An Icelandic Adventure (1)

13th Aug. A wayward journey to Liverpool.

With bags packed the night before and with all necessities accounted for, we both had a leisurely breakfast and shower before loading cases into the car, setting the house alarm and hitting the road north east. The previous afternoon, I had inputted the address of our hotel (Campanile) into Tom Tom and saved it in Favourites, before we set off I tapped the name on the Satnav screen, watched the route load up and off we went. Also on my list of Favourites is Caergwrle, you will find it directly under Campanile. Valuable lesson learnt: Use reading glasses when reading important information and tapping with your finger! Yes, we ended up near my mother’s bench sited under a castle in Caergwrle. On the way we both had expressed suprise at the route we were taking, but it was always north east and towards Liverpool (mostly).  After some wistful head shaking and shrugs I tapped the correct Favourite and we headed off to our intended destination. You have to laugh!

Our re-route took us under the Mersey and through the tunnel. What a delight it was to dive steeply down into the bowels of the Earth before leveling off directly beneath the river bed before again surfacing at a sharp angle onto the sunlight. A bargain at £1.80 and I would have so loved to have made a u-turn and done it all again! Those who commute from Birkenhead to Liverpool are such lucky souls to have  this to look forward to each day.

We found our hotel without too much effort and though it was too early to check-in we parked the car and went for a wander. To our relief we discovered that from the hotel we could see where we were to park-up the following afternoon and take a Covid Test, it was just a couple of minutes away (no need to use Tom Tom then!) We spent a couple of hours mingling among a bustling  crowd of tourists along the waterfront down as far as the Cruise Terminal where hopefully the Bolearis will  be docked tomorrow AND we will be allowed to board.  Returning to the Campanile we chilled out with coffee in our room until early evening when we had a meal at a KFC situated across the road. Afterwards, we took another stroll down the Mersey, this time up stream passing through a more residential quarter, before taking to our beds and sleep.

14th Aug. A Tortuous Bolearis Boarding.
A full English breakfast is the only way to start a busy day of travelling when you are not certain on the time of your next meal and the hotel provided a very substantial fayre, setting us up perfectly for what turned out to be a day of queueing. Second  task of the day was to login to the Icelandic Immigration website, create an account, prove we were double vaccinated, verify who we were by text then receive a barcode by email and save it. Surprisingly it went smoothly due to a fast hotel internet connection.
We had been allocated a 2.30pm check-in for the boat, so  we had the morning to exploit and with Liverpool Cathedral visible from our room window, it semed the natural place to visit. A 20 minute steep hillside meander through a mixture of residential and light industrial properties brought to us to what in our first impression, was a huge monstrosity of a building, darkened by grime and architecturally ‘not quite right’. As if to agree, we discovered a family of Harry Potter enthusiasts posing outside for photos.

It just goes to show that first impressions can sometimes be wrong! Entrance was free and on emerging from the gloomy  drizzle of the world outside, we were met by a shaft of brilliance reaching from lofty roof to near floor, created by a mysriad of white suspended streamers illuminated by spotlights, it oozed of inspiration. Nicely done Mr. Architect, the inside of your building is really quite special. I would guess that a feeling of space and awe was the desired aim and that it achieves by the bucket load. Sue had visited here in her teenage years and was keen to pad through every nook and cranny and share her memories with me. She even managed to persuade one of the ecclesiastics on duty to check in the ‘Big Book’ of war rememberances if one of her relatives was mentioned. Unfortunately not.
It was still drizzling as we left. We made our way back to the hotel and checked-out, before joining a throng of Saturday daytrippers on the waterfront until it was time to return to the car and drive the short distance to the cruise carpark. With the porters taking care of our luggage we parked the car and took a short walk to the Liverpool Arena where we joined the first queue of the many check-in procedures we were to endure.
Our first wait was to show and verify all the documents we had collected over the last couple of weeks. When eventually completed, we took a Lateral Flow Test followed by just over an hour of sitting in rows, waiting to be cleared medically fit to board. Exasperatingly a predicted short 10 minute bus ride to the ship ended up being 40 minute crawl due to Scouser 5pm traffic. Fortunately, we were at the head of the next queue and quickly having our paperwork checked yet again, we were issued with cabin cards and Track & Trace bands and we boarded at 6pm, hoorah!!!!
The cases were already in our cabin and we were keen and eager to have a coffee and do some exploring of the facilities. Hot refreshments were soon found in one of the restuarants and afer locating the theatre and shops etc. we returned to the cabin to do the necessary unpacking and the reading of literature supplied to make the voyage safe and enjoyable. A further short foray out onto the decks proved interesting. The weather had turned murky and wet as we left the Mersey estuary and headed into the Irish Sea, bodies braving the outside decks were few. Coming across a lone elderly gentleman talking to a crew member, Sue stopped and suddenly remarked to the man that she knew him, and she did! Though he couldn’t recall us, he was on the Magellan with us  steaming down the Amazon, it was nearly two years ago, she really does have a remarkable memory for faces. In further good fortune, the crewman standing there checked us off his life-boat drill list, unknown to us we just happened to be standing at our life-boat station.
Dressing casually for an 8.30pm dinner, we were shown to table 60 in the Aurora restuarant at the stern of the ship. We sat as a pair, socially distanced from others, sad but necessary. During the meal, first Sue’s Track & Trace band began to flash intermittently,  so did mine a litlle while later. This caused us great concern as we had no idea what was happening. Hiding our wrists under the table we were determined to at least finish the meal before confessing to a crew member and maybe having to self isolate in the cabin for the rest of the trip. Sometime later I spotted other bands flashing on our fellow passengers and with relief we realised that it was normal. Phew!!!

Our evening entertainment was provided by a Yorkshire comedian performing in the Jupiter Theatre. Very amusing, but we discovered one drawback of those randomly flashing bands in darkened rooms, they can be very distracting on the eye. I spent much of the time with my hand covering my wrist.
The ship normally takes 1600 passengers and 600 crew, we believe there are only 700 cruisers on this inaugral foreign cruise into Iceland and this seems very evident by the number of empty seats and tables. Being the first cruise ship into Iceland, it seems the authorities are not taking any chances:
You can only leave the ship when on an organised trip.
Masks must be worn at all times while on tours.
Nothing must be purchased whilst off ship.
If you leave a tour for any reason, you will have to self isolate for 10 days in your cabin or on shore.
The authorities have obviously had a great deal of problems starting up their tourist industry, a lot of its workers have changed jobs during the pandemic, or are no longer interested in mixing with foreign tourists. I can understand that point of view. We are lucky to have arranged our port trips last week, many on board were expecting to book them when on ship and are now quite disappointed.
15th Aug. A welcome first day at sea for 18 months.
We took breakfast in one of the buffet restaurants. We were shown to our seats after first being directed to a very nifty automatic handwashing washine. By observing a strict one-way system we progressed down the buffet bar and chose the items of food that we wanted, these were placed on the plate for us. Hopefully, this system will prevent me from making too much of a pig of myself, I  had made an early decision not to visit the gym and burn off those excess calories, mainly due to Covid precautions.
We spent our first full day at sea doing those activities that we enjoy most; lectures in the theatre, quizzes in the bars and gazing out through the window hoping to catch sight of some wildlife.
At  lunchtime time we did spend quite a time chatting to a couple from Scotland who were seated at a table next to ours. Thankfully, Covid-19 still can’t prevent the human race from enjoying a good conversation, even if voices have to be raised a decibel or two for social distancing.

The dress for the evening meal was formal. It felt a little strange being togged up in proper glad rags once again, it has been such a long time. Discovering a bar bill from the Magellan in my jacket pocket made us both smile and brought about a long conversation of happy memories from our last cruise. It is usual on the first formal night to be photographed with the Captain before entering the restaurant, but this pandemic put an end to that and we had to be satisfied with a glass of champagne at the table and a short speech from him at the end of the dining room. We finished the evening well after midnight with a musical show by the ship’s resident singers and dancers performing a medley from well known musicals.

16th Aug. A rather choppy sea day.

We were in breakfast for 7.30am and stepping out onto a blustery and randomly undulating deck 3 by 8.30am. A mile is just 3.5 times around this deck, so with a determined arm-in-arm gait we circumnavigated 4 times, passing a group of ardent bird watchers armed with binoculars, scanning for skuas skipping low over cold, grey North Atlantic waves from near the bow. With ears thoroughly chilled and a few calories burned we entered the cocoon of the ship’s interior and set about the business of the day.

Further laps of the Bolearis took place inbetween the activities that kept us busy throughour the day, on each foray onto  the decks the sea and sky seemed darker and more turbulent, there was a bitter cold gale. whistling along the decks. Annoyingly there were reports and photos taken of a breaching sperm whale seen on the port side, unfortunately not during one of our ‘refreshing’ trips to the deck.

 

The evenings’ entertainment was provided by an amazing magician and followed by another after midnight pillow squash.

There seems so few passengers it appears we may have boarded the Mary Celeste by mistake?

 

 

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