John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Saturday 24 August 2013


07:26 Cleethorpes–10:33 Manchester Airport
13:45 Manchester Airport–17:20 (i.e. 16:20 at home) Palma, Mallorca
23:00 Depart Palma

Day 236 Saturday 24 August Jeremiah 51-52

It was still dark when the alarm clock sounded at 5am. Shaving was hindered, despite having the room lights on, because it wasn’t fully light outside, on what proved to be a grey, rainy, very misty day. There were final packing, weighing and checking, before the taxi to the station arrived at 7am. There were two separate trains on the platform, with a considerable walk to the farther one. This wasn’t available at first to board, so we took shelter under the station awning with two other older lady travellers. It was a somewhat less comfortable Siemens “Class 185” today — not the “Class 170” of our previous trip…. Updated this diary. Did Day 218’s Bible reading (to 08:20) and Day 219’s (to 08:44). Shut down the computer before we got to Meadowhall, but resumed after Sheffield when it was plain that no-one would occupy the reserved-from-Sheffield seats next to us. Did Day 220’s reading (to 09:37). Played some Shostakovich: Ballet Suite №4 and the first movement of Symphony №10. At Manchester Airport, all but the first of the moving walkways in the succession of raised-level “tubes” to Terminal 2 were working this time. The check-in desks for the Thomson 13:25 TOM2640 and 13:45 TOM2644 (ours) flights, both to Palma, Mallorca, were open and the queue was short. These were the documents I produced, as well as handing over our passports for checking:

We asked about extra leg-room seats, and were offered two at the front for £20 (a two-for-the-price-of-one deal). So we checked in the hold luggage at this desk, then went across to pay for the seats and be issued boarding passes. Thence up the stairs for security checking. I got through without setting off the alarm this time. Janet’s bag was searched yet again, though. I had a piri-piri chicken sandwich, a bottle of Lucozade, and a packet of Kettle’s sea salt and balsamic vinegar flavour crisps, and Janet had a diet cola. We got them from Boot’s, and Janet had more than enough credit on her Boot’s store card not to have to pay. The two hours “airside” seemed to pass quite quickly. We bought magazines at one of the branches of W. H. Smith dotted around; mine was an issue of Time commemorating fifty years since Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech.

When boarding started, ca.1.30pm, people with high seat-numbers boarded the plane first, so with “1A” and “1B” allocated to us, we were among the last to board. Just behind the bulkhead, with room to stretch legs out, and two windows to look out of, we decided we’d try to get these seats in future. Somebody boarding asked if she could sit in the third seat, and the cabin stewardess said she could, but would have to sit in her allocated seat for takeoff and landing; as it happened, she didn’t come back. Some of the Time articles were written in a trendy transatlantic dialect the understanding of which eluded me at key points, but the Martin Luther King stuff was mostly accessible enough. We took off somewhat late, a bit after 2pm, but landed about on time. For much of the way there was a blanket of cloud below us. It was interesting that there were sometimes several cumuli billowing up from the otherwise flat blanket.

Saturday 24 August 2013 — ?17:49:26[i]

Saturday 24 August 2013 — ?17:57:02[ii]
Crossing the coast near Barcelona
[i] This is the time shown on the photo. I must have adjusted the setting on the camera incorrectly, though, because the impression is that we “landed about on time”, i.e. at or not long after 17:20 local time. The photo must have been taken at 16:49:26.
[ii] See the note above. This photo must have been taken at 16:57:02. For I remember looking at a clock showing six o’clock in the baggage claim part of Palma Airport, clearly impossible if we left the Spanish mainland at 17:57!

…We were waiting at the baggage-claim carousel for some time before it creaked into motion (ca.6pm). There’d been quite a trek down a long corridor from the arrival-cum-departure lounge, then through a cursory passport check, and thence to the carousels; the luggage therefore had to travel the same distance.… Usually, one finds the holiday rep(s) just outside, but there was a Thomson rep actually inside the concourse telling us which exit to use (№5), and another one outside, checking off names, telling us which of the coaches to board (№2). The cases were stowed below, and we got on, finding it nearly full. We were given an information sheet, explaining the embarkation procedure, and a health declaration (“any nausea or vomiting?”) to be completed by the lead passenger of the party.

A sheet of “ship Information” was probably with this initial stuff:

And a letter advising about preventative measures against the spread of infectious diseases:

There were also a couple of “invitations”:

We decided to go to the first, the “Port Showcase”, to learn about the excursions that were available at the ports of call; but we had no interest in the second, the “Captain’s cocktail reception and presentation of Senior Officers and Heads of Departments” — and even if we’d had such an interest, we hadn’t packed any suitable attire. The trip to the port took less than half an hour. Our ship, the Thomson Dream, was perhaps the largest cruise ship we’d been on, but it was dwarfed by the Norwegian Epic, moored nearby. This looked like a modern-style multi-storey hotel, with rooms with balconies, just mounted, top-heavy looking, on a hull. At the terminal there was orange or pineapple juice in little plastic glasses just after we entered, then a table with envelopes on it, one of which we were given. It contained two plastic cards — one each — with name, cabin number, expiry date, etc., printed on the front, and with a magnetic strip and barcode on the back, to be used for identification when boarding and disembarking, and when making purchases on board.

Did it also contain our cabin door key-cards, or did we receive these next? For we then lined up to be registered at a counter staffed by three or four people; after a brief wait, we saw the next one available, and handed over the cards, passports, and debit card for settling the bill at the end of the voyage. I used a debit card because £2.50 would be charged for a credit card. I think we also booked the use of the safe in the cabin for £15 at that point.

The items were returned to us and a photo of each of us was taken with a little handheld web-cam. We declined to be photographed, though, by the “official” photographer, whom we passed next. Photos of passengers arriving would be available later for purchase; we weren’t interested in that. Also in the envelope were sticky-backed labels with our cabin number on them; these were to be stuck on our cases, which we came across next with others’, so that a porter could take them to our cabin.

We only had two cases, so we didn’t use up all the labels on the sheet.

Then we went up steps, and out and across to the ship. Just within, there was a security man at a desk; he swiped the card, and my just-photographed image appeared on his computer screen. A stewardess escorted us personally to Cabin № 5075, on the starboard side of Deck 5, showed us how to operate the door-key, a card with holes punched in it, wished us well, and left. “Ricky”, our cabin steward, then came and introduced himself. Later on I kept finding myself chanting:

Oh Ricky
You’re so fine
You’re so fine
You blow my mind
Hey Ricky
Hey Ricky

Finally, there was a knock on the door, and it was the porter with the cases. In addition to the information, above, that we were given, there was in the cabin the first of the usually four-page news-sheets, Cruise News.

The ship had a number of bars and restaurants, but it boiled down to the waiter-service Orion restaurant on Deck 4 or the buffet Lido restaurant on Deck 9; for the à la carte Grill on Deck 11 there would be a stiff cover-charge. We decided on the Lido. While I was off choosing what to have, Janet ordered a glass of house red wine for me; the restaurant had waiting staff to serve drinks, and to clear tables. Afterwards we went out to the on-deck part of the Lido, on our way back to the cabin, and discovered that it had a better choice. Apart from the mandatory emergency drill about an hour later at 9pm — heralded by seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle followed by a long one, and similarly phrased tones on the public-address system, when we had to grab our life-jackets and ascend to the lifeboat muster station on Deck 9 — we eschewed all the many entertainments offered on board and stayed in the cabin. Janet unpacked the cases; I set up the “little feller”, with USB-powered WD Elements HDD, and keyboard and mouse via the USB-hub, and updated this. She also updated her journal. She went to bed, ca. midnight; I an hour or so later.

[Sunday 25 August 2013]

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