Posted by: glenswatman | May 17, 2009

200905-1-USA Texas BERMUDA PORTUGAL SPAIN FRANCE ENGLAND

200905

 

FRIDAY 1 MAY 2009 – The next stage of the
motorhome sale is for Keith to get a Texas safety inspection test.  Luckily there is a garage a couple of miles
away and they do it instantly.  It cost
around $40 (£28) and Harry passes with no problems.  The final hurdle is registration at the county offices.  In Harris County this is at the courthouse
and the appropriate office has a huge queue. 
I nip to the ladies toilet and am amazed to find it a single room
complete with armchair – Louise declines my invitation to come in and
wait!  They only take cash for vehicle
transfers so I have to draw money from my ATM to give Keith enough for the
fees.  At the desk the lady begins putting
the info on the computer and once Keith has signed a form to show he has no
social security number everything can be completed.  Keith is presented with a total bill for vehicle registration,
number plates, taxes and transfer fees etc and that completes the deal.  Returning to the campground Tom Tom gets us
a little lost and we end up driving through the attractive old town of
Spring.  Louise is a hairdresser and
gives me a super haircut and does my make up for our night out.  We drive to Tim’s, our host whom we
previously stayed with.  Since we saw
him he has done a hike into the Grand Canyon and a ski trip so we enjoy looking
at his photos.  Goode Company BBQ (www.goodecompany.com)
is our choice for a meal and it is as good as last time.  They serve lots of smoked meats in a canteen
like setting with outdoor tables and we all enjoy our food.  After dropping Tim off we head to a
nightclub in the hope of surprising Wayne & Sylvia and other HHH members
who are going there.  The surprise is on
us, as they don’t show up.  In fact the
whole thing is a bit of a waste of time as hardly anyone is there and even when
we leave just before midnight it is still not very lively. 

HOUSTON 3, SPRING OAKS

 

SATURDAY 2 MAY – Steve & I get up early to
pack our things.  Spend a little time
reviewing things with Keith & Louise. 
After lunch we head off to check out the “Orange Show”.  It is one of Houston’s quirkier attractions
but a bit of a let down.  Many years ago
a guy bought the land opposite his house with the intention of creating a show
to encourage people to eat more oranges. 
He bought up anything old and cheap to build a sort of theatre with
tractor seats and other oddities. 
Unfortunately it hasn’t quite worked out but is preserved because it is
a foundation connection to the art car festival.  We try to visit Heritage Park in the centre but again Tom Tom
fails us and we miss the exit and need to do another complete circuit of the
city to get back but decline and return home – or should I say to Keith &
Louise’s motorhome.  After a final pack
up we leave Harry for the last time to drive to China Bear restaurant to meet
Ineke, Jos and their girls.  The buffet
is excellent and good practice for the cruise. 
It is only10 months since they emigrated from Holland but Mara 11 and
Jona 8 are now speaking really good English, if only we could learn half as
much as they as quickly I would be delighted. 
When it is time to leave we transfer the luggage and wish Keith &
Louise well for the travels.  No sooner
have we arrived back at Ineke’s than I realise we have left Steve’s suit
hanging up in Keith’s car.  Jos drives
Steve over to the campground to retrieve it and when they get back they tell us
that Keith & Louise were sat down watching “Last of the summer wine” on
TV.  Mara has moved out to share Jona’s
bedroom giving us a double bed for the night so we settle down to our first
night of being homeless!

SPRING

 

SUNDAY 3 MAY – Jos hated his work here as a teacher so packed it in and
now has 3 part time jobs.  Today he is
doing a shift at Home Depot and heads off on his motorhome bike straight after
breakfast.  Ineke suggests we might like
to go with them to the local church “The Loft” (
www.loftchurch.com).  It is not like anything we have ever been to before.  The location is more like a theatre with a
coffee shop in the foyer and free coffee if you only want the basic stuff.  You are encouraged to takes your drinks into
the auditorium with a huge stage set up like a concert.  Everyone is dressed very casually including
the band and the pastor who arrives in jeans. 
He makes a really funny introductory speech and then the band play a
rock song with religious overtones.  The
service continues with the theme about God offering unlimited Grace when we do
things wrong.  He illustrates the point
with a story of his own life and how as a San Diego city boy he struggled with
the outdoors in the army and got addicted to pornography whilst training to be
a pastor.  We really enjoy it and think
that if more places were like this then probably far more people would go to
church.  Ineke takes us back via the
best 99c (70p) store we have ever been to, they even sell fresh fruit and
veg.  I can’t resist some chunky
jewellery and a few other things – in fact 17 items in all!  Ineke was bitten by a fire ant recently and
her foot has swollen up so she decides to shelve the afternoon trip, which also
suits us fine.  Shortly after Jos
returns from work around 10pm we head to bed for Steve to try and sleep and me
to clock watch.

SPRING 2

 

MONDAY 4 MAY – Ineke gives us a call at 5am
and half an hour later is driving us to Houston Bush Intercontinental
airport.  We’ve got on really well with
the family and hope our paths cross again in the future.  We’ve done on line check in so after being
dropped off we only have to find a place to leave the 1 bag that we couldn’t
avoid checking in.  Continental now
charge $15 (£12) for the first bag but allow 2 pieces of carry on and we have 5
items.  This is probably the largest
amount of luggage we have ever travelled with and it is most uncomfortable.  We also don’t look the way we normally do,
Steve has his suit on and I am wearing jeans and trainers in order to wear our
bulkiest and heaviest things.  Our
flight leaves at 7.30am.  2 hours later
we land in Miami, 10.30am local time. 
We need to get to the cruise port and can take the RCI shuttle at $15.80
each, Super Shuttle at $15 each or a taxi for $24.  No contest especially as we manage to share a cab with another
couple.  As soon as we get out of the
cab our bags are taken from us to be sent to our cabin.  Check in for the cruise is speedy and by
noon we are enjoying our first buffet meal aboard the Royal Caribbean
International ship Jewel of the seas. 
It is strange to suddenly hear so many British accents.  Quite a few people have done this as a back-to-back
cruise following 2 weeks cruise from Miami through the Panama Canal whilst
others came over on the Queen Mary 2 to New York.  At 1pm we can go to our cabin, 4014, where we are impressed by
its spaciousness including a sofa in a small lounge area.  The daily list of activities is quickly
studied and priorities highlighted in true Swatour style!  2pm is a mingle and meet welcome meeting
with a quiz that has you hunting places for answers and thus discovering what
they offer on board.  You can get a free
make up at the shop so I book one for before the first formal meal.  Next we do a full exploration of the ship,
which seems huge. It has a large out door pool with 2 hot tubs, a beautiful
solarium with pool and a smaller pool on the top deck.  There’s a cinema, games room and plenty of
other things to keep us occupied.  To
lure people to the beauty salon area they hold a raffle offering prizes for
many of the different treatments they offer. 
We can’t hear what the last offering is but hear our cabin number and
Steve’s name called out.  Turns out he
has won the “exotic aromaspa seaweed wrap” valued at $195 (£140).  He asks if I can take it instead and I am
delighted to find it is for the seaweed body mask followed by a head and foot
massage.  The prize must be taken on
land days so I book it for after our day in Bermuda.  Are we off to a good start or what?  The Turkish bath and sauna are free to use and I hop on their scales
to weigh in at 146 lbs.  The lifeboat
drill takes place then at 5.30pm we set sail. 
Leaving Miami is lovely as we head out along a channel past South
Beach.  We find a small restaurant
called “Seaview Café” and can’t resist having fish & chips and onion rings
to “put us on”.  Our baggage still
hasn’t been delivered but our cabin steward Tetiana from Ukraine assures us all
the bags are on board and we will get ours soon.  We are very happy to receive them before going out for the
evening as Steve feels over dressed and I feel under dressed.  We take up the offer of free liqueur sampling
before the show that introduces the entertainment staff with a brief comedy
act.  We’ve changed to 6pm early dining
from tomorrow onwards but tonight dinner for us is at 8.30pm.  We are at a table of 10 with good
company.  Jim & Jackie are next to
us and we have a great chat.  I control
myself and only have 2 desserts.  Last
event of the evening for us is the trivia quiz and our team are joint winners
but lose the tiebreaker.  Clocks go
forward another hour tonight so with 2 time changes today we head to bed at
midnight.

ROYAL CARRIBEAN INTERNATIONAL, JEWEL OF THE SEAS 1

SAILING FROM MIAMI TOWARDS BERMUDA

 

TUESDAY 5 MAY – We have a really good
sleep.  I manage to show considerably
more restraint than Steve at breakfast as he has 4 different lots.  At 10am we are in the cinema watching Wall
E.  It is a Disney cartoon having a pop
at the Americans style of living the theme being that they have had to leave
earth to allow robots to clean up the trash whilst living in space and becoming
totally sedentary and obese.  It has its
moments but could be better and at one point I am the only person in our row
that isn’t sleeping.  Sea life must make
you sleepy as we return to our cabin for a nap but get disturbed by
announcements; it is starting to feel like “Hi Di Hi”.  After lunch I sit by the pool whilst Steve
goes to the art auction, mainly for the free champagne.  Swimming in the pool is rather strange as it
is salt water and you get waves as the ship rocks.  I take up my free make up offer before getting changed for our
first formal night.  This begins in the
Safari Lounge with a cocktail party and introduction to the Captain and
crew.  The Captain tells us there are
just over 2000 passengers on board, 1100 have sailed with RCI before and come
from 55 countries.  He also informs us
that the crew come from 65 different countries.  In the dining room we are seated at a table of 12 and end up
between 2 Yorkshire couples – Alan & Ike who have stayed on from the Panama
cruise and Pat & Dave who came over on the Queen Mary 2.   From Scotland Lyn is on board with her Mum
Margaret.  Alan & Christa are from
Canada, and Louisa & Francois from Belgium.  Our waiter is Clifford from India and drinks waitress Benen from
Turkey.  I lack restraint and end up
ordering 3 desserts to everyone’s amazement. 
Funny how others order 2 or 3 starters or main courses without anyone
noticing but my dessert order creates quite a stir.   

RCI JEWEL OF THE SEAS 2

SAILING FROM MIAMI TOWARDS BERMUDA

 

WEDNESDAY 6 MAY – After breakfast we play a round
of mini golf before settling down to sunbathe. 
Late afternoon we sight land as we approach the islands of BERMUDA.  The ocean here is a most beautiful inky blue
and the island looks really attractive.   
It is around 4pm when we are allowed off ship into the attractive
Docklands area.  At the tourist
information we gather maps and guide books and begin our walk around.  It is already cold and windy and when it
begins to rain we opt to return to the ship. 
The evening show is a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute band
called “The unexpected boys” and they are excellent.  After that we go to the disco for Motown hour. 

RCI JEWEL OF THE SEAS 3

BERMUDA

 

THURSDAY 7 MAY – We leave the ship to give us
time to explore the docklands before catching the ferry to St George.  We’ve bought an all day bus and ferry pass
for $12 (£8) but don’t have long enough to make the best use of it.  St George is really pretty.  There is no natural fresh water supply on
the island so all the houses collect rainwater and store it in an underground
tank.  To purify the water the roofs are
white lime washed and this looks really pretty off set by pastel coloured
walls.  Virtually every house is a
different colour, which would look rather twee in England but works very well here.  We wander around the town with cobbled and
narrow streets admiring the buildings. 
There are lot of narrow alleys inviting exploration and we are happy to
get lost whilst making our way to the unfinished church.  It takes almost an hour for us to go by bus
to Hamilton and the journey is very interesting giving us chance to see more of
the island.  Hamilton is the capital and
the largest (in fact only) city.  Here
we see businessmen in suits with Bermuda shorts and long socks.  In the City Hall there is a free art museum
with a special display of painted motorcycles. 
The cathedral looks rather strange being of British design but
surrounded by palm trees.  We visit many
nice parks and buildings but can’t linger long and hop on the South Road bus
after an hour.  This time we get an
overview of many fantastic pink beaches back by the beautiful blue ocean.  At the Docklands we visit the Snorkel Beach
before boarding ship.  At 3.30pm I take
the spa treatment Steve won.  Alexandria
from Serbia is my beautician and she really wants to pick my brains about our
travels doing things on the cheap. 
She’s only 37 but her husband died a couple of year ago and now she is
afraid to travel alone and not sure she can afford it.  Naturally I steer her in the right direction
and recommend Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. Then we get down to business, I
strip off and put on these black paper shorts – one size fits all and most
inelegant, then lie on a table covered in foil.  Warm mud is plastered all over me then I am wrapped up like a
turkey with a big duvet on top to keep me warm.  Whilst the seaweed and aromatherapy mixture takes effect I get a
lovely head massage.  About 15 minutes
later I clean up in the shower then lie face down for more massage.  This time it is my back and legs and so
relaxing that the next thing I know I hear a bell jingling to wake me up.  I must have had a little extra treatment as
it is after 5pm and should only have been a 75-minute session. Alexandria doesn’t
have another client so I stay for another half hour chatting to her.  In the dining room it is Italian night with
most of the food from there.  The
evening show is an English man on the piano and he is very skilled but doesn’t
manage much interaction with the audience. 
Round of the day with the 10pm movie “Next” at the cinema.  For a ship of over 2000 passengers the
cinema with around 50 seats is insufficient and many people end up sitting in
the aisle or missing out.  Clocks
forward another hour (BST –3).

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 4 – TRANSATLANTIC CROSSING

 

FRIDAY 8 MAY – What with all our activity and
the time changes we don’t wake up until almost 10am.  Luckily breakfast is served until 11.30am.  In the cards room there is a backgammon
championship but only 2 other players turn up so we just have a few games
amongst ourselves.  Hang out by the pool
enjoying the warm sun.  The afternoon
movie “21” is fun and based in Las Vegas. 
As Crown & Anchor (previous passengers) members we have a voucher
for wine tasting saving us the $10 (£7) fee. 
We get to sample 6 wines, all very expensive but none to our palate – is
it possible to actually prefer cheap-boxed wine!!  A couple on our table amaze us saying they have been on 120
cruises as they live near a port and their travel agent gets them all the
deals.  After thinking we had a great
deal at $850pp it turns out others paid $600 and got a balcony room.  In America the best deals on this cruise
seem to have been in January and February so we don’t feel too bad about it as
we could not have booked that early.  The dinner table service is slackening off and after 1 hour 45
minutes we still haven’t seen the dessert menu and need to be at the Crown
& Anchor member’s cocktail party.  
Alcohol is very expensive on the ship so we have to grab all
opportunities for free drink!  In the
Coral Theatre tonight’s show is a young violinist, his playing is excellent but
this is his first performance on a cruise ship and he is very nervous.  The final movie of the days is “Swing Voter”
after which we retire and put our clocks forward yet again (BST – 2hours).

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 5 – TRANSATLANTIC

 

SATURDAY 9 MAY – I’m getting a little tired
racing around to activities so have a lie in whilst Steve goes to breakfast
then catch up on my diary when he goes to a quiz.  The good thing about cruising is that you can get food 24 hours a
day so I can easily snack later.  During
lunch on the deck we spot a tanker and a yacht, others see whales.  The afternoon comedy show is really funny
with audience interaction almost taking over. 
There’s a rock-climbing wall on board and I want to try it.  Having got all kitted out I find that my
false nails are too long for me to use the handholds.  Few people turn up for the evening meal, the service is getting
slower each day and we all agree the food isn’t quite up to expectations or
other cruises.  After trivia we go to
the show but they have changed it.  Bad
weather is forecast so they are putting on the tango dancing tonight.  We sit out the first two dances then leave,
as it doesn’t appeal to us.  The late Mr
& Mrs style show is pretty funny though. 
Clocks forward another hour (BST – 1 hour).  Reckon you get a better deal on the western transatlantic
crossing adding an hour to each day! 
Along with tomorrows programme there is a message in our cabin to say
that people on board have been quarantined with chicken pox and it tells you
what to look out for.

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 6 – TRANSATLANTIC

 

SUNDAY 10 MAY –             We are woken early with a repeated announcement “alpha
alpha alpha to cabin …”.  Suspect this
was not meant as a public message but in panic someone pressed the wrong
button.  Over breakfast people guess
that it was a medical emergency.  At the
games room you can put your name on a list for the games you enjoy playing and
I have been invited to join 3 other ladies for Canasta.  Americans Fran, Gail and Andrea are
travelling together along with their husbands. 
Their Canasta rules are almost completely different but I manage to get
the hang of it sufficiently to be invited back for another game.  We’ve found out you can take lunch in the
Tides formal dining room and we enjoy this better than the buffet.  You get table service, have a chance to chat
to other passengers and the food seems tastier.  We try sitting out on deck by the pool but apart from wallowing
in the hot tub we are chilly.  Many
people look like they are on holiday in England wrapped up in blankets.  Settle for an afternoon in bed watching TV
movies.   We do the buffet for our
evening meal then trivia, show (a great singer) and Mr Bean on holiday movie to
round off the day.  The ocean has been
getting rougher throughout the day and we have a rather pleasant rock and
roll.  Maybe worse is expected as sick
bags have appeared throughout the ship but we think they are going over the top
when we get back to our room and find a huge plastic laundry bag on the bed!

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 7 – TRANSATLANTIC

 

MONDAY 11 MAY – Hard to believe we have been
on board for a week, the time has flown by and we are certainly not bored. Our
daily routine is now getting up late, eating, doing trivia quizzes, lying by
the pool and lounging in our room.  It
is formal night again and I can see we may not be going to the next one as
Steve can barely do up his suit trousers! 
Brenda Cochrane from Scotland is the evening show performer.  She is a singer but also has a really funny
rapport with the audience.  However the
highlight of the day is the late evening entertainment of the game show “The
Quest”.  We have arranged for our dining
table members to make up our team.  The
cruise director calls out for a male or female to bring an item to him and you
are awarded points for doing so and extra for being in the first 3.  Steve & Alan look really funny skipping
around the room together whilst I cop it to wriggle on the floor like a
worm.  Everyone helps in someway
including Margaret who loans her false teeth! 
When a request goes out for a women to take up 2 pairs of men’s trousers
Steve is unlucky in that JohnnyO keeps his and he has to go up alone at the end
to collect them.  He also ends up being
our team member to be dressed up like a women and strut around.    Our team come in 3rd and end up
with medals but couldn’t have cared less as we had such a fun night.

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 8 – TRANSATLANTIC

 

TUESDAY 12 MAY – I join the ladies for cards
whilst Steve does the trivia.  By the
time I finish it is time for the movie “Lucky you” so I end up having a picnic
in the cinema.  Part way through is another
“Alpha” call out, the second today.  We
are now picking up British TV so spend late afternoon in bed watching “Fawlty
Towers” and “Allo Allo”.  The evening
show is cruise director “JohnnyO” who plays the EWI (Electronic wind
instrument).   It is like an electric
organ and can imitate numerous different instruments.  During the show he tells the story of his life accompanied by
significant songs.  The late
entertainment is “Battle of the sexes” but it is not as funny as “The Quest”
and we end up in the smoking section of the Safari Room so leave early.

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 9 – TRANSATLANTIC

 

WEDNESDAY 13 MAY – When we wake up we are
docked in Lisbon PORTUGAL.  For once we
get up early and by 8.30am set foot on dry land for the first time since last
Thursday.  The ship have organised a
shuttle bus, $6 (£4.20) to take you to the city centre.  Armed with a map from the tourist office we
set off to explore.  We visited Lisbon
in 1997 but concentrated on the Belem area. 
Today on foot we want to explore the centre and begin heading from Praca
de Comercio to San Sebastio.  The 1902
street lift is very impressive as are a number of squares with fine
buildings.  Returning along a parallel
side street full of theatres and restaurants we stop to look inside “Casa do
Alentejo”.   From the outside it looks
insignificant but inside the restaurant is done in Moorish style with lots of
small restaurant rooms with walls decorated in ceramic murals, most
impressive.  There are many electric
cars in use here but it is still a shock to see the Police driving round in an
electric golf cart style vehicle.  We
both struggle to find our land legs and find it a hard climb up to the castle,
made worse by getting lost and having to walk up and down numerous
staircases.   We have really enjoyed
wandering around but feel quite weary so catch a local bus, Euro 1.40 (£1.20)
back to the ship.  Manage to get off one
stop too soon and end up walking through the dockyards but Steve is happy as we
pass a workers canteen where he gets a bottle of Sagres beer for Euro 1 (90p),
a bargain after paying $6 (£4.20) on board for an inferior brew.  I feel quite queasy so spend the afternoon
in bed whilst Steve sunbathes on deck. 
Set sail around 4.30pm and we both stand on deck to watch our passage
out along the river.  Feel almost
envious of the motorhomes parked on the banks of the river.  Service in the Tides dining room is getting
very slow (over 2-hours for a 3 course meal) so tonight we eat buffet style at
the Windjammer.  The Extreme Vegas show
is quite good with some magic, juggling and audience participation. 

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 10, LISBON

 

THURSDAY 14 MAY – Today’s port is Vigo in SPAIN.  Again we have toured the area in our motorhome so settle for a
wander round the hilly town.  The
weather is poor and once we have climbed up to the castle it begins to
rain.  We thought we had wrapped up for
the cooler weather but by the time we get back I am wet and shivering.  I go straight to bed whilst Steve spends the
afternoon eating, doing quizzes and reading. 
Not sure what is wrong with me but it is evening 8.30pm showtime before
I get up.  Steve went to the earlier
show and left after about 10 minutes. 
City of Dreams has great sets and costumes but much of the singing is
screechy opera style and not to my liking but I do sit it through.  Head to the Card Room and realise how week I
am when I am overtaken by someone with a zimmer frame.  Round of the evening with a game of Euchre
with Alan and Christa.

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 11, VIGO

 

FRIDAY 15 MAY – Our final day at sea and last
chance for on board activities.  We have
had a rough nights sailing and it is still a bit choppy but I am feeling much
better and ready for action.  Steve is
finally on a winning trivia team (they have been up as tie breakers many times
but lost).  I don’t like being in the
same team as him as one of the guys takes it too seriously.  British immigration officers have boarded
the ship and throughout the day we take turns to clear customs.  Apparently there will be nothing more at
Harwich so you can take in virtually anything on the basis that you are limited
by how much you can carry.  Our final
formal night and Steve must have lost a bit of weight as his trousers now
fit!  Alan & Ika are absent and we
are upset when she arrives and tells us Alan is ill with a lung infection and
has been on a drip.  Judging by the number
of “alpha” calls this sailing we have had a lot of illnesses on board and at
least one death.  Guess this is a
reflection on the age of the passengers and the duration of the cruise.  The “Soul Sensation” show is excellent, all
our kind of music.  This is followed by
the talent show with some great singers plus a comedian.

JEWEL OF THE SEAS 12 – AT SEA VIGO TO CHERBOURG

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