05 July 2013
Tonights entry will be a short (OK… I just finished and it’s not so short…) post covering the disembarkation procedure in use on Celebrity Infinity, along with some comments on the end of cruise experience at Harwich International Port. There aren’t any photos (sorry!) At the request of some forum members, I will also talk a little bit more about my workflow used while doing this blogging cruise, and some things to consider when deciding whether to go for any future blogging cruises offered by Cruise.co.uk
The disembarkation process that Celebrity employed both on Eclipse and Infinity seems quite good. We received a questionnaire about half way through this cruise asking us to confirm our onward travel arrangements and, where necessary, specify a preferred departure time. For those guests who had parked their cars at the port, there was really only one option.
Two days before disembarkation, you receive an envelope in your stateroom with everything you need for a smooth departure from the ship. This includes your numbered luggage tags, and a letter confirming the meeting place and time of departure. We were allocated 07:15, and asked to be in Rendez-Vous at this time. All staterooms must be vacated by 08:00, and breakfast finishes at 08:30 at the latest. Don’t make the mistake we made on Eclipse and select a late departure time – you’ll just sit around with nothing to do until you are called!
In the morning we were up early and decided to skip breakfast. As a result, we were ready to leave at 06:50 and noticed that the gangway was open. There was no issue with us leaving the ship at this time, so we decided to get an early start on our journey home by collecting our carry-off bags and leaving the ship. What I didn’t know at this time was that the shuttle bus to the car park doesn’t start until 07:00, so we had 10 minutes of waiting around in the much less elegant hanger that is Harwich Cruise Terminal.
Those who are not parked at the port will have your baggage waiting for you in the terminal building (the same building that is used for check-in). Those parked at Harwich have their baggage taken to the car park area, avoiding bulky luggage being taken on the rather cramped shuttle bus. This sparked initial concern, as I couldn’t remember any sensible luggage storage at the car parking area.
Sure enough, all of our luggage was in rows in the open air near the car park. It was in a secure area and supervised by staff so theft wasn’t too much of a concern, but with the weather in the UK as it is I am very glad we had a glorious morning or our luggage and contents may have got damp (or worse!) This is a major, major flaw with Harwich port. It may be that they have some temporary marquee-style shelter that is erected in the event of inclement weather, but I saw no signs of it this morning. Of course you can be well warned, but there’s very little you can do about it if you want to park in Harwich Port, as self-disembarkation was not an option for these guests.
Our journey home was uneventful, if a little boring, and we arrived back in Falkirk at around 17:00, in time to watch Djokovic finish off del Potro in a rather tense Wimbledon semi-final.
**As I’m sure most of you are aware by now, this cruise was courtesy of Cruise.co.uk (who incidentally are the travel agents I have booked through) and was offered on the condition that I write the blog that I hope you’ve all enjoyed. Some have asked questions about this experience and how it’s different from a cruise I would have done on my own. Also, how much time did I devote to the blog and technically, what was involved in posting from the high seas. I thought I’d try to address some of these great questions for all to see.
In terms of my cruise experience, I don’t believe it differed from the experience I would have had if I had been on my own holiday. I would still have visited speciality restaurants, because I like the variety and enjoy trying these things (despite the cost). I didn’t take part in any activities that I didn’t have a least a passing interest in, nor was any pressure applied from Cruise.co.uk to do anything whatsoever. In fact the mandate was simply to blog about my experience, end of story. That said, there were activities I participated in that I might have passed over (despite my curiosity) for the ability to write about them. In my book this only added to my experience!
I don’t consider the time I spent blogging and interacting with forum members a burden, as I blogged my previous cruise anyway (albeit to a much smaller audience as it was not also posted to the forum). That said, I typically tried to do the section of the blog about my daytime activities in some downtime in the afternoon. I didn’t always manage this, but normally found some spare time to chill out in the room. In the evening just before going to bed, I would edit the post, adding the bits about the the show, dinner and other evening entertainment If the second half of each blog is more poorly written than the first, then you can blame Mr Booze! All in all, I spent anything from 45 to 90 minutes each day on writing, editing and sifting through photos for the blog.
The one aspect that anyone applying for a free blogging cruise needs to consider is, believe it or not, the cost! I was fully prepared for this, but it would be easy for someone to jump at the chance of a free cruise without thinking it though. I had to pay for transport to and from the port (perhaps £120 of fuel), parking at the port (around £75), gratuities (around £175) and any on-board spend. Of course your on-board spend will vary depending on your use of the bars and speciality restaurants, but on an 11-night cruise this does add up.
It’s a fantastic experience, and I’d do it again in a second, but you need to understand what’s involved!
Those of you who aren’t so interested in the tech can switch off now if you like – I know there are a variety of people on the forum (and my own blog) with varying levels of computer competence, so apologies if this is over some of your heads. It’s boring stuff anyway.
When I was deciding how I was going to tackle to practicalities of actually writing and posting the blog, there were a couple of considerations that were important to me:
As I explained above, I was already writing a blog for my previous cruise on my own blog set up for that purpose at duncanwrites.co.uk (some of you will already be on this site). This blog is set up using WordPress (self-hosted, but this would work on a blog that was hosted at WordPress.com too). I used a WordPress feature called post by e-mail, in which you can compose and e-mail with the contents of your blog (and drag any images into the e-mail that you wish to send), then send the e-mail to a private e-mail address that only you have access to. Photographs were taken between a Digital SLR (big camera with changeable lens; ours kindly on loan form Alex’s parents) and an iPhone camera for low-light shots and those at dinner. Of course these photos are rather large when transferred on to the computer, but the mail client on the MacBook Air I was using resizes images automatically for you to a more web-friendly size. The e-mail could then be sent, and the post appeared on my own blog.
The above satisfies the first two criteria, as I composed every blog post off-line (thus using none of the bandwidth) and only connected to the internet to actually upload the e-mail. However, I then had the difficulty of getting that post on to the Cruise.co.uk forum.
In the end I used a custom script (a mini application) that took the web address of the blog post, and outputted a text file that had all of the code to be pasted in to a new post on the Cruise.co.uk forum. This means that all of the images that I posted are being brought in from my own website (thus avoiding the images being uploaded twice), and meaning I don’t have to spend time on-line uploading images individually to the forum (which is time-consuming). This also meant I could spend more of my internet time interacting with comments rather than battling with the blog!
I’ve tried to avoid going into too much detail, as I’m sure some of you are falling asleep by now reading this. I’d be delighted to chat about the finer points of this system by private message for those who are interested or have any specific questions.
**I know I said it in the previous post, but this really has been a lot of fun. I really hope you’ve enjoyed coming along on my adventure, and I hope I’ve giving some of you more information on Celebrity Infinity, and the ports of call we visited. If you have any questions or feel I’ve missed something, just comment or drop me a PM and I’ll be more than happy to help you out as best I can!
I still need to write my condensed review of the ship, so you can expect this final (promise) entry in a couple of days.