At the first stroke of the alarm clock at 4.30am on Tuesday, 12 October 2010, we leapt out of bed… strange how it is so much more difficult a feat to accomplish at 6.30am on a working day 🙂
Our journey by coach to Southampton was, thankfully, uneventful; no traffic jams, no bad weather, no roadwords or any other eventuality which might have delayed our arrival. Sipping a champagne and waiting to embark the ship, whilst surreptitiously examining fellow passengers-to-be is part of the excitement of the impending voyage. 🙂
We boarded the Queen Elizabeth at around 2.30pm, and proceeded to our stateroom, number 6179. As we opened the door, the afternoon October sunshine streamed through our balcony doors and glinted off the steel champagne bucket, where a chilled bottle and two flutes awaited us. 🙂
We cracked open the bottle and took it out to our balcony. Eight decks below us we could see the frenetic activity of passengers embarking, and supplies being loaded onto the vessel; barrels of beer and cases of wine, fresh fruit and vegetables and the plethora of other items intended to make our voyage a comfortable one.
We made our way to the pool deck at the stern in order to procure a good vantage point for the first time the Queen Elizabeth would slip her moorings and sail off into the sunset. Below us, a brass band played “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Jerusalem” and other rousing, patriotic tunes. All around us the passengers waved their arms or their Union Jacks, then, with three deafening blasts of the ship’s foghorn, we were off!
For me, those three blasts herald the symbolic start of any voyage, and particularly the Maiden Voyage. It is so reminiscent of old film footage of famous ocean liners leaving, destined for foreign shores and hopefully better things.
As the Queen Elizabeth glided majestically away from the Southampton shoreline and along the Solent, a flotilla of smaller ships and boats followed alongside us, the air filled with a cacophony of hoots, blasts and whistles. Occasionally the QE gave a mighty blast back, as a forest of waving hands and flags accompanied us. Another thing that made this Maiden Voyage so special was that we were sailing the same route that the grand old lady of the sea, the Queen Elizabeth 2, had taken on her maiden voyage way back in April 1969.
Tired, but excited, happy and so privileged to be part of this, we changed and made our way to the Britannia Restaurant and the first of many sumptuous meals.
The voyage had begun. 🙂