All Aboard Part 2 – To Boldly Go

My latest vacation with Mrs Bob was a voyage to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no Aspie has gone before!

Originally, we were supposed to visit Guernsey first, but this was cancelled shortly after we attempted to tender there. The weather was bad and expected to deteriorate, so the Captain decided to “pull the plug”. So, we ploughed on to the next stop on our itinerary, Cork, in Southern Ireland. This gave us a bit more time at sea, so I decided to hit the pool and hot tub with a good graphic novel, while Mrs Bob watched from a recliner by the pool, reading. This was a strange experience for me, starting with getting changed and showering before entering the pool. This is normally uncomfortable for me, but it wasn’t helped when I walked past the sauna and saw a very naked old dude on display like a fish in Morrisons. After that initial awkward moment, I climbed quickly into the hot tub and found that people have an annoying habit of talking to me. Do I look like a freakin‘ people person? I’ve learned to cope with this and worked out how to “people” through working in a pub for the last few years. Still, it’s not my favourite pastime by any stretch of the imagination.

The next day we were on an excursion to Kinsale from the port at Cobh, Cork, and I must admit, the coach trip was very pleasant. The roads and scenery were pretty much like the ones here in south Devon, so we both felt really at home. I also found out that Kinsale was home to Keith Floyd who used to own the establishment I work in back home, so that was a fantastic touch to my visit. Kinsale is a quaint small town with a high street of shops and cafes. We were free to explore, so Mrs Bob found a little back-street cafe with lovely home-made gluten free cakes and huge cups of fresh coffee. Just what I needed! After refuelling, we found a touristy gift shop and Mes Bob went in search of a Christmas bauble for the tree. This is a tradition we have always had – getting one from every new place we visit, so we remember it. I went and sat on a bench as I was feeling a bit headachey, and once the bauble (a lovely metal Celtic cross made for hanging on a tree), we went in search of Taytos.

Taytos are Irish crisps and we had been told we MUST try them if we went to Ireland. Mrs Bob didn’t give up til she’d bought some, but it was harder than she had been led to believe! Once we got on the coach to return home, we checked out the packaging… neither of us could eat them! The salt and vinegar crisps contain both lactose and barley 😳. We tried!

Back on board, we enjoyed sitting on the balcony and watching as Cobh disappeared and we made our way to Dublin. Mrs Bob decided she wanted a drink from the Martini bar, which had a bar made of ice, and it was then that she discovered her favourite cruise drink… a candied Apple Martini! Several times she carefully balanced the very full, very shallow martini glass as the ship swayed, and she got in the lift up to our cabin’s deck! It’s nicer drinking on our balcony than at the bar, apparently.

At dinner, we were sat at a table of 6 for the cruise and we got to know the other two couples really well. One couple were originally from Paignton, and had been on 3 cruises in the last year, all on the same ship! The other were from Quebec, and the husband found it really challenging to speak in English every dinner time. Still, they were really nice and very chatty. Mrs Bob discovered that our very obliging, kind and helpful waiter was called Freddis, and was from Honduras. He had been waiting on cruises for 18 years and this was his last year, now his sons were through university. He looked after us, with all our food issues, so well and we were very grateful to him

In Dublin there were many excursions planned by the cruise ship, but I had personally organised my own trip into Dublin, to visit the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Mrs Bob was happy to tag along, despite having no real interest. After a shuttle bus ride and a fairly long walk, we found it. That Grand Lodge is the second most senior Grand Lodge in the world and the oldest in continuous existence. It is the institution that governs the Masonic Fraternity within Ireland and also in a number of Provinces overseas. This was a very special visit for me, as it was my first visit to an overseas lodge. While I couldn’t tour the temple that day, I was able to visit the museum which gave an interesting insight into Ireland’s Masonic past.

After this, we had a quick look around the centre of Dublin, then took the shuttle bus back to the ship. As we were the only people on it, the driver took us on a covert quick detour to show us a couple of sights, which we were very grateful for.

After two days spent in the Emerald Isle, though, it was time to set sail for colder climes, which meant two days at sea. This was great, as both of us love sea days and I could spend time exploring the ship and taking in some of the activities, quizzes, etc. Mrs Bob joined in some, but I won a medal in one event titled “Are you smarter than a Ship’s Officer?”. Apparently, I am! After all this excitement, I went to eat in the all-day-eat-as-much-as-you-like type restaurant on Deck 14, with a wonderful view of the sea. I found out that they made gluten-free pizzas, so I had one and a nice salad with it (just to feel healthy) and then went to find Mrs Bob and have a rest in the cabin. Then, we went to the inside pool again, for a nice relaxing hot-tub session and a lie-down by the pool with a Walking Dead graphic novel and a podcast. Mrs Bob had her Kindle and settled down with me.

I need to mention the other thing I found useful while adrift at sea was that the TV in our stateroom had some cracking free movies to watch, so we took in a few of them during sea days or quiet evenings, including:

  • Solo A Star Wars Story
  • Antman and the Wasp
  • A Simple Favour
    The Upside

I did find that during the sea days with nearly 3,000 people packed on board, my wireless, noise-cancelling headphones came in very useful, helping me to avoid too much noise. When you look like I do with them on, most people will do anything to avoid conversation with me or even getting in a lift with me. Which is fine by me, as I’m not really the most sociable of peeps.

(This is my happy face.)

Anyway, after two wonderful, relaxing days at sea, we arrived in Akureyri situated in the far north of Iceland. It was simply stunning. Not only had we been inside the Arctic Circle (the second time for us) to get there, we had also caught the phenomenon known as the Midnight Sun. This is also known as the Polar Day, where the sun is fully visible for 24-hours, day and night. This is a very strange sensation, and I was fascinated by it. This picture was taken after midnight:

The trip out and around Akureyri was fascinating and beautiful, despite a little rain and being overcast, I was surprised at how warm it was in early May. Amongst other things, we saw incredible landscapes, waterfalls, ancient houses made of turf, an ancient church and a botanical garden. The guide was witty, informative and really made the trip come alive!

The excursion around Akureyri wore both of us out. By the end of the day we were both in some pain and we decided there was no way either of us would be able to do the 9-hour excursion we had booked and paid for the next day, in Reykjavík.

Instead, once we arrived, I spent the day relaxing by the pool and took part in a paper airplane competition! This was much more fun than it sounds for an aerospace engineer and a nerd. Mrs Bob was in a lot of pain, so she rested in the cabin most of the day. We enjoyed some good food and even better wine and spectacular views even from the ship. I also managed to work on some new scribbles, which made me very happy.

Then, it was on to Lerwick, on the Shetland Isles. Once we had set sail, that evening was a silent disco and I had to check it out. This is a fascinating social experiment where a group of people, mostly intoxicated, wear headphones. They choose the music they want to listen to from three channels – 70s, 80s or 90s/00s. They then proceed to dance (and sing – loudly and tunelessly) the night away, much to the amusement of those people who are spectators and can hear their singing rather than the music! (Me at the silent disco)

The Shetlands are a fantastic place and, like the Faroe and Orkney Isles, were originally under the control of Denmark. In the case of Orkney and Shetland, this was until 1468, when King Christian of Denmark needed money to pay a dowry. He entered into a commercial contract on 8 September 1468 with the King of Scotland, James III, to whom he pawned his personal interests in Shetland & Orkney for 50,000 Rhenish. Unfortunately, when the Danes tried to settle the debt in 1549, 1550, 1558, 1560, 1585, 1589, 1640, & 1660, the Scots rejected each attempt and refused to give them back, thus causing them to remain under Scottish rule, which hasn’t changed since.

I went on a short coach trip down to southern Shetland, with no stops, and Mrs Bob wandered around Lerwick. We both had fabulous times and loved doing our own thing for a couple of hours, then sharing experiences after.

Once back on the ship it was time to set sail for Southampton, where our adventures had begun. The North Sea was incredibly calm and smooth – almost glass-like with such fog you couldn’t see off the ship at all. It was strangely eerie but also hypnotic. Mrs Bob sat on the balcony looking at it for ages!

We arrived at Soton docks at 0600 and we were up, packed and ready! We leapt into action and left the boat half an hour later to begin the 3-hour drive home. We collected Dog on our way… he was confused to see us and yowled loudly the whole way home, but he soon realised we were staying and he happily took up his favourite cuddle place on Mrs Bob’s lap, after scoffing a bowl of food faster than either of us had ever seen him eat.

All in all it was the trip of a lifetime for both of us. It was wonderful to spend two weeks together making wonderful memories – a real Bucket List experience for the two of us. A massive thank you goes out to Mrs Bob for single-handedly organising the whole thing for us. She is a gem…

Stay Safe X

All aboard – Part 1

I have just returned from what can only be described as the trip of a lifetime. A vacation so mahoosive that this blog can’t possibly do it justice? Challenge accepted….

We begin where all the great stories and some of the bad ones do, in a galaxy far, far away. No, wait… we began this trip by taking our housemate and Mrs Bob’s favourite animal, Dog, to his cat hotel. Much yowling and crying ensued … and that was just Mrs Bob. She’s become very attached to our furry little git bag AKA Dog. While she was struggling with this transition quite a lot. I was very grateful for my neurodiverse brain and its very logical way of thinking about things. That way I can compartmentalise it and not become affected by things like this.

This meant we had 24 hrs to finish packing and get ready to begin our adventures. So, the following morning, at dawn, we piled everything into the car and drove with a cheery song in our hearts to Southampton, even managing to grab a flying visit to an old friend on the way and also find gluten free pizza once we arrived at the docks. to climb aboard our floating home-from-home for the next two weeks, the Celebrity Silhouette. Two thousand other people had the same idea, though, and it was chaos getting aboard, but we were soon installed in our beautiful cabin.

The ship was massive – I mean really massive – compared to the last cruise liner we travelled on. As we were welcomed aboard with champagne and smiles, I suddenly became anxious about the size of the place and getting lost within the labyrinth of corridors and rooms. Fortunately, Mrs Bob was at hand to help me get my bearings alongside handy 3D maps (see below).

We eventually found our stateroom and decided to sit on the balcony while we awaited the arrival of our cases. After a bit of a rest, we had the usual safety evacuation drill thingy you have on every cruise. This was horrific, there’s no other word for it. Even Mrs Bob struggled. There were deafeningly loud tannoy announcements and strobe lights flashing everywhere, which was very difficult for me, as I felt very disoriented by it all. Fortunately, I had my bright mint green wireless noise cancelling headphones which helped me focus on the job at hand rather than stumbling round like a drunk university fresher. Those headphones became my signature accessory on the cruise and I was recognised for them… even getting comments about where they were if I didn’t wear them!

After this formality, we set sail for the first port of call – Guernsey – and it was time to begin exploring around the ship while Mrs Bob relaxed her back (which was not good after the long journey down etc). I was in full explorer mode by then, having relaxed a bit, and found my bearings. I started by searching for the pool area and, most importantly, the bar. I must stress that working in the licensed industry, I actually don’t drink very often, maybe one in a month, if that. Plus I’m allergic to beer, lager & Guinness, but I was on holiday and out to enjoy myself! I found several of the bars that were dotted around the ship, and once I had a rough map of the ship in my head, and easily found our cabin again, I felt confident in finding my way around the ship.

It was also handy that right next to our stateroom was The Hideaway – an area with lots of quiet pods, seats and a freshly-ground coffee machine, so I did what I do best “I drink (coffee) and I read things”. It was so peaceful sitting there and seeing our new neighbours finding their cabins, and watching the really impressive – beautiful looking- lifts whizz up and down the 15 decks to one side of me.

So began the start of two weeks rest & relaxation. And travel. Lots of travel.

To be continued….

Stay Safe X