I was awake early this morning, anxious being the best way of describing my mood and it probably has more to do with the pre-boarding Covid test. We are normally really well organised before we go on a cruise and on this occasion it just didn’t feel like we were, I can’t put my finger on it but the feeling was there. Taking a lateral flow test prior to leaving home eased my concerns and we were soon on our way to Portsmouth. All went well until we arrived at the testing station where we encountered a long queue and wait to go with it. Not being able to get into the actual covid testing car park, we ended up using the park and ride and walking round to the testing station where we joined the back of a very long queue. We were eventually tested at 4:00 pm and as soon as my negative result came back we headed back to the car for the short drive to the port.
From there it was a greatly improved experience, with nobody at the check-in desks we sailed through in minutes, security was much the same. There followed a short bus ride from the cruise terminal to the ship and we found ourselves sat next to Tom McAlpin the CEO of Virgin Voyages, he had a mask on but his disguise didn’t fool me. Because of the delay in getting on board, we were able to go straight to the cabin where we watched the muster video on the TV. I have to say it’s a little different from what we have been used to and I do wonder how practical it really is. If instructions being sung to you in a rock video style is your thing then you should be fine. To complete the process we then had to check-in at our muster station which for us was at an area called The Roundabout.
Back to the cabin, it generally looks great, a little bit pinched in places but it has a really airy feel to it. There are lots of innovative ideas which include a tablet where you can control curtains, lights, air-conditioning and the TV. The night ended up being a bit of a dash as we had pre-booked a table in one of the eateries called Razzle Dazzle for 7:00 prior to getting onboard. Because Nicole is vegan it was the first one we wanted to check out as there were plenty of options for her. I can report back that it was absolutely delicious and Nicole was over the moon with her food. Towards the end of our meal, Tom McAlpin came over the public address system to apologise for the issues encountered with the Covid testing, as a gesture of goodwill, beers, house wine was free in all restaurants and sparkling wine throughout the ship for the evening. This was later updated to all bars and $100 onboard credit per cabin. Sailaway was delayed by 2½ hours and we eventually set off at 9:30 to nowhere.
We passed by the Spinnaker Tower on our way out, which put on a light show, flashing lights and changing colours as we passed. I don’t know if it is a regular thing but it was great to see. We probably would not have seen this if we had sailed when we were supposed to. I haven’t seen any guidance with regards to mask-wearing and there are a good deal of people going without and it seems like it might be the same set-up as the UK at the moment, in contrast, all crew are wearing them. We eventually retired for the evening at about 11:00, feeling tired from all the hanging around during the afternoon. Tomorrow we will get a better look around the ship with the luxury of time we didn’t get today.