Saturday, 11th September, 2021

The morning of the cruise passed quicker than I thought it would – after packing and grabbing a quick lunch in the Royal Victoria Country Park, where we could see Iona docked, it was time to book our Uber.

The Uber arrived promptly at 3.12 PM and as the Southampton Boat Show was happening, plus Southampton FC were playing West Ham, we thought the traffic might be bad, the Uber driver even said, “I’m not sure why I picked up this fare, I wanted to avoid Southampton today,” but her worries were unfounded as we breezed into Southampton, taking only about 15 minutes.

On arrival at Ocean Terminal, we immediately saw where to leave our suitcases and we were directed towards the COVID testing area. We must have queued for about 10 minutes and after having our COVID certificates checked and boarding pass looked at, we were having our tests done. The test itself was very easy, just up the nostrils, the lady administering mine said I was very relaxed!

Onto filling in another Health Questionnaire and then sitting in the departure lounge waiting for our results. Typically, hubby’s came in first and then I had a nervous wait for about three minutes waiting for my result. It seemed to take forever and it wasn’t helped by hubby saying to me, “If your result is positive then I’ll go on board and wave to you as we pass our village. You can go back to work on Monday.! But thankfully, it came through and we were on our way to the booking in desk which took about five minutes and then it was onto security. Pre-COVID security was always the most nerve-wracking, but now it was a breeze.

And then it was the moment we had been waiting over 18 months for…. we were on a cruise ship!

After being scanned in at our muster station which was The Glass House, we made our way to our cabin on the 14th deck and a standard balcony.

These were the flowers from our Ultimate Celebration Package that we purchased before we boarded. We decided to buy this package as it was our 36th Wedding Anniversary on the Tuesday of the cruise.

Overall, we were impressed with the cabin, on our arrival there were flowers, chocolates, a bottle of champagne, slippers and a dressing gown each waiting for us. There should have been a couple of commemorative champagne glasses but these weren’t there, but after a chat with the room steward that was remedied. The cabin could sleep four people via sofa bed and a Pullman bed, but I think it would have been a bit of a squeeze especially if it was four adults. The storage was a bit limited, but it was fine for hubby and me.

My next task and I say task as that is what it felt like, was the dreaded My Holiday app. At first I loaded it onto my iPad, but it was very slow and as soon as I loaded it onto my iPhone it sped up considerably. I managed to book Sonia in the Limelight Club for Friday night, mainly because we were watching shows on the rest of the evenings and Coral Restaurant for Celebration Night and Aqua Restaurant for Wednesday night.

So it was time to explore the ship, but first stop was the Laguna Bar to activate the Ultimate Drinking Package, what I mean by activate is put a sticker on our cruise card!

A quick look outside and we ended up at the Sunset Bar where we had our first cocktail, a Pina Colada. From there, we decided to visit Brodies, the English-styled pub, it was very quiet, but I suppose people were having their dinner by now. A Cider for me and a Guiness (or two) for hubby, although at first he was disappointed they didn’t have it on draught, but he said that the canned Guiness was very good.

We headed back to the cabin to get ready for our evening meal (we hadn’t booked anything yet) and as we sat on the balcony overlooking Southampton Docks we met our cabin neighbour, Paul. After a little chat we decided that we would like to eat at the Cow and Keel tonight, so we joined the virtual queue of six people and by the time we had gone down the six or so flights of steps to reach the Cow and Keel, our My Holiday app told us that the table was ready. You had to pay a supplement for these meals.

On reading reviews on Facebook about this restaurant, I had sung the praises of it to my hubby, he is a chef and so enjoys good food and boy were we not disappointed!

Hubby had a salmon starter, which he said was the best he’d had in a long while and he was totally gobsmacked with the Prime Minister Burger. I had the duck lollipops (pictured) which was totally delicious and pork belly for my mains, again delicious. This was all washed down with a couple of glasses of Beefsteak Malbec each. I’m not a huge fish fan, so you’ll find out that hubby will choose fish more often than not when we’re away.

We didn’t have any room for dessert, which is unheard of for hubby as he loves his desserts, so we agreed to come back another time and try them, all for the sake of research of course!

A walk around the Promenade Deck where we saw the infamous conservatory cabins. They didn’t look too bad to us, but it was at night and the deck wasn’t busy. We ended up at the Sunset Bar and decided to go into the Club House where the band, Pulse, were about to play a session of pop songs.

They played some great songs, but it felt strange not being able to dance but there was plenty of arm waving and chair dancing. The set only lasted about 35 minutes, which didn’t seem very long and I enjoyed a Pina Colada and hubby had a beer.

From there it was up to the Crows Nest, which did take a bit of finding, but we managed it eventually. There was a piano player and I had my usual night cap of a Baileys and hubby had a Jamesons. One thing I don’t understand with the Unlimited Drinks Package is that you cannot order a double Baileys, which would still be under the £6.95 cap, I mean, it would save the waiter’s an extra trip to the bar!

A walk back to the cabin at around 12:15 AM, a very good start to our cruise!

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