A real adventure begins

Here  beginneth the longest cruise we have ever done. 115 days.

Itinerary here.

I could moan about the fact that P&O allow unlimited baggage, but the coach company that takes you to Southampton limits you to three suitcases. But we managed. I ended up with four and a half cases and one vanity case. Mum had three and a half cases and four vanities. Dad made up the rest of the nine. But, what a palaver trying to prep for a cruise this long in just four months! Usually we plan eighteen months ahead! I have no idea if I have enough cosmetics, or underwear, or notepaper, or anything. Meh, we’ll figure it out. What’s the worst that can happen?

Monday 11 January 2016 – departure

On board. At last. Snowy tv signal and no broadband whatsoever, so heaven only knows when you’ll get to read this! If this is how things are in port, I dread to think what it will be like when we actually set sail. Good grief.

Leaving the house was surprisingly stress-free, considering we had only one minicab in which to fit nine large cases, five vanity cases and one very big, heavy piece of fragile hand luggage (laptops). Luckily, Amir came in the biggest car I have ever seen. Strictly speaking, it was referred to as an eight-seater, but it had so much room, we could have taken more luggage if we wanted! And more people! When we got to the coach stop, the coach was already there, and the entire passenger list was nine people, so we had all the room we could have wanted. The journey down was smooth and relaxed, and Adrian the driver was very friendly. His coach’s little loo had a choice of 9 different soaps. Cola bottle scented?! Gave that one a miss, but thanks for the offer…

Boarding was as irritating as ever. They have developed the American habit at Security of changing the rules every time you visit. Last time, I just wheeled the buggy through. This time, they wanted it lifted up onto the conveyor belt to go through the bag scanner. Dad hurt his back yesterday, packing, and mine hasn’t quite recovered from some damage a couple of weeks ago, so we refused to lift it. They had to find a stevedore, because they’re not allowed to lift things either. Why they think we should damage ourselves to humour them, I have no idea, but we all got quite annoyed. In fact, Dad got so annoyed, he forgot to empty his pockets, so they tortured him all over again, just for the fun of it.

But we’re here now. And breathe…

My cabin is quite nice (despite the television’s reception). I have a sneaking suspicion it is the same size screen as I have at home, which seems far too big for a room this size.  It takes up over half the dressing table/desk space, which is irksome, because I could have used that space. The décor has a slightly seventies feel, with dingy wall lighters, spotlights in the ceiling and overly-huge mirrors. There seems to be shockingly little storage.  It’s going to be quite a feat to get all my stuff in here. Particularly with such an unnecessarily large fridge taking up ALL the spare space under the desk/dressing table.  Likewise with the bathroom – lovely huge shower – about four feet long – but shockingly little storage space/cupboards. Can’t seem to make the safe lock, but, that’s still better than the alternative, I suppose (not being able to unlock it!). All in all, so far so good.  Of course, as none of my luggage arrived until after muster, at about 5.45, although we boarded just after 1pm, I didn’t get it all unpacked before dinner anyway. After dinner, I got most of it sorted, although some socks and underwear and next week’s pyjamas had to go back in a case under the bed. On the plus side, as the whole room stinks of food (I think the aircon intake is next to the restaurant up on deck, and there isn’t much wind, so I can sit here and tell you what everyone had for dinner), by leaving them in the case, they will be a bit protected from stinking of roast beef!

Dinner companions: Sheila, bad leg (broke her femur on this very ship two years ago), uses a walker (sort of a folding Zimmer frame), very funny and mischievous and thinks I’m fab. Hugh, the only person I have met so far going further than Valparaiso, and even he is going home from San Diego (because he says his insurance won’t cover him any further?! bit odd, might have to investigate that further), Peter and Nicky (he is quite deaf and talks VERY quietly, even I can’t hear him and I’m directly opposite him on an oval table) – Peter is also coeliac and his prior requests were ignored as well, just like mine. For some reason, it doesn’t matter how far ahead you book or warn people you have dietary needs, on the first night, no one gives a damn. They just say “We’ll do it tomorrow. Make do tonight”. Which is both trying and annoying. If I wanted to make do, I wouldn’t have bothered contacting you in advance *sigh*. And you know perfectly well, because when we do discuss tomorrow, you produce a typewritten list that shows everyone at the table and who needs what. Irksome. Not fully annoyed, but just irked. And Bob. Know nothing about him yet at all. He’s quiet but cheery is the best I can divine thus far.

I usually order two diet cokes at dinner. They have a card you can buy, so that you can, essentially, buy soft drinks/coffees/ice creams (that’s three different cards, before you ask) in bulk and get a slightly cheaper rate. So I asked the wine waiter for a soft drinks card, and he said he would get me one, but I could not use it the dining room. Really? I have done on every other cruise I’ve been on in the past decade or so. Why not? Because we don’t have a draught pump – they are only in the bars. Oh, I need a bar? Like the one that is JUST OUTSIDE THE DINING ROOM DOOR then? It seems odd to refuse to do this for someone who is going all the way around. Wine waiters are on commission, so for every drink he serves me, he would have made money, personally, in his own pocket. Now, for the rest of the FOUR MONTHS I’m on this ship, I will buy my drinks from someone else and bring them into dinner and he can sit and watch me drink them and wonder who got his cut. He has deliberately refused the commission on 115 soft drinks (he doesn’t know it would have been 230), which seems very silly behaviour. Still, his loss. *shrug* Literally, in fact.

Talking of odd behaviour that makes no sense and seems purely designed to annoy, at muster, I was sent down the stairs. Five decks. Charming. I asked why I couldn’t use the lift. “Because in an emergency, you mustn’t use the lifts, in case the power is lost”. I get that, but this is not an emergency, it’s a drill. And I am on holiday. Why can’t I use the lift? “In case the power goes”. No, I mean now. Yes, now. And you need to learn the route. Down the stairs?! Oh, FFS. If you’re going to be that stupid/obtuse/dumb ignorant, there’s no point in even bothering. When I got there? Everyone else I spoke to had used the lifts. My knees were delighted.

I’m pretty shattered (five flights of stairs may not have helped with this). It’s been a rather long day, and my nap was rudely interrupted by the muster announcements, so I may have to have an early night. It took me nearly two hours to unpack, so a break is definitely overdue. I do have some stuff to do, and some menu typos to download (yes, already!). But they can wait til morning. Gnight.

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