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Independence - 14th-28th July Med - Live(ish) Blog


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16 minutes ago, twangster said:

In the terminal do you recall seeing various queues for different C&A levels?  Was there a separate entrance for suites?  Very much of a waiting area once checked in?

It's not that important, just trying to discern any differences how Southampton is operated.

There were separate queues for platinum and above - they were even taken out of the line that was outside the terminal building and taken straight to the front of that queue. Think suites were also a part of that. 

There is a fairly sizeable waiting area once you're checked in with a kiosk to get drinks but we were straight on to the ship after check-in so can't confirm if there was a separate lounge for higher tiers/suites. 

 

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Happy Cruising hayley_bopp, following with interest as were on Indy in a couple of weeks and it’s our first ever cruise. 

I was just wondering what the plug situation was on like board - Is it both European and US sockets? 

Also did you embark as per your arrival appointment - our set sail pass says 11:30 till 12 and whilst I’ve read on hear a few times that this is just a suggestion it says in the ticket booklet that due to limited seating any guests arriving before this time will be asked to return at their assigned check in time. 

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On 7/14/2018 at 5:22 PM, Wilmsta said:

I was just wondering what the plug situation was on like board - Is it both European and US ?

Mainly US but there is one European socket by the dressing table. 

On 7/14/2018 at 5:22 PM, Wilmsta said:

Also did you embark as per your arrival appointment - our set sail pass says 11:30 till 12 and whilst I’ve read on hear a few times that this is just a suggestion it says in the ticket booklet that due to limited seating any guests arriving before this time will be asked to return at their assigned check in time. 

No - our assigned time was 2pm but we were at the terminal at 10:55 and were straight on. 

 

I think you've chosen a great ship for your first cruise. Have fun!

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Embarkation Day - Concluded 

I promised a Live(ish) blog because  I don't plan to greet Voom as I can use my normal phone package in European port s so updates will only be on port days. Anyway, now that we're docked in Gibtaltar,  I can fill you in on what's happened since we set sail:

We were late to sailaway by almost an hour as apparently there was a lot of baggage to get loaded. It didn't matter though as the drinks were flowing and the sun was shining. 

As we sailed past the Isle of Wight,  we spotted the brand new £75 million super-yacht Elandess which is owned by Lloyd Dorfmann, the owner of Telex and was launched a coupleof weeks ago. 

After sailing past that,  we headed back up to the cabin where our bags had arrived did we were able to unpack and change for dinner. 

We then headed down to the Ale & Anchor Pub for a pre-dinner drink. There was a guy playing piano on the promenade - kind of a 'duelling pianos' style but there was only him playing. 


At 8:15 we strolled down towards the dining room but the doors were closed so we thought we might as well grab a drink from the champagne bar to take in with us; cucumber martini might be my new favourite drink. 

On this cruise we've gone for late traditional dining. Our table is in deck 4, on the port side right next to the balcony and has a great view of what's going on in the restaurant. We're at a table for 6 but none of our tablemates showed up lastnight. We had a great dinner regardless and or waiter Johnson and assistant waiter Brendan were very friendly. 

After dinner we had a couple of drinks in the Schooner bar singing along with the piano. We then went up tothe Royal Promenade to watch the Olympia Parade which we didn't really understand the significance of  but the costumes and the person on stilts were impressive. 

After that it was time to call it a night ready for our first Sea day. 
 

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Day 2 - Sea Day

We got up nice and early as I'd booked in for the 7:30am yoga class in the gym. It cost $12 +18% gratuity. I love yoga and have been practising it for several years so thought it would be an energising way to start my day. The class was ok; it was a more static style than I'm used to and the instructor didn't seem very experienced as his postures weren't very good but I've got enough experience so that I was able to get a good workout. Holding the poses whilst on a moving ship was also a lot more challenging than doing it on land! (Although the after-effects of the drinks package might also have played a part in that!) I've signed up for tomorrow's class as well but I'm not sure whether or not I'll go yet - you don't get charged unless you acrtually attend so I've got nothing to lose by not going. 

After yoga it was time for breakfast in the Windjammer. It was 8:30 and although it was busy, there were plenty of seats. We then got some coffee from Cafe Promenade before going to collect tickets for the 2 different ice shows that will be performed during or cruise. 

It was then time top head up to the Solarium to relax and have a nap. 

Lunch was at the WJ. We got there at about 13:15 and it was very busy but we managed to find a table after one lap and there was still an amazing variety of food - nothing seemed to be running out. 

We then went back to our cabin to relax before our Wine Tasting event. This was held in the deck 3 MDR and was hosted by one of the 5 wine waiters they have onboard - 3 work in the MDR and 2 in Vintages. We got to sample 2 whites, 2 reds and a sparkling which is made by Chandon especially for RC. The tasting was accompanied by a selection of cheeses and fruits to complement the wines and we were told how to properly smell and taste the wine. There were about 30 people attending the event. Most on tables of 2 but we were on a shared table. It was a fun, informative event and a good opportunity to speak to some other passengers. I'd booked this in advance via the cruise planner and I think it cost £13 per person. 

After the wine tasting we went to Playmakers to watch the first half of the world cup final before going to watch Strings Ice Show in Studio B. The show was fantastic - it amazes me how they can do the stunts they do on such a small rink. It was also incredible how the violinist walked on the ice in incredibly high heels. 

It was then time to get ready for formal night. We went to the Captain's gala on the Royal Promenade and were impressed to see Captain Teo descend from the heavens to the tune of Skyfall. Unfortunately they didn't give numbers of passengers and nationalities onboard etc. When we boarded it said the cruise was sold out but our waiter told us they're not at full occupancy although they were on  the last cruise. 

Dinner was in the MDR and this time 2 of our 4 tablemates also showed up. They're a couple about our age from Ireland and they were really good company. 

After dinner we grabbed an espresso martini from the Champagne Bar and took that into the Theatre to watch a tribute band called The Take That Experience. They're a tribute to Take That who were a 'boy band' who were huge when I was a teenager (think New Kids on The Block era-ish) and who reformed about 6 years ago and have had even bigger success. The tribute band were fantastic and had everyone waving their hands in the air and clapping along. 

With that it was time for bed ready for our 2nd sea day. 

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Day 3 - Sea Day

Today was a very relaxed day. We got up early to use the gym (I decided not to go to yoga) before breakfast in the WJ and then coffee from Cafe Promenade. Then we headed up to the pool deck for a game of mini-golf. There were lots of people playing but it was easy to get the equipment and we only had to wait for a couple of minutes for our turn to start playing. Husband was convinced her would beat me but in the end the score was 28 to him, 23 to me! 🏆 I'm sure I'll be challenged to a rematch at some point. 

We then continued the games theme with a couple of rounds of shuffleboard where we won one game each- this tournament will definitely be  continued...

Bolero's was next for a drink and watching the start of one of the art auction. 

Lunch was in the MDR today where they had a hot buffet as well as the Tutti Salad station and menu offerings. I had the salad and husband had the hot buffet. 

Next we headed to the pub for some afternoon music and a drink but the music wasn't very good so we took our drinks out to the promenade deck and found a seat out there in the sun. 

When we lost the sun over the top of the ship, we headed back to the cabin for a nap. Then at about 4pm, we went up to the Solarium to have a dip in the hot tub (grabbing an ice-cream as we passed the soft-serve station). It was our first time in the cantilever hot tubs and it was a good experience. The water was also hot instead of lukewarm which was nice. We then managed to find a lounger in the sun for me and one in the shade for my husband and we relaxed with a lavaflow with Kraken rum for a while before going to get changed for dinner. 

Before dinner, we met up with our tablemates for the general knowledge quiz in the Schooner Bar where we did terribly scoring only 6/20! Dinner again was in the MDR and our other 2 tablemates are still MIA. 

After dinner there was an adult comedy show in the theatre with a comedian called Josh Daniels. He was very good doing usual stand-up as well as playing guitar and singing entertaining parodies. 

After that it was time for bed ready for our first port day in Gibraltar. 

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Was Really enjoying your blog until you mention the fact you went for coffee!!!!!

Shocked ! Even dissapointed ! 😉

Us brits have a reputation for being hardened drinkers and your letting the side down 😂

Joking apart, glad to see you are your other half are having a great time enjoy the rest of your cruise and stay off the coffee 🙂

 

🥂🍻🥂

 

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9 hours ago, Ray said:

Was Really enjoying your blog until you mention the fact you went for coffee!!!!!

Shocked ! Even dissapointed ! 😉

Us brits have a reputation for being hardened drinkers and your letting the side down 😂

Joking apart, glad to see you are your other half are having a great time enjoy the rest of your cruise and stay off the coffee 🙂

 

🥂🍻🥂

 

Would it make you feel better if I told you they do several alcholic coffees? 😅

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Day 4 - Gibraltar 

Today was our first port stop after 2 days sailing from Southampton. The weather during the first 2 days as you sail down past France and Portugal is often on the cold side but it has been glorious so far. The captain said he has never seen the Bay of Biscay, renowned for being choppy, so flat. 

We decided not to go to the gym today as we knew we'd be doing plenty of walking in Gibraltar and because the clocks had gone forward an hour overnight, we decided to lie in until 8am and then go for breakfast in the MDR buffet. It was quite busy with a queue at the door but we waited less than a minute before being taken to a table for 2. 

By the time we'd finished breakfast we were approaching Gibraltar so we went out on deck and after a slight technical issue (due to user error) I managed to periscope some of our arrival. 

We were scheduled to be cleared for disembarkation at 11:30 but we were early and were cleared by about 10:45. We'd planned it so that we'd go back to our cabin and collect our things once we'd heard the announcement to disembark thereby giving the queues a chance to die down. This strategy seemed to work well as we were able to walk straight off the ship  and through  the terminal without queuing at all. 

Once outside the terminal there was a long line for the shuttles into town (£4/€6pp return) and as it's only about a 15 minute walk we used Shanks' Pony to get us there. 

Having done a minivan tour of the rock and St. Michael's Cave during our previous visit, we'd decided to visit the  siege tunnels this time. A very helpful lady at the Tourist Info desk in the terminal had given us a map and marked the route to walk, along with where to get on and off the bus should we decide to do that, and told us where to get tickets. The walk up to the ticket office took about 45 minutes and involved climbing a LOT of steps; being built on the side of a big rock means that many of the streets in Gibraltar are VERY steep and some pedestrian footpaths are just steps (similar to San Francisco). Although it was hard work, it was nice to see all the quaint little houses and side-streets. 

The place to buy tickets was at the Moorish Castle. It cost £12/€14pp and that got you entrance to the castle, the siege museum (not really a museum, more of an informative display), the siege tunnels and  St Michael's Cave. Each of these is spread out along the roads in the nature reserve that makes uo the top of the rock and it probably took us a total of 30 mins more to walk up to the siege tunnels (we didn't go to St Michael's Cave) although there were places to stop and take in the view along the way and even an ice-cream van for some well-earned refreshment at one point. 

The tunnels themselves were very impressive, especially considering rhe fact that they were hand-carved during the 18th century. It took about an hour to see all of the tunnels and it was beautifully cool in there after the heat od the climb (equivalent to 98 floors of stairs accordingto my fitbit!). We felt it was excellent value and a great option for our time in this port. 

After making our way back down to the town, we headed to the main square, Casemates Square, for a drink and a snack before making our way back to the ship. 

As all aboard was at 4:30pm, the WJ was closed due to the staff getting it ready for dinner so we went to Sorrento's to grab a slice of pizza to keep us going until dinner time. There was a bit of a queue, although only about 6 or 7 people infront of us but one of the servers came along the queue with plates loaded up with either cheese or pepperoni slices so we grabbed one of those each. 

Then we headed out on deck for Sailaway. I tried to show some of the inside of the ship but I lost signal as I'm only using my phone's data. I've decided I'm going to invest in 1 or 2 days of Voom at some point as I'm enjoying Periscoping and want to be able to show inside the ship. 

After Sailaway, we  headed up to the Solarium for a dip in the pool to cool off. 

As we were tired following 3 late nights and 8 miles of walking in Gibraltar,  we decided to go to the WJ for dinner. I think we on my went once for dinner on our previous cruise but we were impressed. There was a great variety of food and it was a surprisingly calm environment (we were there at 7:30). I then got a chocolate martini from the champagne bar and took it into Playmakers (husband prefers IPAs) and we sat watching some Red Bull mountainbiking. Both feeling tired, we headed up to Cafe Promenade for me to grab a  hot chocolate (can you see a theme developing?!) and some cookies to take up to the cabin where I sat on the balcony reading tomorrow's cruise compass and watching dolphins leaping right out of the water!

Tomorrow is another sea day as we sail up the eastern coast of Spain towards the south of France. 

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Day 5 - Sea Day

Another sea day saw us uo early to headto the gym before enjoying an a la carte breakfast in the MDR along with a Mimosa (gotta do it at least once on holiday in my opinion). Then we carried on our shuffleboard tournament (I'm now trailing by 1 game 😡) before going  to the suite life presentation as husband wanted to find out about the suite perks. None if it was news to me thanks to all of the great info on this site but husband would now like to try a suite 👍

Lunch today was at Fish & Ships. Despite being able to get excellent fish & chips at home,  and it not being my favourite food, we'd decided to try it at some point on the cruise 'in the name of research' and today they had it for half price between 12:00-16:00. I had scampi, husband had fish & chips. It was pretty nice but I wouldn't be in a rush to have it again. 

We then went to the theatre to watch tge film 'The Darkest Hour' about Churchill's early days as Prime Minister during WW2. About 30muns into the film, an announcement came over the PA instructing the 'Mobilisation Unit' to go to deck 4/5 forward in 'full gear'. Not long after that, we felt the  ship turn sharply. When we came out of the theatre about 1.5hrs later, there was a helicopter hovering at the front of the ship and someone was winched onto it on a stretcher. The captain had actually tunred the ship right round and we could see the coast of Mallorca to the port side so I assume that's wherr the helicopter was from. I'm not sure what happened - at dinner, our waiter said someone was unconcious and not breathing but they'd had a report from the hospital to say they are gong to be ok which is a relief. 

After enjoying some music and a drink in Bolero's, it was thine to get ready for our second formal night. We went to Vintages for a glass of wine before dinner in the MDR. There was no free lobster- maybe this is just a Caribbean itinerary thing?

After dinner we had a couple of drinks whilst listening to Piano-oake in the Schooner bar with our tablemates. 

Tomorrow we'll be in Villefranche on the Cote d'Azur from where we'll be visiting Nice. 

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Day 6 - Nice

Today we're docked in the beautiful port of Villefranche-sur-Mer on the south of France's Cote d'Azur. From here it's possible to visit Nice, Monaco and Cannes; we'refreshing been to Monaco we're visiting Nice. 

After breakfast in the MDR buffet, we head to go to the theatre to meet our tour. We'd booked the 'introduction Nice' tour through RC. This simply involved a coach transfer to Nice with some commentary about the history etc on the way. I'm not sure ofthe exact price but our was about £40pp. It probably would've been cheaper to go by private  taxi as it's only about 30mins away from the ship, but the traffic can get pretty bad on this stretch of coastline so I felt happier being on RC's bus. In fact, when we visited Monaco previously, our tour was back late because of the traffic and we were back later than the advertised 'last tender' but our wasn't a problem for us as it was an RC tour. 

We had to wait in the theatre for about 5mins for a tender to become available, then we were on our way. The tender ride is only short - about 10 mins, but it's a nice chance to take in the views of the stunning scenery and super-yachts in the harbour. 

From the cruise terminal, there is a very short but steep walk up to the citadel where the coaches park - how they manoeuvre through the tiny lanes with cars parked either side I'll never know. Then we settled back to enjoy the views on the short drive to Nice. 

Our drop-off point was next to the Albert I park on the Promenade d'Anglais. This was right next to a little tourist train that does a 1hr tour of the city with pre-recorded commentary including taking you to the top of the 92m high Mont Boron for €10pp. There was a train about to leave so we hopped on for the tour. It was a good value option especially for the views over the city from the top of Mont Boron. 

After the tour, we had a wander around the old told and bought a couple of souvenirs and a bottle of wine to take home. We then had a very delicious (if expensive!) lunch as one of the pavement-side restaurants.

We then had a stroll through one of rhe parks before heading back to the promenade. We had 44mins left before having to get our return transfer but it was extremely hot - 34 degrees - and there was little shade to be had anywhere. We spotted a rickshaw that did tours for €15 pp for 30 mins so we jumped on as it was a good way to get out of the sun, generate a refreshing breeze and see a bit more of the city. It was such good fun, if a little hairy, as the driver took us down really narrow streets chock full of pedestrians. In hindsight,  we'd have preferred to have done a longer rickshaw tour rather than the train tour but both were good experiences. 

The driver dropped us off at our bus stop right on time for our return transfer. After a short drive, we were back at the cruise terminal where we were greeted by RC staff had out cold towels and complimentary ice-cold water and flavoured water.  We only waited for a few minutes for a tender and then we were back on board. We grabbed a frozen mocha each to cool down and headed up to our cabin for husband to check his eyelids for holes whilst I sat on the balcony watching some of the super-yachts sail out. 

Sailaway took us past the St Jean Cap Ferat peninsula which is the 2nd most expensive residential area in the world after Monaco. As we sailed past, we saw The Grand Hotel (the big ehite building on the cliff in the photo) where a room will cost on average a mere €2090 per night!

As we headed back out into the Med., we could see the Seabourn Encore and a Viking (possibly the Orion) in the distance sailing away from Monaco. 

We then got changed before heading down to Bolero's for a pre-dinner drink. Dinner tonight was in the MDR where I had the Lasagne which was DELICIOUS! Then we had a stroll round the promenade deck before heading to rhe Schooner bar for a nightcap and a sing-a-long. 

Tomorrow we'll be in Civitivechia where we plan to stay onboard as we're not visiting Rome. Apparently there'll be several other ships in port with us too so I'm hoping to get a good look at them. 

 

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