Atlantic Crossing

We woke up this morning, or rather I should say woke up again, after having done so several times in the night on a very rough Atlantic ocean. Last night, in the darkness of our cabin, we heard the continuous racket of creaking, groaning, rattling and banging as the Balmoral pitched and rolled in a good three metre ocean swell. Occasionally there would be an almighty crash as a particularly big wave hit our window, or the entire ship juddered as she plunged through the peaks and troughs. A bit of an uncomfortable night as we couldn’t stay still in our beds, but I suppose it makes it more authentic, considering what our voyage is commemorating. In addition, as I have previously mentioned, the Balmoral is a cruise ship and therefore not really built for transatlantic crossings; we have done this voyage before on proper ocean liners (the QE2 and the QM2) and the voyage is much more comfortable.

But it was without trepidation that we made our way to the Palms Café to enjoy our breakfast; thank goodness for our sea legs! 🙂 As is traditional of Fred Olsen ships when it is a formal evening, free champagne and Bucks Fizz was on offer – good old Fred! So I enjoyed smoked salmon, fresh fruits and a glass of bubbly for breakfast, not a bad start at all to the day.

After breakfast we made our way, once again, to the Neptune lounge to listen to another lecture, this time entitled “The Irish Aboard the Titanic” by a bloke called Senan Moloney. His lecture was based around eye witness accounts of third-class survivors of the disaster and gave an overview of the darker side of the story amid the tales of heroism we are used to hearing about the sinking of the Titanic. Were some of the passengers shot dead by the officers of White Star Line? Were some of the men forcibly prevented from getting into lifeboats in the water, despite some of the boats being half empty? There was quite a lot of food for thought in this lecture and it allowed the listener to hear it from another perspective, that of “what would you do?”

We heard the Captain’s noon announcement, giving us navigational as well as weather information. We were not surprised to hear that the wind was a Force 8 on the Beaufort scale; a strong gale. The waves were very high and you could see the spray in the air. Trevor and I did venture out on deck briefly, but despite the sun shining the wind made it feel quite cold, so we didn’t stay out long! Incidentally, the master of the Balmoral is Captain Robert Bamberg. “Bam berg” – bit of an irony there, don’t you think?

The Balmoral continued to pitch and roll in the ocean; we have often found that you get quite a lot of passive exercise in this situation, purely from having to brace your leg muscles hard in order just to stand upright. In the past we’ve disembarked a ship after crossing the Bay of Biscay in a Force 10 and, believe me, my legs ached for days afterwards, as if I’d had a really good gym workout.

We went for lunch about 1.00pm in the Palms Café again, and then came back to the cabin to read our books, have a nap etc. but half the time we were picking things up off the floor that had slid off the chest of drawers with the motion of the ship.

At 2.45pm we proceeded, once again, to the Neptune lounge for another Titanic themed lecture, this time by marine historian Peter Boyd-Smith who talked about the luxury on board the ocean liners of the time, including the Titanic. On this ship, for example, the 3rd Class passengers (White Star and Cunard never called them ‘steerage’) actually ate better food and had more comfortable accommodation than that which they were used to back home. Fares for the transatlantic crossing on the Titanic ranged from £8.00 to £870.00 per person in 1912 – you can put that in perspective if I tell you that it is possible to go from Southampton to New York on the cheapest cabin in the Queen Mary 2 for around £995.00 per person in 2012 – imagine how wealthy some of the passengers must have been on Titanic!

After Peter Boyd-Smith’s talk it was time to go back to our cabin and start getting ready, because tonight was formal night and would give us the chance to dress up in our glad-rags, Titanic themed if possible. It was also the Captain’s cocktail party at 5.30pm for first sitting dinner passengers so we had to be ready early and I had an appointment to have my hair put up at 5.00pm.

At 16:15 hours the Captain made the announcement that – regrettably – there was a medical emergency on board and he would have to turn the ship around and start heading east again, in order to meet with a rescue helicopter that would be coming from Britain. It was obviously serious if the patient was having to be taken off the Balmoral and winched up into a helicopter, but I hope it doesn’t mean that our arrival at the Titanic wreck site was going to be delayed as this is, after all, the whole point of this voyage – to be there in the exact spot 100 years to the hour later.

I put on my long lime and black dress and bolero jacket, along with long black velvet evening gloves, a Guipure lace and Swarovski crystal collar and went along to have my hair put up, before wearing my black hat with the feathers at the back and the net veil. As I was coming out of the hair salon lots of people commented on my costume and several stopped and asked if they could take my photo. Quite a few people had dressed in period costume and everyone looked great. I felt really elegant and quite like a celebrity as loads of people wanted to take my picture. Trevor had on his dinner suit and Black Watch tartan bow tie and cummerbund, but I suppose the men’s fashions in the last century haven’t changed as much as the women’s. Then again, maybe the women’s fashions aren’t so different either, as I’d only bought my dress from Roman Originals 18 months ago, but lots of people asked if I’d had it especially made.

We went along to the Neptune lounge and managed to get a seat near the front. A string quintet were playing on the stage and waiters and waitresses came round with their silver trays of champagne flutes and canapés. Just then, the Captain’s voice came over the tannoy announcing that, because they were waiting for the rescue helicopter, he couldn’t leave the bridge so he wouldn’t be able to greet the passengers. So we had the Captain’s cocktail party without the Captain. Not to worry though – we managed to consume four glasses of the champers each before it was time to go to dinner. 🙂

Dinner was a grand affair with everyone dressed up. Each night the dinner menu has featured a dish that they used to serve on the Titanic as well as a choice of other items. I had a seafood platter consisting of jumbo prawns, scallops, crab meat and smoked salmon. It was delicious and I finished off with the cheese board and a glass of amaretto.

In the Neptune lounge this evening the show featured a really good saxophonist called Sarah Chandler. She played a lot of the classic tunes but with a modern twist and we enjoyed her music. Then it was up to the Lido lounge afterwards for a Titanic quiz. We got 15 out of 21 – not bad, but not good either, as the winners scored 19 points.

Then it was a modern day phenomenon after wards; the ubiquitous karaoke. I got up and did a couple of numbers and, in fact, the general standard of singing was quite high for a change. It was about 1.00am before we went back to cabin 4170, but at least the clocks go back tonight, so we do get an extra hour in bed.

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