wow 10 years have passed since this

cockerhoop
25th May 2010, 12:45
a holiday on Airtours Sundream May 2000
After travelling down to Southampton on the Friday afternoon we stopped at the Eastleigh Posthouse overnight and availed ourselves of their free carparking offer. Our party consisted of two distinct groups, on the first hand there was myself, my wife Jan and 4 year old daughter Clarissa, secondly there was our friends Keith & Lynn a couple of party animals. The age of the adults was early to late 30’s.
Saturday morning arrived and we put the luggage in the reception and had a couple of pints and watched the test match on the TV. The taxi arrived at 12.00 and took us to the QE2 Terminal at Southampton. We gained a glimpse of Sundream as we entered the terminal, looking a pristine gleaming white. Things were a bit slow checking-in and registering credit cards etc, but after a glass of champagne in the departure lounge things seemed more pleasant. By 2.30 we were seated in the dining room tucking into a gigantic portion of chicken & ham pie. Frantic attempts to find a TV to watch the FA Cup final were to no avail; the ship had no public TV!
We then explored the ship and got our bearings, most of the public rooms are on Restaurant deck, with a show lounge both forward and aft and the casino aft of the dining room, stbd of the kitchens. Above this on Promenade deck at the rear is the Midnight Sun lounge, which is a piano bar/disco. Up again on Lido deck is the pool area and buffet food stand, there is two tea and coffee machines here with free drinks available 24 hours. There is also a pool bar and at the aft end, a crazy golf course, and deck games plus the kids club. Both Promenade & Lido were well appointed with numerous sun loungers as was the compass deck above, which also had a daytime bar. Topless sun bathing is available above the bridge.
At 3.30 we were shown to our cabin by our steward a cheery Filipino who made a great fuss of Clarissa, our cases were just arriving. The cabin was classed as a superior inside and was on Main Deck situated outboard of the main shop. It was a three berth cabin with a double bed and pull down bunk bed, there was enough hanging space for the large amount of clothes we had brought bearing in mind we hadn’t flown anywhere Jan thought no weight allowance meant the whole wardrobe could travel! There was a well-lit dressing table and a shelf at the bottom of the bed for storing the games and books we had brought to entertain Clarissa. The bathroom was cramped but functional, at first the toilet flush terrified Clarissa. Once the various bottles and lotions were in place it looked lived in. As the cruise went on it was obvious the steward visited the cabin about 3 times a day morning, afternoon and while we were at dinner.
The afternoon soon passed and we were upon deck in our casual dinning room attire at 6pm to watch as we set sail, visible at Vospers was the recently launched Triton. As usual first night dining was at any table; the second night was when we were given our table for the cruise. Tonight we all dined together, as the rest of the cruise Keith & Lynn had arranged the late sitting at 8.30. The meal was 5 course, starter, soup, salad, main course, sweet and coffee. Tonight the best part was the sweet Opera cake.
After dinner we went to the aft show lounge and watched the early show, the entertainment director Miss Leslie Reid gave the cruise a slight holiday camp feel by proclaiming that whenever we met her she would ask “how are you doing” to which everyone was to reply SMASHING! The song and dance revue could not be faulted. Keith and Lynn were a little bit alarmed that everyone seemed to look like pensioners on the ship, but as time went by the relative age groups soon sorted themselves out. We had an early night and retired just after 10pm, in the cabin the beds were turned back and Sundays newsletter had arrived.
3am Sunday I awoke aware of a ship motion and rhythmic creaking noises, obviously we had reached the Bay of Biscay. At 7 I awoke and on getting out of bed noticed the ship had a list to port, the forecasted northwesterly winds were hitting us side on. Once out in the passageway I noticed the ship was also pitching about 15 to 20 feet every 10 seconds or so. Up on the lido deck the pool had been filled but was doing its best to empty itself. Off the port side there was a small cargo vessel making heavy weather of its progress and ahead of us a car carrier. I grabbed 2 cups off coffee and tried my best to spill as little as possible on my way back to our cabin. Because of the weather I breakfasted in the main dining room, here the service seemed to be a bit slow, so the rest of the cruise I used the breakfast buffet by the pool. Not that my breakfast stayed down for long, as seasickness befell our cabin. By lunch time our sea sickness pills had kicked in and the five of us ventured up to the buffet lunch and struggled to cope with the wind in the glazed areas outboard of the pool.
We had recovered enough to join the wine tasting club at 2pm in the forward lounge; this was the best value for money experience of the whole cruise. There was 5 sessions and for £2 per session we were given 4 half glasses of wine and a plate of cheese and biscuits, at the end of the 5 sessions a certificate, photo with the hotel manager, and photo copied course notes were given out. Through the day the seas gradually got calmer, but it wasn’t really sunbathing weather.
Monday felt like our first proper cruising day, I told Jan I would be sat on the after sun deck with a couple of sun beds. At 10.30 when both ladies arrived on deck they were shocked to see me stripped to my shorts getting a tan, Jan was all wrapped up in a sweat shirt, but we were now heading due south and temperature was rising by the minute. Clarissa was introduced to Kids Club where she immediately fell in love with one of the entertainment staff Urika. The kids club was a bonus because the brochure had said it didn’t start up until June, but it ran varying programs for 2 hours 3 times a day. The best time for us was the 8 till 10 pm club when we would drop Clarissa off and meet up with Keith and Lynn for a drink before their dinner in the Midnight sun lounge. This was a semi-circle of seats and tables aft of the disco area where the views to stern were idyllic to the end. Once alone Jan and I would have a quiet couple of drinks and watch the sunsets.
On a wet Tuesday morning we arrived at Lisbon just as a thunder storm was passing over, once through the terminal building the 5 of us jumped in a taxi and haggled ourselves a 2 hour city tour for £25. By 11 the rain had stopped and we explored the streets on foot, several shop windows were packed with vintage bottles of port. Another storm arrived at 1.30 so we made a dash for the ship; the rest of the afternoon was spent by the pool with constant street noise of busy city in the background. As we were asleep on arrival, the stunning sights as we sailed were truly breathtaking.
Wednesday was Cadiz, I’m afraid our comments for Cadiz aren’t favourable. After the previous day’s success at go it alone exploring, we thought we’d try it again! Once out the truck yard (port) it was a choice of turn tight or straight on up a steep hill, we chose right and had a grotty morning round the old town of Cadiz. Some interesting market stalls if you like snails and far too much dog dirt. We arrived back aboard ship at 1.30 for a late lunch, it was then we found out that if we had gone up the hill we would have found the pleasant resort of Cadiz, some you lose I guess.
Thursday was at sea in the glorious Med sunshine. By now we were well familiar with the ship timetable and had our next slurp at the wine tasting. Life couldn’t get better cruising was definitely for us, there’s not many holidays that leave us relaxed and a 4 year old entertained.
Friday, the best day of the whole fortnight, the 5 of us left the ship at 8.30 and set off to explore Barcelona. We strolled up the Ramblas and then toured on an open top bus, lunch was taken at the Hard Rock Café and then we set off for the Gothic Cathedral and the Neu Camp football stadium. The day seemed to fly by. Once back aboard and changed we went up on deck to watch as we sailed out, the full barrage of exchanged signals between Sunbird and ourselves deafened us. Before we sailed under the opened bridge and past 2 other cruise liners plus the Spanish aircraft carrier.
Saturday again at sea, obviously it is to far to get from Barcelona to Viccichenca over night, but during the afternoon as we cruised up Sicily it was hard to imagine the ship was doing anything like 8 knots! By early Sunday we were tied up in Italy, Jan had decided the trip to Rome would be too much for Clarissa so they stayed aboard. Meanwhile the remaining 3 of us went on one of the organised trips to Rome to take in the sites. This was made all the more hazardous due to it been marathon day! But all in all a trip not to be missed, even if I didn’t get to see the practice runs of lowering the lifeboats.
During the night we made the short trip to Corsica. To give Clarissa a proper trip we had booked on the excursion to the tortoise sanctuary, this was a pleasant morning out and was finished off with a trip to Napoleons monument. Keith and Lynn went on a trip to sample local meats and sausages. Sailing time was 1pm making this rather a rushed day.
Final port of call was Gibraltar, I was up early to watch us sail in. Firstly we emerged from a fog bank, which gave us a chance photograph the sunrise aft of the funnel, and then we were able to watch HMS Liverpool steam past us towards the fog, her gas turbine noise making Sundream seem silent in comparison. Once on shore we rushed off to the main street to allow the women to do some shopping and Keith and me to do some boozing in the typically British pubs. Finally we had a portion of chips each from the famous chippy. Another 1pm departure for the long trip home the dolphins appeared to escort us from Gib and on hour later we spotted a whale. During the afternoon we joined in a game of 15 to 1 beside the pool, obviously getting a soaking when answering a question wrong, Keithy managed to finish second.
Thursday was a disappointing day as we hoped it would be our last day of hot weather but it was not to be. The weather was overcast and breezy, our holiday home was again rocking and rolling. It was a quiet day of reading and playing scrabble, thank god for the kids club! It was gala evening in the dining room, all the staff was introduced and the waiters singing reached new heights, Elvis would be proud. I was now beginning to show the stone I put on since leaving Southampton. Clarissa went to the kids club disco while we tried our luck at the roulette table.
Friday was very pleasant the Bay of Biscay was calm for once, but really the sights were set for home. Sadness was amongst our party, sad because our voyage was soon to end and boy had we enjoyed it. Some times it can be good to get home from a holiday, but we all knew this time was different. We came not knowing what to expect and were leaving with thoughts of “a lottery win would allow to cruise several times a year!” By do the pensioners have it good these days, one couple I spoke to had only booked a week before and had paid £425 each coupled with the fact they only drank tea and water with dinner they’d be lucky if the whole trip cost them £1200. Not bad value for a 4 star hotel that offers 6 meals a day, entertainment, several different cities to explore and 4500 miles of idyllic cruising!
So with the cases outside the cabin we settled down for our last night at sea. Saturday morning we slowly made our way up the dull Solent. Disembarkation was slow due to some crew being arrested for drugs smuggling! Because of this we got to see the new passengers checking in, one couple seemed unsure if a cruise was for them, we offered to go for them but this only convinced them they had made the right choice.
To sum up the whole trip, cheap cruising for the working classes it maybe, but boy is it value for money. Not too informal and smart enough for the 4 nights when it mattered. The mixture of Filipino and Russian waiters and cabin staff could not be faulted. The bar prices were not extortionate which made for a more relaxing time. This was a family holiday that will stay in the memory for a very long time

CliffsVictory57
19th June 2010, 15:11
That's a great recap of your memorable cruise, and thanks for taking the time to share it here.
Now we know to turn left when in Cadiz!

Smashing! (Thumb)

TG