Sadly, every good thing must come to an end, and for the 8 remaining pax on the Magical Mystery Tour to Somewhere, today is that day. Slow steaming Westwards, in early morning it was “Land Ahoy”, as we spotted the Rock of Gibraltar. By Noon, we were brought up to the anchor, on the West side of the Rock.
Yes, with the ship, “Swinging on the pick” we disembarked by tender, but not a ship’s tender. Read on for our adventure, once we stepped off the ship.
After breakfast, I headed back to the cabin for packing. Since we only unpacked about 1.5 cases, it didn’t take long. Hardest job was getting the darn things closed and zipped, not surprising as each of them was a little over 60 lbs. With 4 cases outside in the alleyway, I headed down to the Atrium for a well earned spot of tea.
Our team, The Vikings had their final round-robin match against the equally strong Housekeeping Hurricanes at 10:30. Both teams were guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals, so the result was only for bragging rights. Since we disembark today, we will miss the semis and final, so I suggested we bow out to let the remaining officers fine tune their plans for future games.
With only 9 players, 3 players get a second throw in each round, but in the order they throw:
- Round 1 (bottom step) – the first 3 throwers get a 2nd throw
- Round 2 (middle step) – throwers 4, 5 and 6 get a 2nd throw
- Round 3 (top step) – throwers 7, 8 and 9 get a 2nd throw
My suggestion was we sit out and let them fine tune the schedule, so the best people are scheduled for each level. However, Beven insisted we continue today and they will work on a schedule before the semi-final.
This was always going to be a tough match and it didn’t disappoint, with a score of > 3,000 required for a win. As usual, after the first round we were > 100 behind. Unfortunately, I didn’t score as well today, as I did against the Engineers. In the first round, I hit 2 bulls-eyes and 1 blue for a measly 60. Round 2 wasn’t much better, as we were > 300 behind and I only scored with 2 throws, none of them a bulls-eye.
In the 3rd round, our penchant for late surges returned, as from being about 500 down, we eventually won by only 15 points. A great match.
At Noon, all 8 of us trudged into Manfredis, heads slumped, for what would be our last meal of the Magical Mystery Tour – yeah!! it was Fish & Chips, what a great choice.
After lunch, we headed to the cabin to pick up hand baggage, then back to the Atrium, where we received our PPE packages, with an abundant supply of masks, gloves, wipes and a bottle of hand gel. At 13:00, the Staff Captain advised the tender was ready and to don our PPE, then after lots of hugs and a few tears, he led us to the tender platform.
OMG!, it wasn’t a ship’s tender, which come right alongside and at the correct height, it was a local boat. Having worked in the industry, on seeing the local boat, I figured we were in for a few surprises and it didn’t disappoint. Not sure about the others, but Judi certainly wasn’t prepared. Tire fenders kept the boat about 1 foot away from the ship and the deck was about 8″ below the ship’s shell door. We handed over our hand luggage, which was passed into the boat, then we launched ourselves over the gap, with a crew member on either side of where we landed on the deck.
Most of the crew were lining the Promenade Deck railing and as it was an open deck tender, we got to wave goodbye, to our many friends remaining aboard the ship. Even Captain Lars was out on the Bridge Wing waving.
It took about 15 mins to reach the harbour and the exit to shore was as challenging as boarding. The boat landed at a well worn set of stairs, leading to the dock wall, about 8 feet above. The tire fenders, again held us about 1 foot off, but this time we had to climb up about 6 to 8″ to the first step. Once on the stairs, we climbed to the top, ducking under a small crane, which was about 2 feet from the un-fenced edge of the dock. Wouldn’t want to stumble on the dilapidated stairs, on ducking under the crane, as it was a 10′ drop into the water. All good fun, which Judi survived without too many issues. Brought back memories of actually going to sea for a living, long before the days of OSH.
From there, we walked over the poorly maintained cobbled deck to the gate, where we waited about 10 minutes for the mini-bus. Once it picked us up, we drove over to a crane across the harbour, where our luggage was brought up in a cargo net, which we unloaded, once it landed. Once loaded onto the bus, we set off for the short drive to the airport, crossing the actual runway. Yes!! the main road into Gibraltar crosses the airport runway, a few hundred yards before the Spanish border.
In the airport, it was a major culture shock. Half hour ago, we were hugging everyone like crazy and now social distancing is the norm. Seating is laid out in blocks of 4, with the middle 2 seats in every block taped off. If you approach an employee, they immediately raised their hands in a blocking action, requesting you step back.
OMG!! I thought we embarked the Viking Sun for a World Cruise, not a cruise to another World.😊😁
On arrival at the airport, we only saw 1 or 2 others; when have you ever seen an airport so uncrowded. It remained that way until boarding the plane – no queue at check-in or Security, so within a few minutes, we were in the departure lounge, which was also almost empty. No Business Lounges were open.
The flight was on British Airways in Business Class, but it was no business class I have ever experienced. The plane was an A-319, with no Business section, so we were in regular economy seats with fixed arm rest, so they could not be raised. The only benefit for business is they keep the middle seat empty. Not a perk on this flight, as pax count was about 30.
Departing after 17:00 on a 3 hr flight, we anticipated receiving dinner, but no, we received a bottle of water and small bag of pretzels, about 1/2 hr after wheels up. More water and pretzels were provided about an hour out of LHR. While we accept COVID-19 is curtailing many services, surely British Airways could provide better than pretzels. Next morning we chatted with a couple that flew in from Capetown (12 to 13 hrs) and all they received was water and candy.
At LHR, as soon as we cleared the jetway, we were met by 3 chaps, who escorted us through the airport, where 3 vans were waiting for the 9 of us. Only 3 to a 9-seat van for social distancing. It was a short drive from T5 to the Novotel T1-3 on Bath Road. This service was arranged by Viking and was brilliant. We were advised that a van would pick us up from the hotel at 11:15 tomorrow morning.
The hotel was actually closed, except for key workers and those with Government approval, which Viking obtained on our behalf. Once checked-in we headed to the lift, but with both of us and our bags it was overloaded. They request only 1 person per lift and must have reduced the load limit, as I had to get out and also 2 cases. I caught the next lift.
Dinner was ordered from the bar, with 2 choices of main course. Dinner is provided in a brown bag, which you must take to the room to eat. No congregating around the bar or lobby. Judi and I both had a chicken burger and chips, which was really hot and tasty. Definitely not Viking standards, but for something out of a bag, it was much better than expected. I washed mine down with a pint of Guinness, while Judi had a glass of wine.