Celebrity Infinity 2013
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Celebrity Infinity, the 2nd ship in the "Millennium-class".
Itinerary Show Map
Saturday 12th October-Harwich, UK
Sunday-Le Havre, France
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-La Rochelle, France
Friday-Bilbao (Getxo), Spain
Sunday-Vigo, Spain
Monday-Porto (Leixoes), Portugal
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday 24th October-Harwich, UK

Full Ship Report at Celebrity Infinity Report >>

I was surprised how this relatively simple, no-fly cruise appealed to so many of our cruising circle but there would be 9 of us this time and we would be welcoming a new member, Frances, to our group. It would also introduce us to Celebrity Infinity, which for some of us, would be our 4th ship in the Millennium-class, although ironically, it would have been the 1st ship, had our holiday in 2005 not been cancelled when the ship broke down 2 days beforehand! See Infinity 2005 >>.

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

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

Saturday 12th October 2013
Embarkation in Harwich, UK
Fortunately, there was no last-minute cancellation this time and everyone arrived safely, reporting a wonderfully smooth check-in; much better than Southampton! Even the complimentary parking arrangements went well; Andrew & I arrived by car at 11.45 and within 25 mins, we were parked, transferred, checked-in and on board with our first glass of Champagne!

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My Cabin
2C-grade #7025
Sunset departure from Harwich
& celebration drinks on the balcony
Our table in the
Trellis Restaurant

Our table #327 in the Trellis Restaurant was to the side under the balcony and our waiters were both excellent. Gregorio was in charge and quietly efficient, while Oruç was young, swift and engaging. And tonight's Forest Mushroom Soup and Prime Rib of Beef were absolutely delicious!

The Tale of the Unavailable Gavi (Part 1) - Wine Steward Sacked on the First Night!
We asked for Gavi and the Wine Steward said there was none available (even though it was on the wine list and this is a “Wine Cruise”!). So we chose something else but not before asking for the Chief Sommelier! Then the Wine Steward opened the second bottle before we had even finished the first - big mistake! Andrew sees everything, so he asked where the rest of the first bottle was! The Wine Steward clearly took this badly because by the time the Chief Sommelier arrived to explain that the Gavi was "late coming up from stores" (rather than being absent entirely), he had appointed a different Wine Steward for our table! See right - Tonight's Dinner Menu >>
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Sunday 13th October 2013
Le Havre, France & a Day-trip to Paris
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With the clocks forward overnight, we docked in Le Havre and split-up to visit Paris in different groups; Peter & Lesley went with Sally & Frank by train and stayed in a hotel overnight, while Andrew, Gerry, Anne & Frances took a guided day-tour by coach. Me? I chose the coach transfer and "Paris - On Your Own".
(left) L'Arc de Triomphe (1806-36) celebrating the French Revolution & victories of the Napoleonic Wars

Paris is about 3hrs from Le Havre by coach, so with just over 5hrs "free time", my first task was to brave the Paris Metro for the first time in more than 30 years since my last visit. My destination was the Basilica du Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, built 1875-1914 but not dedicated until 1919.

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Sacré Coeur
from Montmartre
The Dome Sacré Coeur
from the Gardens
La Tour

from Sacré Coeur

I first came to Paris with John in 1980 but it was far different today. For one thing, the weather was better but the biggest difference was the crowds; the street from the Metro station was thronged with tourists and back-packers and I knew then what lay ahead!
(far right) Archive photo from 1980, of John in front of the deserted steps of Sacré Coeur

Show Picture Full Size As in 1980, I ascended the hill by the Funicular, first opened in 1900 but completely rebuilt and automated in 1991. When I got to the top, the steps of the Basilica were heaving with tourists, being shepherded into the church by one doorway, around and out again by another. It was a shame because, with so many people inside, it was impossible to really appreciate the true beauty of the architecture and the atmosphere of sanctity it is supposed to create.
(left) The Funicular and the Montmartre Steps - all 300 of them!

Sign of the Times - No Photography!
There were signs inside the Basilica clearly saying "No Photography" but I saw many people using cameras and mobile phones to take pictures, some even with flash. I was tempted of course but I obeyed and kept my camera in my bag. A solitary guard spotted one guy blatantly taking a photograph. Pointing at the sign, he said to him, "Un peu de respect, monsieur!" The man just shrugged and turned away. That's 21st century tourism for you!

On such a clear day and with such spectacular views across Paris, I would have liked to have spent longer here and to have climbed the Dome but the crowds and my tight schedule deterred me. But descending the hill by way of the gardens, at least there were fewer people and it was easier to appreciate the unusual Byzantine architecture of the building and its spectacular hilltop position.

By Paris Metro again, I crossed the city to another landmark building, The Montparnasse Tower. Conceived as part of the modernisation of Paris and the redevelopement of the Gare Montparnasse railway station, the Tower was inaugurated in 1973 and at 689ft (210m), was the tallest in Europe. It was hated by so many that it resulted in the banning of any more high-rise buildings in the City.

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From the roof of Tour Montparnasse
The Eiffel Tower, La Defense & Les Invalides
Notre-Dame Cathedral Sacré Coeur
from Montparnasse
Tour Montparnasse
59 floors & 689ft

Described as offering the best view in Paris (some add, "because it's the only place where you can't see the Montparnasse Tower!") the main viewing level on the 56th floor is reached by a lift which takes just 40 seconds from the lobby. Even more impressive is the view from the rooftop terrace!

The Eiffel Tower was designd by Gustave Eiffel and built for the World's Fair of 1889. It still stands 1,063ft high (324m), astride the Champs de Mars, today a park but once a military training-ground for the École Militaire to the south-east. Below is the view of it from the Montparnasse Tower.

Show Picture Full Size Bomb-Threat Evacuation at the Eiffel Tower!
Meanwhile, Andrew, Gerry, Anne & Frances had taken the all-day tour of Paris including lunch at the Eiffel Tower and around the time I was taking this photograph, they were enjoying their meal and were looking forward to some free time. From my rooftop vantage point, I exchanged text-messages with Andrew.
By the time I came down and was outside the Montparnasse Tower, I had another text from Andrew, saying there had been a Security Alert just as they were finishing lunch and they had all been evacuated to ground level and were now trying to find the guide and the coach! This was the third such evacuation this year, the news-press said later! Frances, Anne, Gerry & Andrew at the Eiffel Tower

My own lunch was a hot-dog; French-style, with mayonnaise instead of mustard, from a stall at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower. I sat in the park, enjoying the sun; at least I wasn't evacuated!

Taking the Metro again, I headed for Île de la Cité and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, where celebrations were in full flow marking the 850 years since its foundation in 1163. In 1937, the great organist Louis Vierne famously died at the console of the organ here, giving his 1750th recital.

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Art Deco
Metro Station
Celebrating 850 yrs.
Notre-Dame Cathedral
Quai de Montebello
Artists' stalls along the River Seine
& the River Seine

By now mid-afternoon, the queue of tourists to get inside the Cathedral was easily 10 times as long as that at Sacré Coeur, so I was disappointed not to have time to go inside. But it was such a beautiful afternoon and the walk along the opposite bank of the River Seine was so lovely.

I returned to Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI & Marie-Antoinette were among hundreds beheaded during the French Revolution. Marking in 1829 the location of the infamous Guillotine, its 3,300yr-old obelisk once stood outside the Temple of Luxor in Egypt. Standing 75ft (23m) tall, its long-lost gold cap was restored following a refurbishment in 1998. See our 2010 visit to The Temple of Luxor >>

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Place de la Concorde
The location of the Guillotine during the French Revolution.
The obelisk used to stand outside the Luxor Temple in Egypt.
La Madeleine Church
Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 - completed 1845.
Camille Saint-Saëns was its Organist 1858-77.

My bus back to the ship was in Rue Royale in front of La Madeleine Church. Modelled on a Roman temple, it was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon at the same time as the Arc de Triomphe but it wasn't completed until 1845. The composer Camille Saint-Saëns was its organist from 1858 to 1877.

I dozed on the coach back to Le Havre, over an hour behind Andrew, Gerry, Anne & Frances, who returned from the Eiffel Tower without further incident. By the time I returned, I was desperate for a G&T and just in time for dinner! In fact, I was so hungry after my busy day with only a hot-dog for lunch that I had 2 main courses of the Baked Trout – which was delicious, if a bit on the small side!

Meanwhile, our group was still only 5 at this point because Lesley & Peter and Sally & Frank were all staying in Paris at a hotel overnight and were not due to return until tomorrow.

Monday 14th October 2013
Day 2 in Le Havre, France
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Overslept until 8.15am! But with no fixed plans today, it didn't matter. Instead, I headed for the AquaSpa Pool, where I had its warm "Thalassotherapy" pool to myself for half an hour and did 50 diagonals. Of all the ships I've been on over the years, this is my favourite pool. It was wonderful!

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The AquaSpa
Thalassotherapy Pool
Rain in Le Havre
(Gerry's photo)
No Sun-bathing!
Pouring Rain!
Café al Bacio
for special liqueur coffees!

I had hoped to visit the famous concrete Church of St Joseph and "The Volcano" Cultural Centre today, both of which I missed when we were here in May aboard Queen Victoria but the weather was so bad that we all stayed aboard and had liqueur coffees instead! So as not to feel completely cheated out of my day in France, I later had a suitably French-style lunch of soup, pate and cheese!

Le Havre on a better day!
Heavily bombed during World War II, Le Havre is proud of its post-war concrete architecture which has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. Particularly notable buildings are the Concrete Church of St Joseph by Auguste Perret (1958) and "The Volcano" Cultural Centre by Oscar Niemeyer (1982), perhaps more famous for his buildings in the City of Brasilia in 1960. Oscar Niemeyer died in December 2012, aged 104.

Fortunately, the others had enjoyed better weather in Paris today and they returned in time for pre-dinner drinks, though not before Sally had sent Andrew a text message saying they had missed the train! It was all just a "wind-up" of course and they weren't late at all! Our group was now 9 again.

Tuesday 15th October 2013
A Day at Sea
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Unhappy Changes in the AquaSpa Cafe!
The little café beside the pool is perfect for a light breakfast but always looking for ways to increase on-board revenue, Celebrity have recently turned one of the counters over to "premium" items (ie additional cost) and the range of "free" items is now quite limited. You can still get what you want but you have to ask for it! I found this out by having a little chat with the Maitre d'!
(left) Early Morning in the AquaSpa Café and my specially-requested "Granola-Berry Parfait"

From the English Channel, we were now heading for the Bay of Biscay but rather than crossing it, for the first time we were heading for one of its ports, La Rochelle. This morning, we had a good view of Fred Olsen's little ship Braemar, as she came up from astern and cruised past us.

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Fred Olsen's Braemar (1993: 24,344grt)
Launched as "Crown Dynasty" and bought by Fred Olsen in 2001
Dad & I were on her in 2002, before she was stretched in 2008
The Trellis Restaurant
Our Table & Formal Night Menu
Our Group
Formal Night Photo

Today was the "Captains Club Celebration Party", exclusive to loyalty-club members, and what with plenty of drinks, nibbles and entertainment from a comedy Juggler, plus a singing Cruise Director and a singing Club Hostess, it was a fantastic party - Celebrity Cruises haven't lost their touch!

Unusually this far into a cruise, tonight was also our first Formal Night - for me, Frogs Legs (much over-rated), French Onion Soup (no-one does it better than Celebrity) and Shrimp Scampi, followed (rather appropriately) by "After-Eight" ice-cream and the first big production show in the Theatre, "iBroadway". For a compilation-style show, it was energetic, imaginative and actually very good!

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Wednesday 16th October 2013
La Rochelle, France & a Day-trip to Bordeaux
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Docking in La Rochelle, we all took the ship's "on your own" coach transfer to Bordeaux and had a wonderful day, not because of the weather, which turned rather wet again, but for the sheer beauty and elegance of the city combined with our group's collective spirit of enjoyment - and plenty of wine!
(left & below left) Monument aux Girondins (1894-1902), Espalanade des Quinconces, Bordeaux

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Monument aux Girondins
Espalanade des Quinconces
Le Grand Théâtre (1780)
Place de la Comédie
Rue Sainte-
Bootmaker Sign
(Gerry's photo)

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It can't be a "wine cruise" unless you've tried the local wines, so this was our first stop, not far from the coach drop-off point. It proved a great place to sample some of the local French wines with a variety of meats and cheeses, at a very attractive price. In fact, we liked it so much, we came back later!

We then split-up; Anne, Frances, Gerry & I took the open-top bus, while the others chose the little sightseeing train. (Right: The "train-team" wave as we depart on the top deck of the open-top bus) Show Picture Full Size

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Place de la Bourse (1749)
& its Statue of the Three Graces
Porte Cailhou (1495)
The main City Gate
Pont de Pierre or "Stone Bridge" (1822)
The 17 arches honour the name of Napoléon Bonaparte
(Gerry's photo right)

Show Picture Full Size Our two routes crossed paths half-way; by then it was raining and we were getting wet!
(left) The little Sightseeing Train and the others getting wet in the rain!

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La Grosse Cloche
Porte Sainte-Éloi
(13th century)
St Andrew's Cathedral (from 1096)
Eleanor of Aquitaine was married (aged 13)
to the future Louis VII of France in 1137
Rue Sainte-Catherine Galerie des Grands Hommes
an old Art Nouveau Market

Some Photos by Gerry:-

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Allée de Tourny
Lion Bleu
Place Stalingrad
by Xavier Veilhan (2005)
Chocolates by David
Who can resist?
Maison de Vin
Our Final Rendezvous

Even in the rain, Bordeaux proved to be a rich and beautiful city, full of history and when we had all finished our various explorations, what better place to rendezvous than Maison du Vin again! However, the final "piece de resistance" was saved for on the coach back to La Rochelle, where Sally & Frank produced rolls, paté, cheese, crisps and more wine to keep us going until dinner on board!

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Thursday 17th October 2013
Day 2 in La Rochelle, France
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We were docked overnight at La Pallice, the main port west of the town. Today, while Sally & Frank went off to get the local bus over the great bridge to Île de Ré for the day, the rest of us chose a more leisurely start and took the free shuttle into La Rochelle to explore Le Vieux Port.
(left) Just part of the 2.9km (1.8 miles) Île de Ré Bridge, completed in 1988 (Gerry's photo)
La Rochelle was first fortified by the Knights Templar in the 12th century and it was their largest base on the Atlantic. However, the three towers that guard the inner harbour, Tour de la Chaîne, Tour Saint-Nicolas & Tour de la Lanterne, date from the 14th century, each having been adapted or enlarged as the town and its fortifications grew in the centuries that followed.

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Le Vieux Port - Tour de la Chaîne & Tour Saint-Nicolas
& the Monument to Michel Crépeau, Mayor of La Rochelle 1971-99
Tour Saint-Nicolas
(believed to date from the 14th century)

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Inside Tour Saint-Nicolas
The Main Hall & outer stairway
The Inner Harbour
from the roof of Tour Saint-Nicolas
Tour de la Chaîne &
the Spire of Tour
de la Lanterne behind

The St Nicholas Tower was open to the public and at 42m high (138ft), set a challenge I couldn't resist. Lesley joined me and we were rewarded with a splendid view of the harbour from the roof.

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Le Vieux Port & the towers of La Rochelle
from the left: Tour St-Nicolas, Tour de la Chaîne, Tour de la Lanterne & Tour de la Grosse Horloge

Andrew & Gerry

Skirting the harbour, we entered the town by the old city gate, La Tour de la Grosse Horloge which dates from the 12th century, although its "Big Clock" wasn't added until the 15th century.

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The Big Clock
(La Grosse Horloge)
Place Barentin
Admiral Duperré (1775-1846)
Tour de la
Grosse Horloge
Maison Henri II
(dating from 1555)
Le Café de Paris

We then followed a self-guided walking tour of the old town, initially led by Andrew, until his poor map-reading skills led us down the wrong street and I had to take over!

Show Picture Full Size World War II German Submarine Pens
Prominent in both Bordeaux yesterday and here in La Rochelle are the enormous concrete U-Boat Pens built during World War II by the Germans. For some reason, our French guides failed to point them out but the ones in La Pallice were used during the filming of the 1981 movies "Das Boot" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Another dubious tourism opportunity just waiting to be exploited, surely?

As we departed and there was another view of those German U-Boat Pens, the cruise terminal staff all turned out to wave us off; a nice gesture, as you don't very often get that in Europe these days.

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by the Cruise Terminal staff
U-Boat Pens
view from our ship
The Rendezvous Lounge
For the afternoon Quiz!
Hot Dog Vendor
(by Red Grooms: 1998)

That afternoon, Andrew, Gerry & I took part in the Movie Themes Quiz in the Rendezvous Lounge and won with a score of 17/20! We only won key-rings but having had no lunch, we decided to celebrate with hot dogs & burgers on deck instead!

The Tale of the Unavailable Gavi (Part 2)
Having experienced trouble again getting any Gavi wine at dinner last night, my request to speak to the Food & Beverage Manager today was met with an appointment with the Chief Sommelier. When I explained what had happened, he was profusely apologetic and assured me that it wouldn't happen again. No sooner had I returned to my cabin than a complimentary bottle of Gavi, in an ice-bucket, was being delivered by a steward. We had no problems at our table after that! Indeed that evening, our "new" Wine Steward Kyril, who we were warming to by this time, commented that he didn't know how we had done it but there was a whole case of Gavi available whenever we wanted any! He was clearly impressed and realised that we were not to be underestimated!

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Friday 18th October 2013
Bilbao, Spain - and a Birthday!
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The port of Bilbao is actually in Getxo, while the city of Bilbao is 8½ miles further upriver and as the shuttle-service today cost $15 and was only at 30-minute intervals, we decided to use the city's Metro-system, opened in 1995. However, the nearest station (Neguri) was a 15-20 minute walk, so instead, we took a taxi,
(left) The Guggenheim Museum (1997) by Frank Gehry.

- or rather, 3 taxis, as there were 9 of us! It was just as well that Spanish-speaking Sally & Frank were in charge today because I was initially alarmed that the taxis didn't take us to Neguri station at all but to Areeta. It wasn't until later that I realised that Neguri doesn't have a taxi-rank!

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The Guggenheim Museum (by Frank Gehry, 1997)
& River Nervión - 30ft Spider sculpture "Maman" by Louis Bourgeois
In the distance, the 41-storey Torre Ibedrola by César Pelli (2006)
Floral Puppy
by Jeff Koons
Access Tower
also by Frank Gehry

From Plaza Moyua, it was just a short walk to the Princes of Spain Bridge (Puente de la Salva) for views of the amazing Guggenheim Museum, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and opened in 1997. However, since my last visit with John in 2003, they had added the striking "Red Porch" by Daniel Buren (2006) on the bridge. (right) My photo from 2003 >> Show Picture Full Size
There was also now a skyscraper spoiling the beautiful rooftop skyline over the museum; it was the 41-storey Torre Iberdrola, by architect César Pelli (2012).

More photos of Bilbao in 2002, as well as more photos from this trip can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

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"El Tigre" (1941)
by Joaquin de Lucarini
23 Ribera Botica Vieja
Sacred Heart Monument (1927) The Zubizuri
(Basque for "White Bridge")
Puente del Campo Volantin
by Santiago Calatrava (1997)
"La Huella"(The Footprint)
Civil War Memorial
by Juanjo Novella, 2006
(Gerry's Photo)

The weather was glorious, so from outside the Museum, we took the local "hop-on-hop-off bus" sightseeing tour. However, it clearly wasn't operated by the company we have found in many other cities, as this one didn't have any earphones and the address-system wasn't very clear either. Unfortunately, matters were made worse by us having our own "Nutter on the bus"....

The Nutter on the Bus
Years ago, Jasper Carrott joked about the "Nutter on the bus" who always seems to sit next to you but it was no joke on our sightseeing bus when this Italian woman sitting right behind me in the middle of our group spent all the time talking at the top of her voice on her mobile phone while we were all trying to listen to the commentary over the rather poor address-system (this bus didn't have earphones). In typical British fashion, no-one was prepared to say anything, so eventually, I gave her one of my looks and severely "shushed" her, whereupon she finished her call and apologised. Quite why she bothered to buy a ticket is a mystery.

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Bilbao from Monte Artxanda
Puente de la Salva, the Guggenheim
& Torre Iberdrola
The Monte Artxanda Funicular
Group Photo
at Mount Artxanda

We did a complete circuit on the bus and then continued round again as far as the Funicular to the Monte Artxanda Viewpoint, where we hoped there might be a café for refreshments. There was but it was shut - which was frustrating. But the weather was so fabulous and the view was stunning.

Not to be deterred, we returned to the bus and got off near Plaza Nueva, where we found a café that had such a fantastic selection of Tapas that we spent a good hour there and had a great time!

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The Sailors Church
of San Nicolas (1756)
Plaza Nueva A Tapas Lunch
in Plaza Nueva
Bilbao Metro

In a relaxed and happy mood, we all returned to the ship by Metro, taking care to get off at Areeta, not Neguri, so we could get taxis back to the ship, in good time for a snooze before our evening celebration of Andrew's Birthday at a dining table specially but tastefully dressed by our waiters. The old "razzamatazz" of on-board birthdays has gone but it has been replaced by a small but tasteful chocolate birthday-cake, quietly presented with equal taste and discretion by our waiters. The only trouble was that Gregorio and Oruç thought it so small that they brought us another one!

The only disappointment so far seemed to be that Andrew hadn't won anything in the Casino yet; and tonight being "in port", the Casino was closed!

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Saturday 19th October 2013
Day 2 in Getxo, Spain
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For our second day, we only had a half-day in port, so while Peter & Frank went off to find the Football Stadium, for the rest of us it was a slow start followed by a stroll around the marina. Gerry & I then continued along the promenade and around the bay to Puerto Viejo de Algorta, where we found some interesting art.
(left) Revealed, "The Merman of Getxo" in the harbour of the old port, Puerto Viejo de Algorta.
The "Merman of Getxo" is a temporary exhibit which certainly catches the eye. The idea is that when the tide is in, only his head & shoulders are visible and he is revealed as the tide goes out!

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a steep climb
The clifftop walk above the old port
Getxo & the Promenade
from the cliff-top walk

In most places where the ship docks miles from the "brochure destination", there's often little ashore worth a walk but Getxo is a pleasant little resort with its own beach and seaside promenade. And if you accept the challenge of some steep steps, there are some fascinating hillside alleys and gardens to explore, with some great views over the bay.
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Holiday group-shot
Our ship & the marina
Above Puerto Viejo de Algorta
(left to right: these photos by Gerry)
Quaint streets and alleys

Returning to the ship, Frank & Peter had found the Football Stadium but it was shut! We then sailed at 1pm and the Officers & Staff did a Fun Run on deck in aid of Breast Cancer Research. The Staff Captain was the fittest and did the most deck-circuits but the Cruise Director put on a brave show, having been sponsored to jog in his formal dinner wear!

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(Gerry's photo)
The Martini Bar
5pm for the whole group
Senior Officers' Cocktail Party
& our 2nd Formal Night Dinner

At 5pm, we all gathered in the Martini Bar before our 2nd Formal Evening of the Cruise, starting with the exclusive "Senior Officers Cocktail Party" before Dinner. Tonight's Mushroom vol-au-vent and Steak Chateaubriand were delicious! And wine problems now all resolved, our wine steward Kyril even ventured a joke - which was a good sign!

The after-dinner show this evening was "Boogie Wonderland"; not bad but the usual mish-mash.

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Sunday 20th October 2013
Vigo, Spain
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It was quite rough in the night, with the ship pitching and rolling, as we came out of the Bay of Biscay and around "Cap Finistere", the name of which roughly translates as "The Edge or End of the World"!
(left) Celebrity Infinity at the Liner Terminal in Vigo (Gerry's photo)
We visited Vigo in 2010 aboard Celebrity Eclipse but on that occasion took an excursion down the coast, so this afternoon, Andrew, Anne & Gerry decided to stay in Vigo. Here are some of Gerry's photos taken around the old town and harbour:-
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El Sereno
(The Merman)
by Francisco Leiro
El Bañista
(The Bather)
also by Francisco Leiro
Los Redeiros
(Monumento al Trabajo)
by Ramón Conde (1991)
Rosalia de Castro
Armando Rodriguez (1995)

There's certainly no shortage of modern art, much of it with a marine-theme. But not only does there seem to be a "Merman-thing" going on in this part of the world (as in Getxo for instance) there's also a strong "Witch-fixation", with dolls and ephemera cropping-up in all the tourist shops!

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The Angel Fountain in
Praza da Princesa
A Galician Witch!
guarding the shop doorway
Celebrity Infinity & the "stern section" of
The Streamlined-style Royal Yacht Club

Close to the Cruise Terminal is an attractive marina, and the Real Club Náutico (Royal Yacht Club), the buildings of which resemble the parts of an ocean liner and are a splendid example of the post-war "Streamlined" style, an off-shoot of Art-Deco. See also my photo from 2010 of the other building >>

Meanwhile, the rest of us took the excursion to Santiago de Compostela, 55 miles north of Vigo.

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El Obradoiro
The West Front
The Benedictine Monastery of
San Martin Pinorio
Praza da Immaculada
& the North Front
Praza da Quintana
& the East Front

The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela takes is name from its claim to be the resting place of the body of St James The Apostle. In the Middle Ages, no shrine was more highly venerated and pilrims flocked from all parts of Christendom to take "The Way of St James". Even today, it is a pilgrimage thousands still take as a form of religious penance.

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The Cathedral Interior The Shrine
& Relics of St James
Preparing to swing
the Botafumeiro

back in 1995
Praza das Praterias
Silversmiths Square
Witch, Warlock or Gandalf?

Sweeping alterations in the 16th & 18th Centuries hide the fact that the present Cathedral dates from the 11th Century, having been built over the crypt of an earlier chapel. One of its many significant features is its Botafumeiro or incense-burner, the largest in the World and one which is
precariously raised and swung above the heads of the congregation, to grand effect. We were not able to see this today but back in 1995, when I came here with Dad, we did and Show YouTube video-clip
here is a link to the video I took at the time of the highlights of that "performance"! Show Video

After viewing the Cathedral Sanctuary & Relics, it was a bit cold and grey in Santiago, so there was more time spent drinking coffee than wandering the streets. And by the time we returned to Vigo, it was pouring with rain! After dinner, Andrew at last won large at Roulette and we all sighed with relief!
(right) An Informal Evening and pre-dinner drinks in the Constellation Lounge.
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Monday 21st October 2013
Leixoes for Porto, Portugal
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Overnight, the clocks went back to UK time but the AquaSpa pool was closed again this morning, not for the weather but for maintenance. But in the Café, my favourite waiter Ruben was already on the phone calling for my Granola-Berry Parfait!
(left) Early morning in the AquaSpa Café & my Granola-Berry Parfait.

The port of Leixoes is in Matosinhos and again some distance from the city of Porto itself but in rather bleak and windy conditions, we were fortunate that one of the Hop-on-Hop-off Buses was outside the port gates. So, led by Sally & Frank again today, we all set off for the city centre.

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Saga Sapphire (37,301grt)
ex "Europa" of 1981
A Stormy Atlantic
at Leixoes (Matosinhos)
The River Duoro &
The Arrabida Bridge
(1963) 230ft high (70m)
The Dom Luis I Bridge
(1886) by Théophile Seyrig
a partner of Gustave Eiffel

Our route followed the blustery Atlantic coast and along the more sheltered Douro River, crossing the famous Dom Luis Bridge, an engineering masterpiece of 1886 by Théophile Seyrig, a partner of Gustave Eiffel. Unusual in supporting both upper and lower level roadways, we crossed on its lower level close to the river but later we would cross again, on foot, on its more impressive upper level.

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Clerigos Tower
248ft high, 210 steps
Views from the Top
& Gerry on a blustery balcony!
The Cathedral, Bishop's Palace
& across the Duoro River to the city of Gaia

Show Picture Full Size It was rather assumed that I would climb the Clerigos Tower but Gerry also met the challenge, while the others watched from the local branch of "Costa Coffee". We were told that there were 240 steps but I counted only 210 from the entrance; not that we felt cheated - the view was pretty impressive, even on a grey day like today. But after that, and a brief look inside the adjacent Baroque church, the two of us needed coffee too!
(left) The Baroque interior of the Clerigos Church, built 1732-50 (the Tower was completed in 1763)

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Praça da Liberdade
Statue of Dom Pedro IV (1798-1834)
São Bento Railway Station
Blue ceramic tiling (1905-16) depicting
scenes from Portuguese history
Our Group less 2!
(Gerry's photo)

With Sally & Frank leading the way, we then walked past Praça da Liberdade (Freedom Square) to São Bento Railway Station to see the amazing Azulejos or blue ceramic tiles, a style of decoration often seen on buildings across Portugal but here in the main lobby, an historical art "tour-de-force".

We then traversed the Dom Luis I Bridge again, this time at high level and on foot!

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Walking the Dom Luis I Bridge (1886)
With open cast-iron railings throughout its 1,264ft length,
that drop of 146ft (45m) seems a very long way down!
A River Cruise Boat The Dom Luis Bridge (1886)
from the safety of the other side!

With an overall length of 1,264ft (385m) from one side to the other, and with only open-sided, cast-iron railings between you and the water below, you are very aware of the 146ft (45m) drop! Designed by Théophile Seyrig, a partner of Gustave Eiffel, its great arch was the longest in the World at the time and it's another example of great 1886 engineering.

Show Picture Full Size So from 1886 engineering to that of 2011 and the Teleférico de Gaia and our descent to the riverside of Vila Nova de Gaia on the opposite bank of the Douro River. I thought it strange that Anne said she was terrified during its 5-minute gondola-ride because I was more concerned of being blown over the railings during our walk across an open-sided bridge 146ft up!
(left) The Teleférico de Gaia, opened in 2011 at a cost in excess of 10 million Euros.

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Frances, Peter & Lesley
5-minute gondola descent
The Teleférico de Gaia View of the Douro River & the Dom Luis I Bridge
from the Teleférico station in Vila Nova de Gaia

The district of Gaia is home to many Port Wine "Caves" and we had a ticket for a free tasting at Quevedo Port Wine, although it was so nice there that one free tasting led to a few more, non-free ones! But we were on a "Wine Cruise" after all, so it only seemed right to try them!

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Port Wine Tasting at Quevedo Winery
(Gerry's photos)
(above & right - Gerry's photos)
More Port Wine Tasting
at Cockburns!

The bus ticket included a free 1-hour river cruise but the weather was grey and chilly, so we found a nice riverside restaurant for lunch instead before our 2nd Port Wine tasting at Cockburns Winery. However, located half-way up a steep hill, new member Frances (who had hip-surgery this year) found it a struggle but she was determined not to be left out and she made it with flying colours!

From Gaia, there was some doubt about whether the hop-on-hop-off bus would go back to the Port, because although that was where we picked it up, it was not one of the official stops. So with rain setting-in and time running out, it was SAS Frank to the rescue and 2 taxis back to the ship, by which time the rain was beating down; although, as it turned out, we needn't have rushed back.....

That evening, after our own Captain's Quiz in Lesley & Peter's suite, at which Lesley was teamed with Frank and won with 15/19, we then split-up for dinner; while the others went to the main restaurant as usual, Lesley & Peter, Sally & Frank and I had booked something a little special.

Show Picture Full Size The SS United States Restaurant
This was the 4th of the "Ocean Liners" themed restaurants where you can enjoy some of the finest cuisine at sea. A la Carte Menu >> Desserts >>
The restaurant is inspired by the style of the liner "SS United States" of 1952 and includes etched-glass panels, memorabilia and items of furniture from the fastest passenger liner ever built. Show Picture Full Size
(Left) The decor evokes the style of the liner SS United States, incorporating original etched-glass panels & furniture from the ship.

Each of the "Ocean Liners" restaurants is different in style but all have essentially the same menu as in the Murano restaurant on the Solstice-class ships. However, the additional cover-charge is now $45, which must put a few people off. Even so, the Flambéed Lobster and the Dover Sole were equally divine and after "Les VI Étoiles" for dessert, I still couldn't resist the cheese selection!

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SS United States
Entrance Lobby
Ship Model
SS United States (1952)
Views of the Restaurant Interior
and Private Cocktail Bar
Private Dining
"In Cellar"

Service is excellent, although they try almost too hard to impress and they keep telling you how wonderful it all is, which is unnecessary. When I mentioned to the others that they had interrupted our conversation twice so far, the Maitre d' must have overheard, because they didn't do it again!

Any Porto in a Storm!
The ship had been due to leave Leixoes at 6pm but we remained tied-up throughout the evening, as the wind and rain buffeted the ship. Indeed, after we had all turned-in, from my cabin I heard a load "THUD!", followed by a shudder running through the ship, as one of our heavy mooring-lines broke against the strain. It wasn't until around 4am the following morning that I was aware of the ship moving again, but this time the storm had died down and we were back at sea - just 10 hours later than scheduled!

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Tuesday 22nd - Wednesday 23rd October 2013
2 Days at Sea
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Last night's storm had passed over but back out in the Atlantic it remained choppy and blustery, so the pool was out-of-bounds again!
(left) The netted AquaSpa Pool early in the morning.

Having departed Porto 10 hours late, we had some distance to catch up, but with 2 days in which to do it, the extra 2-3 knots required was still well within our cruising speed of 21 knots.

Being blustery outside, today was a quiet, relaxing day enjoying the facilities of the ship, one of which, Fortunes Casino, was at last paying-out; Sally won $235 on the slot-machines but Andrew, who already won $175 the other night, won another $300 at Roulette, gave me a $200 chip "for safe-keeping" and simply carried on playing! Honestly, these "High Rollers"!

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Slots & Craps - Egyptian-style!
Fortunes Casino, where the odds are against you.
The Trellis Restaurant
& Our 3rd Formal Night Menu
Farewell "Hullaballoo"
Waiter Oruç waving!

Our 3rd Formal Night Dinner was a familiar menu but no less excellent; I had Oysters Rockefeller, Tomato Bisque and Duck á l'orange, all of which far exceeded the quality of the same menu aboard Celebrity Summit last year. This was followed by the usual self-congratulatory farewell "hullaballoo", which was a bit more fun this time, having had some of the common rowdiness toned-down a little!

The after-dinner show, "Celebrate The World", was the usual concoction with all the old favourites designed to win applause, such as "The Can-Can", "Nessun Dorma", "River Dance", peacock-feather costumes, the works! The ladies seemed to enjoy it but I didn't think it up to the standard of the first show, "iBroadway". But at least you don't pay extra for the entertainment!
(right) All Feathers & Favourites - the 3rd Production Show "Celebrate The World"
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Show Picture Full Size Chickens work-to-rule on the last day!
It has been said that chickens only lay eggs in twos on board cruise ships because you never seem to get one egg on its own. However, my last-day indulgence of "Eggs Benedict" for breakfast turned out to be one "Egg" Benedict. It looked so lonely on the plate that I had to have some Lyonnaise Potatoes with it!
(left) A rather lonely "Egg" Benedict - not "Eggs Benedict"!

For our last day of the cruise, the good weather returned and people were out on deck again, putting the finishing touches to their holiday tans. For lunch, there was "Traditional" Fish & Chips in the Café, and just like the rest of the food throughout this cruise, it was far better than aboard Celebrity Summit! See The Saga of the Fish & Chips 2012 >>
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Last Day Blues
Sunbathing Poolside
"Traditional" Fish & Chips!
No Service?
The Captain's Club Social
(Gerry's photo)

The only let-down these last 2 days was the poor bar-service at the Captain's Club Social Drink in the evening from 5-7pm, an exclusive event at which the drinks and canapés are complimentary. The trouble was that we waited 15 minutes for a drink and another 30 minutes to get a canapé!

By popular request, the special afternoon performance of the 1960's tribute rock band The Zoots was good fun and had all the "old girls" dancing in the aisles, trying to relive their lost youths!

So I had high expectations of the pre-dinner vocalist, Sam Kane, a good crooner who reminded me of the veteran Howard Keel; married to actress Linda Lusardi, he lives near us in Goffs Oak! But his rendering of songs from "Carousel" left me unmoved. He proudly claims to be a member of the exclusive "Billy Bigelow Club" but he was no match for Gordon Macrae!
(right) Cabaret artist and crooner, Sam Kane, on stage
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Happily though, our final dinner was no disappointment but after another excellent meal, we said our goodbyes to Gregorio, Oruç and Kyril who had all helped make our evenings such pleasant ones.

Thursday 24th October 2013
Harwich, UK
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The ship was already alongside and tied-up by the time I awoke at 5.45am so after a light breakfast in the Café, while Sally & Frank and Anne & Frances went their own ways, I joined Andrew, Gerry, Peter & Lesley in the SS United States Restaurant, our designated "exclusive" departure lounge.

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The 5 of us disembarked at 8.00am but Gerry was returning by train whereas Andrew & I and Peter & Lesley had cars, so it came as no surprise that there was a mix-up over the luggage, with Gerry's suitcase going to the car park with ours! However, it was all rectified quickly and they took him (& his case!) on the shuttle-bus back to the Terminal, in good time for the train!
Meanwhile, Peter & Lesley had spent much of this holiday in testy discussions with Guest Relations over damage sustained to one of their suitcases during embarkation, in which the handle had been literally ripped-off, leaving a jagged bit of metal sticking out. In the end, goodwill prevailed in the argument over liability & responsibility, though not without some persistence on Peter's part!

All things considered, an unexpectedly excellent cruise; and weren't we fortunate with the weather!

Cruise Mileage: 2,435 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 176,567 n miles