by Mary Jo
Did you know that cruise ships migrate like birds? In summer they flock to Europe, cruising from Nordic regions to the Mediterranean and more. In autumn, they turn and head to the Western hemisphere, particularly the Caribbean. They do this because tourists follow the sun, and so do the cruise ships.
This means that ships do repositioning cruises twice a year, spending days crossing the Atlantic with very few ports of call. This is great if you like lots of lazy days at sea and the Mayhem Consultant and I do. Hence we cruised from Southampton in England to Miami, with three stops in Europe and seven glorious sea days.
Southampton is a major port city on the south coast of England and the storied home of Cunard cruise ships. The best way to get there for most people is to fly to London, two hours to the north, and who wouldn't want an excuse to visit London??.
Having read far too many of my books where characters reside in the upscale Mayfair area, the MC found us a hotel in Mayfair, and very conveniently located it was. We had a wonderful time catching up with English friends at the hotel restaurant, and when we needed to get Covid tests within 48 hours of boarding our ship, the concierge asked, "Would you like to have a nurse come to your room to perform the test?" YES!!!!! Talk about Mayfair convenience!
We only had two days in London, but we did one fun excursion, also found by the MC: A tea cruise on the Thames! The pictures scattered through this blog were taken from the boat, which docked at Tower Bridge and headed up river past the Tower of London, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben–and the MI6 spy headquarters, which is that modern green building below. (The Tower of London above on the left.)
When it was built in 2000, the London Eye was the tallest observation wheel in the world. The 32 capsules are enclosed and air conditioned and can hold up to 25 people. It takes half an hour to go a complete revolution. The cruise commentator said that one could have a wedding in a capsule, say "I do," at the top–and after that it's all downhill. <G>
We had a great table in the bow of our ship, and we received a proper tea trolley with sandwiches, cakes, and scones, jam, and clotted cream on the top. Besides several types of tea, other beverages were available and at the MC's suggestion, we both had English cider–lightly alcoholic and a perfect accompaniment.
On our way back to the hotel, the MC spotted a red London bus that had "THE ENGLISH TEA BUS" on the side. Now we need to return to try that!
We sailed on the Celebrity Silhouette, a large ship though not one of the humongous ones. When one boards, they take pictures against a backdrop of the ship. Sleek ship, disheveled travelers. <G>
Celebrity runs a very smooth operation and passengers are constantly offered food. Things like the mid afternoon chocolate dipped strawberries felt like fun treats for the first few days, but soon became overwhelming and something to be avoided as Too Much Food! I came home the same weight as when I left. <G>
But there were certainly fine meals. To the right is a sort of deconstructed strawberry shortcake, and it was lovely.
The Silhouette had all kinds of features and amenities, including a long passageway of designer goods including multiple watch shops, some of the brands so high end I'd never heard of them. There was also fine jewelry and specialty retailers like Dior, Kate Spade and Michael Kors. (Not a lot of shopping for us average folks, though!).
There were a number of eateries and places to hang out. I found an alcove filled with songbird cages which contained not actual birds, but videos of birds. It seemed a little odd, but did save a lot of cleaning up. <G>
We had three stops in European waters before heading out across the Atlantic for seven days. Peace! Particularly since the wifi was minimal to nonexistent when in mid ocean. I got a few messages on my cell phone so I could briefly reply to business matters, but mostly we had blessed relaxation. We both read A LOT! When I got home, I had to clear almost 2000 messages from my spam folders.
Are you familiar with the origin of the term posh? It may be apocryphal, but I've read that for passengers sailing from Britain to India, to reduce the brutal heat of the tropical sun, it was desirable to have a cabin on the Port (left) side of the ship when going east, and on the Starboard (right) side of the ship when heading west. Such passengers were traveling POSH: Port Out, Starboard Home.
As it happens, our cabin was on the Port side and we were heading west and south, so our balcony was too hot and sunny to be good for sitting on much of the time. Maybe I'll think of this if we ever cross the Atlantic again. <G>
Mary Jo with Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster where Parliament meets. The building looks Gothic but was actually a Victorian restoration after a devastating fire in 1834 destroyed most of the original palace.