Monday 17 December 2012

Thought Picnic: Being merry on the ferry

I finally decided I will travel to Amsterdam late yesterday afternoon rather than postpone once again the appointment I should have had with my medical consultant last month.
In December, one is met with all sorts of choices and the variables are cost, weather and ease of travel. Now, I have at various times used all the forms of travel available between London and Amsterdam by air, by coach, by train and by sea.
The queen’s itinerary
The last time I did the sea crossing was in the summer of 99 when I embarked on a tour of Europe with what was sold as the Imperial Tour and it was London - Budapest - London to be completed within 2 months stopping anywhere along the way for as long as I wanted within that time frame.
I did Amsterdam, Hannover, Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Zurich and Brussels, by which time I was no more ready to endure travelling by sea that I took the EuroStar back to London.
I should do it again and get my pictures onto Flickr with blogs of my experiences and insights about all those cities. I think everyone should try an eye-opening voyage of discovery more than once and just take in the beauty of nature, the people, their culture and something new.
Like deja vu
So, back at the Liverpool Street Station ticket office like I did well over a decade ago, I met this helpful lady who told me the choices I had to make between day travel and night travel along with asking if I needed a cabin.
The journey appears to be longer this time, I remember then it was a catamaran that covered the journey from Harwich to Hoek van Holland in 3:45 hours, this time it would be 7 hours and maybe I should have gotten a cabin, but I later got a cabin on the ferry from much less and as a single occupier.
Setting out
I had to catch the 6:38 from Liverpool Street Station which meant I was up from 4:45AM, when I got to Harwich International, the station platform was hardly 500 yards from the ferry itself.
I was waved through, the security checks were hardly fussy, a cursory look into my rucksack - I notice this is the lightest I have ever travelled - none of the crude and music-less stripper acts that we perform at airports, the passport checks without menacing apparatchiks and the baggage check-in done almost too easily for words.
I was beginning to like this as I boarded the ferry, looked around and found a seat. I had bought an inflatable neck pillow; the seats are rarely built to support the neck if you doze off.
Connect to the skies
It was nice to know that one could use wireless internet connectivity on a satellite uplink throughout the journey, it would be slow and multimedia content will be blocked but there was enough bandwidth to surf, use Twitter and send emails.
One should as a matter of course avoid use the exorbitantly priced Mobile Maritime roaming network except in an emergency.
Having not slept that well overnight, I decided on getting a portside cabin. The word posh is apparently an acronym used for passages to India where the well-heeled travelled Portside Out and Starboard Home, if you travelled 'soph' which is by no means an abbreviation of sophisticated you were on the hottest side of the ship because that side faced the sun on the way out and the way back.
In the winter though, on the North Sea, you probably want to get as much light and sun as you can get.
The rest betters the rest
I repaired to my cabin which had a good sized bed, en-suite toilet and shower, a television with a mix of Dutch and English channels, sockets to charge my devices and wireless internet if I needed it.
I must say, apart from the passage of time and it is long, the basic comforts of travelling by ferry beat all the offerings you can have by air which is the shortest in time but most stressful to endure, by train which is longer and quite expensive, by coach which is probably longest in time, cheapest in cost but I will say from experience the most uncomfortable.
Easy for me and easy for her
Taking a shower, I noticed that the showerhead was a Hans Grohe raindance fixture and being cognisant of the tragedy that befell a 46-year old due to overexertion doing the Gangnam Style dance, I wisely moved as carefully and with as minimal exertion as possible, I just let the shower rain on me.
Let us put all disputing aside, I might just take to travelling by ferry on what seems to the calmest of seas I have been on in a very long time. This, my friends is fun and I just made friends with a toddler who is so excited to be travelling to meet her grandparents for Christmas, we all know that air travel is at best tortuous for our really young ones.
We have arrived.

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