Fri 3 Jan ‘14 – day 20 I had decided not to spend the early part of January in what was likely to be a very cold and wet UK, so was staying on-board and doing what was known as back-to-back cruises. This one was heading for the Canary Isles where I hope that we will see some sun.
The weather was clear, if a little cool in the strong breeze from the west and the ship had moored at the Ocean Terminal in the Eastern Docks in Southampton at about 06:00 hours to commence its turn round. This was the most frantic time in any cruise as one lot of passengers had to be disembarked, all the cabins and public areas cleaned and in this case all the Christmas decorations removed, before the new passenger’s board and their multitude of bags were loaded and then distributed to the appropriate cabins. And all the while the ship was being re-stored, bunkered and topped up with fresh water. Very few of the ships company get any time for shore leave and there was the added issue of personnel leaving at the end of their contract and their replacements boarding.
The off-load of baggage was achieved ahead of schedule and all the disembarking passengers were off well ahead of time. While this was going on I had done my washing and ironing before going down to reception to get my new cruise card which is a combination of door key, security pass and credit card.
Having phoned my Mum and had a chat I wandered into town which I considered was a bit soulless having a 1960’s centre that was badly in need of a complete makeover. Like Plymouth and Portsmouth, two other south coast ports that suffered terrible bombing in WW2, these cities had created pedestrianized shopping areas that are not particularly attractive.
The wind had increased in strength and was blowing down between the buildings, so it was a case of walking a little faster in order to keep warm, but once I had got everything I needed then it was just an about face and make my way back to the ship.
The first of the new passengers are arriving and even though I have my new cruise card I had to wait until the security checkpoint was opened as I was not allowed to go through the crew entrance. When the personnel arrive to operate the scanners I was taken aback by the lack of consistence between these checks and the ones that happened when I initially boarded at the QE2 Terminal and it was almost as if they were making up the rules as they went along.
Having dropped off my rucksack in the cabin it was time for lunch and by this time the wind had increased so much the ship had two tugs alongside holding her against the berth just in case the mooring lines failed.
This happened to one of the slab sided car carrying ships as it was off-loading vehicles and I watched as there was frantic activity to get tugs alongside her and then push the ship back into the berth.
A very heavy rain squall saw Southampton Water become a scene of white crests as the wind whipped up the water went the heavens opened and torrential rain bucketed down. The bar staff working at the Terrace Bar just abandoned their posts and ran for cover in the Conservatory as the rain was almost horizontal being driven on the wind. However the squall soon passed and normal service was resumed, even though the crew were all wrapped up against the elements.
I spent the afternoon in my cabin keeping out of the way as passengers located the cabins and the crew performed their normal herculean task in getting all the luggage to the relevant cabin as quickly as possible.
Once the safety drills had been completed, the ship when astern from the berth then swung round to head down Southampton Water, passed the massive Fawley Oil Refinery, Calshot Spit where the ship has to make a sharp turn to starboard, before then swinging hard over to port to get around the Brambles Bank and then heading down the Solent passed Cowes and Ryde on the starboard side and Hamble and Portsmouth away on the port side.
Just before the Nab Tower, one of the WW1 forts at the entrance to the Solent, the Pilot disembarked, which was not an easy job given the amount that the ship was already pitching and the ship then headed out around the Isle of Wight before joining the traffic separation system that operated in the English Channel. This would take us all the way down to Ushant where Oriana will then head on a south westerly course across the Bay of Biscay.
The Captain in his pre-departure broadcast had warned that we would be heading into some pretty severe seas as there were storms rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean and as he said, it is mid-winter so what do you expect.
I went down to dinner where I have been allocated the same table in the Oriental Restaurant and met my new dining companions. There were three couples and a single lady allocated to the table, although the lady was not present this evening.
The sea state had already increased and there were a few thumps, bumps and lurches during dinner and I am always amazed how the waiters manage to keep their feet when carrying the trays of food as there were very few accidents.
After the meal had finished everyone else was going to the theatre but I headed up to my cabin and bed.