Back from our Road Trip...

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MB Enthusiast
Aug 23, 2008
Mine: BMW X4 2.0d M-Sport (Red) Hers: BMW X1 2.0d M-Sport (Black) Sorry about that...
Once again, we combined a one week cruise with a "road trip" to make it a longer holiday, so it might* take a while to get to the cruise. (*will) Living in the North West, Southampton is far enough away to make a few stops on the journey...

Our first stop was at Dudley, where we stayed at the Village Hotel. Just round the corner was the Black Country Living Museum which we visited a few years ago, but on this occasion we visited the Dudley Canal Tunnels. Hewn by manual labour from the solid rock, these tunnels are a real feat of Victorian engineering and regular boat trips are run and even give you the opportunity to try "legging" the canal barge through the tunnels.

We were amused by the safety demonstration, which included such gems as "if this steel boat surrounded by water catches fire..." and "if you fall overboard, the first thing to do is stand upright, the water is about a foot deep". We ate at "Major Curry Affair" at Dudley Port, and enjoyed both our evening meals there.

Onwards to Hayling Island, where we stayed at both Warner hotels, at "Lakeside" from Wed to Fri, then at "Sinah Warren" from Fri to Mon. In the past we had avoided Sinah Warren on cost grounds, but on this occasion there was very little difference and I must say, it was a real improvement, with a delightful outdoor pool which we enjoyed on the sunny days, in addition to the usual indoor pool that all their hotels have. We have resolved to pay the extra in the future - the food, service and entertainment were all noticeably better.

At Tangmere Military Aviation Museum I "flew" an English Electric Lightning (simulator) and after getting to and from the Isle of Wight quicker than the ferry, made a "good" landing quite close to the runway. But as a good landing is indeed one after which they can use the aircraft again then I consider that landing to have been "good", indeed not only did the aircraft NOT overturn, I even managed to steer it on to the runway (before running off again at the end.)

Onwards again, to the Isle of Wight where we again stayed at Brooke House in Shanklin, which was every bit as good as before. We visited the Bus & Coach museum, took a ride on the Island Line trains and had a guided tour of the old Signal Box at Brading Station. We enjoyed the Model Village at Godshill and watched the Hovercraft leaving Ryde from our vantage point on Ryde Pier.

Leaving the Isle of Wight on the Red Funnel ferry, we sailed into Southampton, and after parking the car at the Airport (!) we took a taxi to join Arcadia. In the past, we have come in for some criticism for not parking at the port, but the cost is similar after taking into account the taxis and on this occasion we were glad to avoid the M271 roadworks on disembarkation.

Boarding Arcadia was initially smooth, but just as we arrived at a (quiet) security check, embarkation was stopped for a gangway fault and the crowds built and built. It transpired that the gangway had been attached to Deck 1, leaving it at a substantial slope downwards, and when a cargo ship passed by it was enough to move Arcadia enough to leave the gangway unsafe. The ensuing chaos in the terminal was compounded by trying (and failing) to separate passengers who had gone through security checks and unsympathetic staff.

Once on board Arcadia (finally) we went on to deck before Sailaway, to find that the few chairs that were available were "being saved for #### who is coming in a minute" but in fact some were being used as a foot rest - but we found a bit of railings to lean against and chatted to a very nice couple (forgot their names) who had recently cruised on Oceana around Dubai.

The waitress from Sindhu (an Indian "extra fee" restaurant that was previously operated in conjunction with Atul Kocchar) approached us, and although we had been unimpressed on a previous occasion we decided to try it again, they were offering a "Tasting menu" on one evening so we opted for that.

That evening we ate in the MDR - opting for "Anytime Dining" which on Arcadia is on Deck 3, which is the smaller half of the restaurant, losing space to the Promenade Deck outside as well as losing space to the open atrium over Deck 2. Following dinner we went firstly to the Rising Sun pub, then on to the Crows Nest. This set the tone for the rest of the week, except for a brief flirtation with "The Globe" for a Fleetwood Mac tribute by the resident musicians which was quite accurate and enjoyable.

The two shows that we went to were both by "The Beat 45s" who performed music from much of the 60's bands. They were very good on both occasions, but seemed more at ease on the second occasion. They are relatively new to performing on cruises, and will no doubt get more confident as time goes on, but I can highly recommend their show which was very enjoyable indeed.

We found that "Juke Box Hero", a "name that tune" type competition was not, as it was on Oceana, played daily, nor was it held on the open decks but we took part and managed to win on one occasion (60's music) and even remembered to collect our prize on this occasion, which were rather nice pen and keyring sets each, although I must state a preference for Neil Walsh's pub in Southport, "The Windmill" which offers a £25 bar tab on quiz night. (Hic)

Biscay was very kind on this occasion, with a gentle swell and F3 winds, the only poor weather being reserved for the last port of call, Guernsey, where we were initially warned the previous day that tendering may not be possible, although in the event tenders did run for much of the day, interrupted for about an hour after lunchtime, and resumed after the ship had moved to provide more shelter to the tenders. They still appeared somewhat "white knuckle" and, not being fans of roller coasters on land, decided to relax on a relatively empty ship while more brave hearted folks ventured ashore.

Disembarkation at Southampton went smoothly, being achieved about 20 minutes earlier than expected, and indeed the gangway had been correctly attached at Deck 2 on this occasion. Taxis were available after just a couple of minutes waiting (although it always seems longer) and we stopped at Southampton Airport to collect our car from the multi-storey, pausing only for a Costa and a good example of staff that couldn't run a "drinks party in a distillery", with four staff gathered round the till, getting orders wrong and providing dirty cutlery to eat the sandwiches.

My Sat Nav kept me away from Motorways until after Winchester, and the return journey went as smoothly as the outward, with a final stop at Telford, again at the Whitehouse hotel. At the RAF museum Cosford we were able to take a guided tour on board a Nimrod spy plane, before finally returning home.
Biscay is a lovely crossing in the right weather, I've been over a couple of times in less perfect conditions and the swell is very impressive. I honesty expected my car to be smashed to bits after one crossing.

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