Although we had an early night last night, it was still a bit early to be woken up by a phone call from my MIL at 6:58am to say that she was up, showered and ready to go for breakfast! It’s her first cruise and I think she’s a bit excited so we’ll let her off.
We were soon dressed and downstairs to fill up at the buffet to set us up for the day. Breakfast was not included but is pretty good value at about £9 per person. There were all the usual cereals, fruit juices, tea, coffee, breads, pastries, fruit, yogurt and, of course, all the elements needed for a full English. Mr FFF & MIL both went for the full English option whilst I went for a bagel, yogurt and fruit – I’m intending to make more healthy choices than I ordinarily would on this cruise whilst still having some treats.
After breakfast and with time to kill before we could go to the port, we had a wander around Southampton and stopped at some shops for some last minute purchases. We walked down to the port to see the other ships that were in – P&O’s Britannia and Oriana, RC’s Independence of the Seas and Sapphire Princess. It was very windy and with the forecast stating it’s going to get worse, I wasn’t hopeful that we’d be sailing on time.
At 11:30, it was time to check out and drive to the port. It was only a 5 minute drive and we had valet parking booked. Although busy, the parking was efficiently run and we only had to queue for a few minutes before being able to unload our luggage. Once inside the terminal building, we were given a coloured and numbered card and told to sit down in the lounge and wait to be called to check in. We arrived at the terminal at approximately 12:15 (after unloading luggage) but it took nearly 2.5 hours to actually get on board. This was disappointing after experiencing quick and seamless check-in on our 3 previous cruises with Royal Caribbean and Princess where each time we were on board within 30 minutes of arriving. Oh well, it was time for the cruise to begin.
By the time we got on board, our cabins were ready so we went straight to them to drop off our carry-on luggage and found our other luggage already waiting for us. We then headed straight to the buffet as we were all pretty hungry after our early breakfast and now late lunch. Although it was busy, we managed to find a table straightaway and were all able to find something tasty to eat.
After lunch, we spent a couple of hours exploring the ship. First impressions are pretty good – the décor is very smart; much better than Crown Princess and I would even give it a slight edge over RC’s Navigator and Independence.
Muster was at 4:45 and I was pleased that they’ve changed the procedure and you no longer have to take your life jacket with you to your muster station. We waited until we heard the alarm sound before heading to our stations, although it appears we were some of the few who did as we arrived to a packed station. It did mean we weren’t waiting very long though – I think we were dismissed at about 4:55.
We then went back to the cabins to unpack. Shortly after, a message came over the tannoy system to say that we would soon be sailing away. We ended up watching sail away from our balcony as it was still pretty windy before heading up to the Planet Bar for pre-dinner drinks and to continue watching as we sailed past the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth.
Feeling peckish, we decided it was time to try out the main dining room. We’ve chosen the ‘Freedom Dining’ option for this cruise meaning we can turn up at the restaurant any time between 6pm-9pm. There was a very short queue and we decided that we would be happy to sit with others if that was quicker as we could see some people waiting nearby with pagers. We were seated immediately with another couple who were very friendly and we had a very pleasant dinner with tasty food and good service.
MIL decided she was ready for bed straight after dinner but Mr FFF and I decided to go to another bar for a final drink. We originally chose the Blue Bar which is at the top of the atrium and has a cocktail pianist, however, they couldn’t make the drink I wanted so suggested we go next door to the Glass House. Here I had a very tasty flat white martini which it was worth moving for. Mr FFF had his cocktail of choice – a pint of Peroni. The bar was very quiet which we think was because there was quite a bit of ‘motion in the ocean’ tonight due to the gale force winds.
After our drink, we headed back to our cabin where we were pleasantly surprised to find that although they no longer offer a turn-down service on embarkation day on P&O, our room steward had still left us some chocolates with tomorrow’s Horizon events programme.
All in all, a pretty good embarkation day and we’re now looking forward to having 2 days to relax and explore the ship as we sail towards our first port of call.
Thanks for reading,