At the end of October we received an offer from our Travel agent for three
cruises on CARONIA for quite a low price. Ank (my wife) and I talked it over and
we decided to book the 7 nights cruise from 6 till 13 December, embarking and
disembarking in Amsterdam.
We booked for an inside cabin and were upgraded to an outside cabin category D
on Upper Deck, portside aft.
Our daughter drove us by car to Amsterdam, where we arrived at the Passenger
Terminal Amsterdam around 11.30am as our ticket indicated that embarkation time
was between noon and 01.00pm. We were told the ship was delayed till 2.15pm and
we had to wait till than.
All facilities were closed and we could only buy some coffee from a vending
The ship arrived at 01.30pm and after a while we could check in, received our
boardingpasses, embarked the ship and were escorted to our cabin. We met our
cabin-steward Jason who just had brought in our luggage. After unpacking we
decided not to go ashore but to explore the ship. First we went to the Purser's
Office to inquire about the excursion to Medieval Ghent, which we would like to
do on Monday. In the Welcome Aboard issue of the Daily Program we found that the
closing date for booking that tour was on Friday 5 December (strange decision as
there were embarking passengers on Saturday 6 December). As the Tour Office was
closed, one of the Purserettes was so kind to help us and would pass our booking
form to the Tour Office, allthough she could not guarantee anything.
As we did not have lunch, we attended the Tea Time Buffet in the Ballroom at
04.00pm for tea, sandwiches and scones.
At 05.00pm we were expected in the Garden Lounge to attend the 'Passenger life
boat drill for all passengers who joined the ship today'. We heard that around
60 passengers embarked, but only half of them showed up. Some people had to be
helped to put on their life-jacket and the officer in charge read the speech
which Captain Nick Bates normally does over the public address system.
Later on we met Mrs. Ann Haynes who had informed us she was on board and would
like to meet us.
At 07.00pm we went to the Franconia Dining Room for dinner. We had a table at
portside, almost midship, at which we all were not happy at all as at the
adjoining tables people were smoking. We were offered another table for the next
days by the Maitre 'd.
At 09.30pm we enjoyed the Showtime in the Ballroom by a Shanty-choir from
Sunday 7 December: We enjoyed breakfast in the Lido Café, collected our stuff
and went to the Bureau Square (the hall at the Purser's Office) to meet Ruth and
Stephen Card, Ann Haynes and David Trevor-Jones for a visit of the Dutch
Maritime Museum (Ruth stayed on board). We all enjoyed the museum and returned
to the ship late in the afternoon. After Tea Time Buffet we went to the
Promenade Deck to watch the departure at 05.00pm. The Captain's Welcome
Reception was held at 06.30pm in the Ballroom and at 07.00pm we met Ann and
David for a drink in the White Star Bar. Our new table in the Dining Room was on
portside aft (table 5) where René was our waiter.
Monday 8 December: The ship docked in Zeebrugge (Belgium) at 08.00am. After
breakfast we had to gather in the Garden Lounge as at 08.45am our excursion to
medieval Ghent departed. It took about an hour to get in Ghent, where we walked
through the centre to visit Saint Bavo's Cathedral (with the altarpiece 'The
mystic lamb'). We had about half an hour shopping time of which most was used to
get some warm coffee. We returned at the ship around 01.00pm. After lunch in the
Lido Café we spent the afternoon in the Garden Lounge, making photos of the
ship, Tea time buffet and watching the departure at 05.00pm. We were expected to
meet in the White Star Bar for a drink at 07.00pm and we were invited for a
dinner in the Tivoli Restaurant at 07.45pm. We had dinner with Ruth and Stephen
Card, Ann Haynes and David Trevor-Jones. Two other gentlemen joined us and were
introduced as Colin Miell and John Titlow. We had a wonderfull evening.
Tuesday 9 December: The ship docked in Honfleur (France) at 02.00 pm so after
the lunch we went ashore with Ann and David. As David was very busy making
photos of the ship he stayed at the dockside and the three of us walked to the
city. It is a lovely old city with a 17th century harbour. The museums were
closed, but we could visit the 15th-century Eglise Ste.-Catherine, remarkable
for its wooden construction and its unusual nautical accents.
Wednesday 10 December: In the morning, Ann, Ank and I went ashore again, this
time we took the shuttle bus to the city, where we visited some other parts of
the city, made a walk along the Promenade en Mer, drank tea in 'Le petit Chine'
and returned to the ship in time for lunch. We spent the afternoon in reading a
book in the Garden Lounge, making more photos of the ship and walking on the
decks. At 09.30pm we departed from Honfleur.
Thursday 11 December: CARONIA was scheduled to anchor off St. Peter Port,
Guernsey, at 08.00am. The pilot was taken on board but as there was a gale with
windforce 8, Captain Bates decided not to anchor but to sail on southward into
the English Channel. So we had an unscheduled 'sea day'. Ann and Ank attended a
'nail clinic' and I enjoyed myself in wandering around the ship and meeting
David, Colin and John drinking coffee/tea in the Lido Café. On sea-days an
Elegant Tea Time is held in the Garden Lounge and a Chocolate Tea Time buffet in
the Ballroom. We choose for the Garden Lounge.
Friday 12 December: The ship arrived at the QE2-terminal in Southampton around
07.00am. About 600 passengers disembarked. We said goodbye to our friends and on
this rainy day we took the shuttle bus to town. We walked from Bargate to the
Southampton Maritime Museum to admire the Docks model on de ground floor and the
ship models and exhibition on the first floor. We walked back to Bargate along
the old city wall, the Tudor House and St. Michael's Church. We returned to the
docks by shuttle bus and looked around in the warm decorated QE2-terminal. While
I was walking around making photos, Ank was offered a welcome-drink and an
invitation for a Champagne Reception and Spa Tour. Boarding the ship we noticed
the ship's photographers making embarkation photos. Now compare this to the
cold, sterile terminal in Amsterdam where all was closed, no welcome drink was
offered and no embarkation photos were made.
Embarkation Tea time buffet started at 02.30pm and today the life boat drill was
held at the boat stations. We could not meet our appointment as the White Star
Bar was overcrowded.
Saturday 13 December: During the night we had a gale with windforces 7 to 8 from
the South-West. At 10.00am the pilot boarded and around 10.30am the ship was
between the IJmuiden piers. Around 11.00am we passed the locks. We had a smooth
sailing along the Noordzeekanaal and arrived in Amsterdam around 01.30pm. We
watched the arrival on Promenade Deck as our daughter was waiting for us. Being
cold and wet we waited in the Garden Lounge for the announcement that the ship
was cleared by the authorities and that we could disembark. At the same time,
tour participants also gathered in the Garden Lounge and they were asked to
report at the desk. Suddenly we heard an announcement over the public address
system destined for disembarking passengers and at the same time, the
tour-office employee used his microphone again. We shouted at him to be quiet
and all he said was that the announcement was for disembarking passengers
'only'. We told him quite a lot of disembarking passengers were in the Garden
Lounge waiting for the disembarkation announcement. He did not even appologise!
We complained at the Purser's Office about his behaviour and left the ship. In
fact no announcement was made at all!
Allthough we had a wonderfull cruise (actually our first), enjoyed ourselves
very much and did meet some wonderfull people, we do have the feeling that the
rather small group of Dutch passengers was treated as second-rate passengers. It
should be no difference wether passengers join in Southampton or in Amsterdam,
as all should be offered the same facilities.
We shall write this to Cunard.
A photo-album covering the first three days of this cruise is now available and can be accessed via my website.
Ank and Willem van der Leek