Sally called when she got the word And she said, "I suppose you've heard... about Alice?"
The fateful day of our departure for our anniversary cruise arrived with an abrupt 3am alarm. We were soon up and ready for the 4am taxi. As ever we were weary whether it would actually turn up but it was pleasingly on time for the short ride to Norwich Airport.
There was already a queue at the check in desks when we arrived. When we got to the front of the queue all three desks had muppets trying to check in. One seemed to have lost whatever paperwork he needed to fly to Brazil and had all his bags open going through realms of paperwork. Another old couple had far too heavy bags and were surprised when they moved stuff around it made one bag lighter but then made the other even heavier. Then another even older couple had a million questions they were asking for the sake of it.
I was not happy and in a very British way just stood there shaking my head at all of them.
Our check in when we got to the desk was very quick. Then we had to pay our development fee to be allowed into security. Has anyone actually worked out what Norwich airport actually develop with the money?
Going through security, Karen had to have her bag searched. This time it wasn’t liquid but a bar of soap. Even the security guys didn’t understand why that it set off the alarm. My question was more of why it was even in her hand luggage.
The 35-minute flight was smooth and easy and we were soon in Amsterdam.
There was only 70 minutes until our next flight so we hurried to the next gate. We had a minor panic as there was a long queue to go through yet another passport control on the way.
This flight was quite empty and Karen had no one sat next to her. The pilot announced we were waiting for 2 other passengers before leaving. At our scheduled departure time he said that as they hadn’t arrived then their luggage would need to be off loaded. That meant we had missed our take off slot and the new one he had been given wasn’t for another 3 hours. This brought a collective gasp from everyone. He said he was trying to negotiate an earlier one which he did was able to announce a few minutes later with just a 20-minute delay, time which we made up en route.
Our luggage was soon off and we wandered to the exit to be greeted by someone waving the cruise name. Then the fun started. There were loads of people waiting and it was not clear what was happening. It was just a general melee as they checked their lists of passengers and failed miserably to organise the crowd. Eventually they asked everyone to form a line, which most people did but there were just as many who just insisted trying to barge in the front.
We were then marched quite a long way towards some coaches. I had the two big bags whilst Karen tried to manage both of our hand luggage with only one working arm. The pavement was rough and difficult going. There were a couple of roads to cross. On one them Karen had a problem going down a kerb. Her bag got caught and really jerked her broken arm. She screamed in pain causing me in front of her to stop. She had tears running down her face in agony. I immediately just left our cases to try and help her. Not one person stopped her either to ask if she was OK or if they could help. Instead, they just pushed past us both and complained about the big cases that were blocking their way. I was absolutely furious with the attitude of all the people like us joining the cruise. Somehow, I then managed to take my hand luggage as well as the larger bags to the coach, as well as nursing Karen along.
At the coach park there was more farcical disorganisation. No one was directing us to the correct coaches. There were people running around trying to get seats on the coaches and luggage everywhere. Eventually I found someone loading bags onto a coach and watched as ours was put on.
Then we were not actually allowed on because someone had said they had to sit at the front and we had to wait for them. Finally, as we were getting on which was challenging enough for Karen with one arm, we were told that for security reasons that our hand luggage could not go on board, despite other people being allowed to do so. I was not happy and politely but firmly asked what security risk our hand luggage posed but could not get them to explain. So, I made the point by emptying much of my things out like laptop, kindle and travel documents and carrying them on with me in my arms instead.
I had by now had enough of the cruise, the people and the organisation and we hadn’t even reached the blasted ship. Then once seated we were told we all had to wear masks on the coach by the organiser who wasn’t wearing one themselves. I pointedly said they would have to find both us one each as mine were all in my hand luggage that hadn’t been allowed on the coach. The organiser then got off and we set off. About a 3rd of the people took their masks off immediately.
What a complete farce. I was by now contemplating how soon we could get a flight home. Karen was still in pain from jerking her arm but got eventually herself comfortable and fell asleep with her head on my shoulder.
It was a 2-hour journey to Trieste in Slovenia to finally get to the ship. Boarding was a mess as well. We had to show our passports so many times it’s a wonder they weren’t worn out.
Eventually we were on board what by now I was calling the Prison Ship and found our way to our allocated cell.
Even I had to admit the room wasn’t too bad though.
We decided to head up and find some lunch from the Lido market on the 9th floor. It was quite acceptable. Then we made our way to the Lido Bar and tried out the cocktails. Our package included 15 premium drinks each per day. No idea why, or how they settled upon 15 as an acceptable number. Why not 14 or 16? Anyhow the Strawberry Daiquiris were very drinkable. I had now mellowed quite considerably for some reason after sinking a second one.
Deciding to explore further we found the observation bar and thought we should try the prosecco from there. A couple of big glasses later we were quite happy as we made our way back to our state room (no longer called a cell) to unpack. Normally when we go to a Villa in Florida, I don’t bother but here with space at a premium we couldn’t just leave the suitcases out and so it necessitated us doing so. Again, we were pleased by the well-designed room which had cubby holes for everything.
After a while we decided to head out for dinner. We chose the appropriately named Dining Rooms. We were quite quickly given a table. We both had the Crab Cocktail as a starter whilst I then had a Steak and Karen some fancy chicken. Considering how many they cater for on board they were both of decent quality. We accompanied this with more free drinks of Savvy B from our package. It was so good we thought we had better have another before we left.
We then wandered and stumbled upon the dualling piano bar. These are always a favourite of ours. We got a good table and thought we should try another cocktail as well. I had the Hard Raspberry Lemonade which was so good I had two. The piano players were OK but not great like they have at Disney. The young guy was the best. The young girl was not as good but came into her own when she played Defining Gravity. Some of the musical choices were interesting. There was a group of about 10 youngish Americans who were dancing along but kept shouting out we want Alice between each song. Eventually the pianists played ‘Living next door to Alice’ where they shouted out the rude refrain during the chorus. There were several people in the audiences who had obviously never heard that done before and one guy almost fell off the couch in amazement.
Eventually at 11pm our 3am alarm caught up with us and we retired for the night.
After 7 premium drinks this cruise lark didn’t seem so bad. Whether I will feel the same after 12 days I am not sure. Even the gentle rolling of the ship didn’t seem so bad as it rocked me off to sleep.