I have always been fascinated by islands  and have an ambition to visit as many of the British islands as I can fit in, so when we saw a this cruise on our favourite ship, the Balmoral, in the Fred Olsen brochure we looked no further for our 2013 holiday.

We set off from home on a warm sunny day and headed for Southampton in our trusty VW.

The countryside was looking quite different from the last time we travelled that way when the glorious Autumn colours had predominated. This time the colours were more muted, soft golds, beiges, whites and greens. On the roadside the flowers were mainly  dog daisies, ragwort and loosestrife with the occasional small patch of red poppies, blue cornflowers and wild rose bushes. Nearer to Southampton were trails of traveller’s joy.

The traffic was flowing quite freely so we had plenty of time to spare for a stop at the service station for a picnic. As we sat finishing our light meal a delightful small boy wandered over from a neighbouring campervan. He asked us politely if he might look at our camper as they had a T5, but he preferred ours, a T4. He told us that he was called Sam and was 5 years old. He and his father were going on a “men only!” weekend, having left Mummy and new baby sister at home. He had a remarkably wide knowledge of VWs for one so young.

At the cruise terminal we were met by the “meet and greet” team who whisked away our luggage and drove the car away, then we were soon through the boarding formalities and walking on board the very welcome air conditioned Balmoral.

Our cabin was, as usual, immaculate and our luggage was there waiting for us. We had plenty of time to go for a welcome “cuppa” and cake in the Palms cafe and a stroll around to familiarise ourselves with the public spaces before the mandatory boat drill before sailing.

We unpacked and got ready for dinner. We were on a table for six, two from Louth, Lincs, who were delighted to know that I knew Louth from my childhood holidays on the East coast, and two originally from London and now retired to Hampshire. It was a relief to know that we had such pleasant companions.

After dinner we went on deck and watched the coast of the Isle of Wight slipping by. There were many yachts of all sizes sailing around and it set me wondering about this “time of austerity”. Some of  the yachts were small inshore yachts but there were many ocean going luxury craft, so some people have a lot of spare money.

There was a beautiful sunset and it was lovely to enjoy the cooling sea breeze after the evenings we had been spending at home in the humid heat. (I don’t “do” hot weather very well as I grow older!)

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