Boudicca - Dutch Weekender
While Pam had done Fred Olsen cruises before, I was a must-do so in May 2007 we booked this three night trip from the 12th-15th June 2008 on Boudicca with balcony cabin BC 8033.  I love these former Royal Viking ships and, after visiting Black Watch in December 2005, was desperate to try one but it just hadn't happened.  A few days before booking an opportunity came up with the Ocean Liner Society to visit the ship.  If neither of us got a place we'd still be able to explore her at a later date.  She was the only Fred Olsen ship Pam hadn't done.  To me, Boudicca is just as beautiful as her sister with with English decor rather than the traditional Scottish on the other ships.  She would be the smallest I'd have sailed on so the contrast between her and Independence of the Seas, which I'd done the previous month, would be interesting.  The tickets arrived a week before departure in a lovely wallet.

So here was the day.  Not the best of weather.  We should have been alone in the docks and using City Terminal.  However, Saga Rose was still there.  A crew member had died in the ballast tank the day before with another taken to hospital and they only listed her sailing time as pm.  So Boudicca was changed to QEII Terminal.  I was beginning to think the only ship I'd sail on from there was QE2, but this was between my four trips so I had a Bouddy sandwich!  It was flipping cold and windy on the ferry going over.  Still Hotspur IV - yes!!!!  Great Expectations was having a major overhaul and not expected back for another month - boo!  Hotspur's the best for taking photos and outside deck space, which is perfect during the few summer days we get.
The ship Stavros S Niarchos was in for maintenance and owned by the Tall Ships Youth Trust.  Lovely sight considering most of her UK trips begin and end in Portsmouth.  I waited at Town Quay for Pam to pick me up, which she did after forty-five minutes.  I wished I hadn't left my thicker coat at home.  The weather alternated between hot and sunny to freezing and windy as I watched a pigeon nestbuilding.
As she took a few pictures there were a few drops of rain which thankfully didn't last long.  Then we headed to Mayflower Park for photos of Rosie.  Her passengers were still aboard and wandering around the decks.  It's sad this beautiful little ship will be gone in 2010.
Within the space of five minutes the weather changed from hot and sunny to a downpour.  We were making our way down to the corner and a squall appeared from nowhere over the container terminal, rapidly heading our way.  I dashed to the shelter as the car was locked and a man also waited under there for it to stop.  Pam unlocked the car and we ran to it.  You couldn't even see Rosie through the window.
We thought it was time to go to Dock Gate 4 but there was a huge tailback due to people wanting to go to the Isle of Wight Festival but we got there in the end.  Pam had to drop me and the luggage off then take the car to CPS who were going to take it to City ready for our return.  As we couldn't check in yet we went for a wander to get photos of Bouddy in her temporary home, even though for all her cruises to date this season she had been using this terminal.
We were being watched as Pam took a photo of the car carrier in the next berth but the security guard left the gate open for us to take pictures of Bouddy after letting someone out.  Pam asked if he could move the bin to which he apologised and said it had to stay as it was dock property.  After we'd got a long shot of her we walked to the other side, convinced someone was going to yell at us but no one cared.
We decided to check in before the passengers from the coach beat us to the queue.  We needn't have worried as the queue was practically non-existent.  Unlike other lines, you aren't required to register a credit card on arrival.  Just hand over the ticket and passport.  In the departure lounge they had moved the QM2 model around the corner by the lift and in its place was one of Lizzie!  This was a pleasant surprise as it hadn't been there in December.  We got chatting to a couple of Americans who had only done large ships such as Princess and Holland America.  They told us they were over here anyway and looked for something to try.  Quite a difference to what they're used to.  The outside area was closed off which was a shame.  It was in December but no one wanted to go out when it was two degrees anyway.
Around 2pm they began boarding.  They called numbers in batches of ten.  Pam was 71 and I was 72 so it would be a long wait.  She decided to use her Oceans Club membership as she said she ought to have had priority boarding.  It wasn't a problem.  Then there was the escalator which was!  Pam went down and it was looked quite steep to dock level.  I hate them at the best of times but it's not too bad in arrivals at Mayflower so I'll tolerate it.  Going up I'm fine as long as it's not too high like the Tube in London or those in arrivals at Heathrow Terminal 5.  I tried but it freaked me out so I went by lift.  Three other people went with me.  There are stairs but they lead to a dead end which is pretty stupid.  It ended up being quite an adventure.  You came out at the bottom of the escalator to departures!  It's no wonder we were so confused.  The lady led the way past security, through baggage reclaim, in a door and then we joined the rest of the passengers.  On the dockside you have your hands squirted with foam before boarding.
Their own security system was down so after waiting ages were eventually told to write our names and cabin numbers on their list then we went to our cabin.  Afterwards we went walkabout.
When we'd gone back to the cabin, I received a text from my dad saying Hotspur IV had a lifeboat inflated by the pier.  We went out to see what was going on.  She had to go to Empress Dock to have it removed and sent back to the manufacturer to be deflated.
Pam was hungry, not having any breakfast, so we went to the Secret Garden for a coffee and snack.  This is my favourite part of Fred. Olsen - the food!  No one was listening to the pianist and he seemed quite chuffed when I applauded and filmed him.
As I was taking photos of our rubbish view from the balcony, a crew member told me to move.  It turned out it was time for the cleaning.  Stupid really.  You'd thik they'd do this when no one's using it like between passengers.
The ferry was back to normal and we did our lifeboat drill.  The eight bells isn't half loud and also done twice.  They have many muster stations which is a good idea.  We were in the Lido Lounge.  They also have a roll call to make sure no one's skipping it.  Damn!
After dumping the lifejackets back in hte cabin we went to look for a tug.  There wasn't one so it looked like we had plenty of time.  My dad stayed at home as Rosie was due to go at 7.30pm.  We went to get a drink and this is one thing Fred. Olsen loses points for.  The lack of bar staff.  We and others were stood at the bar ages in the Lido Lounge.  One woman serving with a man popping in and out.  People who came after us would be served first.  It was a joke really.  As Pam waited for hers I headed back onto the deck and we did the first of three blasts as I was going through the door.  Unbelievable we were still tugless.  Once Pam joined me we went forward and were shocked at what we saw - we were going backwards!  We reversed into the Itchen to turn.  Never done that before as far as I know and my dad was at home when he'd have got terrific shots.  Bloody ships!
The heavens opened on our head again while Portsmouth and the forts were bathed in sunshine.  It truly was weird weather.  I was desperate to go in and get dry but Pam called me a lightweight.  Cheeky mare.  We stayed out for some considerable time getting soaked as we were second sitting so no hurry to be inside.
We went back in as we passed Portsmouth and went to the Observatory.  To my surprise Gary was onboard with Allan so they came and sat with us and we chatted until it was time to get ready for dinner as they were second sitting too.  When we went back to the cabin the weather had changed a lot.
We were in the Four Seasons Restaurant, our head waiter being Muri.  We had really nice table companions.  Jane and Louise were friends whose sons knew each other while John and Georgina had married in Vegas and we enjoyed hearing all about that after the meal as we all stayed talking.  The cheese and biscuits was supposed to come with radishes.  Pam had a little complain and asked the waiter for some. As I was the only person on the table not having cheese and biscuits, I asked for some too and to my surprise got a small plate!
We missed the show and hadn't even gone shopping.  Instead it was an early night and Pam was off as soon as her head hit the pillow.  I stayed up a little longer as we picthed and rolled listeing to my mp3 player and writing my diary.

We had breakfast in the Four Seasons.  I ordered a cheese omelette while Pam had some stuff from the buffet.  The next morning the captain announced we were late due to the weather.  Instead of arriving in Rotterdam for 11am it would be noon and we passed the Hook of Holland at 10am.  I sent Ben a text letting him know as he would be waiting for us.  We didn't know at the time but this was
Boudicca's maiden call to the city.  The weather changed so much from hot to cold to wet.  Elevenses was served which was tea, coffee or beef tea with biscuits.  I didn't have any but Pam, Gary and Allan did.
After being given clearance the excursion people had priority.  This is how it ought to have been on Vision of the Seas back in March so Royal Caribbean take note!  Then it was announced the rest of us could bugger off but no mention of staying longer due to our late arrival meaning we had to rush even more to be back onboard for 4.15pm as we would be sailing at 5pm.  As we waited was talked to Ben on the phone but it was a little noisy.  This would be the first time Pam and Ben had met and I was sure she'd want to adopt him as much as I did as he's just so lovely.
When we met up with Ben he explained the advertising hoarding featuring Aurora had blown away.  How sad!  They should put another one there at once.  We walked around various places to get photos as we made our way towards the Maritime Museum were we would also have a look around the 19th century ship, Buffel.  As we crossed the Erasmus bridge which wobbles, Gary and Allan came up behind us.  They were going to visit the Euromast which we'd had to forget about this trip.  Not that I minded with it being so high!
The Holland Amerika Lijn exhibition was the only real thing of interest to me apart from the Buffel.  The company has been around not quite as long as P&O and Cunard but their Vista ships are now in other fleets.

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© Patricia Dempsey 12-15th June 2008
Not to be reproduced without permission