A change from air pressure and airline food
After the long haul from Melbourne, the tiring wanderings around stations, the struggle with luggage on trains and the eye-drooping wait for my ferry to come in, I was so ready for a bed and sleep, so finally the call to board was like a tonic that woke the senses.
The terminal to ship walkway at Harwich is still under construction so the meagre handful of waiting passengers are loaded onto a bus for delivery to the ferry. This is the first time I get a glimpse of the size of this thing, huge. I sailed to England in the 60’s on the Fairstar and I’d say it was just as big. Now, being a ferry that means it takes cars and trucks, so or bus followed the road up the ramp and into the bowels of this yawning whale. Out of bus and into a lift to take us to the eighth deck, out of ten, I think it was.
The small reception seemed inadequate for the size of the ship, but we were shown the way to our cabins and I rushed to rid myself of my luggage and unwind in my own space. We are handed a menu for dinner being served in the restaurant and for 12 euro there is a three-course on offer.
Not to miss out on what else this vessel has to offer, I quickly dumped the bags, a quick wash to freshen up the eyes and headed south to the next deck down. Here is the pumping heart of the floating village. There, spread over most of the deck is a restaurant, large duty-free shop, a bar, another food hall and for those with foreign money to get rid of, slot machines and gambling tables. If you are not in any hurry to kip there is also a full-sized cinema.
Checking out the restaurant, I opted for a cheaper range of food from food hall situated among the bar and gambling tables. Not a lot to choose from but ample. They took Pound and Euro, so I got rid of some English money. The number of passengers seemed larger as I realised that for every truck and car there is also a driver, but not being in holiday season, it was relatively empty. A Heineken at the bar went down so well I decided I like beer again, but this moment of relaxation reminded me that sleep was needed so I gave up the foreign film and headed back to my cabin.
The cabin has two bunks. I opted for the lower one just in case we come across rough weather and it allowed a better view out the window, yes, more a window than a porthole. It was dark of course at midnight as the ferry set sail. Unless you heard the revving of the engine you would not have guessed. But yes I can see the lights of the harbour passing by, so after a quick brush of the teeth, I turned the lights out and watched till the ship was out of the harbour and on the high sea, as smooth as can be.
The next thing I new was being woken by a loud voice over the cabin phone reminding everyone to get up, breakfast is served in the food hall and to get off the boat by 7.45. Obeying orders, I quickly showered, ate and left the ship behind.
I was now on Dutch soil.