Monday, October 31, 2016

Friday, September 16, 2016 – Southampton, UK – Cloudy/Drizzly – 60s

Queen Elizabeth docked very early in Southampton this morning.  She came in quietly – did not hear any bow thrusters or any other kind of maneuvering.  It is a gray and drizzly day in this busy port.

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Southampton from Queen Elizabeth

We had a nice breakfast (together for the first time this cruise) in the Lido Café.  Breakfast was not the crowded, noisy affair it can be on disembarkation day.  All the standard items were available – no abbreviated menu like on some other ships.

We tried to stay in our room until about 9 AM but our steward prompted us to get out (that was also a first for us). 

Walk-off was easy since we had cleared immigration earlier (our passports were vetted by British Immigration).  There were no lines and no luggage to find in the zoo of bags.  It was nice.

We located the taxi queue and found a couple to share a cab with to Southampton Central Train Station.  It was a very short ride and cost 6 pounds – our cab mates wouldn’t let us pay our half.  We thanked them and headed into the station.

We were ticketed on the Great Western Railway Southampton Central to Bath Spa – 7.50 GBP pp per trip – total 30 GBP total round trip purchased on line.  I showed the ticket agent the email confirmation and she asked me for the credit card used and ran two charges for 7.50 GBP.  I asked her about these charges since I had paid for the tickets in full and she said these charges were not extra (included) and were only used to redeem the tickets.


We were scheduled for the 12:27 PM train so we had quite a wait.  The waiting area near the ticket counter was tiny with uncomfortable seats (with no power plugs).  I asked the man watching the entry point to the trains and he said a real waiting room was through the gates and down the platform a bit.  He said we could go through and later he would let us use our tickets to “go through” the gate (I didn’t understand that since we were already “through”).  Even more importantly, the washrooms, he said, were right next to the waiting room.  We headed down there and found comfortable seats with plugs – the bathroom however was under maintenance so I had to cross over the tracks (via bridge) to reach the facilities on the other side (not that big a deal).


Waiting for the Train



Southampton Central Station

When the train boarding time got close, we went out on the platform to wait (wouldn’t want to miss the train).  We double-checked with a railway employee manning the tracks as to the location and timing of the train.


Almost Here

The train to Bath Spa was a clunky looking old green train with only three cars.  We did not have assigned seats so we could sit anywhere.  Our bags also got good seats since the car was essentially empty. 


It was a surprisingly comfortable ride – 1 hour 40 minutes (scheduled arrival 2:12 PM).  The windows were clean enough to get some nice pictures of the English countryside.

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Scenic Ride to Bath, UK

The train arrived on time at Bath Spa Station.

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Bath Spa Train Station

I had gotten walking directions from the hotel a few week earlier so we decided that we would walk to the Holiday Inn Express (almost exactly one mile along a busy street, Lower Dorsett Road).  I pretty much knew how to get there but I had the directions confirmed by a gas station along the way.  What I didn’t count on was the uneven and rough sidewalks leading to the hotel.  This made “wheelie-dragging” very difficult – also, the wheels on my suitcase were damaged by dragging them through the deluge in Dubrovnik.  We did make it to the hotel – a very robust workout - but decided then and there that we would not walk back to the train station with our suitcases. 

The Holiday Inn Express, Bath is a nice new (or recently renovated) building.  We were greeted by a very friendly desk clerk, who gave us some good information on Bath, including a better way to get to the City Centre.  This “short cut” would avoid the traffic heavy main street and give us a more scenic route.

Our room was at the end of the hall on the third floor (number 340) and it had a nice view of a green area behind the hotel.  The room looked comfortable – the bed was a bit soft but the bathroom was nice and roomy (unusual in a British hotel). 


View From Room 340

After resting in the room for a while, we headed out to the City Centre to scout for a place for dinner.  After checking out a few places (all a bit pricey), we settled, grudgingly, on a TGIF located on the ground floor of an office building.  Ellen had a salad with grilled salmon and I had a British version of veggie fajitas (don’t ask).  I also ordered a peach iced tea, which I also regretted right away because drinks are notoriously expensive overseas (and I hadn’t looked at the price).  Well, it turned out that the iced tea was reasonably priced.  It wasn’t a terrific dinner but it did the trick.  We will look for something better next time.


The Iced Tea was not 5 GBP

We walked back to the hotel and, from a bridge on the way, I got some very nice pictures of the River Avon (not THE River Avon – “Avon” means river in Celtic and there are several Avon rivers throughout England).



River Avon, Bath

Back in the room, we did some reading, watched some awful British TV, and finally called it a day.

Hoping the room will be quiet tonight – we are dealing with a multi-night sleep deficit.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wednesday, Thursday – September 14 and 15, 2016 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean and English Channel – Cloudy – 60s

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Heading back to Southampton…


I am scheduled early this morning so I was up in the Lido Café early for my pancakes and cottage cheese and scrambled eggs.

Lecture No. 4, “The Search for the Titanic Child” was scheduled for 10:00 AM in the Royal Court Theater. I estimated about 350 attendees.  The lecture ran 38 minutes and went well.

If you can’t get a seat (unlikely), you can always watch the lecture in the balcony on the monitors (below).


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Unknown Titanic Child (Series Above)

Having an early lecture leaves the rest of the day free for reading and relaxing.  It was a bit chilly outside but we did find public places inside. 

Lunch and dinner were both in the Lido – I personally never got tired of the made to order pizza.

Tonight is the final Production Show - “Hollywood Rocks” – music from the movies.




ABBA Medley (“Mamma Mia”)

The singers and dancers did a great tribute to Chorus Line – Chorus Line was a great play but a dismal movie (starring Michael Douglas and others).

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Chorus Line Medley (“Chorus Line”)


“What a Feeling” (“Flashdance”)

“Let Me Be Your Star” is one of my favorite songs but it’s from Smash, a TV Show.



“Let Me Be Your Star”


The Little Mermaid

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“The Heart Will Go On”

And, of course, the obligatory (but always entertaining), “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from “Hairspray”.

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“You Can’t Stop the Beat”

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The Finale

We have seen a lot of this show before but it was still highly entertaining.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Last day at sea…

My final talk is scheduled for 12:15 PM today.  “Forensics and History: The Whitechapel Murders – The Search for Jack the Ripper” pulled a pretty good turnout in this large theater.  The theater was more than half full equating to an audience of about 400.  The talk was delivered in 43 minutes so all four presentations made it under the 45 minute limit.


The Advert and Balcony Viewing Monitor

The pre-lecture picture from the balcony gives you an idea  of how large the theater is.  That’s me down there, chatting with some early arrivals.


Pre-talk Chat

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“The Search for Jack the Ripper”


The Big Finish

Ellen has pretty much packed our bags – the afternoon is spent reading and relaxing.

After dinner in the Lido, we went to the Farewell Show.  It starred a British comedian/singer I had never heard of.  He was clearly known by the Brits on board.  We stayed for a little while but I could not understand a word he was saying so we left for one of the quiet lounges.

We went to the Queen’s Room to catch a little of that Farewell Show.  It was headlined by the Blue Jays.  We stayed for a little while before heading to a lounge until the show was over.  On the last night, the show was scheduled to be over at 11:30 PM instead of past midnight.  Small miracle.

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Blue Jays in the Queen’s Room

We have Self Walk Off tomorrow so no bags in the hall.  We have easy access to the lifts so we should be OK getting off.

Hoping to get some sleep tonight.