Cruise News

At the end of this week, starting on the 22nd of September, I will be joining the Magellan for a two week voyage around the Mediterranean. I’ll be running watercolour painting workshops along the way, and visiting a few places that I’ve never been to before (Rome, Cannes and Barcelona are all locations that I’m looking forward to ticking off on my ‘been to’ list).

Naturally, I’ll be keeping a record of the trip as we go along, so do check back here from Saturday onwards if you fancy keeping up with events as they happen…

My other exciting news is that I have been invited to join the Marco Polo in the New Year for a long voyage around South America (billed as Grand Circle South America Voyage). Again, this features many locations that will be new to me; I’ve never been to the Falklands, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay or Peru, so although 72 nights on board the Marco Polo is right on the outer limits of my cruising tolerance levels (I miss my home broadband and big shower when I’m away –  the longest stint I have done so far is 8 weeks, on two back-to-back cruises), the itinerary is rather irresistible.

Home Again…

This morning we arrived back where we started; the Port of Cardiff.

I’m pleased to say that not only did the ship arrive bang on time, but we were off the ship quickly and without any undue fuss.

Unfortunately, as we entered the terminal to pick up our three suitcases (which are taken off the ship separately by crew members, in advance of disembarkation), we found only two waiting for us. For the next half hour or so, we anxiously watched the suitcases roll off the conveyor belt, hoping that the luggage label had fallen off, and not that some numpty had picked up our suitcase by mistake (which can, and does, occasionally happen).

I’m relieved to say that the suitcase did finally turn up, and its label had indeed fallen off, so we were finally on our way home…

We brings me to the end of another cruising adventure; until September, when I will be running workshops on board the Magellan as it embarks on a ‘Mediterranean Odyssey’. Between now and then I have a full summer of workshops, demonstration and art shows. By the time September comes around, I’ll be ready for another adventure…

Ringaskiddy, Ireland

Today, we arrived in Ringaskiddy, in County Cork, Ireland.

It was a bit of a disappointment for several reasons…

Firstly, we were a little late arriving. We were originally due to arrive at 9am, but didn’t get there until 10am. This wouldn’t be a problem if we were going to be there all day. Unfortunately, we had to leave as soon after 2pm as possible, in order to arrive at Cardiff tomorrow morning at our appointed time (tides n’ all that), severely limiting our available time ashore.

Secondly; for some inexplicable reason, the Irish immigration authorities had also decided that everyone on board must be subjected to a face-to-face interview, whether going ashore or not. To allow this to happen in a controlled manner, folks were instructed to present themselves on deck 6 with their excursion ticket (if they were on tours), their white plastic cruise card and their passport, in deck order. This meant folks on tours were to be interviewed first, followed by people from deck 12, descending finally to deck 4 (that would be us, then).

Because of all this, we’d decided not to bother with a shuttle bus ride into Cork city, which would take thirty minutes each way; instead, we decided just to take a walk locally, into Ringaskiddy… as soon as we’d completed our face-to-face interview, of course.

By the time Deck 4 was called, Tracey went off first, to get her passport (because we’d forgotten to pick them up earlier), and have her interview, while I finished up doing some stuff online. On her return, I would then go and have my interview. When Tracey returned, however, she told me not to bother. Just as she’d arrived on Deck 6 for the interview, the Irish Immigration officers had decided they’d had enough, packed up and left; anyone who wanted to go ashore were free to do so.

So, we grabbed our cameras and went ashore…

As we’d entered the harbour earlier, we’d been enamoured by the little town of Cobh on the opposite side, which looked like a really nice, and interesting place. Unfortunately, the quay on that side had been taken up by a Holland America cruise ship (you can’t miss ’em – they look like a giant block of flats), leaving us with Ringaskiddy, which, sadly, isn’t a lot to write home about.

We were docked in a container port, beyond which was a small village, which is currently undergoing a lot of roadworks. On the plus-side, we clocked a pub as we walked, which would be perfect for a quick pint of Guiness on the way back (it being the law n’ all), but little else took our eye.

From the map (, we’d identified a possible point of interest; a tower of some sorts, located in the middle of a park. To get to it within our time limit, however, we would have needed a suitable shortcut, of which there were none forthcoming… so we walked to the beach (which was equally underwhelming), and then headed back again, towards the ship.

By the time we reached the pub, there wasn’t time to stop for a pint of Guiness, because of us having to get back to the ship to set the craft room up for my class in the afternoon. Then; just as I was still coming to terms with not having a Guinness, we arrived back at the quayside, just as two tour buses also returned back, at the same time, coincidentally, that they decided to re-adjust the gangway, so we ended up standing around for about twenty minutes, jockeying for position in a non-existent queue, in the hopes of getting back on the ship on time.

All-in-all, then, Ringaskiddy was a bit underwhelming and failed to light any sparks of Celtic energy or passion. It’s a shame, because I like Ireland, and Tracey hadn’t been there before. Had we been given a little more time, our walk might have panned out properly, or we could even have walked further and maybe crossed the bridge to Cobh (or even taken the shuttle into Cork). The good news is; we’ll be returning here in September on the Magellan, so we’ll get another crack at it.

Last Sea Day

Today was our final full sea-day, as we head South towards Ringaskiddy (for Cork) in Ireland.

My class was a 10am start, which meant that we were able to leave the room semi-set up after yesterday afternoons class (which in turn took some of the pressure off our morning get-up time). Last night, the clocks went forward, meaning we lost an hour, but it also means that we are now back in line with UK time (yeey!).

Today, I taught the class all about Negative Painting, which went well; there is only one last class for me to do, which will be tomorrow afternoon (after our Cork stop), so we won’t be escorting any tours then, as we will have to be back in time to set up the room.

After lunch we went up to Scott’s Bar, where Bruce Thompson was giving an extra performance, playing his guitar and singing a few folk songs. He has a remarkable singing voice, and clean playing style; clearly, an ‘old folkie’… Needless to say, it was standing room only in Scotts Bar, and a happy room-full of passengers… nice one, Bruce!

After the folk session, we retired to Marco’s Bistro for afternoon tea. Sandwiches and cakes are laid on, and it always amazes me just how much food folks can manage to pile up on their plates, not to mention how much food they can stuff away considering it wasn’t that long ago since lunchtime.

As well as the new carpet and paint job, there have been a couple of other new additions to the bistro area. The old tea-making machines have finally been replaced by swish new modern ones, which make the job of making tea and coffee swift and effortless. The other change is to the cold drinks machine. In the morning it serves cold fruit juices; during the rest of the day, it serves cold water. The machine is incredibly annoying, though; if it is left unused for more than about five minutes, it starts playing an advertising video on its front screen. That wouldn’t be so annoying by itself if it wasn’t accompanied by an truly awful jingle that plays alongside it. The whole thing replays over and over again, on a loop, until someone either presses the buttton for a cold drink of water, or touches the screen, which stops the video. Wherever you are within Marcos, your can hear the jingle start up periodically and play to itself… its quite annoying, and I’ve taken to whacking the screen automatically everytime I pass by it, to stop its innane jibberings… surely I can’t be alone in hating this thing, and I’m certain someone must have lodged a complaint about it at reception (I hope so)… surely, there must be someway to disable the video, or at least turn the sound off… there it goes again… aaaargh!

Heading South

Today, we were at sea; the first of two sea days that will bring us to our final port-of-call on Saturday. Throughout the day, the rough seas have mercifully calmed down; they are expected to get even calmer as we get closer to Ireland.

My class was in the afternoon, which gave us the opportunity to have a bit of a lie-in in the morning, a welcome indulgence after yesterdays early start.

Not a lot else has happened today. The painting class (Stone Walls and Sheep) went well, and the long hours between that and eating and sleeping, were spent reading, chatting and drinking tea.

I’ve never thought of cruising as being a regional thing. By that, I mean that I’ve always assumed folks wanting to join a cruise ship would be happy to travel from home to wherever the ship was berthed, wherever that happens to be in the country. This time around, we sailed from Cardiff; a new experience for me (mostly, we sail from London Tilbury, Southampton or Bristol). The reason I mention this is because there is a notably high number of Welsh accents on board, certainly more than other cruises, so maybe local advertising works well for CMV; presumably, when their ships sail from Newcastle, for instance, there are a large number of Geordie passengers…

Follow watercolour artist Peter Woolley's adventures as he runs art workshops on the high seas…