Sunday, September 1 –
Today I would be leaving for Norway, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I would be cruising to Scandinavia from Southampton, the largest city in Hampshire on the south coast of England. The cruise would last nine days and eight nights exploring some of the most beautiful scenery of southern and western Norway.
After breakfast, my family and I caught a cab from the Marriott Hotel in London’s Maide Vale neighborhood to the Victoria Coach station. There we boarded our transfer bus around noon to Southampton. The 80-mile journey took us about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We traveled the A4 through pretty Richmond and Twickenham in west London before heading down the M3 through Winchester to Southampton.
Southampton is a major port and lies at the northernmost point of Southampton Water near the River Test. The city is a significant entry/exit port for cruises and maintains a strong maritime history. It’s perhaps most famous as the origination port of the RMS Titanic. Hopefully our ship, the Crown Princess, wouldn’t meet the same fate in frigid Norwegian waters!
After going through check in and British customs, we boarded the ship. When we reached our rooms, our bags were already there with the luggage tags we attached earlier. My brother and I were on Deck 12 (Aloha) on the port side. We had a balcony, which was definitely worth the extra money. Mom and Dad were in the exact same location in a balcony on the starboard side.
While I had cruised between Greece and Turkey and also traveled on an expedition cruise to Antarctica, this was the first large cruise ship I have ever experienced. It was fascinating to see the incredible size of Crown Princess, which is almost 950 feet long and 185 feet high. On board are a multitude of restaurants along with a huge theater, casinos, nightclubs, several pools, a spa, a mall … you name it. The ship was launched in 2006 and can accommodate 3,080 passengers. I read that the maximum speed is a brisk 22 knots.
Around 16:00 p.m., we sailed from the Southampton passenger terminal on the River Test down the Southampton Waterway to the coast. My brother and I played mini-golf on the top deck, which was actually quite challenging as the ship listed and destroyed our putting game. We saw the beautiful Isle of Wight to our starboard side and passed the Royal Naval base town of Portsmouth on our port side.
Later we joined Mom and Dad for dinner at the Botticelli Restaurant. Princess gives you the option of eating anytime at some restaurants or staying with a set time at a restaurant like Botticelli. We decided to stay with the latter. It was a four-course meal and I thoroughly enjoyed my steak and a light cheesecake for dessert. Our Filipino waiter, Raul, did a fantastic job and provided outstanding service.
As we watched sunset cruising up the English coast, we passed through the English Channel. Later my brother and I could see the famous white Cliffs of Dover from our room as we cruised north between England and France. I slept well and dreamt about the adventures awaiting us in Scandinavia.