3rd February 2011 – yes, it was time once again to leave the cold, grey, miserable British weather and gallivant off to sunnier climes. This time, we were due to join the Fred Olsen vessel MS Braemar in Bridgetown, Barbados to sail south to the mighty waters of the great Amazon River.
We left the house at 4.00am for the three-hour drive down to Manchester Airport. The roads were nice and quiet at that time of the morning, so we arrived at the long-term car park in good time and got the shuttle bus to Terminal 1.
I must say that the whole airport / embarkation process is handled very well by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. We joined the queue for our Thomas Cook flight, and checked in fairly quickly. Once we’d got rid of our cases we wouldn’t see them again until we were in our cabin on the Braemar.
Then it was off to the executive airport lounge to await our flight. We enjoyed some breakfast prosecco and livened up the morning orange juice with a few generous shots of vodka, whilst relaxing and waiting in excited anticipation for the holiday to come.
Eventually the flight was called and we boarded the A330 Airbus which would take us to Bridgetown, Barbados. It always reminds me of that 1975 “Typically Tropical” song that goes like this:
Whoa! I’m going to Barbados
Whoa! Back to the palmtrees
Whoa! I’m going to see my girlfriend
Whoa! In the sunny Caribbean seas.
The only difference was that it wasn’t Captain Tobias Willcock on Coconut Airways taking us there. 🙂
The flight passed fairly pleasantly and we enjoyed a few complimantary drinks courtesy of Fred Olsen. I read my magazines and played on my Nintendo DS and soon we had to fasten our seatbelts for the final approach into Grantley Adams Airport.
We came down the steps of the plane into a blast of hot Caribbean air and got on the rickety, rattling little bus which would take us to the ship, bypassing all the passport control and security and baggage reclaim palaver. The bus driver welcomed us to Barbados and completed the holiday atmosphere by putting on some loud soca music, which I absolutely love! It’s the sort of music that just makes you want to dance, and if there had been room on the bus then I don’t think I could have resisted. 🙂
Forty minutes later we arrived at the Port of Bridgetown where we caught our first glimpse of the Braemar. She looked tiny at 24,000 tons compared to the massive Royal Caribbean and Holland America ships tied up alongside. We got our boarding passes and went up the gangplank which took us to Deck 4 and the impressive, airy atrium of the ship. As the lifts were pretty busy, we walked up the stairs to Deck 7, where our cabin was situated on the port side of the ship.
Cabin 7054 would be our ‘home’ for the next two weeks. It was pleasantly decorated and had twins beds with the head end towards the balcony doors. The balcony itself contained two chairs and a table. There was a settee and table, a flat screen TV, a dressing table and fridge. There were also lots of mirrors which made the cabin seem more spacious than it actually was.
After dumping our bags I was choking for a beer by this time. We had an hour until life-boat drill so we decided to go to the Lido Bar, at the stern of the ship, and sit in the Caribbean sun enjoying a freezing cold beer. 🙂
It really was very pleasant sitting there in the sun, trying to shake off that slightly disoriented feeling that you have after a long-haul flight.
After life-boat drill it was nearly time for dinner. We freshened up a bit (our luggage still hadn’t arrived so we couldn’t get changed) then went to the Palms Café for a buffet-style dinner. Normally we would be allocated Table 35 in the Grampian Restaurant but this was closed tonight for some reason. Not to worry though, by this time we were feeling pretty tired; as well as being up from 3.00am GMT we also had the four-hour time difference to consider, so although it was only half-six it felt like 10.30pm.
After dinner we returned to the cabin and found that our cases had arrived. We emptied them out, hung everything up, and by that time I was really flagging. We decided to go to bed early, but first we wedged open our balcony door, so we could enjoy the fresh sea air and be lulled by the sound of the waves along the side of the ship as we slept.
The voyage had begun.