NORWEGIAN ESCAPE 25th October 2015, the final part
Tuesday 27th October 2015
Arriving by sea in Southampton was quite a novelty this morning. I can't remember when I last did that, apart from the ferry from the Isle of Wight or on the dreaded URIAH HEAP ferry from Hythe. We had berthed bow in to the new Ocean Terminal, although the ship's lifeboats hanging out made it impossible for the vessel to go fully in.
One friend disembarked early to return to work, another friend left and would be back later, so I had time to myself until another good friend arrived for the one night cruise out of Southampton.
I went to Guest Services for my new cabin card, wheeled my small suitcase to my new cabin, and after breakfast walked easily off the ship and out of the port area.
I had seen that the there was a really low tide in Southampton Water today, which was interesting. I took a local bus into the city and enjoyed a little while just wandering around the big shopping complex before going for coffee. My family back home were all well and glad to hear from me, so I returned to the ship for another little cruise - it's so odd to say that.
We were berthed in the current Ocean Terminal, and I remembered berthing in the old Ocean Terminal on the CAPETOWN CASTLE back in the late 1960s when I was a Purserette with Union-Castle Line. This city holds so many memories for me, and all of them memorable, whether of people or ships.
Back on board I decided to have a late lunch today in the O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill. A cheerful steward took my order and asked where I came from. I explained I lived in the South of England and he told me that he lived in the UK but was off to the States with the ship for the foreseeable future. He was so happy because his brother had come on board today as a guest so they might get a little time together later when he was off-duty. For now he was enjoying his job and meeting new people.
After lunch and good wishes to the efficient and happy steward I went to Guest Services to see if another of my dear friends had yet arrived on board. The lists were checked but apparently he is not yet here. I went back to my lovely new Studio cabin and telephoned to leave a message suggesting we meet in the Atrium at 3.30.
My 'Hamburg ferry' friend arrived back on board, now also in his Studio cabin, and we both headed to the Atrium to meet our one-night party-person. He told us he had been on board since late morning, which made a nonsense of me asking Guest Services to check if he was already on board. I remember being on board NORWEGIAN GETAWAY in January 2014 and there was a distinct lack of liaison between shore-side and ship-board members of staff. Ah well, he is here now and we can enjoy some tea together in the Atrium. We were able to show him the Studio Lounge before his whistle-stop tour of the ship with our Hamburg friends.
At 4 p.m. we all had to attend a mandatory lifeboat drill, even though we have been on board since Sunday and attended one then.
The ship is to sail from Southampton at 5 p.m. and by this time it was dark and raining in torrents. We had all arranged to meet on the Sun Deck to watch our departure and indeed headed up there, searching for whatever shelter we could find. I stood in my wet weather gear in the partial shelter of an outdoor shower cubicle but time passed without any activity and we all decided to meet for a drink in the Meridian Bar instead. I left the deck and through the darkness and heavy rain I could see another big cruise ship leaving her berth so I supposed that it would eventually be our turn, but suddenly it didn't matter.
Our Hamburg friends joined us and then we headed for the Manhattan Room for another Freestyle Dining experience. We were really looking forward to this as the tables were all set around a dance floor and small dais with a quartet of musicians on it. We had to queue of course but finally were allocated a table and enjoyed the ambience and music in this lovely room. The menus offered us all a good choice, and we enjoyed our meal and conversation together. Some goodbyes were said in case we didn't meet in the morning.
Wednesday 28th October 2015
I had a very comfortable night's sleep, this time in my Studio cabin, although in the early hours I was disturbed by a short broadcast telling me that the event code bravo ? was now over; this was repeated. I got the impression that someone had not shut off the correct switches to exclude passenger cabins from hearing the broadcasts. I went back to sleep immediately.
My alarm went off and the day started in Southampton. Once again the ship had berthed with her bow in, but not fully into the Ocean Terminal because of the overhanging life boats. We had arranged to meet for breakfast in the Garden Cafe up on Deck 16 aft, but that proved impossible because of the number of people there, mostly in groups. I found a space, and luckily my Hamburg friends came to claim me. We had more to eat at another table and then said our goodbyes.
Once I was allowed off the ship I headed for a taxi outside the Terminal and shared it with someone else going to the local railway station. One of my American friends had been staying overnight in Southampton before sailing on the ship and, although time pressures prevented us meeting, we exchanged messages and greetings.
I looked back at the huge NORWEGIAN ESCAPE and felt so lucky that I had been able to sail on her for three nights. I had particularly enjoyed my time in Hamburg before sailing, and it was a contrast to be on such a big vessel after that. The ship has some teething problems but these will presumably be sorted out during the coming week or months. Tomorrow she sails from Southampton for Miami and her life cruising in warmer climes but she is an interesting vessel, with much to recommend her.