X727 Christmas Cruise – Setting sail for all points South

Welcome aboard X727 Oriana’s Christmas and New Year Cruise to the Canaries and Portugal. Oriana is her lovely self, and the staff welcome more effusive than usual (well, we were only here a few weeks ago!). Luggage delivery was VERY fast, and the drive down completely uneventful (after it taking us an hour to load the car, during which I pulled a muscle in my back). The only niggle was the rather shrug-filled attitude to the provision of wheelchair assistance for boarding, but once we’d got a proper person, even that went smoothly. We didn’t really have much to unpack – this is only a two-week cruise, after all – so there was time for napping and all sorts of holiday mood to set in.

Then the announcements began. Firstly, the compulsory muster (where they now swipe your cruise card to prove you were there, so no bunking off any more by hiding in the loo). The early part of the usual spiel was surplanted by a rather long lecture on hand washing and norovirus. Which was nice. This was followed by the usual stuff – emergency exits, whistle alarms that matter to passengers, how a life jacket works, etc. Turns out I picked up a VERY new lifejacket from the three in my cabin, and all the bits were rather stiff. Nearly broke a nail! Tsk. I remain convinced that the whole point of the exercise is to give you a chance to adjust the belt so it fits you, so that in an emergency, it’s already done, but what do I know? Anyway, the couple I sat next to in the Muster Station C overflow area (the window sills along the corridor outside the actual room) had caught their Eavesway coach at 3.30am from Somewhere in Scotland. They didn’t even bother to go to bed last night. I hope they slept on the 12-hour drive!

Dinner was a first night standard. The waiters were very helpful. Well, I say the waiters. We only saw one. I’m not convinced we actually have two, as we are supposed to. We got the table we asked for, and the people seem nice enough so far. They are Graham and Sue and Ben, Anne and Frank. Ben is Sue’s “adoptive” dad. When her dad died, his best friend stepped into the breach and became family, as substitute father figure. Isn’t that lovely? Anne didn’t seem to enjoy her meal, but the first night is always a bit of a mess. The waiters need to learn our preferences and allergies, apart from anything else, and the menu is pretty much pot luck. We were the last to be served. Some tables were on their coffee before we had even received our main meal. What we got was hot and perfectly edible – the pavlova was delicious (despite the new trend of placing each part separately on the plate, rather than in combination, which I still find very odd).

The announcements continued. Before supper, the captain informed us that one of the boilers had broken down and we would be without hot water for a few hours. We already knew there was a problem with a boiler, because P&O have taken Oriana out of service after this cruise, cancelling three weeks’ of holidaymakers, so she can go into dry dock for a new boiler to be put in. But we were hoping this one would last a little longer! In the end, the captain said that it would be fixed by 8.30 pm, but we had missed the tide, so we would not be setting sail until 6.30 in the morning. At 9.30 this morning (Friday), we were still in the Solent. We haven’t even joined the Channel Traffic Separation System yet, and it’s nearly 11am now. Talking of which, perhaps it’s time to get up and get dressed. Here endeth the first day.

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