November 3rd we set off for Southampton about 9 am (a more civilised hour than on previous cruises because we were travelling independently in our new campervan instead of by coach). There had been a heavy shower earlier in the day but this had cleared and the sky was blue and the sun was bright by the time we left.

The countryside by the M4 was beautiful. The fields were green and gold and the trees and hedges were a tapestry of green, gold and russet with the odd touches of shimmering silvery aspen leaves and white hedge flowers, all enhanced by the recent raindrops glittering in the sunshine.

The traffic flowed evenly and it was a straight forward route so we made good time and stopped for a picnic lunch near Southampton and then ‘phoned the parking company for arrangments at the docks.  They told us which dock to drive to, where we should unload our luggage and then take the car to the short stay car park across the road where our chauffeur would be waiting to collect the car. We followed these instructions, the luggage was unloaded by the porters and conveyed to our cabin. We checked in in the terminal, went speedily through passport control and emigration and onto the ship. It was all so easy  no walking around in stockinged feet clutching transparent bags of toilet articles as you do at the airport! This is one reason why I don’t like travelling by air, it’s not flying I dislike it’s the airport procedure.

Our cabin was roomy and equipped with everything we needed for a comfortable journey.

The mandatory boat drill took place as soon as the gangplank was raised, before we sailed and was very thorough.

We had booked the cruise via (who had been very friendly and efficient throughout) and their sister company Victoria Travel had arranged a garden theme for this cruise so our first event was a welcome party before dinner where we met our hosts, Matthew Biggs, Tony Russell and David Hurion. These were all names we knew from the media but it was lovely to meet them in person. They were very friendly and approachable and intent on providing an extra dimension to our cruise.

At dinner we met our waiter, the charming Bagus from the Phillipines and our dining companions. Once again we were lucky and soon became friends with Roger and Barbara from the Isle of Wight and David and Barbara from Stafford.

After dinner there was the usual variety of entertainment available plus the shops and library to explore etc. but we just wandered around and as it was quite mild we sat on deck and gazed at the sea!