July 13th, 2018
The Journey Home
I have slept exceptionally well every other night on this crossing, but tonight I awoke at 2:00 AM, and just couldn’t fall back asleep.
I decided to go out on deck and watch our progress to Southampton. It was a very dark, but still night, there were very few stars, and no moon out, but I could see the twinkling lights of land in the distance.
I walked around the Promenade Deck, and lingered in my favorite spot near to the spare propellers. I watched our wake from deck 8, and then sat in a deck chair (not that comfortable without a cushion) observing our slow progress through the calm waters towards the Solent. I was expecting it to be windy and chilly, but it was perfect, and by the time I returned to my cabin at dawn’s early light, I was ready to go back to bed and have a couple of hours of good sound sleep.
Before I disembarked I took one long last look around the ship, and went out on deck to say good morning to Southampton and to wave at Queen Elizabeth.
Disembarkation from the Fjording voyage went extremely smoothly. This was not so today. I had booked the coach to Heathrow, and the instructions were that we should wait in the Royal Court Theater at 8:30 until we were called off of the ship.
Well I would estimate that about 85% of the passengers, and their extremely bulky hand luggage, were waiting in the theater. They were all of us waiting for the coaches to the airports and railway stations, but there were also all of the passengers going off on tours, as well as the passengers who were transferring to Queen Elizabeth.
There was no room to wait in the theater, so I stood with the hordes and their luggage milling around in the corridor, trying to interpret the muffled announcements, and hoping that this would all come to an end soon.
Finally someone yelled Red 2 – yay, that was my group, and we surged towards the gangway. Apparently there had been an issue with the gangway earlier this morning, and so no one had been able to disembark for some time. Yes, it was chaos there too.
I bade a sad farewell to the beautiful ship, and walked towards the luggage area in Ocean Terminal. Alas, our luggage was still on the ship, so there was more milling around, but at least we didn’t have to go through immigration.
Then the luggage arrived, and at 9:30 I boarded my coach to Heathrow and said goodbye to Ocean Terminal.
I was going to Terminal 2, but the coach was stopping at Terminals 4 and 3 first.
There was quite a bit of traffic on the road, but we still made it to Terminal 4 by 11:00. The driver announced that we were there, but no one got up to leave the bus. He announced this again – this time gesticulating wildly with his fingers to emphasize that we were at TERMINAL FOUR!!!!! No movement in the coach. We had now waited for 20 minutes, and some passengers were beginning to mumble their annoyance. Then, quite calmly, 4 women stood up and slowly sauntered off the coach. At 11:40 we were able to get going again, with the coach driver muttering that some people just shouldn’t be allowed to travel. He said they knew that they had to get off the coach at Terminal 4, but did not realize that when he said we had arrived at Terminal 4, that meant they needed to get off the coach and collect their luggage and go inside the terminal in order to go on their plane. I can’t imagine what, if anything was going on in their minds.
There was a lot of construction going on so it took another half an hour to get to Terminal 3, and then, shortly afterward we were at Terminal 2.
Traveling alone, and having a flight after 2:00 PM I think it made sense to take the coach, but as Smiths For Airports costs less than 2 coach tickets, I think I will certainly use them in future to get from the port to the airport if I am not traveling solo.
I had just enough time to do some souvenir and chocolate shopping before heading to the gate. There were no Peppermint Aeros in the whole airport. This had not been an issue in Terminal 3 or 5 recently. I do hope it is not going to be a trend. So I had to board the plane in an almost chocolate free state. I do have some Cadbury Flakes, but they are disappearing quickly.
I was flying on United, and despite the fact that it was a full flight; boarding went very quickly and smoothly. It was a very old plane, with a severe deficiency of overhead bin space, but a very obliging flight attendant found room for my little red suitcase (the big red suitcase was safely in the hold by then I assumed), and I settled in to my middle seat for the long flight to Chicago.
I have been on several long haul flights recently, but I must say this was the best despite the very cramped seating conditions and old plane. There were no power outlets or on demand video programs, but the flight attendants were all wonderful. They kept us supplied with wine and Nibnibs, pesto mini breadsticks from Yorkshire according to the packet.
When the afternoon snack of a turkey and cheese sandwich arrived we noticed that it was warm. The flight attendant admitted that they actually taste awful, but if you warm them up they are not so bad. She was right. It was indeed not that tasty, but it was totally edible. Especially if your body is used to being fed every hour or so. I was missing my afternoon tea already.
I was missing my ship. As I flew back home over the vast Atlantic Ocean that I had only recently crossed on Queen Mary 2 I couldn’t help thinking about the saying in regard to transatlantic crossings on ocean liners; “it isn’t the only way to cross, but it is the only way to cross”.
After an extremely long day I eventually arrived home. It had been a wonderful crossing, and I can’t wait to be back on the ocean again. But alas it’s back to work for the next few months!