Goodbye London- hello Southampton: off to dance around the British isles
Well I really must learn to read my travel information more carefully - though even though the man who checked us in for the coach transport to Southampton agreed that the ship transfer information was written somewhat ambiguously. I found that other people also experienced the same confusion regarding where to go, so it must be partly the way the Cunard documentation is written.
Basically the transfer details state: meet the Cunard representative at the Information desk at Victoria Station and they will direct you where to go to get the coach. Then it says that the coach will leave from the Victoria Coach Station between 11 and 12, and gives the address.
What it does not say is that the information desk to which you must go is at the Victoria Coach Station. For foreigners who have not done their advance research and who do not know that Victoria Station and Victoria Coach station are two separate locations, that is a problem as they are more than two very long city blocks apart.
So my very helpful and chatty cabby dropped me off at Victoria Station as I had asked and it was only after I lugged my suitcase inside that I was told by one of the customer assistance guys at Victoria Station that I needed to be at Victoria Coach Station.
As I lugged my suitcase, weighed down by dance shoes and dance dresses, for two very long city blocks along the uneven pavement, I thought maybe I should change my hobby from dance to swim racing and just pack a few skimpy Speedos instead. The problem is that I hate to put my face in the water, so maybe swimming would not be such a smart idea.
Luckily I was my obsessively early self so when I finally made it to the right information desk the transfer agent gave me a purple ticket for the first coach to leave, around 11:30. While I waited with the other transfer passengers I chatted with a delightful lady from the US and the time went very quickly.
When we finally boarded the coach for the 2 hour ride to the pier at Southampton, our driver told us that an accident had closed the normal route he would take and so the drive would be a bit longer. I thought back to the 5 hour transfer from central Beijing to the Diamond Princess on the South East Asia Ballroom Dancing Cruise that turned into an 8 hour marathon, and hoped the same thing would not happen here. But it did.
Thanks to the changed route it added an additional hour to the driving time. We also stopped at a rest stop and the usual inconsiderate behaviour of a couple of people, kept the whole rest of the coach-load sitting and waiting for them, when they took half an hour to pick up coffee instead of the 15 minutes the driver had told us to take. So overall instead of two hours it took nearly four hours to reach the Queen Victoria in her berth in Southampton.
But once there the Cunard check-in was very efficient and quick. In no time at all I was unlocking the door of my cabin and eagerly looking forward to meeting my cabin-mate and seeing around the ship.
The next ten days will be chronicled in Ballroom Dance Cruising on Cunard's Queen Victoria around the British Isles and will end with a Thames River Cruise on the last evening before I return to Vancouver.