Arcadia (IV) - Short Break
With the advent of the latest Vista for Cunard in 2007, Queen Victoria, it made what was to be the original Queen Victoria look decidedly more attractive and she was calling me!  Actually we think she had since she followed us out on QE2 in October 2006 then again on Aurora in September 2007.  It was like she was saying, "Come on.  You know you want to sail on me.  You can't resist my funnel based on Lizzie, you know you can't."  Yes, I'm talking about Arcadia, the fourth in the first generation Vista series.  I had already visted Arcadia in October 2005 when she was six months old but in December 2008 she had the stern balcony addition given to a couple of her Holland America sisters to make them look like the second generation Vistas, Eurodam, Costa Luminosa, Costa Deliziosa and the forthcoming Nieuw Amsterdam and Queen Elizabeth.  I daresay when QV returns from a rescheduled refit this coming December she'll have it too in Carnival Corporation's quest to prove they are NOT the same ship whatsoever.  Not working!  However, Arcadia now looked the best out of the lot, the tall stately funnel making all the difference instead of squat things on her sister ships.  During visits you only see what they want you to which means little of the deck area.  Any excuse to explore!  Rowan and I discussed going on the 30th May-2nd June cruise to Zeebrugge and Le Havre, since she didn't want her Portunus points halved and wouldn't travel from Plymouth for two night trips.  Also it was a back up in case, for some reason, she was unable to go on Celebrity Eclipse the month before.  As it turned out that was a wise decision since she was unable to go due to various health issues and medical appointments instead of being at sea.  Originally I was going to leave booking until we returned from Vision of the Seas in May 2009 but a quick chat with Becky in Thomas Cook on the 24th April while waiting to be served by Julie for Norwegian Kroner changed that.  She told me some prices had gone up so a quick call to Rowan while in Waitrose and I returned to book it.  They had cabin E187 at their new DG grade, which was an original stern one so we decided to go for that.  It was all paid off on the 15th February 2010 and we booked an excursion to Rouen (since we were going to Paris on Eclipse) once they became available.  We weren't planning to go anywhere in Zeebrugge.

Well with Rowan's ongoing health issues, it was beginning to look like she'd miss this too but, despite being in pain after surgery nine days earlier, made the journey trying a new, quicker route on the 29th May.  My friend Julie offered to drive us to the terminal instead of going by ferry.  Because of Rowan's problems and partially my own pains, we chose to arrive around 1.30pm when it's normally quiet instead of the usual 12pm.  How wrong can anyone be!  This was the first time either of us had sailed from this terminal and as we were about to find out, things were done VERY differently to the other three which took longer.
The queue was horrendous.  A few people pulled out of it, dropping people off who then walked.  This never happened at the other terminals.  We were directed to lane 3 and eventually managed to pull in only to be then told to move forward.  The port had new Stevedores and it showed.  There were none waiting to collect bags where we were and there wasn't even a sign saying where to take them.
We thanked Julie for the lift and she drove off.  She was going to see us off from the marina with my dad later.  We walked around trying to find someone to take the cases.  Several Stevedores walked right past us.  In the end we asked a woman near the entrance who pointed and again, we were ignored.  After handing it over we made our way inside and up the stairs.  They gave you a colour coded letter card like Cunard along with the norovirus form.  When your letter is called, you check in.  It was on Green W when we got there and we were Red E.  FINALLY after checking in about 2.30pm, we joined the security queue (where they were also taking boarding photos) and then were on our way to the ship.
We boarded by the Atrium and took the outside glass lift up to deck 4, which was ours.  It was fairly easy to find our cabin once we had found which way to go since it was smack bang at the end.  A suite was to our left and the other stern balconies along the corridor to the right.  We got in at 2.45pm so didn't really have a chance to explore with muster at 4pm and sailaway half an hour later.  I really hope they haven't adopted this ridiculous boarding process in other terminals.
We'd arranged to meet Tracey and her friend Ali as well as Sian and her friend Louise at the Aquarius Bar at 3pm.  We got there a little late and Tracey called, saying she'd be five minutes.  I told her we'd be at the flagpole.  I saw a blonde and brunette but it wasn't them.  After waiting twenty minutes, we decided to go and get a drink from an empty bar.  Rowan also bought some peanuts.  Tracey and Ali arrived and the waiter messed up Ali's order then Tracey saw Sian so left us for a bit before inviting us all over.  Turned out the blonde and brunette were them!  Louise and I had a laugh about that.
We went to get our life jackets for muster, which was one deck down in the Meridian Restaurant so not too much strain for us both.  I had originally planned to be forward for sailaway but in the end stayed in the cabin.  I heard Artemis blast but couldn't see her.  I really missed knowing what was going on!  We then let our ropes go slightly late, gave three blasts and backed out.  A few boats were on the water, including that belonging to friends, to wave both ships off.
As we passed Cowes, a Red Funnel ferry came out to take people to Southampton.  This would get in the view of Artemis.  And which ferry was it?  Bloody Red Osprey!  Sometimes I think this former banana does it on purpose, although it blocked the view before the IKEA sponsorship so it's clearly just a pain.  Meanwhile coming the other way was Red Falcon so they were in it together!
The pilot boat appeared while we were still some way from Nab.  We slowed to drop him off then he zipped behind us towards Artemis.
There was a stowaway in our cabin enjoying the relaxing sea trip.  The Celebrity Eclipse bear I'd bought for Rowan came along for the ride, since she would now be going home afterwards for medical appointments instead of staying to watch all ships sail with our American friend Howard.
Our wonderful steward Desmond popped in at 7.30pm, thinking we were at dinner.  I told him we were second sitting.  When I checked the card it said first.  I then got out the original booking and that also said first.  I always book second now so don't know what happened there.  Never mind.  There was always the Belvedere on Lido Deck.  They had apparently British pub food but it was hardly that.  Not a drop of curry in sight!  It wasn't all that nice either.  Whatever they used to cover the fish was vile.  I thought the fish itself wasn't too bad but Rowan didn't like it.  The 'chips' were overcooked wedges.  I did enjoy the Summer Pudding but Rowan complained her Banoffee Pie was awful.  I was surprised to find it practically empty.  This wasn't my experience of buffet restaurants, unless most people ate earlier than us or didn't like the look of the food.

Back to the cabin where Artemis was still stalking us.  This was fun.  I'd followed her on Eclipse until going in different directions but then had also been on her stalking others.  They were going to Norway so would be with us until hitting the North Sea.  Somewhere around there we would pass QM2 and QV.  I'd asked my dad to let me know when they were close so I could dash out and get them.  However, the MCP was off so it would make that a little difficult.  Normally I wouldn't mind not having a signal but really wanted to see Mary, especially since Howard and Patty were aboard.  QV was going home while Mary to Cherbourg and then home the day before us.  I'd also seen her at sea before so wasn't bothered if I missed that.

We went for a little wander while shopping.  The shops on Arcadia are all in one and very confusing when trying to find certain items.  One of the assistants was a great help.  He was from Brighton and it was his first day on this ship.  He had come from P&O Australia where he worked on Pacific Jewel, formerly Ocean Village Two, which he had also been on.  He had done other P&O UK ships like Aurora, which was his favourite.
There was a gorgeous sunset off our port side but, while I managed to get the balcony partition perfectly clear, I had a lot of trouble with the sky.  Artemis was also still lurking up our rear and, after being some way behind, was beginning to catch up as we neared Dover/Calais and had a signal - YES!!!!!  Now where was Mary???
My dad told me by text only Mary's AIS was on so he had no idea where we, Artemis or QV were.  I'd been keeping an eye on two huge white blobs on the webcam and hoped.  As we neared Dover they went on and Mary was almost upon us!  Rowan stayed in the cabin while I went down one to the Promenade Deck to try and find a door port.  I eventually did past the glass lift.  It was pretty windy and she appeared to be in the nearest lane to England whereas we were nearest to France.  I didn't think to use the sport setting, regardless of the noise lines but wish I had.  It was about 12.45am and sadly Howard and Patty missed us despite the bridge announcing the time we'd pass (1.45am their time so don't blame them).  As far as we're aware, no announcement came on Arcadia about the Cunarders.
Back to the cabin in the hope of catching her going into the distance.  Artemis was almost upon us as she moved to the inside lane.  I thought the lights in the distance going the other way were Mary until getting home and realising it was QV and I hadn't missed her after all!
We went to bed after that as we rocked a bit.  The bed was comfy enough but the pillows were like sleeping on rocks.  We were enjoying the cabin and couldn't help wondering how they can put storage on other Vistas, but QV was lacking.  At the time Arcadia entered service, she wasn't doing world cruises, which QV was intended for.  So to have sod all storage for either a twenty day plus leg or the entire trip is stupid.  Also one thing in Arcadia's favour was the detahcable showerhead.  ALL showers should have them.

The next day was boring Zeebrugge.  This would be the day we explored.  The weather was awful and raining.  We'd ordered room service for 9am but Desmond arrived ten minutes early.  I had my phone alarm set as usual  but for some reason it hadn't gone off.  Rowan had been awake and said she waited for it.  The toilet packed up.  One vacuumless flush then nothing at all.  I contacted reception to report it and spoke to Kylie, who then called me back to say they had been notified and were working on it since the block was off.
We started exploring and annoyingly there were too many people still onboard.  Usually it's virtually empty but I suppose the rain was keeping them on.  Arcadian Rhodes was locked as well so we couldn't have a look inside.  After the Meridian Restaurant, Rowan went back to the cabin as the maintenance men were trying to fix the plumbing.  So I carried on alone, trying to dodge my fellow passengers.

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© Patricia Dempsey 30th May-2nd June 2010
Not to be reproduced without permission