Celebrity Eclipse 2012
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Celebrity Eclipse at anchor in stunning Geirangerfjord
Itinerary Show Map = ports at anchor
Friday 4th May-Southampton, UK
Saturday-at sea
Sunday-Bergen, Norway
Monday-Flam, Norway
Tuesday-Geiranger, Norway
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-Oslo, Norway
Friday-at sea
Saturday 12th May-Southampton, UK



There were 7 of us on this trip and the others had never been to Norway before. But for me, this was another voyage into my own past, to places I first visited 28 years ago in 1984 aboard QE2.

The photos of Celebrity Eclipse & all the ports visited on this cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

Click the link to follow our adventures as posted on-line, or read on....

Friday 4th May
Embarkation in Southampton
"Free Parking" - a Badly-managed Nightmare!
For a nice change, there was no need to leave at an unearthly hour but after a 2-hour road journey, it was disappointing to be marshalled in a 35 minute queue to unload the car, simply because the Port Authority provided too few porters and the process was too slow. What was more frustrating was that it was all unnecessary, as the parking area was quite close to the Terminal and we could easily have walked our luggage from the car - as indeed we had to when we disembarked 8 days later!

But once inside the City Cruise Terminal, check-in was fast and painless, especially aided by "Priority Boarding" (one of our many "perks"), although Andrew & I were the last to join the others at our pre-arranged meeting-place in the Oceanview Cafe, today unusually crowded with new passengers.
(right) The vast servery of the Oceanview Cafe on Deck 12 - but without the people!
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Our Accommodation
As there was an odd number of us, Andrew, Gerry & I decided to share a Suite, as it was cheaper than the alternatives. But it was also fortunate that we had a late opportunity to upgrade to a larger S1-grade corner suite because even with the 3rd bed made up, it proved quite spacious.

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S1-grade Sky Suite #2146 The Balcony P&O's Aurora (76,152grt)
follows us down the Solent
Polish Navy Transport Ship "Torun" off Cowes

Surprisingly though, wardrobe space was not over-generous for 3 adults, but with less luggage than usual(!), it worked out OK and the benefits included complimentary champagne, hors d'oevres every evening and a Butler (Robert) who delivered a "trolley-service" Afternoon Tea every day!

A Note of Caution!
This wasn't actually our first time in a suite, however, as Gerry & I had shared an S2-grade Suite on this very ship 2 years ago. But on that occasion, we had been beset with noise at night from the Oceanview Cafe on the deck above. Consequently, this time we made sure that the location of our suite was NOT directly underneath the Cafe!

So after Boat Drill, we all met in our suite for "Sailaway" Drinks and settled into Cruising Mode!

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Our table for 7 was in a splendid position and we immediately felt at home in familiar surroundings. Vincent, our principal steward, did an excellent job too, considering that his regular assistant was off ill for the first 3 nights!

The surprise, however, was the new menu!
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Recently "refreshed" with new dishes, there were fewer choices than previously (cutbacks?), although each evening's menu was still supported by a fixed menu of "Celebrity Favorites" and taken together, the selection was still very impressive. Celebrity Favorites Menu >>, First Night's Menu >>

There was nothing wrong with the quality of the food either - for me, a crisp Shrimp & Avocado starter, followed by a gorgeous Forest Mushroom soup and a mouthwatering Prime Rib - really good!

Saturday 5th May
Crossing the North Sea
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Caught-out by the Clocks!
All 3 of us were caught-out this morning by the clock change last night; after 29 years practice, you'd think I'd know better but you don't get those nice little cards on your bed any more and the notice was in today's programme rather than yesterday's, so if you didn't read today's programme before going to bed last night (which none of us did!), you didn't find out until this morning! (I believe the clock notice is also usually on the TV but our bedroom steward Mario forgot to leave it on the correct channel!)

The Solarium Pool was this morning populated by "floating islands" of elderly ladies, which made swimming something of a challenge but the water was lovely, as was the unexpected sunshine, which appeared on and off throughout the day, even though it remained quite cold.

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Relax! Special Coffees
in Cafe al Bacio
Bistro Lunch
Crepe Mediterranean
Apple Martini
in the Martini Bar

Special (alcoholic!) coffees were the next feature of the day, followed later by lunch in the Bistro on Five, which specialises in crepes. The Bistro Menu >> The additional $5 cover charge would be more justified if the food was served piping hot, which it wasn't, unfortunately. Afternoon Tea was later served by Robert the Butler "en suite" but at 5pm, it was Martini Time! Show Group Photo Full Size

Football!
This evening was the FA Cup Final back home between Liverpool and Chelsea and Peter and Frank went off to watch it on TV in one of the Bars. Meanhwile, the rest of us met for drinks in the somewhat crowded Passport Bar. Chelsea won 2-1 by the way!

We then assembled for our Formal Group Photo, followed by another splendid dinner. Dinner Menu >> Poor Vincent had another temporary assistant tonight and I noticed that we were being given extra attention by the Assistant Maitre d' Pavel, who proved to be really quite good. I had Crab-stuffed Mushroom Caps (from the Favorites Menu >>) followed by Duck a l'Orange and Cherries Jubilee. Very nice!

The Show "Edge"
My previous recollection of this evening's "spectacular" show "Edge" was quite good when we saw it 2 years ago but tonight's performance reduced it to a disappointing mish-mash of songs and lacklustre dancing. Just as well we only went for the free glass of champagne for the "Captain's Toast"!
(right) The Eclipse Theatre occupies 3 decks and seats more than 1,100
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Sunday 6th May
Bergen, Norway
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Ships from the south usually pass beneath both the Sotra Bridge (built in 1972) and the Askoy Bridge (opened in 1992) but clearance under the Sotra Bridge is only 50m, so Eclipse had to come in the long way round from Hjeltefjorden to the north. Even so, she only just squeezed under the 62m clearance of the Askoy Bridge!
(above) 62m clearance under the Askoy Bridge (1992, Main Span 2,789ft (850m)) while beyond is the smaller Sotra Bridge (1972)


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Mt Floyen &
The Funicular Railway
The Approach to the City of Bergen
with Mt Floyen and the Funicular Railway on the left
Cold winds from the Mountains!

It was grey and overcast for our arrival and there was a bitter wind blowing down from the mountains but with no organised tour today, we were in no rush and the sun had come out by the time we took the shuttle-bus into town, where we all headed for the Floibanen, the Funicular Railway.
(right) Lille-Lunegardvann, Bergen with Mt Floyen & the Floibanen (Funicular Railway) behind
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The Floibanen
The Funicular Railway
Bergen from Mt Floyen
(320m - 1,050ft)
The Woods
of Mt Floyen
Andrew & new friend "Inga" aka Lesley! (Andrew's Photo)

The new scenic trains give a great view, as they make the short but steep climb to the viewing area on Mount Floyen at 320m (1,050ft). But it wasn't long before the skies darkened again and those cold winds we felt earlier brought snow flurries in on us and that put and end to that!


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The Bryggen (wharf)
Once home of the 14th century Hanseatic Merchants
The Sailors Monument
in Torgalmenningen
Trollfjord
A "Hurtigruten" ferry

Even so, by the time we got back down into the town, the sun had come out again - such is Bergen! We explored the preserved wooden buildings of the Bryggen, the old Hanseatic Merchants' wharf dating back to the 14th century, before returning to the shuttle-bus and the ship.

It was a lovely, lazy afternoon, with tea delivered by Robert the Butler, then Martinis at 5pm before an evening crowned with another excellent dinner. Tonight's Menu >> The "Caribbean" Cod Fritters were fiery(!) but the Chickpea-Tomato Soup was really nice and the Pan-seared Trout was excellent!

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Monday 7th May
Flam, Norway
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During the night, we cruised up the coast and into Sognefjord, the longest fjord in Norway, cutting as much as 127 miles (205km) inland. Flam lies at the head of Aurlandsfjord, one of its main branches and we awoke to a "toy trainset" landscape of snow-capped mountains and a neat little port and railway station almost too perfect to be real.


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The Railway Station The Flam Valley
from the train
Kjosfossen Falls Vatnahalsen Hotel
A stop for coffee & waffles!

The Flam Mountain Railway
The Flamsbana is the steepest conventional traction railway in the world. It rises 863m (2,831ft) in just 20.2km (12.5 miles) and takes about an hour through spectacular scenery, criss-crossing the valley and passing through 20 tunnels between Flam and Myrdal at the top. The train makes a brief photo-stop at the Kjosfossen Falls but today, as it was so early in the season, the snow hadn't melted yet and the falls were not as impressive as when I was first here in 1984. See 1984 Photo >>

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Our excursion stopped again just before Myrdal at Vatnahalsen for coffee and waffles at the Hotel. As we waited for the train to return from Myrdal, there was plenty of time to enjoy the amazing views but none of us expected such deep snow, especially Sally & Frank, who even built a "Snow-Troll"!
(left) Building a "Snow-Troll" & (right) The viewing balcony of the Vatnahalsen Hotel
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The Train from Myrdal The Rallarvegen
("Navvies Road")
View back towards the
Vatnahalsen Hotel
The Flam Valley Flam Village
& Church (1667)

Built to connect Sognefjord with the Oslo-Bergen Railway (opened in 1909), the Flam Branch was built from 1923 to 1940 and was electrified in 1944. Today, you can still see parts of the original Rallarvegen, the "Navvies Road" created during its construction, with its 21 hairpin bends.


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Train, ship & ferry
Back at Flam Port
Celebrity Eclipse
and Aurlandsfjord
View of Aurlandsfjord
A ferry is dwarfed by the scenery!
Tied-up
Celebrity Eclipse

Sognefjord is not only the longest but also the deepest fjord in Norway and as we passed cliffs as high as 1000m (3,300ft) I realised that there was as much depth below the ship as above it!


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Cruising Aurlandsfjord
Deeper than the cliffs above us!
Departing Flam Lesley
& an Espresso Martini
Chocolate Martini!


This evening was the Senior Officers' Cocktail Party, an "exclusive" event for members of the Captain's Club but later on, we rang the changes, as while Andrew, Lesley & Peter went to dinner in the main restaurant, Gerry, Frank, Sally & I sampled speciality restaurant Q-sine.

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Here a "pan-world" menu is presented in a "funky" way with a sense of fun, as conventions are challenged on your "culinary journey".
(left) Q-sine & its i-Pad Menu & (right) My favourite, Lava Crab!
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The temptation is to order lots of dishes, so the more of you there are the better. Even so, we all ate far too much and the "Silver Bullet" & "Chocolate Tombstone" for dessert were aptly named!

Tuesday 8th May
Geiranger, Norway
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The hairpin bends
of the Eagle Road
A VIP Viewing Experience!
on the forward helicopter deck
Geiranger & Mt Dalsnibba
from Celelbrity Eclipse (Gerry's photo)

A VIP Foul-Up!
We were all looking forward to our "VIP Sail-in Experience" on the helicopter deck but when we turned up, around 250 people were jammed in the corridor and on the stairs waiting. And they kept us waiting for over 15 minutes; meanwhile, I knew (although the others didn't) that the ship was sailing past the most spectacular waterfalls and we were missing it all. It was all a bit frustrating because by the time we were allowed outside and given our free drink, the ship was already anchoring!
(We later learned that the snow is late melting this year so the waterfalls are not in full flow. Maybe we didn't miss much after all!)


There was a ripple of concern as the sound of a gun was heard to echo all around the ship - until it was realised that it was the traditional greeting of a canon-shot to mark our arrival!

Notwithstanding what I believed we had missed, it was a spectacular setting and the weather was glorious as we went ashore by tender to join our organised tour, up the famous Eagle Road.


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Celebrity Eclipse tendering in Geirangerfjord So where are
Seven Sisters?
From the
Eagle Bend Viewpoint


Show Picture Full Size The Eagle Road climbs 2,000 ft (620m) up 11 hairpin bends and on the last bend is the Eagle Bend Viewpoint and a breathtaking view of Geiranger. You are also supposed to be able to see the famous Seven Sisters Waterfall but we learned that the snow has only just started to melt and the waterfall isn't yet in full flow.

From here our trip followed the road across to Eidsdal and then to tiny Norddal on the Storfjord, before climbing again to the Herdalseter Mountain Farm.
(left) Andrew & Sally at the Eagle Bend Viewpoint above Geiranger


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Eidsvatnet Mountain Lake Tranquil Storfjord
From the village of Norddal
Sampling the goats cheeses at
Herdalseter Mountain Farm

Herdalseter Mountain Farm
We had been advised that because of the heavy snow, we would visit the Winter Farm instead of the higher Summer Farm but the visit was no less enjoyable as a consequence. Entertained by the farmer and his wife, we were shown how goats cheese is made by hand and then given the opportunity to taste various samples. All were delicious and quite a few purchases were made!

See more photos of Celebrity Eclipse & all the ports visited on this cruise on my account at Captain Martini >>

Show Picture Full Size The ship departed Geiranger to the echoing sound of the ship's whistle and the traditional firing of the canon (which I missed on arrival) see photo >>, although these days it seems it's no longer a real canon but a kind of "improvised" pipe gun! see close-up photo >>

It was also a bit disappointing that the famous waterfalls "The Seven Sisters" and "The Suitor" opposite were not yet in full flow but we had already learned that the snow is late melting this year. And at least it meant that we didn't miss as much this morning stuck in the corridor after all!
(right) "The Seven Sisters" on the left & "The Suitor" on the right
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For Dinner we were all back together in the Moonlight Sonata Restuarant, where Vincent's regular assistant Avinash was now back. The menu was good too; the Crab Cake & Broccoli Soup were delicious but the Pork Medallion was so succulent; best I have ever tasted! Tonight's Dinner Menu >>

"The Show"
This was the second of the productions shows we saw in 2010, when it was the most amazing display of costumes and aerial acrobatics I had ever seen. Andrew, Sally & Frank preferred instead to visit the Casino and though better than the "The Edge", it wasn't as good as 2 years ago and the hypnotic music was even slightly sleep-inducing!
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Wednesday 9th May
A Day at Sea
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Now cruising south in the North Sea again, the weather had broken and it was grey, cold and wet and we spent much of the day in fog with the ship's fog-horn going! However, on the positive side, the pool was no longer populated with "floating islands" this morning and I even managed my own age in lengths, while just 2 other brave souls ploughed up and down, just like me!

My "reward" was 2 Liquer Coffees later with Andrew & Gerry! Until yesterday, Andrew had not had his customary good fortune in the Casino but last night, he won $120 on Roulette and then another $313 on the slot-machines this morning! Meanwhile, Sally & Frank enjoyed the special Brunch Buffet and I later went to the special Elite Members' Backstage Tour to see if they let us use the stage lift; regrettably they didn't - but I did get a glass of champagne for my trouble!
The Captain's Club Party
The customary party for Captain's Club members was in the afternoon and this followed the familiar formula; excellent service, generous drinks, and plenty to eat, speeches and prize-givings, as well as live music and cabaret performances by way of entertainment. Celebrity are surely unmatched when it comes to throwing a party!
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Even though we booked as soon as we came aboard, we were obliged to accept 6.30pm for dinner tonight and this was too early for us, so in some respects, the wonderful experience we had enjoyed twice before was a little spoiled this time.

Also, service was a bit slow and there was a revised menu, so I was disappointed my favourite Casserola e Granchio (Crab Casserole) was no longer on the menu.
(below) A selection of some of the dishes from Tuscan Grill. See also the 2012 Tuscan Grill Menu >>

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Buffalo Mozzarella Spaghetti Bolognese Ribeye Steak
with Macaroni Cheese
Scallops & Tiger Shrimps
on Garlic Mash
Bone-in Veal Scalloppini

Nevertheless, we made the best of it and my Diver Scallops & Tiger Shrimps on Garlic Mash were divine, although it seemed to me that some of the dishes (Gerry's Veal Scalloppini for instance) lacked the presentation - though not the flavour - that we had enjoyed before.
(right) If you still have room, two of the desserts from Tuscan Grill: Creme Brulee & Tiramisu!
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Tuscan Grill Post-Script
We did enjoy the meal but not being made to eat so early and I mentioned this to the Maitre d' when we left. To his credit, he apologised and offered us a complimentary booking on the last night of the cruise but since this was only 2 days hence and we wanted to enjoy the main restaurant on the last night, we declined his offer. Let's hope we do better next time!

To cap it all, tonight's 2nd Show was at 9pm and we were late, so we all had to stand at the back as the Theater was packed for Philippa Healey, Manchester-born ex-West End Musical "Diva". In fact, she had an excellent voice and an engaging personaility, so it was a great show and I suspect that some in the audience had already seen her 7pm performance and rushed their dinner to come back!

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Thursday 10th May
Oslo, Norway
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Entering the Oslofjord in the early hours, we were alongside by breakfast time and it was an 8.30am start for our City Highlights Tour, as we had some ground to cover before the ship's early departure at 2.00pm.

Anders Breivik
Prominent in the News at this time was the trial of the Norwegian self-confessed perpetrator of the horrific 2011 attacks in Norway. On 22 July 2011, Breivik bombed the government buildings in Oslo, resulting in eight deaths. He then carried out a mass shooting at a Workers' Youth League camp of the Labour Party on the island of Ut°ya where he killed a further 69 people, mostly teenagers. His criminal trial opened in Oslo on 16th April and was still taking place at the time of our visit.

The population of Norway is around 5 million but 1.4m or 28% of them live in the Oslo metropolitan area. The city today has the fastest-growing population in Europe, largely due (it is claimed) to the growth in the immigrant population, which today stands at 25% of the city's population. Though not justifying Breivik's actions, perhaps this explains where his extreme views come from.

The city was founded in 1048 by King Harald III but was largely destroyed by fire in 1624 and rebuilt during the reign of King Christian IV closer to the Akershus Fortress and was renamed "Christiana", later on "Kristiania", until 1925, when the original name of the city was restored.

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Vigeland Sculpture Park
in Frogner Park, Oslo
Examples of the 212 bronze & granite sculptures
depicting the human condition & "The Circle of Life"
The Monolith Plateau

The city is proud of its open spaces and Vigeland Sculpture Park is its most popular attraction. Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) was the eccentric but gifted sculptor who designed the Nobel Peace Prize Medal and his home/studio was located in Frogner Park where, in 1924, the City agreed his sculptures should be placed. Over the next 20 years, he produced 212 of them in bronze & granite, many of them provocative and mostly naked, and the collection is both unique and fascinating.
More photos of Vigeland Park & all the places visited on this cruise can be found on my account here at Captain Martini >>


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Holmenkollen
Ski Jump
Brown Bear
in the gift shop!
The New Ski Jump
Opened in 2010
The Old Ski Jump
Demolished in 2008

The city's next most popular tourist attraction is the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, which has hosted the Nordic Ski Festival since 1892, the 1952 Olympics and (4 times), the World Ski Championships. The hill has been rebuilt many times but the present structure was completed in time for the 2011 World Championships and the adjacent stadium seats 30,000 spectators. Unfortunately, there wasn't time to take the lift to the Observation Level but the view is pretty impressive! See Internet Photo >>


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The Akershus Fortress
with Celebrity Eclipse & sail-training ship "Christian Radich" (1937)
Honour Guard Celebrity Eclipse from the Akershus Fortress

The ship was tied-up alongside the city's historic Akershus Fortress which dates from 1290 and is still in use today, although the grounds and a small museum are open to the public.

The Bistro on Five again The Bistro Menu >>
Returning to the ship prior to sailing at 2.00pm, Andrew, Gerry & I tried the Bistro again but while it avoided the frenzy of the Oceanview Cafe, our crepes were luke-warm again and it was only my complaint that brought a better dessert. Standards have slipped and did not match those of 2010.
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Later on, it was the second Formal Night of the cruise and drinks were in Peter & Lesley's suite where the Butler Nelson had excelled himself in response to the request for some canapes! By comparison, we couldn't help but recall my brush with "Kylie" on our trip on P&O's Arcadia in 2007!

Show Picture Full Size Peter & Gerry won our now "traditional" Quiz but Lesley & Sally refused to reveal their score and Sally was not impressed that none of my questions were on the subjects she had expected!
(left) Captain in charge (Andrew's photo) & (right) A splendid spread by Lesley
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Tonight's Formal Dinner in the Moonlight Sonata Restuarant was yet again brilliant. My choices tonight were: Oysters Rockefeller and Smoked Tomato Bisque followed by Lobster but then we had to endure the whooping and cheering that accompany the Parade of the Chefs; not that they don't deserve it but it does rather lower the tone, after a sumptuous meal in such a spectacular setting!

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Gerry & the Wine List
(Andrew's Photo)
The Wine Tower Andrew & Mark remain unmoved by the hullabaloo
The after-dinner "hoopla" rather lowers the tone!

Friday 11th May
A Day at Sea
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The last day was the usual "non-day"; 60 lengths in the pool, then breakfast in our suite, special coffees at 10 and a bit of packing, while the others did more shopping and winning in the casino!

Lunch in the Oceanview Cafe was a bun-fight, so 5 of us retreated to the main restaurant for a change - and still had burgers and hotdogs!

The talk on Space Exploration proved (not surprisingly) very "American" but it occupied the time while the others did their packing but I must remember not to have 2 Martinis at 5 o'clock when I've just finished the last bottle of Champagne back in the cabin!
(right) A Chocolate Martini - sheer heaven but two of them are deadly, after finishing the last bottle of champagne!
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Saturday 12th May
Southampton
Docking at 5.15am, we were in no hurry to disembark, preferring instead to take advantage of the Elite Members facilities of the Tuscan Grill while we waited for Gerry's time to join his coach. In the event, we were off by 8.00am and home by 10.15 in the car - having (as expected) wheeled our own luggage easily from the terminal to the car park!



See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 2,195 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 165,399 n miles

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