Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Dover, England

The flight on Virgin Atlantic Airlines was more than two hours late, leaving Dulles Airport near 9:30 p.m., rather than 7:00 as scheduled. The Virgin employees at the gate were very helpful, playing games, giving away prizes, keeping the passengers entertained. It was a pleasant wait. We arrived in Heathrow airport in London early on the morning of Saturday, September 10. Heathrow was mobbed -- at least in part with other passengers on my ship (Celebrity) and on another ship also leaving the same day (Princess). All of those cruise passengers were meeting at arranged places to take busses to their ships. It was a zoo getting luggage and going to the arranged places and waiting in throngs for the busses. Unfortunately, two of our four pieces of luggage were not there, so I had to go to Virgin Atlantic Airlines to report on the missing luggage. It is not good to start a 12 day cruise with half of your luggage missing; however, Virgin assured us that they would deliver the luggage to the ship, either before it sailed from Dover, or in Amsterdam. I was doubtful, but what could I do. Unfortunately, the busses to the ship were not well coordinated, and there was a two-hour wait in Heathrow before the three hour bus ride to the ship in Dover. However, once aboard the bus, it was naptime! We finally arrived at the ship near 4:00 p.m., and it sailed at 5:00. Just time for a couple of photos of the white cliffs of Dover before dinnertime. Also, we reported to the Concierge at the ship of the missing luggage, and the woman said she would contact Virgin to arrange delivery of the luggage. She was experienced and said that missing luggage is common. She knew who to contact at the airline.

The first night aboard ship is one of getting to know the ship a little and getting acquainted with dinner mates. We had requested a large table for dinner, hoping that we would find interesting tablemates. Instead, we were put at a table for six; however, we liked all of the people. One couple was Hans and Monica, from Luzerne, Switzerland, where he is a Swiss banker. They were very nice. Although they spoke English, they sometimes needed us to slow down a bit for them, and sometimes he needed to do some translating for her. Because of the language difficulty, she was pretty silent during the whole trip. The other couple was Jim and Gloria, from Atlanta, Georgia. They were retirees from Bell South, and also very nice. I could tell that at least the dinner partners would be okay on the cruise.

The first night's after-dinner entertainment was a variety song and dance production by a team of singers and dancers contracting with the ship. These productions for all ships are put together in the States (mostly Los Angeles), where the singers and dancers are hired (under contract) and rehearse until they are completely ready. Then they transfer to a ship for a specified period of time -- usually two months -- where they perform the shows that they have perfected during rehearsals in Los Angeles. During the first performance, I could tell immediately that Celebrity had not hired the most talented performers; neither the singers nor the dancers were particularly good. However, I'm sure Celebrity didn't want to pay too much to get better performers; and the better ones would not want to go to sea anyway. I must say, however, that the performers on the Princess Cruise I took in the Spring were much better. Still, there was one young woman who was VERY good. She had a wonderful voice and she really was a great singer. Her name was Dia, and I suspect that we will hear of her again in the future. After the performance, I had no trouble sleeping; I was totally wiped out.I am attaching a couple of photos of the white cliffs of Dover. It was a cloudy, rainy day, but they are still pretty, even in the haze.

Tomorrow, Amsterdam.

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