We made it ! Our flight from Inverness was delayed around about two hours but as we were staying overnight in Horley the drama of a delay rather washed over us ! Delays have often meant stress and many logistical problems in my working life, at a festival if the adjudicator is unavoidably delayed, 600 people are waiting to listen or sing, and when I was teaching in London a delay resulted in two lessons being shunted to the end of the day and making another mad dash to the train to get home. No more. We sat out the plane drama with a smile and a good coffee and ne’er a care on our shoulders.
On arriving at Gatwick Mark was waiting like a patient chauffeur to escort us to our hotel where we dropped off our bags then moved seamlessly to Xenia in Crawley. The Brazilian Steakhouse where you can (quote) eat not only as much delicious meat as you wish from skilfully sliced skewers, but as much as you can ! It was a challenge we all undertook with gusto and determination.
The hotel was basic, spotlessly clean and very close to Gatwick which was all a huge plus, and the next morning our taxi drove us speedily to Port of London at Tilbury. Over much of the Uk Storm Aileen was ravaging the countryside and so it had been affecting the sea conditions, so when we arrived we knew that our sailing was very delayed as the ship had not been able to navigate the Thames estuary, which was closed. Therefore Columbus was bobbing about off Margate at the mouth of the estuary until around 4pm in the afternoon. The whole of Cruise and Maritime head office had swung into action and by the time we arrived there was a lake of complimentary teas, coffees, snacks and bottled water, charming and permanently cheery young ladies keeping everyone happy and calm and thorough well micro managed plans ! They even brought me a chicken salad for lunch as the sandwiches were not much use to a low carb diabetic ! The service was quite magnificent and I will write a letter heaving with praise for the staff - we complain a good deal, but praise for a job well done often gets left off the agenda.
At around 5pm after the fastest turn round I have ever experienced we were onboard. There were still folk waiting to disembark but the whole procedure of swapping one set of cruisers for another was totally smooth and problem free. We were ensconced in beautiful cabins with windows by 5.10 and exploring by 5.15 !
It is a ship which has had a few owners before Cruise and Maritime bought it, and although at the smaller end of cruising in terms of passenger numbers, it is decidedly upmarket with many smart lounges, squishy sofas and plush arm chairs, as well as its own coffee shop called Cappuccinos and the most delectable Spa I have seen - dare I say it is rather more pampering that the Queen Mary 2 Spa ! Is that blasphemous?
We dined quite early and were delighted with the food ( but really that goes without saying !) then waited for our luggage to arrive so we could unpack and thus feel totally settled in to our home for the next glorious 12 days ! There was the excellent Bridge of Spies movie in the Show lounge starting at 10.30pm and I was determined to watch it……..well at 11.45 I found my eyes were closing so had to accept defeat and miss the end ! It rather reminded me of that fantastic Jeremy Nicholas song The Usherettes Blues ! The poor old usherette has worked for 50 years or more and has missed ‘the end of every film I've seen!’ Sarah Walker the fabulous British mezzo often used it as an encore at the end of a recital and it always went down a storm ! I have taught it many times but sadly have always had to explain the film references to the last two bright young generations of mezzos. Gone with the Wind, Spartacus, Cary Grant, Doris Day……..all past them by ! Someone needs to write the updated version using films about vampires and high school musicals !