Productive day

I’ve been a busy bee today so I haven’t had time to peruse the loch out the back. By that I do, of course, mean the garden, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was one big water feature following Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis. Storm Ellen’s the next one so let’s hope she cries her tears elsewhere when she blows over our little island. My busy day has followed a busy week so I don’t have any garden pics which means I’m taking a leave of absence from Six on Saturday today, instead I’m going to talk beds!

On our cruise, we had a ginormous bed. When you think of ships’ cabins, you think bunk beds Royal Navy style, but today’s modern cruise liners have every luxury imaginable.

This was our bed. It’s hard to appreciate how big it was from this photo, but it was almost as wide as it was long and I slept so well in it. Of course, there will have been other factors helping me catch the zeds such as that holiday relaxation feeling, the odd glass of vino and the roll of the ship which makes you feel you’re being gently rocked to sleep, but I’m sure the extra space contributed too.

As an aside, this was my view in bed this morning.

I have straightened the pictures since I took the photo, but as you can see, I was somewhat stuck! I was lounging in bed researching how to earn more Tesco Clubcard points because Royal Caribbean are a reward partner and give you three times the value which you can redeem against a cruise. In case anyone’s interested, my findings were that I should use my Tesco credit card more for every day purchases (and pay it off straight away so as not to get into debt), to use the app rather than the plastic card for double points until the end of February, to give hubby my plastic card now I have the app so he can collect points too, to try to always use Tesco petrol stations and to switch to Tesco mobile once my phone contract’s up. Hopefully we’ll be back on that ship in no time! Anyway …..

Two weeks ago we decided to take the plunge and upgrade our double bed to a king size. Frivolous maybe, given that there’s no guarantee of us sleeping like a pair of infants, but we have both been getting backache recently so maybe a new mattress was in order anyway.

We checked out a couple of bed shops and we actually ended up choosing one from a carpet shop! It felt like it was meant to be because years ago, when my parents and I were moving house in my mid teens, my Grandparents offered to buy me a new bed for the new house and it came from Allied Carpets which was on the very same retail park. We had a new doorbell in the car when we drove in to the car park and as we went over every speed bump it jingled. To this day when I drive in there I think ‘ting’ to myself as I go over those speed bumps.

We chose a very similar bed to our existing double one, just in king size. We have to have a bed frame style rather than a divan (although I was very tempted by the ones which have a television in the footboard) because our fur babies sleep underneath and rush off there whenever anything scary and potentially life threatening happens such as the bin men rattling the wheelie bins or someone daring to knock the front door! It wasn’t loads of money at all, and we got an excellent deal on our mattress.

It’s this one. It should’ve been £1699 (which I would never entertain spending on a mattress – that’s a holiday!) but because it has a small water stain at the top from, we were reliably informed, a leak in the shop (believable given the recent monsoons) it was marked down to £399. Sold!

I need to find out now if there’s a chance that the springs are made using ArcelorMittal steel. The hull and decks of the ship we sailed on, Harmony of the Seas, were built using ArcelorMittal heavy plates which was my former baby. My new role in the company (which I’m really enjoying three weeks in – I’ll likely write something about that somewhen) is bars and rods and one of the end applications is bed springs so it would seem apt if I’m now to be eating, breathing and (literally) sleeping ArcelorMittal bars and rods!

On Thursday the bed and mattress were delivered and today was the first available opportunity to assemble it. Unfortunately hubby was working and I’m impatient, so I did it on my own. No mean feat! We’d decided to put our old bed in the spare room where we previously had a sofa bed, which has been cluttering the pavement outside since Tuesday evening as the highly competent council didn’t pick it up on Wednesday despite already taking the £33 payment (although the scrap man has taken the mechanism!) so I had to (on my own, remember!) take the mattress from the old bed down the hall to the bathroom, take the headboard and footboard off the old bed and man handle all the bits into the spare room, then take all the bits of the new bed (king size, so even bigger) from the spare room to our bedroom and assemble them whilst precariously holding them together risking my bare toes, then heave the king size mattress from the spare room to our bedroom to put it on the new bed. The mattress did not make this easy, but I am far more stubborn than a mattress is unwieldy and I will not be beaten by a rectangle of wool, cashmere and silk! Here it is.

I then had to reassemble the old bed in the spare room and pull the mattress in from the bathroom.

Then I made both beds (it seems we can only have single people to stay currently as we only have one pillow for the spare bed!) and cleared the copious amounts of packaging away.

All this manoeuvring involved pushing/pulling big heavy things halfway down the stairs and then hauling them back up and in the adjacent door to the one from which they exited. There may be slightly less paint on the banisters now than when I started, but hey, the banisters could do with sanding down anyway and I’m not letting minor detail detract from my triumph.

We were slightly concerned that the new bed would take up too much room. Hubby was concerned that Aston would no longer fit in his space …

… but he does.

It actually doesn’t look that much bigger. It’s only six inches wider but I’m sure it will make all the difference (cue all you guys breathing a sigh of relief 😂), and it’s this much longer.

Phew – after all that heaving and hauling I’m ready to go and test how zed inducing the bargain mattress is!

Night night, sleep tight, hope the bed bugs don’t bite.

Six on Saturday 15th February

This is only my second Six of 2020! I’ve been absent since the very first Saturday of the new decade so I steeled myself and headed out into Storm Dennis to see what was occurring in the garden. As Winnie the Pooh would say, it is a rather blustery day!

I’m itching to get out there and do some tidying and general maintenance, but I’m a fair weather, well everything really, but especially gardener, so I’m spending most of my free time cowering inside away from the cold, wind and rain!

I am, however, cheered when I look out of the window, by the sight of Spring bulbs starting to push through so I’m going to start my Six with two of these.

Daffodils! This is one of the ones that my Dad bought me for my birthday from wonderful Webbs a couple of years ago. They are beautiful, but I planted them in a row in front of my birthday planter (designed and built by my other Dad) and I now realise that they’d have looked much better in clumps, but hey, a daffodil’s still a daffodil in any order, and it still means the end of Winter is nigh!

Bluebells! We have THOUSANDS of bluebells in our garden, probably literally, and we didn’t plant a single one of them! They’re starting to push up all around the edge of our gravel bistro already. They always seem to take forever to go from this stage to actual flowers, and then all too soon they fade and I’m left with the less attractive foliage.

Here’s something else that I didn’t plant. I found this at the far end of our garden last year, presumably a gift from the birds, and included it in a Six back then. I was reliably informed by Jim of Jim’s Camelias that it’s a Cowslip. I relocated it from the end of the garden to the aforementioned planter where it thrived and flowered beautifully. I assumed it would be an annual but luckily didn’t resign it to the compost bin at the end of the Summer because I noticed today that it’s coming back.

Bergenia! I have regular chats with our cleaner at work, Debbie, about gardening and over the last couple of years she’s been kind enough to bring me several plants from her garden that have self seeded and multiplied too much for her to keep on top of. One of them was this Bergenia which has started flowering again. This didn’t look too happy towards the end of last year so I wasn’t confident that it would survive, but I’m delighted that it has. You can see more bluebells sprouting up underneath it too – told you we have thousands!

Hellebores! These are two separate plants, both from the sale table at Notcutts last year. They’ve come into their own now and are looking beautiful. I have another sale table Hellebore which is white, and lovely as that one is, it isn’t a patch on the pretty purple of these two. I had no idea these would be purple so it was a really lovely surprise.

Finally I wanted to share my joy that my Fuschia Delta Sarah has survived the Winter! It was really hard to take a decent photo of this because it’s a little bit bare, but it is most definitely still alive, unlike its predecessor which, despite promises of being hardy down to something silly like minus twenty, succumbed to the cold last year. I got this one from Gardeners’ World in June and I got the biggest one they had in the hopes that it would be better able to withstand the Winter weather. I can’t wait for it to fill out and start producing those beautiful purple flowers in the Summer. It is, after all, named for yours truly!

If you’re interested in reading other Sixes from around the country and the world, do check out the Propagator’s page.

Harmony of the Seas Western Caribbean

So, I’m lying in bed with a slight (entirely self-inflicted) headache, waiting for 11am to roll around so I can order an Uber Eats Maccy Ds to neutralise the alcohol consumed last night, and I can hear Storm Ciara kicking up a fuss outside, so I thought it would be the perfect moment to start the post about our cruise which I promised last weekend. As an aside, am I the only person in the world who was annoyed when McDonalds extended their breakfast time to 11am? I’m sure it made perfect Golden Arches business sense, but on a morning like this one, I don’t want rubbery egg, I want a big fat burger and fries with extra grease, and now I have to wait an extra thirty minutes for it. Thank goodness for Uber though – at least I don’t have to venture out into Ciara’s midst to get my fix!

I can start pretty much where I finished the last post, because this time three weeks ago (time difference aside) it was embarkation day and we were making our way to IHOP on International Drive for our decadent brunch (the picture of which I will share again because it was just sooooo good!) …

… before we excitedly headed off down the I4 and the FL-50 E to Port Canaveral to board Harmony of the Seas. We could see the ship from quite far out – she was the only cruise liner docked at Port Canaveral that day, and there’s no mistaking her! She’s huge! She was, until overtaken by her sister, Symphony, the biggest cruise liner in the world and, in case anyone’s interested, she was made using steel plates and sheets produced by the company that I work for, ArcelorMittal. She was completed and delivered to Royal Caribbean in 2016 and that year she was on our calendars at work so I looked at her every day for a year as I changed the date, and I vowed then that one day I’d sail on her.

Where do I start with describing her? We boarded on deck 5 which is one of the main entertainment decks, so we entered into hustle and bustle.

These photos were taken on our last day so it’s quieter, but on embarkation day it was buzzing with people boarding and trying to find their way around as well as crew welcoming people and offering directions, and people who’d already learnt the ropes and were taking advantage of the restaurants, bars and cafes.

It was all quite overwhelming so we found a lift (or elevator as 99% of passengers seemed to be American or Canadian) and went to gain our equilibrium in our stateroom.

It didn’t stay that tidy for long! Our luggage was delivered before too long (always a relief when you’ve had to leave it with a random guy on the quayside!) and we actually completely unpacked rather than living out of our suitcases like we normally do (mainly because there wasn’t anywhere convenient to leave the cases with easy access).

The cabin had every modcon necessary. We had aircon that actually worked well, lots of drawers and hanging space in the cupboards, and also a free to use safe that was big enough to take my iPad. There were plenty of plug sockets (most US style and one European) including one next to the bed which was very handy for charging our phones/watch/AirPods overnight. The bathroom was very nice with a decent shower which always had hot water despite the vast number of passengers on board (six thousand six hundred from sixty five nations plus two thousand two hundred crew from seventy five nations apparently). We also had a fridge which was handy for the two bottles of wine that we were allowed to bring on board with us and also leftovers from the breakfast that you could order from room service (this was handy for port days when we had excursions booked and needed to be off the ship early).

I ordered granola, yoghurt, honey and a fruit plate and made myself an almost Slimming World friendly breakfast! You could also have croissants, Danish pastries, toast and preserves, cereal and milk, donuts (American spelling, obviously) or for a charge, a full American breakfast or a breakfast Margharita (is that even a thing?)

As you can see, we had a big porthole which looked out to the starboard side. The ship has staterooms with balconies but we weighed up the pros and cons versus the cost and decided a porthole would be best for us. The sea facing balconies were several hundred pounds more. We could have had an internal facing balcony for a similar price …

… but as you can see from these photos, there’s much less privacy because of the balconies opposite and with the porthole you have the advantage of being able to see where you are on port days. We also enjoyed sitting in the window with a glass of vino watching the sea slip by as we sailed off into the sunset.

It also became a good place to display my new fridge magnets.

In the photo above with the pink slides snaking their way down ten decks from sixteen to six you can see the boardwalk. Here you could find the Doghouse which served various different kinds of hotdog and other speciality restaurants, the Aqua Theatre, various shops including the Royal shop selling Royal Caribbean branded items and the carousel.

In the next photo you can see Central Park. This was an oasis on deck eight. It was always quiet, sometimes with peaceful live piano music. There was one inclusive restaurant in Central Park and a couple that required a supplement.

All the plants and trees are real. As it was open air there were umbrellas at each end just in case there were any showers.

I’d be hard pressed to mention everything that there is to do on the ship, but I’ll give it a go!

There are two rock climbing walls …

… three water slides seen here on the model because I somehow neglected to take a photo …

… one dry slide called the Ultimate Abyss which was AWESOME …

… two flowriders where you could have a go at surfing or body boarding …

… a mini golf course …

… a zip line which sent you zooming over the Boardwalk ten decks below …

… and an ice skating rink.

There were four pools, twelve hot tubs, hundreds of sun loungers (including really cute child sized ones), a casino, art gallery, card room, climbing wall for kids, full size basketball court, two table tennis tables, two arcades, an escape room (we got out with about five minutes to spare), an adults only solarium, a gym and spa, hairdressers and beauty salon and a running track on deck five.

Excuse the horrendous photo of me, but it’s proof that we did it!

You could eat in twenty restaurants. We stuck to the ones included in the price of our cruise. There was Sorrentos serving pizza and anti pasta, Cafe Promenade where you could go for a hot drink and a cake, the Doghouse that I’ve already mentioned and a couple more that we didn’t even manage to fit in, but we had most of our meals in Minibites on the pool deck serving breakfast and lunch (great nachos) and Windjammers which was a massive buffet restaurant with more food than you could possibly eat! In addition to this there were many bars including the Schooner Bar which had live music every night and various quizzes, the Rising Tide Bar which slowly moved between decks five and eight, and my favourite, the Bionic Bar where you ordered your cocktail on an iPad and then a big robot arm made and served your drink.

We went to see three shows (which wasn’t all of the ones available!) We saw Grease in the Royal Theatre on our first night …

… which was really good.

A couple of days later we watched 1887 in Studio B which was the ice rink …

… and the final show we were lucky to see because it had been cancelled the previous couple of nights because the weather wasn’t good enough. It was in the Aqua Theatre and was called the Fine Line.

There was aerial acrobatics, diving from height and lots of water! The stage in the pool raised and lowered depending whether the performers were in, on or under the water.

Phew! With all that at your fingertips you’d wonder if it was worth actually getting off the ship! Of course we did!

First stop was Perfect Day at CocoCay which is an island in the Bahamas which is exclusively for Royal Caribbean cruise passengers.

It has a water park, several beaches and inland pools, a market and, conveniently, a couple of all inclusive restaurants. As with the ship, drinks are extra, but as I’d paid for a freestyle soda cup which I could refill whenever I liked for the whole cruise and on CocoCay, and twenty four bottles of Evian, we didn’t need to fork out for any drinks.

We’d booked a swimming with pigs excursion here so we headed off on a speed boat to a nearby island for this quite early. This was brilliant. There were tiny four week old piglets right up to huge sows, all of whom were very keen to eat the apple on sticks that we were given to feed them. At one point one of the tour guides knocked over a box of apples (I’ve a feeling it might have been accidentally on purpose!) and we found out that pigs can move pretty quickly!

Sorry about the swimwear shot – there might be a couple of these!

We were supposed to be going parasailing in the afternoon but unfortunately this got cancelled because the forecast was for rain. Given the rain that did appear, I’m very pleased we weren’t up in the air! Anyway I’m glad I booked the excursions the way round that I did, because we can parasail anywhere but we can’t swim with pigs anywhere else. We had the money refunded so we were able to book an excursion when we got back to Florida.

The second day was at sea and was actually a bit chilly, but we found a sheltered spot and I settled down with a book, hubby with his music.

On the third day we docked at Costa Maya in Mexico, not far from the Yucatan peninsula. We got off and had a look around the dock. The weather was beautiful this day.

It was a really busy and bustling port and there were four cruise ships in so after we’d had a scout around we decided to head back to the ship for some lunch and sunbathing.

You can see how big our ship is in this photo that I took on the way back.

The ship next door is the Seven Seas Explorer and she has capacity for seven hundred and fifty passengers and five hundred and fifty crew so she’s not exactly a tiny rowing boat but she’s dwarfed by Harmony.

Day four saw us arrive in Roatan which is an island off the coast of Honduras. Here we’d booked a snorkelling tour and time on a private beach. The second biggest reef in the world, the MesoAmerican reef, runs down the coast of Central America so we were excited about snorkelling here. It was actually a little disappointing in terms of the sea life that we saw, but I think this is because we’ve spoiled ourselves for snorkelling by doing it in the Maldives. If you want amazing snorkelling, the Indian Ocean is the place to do it. Anyway, we did see a couple of rays, some sea urchins and best of all, starfish.

Back on the beach it was idyllic. We had sun loungers right on the shore and the weather was beautiful. We were lucky – our tour guide, Jordan, told us that it had rained the day before. There wasn’t a drop in sight for us.

Day five took us back to Mexico, this time Cozumel island.

You wouldn’t believe how long I had to wait for people to get out of the way so I could get this photo without random strangers in it! The port area here was nice. We had a look round all the shops and watched snorkelers swim around. We almost went to eat at Bubba Gumps (one of our favourite restaurants) but decided we would save our money and eat back on board Harmony. We took advantage of the various photo opportunities though.

Day six was at sea again so we made the most of the facilities. We went down the Ultimate Abyss (twice), went ice skating, hubby went on the zip line one more time (it started to drizzle just as I was about to go and they closed it, but I had already been on so no big deal), escaped from Escape the Rubicon, the on board escape room and then set up camp in a huge squishy chair in the solarium to read, listen to music and do some puzzles. Sounds so simple, but it’s just blissful to have the time to do these things without a little voice in the back of you head telling you that you should be cleaning or cooking or tidying or working or any other number of mundane (but unfortunately necessary) tasks. One of the things I love best about holidays is just time!

On our last day we were docked back at Port Canaveral by six am, and we had to be at our meeting point by quarter past seven. Early, but al least we had a good few hours to still enjoy being away. We’d used the refunded money from our cancelled parasailing to book a trip on an airboat.

This was great fun, but boy it was cold! It hadn’t warmed up enough for any alligators to surface unfortunately which was a shame, but we have seen ‘gators before in Florida so not the end of the world.

I’m quite partial to this photo that I took on the way round.

We saw several really big birds and we got to try deep fried alligator (maybe best that we didn’t see one!) I won’t be rushing to eat it again, I’m not a massive fan of meat anyway, and it was quite chewy, but I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity.

After the tour we were dropped back at the airport with our bags. It was still only morning and we didn’t fly until six thirty, but Orlando airport’s a good one and we looked round the Universal and Disney shops, had some lunch and I caught up on the Crown on Netflix. The iPad and AirPods are just perfect for travelling. I love all my technology!

Wow, that was a long blog! Are you still with me? I really enjoyed reliving our a,axing holiday! Now, how quickly can I save up to go again? We’re not done with you Harmony!