A blackbird was singing at 4.30am. My alarm clock was set for 6.30am, but we were awake a bit after 6am.… We got up ca.7am.… I had a swearing session when I couldn’t tighten the straps Janet had bought to go round the cases and protect them from bursting open, for the time for the taxi to arrive was fast approaching. Janet rang the taxi firm ca.9.25am to check whether the taxi was on its way. It was a good job she did: the person insisted that she’d rung for a taxi to pick us up at 3.25am. Janet was equally adamant that she’d said 9.25am! Anyway, a taxi was ordered and arrived a few minutes later.… There was a stiff, cold breeze, but the rain had eased off to intermittent spots. We didn’t shelter in the bus shelter because there was a female nicotine-ridden degenerate in there. The Humber Flyer bus that arrived and that we boarded (09:46) was a single decker, such as is used for the №13. I had a bit of difficulty lifting the cases onto the luggage space above the front left wheel-arch because especially the left arm is weakened. I still have to cover the left elbow with a fresh dressing every day because of its exuding lesions. The bus got quite full en route, which included Hainton Avenue, but nearly emptied at Grimsby bus station. However, it just about filled up again there, so Janet was right when she said we were better getting on the bus at Cleethorpes Pier. Janet felt a bit queasy as the journey proceeded, for the bus goes round many bends and up hill and down dale on its town- and village-including route. The scheduled time of arrival at Paragon Interchange was 10:49. We had Diet Cokes and I had a cheese sandwich in a very draughty and cold little café that’s there. Although the station concourse is covered, the entrances are open to the elements — there are no doors — and similarly the café had a wide, open entrance, not a door. Time was when there was a very comfortable bar-restaurant in Hull Paragon station — but the space that occupied, if memory serves, is now the W. H. Smith book- and magazine-shop. We decamped to the warmer and relatively draught-free waiting room…. I read — re-read, actually — some of WINNERS AND LOSERS: Reconciling The Irreconcilable — Arminianism vs. Calvinism till ca.1.30pm when we decided to go and get a taxi to Alexandra Dock. It was a proper taxi — a “bomber”, as Grant once referred to such — not a “mini-cab”, i.e. ordinary saloon-car used as a taxi. There was a banner saying “Ocean Countess”, and we were dropped off near there. It was ca.13:45, half-an-hour before our scheduled embarkation time; we were prepared to wait, but nobody mentioned it or even seemed to notice. In the large, roofed building without walls that was there, a porter took away our cases and pointed us towards a shuttle bus, which took us, past one or two very large-looking P & O ships, including the Pride of York, to a building near where our middling-large Ocean Countess was moored. We queued for our boarding ticket to be examined and our passports “confiscated”. We were given personalised plastic cards by one of the uniformed women at the counter, who also gave us brief and unintelligible instructions. As we proceeded, a woman in front of us who had done the cruise before explained. We had to have a hand-luggage search before we boarded the shuttle bus and almost straight away got off again — we could have walked the 100 or so yards! — to mount the steep gang-planks up to the Reception Desk entrance. Someone showed us to our cabin, actually on the same Reception Deck. We booked one with a round porthole, but got an “upgraded” one with two more or less square windows.
Detail from the brochure. We’d booked a “Category 8” cabin with portholes, but got a “Category 9” with windows. Janet selected the bed on the right, so I had the left one. The object on the left was a desk, which I used for my computer. Opposite it (not pictured) was a chest of drawers. As one faces the windows, behind and to the left was a long wardrobe, and behind and to the right was the bathroom: toilet, wash-basin, and shower in a curtained cubicle. The TV set was mounted on the outer, backward-facing wall of the bathroom.
It was considerably smaller than the cabin on the Jaz Regency; the single beds pointed at right angles to the direction of travel, one against each wall, whereas on the Jaz Regency they were across the room, parallel to the direction of travel. The Ocean Countess cabin was about the width of a railway carriage. In common with the hotel rooms we’ve encountered, the air-conditioning was blowing cold air. Can’t remember whether I found the ceiling-mounted control, or whether the cabin-steward pointed it out. The “heat” setting didn’t work, but at least we were able to turn the air-conditioning to “off”. Even so, Janet in particular felt cold, and reported the fact to the cabin steward. Not long after we arrived our cases were delivered, first one and then a bit later the other. The power sockets were German-style, so we were OK with the adaptors we’d brought.…Ca.4.20pm there was “lifeboat drill”; there were seven short beeps and one long one on the intercom, and we had to pick up our life jackets and report to the assembly station (or “muster” station) assigned to us — in our case, the “Holyrood Show Lounge” two decks up — to be shown the use of life jackets, etc. There was an announcement on the ship’s intercom about one or two things, including that the Kensington Restaurant was open for first sitting. It was ca.4.45pm, so we figured that she ship must use Norway time (first-sitting dinner was advertised on a daily information-sheet to be at 5.45pm today). So we went first to the reception desk to register my credit card against the plastic cards we had been given (which is what initially we had been unintelligibly instructed to do). Cash is not used on board; purchases are made using these cards. They also serve as boarding passes after excursions. Then we went to the restaurant, were shown to a seat by a waiter — and then one of them told us that dinner wasn’t for another hour. So the announcer lied! Janet’s holiday journal adds here: “So we headed to the Hampton Bar and had a couple of cans of warm Diet Coke [Coca-Cola Light] which cost £4.10. Hellfire!” There was an announcement, ca.5pm, that the ship was about to pass through the narrow passage to the lock gate, which passengers might find worth seeing, before entering the Humber estuary, so I went up on deck, and took photos from various decks and locations. Approaching the narrow exit and the dock gate 17:25:48 17:28:20
Movie clip — 17:30:30 17:31:36 17:31:50 P & O Pride of Rotterdam and in the distance the Humber Bridge 17:33:42 17:36:40 Zoomed-in view of the Pride of Rotterdam and the Humber Bridge 17:40:36 Looking aft 17:42:12 Looking forward: Hardly any gap on the port side 17:43:24 Slightly wider gap on the starboard side
I went back to the cabin — it was now really first-sitting dinner time: 17:45, both ship’s time and our time! — and Janet and I went up to the Kensington Restaurant. The waiter had previously seated us at Table 83, which was to be our table at dinner for the whole of the cruise. There were six places — three couples — and the men sat together on one side and the women the other. By the window were Modge (real name Maureen; “modge” is apparently another word for “moorhen”, a play on “Maureen”) and Melvin; she was recovering after chemotherapy. In the middle, a couple with pronounced Hull accents, Anne and Brian; she had retired from working at the Jobcentres in Hull Market Place and Hessle, and knew S.A.M. Elliott [a former manager at our Jobcentre in Grimsby]. I didn’t realise that the menu items were six or seven courses, which could all be had consecutively, and I only selected a few; consequently I wasn’t full afterwards. A plug-in fan-heater had been provided when we got back to the cabin. 20:04:22 Views after dinner from our (port side) cabin window 20:04:42 Passing Spurn Head 20:05:12 20:06:32 20:07:08 20:07:30
Out in the North Sea the ship began to pitch and roll. Paper bags appeared, suspended from the handrails in the corridor, printed: “Sickness bag”, “Spuckbeutel”, “Sacchetto vomito”, “Sac vomitoire”. I started to feel queasy, but it didn’t get any worse than that. Ran the photos through Adobe Photoshop to adjust levels, etc. (20:13–20:18), and pasted them in a PowerPoint show (21:28). Perhaps did some diary update… using the netbook (what Janet terms “the Little Feller”). Then perhaps lay on the bed and continued reading WINNERS AND LOSERS: Reconciling The Irreconcilable — Arminianism vs. Calvinism, again using “the Little Feller”.