We left Southampton in deep fog at eight and crept around the Isle of Wight and out into the protected seas of the English Channel. After my early morning explore, I booked into the Camera Class at 9am. There were only a handful of us there but it looks promising and we meet another four times or so before we reach Namibia.
We skipped breakfast, intentionally, but dropped into the Atlantic Room, a lounge at the front of the ship, on our deck, and with fine views over the bow. It’s exclusively for the use of the 300 or so full World Cruisers. We were given badges identifying us as such (which we shall not be wearing) and met our dedicated Concierge. Later, again because we re World Cruisers, we were presented with a Pot Plant for the cabin.
We had lunch at the Pub: The Golden Lion. On the Queen Victoria, about eight years ago, the Pub there was something of a British gesture, with the look of a pub but very little in terms of British beer. This pub is different with a host of different beers such as London Pride and a wide selection of craft beers. And the food menu is characteristically British Pub Fare with Fish and Chips and Chicken Tikka Masala. I had Cumberland Sausages and Mash and Jan had Cottage Pie: both were very good. Later, Jan enrolled in French classes, and I did my first nine circuits of the Promenade Deck, equivalent to 3.3 miles. It was bitterly cold, damp and grey, but still enjoyable. I need to do that most days.
By early evening and as we entered the notorious Bay of Biscay, the wind picked up and the ship – certainly on deck 11 where we live – began to roll a little. Jan took a precautionary seasickness tablet and we went to The Chart Room for pre-dinner drinks. Its proximity to the Britannia Restaurant meant it was very crowded but we found seats with a couple from Four Oaks near Sutton Coldfield – where an older brother lived some fifty years or so ago – who were pleased about my childhood recollections of Sutton Park. At dinner we met our dinner companions for the next few months: Nick and Geraldine from Orpington, David from Buxton and Wilf from Shropshire, each travelling independently. All of us, except Wilf, who disembarks at Sydney, are doing the full cruise. I think we’ll all get on rather well. After dinner, and rather than go to the Show we had a final drink in the Carinthia Bar before returning to the room for about 11.
We woke to calmer seas, but to a remorselessly grey day as we ploughed across the Bay of Biscay. Jan was up first thing to enrol in Fencing Classes after which we had an excellent breakfast in The Kings Court. I had both Kedgeree and an excellent Corned Beef Hash while Jan eat more healthily. At the rather odd hour of 11.15, we attended a cocktail party, hosted by the Captain, and again for those of us on the full Cruise. There was plenty of champagne and Mimosas and attractive bite sized food and both the Captain and the Cruise Director – who is from Whitby – made welcoming speeches. Everyone is clearly very keen to make a fuss of us all.
We had a lazy afternoon. Jan went to another French class, I read, downloaded some emails (the first time I’d used the notoriously slow internet) and began my nine laps around the deck. But driving rain and winds, which had increased, to Force 8 closed the deck and I managed only three laps.
Dinner was very good, and with good conversation, preceded by excellent Margaritas in the Carinthia Lounge. We tried the show, a compilation of Broadway songs and dances, but it was mediocre and we were back in our cabin at 11.15.