70th Cruise!!!

I can’t believe I’ve done so many, though have slowed down a lot since my 50th on Norwegian Breakaway in 2013. That’s due to work and ongoing health issues over the past couple of years so getting my priorities right since I pay for them myself. No bloggers freebies for me!

It’s hard to believe, when I started with a short trip on the QE2 in 2006, I would ever do so many. My dad certainly thought I’d grow out of it within a couple of years. Yet here he is sharing this milestone with me on what is his second cruise.

And what ship do I celebrate on? The appropriately aged 70 year old Astoria! 😍 It’s only an overnight, booked so my dad could try her while she’s around since, at that time, there were no 2019 cruises. It wasn’t originally the 70th but others kept being added before it so worked out that way.

Some people are sniffy about short cruises, saying it’s not “real cruising”. Tell that to the cruise lines who sell them and add them to your loyalty club points.

For many it’s all they can afford or have time to do due to commitments, while others just enjoy the break away. Three nights on Black Watch after a horrendously stressful year when my mum was dying and I needed surgery, was just what I needed. So don’t knock it, snobby people! A cruise is a cruise whether one night or a thousand.

But back to my milestone as I aim for my 100th. I’m glad it’s on the beautiful Astoria. I have often been asked which is my favourite ship but I like so many I’ve sailed on. It took 34 to finally find it. I cannot explain why she beats the rest but I certainly hope Cruise and Maritime Voyages continue to charter her until she cannot go on any longer.



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Travelling With A Stoma

Having a stoma, whether planned or not, can be a terrifying and daunting experience. You have to rethink your entire life, including diet, and can feel embarrassed by the bag.

Bums are one of the great taboos which we need to talk more about. People end up with a colostomy or ileostomy for a variety of reasons (cancer, ulcerative colitis, perforation to name three), which can be temporary or permanent and are nothing to be ashamed of.

“What would you know about it?” I hear you say. I know a hell of a lot, having had both colostomy and ileostomy since my bowel was perforated during a ‘routine’ 90 minute hysterectomy in August 2016 which took 4 hours due to a 29 year history (22 years diagnosed) of endometriosis.

And that’s why I’m writing this. I hope to be able to help based on my own experiences, since it took me a year before I would talk about my stoma publicly, while only very close friends and a couple of people at work knew.

Originally, at the beginning of September 2016, I ended up with a colostomy because my sigmoid colon had become infected and ruptured at home six days after my hysterectomy. This was my worst nightmare.

My paternal grandfather had bowel cancer and died aged 50 in 1969. My mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010 aged 64. He had bags. Hers didn’t spread and she died of strokes. Knowing I could get it at some point too, a bag terrified me. But here I was facing a fait accompli.

The bag, I was told, would be on for 6 months then reversed. It was something to look forward to!

If you’re squeamish or gag at certain smalls like me, this was an awful thing to deal with. Your diet goes out the window as certain things can cause blockages or the runs. After a while, you learn what you can and can’t have.

My stoma nurse, Nicola Patel, was absolutely amazing. She’s the one who decided whether I could cope sufficiently to go home and remained my nurse throughout. But when I saw her, it was only the second time I’d changed my bag myself in 13 days.

The first had been a baptism of fire that morning when the old one was falling off! There had been no nurse available over the weekend to help me as the ward had been incredibly busy. Nicky was happy and I went home.

My first bags were by Coloplast, which you changed when full. I didn’t have the confidence to empty any at that point. Also back then, the stoma team used Charter for prescription orders if you wanted free extras like disposible bags and hygienic wipes (not to be used on the stoma). If you preferred, you could get everything but those from your chemist.


Most items were provided by the stoma team while later, Charter sent a convenient travel pouch.



Anyone who has had a stoma knows you need to alter your diet to control output and the main fear is the bag coming off.

Pancaking is the worst thing. That happened to me a few times while out, including at my GP surgery, and is extemely embarrassing. Imagine that on your holiday, either waking up or while out. Absolute nightmare! I took to putting a towel on the bed but you still need to pack far more than you would normally in case of accidents.

The best thing I ever got was Brava Elastic Tape, which are extenders you place around the bag seal. If you also develop a parastomal hernia like me, these are priceless and help keep everything in place. There is still a risk of pancaking but less chance of the bag coming off at the top, especially in bed.

If flying, however, I’d have to pre-book an aisle seat close to the toilet in case of a quick dash. When flying to Barcelona on a Cunard charter flight, they put me in seat 1F after I had explained my problem, which I was very grateful for. Though, due to the constant delay with the reversal and repairing my parastomal hernia, I needed a seatbelt extension for the first time.

There is also the question of security at airports. In these heightened times of body scanners, do you tell them in case they think you’re trying to smuggle something under your clothes? Mistakes have been known to happen. I once had an envelope thought to be a Kindle so was pulled to one side. I tended to let them know. At Hamburg airport, I was taken to the side, asked where the bag was and patted down.

It was very different getting the temporary ileostomy after colostomy reversal in December 2017. You can have many more problems with foods than with a colostomy as it doesn’t digest as much so taking Dioralyte to replace lost minerals is a must. You really have no choice but to have bags you empty. Mine supplied by the hospital this time around were by Dansac and bloody awful. Despite a vent, it still filled with air.

The bags fill faster generally too, depending on what you eat. I had awful problems with tomatoes. Within an hour the bag was full of liquid. Imagine being sat on the bus and feeling it fill, wondering if it’s food, liquid or air, terrified it will come off. That happened to me in January as I was on the way to Queen Victoria for a cruise and had to change my clothes in Red Funnel because the air pushed it off around the top.

My problems didn’t end there. My case didn’t turn up and I desperately needed to change the bag a second time, as well as change my clothes. It turned out my luggage had been taken to cabin 2004 instead of 2014 so a quick change before muster was required. Thank goodness Cunard ships have launderettes!

The ileostomy bag also gave me awful skin problems I hadn’t had with colostomy ones. It was red raw and bleeding. Nicky suggested a convex to try and heal the skin with seals. Again it was the awful Dansac bags with rubbish vents.

I first tried it when I went to my friend’s for the weekend in Banbury and reluctantly came to appreciate these. The belt kept it securely on, making travel and more physical activity less of a worry. The Brava Elastic Tapes give you that extra bit of security. However, that trapped air is very frustrating. You’d have to keep having to open the bag to release it otherwise it would push the end open, which was a nightmare when I asleep.

Coloplast also have them, and I was given some to try as an alternative. They also can be used with seals and a belt.

Due to some security with the Dansac bags, plus the fact you actually needed to change it less often regardless of advice, I decided to stick with them. The longest I wore one was two weeks and only changed it when it was lifting off. My skin was so much healthier that way.

I had my ileostomy reversal in July 2018, ending 22 months of bags and everything that goes with it. You need to rethink your diet yet again, but I was never told what to expect or had a goodbye from my stoma team. I’ve been very lucky and, after constipation for the first 8 days, everything settled down really quickly, which my GP didn’t believe. I just have to be careful (so far) of decaffeinated coffee.

Don’t be ashamed of having a bag. It cannot be helped. Do what suits you best, ignore any ignorant people because they may end up with one themselves in the future and enjoy your holiday!

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Farewell Oriana

As everyone will know by now, Carnival Corporation, parent company of the P&O Cruises brand, have decided to sell their former flagship. To date, the name of the buyer nor what her purpose will be, haven’t been revealed just “Chinese cruising”, which could mean a casino ship for all we know, but I hope it’s not! Her predecessor had a static role there before a storm caused too much damage to repair and she was broken up. There will be no special farewell cruise for her successor, just the previously scheduled Norway & North Cape from 22nd July-9th August 2019, with everything to the end of March 2020 cancelled.

Oriana entered service on the 9th April 1995, based on the ships of the past, notably Canberra, and is the penultimate pre-Carnival P&O ship designed with British passengers in mind, with Aurora following five years later. She is the current holder of the Golden Cockerel as fastest ship, an honour she took from Canberra during a handover ceremony in Cannes during Canberra’s farewell cruise in 1997. With Carnival ordering eight 180,000gt ships for their AIDA, Costa, Carnival and P&O brands, her days were numbered, as are Aurora’s.

But I’m not going to voice my opinion on a business decision or reproduce the press release. Instead, I will focus on the ship itself and the happy memories I have of her, as a ship nut and passenger, with a photo blog featuring some of my favourite pictures taken over the years. So close the tab if you get bored easily as this is long to show her off in all her glory over the past 21 years I’ve been photographing and filming her.

When she arrived to a plethora of complaints of being “too big”, I was in the middle of no interest in ships due to more important things. It was Canberra’s imminent retirement which reignited my interest so the first time I saw her was 16th August 1997 when they both sailed from Southampton.

It wasn’t until 2005, I got my arse in gear and became more serious about ships since so many had gone I’d missed. One highlight was always when Oriana and Aurora were in together, which wasn’t often. There was no guarantee one would pass the other.

Aurora passing Oriana 10th May 2006

A bonus in 2006 as Oriana’s refit was an extra two days, meaning she met her sister again that year.

Aurora past Oriana 18th December 2006

Despite them being together in the interim, they hadn’t passed each other again until 2010.

Oriana sailing past Aurora 22nd July 2010

On the 17th December 2014, Aurora returned from refit sporting the new Union Jack bow and blue funnel. She was the first in service to get this, as Britannia had hers added in the shipyard. The following day, she met her sister, which really showed a contrast.

Oriana in old livery and Aurora in new livery 18th December 2014

Oriana in old livery and Aurora in new livery 18th December 2014

Oriana in old livery and Aurora in new livery 18th December 2014

The final time they will be together in their home port was the 21st March 2018. They had been scheduled to meet twice during 2019 – 16th August and 9th December but I doubt they’ll pay a week of port fees so the last P&O ships can say goodbye to each other.

Oriana and Aurora 21st March 2018

Oriana and Aurora 21st March 2018

Oriana and Aurora 21st March 2018

She was always magnificent from the water, the best way to photograph ships and I had my first in early 2008 as I returned on Aurora after the New Year cruise. We were early into Southampton due to weather, Oriana was late due to the same thing delaying her return that morning so we passed each other off Ryde as she sailed out.

From Aurora 7th January 2008

From Aurora 7th January 2008

One of the best was when I sailed on Artemis. We shared Mayflower Terminal, us checking in one side, Oriana’s passengers the other but we boarded via the dock as we were in berth 105. Being smaller, it made for great photos as we sailed first to turn then she slipped out resulting in us following.

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

From Artemis 10th May 2008

There was also the Hythe ferry, Hotspur IV. Unlike Great Expectations, she had a bow you could go on.

From Hotspur IV 23rd May 2009

From Hotspur IV 23rd May 2009

From Hotspur IV 23rd May 2009

She was ahead of us as Arcadia sailed into Southampton. Docking in QEII Terminal gave great photo opportunities as we headed to Ocean Terminal.

From Arcadia 2nd June 2010

From Arcadia 2nd June 2010

From Arcadia 2nd June 2010

Lit up at sea showed her in all her glory in the English Channel outbound from Southampton, especially with the buff funnel.

From QM2 15th December 2012

She was gorgeous in my favourite European port of Lisbon, especially as the sun went down, sailing out to the Atlantic.

From Vision of the Seas in Lisbon 28th October 2012

From Vision of the Seas in Lisbon 28th October 2012

Up close and personal in La Coruna as she docked next to us.

From Voyager in La Coruna 2nd May 2014

From Voyager in La Coruna 2nd May 2014

La Coruna 2nd May 2014

We were heading to Portsmouth the following day, Oriana to Southampton, but she was visible in the Bay of Biscay.

From Voyager in the Bay of Biscay 3rd May 2014

Three times during one cruise was excellent, I have to say. Barcelona, Gibraltar and home in Southampton at the end.

Barcelona 4th November 2017

From Queen Victoria in Barcelona 4th November 2017

QV_Oriana_02

From Queen Victoria in Gibraltar 9th November 2017

QV_Oriana_16

From Queen Victoria in Gibraltar 9th November 2017

QV_Oriana_21

From Queen Victoria in Gibraltar 9th November 2017

From Queen Victoria in Southampton 13th November 2017

From Queen Victoria in Southampton 13th November 2017

Oriana wasn’t my first cruise (6th). She wasn’t even my first P&O. That honour went to Aurora but just over six weeks after a short on Aurora to try her, it was her elder sister’s turn. Just two nights to Zeebrugge, but absolutely loved it.













I always intended to do a longer cruise but never got around to it. Instead, I only managed to do the Grand Event on her, but it was an unforgettable experience.

Grand Event Cruise 3rd July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Amsterdam 4th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Amsterdam 4th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Amsterdam 4th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Amsterdam 4th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Zeebrugge 6th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise, Zeebrugge 6th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 6th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 6th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

Grand Event Cruise 7th July 2012

If you have reached here, I applaud you. I’d like to end with the above mentioned Grand Event, when all seven of P&O’s current fleet made history in Southampton to celebrate the 175th anniversary. I had arrived on Ventura, did a harbour tour then boarded Oriana. You really had to be there to know how fantastic it was, despite the awful weather. Oriana had become an adults only ship by then and, even though it was just four nights to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge, it wasn’t your usual booze cruise. Most booked to be part of this unique event. The following photos are mine onboard Ventura, Ocean Scene and Oriana with the rest by my dad on Jurassic Scene as we all sailed.

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Grand Event 3rd July 2012

Oriana will be greatly missed and we can only hope her future role in China is a success.

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Passport Interviews

Getting a passport for the first time can be exciting. It opens the door to explore the world.

But what if you receive a letter asking you to attend an interview?

That’s exactly what happened to my dad. It wasn’t his first passport either, but his original one expired in 1985 so there was probably no record. Plus 33 years is a long time to wait for another!

We had a feeling this would happen. The birth certificate copy he had was issued in 1947 for the Family Allowances Act (1945) caretaker Conservative government brought in. As he was 5 years old, he has no idea what happened to his original one. The 1947 one was tatty, held together with Sellotape and practically illegible so a new copy was ordered.

Check and send at the Post Office is my usual method of applying, so we did the same for him with the birth certificate copy. It may cost a little more, but any mistakes on the form are dealt with quickly so it’s worth it.

The appointment was made. Thankfully, there are numerous local passport offices around the country so you no longer need to go to a major city like London. Ours is at Cosham, near Portsmouth, in a huge building at Lakeside North Harbour industrial estate. There are no buses except for employees early morning and from mid-afternoon. Taxis are available at Cosham station. Sally was the name of our driver and she gave me her mobile to call when we’d finished.

If you are delayed, you could be buggered. Our train was stuck at Fratton due to a broken down one ahead. I called the number on the letter since there wasn’t one to the local office. The gentleman on the other end kept repeating like a mantra, “You have ten minutes leeway. I cannot pass on your message but as it’s being recorded, they will know you called.” Fat lot of use that is! But we made it.

So you arrive at the vast building, sign in and go to the correct office. But how can you prove you are who you say you are?

Fact is, you can’t. They won’t accept any documents in case they’re forged. You just get taken to a room to chat for about half an hour.

My paternal grandparents both died when he was 8 years old so he dreaded being asked questions about them. Thankfully, they never really came up, he said, and he received a text a couple of days later saying his passport would be delivered within 48 hours.

Life’s never dull!

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Cunard Dress Code Changing? (Updated)

There has been no official announcement but cruises booked from mid-June 2018 no longer state Formal or Informal on the Voyage Personaliser.

As with Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line, Formal becomes Gala Evening while Informal is Smart Attire.

No surprise since Holland America Group has overseen Carnival UK (Cunard and P&O) since July 2017.

Transatlantic crossings on Queen Mary 2 will currently still have three Gala Evenings.

Holland America Line’s dress code is stated from their website as:

Most evenings smart casual attire is appropriate. Shorts, pool/beachwear, distressed jeans and men’s tank tops are best left to the daytime and are not permitted in fine dining restaurants.

Gala Nights evoke the grand traditions of cruising as guests dress to impress for special events on board, including our five-course gourmet dinner in the Dining Room. For gentlemen, collared shirts and slacks are required in all fine dining restaurants.

They also say jacket and tie is not required on Gala Nights, so Cunard’s version (when announced) will be interesting.

Changes have been afoot a while. Short breaks have been Informal only since before HAL Group came along.

Dress code is one of the hottest topics, moreso as cruising itself changes to try and attract new passengers.

Are Cunard “dumbing down” or should they move with the times? Have your say below.

Update – 28th March 2018

Cunard have said it is only a change of wording. I messaged for more information but at the time of writing, have not received a reply.

However, the Voyage Personaliser had a dress code update, including expanding areas where you were restricted to if you prefer to remain casual (many thanks to Mark Katzenberger from my Facebook group, Cunard Past, Present and Future for the following).

During the day, feel free to relax and dress as you please in all areas of the ship.

From 6pm on ‘Informal’ nights, we ask that you wear smart attire in most of our bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. On our much-anticipated Gala evenings, dress attire is Formal. We invite you to dress to impress and celebrate with us. There are two or three of these Gala evenings for every seven days of your voyage.

Informal/Smart Attire: Gentlemen, every night we request you wear smart trousers with a shirt and jacket; tie is optional. Ladies, blouses and skirts or stylish trousers and dresses are welcome.

Formal/Gala Evenings: It’s Showtime. Dinner jacket, tuxedo, or dark suit for the men with a regular tie or bow tie. Evening or cocktail dress, smart trouser suit, or formal separates for the ladies please.

Of course, if you prefer to spend your evenings in more relaxed attire, feel free to dress casually as you visit any of the following venues: Kings Court or Lido Buffet, Golden Lion, Casino, Carinthia Lounge, Winter Garden/Winter Lounge and G32 or Yacht Club. Non-ripped jeans are appropriate, but please refrain from wearing shorts, sports attire, swim wear or sleeveless t-shirts outside of the gym, spa and deck spaces.

Update – 29th March 2018

Cunard have got back to me. This is what they say:

We have completed extensive global research with over 13,000 guests who told us that they love the glamour of a Cunard voyage; the chance to dress up is something that is becoming increasingly rare yet increasingly desirable.

We are not making any changes to the dress code, just simply updating the language that we use to describe the evening attire on board.

Informal/smart attire will be shirt and jacket for gentlemen, tie optional. Blouses, skirts or stylish trousers for ladies, with dresses optional. For formal/gala nights, it’s showtime! Dinner jacket, tuxedo, or dark suit for the men with a regular tie or bow tie. Evening or cocktail dress, smart trouser suit, or formal separates for the ladies.

Posted in Carnival Cruise Lines, Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Shipboard Announcements

We’ve all been there. They say announcements won’t be in your cabin due to privacy and if you want to hear them, turn on whatever. Fair enough for things like bingo but what of the important ones?

The one thing I’ll never understand is why missing passenger calls before sailaway or when people are asked to go to reception due to some issue are ONLY in public areas.

Mr Smith from cabin 5315 could be asleep or in the shower and not realise they believe he’s not onboard. Money is wasted hanging around past the departure time due to them not checking properly everyone is accounted for.

Privacy is one thing but passenger call announcements SHOULD be everywhere regardless.

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Astoria Cruise – Rouen to Tilbury

We had a full day in Rainy Rouen as we’d be sailing at 1.15am for Honfleur the following morning. I had arranged to meet my good friend Marie Mariani after 12pm so had a wander. I had been twice before (the second time to meet up with Marie) but I love the place.




Then we had lunch at La Petite Bouffe, which is popular with students at lunchtime then turns into a restaurant at night. Both our delicious meals came to just €12.50.


I returned to the ship in time for afternoon tea while Marie went back to the cathedral.


The show after dinner was Around the World, which was brilliant. I’d love to know where the dancers get their energy from. We later sailed in the pouring rain.



I had a lazy day in Honfleur since the following day would be a long one getting home. We had received a letter explaining any unused money from the lost Amsterdam day would be refunded but still people weren’t happy and removed gratuities. Lunch in the dining room was interesting as our view, due to tide, was the dock wall. It rained most of the day but was sunny when we left 45 minutes late, the same time Peter Knego’s lecture started. We waited for a small cargo ship to pass then two tankers which were miles away. If that had been Southampton, we’d have gone between them. AIDAperla was docked in Le Havre.




Peter Knego lecture





AIDAperla


Mike, me and Peter Knego by the original Stockholm bell which went down with the Andrea Doria after their collision in 1956.


It was the Baked Alaska parade with sparklers during dinner. Then comedian Gerry Graham was on again. I went to bed after that.

Gerry Graham as Max Wall

Morning and we were late. We had a medivac during the night and pulled into Calais. Someone had been taken ill during dinner resulting in the doctor being called, so we naturally wondered if it was them. Our 8am arrival was now 10.30am but we still had to be out of the cabin by 7.30am. I spoke to Julie and had permission to stay longer due to the stoma. Carol sat at my table for breakfast then we went to the lounge after I collected my stuff.





Then it all became farcical. Several people on the transfer coach to Victoria had connections but certainly weren’t a priority despite paying for it. Self-disembarkation went first, many of whom had cars or lived locally. Then Gold Columbus Club members. Coach was third and we finally left the terminal at 11.25am. It was a different company to our arrival. The driver had only been told that morning he was doing it and had been waiting since 10.15am. I was on the noon coach to Southampton, Carol the 12.30pm to Chippenham. Another lady was going to Edinburgh. Going by last year when the return journey had taken less time, Carol and I rebooked our respective coaches for one hour later. Things were going really well until the Embankment which is 10 minutes away in good traffic. There was an organised protest in Parliament Square which no one told the driver about so he could avoid the area. We finally arrived 2 hours after setting off so missed more connections.

Now we had been given a letter for National Express by Mark, the Guest Service Host, after we had said about losing money. It wasn’t exactly common knowledge surprisingly. Despite handing it over at Victoria, I was charged £5 to change my ticket while Carol had to buy a new one.

All in all, despite things beyond their control and extra expenses, I had a bloody great cruise on my favourite ship and cannot wait to go back.

Posted in AIDA Kreuzfahrten, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Cruises | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment