English Holiday Cruises - Gloucester to Sharpness - Chapter 1
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This was to be my first river cruise having over the years always cruised on large ships across the oceans. Would I enjoy it?
Rain, wind and heavy traffic on the M25, what a great way to start. However after reaching the M4 the sky started to clear and eventually the sun made an appearance. By the time I reached the docks at Gloucester the sun was shining in a bright blue late autumn sky. Things were looking up. I was about to spend 3 days aboard Edward Elgar, a river cruise boat owned and operated by English Holiday Cruises. I was joining the boat on the second of its 4 day cruise along the Gloucester Sharpness Canal. The company’s offices are a very imposing replica of a Mississippi Paddle Steamer named Oliver Cromwell and here I met with Richard Clements and his wife Judith who with son Jay run the company. After introductions it was off with Richard and Judith to pick up the boat, moored that day at Slimbridge. On arrival it was just a short walk along the towpath to the Edward Elgar. First impressions were it looked large compared with the canal boats but not so large as to be out of place. Boarding was via the short gangway and onto the small forward deck from where a door allowed you entry into the bright, airy and well-appointed saloon. I was beginning to enjoy myself already. The only other people on board were crew as the passengers were on one of the included excursions to the Slimbridge Wildfowl Centre. Time for a cup of tea and a chance to look around what was to be my home for the next 3 days. Down two short flights of stairs took me to the accommodation deck and my cabin. The cabins are compact but very functional with great use being made of available space. All cabins have a window and air conditioning so no one will feel claustrophobic. The beds are formed in an ‘L’ shape and on unpacking my wife and I certainly had more than enough drawer and hanging space. The bathroom is cleverly arranged that by operating it as a ‘wet room’ with shower curtain the wash basin and toilet do not get wet and the shower area is quite large. The shower unit gives a good pressure and the shower head has three settings, jet, shower and spray. Shower gel is provided as is soap and towels.
4pm, unpacked and back to the saloon for afternoon tea. There is a constant supply of tea and coffee and Andy the chef supplied a very good cake to go with it. The other passengers, sixteen of them were just arriving back from their excursion and from the conversations had obviously enjoyed it. That evening was ‘Captains Cocktails’ at 6pm so time to return to the cabin, shower and change. A little before the appointed hour we ventured into the bar area where we met with Capt. Dave and the boats ‘Mate’ Fran. The cocktail was mixed by Fran and called ‘Forbidden Secret’ as she would not disclose the contents but it certainly went down well. The bar is well stocked and the prices will not break the bank. It is here that you can order any wine for your evening meal and again the prices are reasonable. And so it was off to dinner to sample the chef’s delights and what a delight they were. Pate to start, followed by Sea Bass and vegetables that I must say were beautifully presented. A desert of Orange Bread and Butter Pudding followed by Cheese Board with Grapes and Celery with coffee or tea to finish. An excellent meal by resident Chef Andy and served by Jade and Jeannie.
A table quiz followed which was enjoyed by everyone. Come 10pm most of the passengers had retired to their cabins for the night and so we decided to do the same. End of day one and very much enjoyed.
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