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We’re on Solstice, on day 2 – the first full day – of our 11 night E Med cruise, and this is my first blog from the cruise. It covers yesterday – travelling to Civitavecchia & embarkation.

Our trip started on Sunday afternoon with the drive from Sheffield to Heathrow, where we had booked an overnight stay + 12 days’ parking at the Renaissance Hotel. We had a bad night’s sleep because of a noisy air-conditioner, and as a result Val especially didn’t sleep much. Then we were up at 5:30 in order to be ready for the bus to Terminal 5 at 7 o’clock and our entry to the Heathrow Passenger Processing machine. This did its usual efficient job (and more quickly than previously), so by about 8 o’clock we were airside and waiting for the gate to open.

The flight should have left at 9:15 but being delayed by almost 30 minutes it was a bit after 1 o’clock when we landed at Rome. Getting through passport control took quite a while as there weren’t many booths open and there was some confusion between those with EU passports and those without. By the time we’d done this our luggage was waiting for us so there was no delay there. There was however a bit of a wait for the transfer bus – we’d just missed one, apparently – so it was about 2:30 before we set off. The drive to Civitavecchia took just under an hour, but on arrival at the terminal we had to go through security again, so by the time we done that, had checked in and walked onto the ship is was approaching 4 o’clock. Out of the eight hours elapsed time between leaving the hotel & walking onto Solstice, less than half was spent actually moving, the rest was spent waiting to be inspected or processed, or both. Ah, the joys of 21st century travel! We feel glad that our next cruise will be ex-Southampton – much easier…

By the time we embarked we were very hungry so we hardly looked at the cabin but instead headed for the buffet. Suitably sustained we then had to face the muster drill at 5 pm. Frankly, this was not a good experience: we stood at our muster station (the photo gallery in our case) while a crew member quietly called out cabin numbers, and then we tried to watch a video about the evacuation procedure. Then CD Drew Pavlov made an announcement about – well, about various things – and then someone else made announcements in Spanish & French. All very important, but also very tiring, especially when one is hot, sticky and tired. Things looked up after that however when we went to the Cruise Critics sailaway party at the Sunset Bar. Unfortunately we didn’t find Donna who had organised it but we met Fred from New Jersey and his wife from Glasgow (originally) and talked to them until well after we’d sailed. And drank a few glasses of wine…

After returning the cabin we did our best to attend to a few housekeeping things – unpacking, for example. This seemed to go more easily this time – maybe it was the wine. Baasically we emptied the suitacases onto the bed and then stuffed the contents into drawers or onto hangers. Quick & easy; although as I write this, Val has told me that today she can’t find anything. I bought my internet package as well: $99 for [a lot of minutes] + 45 extra minutes because it’s the first day of the cruise + 10% more minutes because we’re Captain’s Club members.

Then it was time for dinner. This turned out to be a disappointment. Not because of the food, but because of our table companions. We were on a table for 8 (as we’d requested), and it turned out that the other 6 were a group of French Canadiand who were travelling together, and their native language was French which was what they spoke amongst themselves throughout the meal. Worse yet, the very first thing that they said to us was, effectively, “do¬† you mind not sitting here? We’ve got another friend who’s on his own and it would be good if he could join us instead of you….” We said we’d think about it, and at the end of the meal agreed that we’d ask for a change of table. Then it was straight to bed – we were very tired and the clocks went forward to Greek time.

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