Autumn leaves begin to fall.

Autumn leaves begin to fall.

The sea had calmed and we passed the Bay of Biscay quite calmly as we sailed northward. We began to realise that the cruise was nearly over and we would soon be back to everyday life…and the British winter!

Tony Gledhill gave his last talk, the watercolour class were busy finishing their paintings ready for the exhibition they were holding on the last day, the boutiques had special displays of their wares to tempt anyone with spare holiday money and we had our last talk from Tony Russell, this time on “Cotswold gardens”.
I enjoyed, as usual, chatting to the other passengers. We had met some lovely people.

I suppose, before going on any cruises as a passenger, my view of people who went on cruises was coloured by my time on “Bergensfjord” in the 1960s, when only the rich could cruise. Now it is within the reach of a far wider community and most of those I chatted to were just ordinary folk who had worked all their lives, most of them from the age of 15-16. I don’t think any of them had “gold plated” pensions and many of them were like us paying from our savings. As most of them said, thanks to the actions of bankers and governments, savings are eaten up by inflation and interest rates are so paltry that we might as well enjoy them while we can!

Before dinner the Captain gave his farewell cocktail party and the dinner was the last formal evening so the last chance to wear our finery. The dinner was especially splendid culminating with the waiters bringing in the flaming Baked Alaska.

That evening there was the usual choice of entertainment and as usual we opted for the talented Phillip Bond.

Thursday and our last day. It was like the last day of term at school swapping adresses etc with our new friends, packing all but the essentials needed for the evening. We had our last meeting with our splendid garden hosts, Matthew, Tony and David when they held a question time hour. We did the usual thing of saying goodbye to our new friends and some we met over and over again and others we missed altogether. All the time we were getting closer to the English Channel and the sky was getting greyer and the wind cooler!

A friendly little robin met us and sat on deck for a rest and then flew around the ship.

We arrived on time at Southampton, the luggage was swiftly taken ashore, we said our fond farewells to our lovely stewardess, Nam, and then it was time to go. Disembarkation was as efficient and speedy as embarkation had been. The Parking company met us with the car as arranged and we drove off with a last look back at the Balmoral.

The autumn colours were slightly faded and more leaves had begun to fall, but still the countryside was still glorious and I wondered anew whether they had cut the M4 through natural forests or whether some clever landscape gardener had designed it.

We arrived home in Cardiff by lunchtime to find everything in order…..and a huge pile of junk mail!

We had had a splendid cruise, seen new lands, made new friends and travelled 3,436 NM. We had consumed 1,651 litres of icecream (not all by JW 🙂

So thank you to Cruise.co.uk and their helpful, efficient staff, to our garden hosts, Fred Olsen and the wonderful crew of the Balmoral and to all the new friends we made.

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