Cities of Gold Thomson Celebration 10/01/17 to 18/01/17
We had our best ever transit through Gatwick with Cathy in wheelchair and Dariusdave limping alongside. Our only disappointment was that we would not be flying a “Dreamliner” to Dubai. Seats in the old Boeing felt cramped but night flight uneventful.
Transit through Dubai was good, a decent pusher looked after Cathy and eventually our two cases appeared. We were helped to our coach and Dariusdave enjoyed our journey from airport to Cruise terminal and Celebration.
This would be our third Celebration cruise, pre-boarding procedures were smoothly accomplished. We were greeted as old friends as we boarded and escorted to our “accessibility cabin” 103. Well Celebration is an ageing French lady with all the idiosyncrasies and temperaments one might expect. We selected this cruise as a first trip to The Gulf hoping the sun would help our arthritic joints.
Our cheerful cabin boy guided us to cabin 103 and despite a few sharp turns and narrow corridors we encountered our first Celebration idiosyncrasy, the cabin door was too narrow for Cathy’s chariot. So our response was simple, for the remainder of the cruise, Cathy would stand open the door Dariusdave would fold the wheelchair then enter. Cabin 103 was fascinating.
The bathroom door was wide enough to allow the wheelchair to enter. But to create a decent wet room the floor had been raised hence there was a steep “ramp” from bedroom to bathroom. Fortunately Cathy could walk up and down this ramp. Otherwise the bathroom was good possessing many grab rails, a loo that vacuum flushed, a fine basin and a shower with a seat and again plenty of grab rails. All worked well.
Our bed was comfortable, had room underneath for our cases. There was plenty of wardrobe space with quality hangers. There were chests of drawers a writing desk and flat screen television, kettle with tea and coffee making facility. Dariusdave found a 13 square pin plug for his sleep apnoea machine. We managed to move around and store Cathy’s chariot. Yes there was a safe and we paid knowing our insurance would cover its contents cameras, I-pad, passports, phones etc. As Celebration returners we were used to the vibration particularly in port where Dariusdave has previously mentioned that the rubber mountings for the generators had perished years ago.
Food Glorious Food
Times have changed aboard Celebration since our previous visit. A humorous Spanish waiter was stationed near the lifts with poster, table and tickets flogging a meal deal. Celebration was, for a fee, offering Hot Stone Steaks (on deck back of Lido Restaurant), Curry House (Kora La) and a Fine dine at Mistral’s. Well Dariusdave is succour for bargain dines so we bought the package.
Except for the last breakfast and our three dinner packages we wined, dined and breakfasted at The Meridian Restaurant. Seasoned third world travellers we enjoyed every meal. We had plenty of choices and compared to Thomson’s Spirit the service was always “Ship shape and Bristol fashion”. Rather like “Are You Being Served” the crew’s rank was reflected in their uniform, but we were delighted the way a pair of young Officers (one male, one female) always welcomed us and prepared a table where Cathy could sit with dignity.
Celebration’s Meridian Restaurant crew worked as a team, there was a spirit of helping guests creating a relaxed atmosphere conducive to friendly conversation. Evenings we regularly dined with a Lancastrian couple retired publicans who had a cricketing son and a Yorkshire couple. The Yorkshire couple proud of their arranged marriage one Sikh, one Hindu, the retired teacher knew our daughter’s school. Diversity amongst pensioners was one of many enjoyable aspects to this cruise.
It has to be said we really missed Maris & Thomas Intense singing on deck 9 Horizons Bar and before Captain’s Welcome evening speech. We always loved Maris & Thomas who were friendly, professional singers who entertained bantering with their adoring audience. Regret Thomson need to send out the talent scouts as replacements on Cities of Gold Cruise were like watching a coarse rugby team when used to being entertained a Premiership team.
However our dining friends kept inviting us to join them in the Broadway Show Lounge. Now Dariusdave a regular to London’s West End (Motown my birthday treat in April) has been a tad critical of shows on previous cruises. Cities of Gold Jan 2017 was a great improvement, Cathy loved these shows even when watching from her chariot which sometimes offered a restricted view. Yes we were entertained so let’s say a big thank you to the Show Squad.
We came to see The Cities Of Gold, we had booked “panoramic” trips for every port. Yet again Dariusdave’s theory that cruise ships attract first class guides was confirmed. Every trip was a delight frequently with bonus items. 12th Jan Manama Bahrain what should have been a quick photo stop turned into a guided tour of the Al Fatah Grand Mosque. Men were invited to wear a Dash, our Lady Guide dressed in Hijab was informative mentioning at least 12 times ”our creator God” and readily responded to questions. Dariusdave at the end of the tour sought explanations regarding Mary the Mother of Jesus. Our Guide detailed what Dariusdave had heard at Sultan Ahmet (Blue Mosque) Istanbul, that Mary is the most important lady on earth, more important than the guides mother or daughter that Mary is mentioned more often in The Koran than the four Gospels. Dariusdave was first given Chapter 19 from The Koran “Maryam” and later an English translation for The Koran. Our guide and other official helpers at “The Book Table” kept repeating that there were no charges in this or any other Mosque. As an Ecumenical Anglican I wish our Senior Clergy Deans and Bishops could learn from these sincere folk when imposing charges to visit or pray in English Cathedrals.
Dariusdave was worried when rumour suggested that the Khasab trip would require tenders. Would Cathy be able to go ashore? Questions were put to the Thomson trip team located by The Coffee Port. Delighted to be assured that if Cathy could descend a few steps Thomson crew were proficient and experienced at transferring mobility challenged passengers to tenders. Yes they succeeded with dignity. Interesting while we were waiting Captain Krzysztof was “prowling around” very hands on making sure that all was well and safe.
We felt the Khasab trip was exceptional, possibly the best. Our Egyptian Guide was most informative. We enjoyed his tales about the “smugglers” how most days 30-50 speedboats equipped with large Yamaha outboard engines speed across The Straits of Hormuz from Iran bringing livestock and Saffron, returning with electronics (flat screen t.v’s, computers, Marlborough and heaven forbid Johnnie Walker). So much for United Nations or E.U. sanctions from our coach we saw the smugglers fleet leaving Khasab a most impressive flotilla.
We were amused with our Abu Dhabi trip; we passed through a “duty free” area with free Wi-Fi. It seemed most the crew were here communicating with their families and perhaps taking advantage of the posters offering free money transfers to Philippines. The highlight of this trip should have been The Gold Souk; Dariusdave was under pressure to purchase a Sapphire treat for Cathy to commemorate 45 years marriage. No luck, our Yorkshire friends (call a spade a spade) suggested on our return there was nothing they would want to be seen wearing in England.
We kept mentioning to crew how much we were looking forward to re-joining Celebration in August to cruise from Newcastle to St Petersburg. Cities Of Gold was a wonderful much enjoyed cruise, most aspects were sheer delight.
Sad to report Celebration this grand old French lady is doomed; the TUI accountants had already decided not to return to Cities Of Gold winter 2018. But even worse have decide, Dr Beeching style, to take this popular much loved lady out of service. Steam train Tornado puffed through Swindon bound for Cardiff St David’s day 2017. Every bridge, every safe photo position and station platforms were crowded with old steam train enthusiasts. The same people who would happily ignore a frayed carpet or worn joinery item so they could celebrate a Celebration cruise with friendly fellow passengers and cheerful crew.
I treasure an official photo dated 16. 01. 2017 Abu Dhabi UAE Thomson Celebration. It shows Dariusdave pushing Cathy in her chariot both of us smiling happy as can be alongside Celebration. Sunday 22 January we retired to bed together, sadly The Grim Reaper called before sunrise Monday 23 January our 45 year marriage unexpectedly ended no more cruises or holidays.