This is it folks, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the conclusion of this epic drama. Much like the end of the world, it will end not with a bang, but with a whimper.
A not so early start. Our final excursion is only a brief one. Everyone we speak to, members of our tribe and people at breakfast, tell us we are mad and that we will be cutting it fine. Our scheduled time to disembark the big boat is 1.45pm. The excursion is due to finish at 12.15pm. We were apprehensive but the people who run the excursions, who wear P&O uniforms and have P&O name badges but don’t work for P&O, assured us that we would be back in time and that even if we weren’t they’d know we were missing and retrieve us. We have a huge bill to pay remember.
It’s a short ride out in a boat to where the Atlantis Submarine was waiting for us. The waves were pretty choppy as the winds were still high and so the the thing was bobbing all over the place. We were the first aboard, you climb down a ladder and then scoot along a bench to sit in front of one of many portholes. The waves were rocking the submarine pretty hard and The Wife decided she didn’t like it. I think it was the demonstration of the bag thing you need to put over your head in order to get back to the surface in the case of an emergency. It was a little off putting to say the least. She doubled back and left whilst myself and The Sister stayed put. It was expensive and we had endured far too much stress, anxiety and drama to bail out now.
I’m glad we did stay, The 30 minute trip was extraordinary. It was a lot like Subnautica for me. We were sat at the front so we could see what the pilot was seeing and doing. Once we got below the waves we were no longer subject to the choppy conditions above and our journey became serene. There were tons of fish to marvel at and we went past a 40 year old ship wreck that had been claimed by the sea, now home to many forms of life. The whole experience was brief but felt like we had seen a great deal in the time allotted. We even got certificates at the end. Took some cool video and photos too, everything has a blue hue to it down there in the depths. It’s the only colour of light that really makes it that far down apparently.
We arrived back at the boat at exactly 12.15pm. Our Luggage had already been collected as per the paperwork we had do way back on day 2 but our carry on bags were being stored in the playhouse, we retrieved them and went to Peninsular for lunch. I had the falafel. It was dry and bland. I only really wanted some coffee.
The boat had become Limbo, The Wife had several times drawn the conclusion that we had all died at some point and this ship was somehow purgatory, a holding area between one world and the next. It really was just people waiting around, no where to go, nothing to do. Every available seat was taken by someone looking at their watch or catching up on the headline news about KFC running out of chicken back home. It was like Gods waiting room with most of the passengers being in their later years. The rest of the tribe had an earlier flight as they had paid extra to fly from Birmingham airport. We, being seasoned travellers, opted to travel from Gatwick. If you add up fuel, parking and a room for the night it was still a lot less than paying extra to fly from the worst airport I’ve ever been to. And I’ve been to tiny airports in Vietnam and Indonesia, both of which put BHX to shame just on customer service alone.
The family disembarked on their final coach ride before us. We in fact left the big boat half an hour behind schedule. We had a completely emotionless farewell with Azura and were whisked away back to the airport. We straight away joined a queue for security screening, one benefit of the cruise being had already passed immigration and thus, our queue was smaller and moving faster than everyone else trying to get home.
The airport itself was fairly horrendous, there were a few places to get food and a small bar but nothing special. The rest of the family were still there, their flight was half an hour late. Our flight had no gate number, even when our boarding time came. A few of us that were clearly waiting on the same information went and hassled the lady at an information desk and she gave us a gate number and told us it would still be a while.
We boarded our Tui flight, this time armed with snacks knowing that P&O were savages for wringing those extra few bucks out of travellers. Making our way to our seats we saw a few friendly faces we had encountered over the last two weeks, The Hair people were present and accounted for too. We left Barbados 55 minutes late which is by no means our longest delay to date.
That’s where the story ends. So, to summarise, always read the horizon magazine. Take lots and lots of cash if you intend to do any exploring or eating away from the ship. Do talk to people and especially dine with other people, some you’ll like, some you wont. Try new foods, don’t be afraid to order anything, again some you’ll like, some you wont. Unlike people, you can send it back and get something more to your liking. You can even ask for random extras on your plate. Don’t be afraid to complain either. Make sure you pack the required clothing, you are going to need smart clothes and black tie evening wear. Don’t be fooled by the word casual, casual is a lie. Don’t stress, everything is easier than it seems and the process has been run through many times before. There is almost always food available in the buffet, just take it in moderation. It’s true what they say about needing a second set of clothes in a larger size for the second week. Take your gym kit and use the gym on board if you really want to indulge though.
I don’t wish to put anyone off cruises. The vast majority of people on board loved it. I guess if you’re the right type of person then it would be a great holiday. For us, not so much. As I write this, long after the events I am in Scotland and I’ve not long returned from my trip to the Maldives. I’m already think about a comparison piece between the two. Not Scotland and the Maldives, obviously only one winner there.