EMBARKATION – LONDON TILBURY

After a pleasingly uneventful journey south yesterday and a relaxed stay in a local hotel last night, we arrived at Tilbury Cruise terminal today at around 12:30 (half an hour before embarkation was officially due to start).

Getting there early meant that unloading our stuff and taking the van to the car park was a breeze. With this being a one-way trip (ship-wise, that is – we’ll be flying home from Sydney), all my art materials were boxed up to be taken on board via the regular luggage channels, as opposed to the usual process of everything being stuffed in my large plastic chest of drawers, and wheeled on by myself.

Car parking has also not been quite as straightforward as it usually is. Because we’re only doing the first leg of the World Cruise, it means we’ll have to navigate from Heathrow Airport on our arrival back in the UK, back to Tilbury, and then arrange to have someone unlock the car park so that we can retrieve the van, because the ship doesn’t return until the 5th of May. Only time will tell if the necessary logistics have been calculated properly.

Once inside the Terminal building, we, along with a couple of our fellow tutors and lecturers, were processed swiftly and fast-tracked through the embarkation process, and were in our cabin unpacking before we knew it.

Unfortunately, for one reason or another – although, I suspect it might have something to do with all the paperwork that needs verifying – confirmation of all the necessary visas and a check of all passengers with regards to their immunity to measles due to a reported serious outbreak in Tahiti – embarkation for most of the passengers seemed to be a long and slow process.

By 7:30pm, we’d left Tilbury and were finally on our way. Our cabin is right next door to the one we had on the Columbus in October, with the added bonus of having a less-obstructed view from the window. It’s a large, relatively spacious cabin with a kettle and even a fridge (luxuries unheard of on the Marco Polo)… so we’re over the moon about that.

It is worth noting that they’ve done away with the bottles of water usually left out in the cabin and provided everyone with water containers that can be refilled at the water stations in the bistro.

I’ve also learnt this evening that we’re missing a craft instructor, which means that I’ll only be sharing the Craft Studio with one other person; Chrissie, the Creative Writing Instructor. Again, this is relative luxry, although there was a slightly anxious moment when we thought that this would mean I would need to rustle up far more classes than I actually have art materials for. Fortunately, Lee, the Assistant Cruise Director, who is in charge of the itinerary, is one step ahead, and has arranged it so that we alternate the room and work one day on, one day off, so we’ll only have to run the same number of classes as contracted for. Having said that, putting me down for a class tomorrow morning, just before we arrive at Rotterdam, only one day after embarkation and after clocks have been put forward one hour seemed a bit odd. My first class just might be a quiet one as a consequence… we’ll see…

Tomorrow, we are due to arrive at Rotterdam, in the Netherlands at 12:30pm, our first port-of-call, before turning tail and heading back in an Easterly direction towards the Azores, in the Atlantic Ocean. This stop is mostly to take on about 200 German passengers, and for some folks to be getting off after the previous cruise. In readiness for my class, which is due to start at 10am, Tracey and I have been into the Craft Room and set most things up, to save us a little bit of time in the morning.

Until then… we need to sleep…

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