Not that dreaded game!
Day 136/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Dover, England
We are quite near the end of this World Cruise, but we still had one more golf game planned. Originally when we booked our golf game today, we didn’t know any fellow golfers on the ship, so we were going to be playing as a twosome. Since we met Steve, the Brit and Dave, the Ozzie, we have become the ‘Commonwealth Golf Tour’ as we colloquially call ourselves.
After our last round of golf at Monte Carlo Golf Club with Dave and Steve Richard asked if they both wanted to play with us one more time in England. They said they would like to play with us, so Richard emailed the pro shop in England to see if we could play one last time as the ‘Commonwealth Golf Tour’. The pro shop advised us that they could definitely accommodate our friends, so we could play one last round together.
The Neptune was due to sail into Dover, England with its iconic white cliffs at 8am this morning, after which the ship would be cleared by the local authorities.
The White Cliffs of Dover, England with the South Foreland Lighthouse over St. Margaret’s Bay. The cliffs which reach a height of 350 feet owe their white appearance to their composition of chalk, accented by streaks of black flint. The cliffs on both sides of the town of Dover in Kent, stretch for 13km. At Dover, Great Britain is closest to continental Europe and France is visible 32km away across the Strait of Dover. During WWII thousands of allied troops on the little ships in the Dunkirk evacuation saw the welcoming sight of the cliffs. Dame, Vera Lynn, the famous British singer, known as “The Forces’ Sweetheart“ for her 1942 wartime classic song “There’ll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs of Dover” made the cliffs ever more iconic by singing about them when Britain needed moral support during WWII. I remember hearing this song when my father would play Ray Sonin’s radio show on CFRB 1010 at 4:10pm every Saturday for 3 hours called “Calling All Britons”. The radio show talked about news from the United Kingdom and played music and gave sports updates. The music he played was popular music from the 1940’s and 1950’s. My parents emigrated to Canada in 1957 from England (mom) and Northern Ireland (dad) arriving with their hopes and dreams of starting a better life in Canada. My dad was always more sentimental than my mom about ‘Over ‘OME’ as he used to call it and by playing Ray Sonin every Saturday, he instilled in me the connection to a place where we would infrequently visit, but that I came to love. Receiving those blue airmail letters every month or so from relatives or friends in the U.K., dad would sit at the dinner table and read out loud to my brother and me what our family and their friends were up to in far off places. So arriving in Dover, England today felt like going back to my roots, in a very comfortable way!
Our timing for getting off the ship was good because our tee time was at 10:56am.
We did get caught in a longish line of people trying to escape for their Viking tours today, since we had to complete a fast face to face immigration process in Dover this morning. Luckily, by the time we arrived at the curb where Steve and Dave were waiting, the taxi van that Steve had ordered, just showed up. It is nice to travel with a local like Steve who knows ‘what’s what‘ in his own country!
With Jonathan our driver waiting for the guys at the local bank machine getting pounds sterling.
Steve, the Brit and Dave, the Ozzie wearing their Viking Neptune World Cruise jackets.
Those white cliffs really look a lot bigger in relation to this hotel.
When I think of driving through the U.K. I think of these big hedges on either side of the road, that sometimes meet in the middle of the road.
Everything was so wonderfully green in the English countryside this morning.
Going through small towns on the way to the golf club today, they were all decorated for the King’s coronation with Union Jack flags.
After our short 22 minute drive through country roads and small towns, we finally arrived at the laneway which would bring us to the golf club we were playing today!
Welcome to Royal Cinque Ports, host venue for ‘The Open‘ qualifying championship series finals which will be held on the 4th of July 2023. The Open this year is being played at Royal Liverpool Club in Hoylake, Merseyside, England from July 16-23, 2023.
Royal Cinque Ports is a traditional links course with large sand dunes, undulating fairways and an out and back routing. Royal Cinque Ports hosted The Open Championship (some still call it The British Open Championship) in 1909 and 1920. Karen Stupples winner of the 2004 Weetabix Womens British Open is a member of Royal Cinque Ports. Opened in 1892 with the second nine built in 1896, the course was designed by Henry Hunter and renovated a few times by different people. Some people just call the course ‘Deal’ after the town of Deal where it is located. The course runs along the coast of Sandwich Bay, on the same stretch of coastline as Royal St George’s Golf Club and Prince’s Golf Club adjacent to the north of the course.
Andrew Reynolds the head professional at Royal Cinque Port. Since 1892 when the club was formed, Andrew is only the 6th pro that the club has had. With 40 years of service at the club, Andrew is going to retire in October this year. Andrew’s office had a vast selection of old persimmon clubs that he has used and continues to use when playing sometimes.
Richard was fascinated by how much history was in this room.
Just look at the selection of old golf balls that Andrew has in his filing cabinet!
Sometime did a great portrait of Andrew Reynolds in his office which hangs in the clubhouse. Not only is he the head pro of Royal Cinque Ports, but he has played golf at the very highest level having played on the European Senior Tour and finishing top 20 at the Senior British Open in Turnberry. Andrew was also selected as a top 25 instructor by the publication ‘Golf Monthly’ and regularly features in the magazine and online for his simple teaching techniques.
We were way too early for our tee time of course, but what better thing to do than sit in the clubhouse the day after the historic Royal coronation and read ’The Sunday Telegram’ to get all the scoop on the event.
The details in the photographs were so much better than what we could see on tv.
Hanging out in the bar area of the clubhouse reading the Sunday papers.
Royal Cinque Ports even put their crest on my hot chocolate for me. What a lovely touch!
Steve and Richard decided to go and hit balls. Because hitting balls is often overrated, I sat in the warm clubhouse with Dave and finished up reading the newspaper and all the juicy details of the coronation.
No wonder so many people read this stuff in the British press. You can’t make it up. Their acerbic wit is unbelievable! I especially like the description of Theresa May who seemed to be representing Hawaii of all places! OMG!
When it was closer to our tee time, Dave and me decided to go and meet up with Steve and Richard and we all headed to the first tee. The members tees were from the blue tees and we decided in the interest of playability, that we would all hit from those tees. The blue tees were not rated. Oh well.
I hit a great drive off the first tee and outdrove all of the guys. I had just hit my second shot, a big 5 wood, clearing a berm of water in front of the green, to land about 30 feet from the pin, when the pro from Royal Cinque Ports came roaring down the fairway in his golf cart. I wonder what we were doing wrong? We did tee off on the right hole, since there was only one hole by the clubhouse to tee off on. Hmmm? Next thing we knew the pro was telling us that we had to play “FOURSOMES” since it was Sunday and that was the game the members all played on Sundays. For those of you who do not know what foursomes is, it means that we had to play alternate shot with a partner for the entire round. One player would tee off on the 2nd hole, and the other player would tee off on the third hole, and so on. I paired up with Richard since he was about to hit his third shot onto the green, and I said “I’m putting for birdie, don’t leave it short!” So Richard hit the third shot and I made the putt for par. A nice start to the round which was now ‘our’ round and not just ‘my’ round and ‘his’ round!
Richard teed off on the 2nd hole and then I had to hit his drive on the next shot. We carried on this way for all 18 holes and of course that also meant that if my partner put me in a bunker, I had to hit it out and vice versa. Most Canadians and Americans are not used to this format, since it is typically only played when the format is either Solheim, or Ryder Cup style of play. We are more familiar with individual stroke play, scramble, best ball, better ball, team match play, individual match play, Texas scramble or step aside scramble. We do not usually play foursomes. The club only allows the players to play their own ball on Mondays and Thursdays, and on those days typically someone will caddie for them while they are playing to keep the pace of play going.
We arrived at the Halfway House which really was halfway away from the clubhouse, to find that there was a special Coronation lunch being served with free food. Sunday in the U.K. was ‘Big lunch’ day when people were supposed to get together with friends and families and share a big lunch either in the street, at the beach, park or in each other’s homes or yards. The lady running the halfway house was sharing her big lunch with everyone who stopped by the halfway house today, which was really lovely!
We played the back nine as links courses typically play, back to the clubhouse with our round finishing up in 3 hours and 20 minutes. The guys in front of us had 3 dogs on leashes and the dogs walked the golf course while the players were playing, never holding up anyone and getting some exercise with their masters. I’ve never seen that before on the golf course, but apparently it is quite common in the U.K.
Steve had the taxi driver’s number so he called our driver Jonathan to come and pick us up at 3pm. We headed back to the pub for a drink and the clubhouse was hopping on a Sunday afternoon!
Jonathan called Steve to let him know he was in the visitors parking lot (taxis apparently are not allowed to wait in the Member’s parking lot). We loaded our clubs in Jonathan’s van to take us back to Dover. Along the way in the town of Deal, we could see people sitting in the park listening to a band playing in a bandshell. The temperature was no more than 15C but there were people walking about in shorts and sleeveless tops! A hearty bunch these folks are from the U.K.! Everyone was celebrating coronation weekend with friends with picnics on the beach and lots of ‘Big lunches’ taking place on BIG LUNCH Sunday. While we were not in the U.K. obviously for the coronation, it felt very historic to be in the U.K. at the time of the coronation to see everyone enjoying the special historical changing of the royal guard, so to speak.
We arrived back at the ship around 3:30pm after driving through some pretty heavy fog back when we got closer to the port of Dover. Jonathan had driven me closer to Dover Castle so I could get a photo, but the fog pretty much obscured any view of the castle. The large historical castle built in the 11th century by Henry II, is described as the ’Key to England’ because of its defensive significance through history on England’s southern shores.
After we got back on board, we could barely see across the harbour to the lighthouse on the pier opposite where we were docked, the fog was so bad. As we left the harbour in Dover for our very last sail on this 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise, we were honking our horn for quite some time to let people know we were coming through! We were on a mission to get to Greenwich, England for our very last port of call.
Wix, the blog program I use just informed me I have used up all of my media storage for photos, so I will publish photos on Facebook and Instagram for those who want to see the rest of the photos from our day in Dover. I will have to look into this situation when I get back to Canada, because I may have to delete some older blog posts from a few years ago to free up storage. Right now we are in the lounge at Heathrow after a big mess with Viking.
Viking delivered the departure notice to our cabin a few days ago and the notice advised we would be leaving at 9am from the ship to be transferred to T5 at Heathrow and would have access to the Sofitel hotel at T5. Our flight is on Virgin Atlantic though out of T3 so Richard confirmed with BOTH Micah and Rosy in Guest Services onboard the Neptune that when we got to the Sofitel we would be provided with porterage and a transfer to T3 for our flight.
So what happened? We got on our bus this morning to T5/Sofitel Heathrow and when we got off the bus with all of our luggage, Mary, the Viking representative at the hotel, knew nothing about a transfer to T3. There were other passengers in the same situation and one man had a walker to deal with as well. Richard asked Mary to call her supervisor to see if she could arrange a bus to transfer us, or if one of the incoming Viking buses could carry on to T3 with us. Mary could not help us, so Richard flagged a taxi van and we ended up spending 50 pounds sterling to get the taxi to take us to T3. When we arrived at the Virgin lounge didn’t we find other Viking guests going to Orlando (we are going to Tampa) and Viking brought them directly to T3. Why Viking couldn’t get this straight after confirmed twice with Micah and Rosy that we would be transferred to T3, we have no idea.
We’ve sent a note off to Viking Guest Services and also copied in our Travel Agent in Canada. I’m going to do a complete debrief blog on the World Cruise once I’m home, but a huge fail by Viking on the customer service experience on our departure. I am ever so thankful that Richard does Trip Directing for a living because he solved what could have been a completely horrible situation and turned it around for us seamlessly. Right now we are out 50 quid, but hopefully Viking will make it right, since we are traveling on them in December on a River Cruise.