Long Live the Queen!

Trip Start Jul 02, 2008
Trip End Jul 25, 2008

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, July 11, 2008

New Castle upon Tyne.... England.  Well, we've been to England, and the docks are a zillion miles away from the actual city, so we're staying aboard today.  Or so Michael told his mother the night before.  After which we got a proper speaking to about letting them know ahead of time just what we were doing so they could plan excursions if we were not going to follow through with our decision to play tour guide. 
As we had sailed in I took some great photo's of the Thompson Celebration, a cruise ship that is part of the Thompson tour empire, and formally the New Amsterdam, a H.A.L ship from another era.
Unfortunately, they could not get on a tour, and Carol was not necessarily upset, but upset none the less.  We were still going ashore to walk around the docks area, but had not planned to go into the city figuring it would cost a fortune.  So, Michael and I headed to the movies aboard ship with our lunch (BLT's, pizza and some fruit) where we saw "Vantage Point", an excellent and gripping film.  We were joined by Bob since they had no tour to go on.  And form what people told us later, it was a good thing they didn't go on any tour.  More on the ships tours later!
When I was heading to the film, local camera crews and reporters were aboard being shown around by H.A.L. staffers and Officers.  Apparently it is a BIG thing that this grand, enormous ship has come for a visit.  After the film, we headed ashore, and discovered that the city of New Castle had arranged a free shuttle to the local Metro station.  Cool, trains AND we could go into the city cheap.  We were amazed once we got to the station at how friendly and helpful the local constabulary was, and they were everywhere.  There were at least two or three on the platform going each direction.  We bought our tickets and were on our way to the Monument Mall, the station in the center of New Castle.  15 minutes later we walked up and out of the mall into the city.  Lovely and bustling, it reminded Michael of London, and me of Manchester.  We walked down towards the river and were greeted with a Castle Keep, and wonderful views of the bridges.  New Castle is known for it's six bridges crossing the Tyne, including the cool Millennium bridge, an arced pedestrian bridge that swings up when boats pass under.  We walked across a rail bridge, by the cool symphony hall that looks like a that weird building at Case, and back across the Millennium bridge.  We wandered around, took photo's and then headed back.  Again, nothing too exciting, I think we are all getting tired of touring, and we're not even through the first 10 days! 
The city is lovely, full of sandstone buildings that speak of a glorious and wealthy past, and towards it's prosperous future since it those buildings were full of posh shops, well appointed eateries and successful looking offices.  But time was ticking, and we didn't want to miss the ship.  So back to the Monument Mall, and quickly through a few shops.  Michael and I bought New Castle United t-shirts, Carol some post cards where we ran into the ships Cruise Director and his girl friend.  Then it was back into the Metro where we got turned around, and a helpful Metro employee pointed us in the right direction.  Again, this city has it's act together for welcoming the cruise tourist.  A quick train back to the port where Carol, Michael and I parted from Bob and headed to the outlet mall, much to our dismay for it was closed (No one believed me when I said the shops close early, even on a Friday.  Thursdays is the late night for shops!)  So we trekked the remaining mile back to the ship on our own, passing a cool art installation at the entrance to the International Ferry Terminal of crowned Kings.( see photo of Michael and the art installation).  When we reached the entrance to the dock where the Eurodam sat, Officials form the Port of Tyne were there to welcome us back on board with local cheeses, locally bottled flavored waters, and a "remembrance"  of our docking at New Castle upon Tyne.  It was very, very friendly and made us want to return to New Castle.
Back aboard, Carol and I headed for the Greenhouse Spa, and the "Thermal Suite".  I cannot tell you how I much I LOVE this feature of the ship.  It is heaven.  I first go into the hydro pool with the mineral water, jets and lounging beds..... then I head into the thermal beds, these tiled beds that are warm ease the aches and pains to the bone... lovely.   Lastly I head into the wet sauna, and sweat out all the alcohol, I mean toxins that have accumulated.  It is absolutely wonderful!
Dinner was lovely as usual, Ginger and Ken joined us.  Not our usual table mates, but they were able to join us since Bob and Donna had gone to the Pinnacle Grill for dinner.  They are a terrific couple, and had renewed their vows aboard ship.  And not only are they fun, but even better.  Ken is a model railroader!  And they both make us laugh.  They brought wine, and we provided drinks later.... a very pleasant evening.   What is it with the deserts?  They seem to be lacking aboard ship.  I have not enjoyed many of the deserts at all.  Perhaps it is the pastry chefs first cruise.  All I know is I was expecting something more spectacular, especially in the calorie department.  Very disappointing.
We headed to the casino to play a few slots with Ken and Ginger, Bob and Carol had gone to bed.  But I was tired, all this going was catching up with me again!  So I went for a stroll on deck and reflected on out sail out.  We sailed during dinner and it had been spectacular!  I looked out the Rembrandt Dining rooms windows towards shore to find it lined with locals, waving and taking photo's.  And I don't mean one or two people, not even hundreds, but thousands!  It was spectacular.  Apparently our visit to New Castle WAS a big thing!  I smiled to myself as the brisk air tugged at my tux, and headed for the cabin, and sweet sleep between those 400 thread count sheets, and snuggle up to my Michael.
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