Southampton FC were playing West Ham, we thought the traffic might be bad, the Uber driver even said, “I’m not sure why I picked up this fare, I wanted to avoid Southampton today,” but her worries were unfounded as we breezed into Southampton, taking only about 15 minutes.
On arrival at Ocean Terminal, we immediately saw where to leave our suitcases and we were directed towards the COVID testing area. We must have queued for about 10 minutes and after having our COVID certificates checked and boarding pass looked at, we were having our tests done. The test itself was very easy, just up the nostrils, the lady administering mine said I was very relaxed!
Onto filling in another Health Questionnaire and then sitting in the departure lounge waiting for our results. Typically, hubby’s came in first and then I had a nervous wait for about three minutes waiting for my result. It seemed to take forever and it wasn’t helped by hubby saying to me, “If your result is positive then I’ll go on board and wave to you as we pass our village. You can go back to work on Monday.! But thankfully, it came through and we were on our way to the booking in desk which took about five minutes and then it was onto security. Pre-COVID security was always the most nerve-wracking, but now it was a breeze.
And then it was the moment we had been waiting over 18 months for…. we were on a cruise ship!
After being scanned in at our muster station which was The Glass House, we made our way to our cabin on the 14th deck and a standard balcony.
Overall, we were impressed with the cabin, on our arrival there were flowers, chocolates, a bottle of champagne, slippers and a dressing gown each waiting for us. There should have been a couple of commemorative champagne glasses but these weren’t there, but after a chat with the room steward that was remedied. The cabin could sleep four people via sofa bed and a Pullman bed, but I think it would have been a bit of a squeeze especially if it was four adults. The storage was a bit limited, but it was fine for hubby and me.
My next task and I say task as that is what it felt like, was the dreaded My Holiday app. At first I loaded it onto my iPad, but it was very slow and as soon as I loaded it onto my iPhone it sped up considerably. I managed to book Sonia in the Limelight Club for Friday night, mainly because we were watching shows on the rest of the evenings and Coral Restaurant for Celebration Night and Aqua Restaurant for Wednesday night.
So it was time to explore the ship, but first stop was the Laguna Bar to activate the Ultimate Drinking Package, what I mean by activate is put a sticker on our cruise card!
A quick look outside and we ended up at the Sunset Bar where we had our first cocktail, a Pina Colada. From there, we decided to visit Brodies, the English-styled pub, it was very quiet, but I suppose people were having their dinner by now. A Cider for me and a Guiness (or two) for hubby, although at first he was disappointed they didn’t have it on draught, but he said that the canned Guiness was very good.
We headed back to the cabin to get ready for our evening meal (we hadn’t booked anything yet) and as we sat on the balcony overlooking Southampton Docks we met our cabin neighbour, Paul. After a little chat we decided that we would like to eat at the Cow and Keel tonight, so we joined the virtual queue of six people and by the time we had gone down the six or so flights of steps to reach the Cow and Keel, our My Holiday app told us that the table was ready. You had to pay a supplement for these meals.
On reading reviews on Facebook about this restaurant, I had sung the praises of it to my hubby, he is a chef and so enjoys good food and boy were we not disappointed!
Hubby had a salmon starter, which he said was the best he’d had in a long while and he was totally gobsmacked with the Prime Minister Burger. I had the duck lollipops (pictured) which was totally delicious and pork belly for my mains, again delicious. This was all washed down with a couple of glasses of Beefsteak Malbec each. I’m not a huge fish fan, so you’ll find out that hubby will choose fish more often than not when we’re away.
We didn’t have any room for dessert, which is unheard of for hubby as he loves his desserts, so we agreed to come back another time and try them, all for the sake of research of course!
A walk around the Promenade Deck where we saw the infamous conservatory cabins. They didn’t look too bad to us, but it was at night and the deck wasn’t busy. We ended up at the Sunset Bar and decided to go into the Club House where the band, Pulse, were about to play a session of pop songs.
They played some great songs, but it felt strange not being able to dance but there was plenty of arm waving and chair dancing. The set only lasted about 35 minutes, which didn’t seem very long and I enjoyed a Pina Colada and hubby had a beer.
From there it was up to the Crows Nest, which did take a bit of finding, but we managed it eventually. There was a piano player and I had my usual night cap of a Baileys and hubby had a Jamesons. One thing I don’t understand with the Unlimited Drinks Package is that you cannot order a double Baileys, which would still be under the £6.95 cap, I mean, it would save the waiter’s an extra trip to the bar!
A walk back to the cabin at around 12:15 AM, a very good start to our cruise!
After having to cancel our cruises over the last 18 months, we are now booked on the Iona, sailing on the 11th September from Southampton, for a seven day staycation.
This isn’t the first time we have sailed with P&O, in fact this will be our sixth cruise with them, we have also cruised with Royal Caribbean, Cunard and Princess Cruises.
So, as this next cruise will be a little different from our normal cruises, no stopping at ports, Iona’s first set of staycation cruises after her maiden voyage, different ways of booking restaurants and entertainment etc., I thought I would keep a diary of the days leading up to sailaway and also days spent on board!
Friday, 10th September, 2021
1 day to go…
I had an exciting email from P&O yesterday, no, not an upgrade, but because we have booked the Ultimate Celebration Package, they wanted us to tell them which specialty restaurants we wanted to book and the date and time! So Sindhu and the Epicurean are both booked!
So packing will start today and finish probably just before we get in the taxi tomorrow. I know that people approach this task in very different ways. I had a colleague at work who kept a spreadsheet of clothes she and her husband were taking and then created another one which detailed which clothes they were wearing on what day! This was printed and put up in their wardrobe. I am split between huge admiration for someone who can be that organised and horrified with the amount of planning this involves!
Hubby is the packer, he is great at cramming rolled up socks, pants and just about everything into the suitcase. Once packed then it is the search for the padlocks, you know the ones you put somewhere safe after your last holiday and which are never to be found again!
I love it when the suitcases are packed though, they are locked with the baggage labels on them, in the hallway waiting to be loaded into the taxi and then you turn around and spot the pair of shoes that you have forgotten to pack!
So I wish my fellow cruisers luck with their packing today, those that have already packed, well done and those who are lastminute.dot.com like us, welcome to the club!
Thursday, 9th September, 2021
2 days to go…
Days at sea:
Love them or hate them, days at sea are a necessary part of your cruise, I mean, how else would you get from one place to another? We love sea days and have cruised across the Atlantic on a number of occasions.
How do we keep ourselves amused?
We both love playing cards, Rummy in particular. We have an ongoing game throughout the holiday with a continuous score sheet and playing with the “Williams Rules” our scores go up and down, until the last day when the winner is announced.
I like to take the opportunity to read on sea days, relaxing in a sun bed and drinking a cocktail. One thing that I do when I’m walking around is, I like to see what people are reading, I’m not sure why, maybe it’s like peering into a stateroom when the door is open, just natural curiosity.
The book I am taking with me is Richard Osman’s, “The Thursday Murder Club.”
I have been wanting to read this for a long time and seven days at sea is the perfect opportunity.
There is a book that I would recommend which is perfect for lazing around the pool and reading…. Love and Chocolate Biscuits written by, ahem, ME.
You can buy it from Amazon, it probably wouldn’t arrive in time for this cruise, but for future cruises…
Hubby isn’t a big reader, so he likes to go off and join in the deck quoits and shuffleboard competitions, he meets new people whilst doing this and we usually end up sharing a drink or two with some of them!
Wednesday, 8th September, 2021
3 days to go…
It’s getting nearer!! Three days and it’s time to complete the Health Questionnaire. In fairness, it’s only a matter of checking off some boxes, so it only takes about a minute to complete, then to print off and add to my ever-growing pile of documents to take with me on Saturday morning.
I have printed off:
And don’t forget our passports!
But I am trying to get organised and put it all into plastic sleeves, so it will be ready for inspection on Saturday!
So I suppose the next thing we need to do is pack! We are very much lastminute.com packers and probably won’t pack until Saturday morning and as our boarding time isn’t until 3:45 PM and we live in Southampton, we will have plenty of time to do that!
Monday, 6th September, 2021
5 days to go…
So after trying yesterday to contact P&O, together with trying to purchase tickets for the Abba Avatar concert, (a long story!!) which both amounted to a fair amount of stress, today I phoned P&O on the stroke of 8:30 AM and after waiting for 40 minutes actually got through to an advisor.
The purpose of the phone call was to purchase the Ultimate Celebration Package, cost £399. I admit when I first looked at it, I did a double take on the price, but when you break it down, it’s not so bad as it includes dinner for two people in a Select Dining venue, (which is probably about £100), choice of a 50 minute facial or massage, (the cheapest is £63 per couple) bathrobe and slippers, (which you can take home), sweet canapes delivered to your stateroom, chocolates, flowers and a bottle of champagne, and as we are celebrating our anniversary, we thought it would be a nice way to celebrate.
While I was in this mode of buying packages, I took a deep breath and ordered the Ultimate Drinking Package for us both. Again, as I have mentioned before, I have been reading lots of pros and cons about this package, but as we do like cocktails, a glass of wine with dinner, evening nightcaps, coffees in the morning, spirits and ciders and beers, we decided that we would go for it, as we said to each other, “Let’s try it out and if it doesn’t work, then we won’t get it again.” I will let you know if it was worth it for us when I do my review of the cruise!
Sunday, 5th September, 2021
6 days to go…
Cruise anxiety has definitely stepped up a notch this weekend, I am getting worried about the dining arrangements in particular, maybe I’ll even come off this cruise lighter than when I boarded? I know Facebook can either be the font of all knowledge or the devil incarnate, but on reading people’s posts the MDR’s are either easy to book, with no waiting around or it’s hell on earth to get a table past 5.30 PM.
This morning hubby and I were laying in bed, wondering what we’d be doing this time next week, “Probably trying to book our breakfast!” was my husband’s reply, which was followed by laughter, slightly manic laughter I might add!
I am quite savvy when it comes to all things electronic, so I’m hoping that the My Holiday app won’t stress us out too much and I have read very mixed reviews about this app, but when all else fails, it’ll be trips to the Reception desk to try and book specialty meals, etc.
Holidays are supposed to be relaxing and stress-free, but if the lead up is anything to go by, I’m not so sure it’s gonna be!
Thursday, 2nd September, 2021
9 days to go…
Well, we’re into single figures!! From booking it up in March, when we had over 100 days to go, to finally getting to single figures. It’s time for that little bit of shopping; toiletries, new underwear (does anyone else buy new knickers for holiday?), a couple of shirts for hubby and a pair of not too high, not too low, evening wear shoes for moi!!
It’s also that danger period where the dreaded C word is around, no, not Christmas but COVID. I work from home so won’t be in contact with many people, but hubby is a Restaurant Manager who has five restaurants, so he is under strict instructions to wear a mask everywhere he goes. We have the lateral flow tests, so will be doing those next week and on the morning of Saturday 11th, and hopefully everything will be fine.
This is how I would like hubby to dress for work over the next nine days, but he might scare the customers away!
Tuesday, 31st August, 2021
11 days to go…
I found out that Sonia will be performing in the Limelight Club on this cruise and loving a bit of 80’s and 90’s music, we will be trying to book this. Sonia even Tweeted about it:
Sonia’s first hit was, “You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You,” released in 1989 and she represented the United Kingdom in the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest where she finished second with the song, “Better The Devil You Know.” She had 11 UK Top 30 hits, including” Listen To Your Heart” and “Only Fools (Never Fall In Love).” She also starred as Sandy in the West End revival of Grease.
If you like a bit of a boogie (strictly chair dancing of course), then I think this is the show for you!
Saturday, 14th August, 2021
14 days to go…
So spurred on by the Facebook posse advising to book the entertainment on board just after midnight, I set the alarm for 11:55 PM in readiness to hit the Book Now button on my cruise personaliser. As my computer clock rolled over to midnight, the advisory note that you can only book entertainment until after the 28th August disappeared and I clicked on the Entertainment tab, but there was nothing there. After a few minutes of searching the whole personaliser and then resorting to looking on Facebook, I found out I was 24 hours too early!!
Take two , 24 hours later, a bit like Groundhog Day, alarm was again set for 11:55 PM and this time success, I managed to book both shows, the comedian and the singer for 8.30 PM each night. But that was it, that was all we could book, the Limelight and the specialty restaurants are to be booked on board. So was it worth it? Probably not, but we are booked in now and we do love to watch a good show!
Tuesday, 24th August, 2021
17 days to go…
When it’s a sea day on a cruise, people often go to the shops to buy books, souvenirs, indigestion tablets, watches, jewellery and even that famous bar of Toblerone! But where do we head? Well, we head towards the art gallery. There is normally a get together at the start of the cruise, at the Whitewall Gallery, where you can have a free glass of champagne and a walk around the exhibits, but we always end up back there and more often than not, end up buying a piece of art.
Above is a selection of our art collection bought on board, all are Rebecca Lardner art and the price is cheaper than on land as you can apply your discount to these purchases!
When we return home from a cruise, the first question we get asked by our children is not, “Did you have a lovely time,” but “What art did you buy this time?” I think they are worried that we’re spending their inheritance!
When I see the picture hanging on the wall at home or the sculpture sitting on the shelf, it’s a lovely reminder of our cruise, albeit a bit more expensive than a fridge magnet!
Saturday, 21st August, 2021
21 days to go…
We received our cabin number today and we are on the 14th deck and midship, fairly near to the lifts and a stone’s throw away from the launderette, which I have since found out P&O have now opened – much to my husband’s delight, as he loves to say, “Well, that’s your sea days sorted,” when we pass the launderette room!
On closer inspection of the ship’s deck plans, we are only two decks down from the Horizon buffet, the infinity pool, Sky Dome and the Beach House, which we are pretty pleased about. Obviously it’s a bit of a trek from the Theatre, Atrium and the Main Dining Restaurants, we do try and take the stairs whenever we can, but I think going up from deck 6 to deck 14 might be a struggle. I do think that the views we will get from our balcony will be amazing, we can’t wait to sail past our village as we leave Southampton and raise a cocktail to our friends and family!
We also received our boarding time, which was later than we would have liked, it is 1545 hours – as we only live in Southampton, it’s gonna be a long day before we can jump in a taxi and make the 20 minute journey to the docks.
This sort of brings me onto the subject of cruise anxiety – we have done 10 cruises before this one and I have never felt this anxious before a cruise before. I think the closest is when we fly to Barbados to join the ship there, I do become a little anxious in case we miss the flight or the flight is cancelled – but this is nothing compared to what I am experiencing now. From the stress of the COVID test, to booking entertainment, to figuring out the App, to deciding if the drinks package is worth it, to hoping that there is some speciality dining available by the time we board! Social media doesn’t help sometimes, there are a lot of conflicting reports on the performance of the app, availability at speciality restaurants and even the temperature of the pools!
But I will take each step as it comes and I am sure we will enjoy what Iona has to offer, we are just pleased to be able to go cruising once again!
Wednesday, 18th August, 2021
23 days to go…
Nothing to do with this cruise, but today we received an email from Royal Caribbean to say that we had cancelled our cruise in October! Of course, we knew that we hadn’t done this, plus our friends who we are going with also had the same email, so evidently computer was saying no to us going on holiday.
After waiting for nearly three quarters of an hour on the phone, I eventually got through to a nice man who confirmed that this was indeed the case and they were sorting it out and true to his word, a few minutes later we received confirmation that the holiday was back on!
I was especially worried about our friends as they have never cruised before and I don’t want them to be put off already! I am really looking forward to introducing them to cruising, hopefully they’ll be hooked.
Talking of future cruises, I think we have booked up enough cruises now, these will take us until April, 2023!
Tuesday, 17th August, 2021
24 days to go…
We are still patiently (or rather impatiently ) waiting for our cabin to be allocated. There has been a lot of talk on social media about the cabins on Iona, mainly the Conservatory Staterooms on deck 8, which look out onto a main walkway and which seem to be overlooked, but time will tell, if people don’t like them, then they won’t sell on future cruises.
I decided to take a look at my cruise dresses; over the years I have purchased a few of these, some in sales, some online and some from specialist shops.
I used to wonder how often ladies would turn up to the formal nights in the same dress… This actually happened to me on my last cruise, I wore this dress and as I was led towards a table by the waiter, there was a lady sat down in the exact same dress!
I am not joking, everyone stopped talking on the table and was looking from me to her, I didn’t really know what to say, so I just jokingly said, “Snap!” I wasn’t too worried about it, but I don’t think the lady was very happy, she ate her dinner rather quickly and her party left as soon as dessert was served!
There is only one formal night, or Gala Night as it is now called, on this cruise, so the decision is to be made which dress will I take? But I think that probably the decision will be made for me – it will be the dress that still fits me after my extra bit of Covid weight!!
Wednesday, 11th August, 2021
31 days to go…
We booked this cruise as soon as the bookings were opened, and have a balcony stateroom, because all the prices are Early Saver, we cannot book a particular cabin, it is allocated by P&O for us. So we can’t wait to find out where on the ship we will be!
We have been researching whether or not to buy the ultimate drinks package, which costs £39.95 per adult per day. This includes beers, spirits, cocktails, wines and Costa coffee, a great selection and because we both like spirits and especially cocktails, we will probably be buying this before we board.
I have joined the Iona Facebook Group and there is a special group for the actual cruise we are going on, G131N staycation cruise, for which I am doing a review for on the 16th September.
We do have a special event to celebrate whilst we’re on Iona, it’s our wedding anniversary on the 14th, so we’re hoping to book the Epicurean when we get on board to celebrate!
Where: Denbigh, North Wales Cost: £240 for two nights
So now that lockdown has somewhat been lifted, we were able to get away for a few days. We opted for a mid-week break and decided to forgo the traditional bed and breakfast accommodation, hotel or even a caravan and settled on a shepherd’s hut.
We chose North Wales as we normally visit South Wales and thought it would be a nice change!
We stopped off at a couple of Road Service stations and after about four hours of travel, we were in the vicinity of the hut. Several miles of travelling down small country lanes and having to reverse along a narrow road for a tractor(!) and having some difficultly actually finding the hut, we arrived!
The lady who owned the hut met us in the driveway and she showed us around, pointing out where everything was.
The kitchen was very well laid out. The microwave was in the bottom cupboard, there was a kettle, toaster and lots of cutlery, knives and crockery. The water ran hot very quickly.
The owner of the hut had left a bottle of Prosecco and a M&S chocolate cake for us!
The bathroom was compact and the shower was on the small side. The space between the sink and the wall wasn’t that big, so if you are of a larger frame, you might struggle to get into the shower.
Once in the shower, it was nice and hot and the water ran quite fast.
The bed was really comfy and you could watch the TV either in bed or sat on the settee. There was a handy shelf for my phone and glasses, but the problem I had was when I needed to visit the toilet in the early hours of the morning, I had to climb over hubby to get out of bed!
Our first night we decided to try out the kitchen amenities and cook our own meal. We had chipotle grilled steak salad from the Simply Cook recipes and as the weather was so nice, we were able to eat it outside on the veranda. We had made a school boy error by not packing olive oil for cooking, but there was no need to panic, it was provided by the thoughtful hut owner.
Cooking in this small kitchen was a little testing, there was no oven, but you’re not staying there to cook a gourmet meal, so it was great for a simple meal.
I have to mention at this point, the views from the shepherd’s hut were amazing, but don’t take my word for it….
I think to stay a couple of days is enough in a space like this, there’s not much storage, our clothes stayed in the travel bags and you have to be really comfortable with your other half, as there’s not much privacy.
But, it is the perfect “get away from it all” space and if you want to put some romance back in your relationship, this is the place to do it!
A journey through the meaning of life and anything else that grabs my attention!
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am and Our Neck Of The Woods.