Grand Banks

General location

We have continued to steam on the great-circle route, having crossed the Grand-Banks aprox 18 hours ago. We are currently proceeding down the coast of Canada. The Great-Circle route has now been replaced with a more direct "plumb-line" course.

The past 2 days has seen some very varied weather indeed - from calm and peaceful (presently) to gale force 9 winds - mercifully the sea state did not get more than force 5.

Titanic

It seems hardly possible to complete an Atlantic crossing without your mind wondering about the terrible tragedy of the Titanic. You may think that Cunard would not try and draw people's attention to it (Airlines never show movies where a plane crashes) - but on our access deck - there is a very large display regarding the Titanic and the Corinthian.

At midnight yesterday - we passed 200 miles North of where the Titanic lies. We quietly raised our glasses - at the appropriate time.

The weather has generally been rather solemn, with dark clouds looming on the horizon.

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Life on Board

We have rather quietened down regarding - all the things to do - as it was simply becoming a little too busy. And the 'holiday - what holiday ?' conversation was starting to pick up.

We have continued with the Ballroom Dancing lessons although the Quick-Step yesterday simply confused the living daylights out of us. I think today it is "The Jive" ... so we shall see how that goes.

20's night

This evening is the last formal ball of the cruise - the "Roarding 20's". It will be interesting to see who gets dressed up in what. Some people really make a super effort - others less so, and possibly about 20% of the passengers make no-effort at all, in fact by not dressing up they are excluded from 80% of the public areas after 18:00.

Upper Decks

Dora was off exploring the other day.

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Nautical themes abound on-board, not really surprising.

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This was us last night for an "informal evening"!! - We were by no means the most over dressed - this is quite the norm on-board.

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Dora ready to party....

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Trying to remember the dance steps ....

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Flemish Cap

Flemish Cap

We awoke to a howling noise, and un-mistakable feel of large waves thundering into the ship. The previous days calm weather had been very dramatically replaced with some angry seas.

Refreshing walk

Prior to breakfast, Dora and I take a few laps around the deck. It was much quieter out there this morning - with only a few hardy soles braving the conditions.

Mid Atlantic Ridge

Mid Atlantic Ridge

At some time close to Noon today we reached the northern track of our course and have since started to head south.

The weather has improved with the swell dropping from 5m to maybe only 1-2m, the wind also has softened and we even saw the sun for a few brief minutes.

Life on Board

Dora and I have nearly adjusted to the life on board, some of the classes we attend seem fixed in their timings, namely fencing and ball-room lessons. Today we very excitingly did the laundry, but compensated for it with a Movie in the cinema.

This evening is another formal event, so we are attending the Captain's Cocktail Party.

Early morning deck photos

A small collection of early morning, walking on deck images.

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Dora, trying to stay a little out of the wind.

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I see no ships, land or anything !

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Rather empty decks, with no takers for the sun-beds.

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Ireland is about 600 miles astern.

Formal Evening

We were received by the Captain of the Queen Mary 2, he and his officers held a very pleasant reception in the Queens Ball room.

For the evening we were quite dressed up.

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Dora on the sweeping steps.

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A penguin - relaxing looking at the on-going festivities.

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Dora - relaxing prior to dining.

Travel time

Here you will find some links to my pages which I have previously posted.

Oct 2017

UK - Atlantic Voyage

March 2017

Philippines

Dec 2016

UK

Sept 2016

USA

Road Trip DC - CO - LV - CO - DC

Sep 2016

Oman

Feb 2016

Seychelles

Mar 2015

France

Oct 2015

USA

Sep 2015

Oman

Bishops Rock

Bishops Rock

Despite turning our watches back 1 hour prior to retiring, we awoke to a slight degree of "where are we ?". Our almost soundless cabin was totally dark, and yet a slight 'pitch and roll' could be felt.

As we opened the curtains - where we were greeted by a very green expanse, on the very horizon we could see 2 flashes from a lighthouse. Which due to the most informative notes in the daily paper, indicated that we are about to pass the Bishops Rock lighthouse.

This (I have very recently understood) is the traditional starting point (from a nautical point of view) of the Atlantic crossing. So - we have begun.

Daily planning

The ship produces a newspaper which is delivered to your stateroom (cabin) in the evening. The main current dilemmas are

  • Should we go to the buffet restaurant to be on time for some possible fencing lessons ?
  • Where do we get tickets for the Planetarium ?
  • Ballroom dancing lessons are as 12:00 does this effect our lunch options ?
  • This evenings "Black and White" Ball - what will it be like ?

To say that there are a wide range of things to do - would be a massive understatement.

Deck Walk

Ships log: 0730 - at the eastern edge of the north Atlantic.

This is the view from our balcony.

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Dora and I went for several laps of the deck. 3 Laps is 1 mile - I think we just about managed that. The ship was pitching quite heavily at times, the feeling not surprisingly was most noticeable at the bow & stern.

We managed to see several large pods of Dolphins which was lovely. They raced towards the ship, no doubt intending to play at the bow.

Breakfast

Ships log: 0800.

As we had already got things planned for the morning - we chose to eat in the self service restaurant. Very nice selection of food - self-service. A pleasant way to start the day.

Dora looking rather wind battered.

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Fencing Classes

Ships log: 0900. Queens Ballroom.

I used to fence (as in sword not farmers field) at school and for my University , but all of this was a very long time ago. So I was very keen to have a refresher set of classes.

The first logistical challenge was finding my way to the Queens Ballroom. This took a little longer than planned, but I was there to see the conclusion of the Palates class.

Classes are limited to 12 people, and Roger our instructor soon has us warmed up, and advancing and retreating in that special fencing manner.

Wow - I had forgotten how physically tiring this all was. Myself and a few other people were soon quite red faced and huffing and puffing.

The class in total lasted for 50 minutes, and I am planning to be back tomorrow morning for session 2.

Maritime Lecture

10:10 !!

A quick shower, and we attended a maritime liner lecture. Alas I needed some liquids - so we cut this a little short.

Coffee time

11:00

With plenty of lovely restaurants and coffee shops around the ship we took a mini break.

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Ballroom Dancing lessons

12:15 Yes, the title is correct. In the ball-room, the on-board professional dancing couple give group lessons once a day. There must have been 100 people for todays lesson - The Cha-Cha-Cha

Dora survived without needing hospital treatment, just how much we may remember for this evening is anyone's guess.

Planetarium

13:30

Oh - yes this ship has the worlds only floating planetarium.

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It was a nice show - nothing too difficult to grasp, and a pleasant rest.

Lunch

14:00.

Rather wearily, we tucked into a delicious 3 course meal. Again the choices of restaurants is very wide ranging.

I will stop the micro-blog on the day, there is literally something going on on-board for 18 hours a day.

Outfit of the day

As this evening was the first formal event, we were more dressed up than usual.

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Yours truly, all dressed up.

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Dora looking glamorous.

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Dora planning some retail therapy !

Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

Southampton

Southampton bound

Very sadly we said goodbye to our friends from Salisbury, and started the short journey to Southampton, via the New Forest.

We managed to get some glimpses of the area - seeing plenty of horses, donkeys and cows in the process.

We returned the hire car, only to find a surprise chip in the screen... which of course would cost me £££ - Never mind - it was still cheaper than the two taxi rides would have been (only just).

Taxi to the Docks

We got a very zippy taxi driver - yet it still took over 25 mins to get to the Dock area.

Boarding the ship

The taxi dropped us in a rather clean shed !! A large shed with lots of Union Jacks hanging from the rafters. We wheeled our bags to a drop off area and then stood in a line for approx 30 mins.

There were at least 30 check in staff - but they needed to see (and to verify) all the paperwork - even having a US Visa (Or ESTA) - seems to require other people to confirm it.

After what seemed like a very long check-in process - we were issued 2 ship ID cards, and we carried on forwards.

We soon descended from deck 7 to deck 5 - and entered our stateroom.

The Stateroom

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Dora looking happy we finally made it on-board.

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A small welcome present.

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Me checking that the bed meets our requirements !

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Settling in

After squaring away the cabin, we went out on deck for a wander, to see the sights, as we will not see any land for 6 days once we get fully out to sea.

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Checking the sun-loungers meet our requirements - it's all go !!

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Dora looking relaxed just prior to sailing.

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OOTD 1

Outfit of the Day - day 1

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myself - a formal evening dress.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

Salisbury

Salisbury

We awoke to a lovely crisp UK morning, sun, clear skies. In our gracious hosts garden we watched a pair of very fat wood-pigeons walk around the garden as we tucked into our traditional breakfast.

We had been booked onto a Tower Tour, by Wendy.

Salisbury has a very impressive Cathedral. fnfn

We were blessed with a lovely day - it was a little chilly out of the sun, but the leaves were just starting to turn, and the area around the Cathedral was quiet and peaceful.

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Black Madonna

This state is called the Black Madonna - I think for fairly obvious reasons.

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Tower Tour

The Tower Tour can be booked at the Salisbury Cathedral, places are limited to max of 12 people per tour. You need to be Ok with heights, and able to walk up approx 330 steps.

The tour guide we had for this was called Des - he was excellent in his knowledge, enthusiasm and sense of humour. He is highly recommended.

First Level

After ascending 62 steps (yes I did count them) - we got possibly one of the best sights we were to see - a view down the main body of the Cathedral.

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After Des explained how the roof was constructed we were able to look at the West Wall in great details as we were standing literally by it.

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This is the crest of Richard the Lionheart.

Second Level

We rose again approx another 60 steps, until we appeared in what more resembled a barn than the roof of an English Gothic Cathedral.

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The differences in how the roof was supported, is alledgedly due to the Tudor construction techniques being used in conjunction with 13th Century building mechanisms. Unless someone took the time to explain them to you - you would simply miss them.

Clock Deck

We rose again, until we reached where the clock mechanism was situated. Resembling a potting shed, we could trace the wires that lead to the roof.

End of the Original Tower

We carried on climbing until we reached where the original tower had been, but in the 1300's the "extension" was added. This required some extra bracing to be made due to the weight of approx 6,000 tonnes being added.

What you can see here are 14th Century iron works for re-enforcement (the thin rods) along with 17th Century (Sir Christopher Wren) braces.

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Whilst it looks ugly on the inside - none of this is visible from the outside.

Bell Deck

I think we rose another level to where the bell are situated. We had been warned they can be loud - and indeed they were.

We listened to the quarter-past peel - but were mercifully spared the large on the hour bell.

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Just in case you were wondering if Dora was there .... She was (of course) !

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Final Deck - the 8 sided room

Another climb - this time much more narrow, and we reached the end of the "easy to get to" section, and from here onwards only the trained staff were allonwed to proceed.

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Despite our altitude being approx 220 feet, the section above us was another 180 feet. Inside the wooden structure was totally original ! Dating from 1320 or thereabouts.

The view

We enjoyed views over the town from 3 sides (the 4th being out of bounds due to a Peregrine Falcon nest)

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Terra Firma

There is a large font in the centre of the church, as as it was quite and peaceful - it produced some interesting reflections.

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Off to the pub !

After a hearty bowl of soup, we headed out past the "water meadows" - until we reached a lovely pub. Where we all sat down and relaxed for 40 mins or so.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

2017 Oct UK

Flying Visit

Having gone to bed the day earlier at 20:00 !! 02:00 still felt as thought it was in the middle of the night. I again seemed to have a traffic violation, but the police were unable to say where or when (I just treat this as some type of a travel tax).

The flight from Muscat to Dubai was painless (except for the time of the day) - and after a short wait we boarded the A380 to London.

the flight on the A380 was very good, and despite a very loaded plane we had space to move around. The inflight meals and entertainment were what we have come to expect of Emirates over the years - a nice way to arrive.

UK Immigration

For a British person UK Immigration has never been an issue - but for people who have already had to endure the rigors (and considerable expense) of applying and being granted a UK Visa - there is the Queue.

I waved good-bye to Dora at the UK/EU Left and ALL OTHERS (here be Dragons) Right sign, to literaly walk through the autometed immigration process.

I have never used my Bioetric UK Passport before - and it was excellent expierience.

Downstairs to the baggage hall and within 7 mins I had all the luggage, next issue would be - when will Dora arrive.

In fact it took her less than 20 minutes to get through the queue.

Heathrow - full marks today. I hope everyone's expierience is as painless as our was.

Hire Car and away

We have chosen to use a hire call for the 2 days we are here - as it was cheaper than the Heathrow to Sailsbury taxi fare (£120).

With Mr Hertz also being quick and painless - we were soon heading M25 South, to M3 to A303.

Despite our overnight stop being just a little south of Sailsbury, we kept on past the Sailsbury exit, past Andover until we saw the signs for The Stones - yes, Off to see a World Heritage site called Stonehenge.

Stonehenge

The new Stonehenge visitors centre is a long long way away from the Stones. In fact you can not even see them. There is however a nifty Bus service - you can walk the 2 miles if you want, but most people do not like this concept - and with a cold grey sky, threatening signs of rain - we did not like this idea much either. Of course this means you need to pay the National Trust;

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Dora, showing slight signs of excitement prior to boarding the bus to take us to the Stones.

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Dora, enjoying the very fresh air that was blowing in from the South-West. Wait a few more minutes and it would be rain.

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Despite it being early Oct, and in the middle of the week, it was still very busy. With lots of EU cars stopping.

The ticket office informed me that in summer they peak at 15,000 visitors per day! Not sure that would be just as enjoyable expierience.

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Not sure who this is :) ... Trying not to look cold.

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The massive stones at the centre of the ring. Quite amazing to wonder how (and why) this was accomplished over 3,000 years ago.

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Now fully acclimitised to the UK weather, Dora seems to be back into her stride. It was nice that the weather was "fresh", the clean crisp air made a pleasant change from the hot, dusty atmosphere were are more accustomed too.

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Gallery

There are some more photos including these in the gallery.

Bohol 2017

Bohol Island

We chose to return to Bohol mainly so Dora and JB could see the wonderful sea life that abounds this island. I visited the island 4 years ago - and so I was interested to see how things had changed/progressed.

Getting there

From Manila there is a direct flight via at least 2 airlines (Cebu Pacific and Air Asia) - we chose Cebu Pacific, who in the past were terrible (no planes, change of terminal, flights delayed, plane turned around in mid-air !), but this time they were excellent.

Exiting the airport in Tagbilaran city (there is a new airport under construction on Panglao island now) we grabbed a Tri-cycle and spent a slightly cramped 45 minutes until we reached Alona Beach area. We had not booked any accommodation, as there is an abundance of various room types. Dora did some reconnaissance, and soon we were sorted out.

Dive Shops

There are at least 10 large diving shops - some cater exclusivly for Korean, Japanese but most will "take anyone". I had dived with a Filipino owned and run operation last time called Island Adventure so I wanted to see how they were doing.

Island Adventure

A small shop about 90m past White-tip/Dive Supply, but with decent rental gear ($2/day) and excellent shore/boat/dive staff.

The office lady (July) was still there, as were 2 of the dive guides (Conrad and Juin) - hoping that things were still as good as before, we signed up for some diving for Dora and myself. JB was booked into his PADI Advanced course with a new instructor Oliver.

Diving

Most of the diving here was done around Balicasad Island, which is a marine sanctuary about 30 minutes by boat away. The diving there is generally easy, however exercise extra care when ascending due to boat traffic.

Dives and Videos

Dive No Location Main Topic
1 Balicasad Jacks and Turtles
2&3 Balicasad Turtles
4&5 Balicasad Frog Fish, Devil Scorpion
6&7 Napoli Sardine Ball
8&9 Balicasad Turtles and Jacks
10&11 Balicasad Turtles
12&13 Napoli Sardine Ball


Island Adventure was the company we used, and in 10 days of diving I saw no reason to change that.

A Day exploring on a scooter

With a flight coming up, and the fatigue of 13 dives on the trot starting to make us all more tired than normal, we rented a pair of scooters and went to see 2 of Bohol's most famous tourists attractions.

Riding motorbikes is fun - however dangerous! Filipino roads are not like EU/US roads, they are generally a poor surface, with occasional large holes in them. Coupled with this there is a wide variety of traffic... Proceed with caution.

Tashir

A Tashir is the worlds smallest primate. It lives (quietly) on the Island of Bohol. After leaving our accommodation at 0800, and buying 2 litres of petrol (that is all that would fit into our monster scooters) we arrived at the Tasir reserve at 0910. The ride had been pleasant, with a little rain.

The entry fee is 60 php/head (aprox $1) - and we got a private guide - everyone gets a private guide.... and here is why.

The Tashir only are active during the night, so finding them is impossible. Apparently every morning a ranger goes and finds the animals - and they re-arrange the mini maze they have there, so you can be guided to the animals.

The Tashir is incredibly small - 2/3'rds the size of a soft-drink can. But with large round eyes. It was a great experience, and one which was run very professionally.

Chocolate Hills

The Bohol Chocolate Hills are world famous, and so another hours "biking" and a petrol stop and we had arrived. There was a walkway up of 250 steps, which was a little tiring, but nice to stretch our legs after the bike trip.

The view of the hills was wonderful. They are amazing to look at - of course this was a busy place so arrive very early if you want to have some tranquillity.

Subic Bay Wreck Diving

Subic Bay

After some slight delays due to airplane tickets, Juliet and I eventually set off for Subic - this was my first ever time driving in the PI, I was quite surprised how pleasant the experience was !! Despite it looking like chaos on the roads, it is slow speed chaos - unlike Oman!!.

As we pulled into Olongopo - one of the biggest dive shops Arizona Dive Shop was still open, so in the hope that they could supply a replacement dive computer we stopped.

Arizona Dive Shop

The dive shop is Australian owned, and also has UK and PI dive staff. James one of the resident instructors agreed with my requirements that a Zoop was pretty much what I needed. However they had none in stock !! With the promise that the computer would be here in the morning - we went ahead.

Arizona had impressed me, so instead of going to my usual dive shop (Johans) we chose to try diving with Arizona in the morning.

Diving

Subic bay - offers lots of opportunities for wreck diving enthusiasts. With depths ranging from 10-60+ meters.

Beer Barrels !

This was a new "wreck" for me - close to Grande Island. In a depth of 30m - it was described as looking like a bridge, with a bend in it, inside the structure are many large cylinders. Hence it's nickname of "Beer Barrels".

To get better bottom time, and less Deco - we used a typical Nitrox blend 32%.

The wreck is really some form of structure - somewhat similar in size of that of a Bailey Bridge. However the shape has a definite curve in it. The Cylinders appear to be large approx 6m long and approx 2m in diameter. I think in total there are 13 of them.

So what is it ? On hearing that there may be another one close by, and I already know that there are some barges close to this, I personally suspect it is some small Dry Dock, or submarine support structure. Which would have been connected for material access using a line of barges.

Go and have a look for yourself ! and form your own opinion.

Here is the Video for this dive

Arizona Diving

I found them to be a very good and well setup dive organisation. With some very knowledgeable and experienced staff. I shall return to continue diving with them in the hopefully near future.