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Well, we’ve come home to find more snow on the ground in Sheffield than there was in Oslo! – which is a bit of a shock. However, it justifies our decision to use the train for this cruise rather than the car. I think we might have been reasonably OK in the car today, but if the snow had been delayed by 12 hours we would have been in a mess.

We selected self-disembarkation and that didn’t go very well. The slot was 7:30 to 8am, but Arcadia was late docking. Not actually getting into Southampton – she was backing into the Ocean Terminal berth at just before 7am * – but I think there may then have been some problem either getting the lines properly deployed, or setting up the sky bridge, or maybe just laying her alongside the berth because in the event self-disembarkation didn’t start until after 8 o’clock. By that time there was a very long queue which wasn’t being managed by anyone and things started to get a little tense. The queue snaked forward from the Deck 3 (Promenade Deck on Arcadia) disembarkation point all the way past the shops, the library and towards the forward lifts, where it turned round and headed back towards the atrium. Some late arrivers were then walking past the absolute back of the queue – now facing *away* from the disembarkation point – and only realising their mistake when they saw how it looped round at the forward lift area. Some of those people then decided that they wouldn’t reverse their steps to the back of the queue, they would just join the queue wherever they were, thus pushing into it ahead of people who had already been queuing; and in some cases, when this was pointed out to them they refused to move. I heard one exchange:- the comment “Excuse me, the queue actually starts back there…” from someone in the queue elicited the response “I’m not moving – I’ll decide where I wait, thank you”. So it all got a bit tense. Val, as ever, was the soul of calmness.

We eventually got off Arcadia at about 08:10, walked through the baggage hall and customs and towards the door. There we had to wait for a few minutes for the Baggage Handling Company person to turn up; but he took the bag off us and said we’d see it on Tuesday. Then a taxi-ride to the station just failed to get us on the 08:30 fast train to London so we bought coffees, etc, and waited for the 09:00 train which got us to Waterloo at about 10:20. This in turn was a bit too late for the train we were aiming for, the 10:58 fast train to Sheffield from St Pancras, so we agreed to not rush and aim instead for the 11:26 slow service, also from St Pancras. But when we arrived at St Pancras there was a lot of confusion. We gathered that not only had yesterday evening’s snowfall disrupted the service we wanted (trees across the line between Chesterfield and Sheffield), but the scheduled closure of the London end of the West Coast main line and the unscheduled closure of the East Coast main line meant that the Midland main line (our line) was the best bet for getting to almost anywhere in the North. So St Pancras was really crowded. Full marks to the St Pancras staff, they were managing the queues admirably and also keeping the waiting passengers informed with frequent announcements. We finally boarded the ’11:26′ at about 11:40.

The journey home itself was without significant incident, except for one final sting in the tail – because of the disruption to the services there was no catering team on our train, so no trolley service of refreshments. We felt very glad that as part of our “let’s not rush for the train” approach, we had bought sandwiches from the M&S Food shop on St Pancras before we’d gone to look for our train. Given that we’d had breakfast in the Belvedere at 06:30 these sandwiches were very welcome. But there were some envious glances…

We arrived in Sheffield just before 2:30 pm and got a taxi out to our home about 5 or 6 miles from the city centre and heading up towards the Peak District. We’d got about two-thirds of the way on reasonably-cleared main roads when we saw a ‘road closed’ sign ahead, and our taxi had to turn off onto the back streets to find a way round the closure. Given that the closed main road was in a valley, diverting down the back roads to find another main road meant climbing up onto the ridges either side of the valley, and these roads were a lot snowier. We were having discussions with our taxi driver as to which side roads would be less likely to be blocked with snow; and even our eventual choice was quite hairy, with the taxi heading very carefully downhill (and back to the original main road) along a side road that appeared to be completely iced-over. But our taxi driver got us home safe and sound.

So then it was a case of shivering for a while before the central heating kicked in, going back out into the snow to get some essential supplies, and finally getting out the snow shovel and clearing snow from the drive and path outside our house. I’ve never had to do that at the end of cruise before…..

So that was our Christmas cruise on Arcadia. I’ll be doing a summary post describing how we fell about it tomorrow.

* – Val has reminded me that we were told in an announcement while we were queuing on Arcadia that the reason for the delay was that “50 knot winds in the Channel delayed Arcadia’s return to Southampton”. Well, maybe, but I’m surprised that it would take an hour to tie the ship up and attach the sky bridge – she was definitely backing into the berth just before 7 o’clock. But what do I know? – perhaps there are extra complexities o/r to Southampton.

2 Responses to “Christmas on Arcadia – the journey home”

  1. Neil R says:

    It was extremely windy berthing (50+ knots as you say) and Arcadia required 3 tugs to get her into Ocean which is a very narrow entrance so I think any delay is perfectly understandable. We were watching the berthing from our balcony and it was a very slow process with the tugs (and bridge crew) having to work very hard. Perhaps passengers realising the ship was still moving and not queuing up but staying in their cabins would have been a more effective way of managing the queues ?

    • Tom says:

      I wasn’t aware that Arcadia had needed tug assistance so thanks for that. I was on the Aquarius deck are at about 7 o’clock by which time Arcadia was parked just by the entrance to the dock, and I suppose I did expect the docking to go quickly after that.

      As for why we were queuing – well, that’s what we’d been told to do! Self-disembarkation was advertised as happening between 7:30 and 8 o’clock, so we went to join the queue pretty much at 7:30. It was still dark then, of course, and with our Obstructed View cabin we couldn’t see whether Arcadia was still moving or not, so we headed down to the Promenade deck.

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