June 10th 2011

We embarked about 2.30pm and were shown to our cabin where we were met by our stewardess who showed us where to find everything and how things worked. About an hour later we had the mandatory boat drill where we found our assembly stations and practised putting on our lifejackets. We left Southampton at 4.30pm and wondered whether we would ever find our way round the ship!

We had opted for first dinner and, as is usual on the first night, dress code was casual. We were delighted to meet Pat and Tony who shared a table with us. We got along well together from that first meeting, which was a great relief.

After dinner there was agood choice of venues for entertainment, the pub with a pianist, string trio in the Atrium, piano entertainer in the Observatory, dancing to the resident band or a show put on by the Balmoral company ( which reminded me of the end of the pier shows we used to go to when I was younger.)

Saturday 11th June

Once again we were offered a full programme of events to choose from which covered most interests. Various exercise groups for the energetic, dance classes,art classes, bridge tournaments, deck games and various talks.

JW chose the art course and I went to a very entertaining talk by Captain David Bray about his time on a research vessel in Antarctica.

After lunch we wandered around exploring the ship and meeting some of our fellow travellers.

JW had been surprised to find that the Art group instructor, Paul, lives just 10 minutes walk away from us in Cardiff!

Saturday evening was a formal evening and an invitation to the Captain’s cocktail party. Captain Olav Sovdsnses was a very pleasant man and interacted well with both crew and passengers.

After dinner there was once again a choice of venues but I am quite happy watching the sea go by!

Sunday 12th June

Another day at sea. JW went painting again and I investigated the library. I found a book about WW2 written by Germans and strangely found more about HMS Biter (my father’s ship) than I have found in the English books.

There was plenty of opportunity to get to know some of the passengers. They were the usual mixture, mostly pleasant folk, a few oddballs, a few very dedicated health fanatics striding round the promenade decks. Some we hardly saw as they were bridge addicts and seemed to spend much of their days playing endless tournaments. I was even told that some had come on this cruise specifically for the bridge tournaments.

We had set tables only for dinner, so met some interesting people at mealtimes. You could either sit and have waiter service from the menu or serve yourself from a wonderful cold table. One old gentleman amused us by collecting a plateful of healthy salad  and fresh fruit, sending a photograph of the food to his daughter, then returning to the servery for chips and hot pudding!

The crossing of the North Sea was very smooth, (much smoother than some of the crossings I remember from my visits to Norway in the past.)