On the first day of our holiday, August 28th, we were up at 5.00am and starting our journey an hour later. We were due to meet our coach for the journey to Harwich at Cardiff Gate Services coach park at 6.30 and our daughter, Jennie drove us there, arriving more than 15 minutes early.
Unfortunately, the coach drivers (two of them – from Swansea, all of 45 miles away) didn’t know the difference between Cardiff West Services and Cardiff Gate Services. Both are on the M4 motorway but Cardiff Gate is to the east of Cardiff and Cardiff West is… …you guessed it… …and the distance between them is (I am guessing here) about 10-15 minutes driving time. So the coach didn’t arrive at 6.30. or even by 6.45, when I phoned our travel company, Page and Moy, to find out what was happening. The lady who took the call quickly put the coach driver in touch with us and eventually Jennie rescued the situation as she described in her blog later the same day.
Eventually the coach picked us up just after 7.00am so my guess is that the people who joined us at Newport and Cheltenham had also been delayed and I can only hope that Page and Moy’s fine reputation wasn’t undermined, as it was not their fault. After further stops at Oxford and Watford we arrived at Harwich just after 2pm.
At the dockside we were met by a Scottish piper in full kit and piped aboard “Ocean Majesty”. This was a nice touch though it did feel a little incongruous at the time. Boarding was straightforward and our main luggage was transferred from coach to ship for us and awaited us at our cabin.
We were directed to the self-service restaurant on an upper deck where we confined ourselves to light snacks knowing that dinner was scheduled for 6.30pm. Having allowed time for luggage to be distributed to the cabins we found our cabin and started unpacking. At 5.15pm, as we were leaving Harwich, we were summoned (having been forewarned some time earlier) to the mandatory emergency drill in one of the lounges, so that a roll call could be taken and we could be instructed in how to wear our lifejackets, which we had brought from the cabin.
Our first impression of the ship was very favourable and I must say that our opinion of it improved throughout the cruise. After an early dinner at 6.30pm we went to a presentation in the Show Lounge in which it was explained to us who was who and who did what on the ship. After that we had coffee in the Majestic Lounge and took part in a quiz (an almost daily occurrence for us). Later, we watched the slightly rough sea from one of the open decks by the lights from the ship. Although Granny Anne and I have known each other for around 40 years I don’t think that either of us realised before just how much we both are fascinated by the sea and love to be on it.
Hurricane Bill had gradually calmed down during the previous few days while crossing the Atlantic from the east coast of America. The remnants of that storm had passsed over northern England and Scotland and, according to the British Meteorological Office, had finished up in the northern section of the North Sea as a gale force 8, possibly increasing to storm 10. The centre of the remaining storm was forecast to be just north of where we had expected to turn east away from the North Sea. On our first evening aboard we were informed that we would be leaving the North Sea further south than originally intended and passing through the Kiel Canal on our way to Copenhagen, our first port of call.
The next morning I was up at 6.40am and had explored the decks and taken some photographs before an excellent breakfast at about 8.30. It was mainly a day to relax. Although we had not booked any shore excurions for Copenhagen we attended the talk given by our Port Lecturer about Copenhagen. After a light lunch in the poolside restaurant where we had failed to anticipate that it would be a bit windy (and even rained briefly) we both returned to the cabin to rest until we approached the Keil Canal in the early afternoon.
I had hoped to find a better vantage point from which to get pictures of the Keil Canal locks but it was not to be. However, the picture above is best described as follows: The ship is in one of the two channels through the lock which are separated by the strip of “land” on which you can see a couple of small buildings here. To the right of centre of the picture the green object is the roof of the starboard (righthand) extension of the ship’s bridge. The dark grey objects ahead and to the right are the lock gates which slide to the left and right respectively when opened. In the much narrower inland waterways of the UK we are more accustomed to lock gates that swing open and shut.
As the pictures above and below show, the Keil Canal is a very wide waterway and it does carry a lot of traffic. I was surprised and impressed by the fine condition of most of the ships that we saw at close quarters.
One of the great pleasures of this cruise was the very fine meals on board, all of which were included in the price of the cruise, even when we were in a port and could have eaten ashore.
Late in the evening I explored a bit more of the ship and paid a short visit to the Observation Lounge on Deck 8, the highest deck accessible to passengers. Here the pianist Emily was making good music on a baby grand piano. This was fine for 20 minutes or so but as the lounge filled and the noise of umpteen conversations began to drown the music it became depressing. So I went to bed.