Why now!!!! – 15 August 2019

Woke up this morning, the day we were flying home, with sickness and diarrhoea. Why now?

No breakfast for me although Scamp did encourage me to have a slice of toast. Journey to the airport was actually ok, because I was medicated to prevent any leakage. Journey from the terminal to the plane with Mad Max Verstappen driving the bus was a nightmare I don’t want to relive. Flight was comfortable and scenery was fantastic.

Drove back home through rain and terrible traffic. The M8 at it’s worst. Anyway, got back home safe and sound and tomorrow’s another day.

PoD is the view as we were crossing the Channel.

Recovery starts tomorrow.

The last long day at sea – 14 August 2019

And another beautiful day it was too.

Nothing to do except pack and we weren’t going to rush into that, thank you very much. The sun was out and we were going to make the most of it, because who knows when we’ll see it again. After all, the sun shines a lot in France, Germany and Spain, not to mention Greece and Italy. They’re all in the EU, so when Brexit happens will that mean there will be a ‘Hard Border’ between us and the sun? Will the Italians and the Spanish want to keep it all for themselves and won’t want to give any to us poor Brits? I hope not, but just in case, we were going to grab our share today. If we could find two sun beds together, that is.

We finally settled for a couple of beds up at the sharp end of the ship (Technical Term). Hot sun and a cooling breeze from the ships onward passage. Spent most of the time there before we resigned to the inevitable and went to start the packing. It was amazing how easily it all went in to one brown cloth case and one blue one. Quite remarkable. Also remarkable was that they weighed only a kilo or so more than they had when we’d dragged them to the airport two weeks ago. I’m not sure we’ll be able to say that about ourselves. If I’ve only managed to put on a kilo this fortnight, either it’s a miracle or it’s time for a new battery in the bathroom scales. It’s actually more likely that it will say “One at a time, please!”

Dinner in the sit-down Ligurian restaurant where we were “happy to share”. Had what must have been the worst steak of the holiday. It was meant to be a Rib Eye, but was slathered in a sticky brown gravy, so it was difficult to tell. Also it was tough. Getting to the end of the cruise and the bottom of the barrel of cuts of meat, perhaps.

Finally we retired to the balcony with a double gin and our own bottle of tonic to listen to the waves and watch the stars. I know where the Plough is now. If you ever read this Alex, I hope you’re impressed. That’s one thing I really enjoyed this trip was the walk on deck to see the Milky Way and watch that green laser dart about the sky. So many other things too. Maybe they deserve a blog post of their own. Lastly, I must thank Scamp for putting up with my crabbit face and bad dancing. You made it all worth while. I thank you, love.

PoD was a merchant ship we chased and beat on the slow race to Malta.

Tomorrow will be a long day.

Split – Almost a dolphin – 13 August 2019

Because of our late departure from Venice and because, Cap’n Bob said, of traffic on the sea lane from Venice to Split, we were late arriving in Split. The sea was calm, almost flat calm and … was that a dolphin just breaking surface?

I got a lovely shot of where the dolphin had been, and maybe just the ghost of a grey object below the water, but it wasn’t until we were home that we found Scamp had actually captured one of the mammals with it’s fin just breaking the surface. A lucky shot, but luckys count.

We’d been to Split before and weren’t impressed. If you follow Game of Thrones, there are places you’d love here, be as we hadn’t ever watched a whole episode, it was just another ferry port to us. However as a preparation I’d watched a short YouTube video about the town and found that we’d missed the main part of the town, the new part, not the old town. We were berthed at the very edge of the dockside and had miles to walk in to town. Not that it mattered and we had all day to pass in this place and it was the last port on the trip, so we’d make the most of it and the heat. I found a tea shop, i.e. a shop that sold dry tea leaves. Got some Assam and some fruit teas too. Found some impressive looking wide piazzas and squares also an old elegant looking opera house. Lots of shops and then we were in to the old town with its teacup water fountain. The forum was mobbed. It seemed that everyone had decided to descend on it today. Maybe it’s like that every day. It looked very grand and the two punters dressed up as Roman centurions were doing a roaring trade fleecing the punters for €5 a time to get their photos taken with them. Walked through an old market area, had a beer in a dockside cafe and then back to the ship.

Spent the afternoon lounging on the balcony watching a group of boys daring each other to jump from higher and higher places on the cliffs into the sea. That and watching another group swimming with two dogs that seemed inexhaustible climbing on rocks and swimming. I must admit I was tempted to go for a swim myself. The water looked a beautiful green-blue colour. However, I left it too late and then it was time to leave Split for the long run down the Adriatic into the Mediterranean and on to Malta.

One final dinner in Cafe Jardin, but no dancing tonight. Already our thoughts were turning to the packing we’d have to start tomorrow, but not before we had a G&T on the balcony and watched the stars.

PoD was the Forum filled with people. Is this how it would have looked in Roman times? Probably something similar.

Tomorrow is a final sea day.

Venice – Breakfast on the balcony – 12 August 2019

Today was Venice and it was Scamp’s idea that brought breakfast to the balcony.

You get so used to the ridiculously expensive ‘opportunities’ from P&O, but not solely from them, others do it too. A couple of times we’ve had cards through the cabin door, or waiting on the bed telling us that we can have champagne breakfast delivered to our cabin for only £25 pp. They just become part of the background ‘noise’, simply ignored. Then you realise that you’re on your holidays and simple luxuries are there to be had at no extra cost. So it was that, on Scamp suggestion, we order a ‘normal’ breakfast to be delivered to our cabin for the sail in to Venice. Surely one of the great arrivals of the trip. We sat in comfort watching Venice slide past while we enjoyed our orange juice, cereal and pastry!

We’ve joined the crowd on deck on a couple of occasions watching the sail in and listening to the commentary, but it’s no fun trying to see over the heads of the three layers of people who were probably up at 5am staking their claim to an area of the ships rail. So much better to be sitting on your own balcony and watching without having to crowd with the great unwashed! The sail in took about an hour and a half and was orchestrated by two tugs at the front and one tug at the back of the ship just to make sure that no boats got crushed this time. It seems that this might be one of the last times a cruise ship will be allowed to sail past St Mark’s Square. Plans are afoot for a cruise terminal outside the city.

After our al fresco breakfast and the chance to watch this city slide past our balcony we joined the queue on the dockside for the water bus to take us to St Mark’s Square and Venice proper. The ten minute journey took us to just outside the square and dropped us in the University area. A short walk and there we were with the rest of the tourists. After a few wrong turns we found the canal side cafe that has become a traditional morning coffee and cannoli stopping point for us. Since we had only had a rudimentary breakfast we added a small pizza each to the menu and I had a Salt Beer which was very good. More like ‘heavy’ than lager.

Wandered around some more and Scamp got a bead for her Pandora bracelet. I saw some cute little goldfish bowls complete with goldfish, made entirely from glass. They were in varying prices, ranging from €30 to €10 the further you went from St Mark’s. Didn’t get one though. Saw a selection of bow ties too on the Rialto, but decided I could probably make one for a fraction of the price. Scamp liked a set of giraffes and I would have chosen two glass cats in a posh shop in the square, but there were no prices displayed! I think my favourite was a silk shirt for a ‘Special Price’ of €340 with a matching tie €50. I got neither, of course.

Got the water taxi back to the ship just as it was beginning to rain, another tradition in Venice. Due to sail at 5.30, but waited for over an hour to get clearance from the port authority and for the tugs to arrive so we could leave Venice for Split. Because we were so late leaving, the sail out wasn’t as dramatic as the sail in, but we sat there and watched it all flow past anyway.

PoD is a shot of a man collecting shellfish from the sandbanks at the start of the sail in. Just imagine as you go to work tomorrow that this bloke probably does this every day. Beautiful scenery, but backbreaking work.

Tomorrow it’s Split in Croatia. The last port on the cruise before Valletta in Malta.

Hvar – Pine trees, Cicadas and Staropramen – 11 August 2019

The only port where we had to use the tender.

If there’s one thing P&O are good at, it’s organising. Waited in a queue to collect our ticket for the tender which was really one of the lifeboats. About 15 minutes later we were called to board the Skylark. Just a ten minute jaunt to the harbour.

We walked around the bay and took a detour up through a sort of park with Corsican pines growing everywhere. We could smell the pine resin blowing in the breeze. We also found a Cicada on one of the trees, initially pointed out by an American man. You always hear cicadas in warm climates, but it’s rare to see one.

Walked on and found a posh hotel with a low level infinity pool. Turned back at this point and walked back by a lower path. Stopped at a cafe and had a bottle of Staropramen each, then a coffee. Nice wee place where you can watch the hundreds of wee boats in the harbour alongside enormous yachts. We watched a dog jump off a boat and paddle to the shore, almost beating the couple who were rowing to the shore from the boat. I’m guessing it was too warm to be a guard dog today. We got free WiFi at the cafe too. Not many places seem to have free WiFi these days, or at least I didn’t find any.

Back at the ship we saw the polis in a speed boat huckle some poor punter and his pals. At first we thought he’d been exceeding the speed limit in the bay, but it began to look a bit more serious and they weren’t for letting them go again. Never found the reason, but it certainly spoiled someone’s Sunday.

We decided to try dancing again because Roy & Andrea (the Lovely Jubbly dance teachers) had the night off and one of the entertainment team was playing the tunes. We asked for Desposito and danced a fairly decent Salsa to it. The girl playing the music complemented us on our Armography. I’m guessing it was a complement anyway! Lovely and Jubbly were watching too, but didn’t say much. I think it was a case of “We are not amused.”

PoD was the view from the cafe.

Things I remember about the pretty little town of Hvar:
You must not go topless in the town. That rule applies to both sexes.
The swimming dog
The smell of the pine resin
The Cicada
The old lumpy tree who’s trunk was held up with a wooden post.

It’s a nice quiet looking town and we’d go back there if we got the chance. However, not tomorrow, because that’s Venice!

At Sea – Lovely Jubbly – 9 August 2019

A sea day again.

At lunchtime we got to test out the skills of the new dance teachers. What could they teach us. They had big boots to fill. First off, they were English and had a totally different style. The bloke spoke very fast and gave the impression of being a bit nervous. The woman was much more self-assured and was obviously the brains of the operation. He did the talking, she did the thinking. They taught us the Social Foxtrot which we’d learned a long number of years ago and for some reason it had stuck in my mind. Something few dance steps do, so it was either memorable or simple! We didn’t go in the afternoon, already missing the dry humour of Stuart and Jane! Also the bloke’s constant repetition of “Lovely Jubbly” was becoming irritating.

Although there’s usually a lot to do on sea days, there’s not a lot to photograph. So, today’s PoD was a Royal Caribbean ship following us for a while.

Dinner was in the ‘council’ restaurant and although it was a ‘black tie’ affair with everyone dressed up, we had to wait for about half an hour for a table and then service was extra slow. Something is wrong with P&O. We think they have cut the staff and it’s beginning to cause problems. Lots of people are complaining about the time it takes to serve food. Lots of people are complaining about the difficulty in getting drinks in the bars, because waiter don’t seem to be interested in serving. Scamp thinks it’s linked to the drinks packages they sell. If they’ve sold a drinks package, the company already has your money in the bank, so they don’t need to work trying to sell you drinks. Makes sense. Also people are complaining about grumpy looking waiters and workers on the ship. If P&O are indeed cutting staff, then the remaining staff need to work longer hours for presumably the same wages. That leads to an unhappy workforce and an unhappy customer base. It’s a downward slope from there.

We danced for a while at night, but it wasn’t the same atmosphere and not the same music either. It sounded to me like midi tracks, or ‘Elevator Music’ as Scamp described it.

Never mind, tomorrow we’re in Dubrovnik.

Valletta, Malta – The Smug Smugglers – 8 August 2019


Today we woke to the sight of the Giraffe Crane. I think it had missed us.

After breakfast we walked along the front to the super-fast glass elevator that took us up to the viewing platform and the gun battery. We weren’t very interested in the gun battery, but we took some photos from the viewing platform, just for the sake of it.

Then we walked into the town. It looked a lot like the town we’d seen two years ago, but some things had changed. At the top of the main shopping street there was a fountain and an open tiled plaza where there had been a building site before. Also two very photogenic sets of steps were now complete where they had only gone half way up the last time.  Beautiful light on the sand coloured stone.

We stopped at a cafe for a drink and the owner(?) told me after a joke that he had been married for 47 years. I told him he was beating me by a year. We had a laugh. I had a beer and Scamp had a fresh orange juice. We paid our bill and said goodbye to the man with another joke.

We wandered round some more and Scamp was looking for somewhere for lunch. She found a little backstreet restaurant called D’ Office Bistro. I suggested Bruschetta to share as a starter and then we both had Chicken Caesar Salad. Scamp found they had a bottle of Rosé d’ Anjou on the menu, so we had that. The whole thing was gorgeous. Walked away feeling happy.

I wanted to buy some paint, Burnt Umber which is a dark brown that I use a lot. After just one wrong turning, I found the art shop I’d been in two years ago and got a tube of the paint and also a pan of Vandyke Brown which looked good. <I know this is nonsense to you, but it’s a reminder to me>.

I also wanted a cheap Malta tee shirt and Scamp wanted a coverall for when the sun gets too hot. I think the woman selling them diddled us, but that was probably ok. I needed some coffee too and found it in a wee shop down a side street. Next on my list was some electrical insulating tape and jewellers screwdrivers. The tape is to cover three little clips that keep stabbing into my fingers on my sporran. The screwdrivers are to fix the legs on my ’designer’ glasses which are the only pair I have left. My optician’s glasses broke a couple of days ago and refuse to go back together again. Hopefully I’ll have a pair to go back to from Simpsons. I found a wee ironmonger’s shop, again, down a side street and he had exactly what I wanted. Ironmongers shops are like hen’s teeth. When did you last see one? The owner was another character. He told me a story about his trip to Scotland and how he just had to get out of the car and stare at the scenery near Aviemore. He told me a good joke he read on a tea towel in Edinburgh too. Scamp reckons he’ll dine out on the story about the Scotsman who emptied his pockets and found that he’d just the right amount of money to pay for his tape and screwdrivers.

Back at the ship and in the duty free shop we took the risk and bough a bottle of gin, hoping we’d hit it lucky and get it past the guards. Got there and the scanner was covered up. Result! We will drink gin after all!

Scamp wanted to go back ashore to buy a wee dish she’d seen last week and we had a drink too. Scamp had a Rum ’n’ Coke and I had a very stiff Margherita. I could hardly walk back to the ship.

We dined at The Beach House tonight, which is the starboard side of Smash ’n’ Grab by day. My steak on a stone was good. My Hush Puppy starter tasted like … Well, let me put it this way, a pair of Hush Puppy shoes would have more flavour. The Key Lime Pie thing was much the same. Nice sorbet, but the rest had no taste. Through the middle of the meal we had to listen to boring Cap’n Bob’s lifeboat drill and I noticed that either he has a repetitive speech problem with some words or else it was the same speech as last week played back.

Tomorrow is a sea day with new dance instructors.

Heraklion – The Wee Train – 6 August 2019

It’s fascinating watching other people work, especially when you’re on holiday.

In the morning I watched a crane with grab loading scrap metal on to a ship. Maybe it’s a ‘man thing’, but I just found it fascinating. It wasn’t just the amount of scrap they dumped at a time, but also the delicate precision with which they could pick out a car tyre from the load that was dumped on the quayside and put it into another pile. Like I say, maybe it’s a ‘man thing’.

We walked in to to town of Heraklion, or rather, the Old Town. It didn’t seem like Rhodes, the other walled town we’d seen. This one seemed a bit more run-down.

After walking for what felt like miles we found a little train, a trolly train I think it’s called and it took us round the walls, in and out of most of the city gates, because it is a city, not a town.
It was quite dilapidated in places furthest from the sea. Lots of old crumbling buildings and football pitches with knee high grass.

We got off at the wrong stop which was supposed to be for a shopping centre. It didn’t look like one, it didn’t even look as if there had ever been one there, and had to walk for a bit in the hot sun. What we did find was an Italian cafe where we had an overpriced latte for Scamp and cafe freddo for me.

Walked round some ruined buildings with a new church in their midst and eventually found the town centre exactly where we’d got on train.
I got a tee shirt, probably the best one I’ve got so far
Scamp found an M&S! Demanded she have her photo taken outside it! She never asks for her photo to be taken outside Marks in Stirling or Glasgow. Maybe it’s a ‘woman thing’!

Cafe Jardin at night (second formal night). We both had risotto which was absolutely beautiful. This was the second menu.

Danced for a while, then off to bed after a wee G ’n’ T on the balcony watching the stars.

PoD was a steel cube on a plinth in a sort of town hall building. Couldn’t understand the significance of it, but very elegant building.

Sea day tomorrow.

Rhodes – City Walls and Giros – 5 August 2019

This city has walls to keep the dobbers out. A bit like Larky with sun.

We survived the winds and high seas last night and were ready to go adventuring. We got off the ship and went for a walk along the promenade then into the city through one of the gates. Inside was like a giant marketplace with shops, and restaurants. No pubs, but all the restaurants seemed to sell alcohol. It was quite a pretty place ins and little groups of trees to break the monotony. It was also full of people, lots of people. There seemed to be people everywhere. We stopped for a drink, because it was hot today. Scamp bought a table cover and I bought a dodgy looking Rhodes tee shirt to tick the box for buying a new tee shirt in every port we docked at. Bought it from a grumpy wee man.

We wandered round and round and always higher up the hill. Eventually we came to the road outside the city walls and then tried to find an alternative way back to the ship. We ended up going down the Street of the Knights which was an interesting street, very steep and with old renovated buildings on both sides. Lots of them with the original coats of arms of the knights who had stayed there. At the bottom of the street Scamp found a restaurant and we went there for lunch. She had Chicken Caesar Salad and I had Chicken Giros which is like pan fried pieces of chicken served with tzatsiki and a wrap. We’d been told to look for it somewhere in Greece years ago by, I think, a dance teacher. Both lunches were excellent. One washed down with a glass of white wine and one with red. Sat in the shade of trees outside it was lovely. If you’re ever in Rhodes I can recommend a good restaurant! Walked back down the road and finally came to the sea, from there it was a short walk to the ship. On the way we took photos of each of us at an arched window through the city walls, but we’d to wait for a couple of girls to finish their selfie poses first!

I did a bit of painting from the ship, but it started out well, then became muddy and eventually I gave it up as a bad job.

Cap’n Bob gave another of his doom laden messages this evening after we’d set sail. Oh, we’re sailing into a storm, with winds in excess of 40 knots! The seas are going to have waves 3m high! The Kraken will wake! Some areas of the ship will be locked off. Make sure you tie down all your valuables. He finished with “… and have a pleasant night on board Oceana.” Numpty.

PoD was a little lizard on the city walls.  I think it’s a Blue Tailed Skink.

If the ship survives the storm we’ll be in Heraklion tomorrow.

Mykonos – The walk of shame – 4 August 2019

Woke to find we were on the port side although we were on starboard last night. Curious!

When we looked out we were next to the dockside and looking out over a pretty little marina to the rocky and scrub covered hills behind with lots of little white houses dotted all over the place. A bit like Skye without the rain. When we walked down the gangway we were met by a long queue for the free shuttle bus to town. I made the corporate decision to go on the water bus to town instead. Paid our €4 and got on the little boat which was nearly full. A bit choppy going out past the harbour and a wee bit ‘rocky boats’ (Technospeak). Got to the tiny little harbour and walked out to more white painted houses. Some with blue doors and window shutters and a church with a blue domed roof. Very pretty. Very picturesque.

We wandered round the twisty turny streets of Mykonos and I found hundreds of photo opportunities at every corner. Finally reaching the three windmills that seem to be the icon for Mykonos. The little narrow cobbled streets are full of tourist shops. Most of them displaying no price tags. That’s a sure sign that the items are expensive. “If you need to know the price, you can’t afford it.” Up near the windmills there is a car park. Some of them have been there a long time, judging by the thickness of the dust on them and by the dates of comments and signatures on them. I added mine too! Just over the hill from the windmills is a little white walled church. More photos taken.

We stopped for a drink at a cafe near the windmills and I had another Cafe Freddo, not as good as the first, but that’s usually the way. After that we made our way back through the labyrinth and just missed the boat back to the ship. Sat in the sun and the strong wind and caught the next one. The sail back to the ship was more rocky and rolly than it had been going because we were sailing into the wind. The boat was rolling side to side and pitching forward and back at the same time. Interesting!

Back in plenty of time. Time to do a small painting. I wasn’t all that happy with it, but the Posca white brush pen worked well for placing the white houses on the hillside! Watched the mobs of travellers coming and going from the ferry port along the dock from us.

We should have been sailing at 4.30pm, but ever more frantic messages, firstly over the ship’s tannoy and finally into the cabins calling for two passengers, Jean and Derek Hart, to make themselves known to the reception told us that we wouldn’t likely be making that cut-off. Two large suitcases were unloaded from the forward gangway and dumped on the quayside. As the clock ticked around to 5.30, the dock gates were locked and it looked like we would be sailing without the Harts. Just when it seemed they’d given up hope of finding them, two folk ambled down the road to the locked gates and looked up at the crowds standing at the ship’s rail and on balconies. A great cheer, or should that be ‘jeer’ went up and the gates were unlocked which allowed the Harts to do the walk of shame, grab their cases and get back on board. I imagine Cap’n Bob would have met them at the top of the gangway with “Wait outside my room NOW!”

At 11.15pm I went up on deck with a crowd of others for an open air talk by an astronomer bloke. It was utterly fascinating as he pointed out constellations with a laser pointer. Saw the Milky Way, The Plough and loads of other stuff. Like I say, utterly fascinating.

It should be Rhodes tomorrow.