Norwegian Getaway

  • A Journey to King Arthur’s Court

    A Journey to King Arthur’s Court

    Once again, without much foreplanning the quest was quickly booked. I was of on another grand adventure. This was the first time I travelled to Europe in the end of October. As usual I departed from the Saint John Airport, and connected in Montreal to London Heathrow. The flight itself was rather uneventful and me and my luggage arrived as expected to London.

    Using Google maps for hotels in the area of Southampton I was looking for the most affordable option that was commutable by train and had settled with the Travelodge in Winchester, Hampshire. I knew absolutely nothing of this place and had procrastinated due to my dislike of making plans and the rail option had jumped to be far greater than taking the bus to Winchester, and the weather was horrid as the tropical storm that devastated my home region was no having the same fun to the folks of the UK especially Scotland and Northern England. Due to this I had decided to go directly to Winchester.

    From Heathrow Terminal 2 I had never taken the bus before and following the signage was pretty easy to the Bus terminal. Once there it was like any other bus terminal completely packed with people just waiting around for the bus and a complete mess of what platform any bus was going to arrive on. I had decided on the National Express 203 bus. Which as it turns out is actually 2 separate buses and I was to take the more expedited version.

    After leaving the bus station the first stop was to Terminal 4, then Terminal 5. The bus driver was really friendly and announced when we were passing the parked Concorde jet so everyone could look out the window to see it. Once I arrived in Winchester, there was a public restroom I took advantage of and through stress of finding the connecting bus to down town I decided to just walk, the sun had just made its presence so it was a very nice slightly uphill stroll to the hotel.

    My first impression of Winchester is that it was more of a small town vibes but was very British and much more what you picture from television of the UK then what you ever see in London. I did not rush at all but in the warm sun my coat was sweaty and I had booked for early check-in just so I could place me bags somewhere for the day. Given that it was no about noon, 8am in my home time. I was rather exhausted and slept a bit for the afternoon.

    I then found out that my friend I was hoping to see had caught COVID so I would not be seeing her the next day that was disappointing but understandable, and I was very fearful of catching it prior to embarking on a 13-night Trans-Atlantic cruise. I woke about 5pm by which time it was raining again, go figure it is England of course. So I went to get a meal combo at the Tesco and then returned to the hotel for a fun night chatting with my sick friend, and took a nice shower and watched British TV.

    The next morning it was sunny and I walked to the Winchester cathedral and took lots of amazing pictures until it was not sunny and in fact started to rain again. And rain incredible hard, so I paid admission and waited out the rain exploring the Great Hall, the little remaining portion of Winchester Castle. It was pretty impressive to see the history of the community and the role the town played in the Civil War.

    This was where a lot of the conflicts happened. There is also an incredible large table hanging on the wall that according to legend was King Arthur’s knights roundtable. Where in reality the table is not that old like 1300’s old, and was later painted probably around time of Henry VIII, but for several generations it was believed to be true and many of the stories in the legend a pictured to be around Winchester, but that was just because the authors at the time it was written believed the story of the table.

    Then the sun came out again and it was time to find some lunch, which was coffee and a selection of items from the Winchester Bakery, and set on the wet bench in the sun and listened to a musician perform with an animatronic skeleton on the drums. In the afternoon I spent the day in the Brooks shopping mall as it went back and forth from rain to sun, and rain with sun all day.

    In all Winchester turned out to be an amazing choice to stay at over Southampton or London. I really want to return here to see more of the city.

    I found the bus stop that I needed for the next morning, returned to the hotel and changed, rested, and chatted with my friend for a bit until it was time for dinner. Come dinner time I went to the pub and ordered a beer, only to learn the kitchen closed at 5pm. After having my beer, I went to the Mark and Spenser’s and picked up a meal combo there and a breakfast assortment of fruit and pastries for in the morning.

  • 2023 Mosaic Parade

  • Starting the Getaway

    The second day of the trip started on a beautiful sunny day. Everyone was talking about how cold it was from a cold front and it was still shorts weather for me. Woke up at 7 and went downstairs for coffee in the lobby and a Guava Cheese Danish that was to die for. Returned to my room and watched the best of Sunday morning TV. It was one of the cooking shows where I learned that the Agave syrup, I like in my tea at David’s Tea is the same plant that is used to make Tequila.

    Booked the early embarking at 10 AM online in the check-in to the cruise-ship. However, when I got to the hotel 12 noon was the only shuttle time left. Since the shuttle was the cheapest option, I reserved it. The hotel also had a noon checkout time, so I took a long shower and relaxed until 11:30 when I went downstairs and got on the shuttle.

    Miami looked not much different from San Juan, and I was not wowed to want to spend more time there. When we arrived at the port, I dropped of my bag to the longshoremen who stated adamantly and more forcefully than San Juan or Charleston the “A tip is expected for this!” Therefore, I gave him $1.

    Walked to the door to the terminal and after about a 4-minute queue I entered the main hall. I was asked if I needed a wheelchair, but I declined and limped into the hall. I filled out the health form and then went to the handicap line where you can sit down and wait. It took about 15 minutes to get checked in and I got my ship key card proceeded up the escalator and had my photo taken (that wasn’t available at the photo shop on the ship.)

    Then I boarded the ship, after my first encounter with the NCL “Washy Washy” team. I was hungry and the rooms were not ready yet so I went to the buffet and sampled a bit of as much as possible. I sat on the side watching Miami Beach and had a great view while joining another couple for lunch.

    As I finished lunch the room was ready so I went down to settle in and get off my feet for about an hour. Then it was time for the safety drill. My spot was A5 in the main theatre since it was down steps the crew said I could sit with the A11 people at the top. It was hilarious all the people being told they couldn’t bring their drinks into the safety demonstration. It went by in less than half the time as Carnival’s demonstrations.

    After the safety drill, I did some exploring of the ship and then made it to the Mojito bar where it just happened the Single/Solo cruiser group was meeting. After talking to some people, a group of 6 of us ditched the Solo group and went to dinner at Taste. The service that night was the slowest of the entire cruise we arrived at 6:30pm-ish and finished the third course after 9 pm.

    After the dinner, I went to the Welcome Aboard show which was really good. Especially the comedian Dean Edwards, he was incredibly funny stereotyping the type of people on cruises.

    After the show, I called it a night and had an amazing sleep.

  • A Return To My Happy Place

    For those of you that love my travel stories, this is the beginning of a new series of them.

    Once again I visited a new travel agent and had no idea where I was headed. The only criteria were the most affordable cruise to where I can add the most new countries to my list. This resulted in the Norwegian Getaway going to Rotan, Honduras, Harvest Cay, Belize, Costa Maya México, and Cozumel México.

    Checking in for the flight was different this time and in the end a lot easier. Online you need the address of the Hotel you are staying at, in the past this was only asked at the airport. The hotel I decided on was the Holiday Inn near the airport. I picked that based on price, that they had an airport shuttle, and they arrange shuttles to the port. Miami is very well organized as a home port town.

    On Saturday (Dec 9th), I woke up really early and had to do laundry and pack. I had meant to do that on Thursday night but for no good reason, that just didn’t happen. My wonderful sister drove me to the airport, dropped me off, and took off to enjoy her vacation from me.

    I used the mobile kiosk to print my boarding pass. I always prefer a paper pass over a mobile version as it is convenient for going through security and is a great place to stick your baggage tag stub. I then checked in my checked bag. I brought my medium sized one. Getting through security took about 90 seconds, the Saint John Airport is great for that. The airport is having renovations and now has a shop inside of security that offers duty-free on international flights.

    Getting on the flight there was a cheap woman with her maximum allowed bag trying to fit it in the overhead bin. The plane was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 that has smaller upper bins. Let’s face it however you try to angle it, it is never going to fit. The maximum allowed size is for placing under the seat in front of you. Which is where she shoved the bag and grumbled all pissed off that she has none of the very little leg room left for the next just over two hours.

    The flight was mainly uneventful, I took the orange juice on this flight. I was sat next to a young group of women off to Toronto for some “holiday retail therapy”.

    Arrived at Pearson and very efficiently found the security for transfers to USA flights which is a very long string of people checking boarding passes and ID. After going through the scanners and kiosks it took me about an hour from arrival to passing security and US Immigration. The guard asked where I was going and scoffed that seeing Rotan is not real Honduras.

    I had dinner at an Italian place until it was time for the flight. People at the airport do not care/respect the Zone boarding system as soon as there was an announcement that they were starting pre-boarding soon it was almost all 240 people in a line. My Zone was Zone 4 so I just sat until most of the line was gone.

    They were checking bags and people were being forced to check and bag that had the “fat zipper” unzipped. I got through no problem and was seated next to a teenage anime artist travelling with his family to Miami. The Miami airport was very easy to find the baggage pickup. For the first time in 3 trips to the USA, my bag arrived with me. I was thrilled even if I was a nervous mess over it being one of the last bags to arrive.

    Finding where the hotel shuttle was you get led by the way finders out the second level door to a curb. There is no marking where each hotels shuttle stops and you see them all go by and then you flag down your hotel’s vehicle. After an hour I was basically tired and went screw this, went downstairs to the taxi stand and for only $13 got a blue taxi. This was the best decision ever. You can pay with a card on the tablet screen on the back of the passenger seat.

    When I arrived, I checked in and the gentleman was the friendliest person I have ever met and really seemed to enjoy his job. I found my room “507” and settled in for the night. The room was spacious and well laid out and clean.

    I fell asleep and that concludes this part of the story.