Coach Trip to Cunard

In the early hours of this morning, when everyone else was still sound asleep, Trevor and I were wide awake and getting ready for another cruise. We are due to spend a week on Cunard’s Queen Victoria taking part in various events that have been organised, not only to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Cunard, but also to remember another illustrious Cunard liner, RMS Lusitania which was sadly torpedoed by a German U-boat in the First World War and sank off the coast of Ireland on 7th May 1915 – a hundred years ago.

We have been on the Queen Victoria before, on her Maiden Voyage in December 2007, so we were looking forward to returning to this elegant ship. Today all three “Queens”, that is Victoria, Elizabeth and Mary 2 would all be meeting up in Southampton together, and setting off on their various voyages, one after the other.

Anyway… the taxi had been booked to come for 04:20am but arrived five minutes earlier, and we set off through the darkened streets towards Washington motorway services, on the A1(M) southbound, to pick up the Intercruises coach that would be conveying us on the long journey to Southampton.

When we arrived, we were the first people to board the coach, after first having the driver load our cases into the luggage hold. The next time we would see them would be in our stateroom.

At 5.10am, the coach set off. It was 10 minutes late because it had been waiting for a couple of passengers who didn’t show up; a phone call determined that they’d cancelled the cruise, but no-one had informed the coach company.

The weather today was absolutely terrible. The coach sloshed its way along the spray-laden motorway, windscreen wipers swishing side to side against the deluge. The skies were grey and leaden, and the weather could not have been less holiday-like.

We made various stops along the way to pick up more passengers, but after leaving Leeds we cracked open a bottle of Prosecco we’d brought with us for the journey; Trevor added his to some orange juice to make a Buck’s Fizz. 🙂

As morning wore into afternoon, the rain stopped, the skies cleared a little and the sun made a valiant attempt to break through. I passed the time reading my Kindle, listening to music on my iPod or just watched the scenery flash past.

Eventually we arrived at the outskirts of Southampton Docks. There was a lot of traffic, in particular coach loads of cruise passengers as there were a quite a few ships in port. As well as the three Queens that I’ve already mentioned, there was a big Royal Caribbean ship in, the Anthem of the Seas, as well as Fred Olsen’s Balmoral, on which we had a fantastic cruise in 2012 and are booked to go again next year. So it wasn’t really surprising that there were loads of people around all, like us, waiting with excited anticipation to start their cruises.

After what seemed an eternity, we eventually left the coach just before 3.00pm and went into the cruise terminal to check in. Luckily the majority of the queues had dissipated and we didn’t have to wait long at all before we were issued with our cruise cards and happily boarded the Queen Victoria.

We have been allocated stateroom 4119. It is a spacious and comfortable outside cabin with a king-size bed, settee, coffee table, dressing table and a couple of wardrobes. The bathroom contained a shower cubicle and we were happy to see a range of complimentary toiletries, as well as bathrobes and slippers for our use.

Because we are Platinum Cunard World Club members, there was the usual bottle of bubbly waiting for us on ice, along with a couple of champagne flutes. 🙂

The view from our window is obscured by one of the lifeboats, but at least it allows us to have daylight in our stateroom.

Shortly afterwards our suitcases arrived, so we spent the next 15 minutes or so unpacking our stuff and hanging it neatly in the wardrobes.

Then it was time for lifeboat drill. It was just the usual we’ve come to expect; listen out for the international emergency signal (seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle followed by one long blast), then collect your life-jacket and proceed to muster station. Once the drill was over, the time was our own and our holiday would begin in earnest. 🙂

We returned our life-jackets to our stateroom and got changed into warmer clothes for going out on deck and joining the champagne sailaway party. I enjoyed an ice-cold glass of Lanson’s Black Label while Trevor opted for a pint of John Smith’s.

The master of the Queen Victoria, Commodore Christopher Rynd, announced that since all three Cunard Queens were in Southampton together, we would leave in procession; Queen Mary 2 (Cunard’s flagship) in the lead, followed by Queen Elizabeth and with us on the Queen Victoria bringing up the rear.

In the meantime, we watched the Balmoral set off on her voyage and took lots of photos as we have fond memories of this ship.

Fred Olsen’s Balmoral sets off from Southampton

Despite the thick hooded top I was wearing, it was cold and windy on the top deck, but I didn’t want to go inside because it was such an occasion for the Cunard Queens all to be sailing out together; we managed to get some great photos of the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth from our vantage point at the bow of the Queen Victoria, and the air resounded with the blasts from the foghorns of each ship, as the Cunard sisters saluted each other. We commented that those on land would have the best view of all three Queens, but we are actually taking part and it’s much better to be a participant than merely an onlooker. 🙂

Once all the ships were underway, we decided to go inside out of the cold, get washed and changed, and go up to the Lido self-sevice restaurant for our dinner, as we’d missed our 6.00pm sitting in the more-formal Britannia restaurant.

Dinner was delicious. I enjoyed a very tender calf’s liver and some ribeye steak, along with fresh vegetables and sautéed mushrooms. This was followed by a cheeseboard containing Danish Blue, Brie, Cheddar and Emmental.

Afterwards we went back to stateroom 4119 and enjoyed a glass of the free fizz, before making our way to the Royal Court Theatre for tonight’s show. The theatre on the Queen Victoria is just like a regular Victorian theatre, complete with ‘royal boxes’ and the ornate and evocative high ceilings and plush furnishings of theatres from a century ago.

We managed to get a good seat in the centre; in fact there were a lot of empty seats. We can only assume that, like us, a lot of the passengers had had a very long day and were tired. We knew we’d sleep very well tonight. 🙂

Tonight’s cabaret was a flautist called Clare Langan. She was very good indeed and played everything from classical (Bach and Mozart) to film scores to 60’s pop, ending with a nautical medley in which everyone clapped along to the traditional sailor’s hornpipe, in “Last Night at The Proms” style. We really enjoyed her show a lot.

Then it was along to the Golden Lion pub where the resident entertainer was a honky-tonk pianist playing a selection of songs before the trivia quiz. Readers of my previous blogs will know that Trevor and I always take part in the evening quizzes, whether on our own or as part of a team, and tonight was no exception. We didn’t win, only scoring 15/25. In any case, the prizes on Cunard ships are usually pretty rubbish; you get prize tokens to save up and trade in for stuff such as keyrings, bookmarks, etc. So no great loss really.

We enjoyed a night cap in the Golden Lion before retiring to stateroom 4119 for our first night at sea. We were due to drop anchor tomorrow at St. Peter Port, Guernsey – a new port of call for us.

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