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2021 - A Rollercoaster Ride

Carnival Mardi Gras - Roller Coaster Ride

2021 has certainly been a roller coaster ride for the cruise industry and l am not talking about the first-ever roller coaster on a cruise ship. In July Carnival launched its brand new cruise ship the Mardi Gras and yes you guessed its newest feature was a rollercoaster. Recently voted Best Cruise Ship Feature of 2021. Undoubtedly, the innovative new feature has been much talked about throughout the year, especially as BOLT is the first roller coaster at sea.

Well everyone to their own taste, but it certainly does not appeal this Salty Seadog.

I prefer a slightly more refined form of entertainment as seen here with Jamie Shedden enjoying the slide in the children’s playroom on Shaw Savill.

The year started with the whole world locked down. Cruise ships were at anchor around the world manned by skeleton cruises. Some ships even contained crew that were unable to return to their own country. Around the British Isles, we spotted P&O and Cunard Ships, hot spots were off the coast of Bournemouth, Weymouth Bay and Torbay. At that time it was very unsure when travel or indeed cruising would resume.

Around July there were murmurs that cruising may begin around the British Isles. P&O and Princess started to market staycation cruises, which in effect were 4-day cruises to nowhere. By September some companies were getting back into their swing. We originally had a Caribbean cruise booked for our retirement last January, but this was of course cancelled. Despite being rebooked a couple of times, these cruises likewise did not sail. Eventually, a cruise around the UK was announced and we jumped on the chance to set sail. Initially, the first port of call was supposed to be Le Havre, but due to tricky covid requirements, this port was scrapped as was a call in Dublin, similarly curtailed by covid requirements.

Having set sail we docked in Cornwall, then onto Wales for a stop at Fishguard. Not a lot going on in Fishguard, except for a lovely walk along the coastline. Fishguard is home to a tapestry representing when the British mainland was invaded for the last time in February 1797. The story is told by the magnificent 30-metre award-winning tapestry which was produced to mark the 1997 bicentenary of the event. The tapestry is located in the library. We were quite excited to see the tapestry following a meeting with a wonderful lady who kidnapped us on the street and explained all about the creation of the tapestry. However, we were thwarted by the librarian and strict covid regulations that prevented us from viewing it.

Titanic compared to the mega cruise ships of today.

Belfast was our next port of call and of course to Harland and Wolff to see the Titanic exhibition. I was balled over by my first visit to Belfast, which was not at all what I had expected. From the city centre it was a short walk to the Titanic Museum, what a fascinating experience it was. It could have almost been organised by Disney. Timed entry allowed for easy access around the museum giving plenty of time to take in all the displays and information.

Samson and Goliath are a reminder of Belfast’s shipbuilding history. At its peak, Harland and Wolff employed 35,000 employees. The last ship to be launched from the yard was a roll on roll off ferry in March 2003.

From Northern Ireland, sadly no call in Southern Ireland, we headed for the Scottish Coast with calls in Oban and Kirkwall the largest town in Orkney. Here we purchased some fabulous Scottish shortbread in a local market, baked by Thelma Bruce in her farmhouse using local butter – absolutely delicious.

Due to bad weather and the fact that we were to anchor off, a trip to Stornaway was cancelled. This according to fellow passengers was not unnormal, one guy had been on three cruises due to call there and had still not managed to make it ashore.

The nationalities of the crew on Silver Spirit were very diverse, and having been unemployed due to covid for many months were excited to be back at sea and working once again. This was very evident by the friendliness and level of service by all the crew we encountered from the captain down. Unfortunately for the crew, due to covid restrictions, they were not allowed off the ship.

Having rounded the top of Scotland and heading south once again. Dundee was not the most exciting place to visit. Dundee has one of the highest levels of deprivation in Scotland. We did manage to find individual Dundee cakes which we took back to the ship for some of the crew members. Not exactly sure what they made of these Scottish delights.

The Royal Yacht Britannia - Blog

Finally, two days in Edinburgh before we headed back to Southampton. Edinburgh was so exciting after Dundee. The highlight of which was a trip around the Royal Yacht Britannia, about which l have written before.

Just as we thought that cruising had turned the corner the Omicron variant is rife and we hear this week that some ships have been not been allowed to disembark in parts of Mexico and the Caribbean.

New Year's Eve - Island Princess 1974

New Year’s eve at sea was always a fun time and hard to remember on occasion, especially my first New Year at Sea on Oriana.

I want to thank those fellow Seadogs that contributed to my Christmas at Sea stories.

Mark Goddard’s story of Christmas at Sea came in a bit late but as a fellow Seadog from Pacific Princess, I wanted to share his love for the ship with you.

Tales of Christmas spent at Sea. Having spent around 9 years working on cruise ships back in the late ’80s and early 90’s it was inevitable that a few Christmases would be spent at sea. It was always a dilemma if you were working at sea at Christmas time you always felt you were missing out and felt homesick and wanted to be at home, and then when you were at home for Christmas you wished you were back on the ships may be because everyone was bored with your sea stories or you just could not relate any longer to landlubbers. LOL. The Christmas and new year periods I was at sea are rather hazy when I try and remember, there were always parties going on onboard several times a week in a normal cruise period but the Christmas period seemed to go way beyond anything you would expect and there were several parties every night. The crew bar and officers bars were particularly welcoming and extremely busy and riotous places, whether it was an organised event or just another night you felt you had to attend as you didn’t want to miss out. There was also on some ships a well organised back deck party with a BBQ and even a live band at times, plus of course, the infamous cabin ‘pour outs’, so many pour outs you often attending more than 3 on the same night. Usually ending in a corridor party somewhere at 3 am. The Christmas periods which stand out in my memory are being aboard the Pacific Princess, such was the size of the ship it was like being with friends and family as everyone mixed so well. I remember partying in the Riviera Lounge with passengers then heading to the officer's bar and then the crew bar via 2 pour outs and ending up in a corridor on the lower decks at 3am. Another good memory is being onboard the Golden Princess during its circumference cruise, we had been to so many countries and ports, the chief photographer had been saving 2 bottles of local beer from every port we visited, so on Christmas eve, a select few were invited to a pour out to sample the many bottles of beer he had saved. A great night but my god what a hangover, we were at Christmas island the next day and I am ashamed to say I never made it ashore as my hangover was so bad. LOL. Christmas day itself was a rather muted affair for the crew, probably as everyone was nursing a hangover from the night before, always seemed to be a sea day and even the passengers seemed somewhat subdued that day. Of course, a spicy Bloody Mary first thing in the morning followed by a brisk walk around the top deck usually made things better, and the inevitable ‘special’ coffees throughout the day while working LOL. Christmas Day on the Pacific Princess was special as a lot of effort went into keeping the crew happy with a special roast turkey lunch in the crew mess with all the trimmings and served by the Captain and the senior officers. I always thought that was a nice touch and the crew all appreciated their efforts. Such was the family feel on the PP it really was the happiest cruise ship I ever worked on. Great days and great memories.

Mark Goddard

EX - Casino Slots Manager

In many ways, 2021 has been a very strange year for me but also a very happy one. Through this blog, I have made contact again with fellow crew members that I had lost contact with. I have also made many new online friends with which to share our seaborne tales.

I would like to wish you all a very

Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year.

Hoping for a return to normal life as we know it.

Do you have any stories to tell about your time at sea?

please let me have them to share.

Send them to Salty Seadog

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Jamie, The Purser
Jamie, The Purser
Jan 01, 2022

Hi Mark, Thanks for sharing your Christmas experiences with Princess Cruises back in the 80's , brings back many memories of 'pour outs' in my days with Shaw Savill. 20 years before your time at sea. Some of which David has posted on Salty Dog previously, and can relate to many similar experiences, and some similar to you, which I know I attended, but cannot remember!

After many 'pour outs', I had trained the Purser's bellboy (not my cabin steward) to make me a pick-me-up cocktail. I had all the ingredients in my cabin, to make a Moscow Mule, which was a vodka based cocktail, in a long glass filled with ice and ginger beer! A refreshing drink, first thing…

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