Sunday, 9 April 2023

What's a girl to wear? Let's decide now.

 X weeks to go until our first cruise since 2019. I'm not daft enough to tell several potential burglars - and one thieving cousin - the dates we're away. Here are some tips for you. They're mostly for the ladies although I should probably say something like "those who identify as wishing to wear a dress sometimes".

I take great pride in the enormous amount of luggage I can take on a cruise and enjoy saying "The airport is that way, Madam" to anyone rude enough to comment on it. However, some planning of what to take avoids a lot of wasted time and - more important -  energy. I don't pack early. That would make me unpack and repack several times "to make sure". I put everything on a hanging rail and on the spare bed (evicting the cat) and pack the day before the cruise. We live in Southampton so we only have two miles' of travel and don't have to stay anywhere overnight.

I won't tell you what to wear during the day or ashore. There are only so many times you can read "wear layers and comfortable shoes" without falling asleep. Maybe I should master that. Folk get free cruises for writing that.

Important point to remember: "No-one is looking at you". My husband says that to me all the time. 

Getting started

1) Start now. Actually, start two weeks ago if you can nick a Tardis. It takes longer than you think and it's exhausting so you need to do it bit by bit.

2) Set up a system. You need piles/hanging for

- "Yes, I look fantastic in that, I'll pack it". Small space required for this category.

- Sewing/alterations. Don't leave this too late. I have a background in theatre wardrobe so theoretically I can alter/repair anything but I soon lose interest and/or run out of time and the outfit ends up not being taken. Anywhere. Ever. 

- Charity shop

- Maybe next cruise. As in get it out a few weeks before the next cruise and follow this procedure again!

Do not mix these piles up or you will have to start again and then spend ages tidying the bedroom, preferably more than ten minutes before you want to get into bed.

3) Have a colour scheme in mind. I ditch navy and rarely wear jeans anyway so I ditch denim too. Packing black, white and a few bright colours makes life easier. Your "not sure whether that new shirt is navy or black" will drive you mad at sea or on land so throw that out now.

4) Don't forget you need to sort out underwear, shoes, jewellery and the stash of Really Useful Things too.

5) Have a trusty assistant in the house for when you can't unzip yourself. You'll be so proud you were flexible enough to do up that zip but if you can't undo it again you'll have to open the door to the Amazon courier in full evening dress. That's if you can get down the stairs without tripping over it.

6) Have a friend on standby to say, "You always look wonderful, darling" even though he can't see you on the phone. This is not a Facetime opportunity.

7) Remember to tell everyone if you've lost weight and that's now a problem. This will ensure you save money on stamps as there will be no-one left on your Christmas card list.

Formal Nights

I love formal nights, especially the black and white night. There's something quite magical about seeing everyone glide down those stairs to the atrium. If you have evening dresses going back to the 1980s and they fit, then wear them. There's no point even trying to buy new ones as some silly designer has decided women look good in voluminous flowery prints tied up in the middle. Bring back the sequins please.

If you don't have an evening dress then smart black trousers and sparkly top is fine and who doesn't have gold or silver sandals that look a bit daft in Bournemouth? Pack them!

Incidentally, don't be afraid to include white on the black and white night - for gentlemen too  Spot me wearing this one and I'll buy you a drink. That's if only the usual three people read this blog. Otherwise I'll buy you a coffee from the free coffee station.

Tip for the dress wearers: The tripping factor. Watch the length of those frocks. Formal nights are usually on sea days when the ship is tanking along, not pootling to the next Canaries island. If the dress is the right length with high heels, will it be too long if you have to change shoes? If you fall over can you get up again? No, in my case. A getting-up-again team will be required.

Here's a visual aid for that concept. 

Incidentally that dress now needs to go to the tailors for altering since I've shrunk in all directions (see 7) above).

Tip for the men: You ALL look good in a DJ, really you do! Look regularly in the sale section in M & S. At various times of year they sell off formal suits at much reduced prices. Take some stand-out bow ties. Don't bother with the cummerbund. 


Do we need a little lift in that elegant evening dress? Yes, we do. Do we want to look like a hippo who's just got a job as a magician's assistant? No, we don't. Time to find the push-up bras that might fit. This is tricky as they've been put way never to be seen again. Try that drawer you hope your executors won't blab about. Choose executors carefully. 

Yes, it fits. And er, no. When did the boobs get so wrinkly? What is going on there? Do not wear glasses for this project. Find the clothes, take off glasses before looking in mirror. This is definitely a "wish I hadn't gone to Specsavers" moment. 

There was once a time when a push-up bra would have been ideal. Not in your twenties, nothing to work on. Possibly in your late thirties. That ship is well and truly over the horizon. You have permission to cry at this point.

Take comfortable bras. If the dress looks wrong with them alter the dress!


Don't even think of trying to break in new shoes on a ship. You'll be in constant pain


Take new shoes to break in on the ship. You'll have nice flat wooden floors to walk on and you can soon get back to your cabin if they're uncomfortable.

Do you wear boots and flip-flops all day? Start tottering about the house in your heels at least two weeks before the cruise or your calf muscles will give out!

You probably won't need as many shoes as you think. I tend to wear flip-flops around the ship and glittery flip-flops in the evening. Easy peasy. I still take loads of shoes. Be careful if you're thinking of taking shoes you've had for many years. I tried on some old ones, walked across the room and thought, "Great. I can wear these". I turned around and saw little piles of black rubber all over the new carpet. The soles and heels had disintegrated!

This section about shoes is probably no help at all.


I'm tempted to write "Let's not even go there" since I've reached the age where I look at the makeup displays in a shop and have no idea what most of it is for (ditto the rest of the shop...). Plus I seem to be allergic to anything I could put on my face, perversely even more so with the hypoallergenic stuff. I make up - pardon the pun - for this can't-be-bothered look with weird and wonderful goings-on with my hair. So there.

Tip 1: Take a magnifying mirror, one with decent magnification that lights up. Lighting in cabins is abysmal. The mirror is also useful for plucking hairs from your chin even though they're grey now anyway. This blog is scarily based on my actual life experiences. Incidentally, if you like to knit or crochet in these dark cabins you can get little fold up craft lights.

Tip 2: Remember the ship is usually moving while you're getting ready for dinner, certainly if you're on second sitting. This is not the time to try out some new makeup technique you found on Pinterest which is probably designed for 14-year-olds anyway. If you're on a two week cruise you soon start to notice the ladies have got tired of trying to do fancy makeup while being thrown across the room in rough seas.


I have loads of jewellery. Drawers and boxes full of it, mostly the big statement stuff. None of it is valuable. I wore a bracelet last week that was much admired and it cost £2.99 in Sainsbury's. I must find the matching necklace. Tip: if you like bracelets pack a crochet hook and practise using it to do the bracelet up by yourself in case cabin-mate goes awol.

I should probably say, "Ladies, sort out the jewellery you want to wear with each outfit and store it in a little bag with that outfit" Nah. Who does that? I pack loads in a roll up thingy so I have the fun of choosing. Admittedly I store goes-with-formal separately from loud tropical colours but I still get to choose. I actually bought a bigger roll up thingy a few weeks ago. I can't find that...

Style tip: Try a big statement necklace with a V neck dress, even if you don't normally wear one. It makes a difference and detracts from the wrinkles.

Evening Bags

Well, this is no fun at all. I used to carry dinky little evening bags that contained virtually nothing. I still have one my Dad bought me when I was sixteen. Dinky little ones are now useless. As well as my cruise card I need to carry a phone - for its camera function, I hasten to add - reading glasses, a fan and husband's insulin kit if he doesn't have a jacket. Of course if he is wearing a jacket I can load him up with my stuff! This was the pile of evening bags and make-up bags on my bed a few days ago.

Proper Coat

If you ever want to stand out on deck while the ship is moving - or even in port - you'll need a Proper Coat. You're standing on a 10 - 15 storey building. You wouldn't do that without a coat.  Not  necessarily your Big Coat unless you're going way north. I don't do that. An anorak/thick fleece type thing and a fold up mac to carry about with you will be fine.

All the Really Useful Things

I pack a gazillion useful things, mostly in clear zip up bags or hanging pockets so I can see what's what. You might be at sea and/or it costs an arm and a leg to replace the Thing from the shop so I pack it. 

Don't forget: chargers and extra adaptors. Why the extra adaptors? Because you shouldn't take extension leads (surge protectors can sink the ship) and if you take US and European adaptors then you can use all the sockets, not just the UK ones, thereby avoiding charger-related divorce proceedings.

Other essentials

- Strong magnetic hooks. The walls are steel. Hooks mean you can get your hats, bags etc out of the way. Note: these are very strong magnets. I store them in the shed since I don't want half the house magnetised. You can also get magnetic clips to hang the Daily Orders (sorry, Daily News) and other paperwork on the wall.

- Selfie stick. We have dozens of these since no-one follows my advice and we end up buying one on every holiday. People really should listen to my sound advice.

- Sewing kit including shirt buttons 

- Pegs of various sizes. To attach your towel to your sunbed on a breezy day  (the big ones used to hang duvets are great for this), to fix curtains together when there is light coming through the gap, to hang washing on the bungee line you're also going to bring if it's a longer cruise.

- Craft stuff for the Knit and Natter on sea days. See you there!

- A spare bag for the last morning - for your overnight stuff /stupid souvenirs you bought and don't have room for. I usually keep out the big beach bag I use around the pool.

I'd list more but then you'd just think I was bonkers.

And ...relax! Have a great cruise!

Sunday, 8 May 2022

What, no drawers???

 You probably have to be from London to find that title amusing... What is not amusing is the lack of drawers in cabins on the Iona - and presumably the new Arvia. Who thinks of these names? That one sounds like an insurance company. Desperate to get away I've been looking at cruises to the Canaries later this year and basically the choices are the Iona or the Arvia. OK then, let's study the videos peeps have put on You Tube showing us the cabins...

No drawers! Really. There are shelves in the wardrobe, shelves in the looks-rather-nice bathroom then silly narrow shelves in the main part of the cabin and silly little shelves by the bed. Not even bedside drawers. Where does the Gideon bible go?

Leaving aside where, drawers go, what about all the small stuff that has to go in drawers? Have they seen how much kit is required to put my hair up so I don't have to pay ludicrous amounts of money to the Glamour Nazis? Chargers, pens, medication, useful see-through bag of useful things, endless bits of paper and daily news, sock knitting... That stuff doesn't fit on shelves.

It seems like a minor thing but it puts me right off going on these ships.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017


We love the Adonia. Who doesn't? After the most horrible don't-get-me-started year we thought we'd have a treat and book a cruise for May 2018. A big glossy P & O brochure arrived at the end of August. Yummy. I don't usually get those, I have to make do with th'interweb. Sits in comfy chair with coffee to read brochure...

Wait. What? There's no Adonia. Flick through brochure again. Shake it. Fetch needle-threading glasses. No Adonia.

I venture on to the P & O Facebook page where I wouldn't normally go because life is too short to spend it with a bunch of sycophantic twits. Fifty people have already asked. The response is along the lines of details/supplementary brochure will be available shortly. All the cruises on the website are going ahead. Hmm... sounds odd because that is one heck of an expensive brochure they just had printed. So... check website. The cruises are there. Get John to ring and try and book it.....

Down the road chez Carnival it's chaos. The booking staff have clearly not been told that the Adonia has gone missing. Lady goes to check with supervisor who goes to check with manager and who knows how many levels of management and the upshot is "It's fine, we're not changing the Adonia, the cruises are available. If it's on the website we'll honour it, no problem."

So, you heard the lady, no problem. He booked it. Yay! I told my Facebook friends. I put it in the scrapbook. No, I don't have a life, that's why I like to go cruising. We get the acknowledgement etc. I start to think about excursions, in fact I was doing that just three days ago and the cruise was on the website.

Today I hear from a journalist friend, with slower journalist friends hot on his heels, that the Adonia has been sold. There will be no cruises after 9 March 2018. Nothing from P & O. No phone call, no email, no refund, nothing. One is expected to get this crucial information from the P & O Facebook page. I'm not sure what happens to the many passengers who don't use Facebook. Do they arrive at the quayside and forlornly gaze at the horizon (OK, look towards the Hythe sewage plant) and wonder where the ship is?

On said Facebook page you get confirmation from P & O that "other ships are available". Yes, we know, we already chose not to go on them. You also get systematic abuse from the "we lurve P & O" morons who have nothing better to do than hang around on there all day even though the cancellation of a cruise they weren't booked on can hardly be their business. The page is an utter shambles and does a disservice to the company. One look - and that's on a good no-news day - and prospective passengers move on. This is a huge mistake for any business to make. If you have a Facebook page you have to run it properly and remove the nasty types. I did send a message to complain but got one of those standard BS replies that didn't address my complaint. However, it was prompt and it did give me a name to add to my formal complaint.

It always amazes me that idiots on Facebook seem to think P & O booking conditions came down to Moses as a binding appendix. Here's the thing:

1) Contracts are not binding if they are unfair. They can be set aside by the courts. You can't just do what you like and the other party has to lump it!

2) Yes, the captain can do what he sees fit under maritime law but that's the ship part. It doesn't mean the booking/customer services/accounts team can do what they like. Yes, they can cancel cruises if they sell the ship but that brings us to 3)

3) Contracts have to be conducted in good faith. You tell me there's a cruise, I book it, I hand over the deposit in good faith. This is the civil law position. There is also a criminal concept of obtaining money by deception.

The directors of P & O/Carnival have known for months that the ship was being sold. It's not the Rover's Return on Coronation street, you don't sell it within a few days. Did someone decide to take money for something they knew they couldn't deliver? I'm betting during the due diligence process lawyers inserted a clause requiring P & O to cancel all cruises in a timely manner.  I imagine the credit card companies might have something to say about this too. Is it not against their rules for cards to be charged for something that doesn't exist?

Obviously "the reservations staff didn't know" cuts no ice at all. Your contract is with the company, not with the individual who takes your booking.

5) From an accounting point of view it could be said that the company is overstating its cash flow position. There are hints that we have until 27 October to choose a new cruise or have our money back. Does that mean even more delay? Of course this might be set out in their email but since we haven't had such a thing...

6) Communication from the company has been hopeless. We still haven't had an email to say our cruise has been cancelled. Passengers should not have to put up with abuse on the company's Facebook page in order to find out whether they are going on a cruise or not.

Will we book another P & O cruise in the near future? I doubt it. I fancy a few on the Oriana but gossip about the future ownership of that site that doesn't bode well. We've cruised with P & O for over 20 years. They don't actually value our loyalty, they don't even offer the tiniest incentive to book a replacement cruise, not even a bottle of bubbly or a spa treatment. Nothing. An apology for messing up our cruise plans would be nice.  It's "we'll give you your money when we get around to it, now go away, and no  you can't speak to anyone about it". Maybe they should just sell the ships to Ryanair and have done with it.

I feel sad. Not just mad and frustrated but actually sad. Oh well, a trip by rail to the Italian Lakes beckons...

Thursday, 12 March 2015

It's British. We licked it and now it's ours.

My name is Sharon and I love the Britannia before I've even been on it. There, I outed myself.

This is not the fashionable view. The fashionable whinge, er view, is as follows:

1) It was made in Italy
2) The company that owns P & O is American
3) We hate cruise ships
4) We hate big cruise ships even more

Sadly the last two seem to come from a) those who have never been on a cruise ship of any kind, and b) those who are paid to write about cruise ships and go on them all the time. Shame on the latter. Please go and get another job. Or maybe it's the editor's decision to send someone too thick to find the hairdryer socket then generally moan about everything on the ship...

Don't like big ships? Go on the small ones. Don't like ships at all? Then why are you reading articles about them and making inane comments? Surely you have something better to do?

As to the Britishness: I live in Southampton two miles from the cruise terminals and, having missed a lot of the fun because our invitations to the gala dinners seem to get lost in the post, we went down to see the ship on Tuesday (naming day). Now obviously there are some Southampton residents who hate the ships but in our case we looked at this magnificent ship and thought "That's ours". It helped that we'd already booked a cruise on it!

It lives here and it's ours. We have licked it. We might even pee on it to make sure it's ours. We should probably wait for our own cabin on it before we do that. It doesn't do to get arrested at the docks.

What is wrong with being proud of this ship? Hello, it was built for the British cruising market. It's an ever growing market by all accounts but I'll leave that analysis to the professional bloggers. Let's be proud of our cruising industry, our ships and our Southampton heritage.

Here's a page I made of our foray down to the pier on Tuesday. It was just getting dark and the ship was lighting up.

Kits are Sahlin Studio's Project Mouse At Sea and Scrapyrus' Anchor My Love.

I'm a year and a cruise behind!

A cruise behind - is that something you get from eating 24 hours a day?

There were no posts on here in 2014. Obviously the Ventura - see Cruise From Hell - was a big shock to the system. There was a cruise in 2014 on the Adonia but I was very ill when we got back in October, indeed I blamed their uncomfortable beds for my constant pain. It turned out to be a really-bad-how-are-you-still-alive Vitamin D deficiency and the pain is caused by hundreds of teeny tiny bone fractures. I've no idea how it happened to me when no-one sits in the sun more than I do. Anyhoo ... long story and I won't bore you with it except to say if you have odd aches and pains and you're in your 50s you should have a blood test (especially the ladies). I'm on the mend, two more cruises are booked for 2015 and I'll be catching up with view, reviews and scrapbooks.

In the meantime here's a page which sums up cruising for me. I love being at sea. We don't rush around doing everything. In fact we don't do a thing, we just chill out!

Page made with Katie Pertiet's Blended Template #29 and her Del Mar Shores kit. Click on it to see a bigger version.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Two Hour Cruise From Hell

We booked a two day cruise on the Ventura leaving on Friday 13th September. Well, there's a clue about how it went, even though paraskevitriskaidekaphoibia (fabulous Greek term) is not something I'd normally worry about. It's a good day to travel, you can get cheap air fares.

It was effectively a free cruise since we'd used a voucher P & O sent us after an inordinate number of things went wrong on our previous cruise on the Arcadia. So it was looking good ...

We normally arrive at the terminal at about 3pm after a ten minute drive from our house. Since it was only a short cruise we thought we'd leave earlier and have lunch on the ship.

Huge mistake. Huge.

It was the first day of the Boat Show and three other ships were in. To make it worse there were roadworks by the dock gates. So it took at least 40 minutes for our neighbour to drive us two miles to the Ocean Terminal. I was dying for the loo...

We then entered Hell. I'd never been in the Ocean terminal before so it came as a shock to realise that some bozo had designed it without any ventilation. Basically it's a giant shed with no air. It must be ten times worse in summer. It was heaving with people and there was nowhere to sit. Not good for someone still recovering from knee surgery. Worse, it was full of hen parties who'd already been imbibing for several hours. Many were wearing T-shirts with very explicit rude designs and were being told to put their coats back on by some of the security staff. It's a family ship, for goodness' sake. Maybe P & O should have the no-same-sex parties over four rule that decent hotels have.

When we finally got on the ship about 1.30pm the cabin was still not ready and passengers were "encouraged to make use of the restaurants". Good luck with that. The buffet restaurant upstairs was packed with people and their luggage and there was nowhere to sit. Clearly not many of the cabins were ready. By this time it was becoming crtitical for my diabetic husband to get some lunch and we squeezed into the restaurant. The food was cold by the time we found somewhere to sit but we avoided a hypo for John. Yes, we could have avoided this crush if we'd left later and we will never try to get on a ship early again. But then we'll never again go on a short cruise...

We got to our cabin. Tiny and inside but that was no problem. The problem was the same one we'd encountered on our previous cruise - no air conditioning. And when we say no air conditioning in a small inside cabin we're not just talking about the inconvenience of being too warm. We're talking  about NO AIR TO BREATHE !! Hoping that it might improve we decided to take a look around the ship. We met our steward on the way out and I asked for a flatter pillow. I've never had trouble with this before, the staff have always brought me a flatter pillow. Our steward did not know enough English to know what we were talking about. There seemed to be no option of any other pillow so I was faced with a bad neck for two nights.

Looking back we could have phoned Housekeeping Services but by this time were were both feeling ill due to lack of fresh air and the delay in getting lunch for John was beginning to have a bad effect on him. This was not helped by discovering that our idiot GP practice had prescribed the wrong bolus insulin (he was due to start pre-dinner injections that weekend).

We decided to get off the ship. That is quite a trick when you've gone through many layers of security to get on it. Those layers have to be undone. It meant more standing around at reception and lots of walking because - being "airside" - we couldn't use the lifts. My knees were killing me by the time we got to the taxi rank, indeed they were agony for weeks afterwards.

Want to hear the worst bit?? Five days later it was obvious I'd caught a cold from that crowd of unwashed drunks in the terminal and then a chest infection that dragged on for weeks!

It did at least give me material for a scrapbook page (click on it to see a larger version):

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

When the boat comes in - on a lorry

I love this photo, taken by Paulo Massa. It did the rounds on Facebook. The ship is the Azura, according to a friend with better glasses than me. Azura's home is Southampton but we haven't been on her yet. We're on the Ventura soon which is apparently the same design.

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The song has dozens of versions but this is the one my Dad used to sing. He was a Geordie and "When my boat comes in" was a standard response to kids asking "Can I have ...?". The page was made with a stacked paper background and other elements from Cruisin' by Natalie's Place Designs.

Friday, 19 April 2013

On the ship's rail. Literally.

The seagulls in Vigo follow the ships out of port for several miles. I'm not sure if they get extra food like that. It seems to be a game in which seagulls try to out-position each other. Needless to say it's tricky getting a good photo of them. Last time we were in Vigo I got about 100 shots of sky with an unidentifiable blurry object.

This page was made with the Seaside Cottage template in Studio-Scrap.

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Here the seagulls are bedecked with bunting as befits a page in my ABC of European Cruising album and we have humans on the rail vying for space:

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Cluster from At The Beach Groupies 2 by Meryl Barto.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Our very first cruise

You always remember your first!

We spent a week on the Odysseus, a tiny ship compared to the modern fleets. There were a few worrying aspects that might have put us off cruising for life. For instance one corner of our suitcase appeared to have been dunked in water and we spread socks out on the windowsill to dry. This didn't quite work since we were below the water line while the ship was moving and water was coming in through the closed porthole. Eeek...

We sailed from Athens and our first port of call was Alexandria in Egypt. The cruise director's voice came over the PA: "Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to Egypt" and it was magical to go on deck and see the famous old station building through the haze across the water.

We didn't get off as we'd heard far too much about cruise passengers in Egypt. Thereby hangs another tale. The ship disembarked passengers for tours to Cairo and we stayed on the ship all day while it sailed to Cairo to pick them up. It was our first taste of a day on board without many passengers, something we always enjoy.

Here's a scrapbook page of our first trip to Egypt. You will rarely see "ordinary" photos on this blog. Photos are for making scrapbook pages.... excuse what my husband calls the "bouncing bombs". I like adding bling!

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Sunday, 3 February 2013

Welcome to my new blog!

This blog will be all about cruising, if you hadn't guessed. We're lucky to live two miles from the main UK cruise terminals and it takes us ten minutes to get from house to ship with the help of a kind neighbour who drives us there. I have photos of that ... those who know me or read my other blogs will know that no blog is complete with scrapbook pages.