Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ocean Princess Day 1 - Dover, UK

It was a rough night. Although the baby next door didn't make a peep and the menacing lobster on the wall was ignored, I didn't sleep well at all.  The bed wasn't comfortable and I woke up very cranky. Mother said her bed was fine and she slept well. Lucky her! Not being a huge fan of "English Breakfasts" I opted to take a walk to the western part of town while my mother relaxed with her morning coffee in the Bistro. I wasn't in a great mood so some alone time was probably a good idea. I hoped the walk and fresh air would brighten my spirits.

Lobby Hotel du Vin
The town is not big but I stopped in the lobby to make sure I had my map. I preceded down Crescent Street to Pleasant Road where we had walked yesterday. At the intersection of High Street, this part was all new to me. They had some nice attractive shops and the walk was very enjoyable. It certainly was putting me in a better mood.

High Street Tunbridge Wells

The area I was headed for is divided in a triangle so I wasn't exactly sure which side of the road to be on.

Near the Pantiles, but which side of the street?
I ended up going down the wrong street at one point but turned around and then found the entrance to The Pantiles. It was such a cute area!

The Pantiles

The Pantiles is a Georgian colonnade formally known as The Walks and also the Parade. The area contains a variety of specialty shops, art galleries and cafes. The Pantiles are named for the original one inch think wealden clay pavers used on the walkway.

There isn't a lot to see but the area is lovely and I sort of regretted not staying down here instead where we were. However, while the French restaurant looked adorable, the Tunbridge Hotel seemed outdated.

French restaurant in The Pantiles

Cute Decor
There were only a few people around this early. I walked to the Chalybeate spring on the corner. The spring is over looked by the "Dippers Hall". Apparently there are costumed "Dippers" who serve tastings of the iron rich water during the summer.

Chalybeate Spring

The well is on both sides of the building below the railing. You can tell there is iron from the discolored floor.

Looks sort of ghastly!
I realized I needed to find a restroom. I spotted a very nice pastry shop and said I would buy a pastry but I first needed to use their facilities. They were very nice and restroom was fine. The pastries looked great and I took one to go as it was time to head back to the hotel. I made a brief stop to look at the Corn Exchange building and then continued to he hotel.

I very much enjoyed the traditional character of this part of the town.

Map Royal Tunbridge Wells
Twenty minutes later I was back at the Hotel du Vin. Yesterday I had missed the beautiful Hydrangea on the side of the building.

I entered the hotel I rushed up the staircase to the second floor. I didn't have a key to the room but mother was awake and watching TV. I told her about The Pantiles at the other end of town and how cute it was. She said she enjoyed resting and didn't seem mind missing it. A bit later we got our things ready and went down to request a taxi to the train station.

We will be taking the train to Tonbridge and then changing trains there to go directly to the Dover cruise terminal and board the Ocean Princess. The entire train trip including changing trains is about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

The girl at the front desk requested our taxi but apparently the call got dropped. She planed to call back but had a call on the line requesting room rates. It took a while for her to get off the phone and call the taxi company back. The train only comes twice per hour where will be changing trains for Dover so we were getting a little inpatient.

The taxi came and it was only £4  for the 2 minute drive to the train station. I gave him £5 for his trouble. We purchased our tickets and then waited on the track for the train. From our ride yesterday I knew there wasn't a lot of room on the train for luggage so was glad we were traveling off peak.

Our first train had lots or room and we were only among 4 other people in our rail car. It was two stops to Tonbridge and then we changed trains for Dover. At the elevator we were met by another family. It was a bit uncomfortable when the "Dad" insisted on pressing the down indicator for the elevator when we needed to go up.  We were outnumbered with 4 against 2. I pressed the button for to go up and then once inside the elevator level 2. There was some grumbling from our neighbors but I ignored them.

The family was insisting there was a tunnel to walk through but you needed to take the elevator up then walk across and go down using the elevator if you had luggage to be on the other side of the track. We finally made it. We found the track and had about 20 minutes until the 10:21 am train to Dover. The train to Dover comes twice every hour at 21 minutes past and at 51 minutes past the hour.

Tonbridge station
It was a bit gloomy out but not raining. There were several announcements to make sure to sit in the first four cars if going to Dover as the train separates at Ashford International. There were a few more people waiting by the time the train arrived. It was nice it wasn't crowded. It was great the train was empty because the racks were too small to put the luggage on top.

There are about 9 - 10 stops until  Dover. There was a short 2 minute break at Ashford where the train separated. We continued in the first 4 cars to Dover while the other 4 cars went to Ramsgate. We had a nice view of the water when we passed Folkstone. When we arrived in Dover it was drizzling as we exited the station. We grabbed a taxi for £8 to the Western Docks Cruise terminal.

It was now about 12:00 pm and a little earlier than when we usually would check in. The reason for going early was that I had planned to take a walk on the cliff before sailaway. However, the dreary weather was putting a damper on that plan.

There wasn't a line at the check in desk. We handed them our completed health questionnaire and our Xpress Pass. It has been 9 years since we have been in the Dover cruise port. I hardly remember it.

We walked toward the gangway and were told to wait until we could board. I knew it was going to be a short wait as it appeared those with priority boarding were already on the ship. There were only a handful of people waiting with us. We were handed a card at checkin stating once we boarded we could go to our room to leave our luggage even if the room wasn't ready. I was very pleased with this policy.

Two minutes later we were cleared to board the Ocean Princess.

Boarding Ocean Princess
Once aboard there were elevators directly to the right and we went up 2 floors to deck 7. Our balcony room, 7100 is on the port side further aft. I had originally booked this same room on the Ocean Princess when we had planned to cruise in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately we ended up cancelling that cruise. I decided to book the same room for this cruise.

We are familiar with the R class type of ship having sailed on Oceania Insignia. I love the smaller size ships and am really excited to the cruise finally starting. The R ships hold approximately 674 passengers, have 11 decks and feature a traditional dining room plus two specialty restaurants.

Ocean Princess Deck Plan
We have not cruised since our disaster on the Celebrity Millennium in December 2012. It feels like this cruise has been well deserved.

What we could see of the ship as we passed through Deck 5 to Deck 7 looked very nice. Our room 7100 was attractive in blue fabrics and dark woods. So far the Ocean Princess was living up to our expectations. We opened the balcony door for some fresh air and spent some time unpacking. I immediately plugged in my camera battery, iPod, fitbit charger and camcorder as all of them had little or no battery left.

View of the cliffs from our port side room
Our room seemed like a good size and was nicely laid out. I used the desk area with the drawers and my mother utilized the closet. The safe was at a good height where we stored our valuables including my iPad.

The room is similar to the one we had on Oceania. I was pleasantly surprised with our accommodations.

The balcony was small but adequate for an 8 day cruise.

The bathroom was fine but had one of those hair dryers that attach to the wall. Not my favorite.

7100 Bathroom
We finished the unpacking in about 30 minutes and were ready to explore the ship. Our steward Virgil came by to say hello. I requested extra pillows and a top sheet for the bed.

I still contemplated taking a walk as it was only 1:30 pm and we would not sail until 4:00 pm. However the weather wasn't too nice out and it was raining on and off.  We had a nice view from the balcony watching the ships pass by.

View of the White Cliffs of Dover
The cliffs have so much vegetation on them that they don't look that white. P&O has ferry between Dover and Calais, France.

P&O Ferry
The building below is the Best Western Marina hotel.

Best Western Marina Hotel
We also had a view of Dover Castle from our balcony.

We decided to take a walk around the ship prior to the Muster Drill. With only 11 decks (actually 9 as they start on Deck 3) it wouldn't take us that long. We took the elevator to Deck 5 and hardly saw any people.

They have a few shops which is sufficient for our needs. We looked in the windows and then went down the stairs to check the dinner menu for tonight.

Deck 5 looking down to Deck 4

On Deck 4 is Reception and the main restaurant. We looked at the photos of the ships officers.

Ocean Princess Officers
The captain is Carlo Servillo from Italy.

We stopped in the Computer Room to sign up for our minutes. The packages were very reasonable and I chose the one for 90 minutes. It is only an 8 day cruise so I am hoping I won't need to use it too much.

Back at the room we took out our life jackets and prepared to go down to the dining room for the muster drill. They make you take the jackets with you and put them on during the drill. The bell sounded and we marched down with the throng of other passengers to our muster station. We were directed to the rear corner of the dining room. The person in charge of this area was extremely loud and just cackleling. It turned out she was the Future Cruise consultant! She wouldn't shut up and it was hard to hear the announcements while she was gabbing with other crew members. She also had an odd shape and her vest was more wearing her than other way around!

We put on the vests and tried to listen to what was said. Thankfully it was over in about 20 minutes. We returned to our room and put the vests away and got ready for our first dinner on the ship.

They don't have anytime dining on the smaller Princess ships so we chose the early 6:00 pm seating. I had been informed that there are only a few tables of 2 in the dining room but prefer to eat on our own and not at a larger table as you can be stuck with people that are incompatible.

It was now time to eat! I was hungry having only had a little pastry and no lunch. We went down to the restaurant to be seated.

Similar to Oceania, they have a little lounge and bar just before the main dining room. We provided our room number and we did not have far to go to arrive at our table. We were seated at Table 1 which is the first table to the left after entering the restaurant. We actually liked the location very much. We didn't have to traipse through the entire room.

We had a nice painting above our table to keep us company. The waiters even made a joke about it!

Our waiters, Joel and Budi introduced themselves and offered their recommendations for the night. We both ordered appetizers, a Caesar salad a main course. I started with the Spring Roll which were very good.

Spring Roll
The Caesar salad was served plated (they don't make it table side) and it was not that flavorful but did have anchovies.

Caesar Salad
The room was quite busy and it was nice to be off to the side an away from the excitement.

I rarely order Fettuccine but decided to try the famous one that Princess serves in the Parmeasan cheese basket. It was pretty good but did not have me wanting a second helping.

My mother had some kind of fish but I don't remember what kind.

We of course had to have dessert and the ice cream was a bit melted but still tasted fine.

Melting Dessert
We decided to skip the evening entertainment and instead went back to the room to relax. So far the cruise seems off to a great start. Tomorrow we have a sea day as we cruise up the coast of Scotland.

No comments:

Post a Comment