Saturday, June 10, 2006
Shortly after 5pm the ship pulls away and heads down the Solent towards the Isle of Wight and the English Channel.
Our evening meal is taken in the Medina Restaurant. As last year we are on the early sitting which suits us well. We share our table with some newbie cruisers, a couple from Prestwich only a few miles from us and a couple from Hampshire. Making up the eight are two women from Nottinghamshire. I'm not sure if they are mother and daughter or just friends who met through work. They've certainly been on several previous cruises together. The Hampshire lady is also in a wheelchair, but a manual lightweight folding one so she is able to access some of the excursions unavailable to Christine.
After dinner we go for a stroll around the ship. Christine buys a lovely sunhat. It proves to be a useful purchase as the sun shines for the majority of the cruise. We visit the Tours Office and find that, in addition to ones in St. Petersburg, wheelchair-accessible excursions are also available in Copenhagen and Helsinki. We get our names put down for them.
Our cases are already in the cabin when we arrive.
The room is spacious and most of the wardrobe rails are low and easy to use.
There is a lovely picture window with a view across the river to a dome and chimney which belong to the waste incinerator at Marchwood.
We go to the taxi desk. "I'm sorry", he says, "We don't have any vehicles that carry people confined in wheelchairs. I can ring one of the firms that do though; there are three we use."
After several minutes we go back and ask what is happening.
"One's on holiday, one's off sick and the other doesn't do it anymore. We'll try someone else."
Ten minutes later we are told they've found someone but they can't get here until 12.30. It's a good job we aren't in a hurry!
Rob's Taxi from Eastleigh arrives as promised and whisks us down to the Mayflower Cruise Terminal.
At least, after our long wait at the airport, we don't have to wait too long here before boarding the ship.
We are last off the plane, but Christine is soon reunited with her wheelchair. We are led through to collect our luggage.
I thought I'd got a spare set of camera batteries with me, but the ones in my pocket seem to be dead. So I stand guard over the luggage while Christine goes into W.H.Smiths and buys me a new set. She also buys herself a couple of paperbacks.
So now to see about getting a taxi down to the ship.
Our taxi driver Roland arrives just before 7am.
He takes us down to Manchester Airport. We check in and move on to the departure lounge. Although due to leave at 8.45, it is after nine before we are loaded on to the plane. Christine releases her wheelchair for storage in the hold and two burly men carry her on to the plane.
We fly over Jodrell Bank Telescope. In-flight meals are no longer included in the fare and though £10 seems a bit much for two airline breakfasts, we have them anyway and they are very tasty.
Around 10.30 we arrive at Southampton Airport