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This being December, and with memories of last December in mind, we had decided to travel to Southampton by train. This meant an early start on Wednesday to get a bus into Sheffield in plenty of time for the 08:27 train to St Pancras. Then we had to get across London to Waterloo in order to get another train to Southampton. All this worked well, albeit with some effort – you don’t realise just how much walking there is around Tube stations, and how many steps there are, until you’re doing it with some bags. But we got to Southampton Central just before 1 o’clock. We then ran into some delays: the shuttle bus didn’t turn up for about 40 minutes or so, and there was a lot of hanging around inside the City terminal while ‘essential maintenance’ on Black Watch was completed. So it was about 2:30 before we embarked.

The cabin is very nice – we bought a cheap upgrade to a Balcony Suite. To be truthful, the cabin itself isn’t that much bigger than the balcony cabin on Ventura, and the balcony itself doesn’t compare at all. But the cabin is fully-functional and the bathroom is definitely more spacious than any we’ve had before.

So we went through the usual embarkation-afternoon activities: explore the ship a bit, check the dinner menu, attend the safety drill, and finally that first glass of wine. Fred Olsen sell wine in 150ml glasses, which is a bit small, whereas two such glasses is perhaps a bit large. We had two anyway, of course.

We sailed at about 4:30, by which time it was already dark. It seemed to take us quite a long time to get going – almost a couple of hours before we passed Newport on the Isle of Wight. Up until then we had been in the protection of the island, but as we went further on we were increasingly exposed to a strong wind and quite rough seas, and Black Watch began to move around quite a bit.

Dinner was at 20:30 – ‘smart casual’ on this first night – and we went down to the Glentanar restaurant to our table for six. However, there were only four of us. We chatted a bit before the numbers were reduced still further – readers, I must admit that I felt shaky and unwell, and couldn’t eat anything. After about half an hour I made my apologies and went back to the cabin where I found a comfortable position on the settee and dozed for the next hour or more. Val stayed and enjoyed her dinner, and the conversation with our table companions, before returning to the cabin at just after 10 o’clock where she found me still dozing. Then after putting our watches forward the obligatory hour we retired. Black Watch creaked and groaned her way through the night, although after a couple more hours the rolling reduced a lot. I woke once at about 4am and saw that we were already going up the river, and by this time the ship was very steady, of course.

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